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Voices of hope : examining the empowerment planning process of indigenous women in Chiapas = Hablando… Cassaigne, Paola 2008

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 VOICES OF HOPE: EXAMINING THE EMPOWERMENT PLANNING PROCESS OF INDIGENOUS WOMEN IN CHIAPAS   by    Paola Cassaigne B.A. Universidad Iberoamericana, 2004.      A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in The Faculty of Graduate Studies (Planning)     THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)      December, 2008   © Paola Cassaigne  ii  ABSTRACT  Since colonization, Indigenous women in Chiapas have occupied very disadvantaged social positions, characterized by ethnic, gender and class-based oppression. However, during the last thirty five years, important social dynamics have taken place which have driven women to perceive themselves as the main actors of social transformation, and to start participating in planning and development efforts at a household and community level.  Building on the ideas of Paulo Freire and Pierre Bourdieu, oppression is understood as a dynamic where the oppressed are also implicated by, among other things, the involuntary body adhesion to oppression, experienced as shame, fear and silence. Therefore, the main focus of this research is the processes by which women achieved to exercise the internal capability to speak out; as well as how this new ability has been critical in order to have transformative agency, by having a meaningful participation in planning, agency and decision-making in the different spheres of their private and public life.  The main findings of this thesis arise from six month of field research. With a phenomenological and hermeneutic approach, seventeen Indigenous and ten non-Indigenous women participated through in-depth interviews and focus groups. Participatory observation and a validation workshop were also undertaken. Findings are related, first, to women’s participation in group processes, by which, on the one hand, they achieved to generate critical-reflective awareness, denaturalizing oppression, and, on the other hand, they removed embodied oppressive dispositions by retraining their bodies through dialogue and corporal techniques. Second, praxis of liberation aroused from reflection, with no need of a mechanistic plan informed by efficient and effective predetermined justifications. Praxis of liberation took the form of practical wisdom and wise judgment for the achievement of good life.  This thesis was originally written in Spanish and then translated into English. Only the English version of this thesis has been reviewed and presented at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning.  iii  TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT.................................................................................................................... TABLE OF CONTENTS................................................................................................... LIST OF TABLES........................................................................................................... LIST OF FIGURES.......................................................................................................... LIST OF STORIES.......................................................................................................... ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................. DEDICATION.......................................................................................................................... 1. INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................ 1.1 RESEARCH PROBLEM ................................................................................................. 1.2 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND GUIDE QUESTIONS........................................................ 1.3 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK........................................................................................ 1.4 MY POSITION IN THIS RESEARCH................................................................................ 1.5 RESEARCH METHODS................................................................................................. 1.6 THESIS ORGANIZATION.............................................................................................. 1.7 FINAL NOTES.............................................................................................................. ii iii v vi vii viii ix 1 2 3 4 7 10 13 14 2. BREAKING THE SILENCE.................................................................................................. 2.1 BRIEF HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN CHIAPAS.................................................................. 2.1.1 Class, Colonial and Ethnic Based Oppression.................................................. 2.1.2 Historical Roots of Gender-Based Oppression in Chiapas................................ 2.1.3 The Face of Inequity in Chiapas: Statistics and Testimonies............................ 2.2 BRIEF HISTORY OF WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS IN CHIAPAS SINCE 1963......................... 2.2.1 The Diocese of San Cristóbal Women’s Area (CODIMUJ)............................ 16 21 22 24 28 39 39 iv  2.2.2 Leftist Feminist Organizations...........................................................................             2.2.3 Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)............................................... 43 46 3. THE OPPRESSION TURNS INTO SILENCE............................................................. 3.1 DYNAMICS BETWEEN DOMINANT AND DOMINATED................................................... 3.2 DOMINATION’S FABRIC: COLONIALITY, CAPITALISM AND PATRIARCHY...................... 3.2.1 Coloniality and Capitalism: Dehumanizing the Other...................................... 3.2.2 Patriarchy: Systemic Inequities among Genders.............................................. 3.3 BODILY INSCRIBED SILENCE....................................................................................... 53 58 64 64 73 76 4. FROM OPPRESSION TO PLANNING....................................................................... 4.1 ABOUT THE IRRELEVANCE OF WESTERN PLANNING .................................................. 4.2 KEY PLANNING CONDITIONS...................................................................................... 4.3 THE WORD AS A PASSAGE TO FREEDOM..................................................................... 87 90 96 100 5. POSSIBILITIES FOR THE “OTHER PLANNING”.......................................................... 5.1 GENDER AND POVERTY: DIFFERENT APPROACHES..................................................... 5.2 LIBERATION, RESISTANCE AND EMPOWERMENT........................................................ 5.3 WOMEN TELL THEIR STORY: WORD AS TRANSFORMATIVE AGENCY......................... 114 116 121 124 6. CONCLUSION......................................................................................................... 136 REFERENCES............................................................................................................ APPENDICES................................................................................................................. APPENDIX A. SAMPLE OF INTERVIEW QUESTIONS............................................................ APPENDIX B. ETHICS REVIEW APPROVAL CERTIFICATE................................................... APPENDIX C. 500 YEARS OF OPPRESSION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN CHIAPAS............. 141 145 145 148 149  v   LIST OF TABLES  Table 1. Chiapas’ population distribution according to sex and residence, 1960......................  29 Table 2. Percentage distribution of the Indigenous language speaker population of 5 and more according to residence and sex, 1990 and 2000................................................  30 Table 3. Average of children born alive by cohort groups in urban and rural population, 1960............................................................................................................................   30 Table 4. Indigenous language speaker population of 5 and more, bilingual and monolingual according to sex, 2000..................................................................................................   32 Table 5. Literacy and illiteracy percentage by residence and sex, 1960....................................  32 Table 6. Percentage distribution of Indigenous language speaker population 15 and more by sex and residence according to instruction level, 2000................................................   34                          vi  LIST OF FIGURES   Figure 1. Analytical Framework................................................................................................   7 Figure 2. System of Naturalized Oppression............................................................................. 59 Figure 3. Resources for Empowerment Planning...................................................................... 102                                       vii  LIST OF STORIES  STORY ONE: KARINA....................................................................................................  16 STORY TWO: ÁNGELA..................................................................................................  53 STORY THREE: GABRIELA............................................................................................  87 STORY FOUR: PALOMA.................................................................................................  126 STORY FIVE: FOMMA.................................................................................................  130                              viii  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  I want to acknowledge each and every one of the women and men who contributed to my understanding in this research. Specially, I acknowledge the 27 women that shared with me their reflections, their stories and their hearts. I thank to the sisters from CODIMUJ for giving me access to their memoirs and for embracing me as one of their own. As well, I want to thank K’inal Anzetik, especially to Merit Ichín, for introducing me to some of the wonderful women who participated in this research. My particular acknowledgment goes to CIDECI, to Doctor Raymundo for creating a safe space for reflection, and to all who shared their insights and opened their hearts for dialog.  I acknowledge and thank the staff of the Ecosur library for their help, patience, curiosity, and welcoming smiles.  I thank my dear friends who became my family when I was in Canada. Thanks to Allison Jones, Maira Avila, Johanna Mazur, Raquel Trinidad, Jeet Chand, Lucia Scodanibbio, RJ McCulloch, Jeff Chase, Celene Fung, Alejandra Lopez, Erika Crawford. Charlotte Humphries, and Courtney Campbell. Thanks as well to my new Latino family, especially Matías Guido, Rubén Orozco, Itzia Paz, Ramón Zárate, Lina Mata, Freddy Osorio, Max León, Nancy Espinoza and Josema.  