The Chiapas Support Committee (CSC) received some long-awaited news from the Good Government Board (Junta) and the regional education coordinators in the La Garrucha region of Zapatista Territory: they are ready to begin a secondary (middle) school project. The CSC has been working with the Junta and the education coordinators on primary education for the last 7 years. Some of you have donated to support that work, and now we’re asking you to donate to this essential education project.
Many of you may be familiar with the secondary school in Oventik, which is supported economically by the Zapatista Language School project (CELMRAZ). Some of you may have learned Spanish or a Mayan language there. Or, perhaps you read Raúl Zibechi’s article reporting that the Caracol of Morelia had a secondary school in each of its autonomous counties.
Secondary schools are very important to a child’s formal education and overall learning experience. Unfortunately, the La Garrucha region does not have and has never had a secondary school. Parents throughout this region are passionate about having this educational opportunity for their children and the education coordinators have wanted to get this project underway for several years.
La Garrucha is located in the Patihuitz Canyon to the east of the city of Ocosingo, in Chiapas, Mexico. It is one of five regional centers of autonomous government in Zapatista territory called caracoles and it’s also the seat of government for the Tseltal Jungle Zone. That region stretches from Ocosingo into the lowlands and mountains of the Lacandón Jungle. When the Zapatista Uprising took place in 1994, the only access to La Garrucha was via a dirt road that didn’t really deserve to be called a road. Giant ruts and potholes created by large trucks and military vehicles in the rainy season made passage very difficult for any vehicle and some communities in this zone were and still are only accessible on foot or horseback.
The difficult access discouraged teachers from reaching government primary schools in the zone’s ejidos, and there were no government secondary schools in rural areas. “Sometimes the government teachers would only come three days per week, but they were paid for 5,” a resident of La Garrucha told a Chiapas Support Committee delegation. “They taught the children in Spanish, but many of the children only spoke Tseltal and didn’t understand Spanish,” he continued. “They taught the history of the invaders from Europe,” he concluded, speaking in past tense because he also said that the government teachers stopped coming to La Garrucha and many other communities with government schools after the January 1, 1994 Zapatista Uprising.
After the Uprising, the Zapatistas prioritized the construction of their own autonomous government, which includes developing an autonomous education system that decolonizes teaching and learning. Education trainers came from the northern states to help with the development of a curriculum and the capacity building of indigenous peoples in the communities to become teachers, or education promoters as they are called in Zapatista Territory, and also to become trainers (formadores) of teachers. Each community selects its own teacher in a community assembly. The curriculum falls within four basic categories (subjects): mathematics, language, history and environment. The same subjects are taught in both primary school and secondary school at an age-appropriate level.
Mathematics is taught using examples from the children’s daily life, rather than from a book with pictures of children that don’t look like them or live like them. Language is taught in both Spanish and the Mayan language of the community or micro-region where the school is located. Children learn to read, write and speak in both languages.
History is taught from the perspective of those who were invaded and oppressed by Europeans, their relationship to the rich and the history of their ancestors: those who built the ancient temples, those who were serfs on plantations, those who organized powerful campesino organizations and those who rose up against their oppressors in 1994.
Environment is taught from the perspective of their culture; that is, the cultural belief in what it means to live well. Living well is to live in harmony with Mother Nature and with one’s community and with all one’s neighbors. This subject includes learning about the health of humans, plants and animals.
The education coordinators have asked the Chiapas Support Committee to fund the training of secondary school teachers from the four autonomous Zapatista municipios (counties) that comprise the Caracol of La Garrucha. They have also asked us to fund the construction of 4 classrooms, one in each of the four middle schools to be constructed (one in each county belonging to the Caracol of La Garrucha). The total cost of their request is approximately $25,000.00 US dollars and we’re asking you to make a generous contribution to that crucial project.
Your donation will help Zapatista children obtain an autonomous and de-colonial education at the middle school level. These children are the ones who will carry on the Zapatista resistance to neoliberalism and will move into positions of responsibility in another 5 or so years. It is important to maximize their potential to contribute to this alternative organizational model.
You can make your donation online via PayPal by going to our website and clicking on the donate button. Or, you can send a check made payable to the Chiapas Support Committee to the address below:
Chiapas Support Committee
PO Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
The Chiapas Support Committee is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your donation is tax deductible if you itemize. We’ll send you a receipt and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Chiapas Support Committee Members
Mary Ann Tenuto-Sánchez