Indigenous Migrants Organize

The presence of migrant voices in the Mexican political landscape continues to expand.  In the southern border state of Chiapas, returning migrants from Mayan indigenous communities have organized a new association to fight for two rights they say are fundamental:  the right to freely migrate without violence and the right to stay home.

Meeting in San Cristobal de las Casas this month, representatives of 35 communities held the first assembly of the Chiapas Coalition of Indigenous Migrants (Cimich). Persons deported or voluntarily returned from the United States were instrumental in forming the new group.

“The assembly allowed us to gather together and recognize our force as an organized migrant people,” said Lucio Diaz Gonzalez, Cimich president. “With our experience and collective work, we’ve learned that only organization and help among friends, in addition to getting along with respect and equality, give us the force to resolve our common problems.”

Deported last year from the U.S. where he worked in different states for a year, Diaz denounced the violence migrants face passing through Mexico and the practices of U.S. immigration authorities.  Sent back to Mexico with their “hands and feet tied up,” migrants are “tired” of the current system, Diaz said.

Cimich’s objectives include the defense of culture and promotion of local development projects, the activist said.  Migrants from Chiapas leave their communities with no vices but return with drug and alcohol problems, Diaz said. “He loses his language and dress,” he added.

While Chiapas has long served as a corridor for Central American migrants making their way to the United States, the state has also emerged as an important source of migrants to El Norte in recent years. Bus lines now depart from Palenque, San Cristobal de las Casas, Tuxla Gutierrez and other cities to the U.S. border.

Analysts attribute the increase in emigration to poverty, climate changes, and the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on small agriculture.

At Cimich’s founding assembly, members of transnational community committees turned out from the municipalities of San Juan Chamula, Chenalho, Zicantin, Chalchihuitan, Tenepapa, Teopisca, and San Cristobal de las Casas. The event also featured the theater production “Crossing Borders” and musical performances of traditional songs and Tzotzil rock n’ roll.

“It was a very special and unforgettable day for us,” Diaz said.

Sources: La Jornada, October 25, 2013. Article by Helio Henriquez.  Cimacnoticias, March 11, 2013. Article by Patricia Chandomi., March 28, 2012.

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