Finally, a special acknowledgment to my mentors and friends, Leonora C. Angeles and Norma Jean MacLaren. Thank you for sharing with me your passion, your experience and your knowledge about the implications of planning with and for the oppressed and with a gender perspective. Thank you, Nora, for your engagement and unconditional commitment; for your effort and patience on editing this thesis; your suggestions and commentaries were always insightful and very appreciated.          ix  DEDICATION    To Alejandro, my accomplice in the dream for a better world; my light, my echo and my strength to whom I turn whenever I can’t find the path; my warrior, always there, always faithful; my home to which I come back with the soul full of new hopes.  To Mamá and Papá, because I keep holding on to your hands whenever I have lost balance. Because I still need your impulse whenever I want to fly. Because, in spite of the tears in the airports, you believe in my dreams and you bet on my madness. Because, whenever I feel like quitting, your voices are still whispering in my ears giving me the strength I need.  To Mariana and Verónica, two women I carry in my soul, close to my heart; you have showed me the meaning of sharing and committing; you have showed me the taste of laughter, tears, and mid-night confessions; with you, I have discovered that being a woman is worthier when being a sister.  To Victoria, because your brand new life brings a whole new sense to each and every one of my hopes; because of your existence, it is even worthier to keep on striving to make this world a little more fair, a little more free.  To Claudia, my friend, the bravest, the most reliable, the most committed. And to the Universe, who brought us together in this journey.   1    1. INTRODUCTION There are more than ten million Indigenous people in Mexico. They belong to 62 ethno- linguistic groups though they speak more than 300 different linguistic variables. While they are scattered in most of Mexican territory, they are concentrated in the Southeast states of the country. Although each group has its own and defined characteristics –based on an ancient culture and history-, they all share something in common: they all present the highest marginality indexes of the country (CDI-PNUD 2006). In the last third of the twentieth century, Indigenous women of the Southeast region of the country, especially in Chiapas, began to gain consciousness about their oppression. For them, colonization didn‟t end with the Independence Movement in 1810. Although the Spaniards were no longer enslaving the Indigenous people, it was the Mestizos who continued the tradition of exploiting men‟s labour and women‟s bodies. The Mexican Revolution in 1910 didn‟t change their living conditions either. Complicity among the economic and political elites interfered with the implementation of agrarian reform, dispossessing the Indigenous people of the land they were entitled to (Rovira, 1997). The awakening of indigenous people began in the 1960s. Some Indigenous groups in Chiapas started to get socially, military and politically organized, demanding to be recognized as individuals with rights and dignity. The landmark moment came during the uprising on January 1 st  of 1994, when the Zapatista Army for the National Liberation (EZLN) rose up against the Mexican Government. However, the degree of awakening was not the same for every Indigenous in Chiapas. Oppression happened in various ways and with varied intensities according to gender, ethnic origin, age and geographical location. The people of Chiapas suffered numerous forms of oppression because of their Indigenous status, such as their de facto exclusion from the public education and health systems, exploitation as peasants in the countryside, discrimination in the schools and workplace because of their ethnic origin, being banned from land possession, etc.) Besides the oppression suffered because of their Indigenous condition, women suffered gender oppression and violence, within and without their communities. Unfortunately, in Chiapas as in the rest of the world, the poorest/most oppressed of the poor/oppressed are women. Women hitherto experienced gender oppression in some communities. Parents, specifically the father, decided when and with whom to marry their daughters. Usually, this 2  decision was taken according to what the prospective husband could pay (e.g., alcohol, hens, etc.). Women didn‟t have the right to decide about the number and spacing out of their children. They didn‟t have the right to express their opinion about any decision that affected their communities, their families or their own persons. Domestic violence was a much extended practice; increased by the high levels of alcoholism among the male indigenous population. Besides the tasks assigned to them because of their gender (fetching water, carrying firewood, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children, etc.) women had to help men on the fields. They had to begin their working day two or three hours before the rest of the family, and they were the last to go to rest. Women didn‟t have property over the land, either over the benefits it produced. Women didn‟t have the right to education. Besides being an obstacle for gaining many intellectual skills, it meant the impossibility of learning Spanish, which increased their isolation and powerlessness. Still in 1994, in most of the fincas 1 , the finqueros kept exercising the “right” of “deflowering” (raping) an Indigenous women before she married. 1.1 RESEARCH PROBLEM The struggle to get recognition of the rights and dignity of Chiapas women has been a very long and arduous process. From the perspective of those who have been influenced by Western feminist movements, the achievements of the Indigenous women are sometimes disappointing, as they still remain subordinate to men in many spheres of life. However, it is clear to me and many others that their awakening has begun. Women have been gaining consciousness about the oppression they suffer and they have been organizing and creating mechanisms to achieve their demands. Most of all, women have demanded and gained the right to speak, to have their own word, in order to name their oppression and make it visible. According to the classic definition, planning is the “process to decide what to do and how to do it”. Thus, the immanent condition to engage in planning is to have the ability to decide. Having no voice, it is easy to understand that women couldn‟t decide and participate even in community planning and in the planning their own lives. Women couldn‟t decide or have a say about their education, the man they wanted to marry (because they were usually sold to the highest bidder), the amount and frequency of their pregnancies, their rejection of domestic violence, among others. Many questions came to my mind after the women‟s initial response to my questions. First of all, I wanted to understand the origin of their silence, particularly the  1  A kind of rural real estate. 3  values and beliefs that made them feel afraid of speaking out, as well as the origins of this way of thinking. I also wanted to understand the social structures and power relations that perpetuate and get benefited by women‟s silence. In the second place, I wondered about the origins of women‟s new capability to speak out, in other words, what were the new values and beliefs that compelled women to exercise their capability to speak up. I also needed to understand who introduced women to these new values and beliefs, and the social junctures that opened the door for women to access these new ideas. Most of all, I was interested in understanding the individual and collective processes by which women had been able to gain the power to speak out. Finally, it was critical to understand how women‟s voice became an asset to fight oppression and to participate in community planning and social transformation. This research starts from the need to understand the processes by which a subordinated group acquires the ability to decide, to choose among alternatives, and to carry out actions that transform their subordination in the power relations. In this research, I will try to explore the importance of the right to speak out in each dimension of these processes lived by many women in Chiapas. I‟ll explore as well how exercising this right has been critical to enacting decisions women have made, enabling them to demand the transformation of their relationships in the private and emotional realms, and to plan and to carry out, in an organized way, actions that can somehow transform their community and the position they occupy in it. Finally, this research is a celebration and offering to the spoken word of women, and to very the same women that have had recovered the consciousness of their humanity, of their dignity and of their rights. 1.2 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND GUIDE QUESTIONS The objective of this research is to understand some of the processes by which a highly subordinated social group starts conceiving itself as a critical actor in its own development, particularly at the household and community or local level. In other words, I would like to examine the processes by which one social group gains awareness about its own subordination, achieves to exercise a reflective-critical consciousness, and decides to plan and implement actions that can transform their condition and position as individuals and as a group.  The primary research question addressed in this thesis is: To what extent has exercising the internal capability to speak been a critical element for the indigenous women in Chiapas to start participating in planning efforts for community and personal development? Playing on the 4  classic question raised by Gayatri Spivak (1988), “Can the subaltern speak?” this thesis similarly asks, can Indigenous women as subalterns speak, and how? Can they plan, and if they do, how?  Three sets of secondary research questions around origins and impacts of silence, processes of transformation and positive consequences are addressed in this thesis. A. Origins: - What are the origins and sources of Chiapas women‟s silence? - What values and beliefs had women internalized that would make them fearful and ashamed to express themselves? - Where did these values and beliefs come from? What are their historical and systemic origins? - What power relations were being supported and maintained by their silence? - What are the impacts and consequences of their silence on their own personal development, their families and children, and their communities? B. Process of Transformation: - By which processes and resources did women gain the internal capability to speak? - Which new values and beliefs were embraced by women so that they could begin to speak out? Where were these new values and beliefs coming from? - What and how were the external processes by which women gain the capability to speak? C. Positive Results - In which ways exercising the internal capability to speak becomes a transformative action and a strategic interest for women? 1.3 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK The conceptual framework of this thesis relies on three key concepts that I attempt to analyze and relate to the silence and oppression, transformation and planning efforts of Chiapas women. These are the concepts of (1) domination, (2) gender, (3) coloniality and colonization.  