Not so long ago, it seemed that you couldn’t turn on the news without seeing some story or another about the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico. The media darlings couldn’t get enough of the enigmatic Subcommandante Marcos and his stylishly sexy balaclava-and-pipe combo. But, as is the way with the corporate press, they soon became bored with their latest ‘discovery’ and moved on, quickly forgetting the people and the story.
However, for the indigenous people of Chiapas, the story is very much far from over and their struggle for dignity and autonomy against the Mexican state continues. For them, this is not a cheap thrill story that can be instantly discarded once the excitement wears off. It is one of necessity and, sometimes, it carries a very heavy price indeed.
But, despite the forces that they face, the Zapatista communities have not surrendered. Far from it in fact – their efforts to reach out and engage with oppressed people the world over demonstrate just how much liberty means to them. They recognise that strength lies in unity and solidarity, and that victory in Chiapas is just the start not the end.
Since the uprising began, links have been formed between the Zapatista communities and their supporters from around the world. One of the UK support groups, KIPTIK, has been working with the communities since 2000. Volunteers provide practical support in four main areas – water, health, media and arts. The water projects are their primary focus – mortality rates and poor health are greatly reduced when a community has access to clean fresh water and so it tends to be what they ask for first. KIPTIK try to use the most appropriate technology for the construction, and leave local people with the skills needed to maintain it once they have gone.
So what’s my point?
It’s actually a really simple one. It costs about £4000 to provide something that we take for granted to 300 people. To help raise money that literally saves lives, KIPTIK have produced a calendar for the year ahead. It’s a high-quality piece of work and, as well as info about the communities and KIPTIK’s work, there are 12 striking images from the communities included.
The calendar only costs £7 including postage* from the Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group, and you can order online from their website. Not only will you get a year’s worth of calendar but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve helped kick another brick out of the wall of power.
And all from the comfort of your armchair, a luxury that some others don’t have.
*UK only – if you want one and you’re from elsewhere, let me know and I’ll get back to you.