Declaration: "Never Again a Mexico Without Us"

The representatives of indigenous peoples and organizations gathered together in the National Indigenous Congress from the 8th through the 12th of October of 1996 in Mexico City do solemnly proclaim the following declaration:

CONSIDERING: The history of discrimination and exploitation that we the Indian peoples have suffered for 504 years, during which time our capacity to conduct our own destiny has been discounted.

REAFFIRMING: The continual indigenous resistance that has manifested itself during the past twenty years as a wave of movements to respond vigorously to these conditions and to the multiple attempts at co-optation on the part of the government.

NOTING: That while some sectors of society are offering increasing solidarity to these movements, other sectors continue to maintain attitudes of discrimination and exclusion.

DENOUNCING: That the response of the government to our legitimate mobilization has been the militarization of almost all of the indigenous and rural regions of the country, persecution of indigenous organizations and leaders, deceit, lies, and pompous threats.

WE DECLARE:

That we honor today, as always, those who made us peoples and who have allowed us, against everything and against all, to maintain our self determination. That we honor those who taught us how to keep being who we are and to maintain our hope for liberty.

That in their name, we speak today to say to all of our brothers and sisters in the country that was built in our territories and which nourished itself from our cultures, to tell you that we have come to make, together with them, a new homeland [patria]. That homeland that has never truly been one because it wanted to exist without us.

That we have stood up. We are standing in struggle. We come with our minds made up to face everything, even death. But we do not bring war drums, we bring flags of peace. We want to unite ourselves as brethren with all of the men and women who in recognizing us, recognize their own roots.

That we will not give up our autonomy. By defending it, we are defending the autonomy of all of the neighborhoods, all of the peoples, all of the groups and communities who, like us, also want the freedom to determine their own destiny and together with them we shall will make a country that has not been able realize its potential greatness. A country that a small, greedy group of people continues to bury in shame, misery, and violence.

Because of this,

WE DEMAND:

FIRST: Constitutional legal recognition of our full existence as peoples and our inalienable right to self determination expressed as autonomy within the framework of the Mexican State.

SECOND: Constitutional recognition of our ancestral lands and territories that represent the totality of the habitat where we reproduce our material and spiritual existence as peoples.

THIRD: The recognition of our indigenous normative systems in the building of a pluralist legal system which harmonizes the diverse practices and conceptions for regulating the social order, conceptions and practices of Mexican society.

FOURTH: The recognition of our differences and our capacity to govern ourselves according to our own vision in which autonomy and democracy are expressed as the power of the people.

FIFTH: In general, the recognition of all or our social, political, and cultural rights for the affirmation, flowering, and endurance of our communities and peoples.

SIXTH: The immediate and complete compliance with the Accords from Session One on Indigenous Rights and Culture of the Dialogues of San Andrés Sakamch'en de los Pobres, Chiapas, which constitute a first step already achieved by indigenous peoples, as well as the immediate and complete compliance with the accords of this Congress and the immediate constitution of the Monitoring and Verification Committee [of the San Andrés Accords].

SEVENTH: The demilitarization of the indigenous zones of the country, an end to the harassment of indigenous organizations, social movements and their leaders, the freedom of political prisoners and indigenous people unjustly detained, particularly those in prison who are alleged to be Zapatistas.

WE PROPOSE:

I. To participate in the construction of a new social pact based in the recognition of our plurality, the diversity of our cultures and the richness of our differences.

II. To advance towards a new Constitution that with the effective participation of all will produce an inclusive and plural national project.

III. To carry out reforms to the existing Constitution, the laws, and institutions in order to create the political spaces that will channel our transition to democracy and stimulate an authentic national dialogue until we achieve a truly democratic Constitutional Congress.

IV, To guide our struggle with a continuous and tireless will to transform ourselves peacefully and to conquer day after day a peace with justice and dignity, a peace with democracy and liberty.

VI. To intensify our struggle for the satisfaction of our outstanding demands, particularly for the recognition of regional levels of autonomy, the reforms to Article 27 [the Constitution's revised agrarian provision - eds.] that will guarantee respect for the land and territory of indigenous peoples, and recognition of legal pluralism, among others.

In order to achieve these grand objectives, we call on all of our indigenous brothers and sisters, all of the peoples, communities, and organizations, to the entire national indigenous movement to keep our hearts united, to strengthen the unity of the national indigenous movement and thus to nourish our struggle with hope and our future with peace. We shall develop a program of struggle, of unity, of resistance, of reconstruction, of transformation of our society. At the same time we make a fraternal call for a Grand Dialogue with Civil Society to search together for the transformation of Mexico into a more just, humane, and democratic society. Today we say:

NEVER AGAIN A MEXICO WITHOUT US.

NEVER AGAIN AN INDIAN AGAINST HIS BROTHER

NEVER AGAIN A PEOPLE WITHOUT HOPE.

PROCLAIMED IN MEXICO CITY, OCTOBER 11, 1996

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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