I understand domination, not only as the oppressive action exercised by a dominant agent or group, but as the dynamics in which the dominated are also implicated in the process by recognizing the power of the oppressors. The elements of the binary oppositions (e.g., white/non- white, men/women, rich/poor) that structure the social space, are also constitutive of the 5  cognitive, perceptive and evaluative instruments of dominant and dominated mental structures. This is why it is fairly common for the dominated to perceive oppression as a natural state in life; in other words, after being lengthily exposed to the oppressive social structures, in which they are clearly disadvantaged, their role in the social world appears as natural and it is seldom questioned. The oppressed learn to live in silence because their humanness and their world understanding are neither acknowledged nor validated, since they are different from the oppressor. Fear and shame are the forces that keep the oppressed from speaking out. Both feelings are a body response resulting from the internalized domination. Pierre Bourdieu (1995, 1997) and Paulo Freire (1970) clearly explained the dynamics between the dominant and the dominated, as well as the reason for the silence of the oppressed.  Gender is a critical concept in this thesis. Gender is defined as a socio-historical construction by which men and women, according to their sexual difference, have been assigned models and stereotypes. These are based on values, roles, division of labor, ways of being and relating, spheres where to exercise influence, social positions and specific access to decision- making power. It has been assigned distinctive and unequal value to each gender, which varies in space and time, and which determines the differentiated ability to decide and control material resources (physical, human or financial) and intellectual resources (ideals, knowledge, information), as well as the ability to generate, support and institutionalize ideological resources (values, believes, behaviors, etc.) (Batliwala, 1997). In this way, each gender has differentiated and unequal forms of political, economic, social and cultural capitals.  Inequities among genders are present in the whole range of institutions that goes from the family to the State. Values, believes, attitudes, traditions and laws support and perpetuate power relations between genders, in which women are the most disadvantaged. This social system is called patriarchy. Both genders internalize and naturalize differentiated gender symbolic representation and appraisal. Yet, according to neo-Marxist feminist thinkers, gender condition, situation and relations result not only from history but also from dynamic transformation of structures and human lives. There is a dialectic relation between the acceptance of the models and the normative prescriptions, and the way in which women‟s identities, consciences and internal forces generate transformation dynamics of gender, class and ethnic inequities (Olivera, 2004).  Coloniality refers to the exploitative social, political and economic relations that prevail among former colonized and colonizer populations. Colonization, as the process of extending political and economic domination over another, was a critical requirement for the existence of 6  modernity and capitalism. Without natural resources and free labour, the development of European and North American countries wouldn‟t have been possible. Besides, colonization was supported by a solid philosophical thinking that justified the exploitation of non-white/non- Western races. Even though decolonization was a historical event by which colonized territories achieved their independence, coloniality prevails as the social and mental structures by which racist domination of Indigenous peoples in Mexico is justified.  Finally, I make use of three theories that will help me to understand liberation from gender, ethnic and class oppressive relations. The first one is Paulo Freire‟s liberation theory (1970) in which he explained how the dynamics between oppressor and oppressed can be broken if the oppressed sets free through the generation of critical-reflective awareness. This will allow the oppressed to understand the dominance structure in which he/she is embedded. Critical- reflective awareness is achieved through authentic dialogue; and its inevitable effect is the praxis that strives for social transformation.  The second theory comes from Pierre Bourdieu (1995, 1997). He explained that dominant social structures are internalized in the body and the conscience of the agents, as a system of dispositions 2  to be and to do, or what he called habitus. These dispositions can be removed from the body, by forcing it to undertake actions not allowed before. In this case, women exercised the expression in a safe space where they felt acknowledged and valued. Recognition and validation become new symbolic capitals that strengthen transformative agency. When the habitus is modified, it is possible for the agent to conceive a future with bigger and better possibilities than the ones available in the past. Envisioning a different future impels the agent to carry out the actions that will take him/her to live the life he/she wants.  Finally, the third one comes from Naila Kabeer‟s approach to the theory of empowerment (2001). Empowerment is the process by which a person acquires the ability to make choices. Empowerment has three dimensions: resources, agency and achievements. I will analyze how these women acquired the ability to decide to transform their lives, families and communities through these three dimensions of empowerment. I want to examine how women in the first place had access to resources such as information and participation in reflection groups, where gradually they recovered their internal capability to speak out, and where they felt acknowledged and validated, helping them improve their self-perception and self-esteem. These resources gave them the possibility and strength to enact a transformative agency outside of the reflection  2  From the French “disposition”; translated as “disposition” by Bourdieu‟s English translators. 7  groups; and to actively participate in the decision-making in different spheres such as the family, the cooperatives, the community, the church and politics. (For a summary of relationships between these concepts, see Figure 1.)   1.4 MY POSITION IN THIS RESEARCH This type of research with subjects different from my own community, background and location, or habitus, requires an explanation of my own position in the research and its process. I assume and defend Donna Haraway‟s concept of “situated knowledge”, and Paul Ricouer‟s concept of “horizon of expectations”. I know that the knowledge with which I start this research and the one with which I finish it is comprised by partial truths that are constrained by my point of view, by my lenses, by my mirada (mirror). In the months I spent planning this research, doing the field work and writing this thesis, I tried always to reflect upon the eyes –my eyes- that look at this reality; I tried to make my truths dialogue with other people‟s truths. I embraced the possibility that my perception of the world, my femininity, and my values and beliefs have a limited horizon determined by my own cultural background. As well, I embraced the possibility that my horizon could get expanded and modified by meeting the Indigenous and non-Indigenous women who participated in this research. I tried not to impose either my conceptual frameworks or my values; but it is necessary to acknowledge that they exist, that they accompany me all the time, and that they whisper in my ear interpretative truths. I am not trying by any means to objectively explain this reality. I am only trying to make known my own understanding about the experience that the Indigenous women in Chiapas have had when becoming the main actors of the betterment of their lives, families and communities. 8   I invite the reader to join me to the place where this research was born. Only if you understand where my curiosity, my perspective, my hopes and fears come from, only if you get to know the springs that move my understanding, you will be able to understand the reason why I look the way I look at the experiences of the Indigenous women in Chiapas.  From 2004 to 2006, while working in an agency of my municipal government, I worked with women‟s groups in marginalized areas in Mexico City. One of our social programs was conceived in collaboration with the international NGO, “The Hunger Project.” The goal was to facilitate participatory community planning and implementing whatever projects were needed to „end hunger‟. After several months, we realized that none of the projects was succeeding. In our interaction with women, we got to know that they were feeling unable to undertake the actions needed to overcome poverty and the domestic violence they were suffering. We then began facilitating self-esteem, women‟s rights, working-skills, and negotiation and decision-making workshops. It was a long and hard process; sometimes it was wonderful; other times it was frustrating; but, in any case, it was an unfinished one.  In 2006, I began studying for my Master‟s degree in Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. During that time, a Mexican friend told me about a picture that had touched her. In the image, a group of women wearing balaclavas were sitting on a panel; one of them was speaking at a microphone. Meanwhile a group of armed men, wearing balaclavas as well, were guarding their backs. They were Zapatista Indigenous women speaking out, while being protected by Zapatista men. Although I was already familiar with these images, as they have been broadcasted in television networks worldwide, my heart and my mind were spinning; I was anxious to get to understand what had happened in that corner of my country, that these women -who had always had a subordinated position- had the courage to express themselves while they were being endorsed and protected by men.  My surprise grew bigger when I attended the “Summit of the Zapatista Women with the Women of the World” in the Caracol de La Garrucha¸ in December 2007. In the Summit, dozens of women told their experiences and feelings about their active role in the Zapatista organization. There were more than 2,000 people from all over the world in the audience. The Zapatistas talked to us with great confidence, looking up front with dignity. I couldn‟t believe my eyes, since I had witnessed how hard it was for oppressed women to gain awareness, decision-making power and voice.  During the Summit, women talked about how difficult their lives had been during the last 500 years until 1994. They told us about the oppression and the discrimination they suffered 9  because of their ethnic, gender and class condition; and that this oppression was suffered within and outside their families and communities. Yet, they also talked about their lives now after they have gained awareness of their humanity, dignity and rights. They told how they were able to get organized and actively participate in decision-making that affects their lives and communities. The women who spoke out in La Garrucha were autonomous health and education promoters; members of cooperatives and collectives; some belonged to the Zapatista army; others were representatives at the Good Government Boards. I began to ask: What did the Zapatista Indigenous women do to transform their reality? How did they manage to create a new perception of them-selves? How did they acquire new values and beliefs that impelled them to become the main actresses of their own development?  