From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters
San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico—“Together We Defend Our Mother Earth” is the title of a documentary that shows the collective struggle for the defense of the land of the ejidatarios (collective land owners) of Tila. The documentary is in the Ch’ol language and Spanish. It was shown in the presence of the ejidatarios of Tila.
On Dec. 15, 2015, in the context of dispossession, continued harassment and after years of struggle and demands before the state and federal government, the organized Ch’ol people decided to remove the municipality (government) from the Tila ejido. Here is how the ejidatarios expressed it:
The video was made collectively. Both men and women. We are one, a collective whole, as was shown on the screen. In this video the interest we have in the community (adherents and non-adherents [to the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona]) is demonstrated. We show that we defend Mother Earth together…In a General Assembly we decided to have self-determination, and our own government. People should govern their own lands.
On Dec. 16, 2015, the people decided to remove the municipality of Tila. We have long endured the abuse of misrule. We decided that the government should no longer be on our land. Once the municipality left Tila, we feel calmer, the harassment was over.
Together we are working for garbage collection. All partners are collectively serving without pay. On the issue of security: In an assembly we decided to create the ejidal (community) police. Now the village is quieter, and you can see that there is not misrule.
Women are also collaborating and participating. At a meeting women said: “Enough! Alcoholism must end!” We have already seen a fall in alcoholism within the ejido.
We practice of autonomy in our ejido. An ejido has to have autonomy. In the constitution it says that a people, as in our ejido, have the right to exercise their own autonomy and self-determination.
In terms of justice, when the official government was exercising its rule, police tortured the ejidatarios, and there were even disappearances. Some of us were captured as we returned from the cornfields, tied and tortured. Now when a partner is caught drunk or does harm to society, a talk of reflection is given, advice, exercising justice in a respectful manner, respecting human rights. It depends on the crime.
Some time ago, a mining company arrived. We’d already written to them asking the company to leave. It was the municipality which gave it permission to be here, not the ejido. It is illegal. We will decide what to do with this company.
Once we decided to become autonomous, there’s no dialogue with any of the three levels of the government. We will figure out how to respect the rights of our neighbors, who are not ejidatarios. We don’t bother them.
We are not against other peoples. We are against the government, against the exploitation of the peoples. Our rights should be respected for we are original peoples.
We will not go. We were born in this land and we will be buried here. The government does not own the land. The government wanted to give us 40 million pesos, but we don’t want money, we work the land, so all together we defend the earth.
— Xmal Ton
Excerpted from an article in Praxis en America Latina (Mexico).