Skip to main content
 

Zapata Rose in 1994: The Indian rebellion in Chiapas

From 1915 to 1920, while Emiliano Zapata and his peasant army were defending the lands of the Indian and peasant communities of Morelos from the latest effort of the sugar plantations to wipe them off the map, another army was fighting in Chiapas, 1000 km to the south. This army, known as the mapaches (raccoons), for their reputation for raiding fresh ears from Indian corn fields, was not a…

Who is Rebelling in Chiapas?

Townships in Chiapas differ substantially in ethnic composition, economy, and ecological situation. Within townships significant differences exist between people who are rich and powerful and those who are poor and weak. We believe that all these differences have become more pronounced in recent decades, and that they have a lot to do with where the Zapatista rebellion began. The rebellion comes…

UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal in dignity and rights to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such. Affirming also that all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind. Affirming further that all…

The UN and Somalia's Invisible Minorities

Somalia is a nation without minorities - at least that is the prevailing wisdom. The prominent Somali professor and advocate of U.S. intervention in Somalia, Said Samatar, commissioned to write about the subject, began: It should be said at the outset that Somalia does not have racial/ethnic and religious minorities to speak of with the exception of clusters of Bantu communities who are not…

Some Essential Not Simply "New," Approaches to Human Rights

This issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly is, in a sense, a "double issue". One set of articles reviews the progressive entry of indigenous peoples into a formal international arena - the United Nations. The second set focuses on a single social movement in southern Mexico's State of Chiapas. Yet the themes are related. As Dalee Sambo, this issue's Guest Editor, notes, the events in Mexico…

The Maasai Dilemma

As a community, the Maasai of East Africa are grateful for the UN Commission for Indigenous Rights. All the endeavors by the UN have given us hope and awareness. For our brothers in the indigenous fraternity, I want to give a brief explanation of our dilemma as indigenous people. At the turn of the last century, the colonialists made a thrust into East Africa, entering through the natural port of…

New Approaches to Minority Protection

For states to play a constructive role as intermediary between the individual, groups and the international order, they have to conform to certain general principles, primarily derived from the UN Charter and subsequently elaborated by the relevant UN bodies. Conceptually and institutionally, world order is founded on the system of nations organized in states. Admittedly, state sovereignty is…

Minorities and the UN

In August 1990 the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities agreed to invite its Norwegian expert member, Asbjorn Eide, to undertake a study on Possible Ways and Means of Facilitating the Peaceful and Constructive Solution of Problems Involving Minorities. An edited version of that research has been written specifically for the Minority Rights Group…

The Saami of Scandinavia and Russia: Great strides towards self-determination since World War II

The Saami of Scandinavia and Russia: Great strides towards. self-determination since World War II We are a people from the northernmost part of Europe, with our land - called Saapmi - divided among Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. We are a numerically small people, only about 70,000, but we are a part of the 350 million indigenous people worldwide. Our history is full of the same injustices…

Making the Most of ILO Convention 169

The International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, adopted its Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, 1989 (No. 169) amidst a growing momentum for the recognition of indigenous peoples' right to self-determination and decolonization. The convention's failure to address these issues directly disenchanted many indigenous organizations with the ILO as a…

International Law and Indigenous Peoples: Historical stands and contemporary developments

International Law and Indigenous Peoples: Historical stands and. contemporary developments Half a millennium ago the peoples indigenous to the continents now called North and South America began to experience change, a kind of change they had not experienced before. Europeans arrived and began to lay claim to their lands, frequently slaughtering the Native children, women, and men who stood in…

The Ecology of the Zapatista Revolt

On New Year's Day, 1994, the citizens of Mexico expected to wake up to a celebration of Mexico's entry into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Instead, they woke up to an armed rebellion in the State of Chiapas. The Zapatista National Liberation Army took its name from Emiliano Zapata, a hero of the 1910-1917 Mexican Revolution, who fought for "Land and Liberty." When the Zapatistas…

Roots of the Rebellion in Chiapas

How are we to understand the rebellion in Chiapas? Did it arise from the generalized poverty of peasants in Mexico's neglected south, as many press reports claim? This paper explores the more complex background of the rebellion, of peasants who are much more differentiated than is acknowledged in press reports, and of a region that is fully articulated into the economic and political changes…

Possible Sacred Aspects of the Chiapas Rebellion

The Harvard Chiapas Project was founded in 1957 under the aegis and with the cooperation of the Instituto Nacional Indingenista (National Indian Institute) directed by the late Dr. Alfonso Caso to describe the basic ethnography and to track and analyze the trends of change in Mayan communities of the Highlands of Chiapas (see Vogt 1990 for more details). The advantages of this long-range…

International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples: The Commission on Human Rights

International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples: The Commission on. Human Rights The following declaration was adopted without vote by the United Nations General Assembly on March 4, 1994: Guided by the purpose and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights. Bearing in mind that one of…

Indigenous Women and Women of Color Plan for International Conference on Population and Development

Indigenous Women and Women of Color Plan for International Conference on. Population and Development Indigenous women and women of color will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about population and development at the upcoming International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). While all these groups welcome enhanced access to family planning services, they are split on…

Indigenous Peoples after UNCED

In June 1992, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, activists, and heads of state gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Earth Summit and the Global Forum. The Earth Summit, officially called the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), brought together 118 heads of state, making it the largest summit meeting ever held. It was, "as promised, the most significant UN…

Indigenous Peoples in Brazil: The Guarani; a case for the UN

There are about 250,000 Indians in Brazil. This number is less than 0.2 percent of the national population (140 million people). It is fundamental to consider the low demographic proportion of Indians when discussing the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil. There are two other factors which influence this situation: the extreme poverty of most of the country's population and economic…

Indigenous Identity at the Margin: Zapatismo and Nationalism

Xun Mesa, president of one of the numerous new indigenous organizations in Chiapas, fields a question from the audience in the Friends meeting hall in Austin, Texas. To an inquiry about the Zapatistas he responds, "No, we do not know who they are. They came, made their list of demands and then they left. But we are with them because those demands are ours too. It is why I am here now. Without…

Comments on the Zapatista Movement

These comments are based primarily on field experience and study, spanning a period of about 25 years, in only one of Chiapas' many Indian communities: San Juan Chamula, a Tzotzil-speaking municipio, together with a number of its emigrant colonies throughout the state. Although this is a large and influential Indian community, with over 100,000 people, it has apparently not been directly involved…

Commentary on the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

After almost ten years of work, the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations has completed the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This historic statement will soon be considered by the higher level human rights bodies at the UN: the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the Commission on Human Rights, the Economic and Social…

A Wave of Change: The United Nations

The fundamental rights of indigenous peoples are gaining greater international recognition at a crucial time in history, when issues of state territorial integrity and sovereignty are losing their primacy in the global political arena. The following articles reflect the tidal change in the world community towards recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples. Though such change is…

A Project for the Decade

The 1994 session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, like the year itself, may be a turning point for the international indigenous movement. It is a breathing space between a past in which indigenous issues were pushed onto the international agenda for the first time - a period which culminates with the International Year of the World's Indigenous People - and a future…