My understanding of the Indigenous women‟s reality in Chiapas began with the Summit. Afterwards, I went back to the City of San Cristóbal where I would meet with members of K‟inal Anzetik, an NGO that provides consultancy service to cooperatives and collectives formed by Indigenous women. At that point, I had an ambiguous relation with the NGO. Supposedly, they were going to introduce me to empowered women who could participate in this research; in turn, I was going to help them collect information for research they were undertaking at a national level.   While I was waiting to meet people from K‟inal Anzetik, I interviewed two non- Indigenous men who have been very close to the Zapatista movement. They were emphatic to say that Indigenous women have barely achieved anything, that they were moving forward very slowly, and that their achievements were not as I imagined. Many women were still suffering domestic violence, and they kept carrying out the activities imposed by sexual division of labor.  At the same time, I began reading a book by Rosa Rojas titled Chiapas, ¿y las mujeres qué? 3  The author collects journal articles about oppression and subordination suffered by Indigenous women, including those who take part on the Zapatista movement.  I was confused for a while. On the one hand, my intuition told me that what I had witnessed confirmed an important awareness raising and empowerment process; and on the other, people who were close to the day-to-day life of Indigenous women had a completely opposite perception. I can affirm now that there is no doubt that women are still occupying a subordinate position with respect to men. However, an important transformation has indeed taken place among some groups. In order to understand the situation, it is necessary to understand their standpoint; what kind of claims  3  “Chiapas, and what about women?” 10  they wish women were fighting for; and if those claims are not the result of a specific context shaped by specific values and history.  I remembered then various moments during the Summit in which women in the audience questioned the Zapatistas because from their perspective, the Zapatista claims were not consistent with feminist claims from other countries (especially from the West). This happened, for instance, when women in the audience expressed their discomfort when Zapatistas said they were not fighting to legalize abortion in their autonomous communities. Because of this, I was very careful not to judge Indigenous women‟s achievements based on my own values and claims. I was always emphatic on asking participants to define what they found to be the achievements of the Indigenous women‟s struggle. Almost all of the participants asserted that one of their biggest achievements is that now women can speak out. Now they can express their opinions in both the private and the public realms. They can speak out in order to defend, claim and exercise their rights in order to raise awareness among other women about the ethnic and gender-based oppression they suffer and to have active participation in their positive transformation of their families and communities.  I was astonished to learn that their biggest achievement was to exercise the right to speak out. For me, as an educated Mestizo urban middle-income class Mexican woman, to speak out was always allowed and even required. For me, it was hard to understand a life of not being allowed to say what I feel, think, like, yearn for, imagine, or fear. As many of them said, the fear kept them silent, and “silence kills”. 1.5 RESEARCH METHODS From the above explanation of my own positionality in the research and origins of my interest in the topic, I will now explain the methods and procedures I used in this research to examine how women learned and acquired their ability to exercise their right to speak out and transform their lives. I gathered a small sample of women in Chiapas (n = 27) who were willing to share with me their thoughts and insights about the topics of interest to my research. The criteria I used to choose the participants are that women spent, at least, their childhood in an Indigenous community, that women spoke and understood Spanish, and that they had been involved in community development efforts. From the heterogeneous universe of women‟s groups in Chiapas, I chose to work with four subgroups of women: 11  (1) Indigenous women referred by an indigenous organization: Five women were referred to me by the organization K‟inal Anzetik. According to this organization, these are empowered women that have had a position in cooperatives and/or organizations. In one way or another, the five women have transgressed the social order imposed by the patriarchal system; and their transgression has had important consequences in their communities. The five of them were born in Indigenous communities and they have a tight contact with the city. One of them lives in her community and travels to the city of San Cristóbal twice a month; another one lives in the city and goes to her community once in a while; the other three spent half of the week in San Cristóbal and the other half in their communities. This is an important characteristic in all of the participants (not only the ones on this group) because they have had contact with and an important influence of the Mestizo culture, which, in some level, has modified their indigenous identity. Yet, at the same time, this contact allows them to bridge two cultures. Besides, in contrast with other Indigenous people that have adopted Mestizo culture, all of the participants show a big respect for their Indigenous origins and they identify themselves as Indigenous. They speak with family and friends in their indigenous language, though they speak Spanish in their workplace.Within this group, age is an important variable. Two of them are over 40. This is the reason why their contact with ideas, people and/or organizations that influenced awareness raising among Indigenous population might have happened during their late teenage years. The other three are younger women who were raised during their childhood or early teenage years in the midst of these revolutionary ideas. (2) Women members of FOMMA: Five other women who are members of the organization Mayan Women‟s Strength (Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya AC, FOMMA) were also interviewed. These women write and perform plays that talk about gender-base oppression and women‟s rights. The five of them were born in Indigenous communities and stayed there until they were teenagers. Before they started the organization, or before they became part of it, they were living in the city of San Cristóbal. They seldom go to their communities of origin, and if they do, they mainly visit their friends and family. However, they mostly present their plays in Indigenous communities where, sometimes, they spend time with people after the performance. Four of them speak Spanish in a daily-basis; and three of them speak Tzeltal or Tzotzil as their mother tongue. From the entire sample, women from FOMMA are the most influenced by the Mestizo culture. They acknowledge their Indigenous origins but they don‟t stick to most of the traditions of their communities of origin. Undoubtedly, they are all transgressors, and their agency transforms their 12  communities of origin but not as much as it transforms women that have access to the activities carried out by the organization. (3) Indigenous women members of CONDIMUJ: Seven more women who take part in the activities of Diocesan Women‟s Coordination (Coordinación Diocesana de Mujeres, CODIMUJ) were also interviewed. This Diocese covers half of Chiapas‟ territory; and it is formed, mainly, by Indigenous communities. These women are coordinators or representatives of one or several reflection groups in their communities; they collaborate with other women in the planning of cooperatives, collectives and other projects. They live in Indigenous communities and they go to the city four weekends per year to participate in the gatherings organized by CODIMUJ. All of them speak their original languages and their fluency in Spanish is limited. From the entire sample, they are the ones with less contact with the Mestizo culture. Women from different ages took part in this research. Our dialogue was time constrained because of the inaccessibility and remoteness of their communities. It was not possible to get to talk about their life histories in great detail. But I was able to get to know about their experiences as participants in the CODIMUJ; and most of all, about their self-perception as women with dignity and rights, and as agents of social transformation. (4) Mestizo women in various organizations working in Chiapas: Finally, 10 Mestizo women who have participated in different organizations (i.e. the Catholic Church, and leftist feminist organizations) were also interviewed. They and their organizations have facilitated, coordinated or advised reflection, awareness raising and organizing processes with Indigenous women.  The research methods used in this study were drawn from qualitative research tradition, particularly phenomenological and hermeneutic approach. My main interest was to get to know the vital and personal experience of each one of the participants; as well as the way each one of them had perceived their liberation; and the way in which this liberation allowed them to participate in planning efforts and in social transformation. This phenomenological approach is critical because I deeply believe that liberation is possible only if it starts from our own subjectivity. Liberation cannot be imposed, as claims from external social movements and ideologies can not be imposed either. I defend that planning should be participatory. And that the immanent condition of such participation is that agents are free to make choices based on their own desires, hopes, fears and assets. At the same time, this research also utilizes a hermeneutics approach. We are interpretative beings since we are always trying to give meaning to the world and our existence. 13  However, social phenomena as literary texts are polysemous, because they have multiple meanings and they point to various directions. From a single perspective, it is not possible to cover each and every one of these meanings and directions, and to generate an objective interpretation. This is because our interpretation of the world is always constrained by our own historicity, background, knowledge, culture, experiences, values, beliefs, desires, etc. Therefore, the only possible way is to commit to a deep dialogue with the other, in such a way that we both recognize that our starting point -that is our world understanding- is not the same; hence, we need to accept right from the beginning that my truths are not the other‟s truths. A real dialogue, then, is a game where our truths meet, question each other, and get modified and enriched. Furthermore, it is a game where our own self is at the table as it gets modified (Gadamer, 1965). During the interviews with participant women I tried to get to know women‟s life histories and their deep experiences of liberation, while I tried to build a dialogue where we could understand each other, and where their hopes and mine could find a common ground.  We focused mostly in their liberation process, their experience of enacting their internal capability to speak out, and on their participation on group and individual transformative actions. I undertook in-depth interviews with most Indigenous and Mestizo women (see Appendix A for a sample of the interview questions). Women from FOMMA, besides being individually interviewed, participated in a focus group. In addition, four of the ten Mestizo informants participated in a focus group. To complement the data from the in-depth interviews and focus groups, I did a close reading, analysis and observation of FOMMA‟s plays and performances. I also did careful reading and analysis of CODIMUJ‟s memoirs from 1992 to 2007. Finally, I also took participatory observation notes during the “Summit of the Zapatista Women with the Women of the World” held in the autonomous Caracol de La Garrucha from December 27th, 2007 to January, 2008; in the assembly convened in San Cristóbal by the Independent Women‟s Movement for the celebration of the International Women‟s Day in March 8, 2008; and in CODIMUJ‟s training gathering held on May 23 and 24, 2008, also in the City of San Cristóbal. 1.6 THESIS ORGANIZATION This thesis is divided into six chapters. In the second chapter, “Breaking the silence”, I provide a historical account of the origins of ethnic- and gender-based oppression that Indigenous men and women in Chiapas have suffered. Using census data and testimonies, I also describe the living conditions of women in the last 50 years. The second part of this chapter talks about the three 14  main social movements that got articulated in Chiapas, and that have made possible for women to participate in liberation processes. The third chapter, “The oppression turns into silence,” talks about domination dynamics, and how these have been enacted within patriarchy, coloniality and capitalism. In the last section of this chapter, Indigenous women tell how they internalized oppression, turning it into fear and shame that subsumed them into silence. The fourth chapter, “From oppression to planning,” talks about the processes that might drive the oppressed to freedom. As well, I analyze why liberation from oppression is a necessary requirement to participate in any planning efforts. In this chapter there is an important distinction made between the Western concept of planning and planning as the praxis of liberation by which Indigenous women in Chiapas have decided to undertake transformative actions, be it individually or collectively organized. In the last section of this chapter, Indigenous and Mestizo women talk about the different processes by which Indigenous women achieved to denaturalize oppression, to remove it from their bodies, to defeat fear and shame, to start exercising their internal capability to speak out, and to gather strength to transform their realities. Chapter Five titled “The possibilities for the „Other‟ planning” talks about the conditions that create the possibility to plan for a total different world, based on the liberation of the oppressed consciousness. Rooted in the principles of “The Other Campaign” launched by the Zapatistas in 2006, I explain how these women overcome historical oppression to become the main actors of their lives‟, families‟ and communities‟ transformation. As well, this chapter talks about how liberation can generate a new system of dispositions that allow the agents to envision and to fight, individually and collectively, for a better future. The last chapter, Chapter Six, provides some concluding observations and analysis to tie together the arguments proposed in the previous chapters. 1.7 FINAL NOTES The names of all Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women interviewed for this research have been changed. To distinguish their voices from my own and that of my secondary literature sources, I placed all their interview quips in italics. As well, all the stories and quotes in the next pages are being used with full participants‟ approval in accordance with the ethical review application made with the Behavioural Research Ethics Board at the University of British Columbia (see Appendix B for the Certificate of Ethics Approval). While I was finishing the field 15  work, the participants received a transcript of their interviews so they could have the chance to decide if the material could be totally or partially used. Finally, the field work was concluded with a gathering attended by 60% of the Indigenous research participants. During this reunion, women got to know my tentative conclusions, and they had the opportunity to verify the accuracy of my conclusions. They were invited to make any suggestions and to interrogate and invalidate any of my ideas. Given that this research is a reflection upon Indigenous women‟s voice, I have used lengthy literal quotes from the interviewees. Spanish is not the first language of the Indigenous participants, so the reader will find important distinctions between the way they speak and standard Spanish. During our last meeting, women asked me not to modify their voices, and I respectfully and happily obeyed their request. With their previous approval, for the sake of the readers‟ understanding, I have only corrected some of the verb tenses (some of the stories were told in the continuous present tense) and the gender of pronouns and adjectives 4  (which are generally masculine in their narratives). However, it has been very difficult to maintain their voices in the English translation. Since English is not my first language, it has not been easy to find linguistic translations that make sense. Yet, considerable effort has been made in order for the final output to make sense to external readers. This research is being published in a bilingual version. It is the first time that this is done in the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC. My supervisors and I thought that a bilingual version was critical since all of the stories were transmitted in Spanish. I hope that this research is useful for both English speakers and for Mexican and Latin American people whose dreams, fears, hopes, struggles and realities are coded in Spanish. I hope that one day, in order to put an end to linguistic and epistemological colonization, this and other papers can be translated in the original languages of my Indigenous sisters. Finally, from deep in my heart I am grateful for all the stories, the laughter, the hopes and the fears the every one of these wonderful women shared with me. All of them cherished my hope and my struggle to make this world an inclusive, fair and free place for all. I am grateful for their trust, and I honor their fight, suffering and strength. Each word in this thesis is written with full humility and respect for who they are and for all that they have to teach to the women around the world. My life, my heart and my soul were transformed after I met them. And I hope to be able to transmit and share with my readers everything that I learned from them.  4  In contrast to English, in Spanish pronouns and adjectives usually have a gender. 16  2. BREAKING THE SILENCE  Story one: Karina  I was reaching the end of my fifth month in Chiapas. I had listened to wonderful stories of 11 participants. Yet, with every interview I grew interested in understanding the starting point of this dignifying force that impelled awareness raising and transformative action among Indigenous women. In May 23 rd  and 24 th , 2008, I lived one of the most beautiful experiences of this research and of my life. I finally found the source of the spiritual force that many informants had advised me to look at. 5  Every four months, CODIMUJ organizes retreats among the advisors and the coordinators of the whole Diocese of San Cristóbal. This time, more than one hundred female fighters, wrapped in many different colors and several languages, were gathered in the main room. Guided by some passage of the Bible, they analyzed the latest social, political and religious happenings in their communities and in the whole country. The gathering took place in three different languages: Spanish, Tzotzil and Tzeltal. After each intervention, Karina stood up and began repeating the messages either in Spanish or Tzeltal, according to each occurrence. Without fear, without shame, Karina translated the messages with a high and confident voice. For me, Karina is a messenger; not only because she carries messages for one language to another, but also because she carries in her speech a message of freedom. She shared with me that she understands her life through a passage of the New Testament. According to Saint Mathew‟s  5  PAOLA: What do you think about my thesis topic, Doctor? Am I on the right track? MERCEDES: Yes, you are. But if you are interested on community planning, you should approach the women of the CODIMUJ. With them you should analyze with whom they get organizedin order to impact which areas of their lives, in order to transform which aspect of discrimination. They are the best example.  PAOLA: But how did women began to gain awareness? PATRICIA: It was, definitively, through the Catholic Church. You need to look for the women of the CODIMUJ. They were the ones that started everything.  PAOLA: Who is it? Who has done all this work? ANTONIO: The Diocese. Don Samuel did so much for women‟s awareness and for their dignity. Not all pastoral zones promoted this. CODIMUJ and the Believer People have done work. They are the most politically progressive in the communities. Men and women. The Believer People is formed mainly by women. They are the clearest, politically speaking. Their work has a real local and regional weight. 17  (16, 1-7) and Saint Luke‟s (24, 1-8) passages, after Jesus Christ was crucified, all the apostles and disciples got scared and were hiding. However, some of his female disciples bravely went to his tomb on the third day of his death. They wanted to anoint his body with oil and perfumes. At the entrance of the sepulcher, they found the angel of the Lord who told them, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Go and tell the apostles that Jesus has resurrected”. The women rushed to the apostles‟ hiding place and gave them the good news. Likewise, this has been Karina‟s life in the last 30 years. She has been bringing to her family and to the women in her community the good news: women are loved by God. And because He loves them, He wants them to have worthy lives, to be free and happy, and He wants them to be recognized as equals to men and to all other humans. Like many Chiapas women, Karina was sold in marriage when she was 14 years old. Her father found her a “husband” because he didn‟t want her to keep on studying. “Before, my father didn‟t like that I studied; [he didn‟t like that] a young woman is walking on the streets because that is the custom. He didn‟t like that so he forced me to get married.” She affirmed that her husband took away her joy and her rights. Her parent-in-law and husband used to say “„You shouldn‟t speak out because you are a woman. You [are] only good for the house, for being a mother of the children, for growing them up, for taking care of your husband‟”. Bearing one child after another, complying with domestic chores, and suffering male violence and patriarchal restrictions, Karina was not able to go out of her house or to participate or to make any decision. She grew up under the Catholic faith. She was lucky to be around when the Catholic Church began to question its own power position and its oppressive practices,  choosing a liberation theology for the poor. When Karina was 20, she began to participate in the Women‟s Area of the San Cristóbal Diocese. There  she learned that she was a person, that she was brave and that she was God‟s beloved. “By myself I analyzed which are my rights [and] how Jesus helped women to speak out.” In spite of her husband‟s fury, Karina attended the analysis and reflection groups. Over the years, she began visiting women from other communities to invite them to start their own groups. On a regular basis, when Karina would came back home, her drunk husband would beat her up. However, she neither quit participating in the Church nor quit her marriage. “Not because he beat me I left him; I didn‟t leave him, but I didn‟t leave my work [either]. I kept up with my work and with my husband.” We don‟t know all the complex reasons why she didn‟t leave her husband. What we do know is that she trusts that men and women can get to know, understand and practice the 18  message of liberation. “I came out with suffering. However, I clarified; even though he hits me and offends me, I keep clarifying. Even if he stays angry, I come out. When I come back, he is smoother. Little by little, when I come back, I bring with me good things. He stays angry but I am not angry. This is how I achieved it. It was hard. Little by little. I tell him „You are a man and you are going to understand what it is to be a man; you are not a man to hurt a woman‟, I tell him, „You are not a man to hurt any [other] person. Man of God and woman of God‟. My poor husband stays like that. I have a father and a father-in-law. My poor father and father-in-law also understood. He got to understand, my poor old man. My father-in-law is and old man as well, but he understood. I explained well. I explained to my father-in-law and to my mother. But there are some men that are telling gossips, they are drunks; among men they start gossiping, then they start bullying. But I have word for all of them.” Her message has also transcended her private realm. Karina, armed with God‟s Word, has been visiting women within and outside her community to share what she is learning about the liberation of the oppressed. “It‟s sad that a woman doesn‟t study God‟s Word, that she doesn‟t come out to give a little of her time. Later on, she herself won‟t have a word. But if a woman comes out later on, she will have word. That is the reason why we are clarifying. We talk to the young women. We tell them about the rights. We have to help young women. Some of them are shy because their fathers won‟t let them come out; [they let] only the young men. But nowadays, there are many workers in the Church that clarify, they announce  that a woman has rights too, that she has to learn how to walk, how to defend her right; she needs to know what is her right, what is her freedom, what is her liberation.” The Zapatista uprising on 1994 brought new challenges to Karina‟s struggle. During the last 16 years, she had been analyzing and reflecting upon her rights and human worthiness. Mexican Army soldiers were surprised by her strength. Amid the war zone, she came out to confront and to challenge them. “The war of „94 started, and I was involved. I was the only one that held on. We are 24 coordinators in my parish. The other 23 quit but I was the only one that held on to the fight in „94. I was the only one because I saw that I was not afraid of the soldiers; I was not afraid. They get in, they get out and they walk through my house. But I talked to them. We cried. We cried because it was not easy when the soldier frightened us. Yet, as my husband ill-treated me before, then I realized the strength that I had.  I walked in God‟s Word and in the organization 6. My husband realized it as well; he got aware of woman‟s strength, woman‟s  6  She refers to the Zapatista movement. 19  worthiness, of woman‟s rights. I brought the other women together, the ones that were part of the movement; I brought them together and we all spoke in front of the army. Then my husband recognized it. Before, he used to hurt me; later on, he didn‟t hurt me anymore because he saw my strength. Those men ran away, the houses were left empty; no one remained there but women. The soldiers understood, but it was because the strength of our courage, the strength of our rights.” Since 1993, the Women‟s Area of San Cristóbal Diocese modified its structure and became the CODIMUJ. Since then, Karina went from being a group representative to being a zone coordinator. She began getting together in four-monthly basis with the rest of the coordinators. Guided by some passages of the Bible, they prepare the analysis and reflection of different themes. Afterwards, they replicated this effort with the parish coordinators. Karina highly enjoyed these meetings because she has discovered that: “The same situation that we live is lived by other women; the way in which a young woman lives is similar to the way in which another young woman lives. This is why it is important that we put our word together here; we meet, we share; that gives us joy, it helps us, it helps our minds. When we get to a community, indeed, we know how to analyze, [we know] how to talk about these things in our community, [we analyze] how women and men are living.” Karina helps other women denaturalize oppression, by facilitating the analysis and reflection of the different issues that affect them. At the same time, she facilitates that other women gradually gather the strength to speak out. “Yes, I keep walking, I keep organizing [women] in the communities. We look for a theme, [related either with] health or rights. [We analyze] which are their rights, as the right to self-esteem, or as the right to literacy. I do that as well. We go [there] to teach how to read and write. I bring adult and young women together, also men. I realize that this is my liberation. I am free to do this work.” Furthermore, Karina, as many other coordinators of CODIMUJ, has discovered that praxis is the next step in the liberation process. The first stage is to start analyzing and reflecting, which leads them to value themselves as humans beloved by God; this allows them to recognize their courage, intelligence and own world understanding. The next stage, which appears to rise naturally, is the passage from liberation achieved in the body and consciousness, to liberation turned into action. In this way, women reach the point in which they start to get organized in different ways and different purposes. Generally, they get organized to do some kind of collective 20  work. Karina has witnessed how women get organized in collective projects such as bakery, community agriculture, chicken breading, handy-craft production and selling, etc. Finally, Karina exercises her transformative and liberating agency at a political level 7 . Based on her personal decision, Karina collaborates with the Zapatistas to bring the liberation message of God‟s Word to the soldiers of the EZLN. “I am part of the organization and I am part of “God‟s Word”8. They ask me to encourage the young soldiers; I cheer them up through God‟s Word. If I don‟t do it, then what? What is God‟s Word worthy for if we don‟t act?!”  Paola: Has the power to speak out helped you and other women to achieve a better life?  Karina: Yes, in my experience I used to get sick. If someone tells me off, I someone makes fun of me, if someone tells me something, I don’t keep it to myself anymore. I know how to speak out. I used to get sick because of this ill- treatment. But not any more. It happens alike with other women. I see it. Women now understand in their hearts.  Karina‟s story above introduces well this chapter on women “breaking their silence.” This chapter has two objectives. First, I will explain the historical origins of the oppressive living conditions of Indigenous women in the last 500 years. Knowing these conditions is critical to understanding what women have been fighting against in order to gain consciousness and participate in decision-making. In order to understand these living conditions, I will explain the historical origins of ethnic and gender-based oppression that these women suffer. Afterwards, using census data since 1960, as well testimonies from senior Indigenous women, I will describe women‟s living condition right when the liberation processes began in 1963. The second objective of this chapter is to describe the juncture of social movements that unleashed group and personal processes by which women gained awareness, denaturalized oppression and carried out transformative actions. In order for these processes to exist, it was necessary to question the social systems that supported ethnic, class and gender-based oppression and put these systems in crisis. Three social actors were the main cause of this critical juncture:  7  CODIMUJ has no direct relationship with the Zapatista Army. However, the underground supporting-base groups are scattered in the whole state. Therefore, the advisors of CODIMUJ cannot and do not want to know which of the participating women support the organization. 8  A common expression that means that she is participating within the Catholic Church. 21  the Diocese of San Cristóbal Women‟s Area, feminist left wing organizations and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). 2.1 BRIEF HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF OPPRESSION IN CHIAPAS Chiapas as an entity has no pre-Columbian antecedent. Before the Spaniard conquest, the different ethnic groups already lived under the military domination of some other group. They knew how to stick to certain rules imposed by the dominant power. For instance, when the Spaniards arrived, almost all aboriginal peoples paid tribute to the Aztecs; as well, they had to speak in Nahuatl since it was imposed as the official language. However, the Spaniard conquest meant “something much deeper: it was a trauma for the Mesoamerican soul, a violation of the self in the most intimate” (Aubry: 72). This author illustrates this with several examples: (1) The tribute was not anymore collective, but individually imposed; every individual was the king‟s servant, and each one of them was individually exploited to get the biggest possible benefit. (2) In order to segregate and identify them, the aboriginals were forced to dress with what now we call to be their “traditional costume” (which they have dignified by adding elements of their vernacular culture). (3) Their gods were demonized and humiliated, along with their conception of time and creation. (4) Each town was forced to move half league away from their temples and cities. According to the Spaniards, this was done in order to prevent the perpetuation of aboriginal history and beliefs. (5) Finally, a radical change in their conceptual codes was imposed. The aboriginal codices that collected ancestral knowledge and wisdom in hieroglyphics were destroyed by the conquerors, forcing the aboriginals to “move from the Mesoamerican syllabic logic to Western alphabetic structure” (Aubry: 73). After Mexican Independence (1810-1821), Chiapas was ceded from Guatemala and annexed as Mexican territory on September 12, 1824. Some of the colonial political mechanisms were disabled after the Independence Movement. But as early as 1822, municipalities were created. By 1824, newly laid municipal operating rules discriminated against and excluded indigenous participation in holding public office. Public offices could only be held according to specific requirements, such as ability to read and write, ownership of properties, and not being a day laborer. Besides, neither indigenous culture nor community structures were allowed to operate under the new political administration.  (For a more detailed history of colonialism in Mexico, see Appendix B.) 22  2.1.1. Class, Colonial and Ethnic Based Oppression In 1821, the privatization of communal land was decreed. In spite of Indigenous people‟s strong resistance, capitalist farmers and businessmen gradually arrogated these lands. Because of “Lerdo‟s de Tejada Law”9 decreed during Benito Juarez‟ administration, and because of another land law 10  decreed by Porfirio Díaz in 1883, all communal properties were finally expropriated and given to private owners. At the end of the 19 th  century, new specific forms of oppression tied to the plantations and export-oriented economy had emerged. It was against these forms of oppression tied to the land, livelihoods, resources and rights that Zapatistas and other Indigenous raised up one hundred years later. The 20 th  century started its first decade with the uprising of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and the creation of the dominant political party, Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI). One of the most important legacies of the Revolution was the Agrarian Reform. According to it, all arable land in Mexican territory should be divided into ejidos. These were collectively- owned lands. Within them, each family of the community had the right to grow and to live in a parcel, besides having common land to be collectively used for agriculture.  However, agrarian distribution didn‟t take place evenly in all Mexican territory as originally planned. This was so because very powerful people didn‟t want to see their land taken away and distributed, particularly in the coffee haciendas. Post-revolutionary governments didn‟t do much either to modify the dominant perception that reduced Indigenous cultures as inferiors. Quite the opposite, most of the State policy objectives were meant to assimilate Indigenous peoples and cultures so they could become more like the “national” culture. For instance, the “Rural School” Program promoted by President Plutarco Elias Calles (1924-1928) strove to “educate” many Indigenous children as possible. Since then, this assimilation and erasure of Indigenous cultures has been an underlying principle of public education. By 1934-1940, the Lazaro Carrdenas‟ government promoted a development policy called Indigenismo, declaring Indigenous people‟s participation in the national economic development process that encompassed Agrarian Reform, agricultural technical development, and Spanish-learning, literacy, health and vaccination programs. Consequently, Indigenismo ignited  9  Miguel Lerdo de Tejada was the Treasury Departmen Minister. He created and promoted a law called Ley de desamortización de Fincas Rústicas y Urbanas. 10  Ley de colonización y deslinde de terrenos baldíos 23  peasant resistance to landholders, 11  and favored economic betterment through the construction of community roads, and the organization of production and consumption cooperatives, etc. However, the government-party (PRI) turned Indigenismo into a cooptation mechanism since it was used to push Indigenous peoples into clientelistic relations and aid dependency on the government. The adversaries of Indigenismo (such as Medina in Olivera: 83), stated that this policy was nothing but the modernization of control mechanisms, since it was detrimental to Indigenous self-determination, as it also fostered their dependency on government. Once again, this development policy didn‟t transform oppressive foundations because Indigenous cultures continued to be perceived and treated as inferior. Similarly, as long as they represented political benefits, they were integrated into the economy and electoral system as voters, while they continued to be socially and culturally segregated. In Mexico, the neo-liberalization process that ensured Indigenous colonization began in 1982 when the country became an important laboratory for freer markets, export-oriented industrialization, acquisition of foreign debt, and the structural adjustment programs enforced by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. One of its most important phases began in 1994 under NAFTA (North-America Free Trade Agreement). Free-market requires, among other things, that commodities travel tax-free from one country to another; that the State doesn‟t interfere in price-allocation and market-competition through government-owned companies (hence para-statals shall be privatized); and that labour and ecological dispositions are adjusted in order to attract and retain national and international investment. Indigenous and other peasants from all the country suffered several consequences from the free-market economy. The most important one was the amendment of the 27 th  Constitutional article, which established the Agrarian Reform. In 1992, in order for Mexico to be accepted as a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and participate in NAFTA), President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) accepted, among other conditions, to privatize communal land. Thus ejidos were parceled to become private property. This opened the door for agro-industries to buy peasant lands, facilitated by increasing levels of rural poverty due to declining farming product prices, influenced by global markets. This implied the proletarianization of indigenous and other peasants, making them even more vulnerable to  11  The landholders were the finqueros who were the owners of the ranches, fincas and haciendas. They were similar to feudal lords, they owned the land and they “employed” Indigenous peasants to work on it, they set the rules and laws to be followed within their land. 24  exploitation. This reform also enabled the Mexican government to buy formerly collective-owned land, in order to build required infrastructure for the operation of “development regional plans” such as “Puebla-Panama Plan”. These free-market oriented plans benefit corporations and other big capitalists while neglecting the betterment of Indigenous social and living conditions. 2.1.2. Historical Roots of Gender-Based Oppression in Chiapas Indigenous women, because of both their ethnicity and gender have suffered various forms of racialized and gender-based oppression exercised by the State and foreign and local capitals, as well as those generated internally within their own communities and families. According to Mercedes Olivera‟s (2004) research, before Spanish invasion, ethnic, gender and class stratum inequities were also present among the early civilizations that occupied current Mexican territory. However, discrimination was far less intense than the one imposed by colonizers. Although women had less power and privilege than men, women were more valued and their activities were not as constrained by their reproductive roles and the sexual division of labour. Olivera deduced, then, that even if the inequities between men and women were far less than those imposed during colonization, pre-colonial women were not as valued as men in the domestic and public political sphere. For instance, normative prescriptions that women received in their childhood made clear they had a serving role within the family “women should obey their husbands, should be chaste and should breed many children […]; mothers taught their daughters, since they were children, to be bashful, to talk with reverence and to comply orders” (62). Another example of the diminished value socially assigned to women, can be found in the legal distinction between men‟s and women‟s adultery; in the latter, the woman and her lover were punished, while there was no sanction for the former. As a final example, women were given as tribute to war victors, as it happened with Malinche; thus, women were considered war booty, disposed property of men. Spaniard invasion was made possible through war, slavery and epidemics; yet, it was secured by ideological and spiritual conquest. The gender-based oppression that Indigenous women still suffer contains re-signified pre-Hispanic cultural elements; however “its foundations can be found in colonial culture, in which these were consolidated as social structures” (65). Building on Margarita Pissano (2000), Olivera states that “the conquest and the colonial system was built on the outraged bodies of [the Indigenous] women” (2004, 70). On the one hand, conquerors, land holders, religious, and other Spaniard authorities put no brakes on the sexual abuse of Indigenous 25  women, using physical force, or enslavement. Tzvetan Todorov (1987) 12  quotes the following fragments of individuals directly involved in Spaniard invasion:  Each [Spaniard] miner used to lay down indistinctively with each one of the Indians they were in charge of; according to his own desire, disregarding if she was married or a young female. He took her to his hut or ranch, and he sent the sorrowful husband to the mines to look for gold. At night, when the husband came back with the gold, he was lashed or blew with a stick, because he didn‟t bring much. It happened sometimes that he was hand and feet-tied, as a dog, and put under the bed, where the miner was laying with his wife (Dominican report to M. de Chiéve, minister of Carlos I, in Todorov: 150).  On the other hand, as belligerent clashes, epidemics and slavery caused sharp declines in indigenous population, women‟s bodies were expropriated to breed as many children as possible, in order to reproduce king‟s serfs and tributaries. Finally, their bodies were stigmatized according to the Catholic conception of feminine sexuality, which was tagged as sin, a source of filth and temptation. New values and female models were built upon this systemic oppression of indigenous women. The Catholic Church played a major role in this oppression, as a critical institution for keeping colonial power. The Church promoted discriminatory and sexist values and models, encompassing elements such as “servility, submissiveness, fidelity, obedience, dependence; with the inability to think and to decide; with the resignation to bear their destiny; with the prohibition to speak (to give their word); and with the obligation to breed many daughters and sons, which should be king‟s future tributaries, as obedient and submissive to the authority of the father, the patron, the king‟s government and God”13 (Olivera 2004: 70). These new prescriptions were assumed, internalized and reproduced by Indigenous men and women, not only in relationship with White or Mestizo men, but within their own communities and families as well. In the coffee plantations, ranches and haciendas, women had to carry out the same agricultural tasks as men. They were forced to work for free in the casa grande 14 , where not only they had to carry out house-keeping chores (cooking, making the tortilla, cleaning, taking care of children and even breast-feeding the babies), but they were also forced to sexually serve the patron, his sons and senior employers. At the end of the day, raped, ill-treated and tired, they  12  All translations of Tzvetan Todorov‟s book are done by the author. 13  My emphasis 14  The literal translation would be “the big house”; it was the name given to the land holder‟s house. 26  went back to their own huts to do their domestic responsibilities assigned by the sexual division of labour, suffering similar abuses from their husbands, fathers and brothers. Labour and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women was reproduced in urban areas, as well. Being small girls, they were sold or given out to Mestizo families. They were forced to work for free as domestic employers; in turn, they received housing and barely enough food to survive. They were usually ill-treated, abused and exploited. Among their tacit obligations, they had to keep sexual relations with bosses and their sons. Obviously, these sexual relations were abusive, unequal and illegitimate; they were socially tolerated but it was women who were blamed and stigmatized. In the case they got pregnant, they were thrown out, and they were tagged as sinners and dirty. As they were not accepted back in their communities, they ended giving up their baby to some relative, and looking for another Mestizo family that would “employ” them again. Undoubtedly, there were many women and men that resisted abuse. However, it was more common, that instead of seeing their abuse as a strong reason for rebellion, it generated dependency linkages between Mestizos and Indigenous, thus perpetuating oppression.  This dynamic of dependency enhanced by patronage and patriarchy is explained below: Real or ritual kinship between workers and patrons was ensured by the social use of women‟s bodies in the fincas. This carried strong feelings of dependency, of paternalistic and patriarchal nature, which were used by landowners to justify and cover the so-called Indian inferiority. Such inferiority was part of the habitus that mobilized and reproduced dependency relations among them. (Olivera 2004: 76)  In the 20 th  century, development policies implemented by successive governments coming from the dominant PRI party, which has reigned in Mexico since the early 1930s, did not modify Indigenous gender conditions. Gender subordination was merely re-signified and adapted to the new possibilities for women‟s economic participation. Under the developmentalist State, Indigenous women began participating in the market by selling flowers, herbs, eggs, handicrafts, etc. Their ethnic situation was barely modified while their gender condition remained unaltered. As the sexual division of labour stayed the same, they had to keep working at home on top of their productive activities. Furthermore, women were, and still are, discriminated and exploited by people with whom they transact. For instance, in Chiapas it is well-known that some Coleta 15  women (known as atajadoras 16 ), intercept Indigenous women on their way to the public market. They snatch their merchandise, and in the best  15  Coleta is the name given to the Mestizo people born in the City of San Cristóbal. 16  Atajadora is a noun that comes from the Spanish verb atajar which means “to intercept” or “to tackle”. 27  scenario, they threw at the Indigenous woman some coins, which are a fraction of the fair price for their goods. But even without atajadoras in their way, Indigenous women have to dodge racist obstacles, as I witnessed during my research. For instance, handicraft street-vendors walk day and night around San Cristóbal, showing their products and persuading potential costumers. Some of the vendors sleep on the streets. Others sit on the cathedral pavement until 3 or 4 in the morning, displaying their products and waiting for tourists and young people to come out from the bars. They have to deal not only with inconsiderate and even aggressive bargaining, but also with ill-treatment by policemen and other authorities. For instance, on Saturday nights, when there are more possible buyers on the streets, municipal firemen drench the cathedral forecourt and surrounding sidewalks, making it difficult for Indigenous sellers to sell their goods. Neoliberal culture and politics have brought new consequences for Indigenous communities, especially for women. Agricultural production is no longer solely for household consumption but for selling in exchange for cash. As import tariffs for maize and beans (Chiapas‟ main agricultural products) have been completely eliminated, agricultural production has been subjected to global dynamics. Family economy has been quickly decreasing, forcing men to migrate, and women to be integrated into the labour market in very vulnerable and disadvantaged positions. When men migrate, women stay in charge of supporting the family, often without the necessary support and resources. Neoliberal economic dynamics have also brought consequences for women‟s health. Health and reproductive policies imposed on Mexico by the World Bank, added to racism, so characteristic of State-run health institutions that employ discriminatory practices. For instance, many women have undergone tubal ligation without their consent. Due to the above forms of State-sanctioned oppression, some Indigenous communities are demanding to exercise their autonomy and self-determination. In turn, the Mexican government has been implementing counter-insurgency strategies, known as “low intensity war”. Indigenous women are the most affected by this war waged by military and paramilitary presence that has limited women‟s mobility, or made them  victims of harassment and sexual abuse. Women and children have been targeted in counter-insurgency massacres as it happened in Acteal in December 22 nd , 1997. 17   17  On December 1997, there were around 350 Indigenous, mostly women and children, living in Acteal. They were refugees from different communities from the municipality of Chenalhó in Chiapas. They were running away from the murders and aggressions carried out by paramilitary groups from PRI against Zapatista supporting base-groups. 28  2.1.3 The Face of Inequity in Chiapas: Statistics and Testimonies In the following, using testimonies and census data, I will describe the living conditions of the Indigenous population in Chiapas, especially women and girls, between 1960 and 2000. As I have noted before, the origins of the ethnic and gender-base oppression can be found since colonization in the 16 th  Century. However, I will focus this analysis in the last five decades because it is in 1960s where, according to my research, the Indigenous women liberation processes started.  I will use two kinds of sources. The first one comprises testimonies given by the female Zapatista commanders in the “Summit of the Zapatista Women with the Women of the World” in December, 2007. The second set is comprised of data from the “Housing and Population Census” done in Mexico every ten years; this data goes from 1960 to 2000. It is important to note that the quality of census data collected among Indigenous populations in the first decades has been poor because of methodological problems and biases. In many cases, the pollsters didn‟t speak the languages of the informants, while most of the informants didn‟t speak Spanish. In the case of data collection in the haciendas, ranches and fincas, where most of the Indigenous men and women lived and worked, the landholders were the ones who provided the information to the pollster, thus hiding the semi-slavery living conditions of the Indigenous people (Rovira, 1997). Therefore, even the following analysis demonstrates outstanding inequities, these inequities are probably even bigger in the real world. A. POPULATION As noted in Chart 1, Chiapas‟ population in 1960 was about 1,210,870. The population was concentrated in the rural areas; only 24.4% of the population lived in the urban areas. According to 1960 census data, only 381,757 people spoke an Indigenous language. But it is very probable that the Indigenous population was bigger than the registered number according to their mother tongue. It is also probable that even people with Indigenous origin had stopped using their language.   In the morning of the 22 nd , the refugees were praying for peace, when a group of 60 to 90 paramilitaries began shooting. People tried to run away. The shooting lasted for 7 hours. 21 women, 16 children and 8 men died, while there were dozens of wounded. The massacre in Acteal has been considered by many people as a State crime, since the paramilitaries were armed and trained by the Federal and Provincial governments. Besides, a clear proof of the government complicity is that 200 meters away from where the Indigenous women and children were being killed, around 40 provincial policemen stayed during the 7 hours. General Julio César Martínez was among them; he had an important position in the provincial police force; and he accepted before the Public Ministry that he had been nearby during the whole shooting.  29  Table 1. Chiapas’ population distribution according to sex and residence, 1960   Total % Urban % Rural % Total 1,210,870 100.0      295,867  24.4 915,003 75.6 Men      613,777  50.7      141,801  23.1 471,976 76.9 Women      597,093  49.3      154,066  25.8 443,027 74.2 Source: Secretaría de Industria y Comercio, Dirección General de Estadística (1963). VIII Censo General de Población – 1960.  In both rural and urban areas, data on male-female population ratio showed important gender differential. In the urban areas, there were 92 men per 100 women; in contrast with the rural areas, where there were 106 men per each 100 women in 1960s. The former rate is generally observed in human populations. Hormonal and biological, among other differences, allow women to survive more than the men in the first and the last years of life. But when the number of men exceeds that of women, there are social, economic and cultural conditions that generate this trend, which could be due to selective infant mortality, maternal mortality high indexes, domestic violence, excessive workload, selective restrictions to access health care, high female migration, etc. In 1990, Chiapas‟ total population increased to 3,210,496 people. Of these, 716,000 were Indigenous language speakers. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the total population almost tripled, while the Indigenous and Indigenous language-speaking population only doubled (INEGI, 2005b). In this decade, Chiapas‟ total population was equally distributed among men and women. However, women still concentrated in urban areas, at 95 men per 100 women, and 103 men per 100 women in the rural areas. From 1990 to 2000, the distribution of the Indigenous language speaker population was modified. While in 1990, 85.6% of this group lived in rural areas; by 2000 a big segment of this pop