Using words taken from the internet communications of the indigenous rebels of Chiapas, we began in 1994 by creating a well-received performance piece entitled, ‘Yo Soy Zapatista”. After receiving a poetic letter of invitation (from the Sup himself!), a small group traveled to Chiapas as observers to the first magical meeting between Mexican civil society and the Zapatistas (The National Demographic Convention) which was held deep in the Lacondon Jungle in August 2004. Several years later in 1996 Schools for Chiapas itself was born during the first large meeting between the international community and the autonomous Mayan communities. As everyone (including extra-terrestrials) were invited, this meeting was billed at "The First Intergalactica"... and Schools for Chiapas was there!
Since that time Schools for Chiapas has grown and matured. We have been inspired and guided by the Mayan communities of Chiapas; nurtured by the creativity of a diverse collective of dedicated volunteers; and inspired by the growing awareness that a better world is possible.
Schools for Chiapas began as an effort to raise funds and support the construction of schools in the autonomous Mayan communities. Schools for Chiapas is proud to have been involved from the start in the first ever Zapatista school construction project located in the highlands civilian center of Oventic (Caracole II, Heart of the Zapatistas in Front of the World). The project was an autonomous secondary school, designed by Mayan volunteers and build by volunteers from dozens of small autonomous communities in the highlands of Chaipas. Groups of Mexican and international volunteers worked along side of a massive all volunteer indigenous workforce land, lending a small (and mostly symbolic) hand to the construction effort. The school, which is still very much in existence, is run as boarding schools for the dozens of students (age 11-20) who come from many widely spaced communities through out the Highlands and has graduated 100's of students who now work as promoters (Zapatista for teacher/facilitator) in the autonomous health, education and agricultural systems.
Soon afterwards Schools for Chiapas began major school construction projects in Guadalupe el Tepeyac, and in the civilian Zapatista centers of Roberto Barrios and Francisco Gomez while continuing work in Oventic. The first Schools for Chiapas web page was launched, the Mother Seeds in Resistance campaign began to oppose transgenic corn in Chiapas, and the international education programs of Schools for Chiapas were formalized and greatly expanded.
It was during this early period that one of our coordinators (Peter Brown) was captured by the Mexican army and deported from Mexico with great fanfare by the then president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo. Over the next 30 months, Peter vociferously challenged his deportation and won (by default) an important legal point which ultimately affirmed the legality of Zapatista schools (and the rights of national and international volunteers to support these schools) under the Mexican constitution.
In 2000 the Zapatistas created the “March of the People of the Color of the Earth” and the very popular Schools for Chiapas project “The Little Yellow School Bus for Peace in Chiapas” was born. During its' 4 treks between the US and Mexico, the "Little Schools Bus for Peace" travelled widely, stopping at the homes of supporters and solidarity sites to teach about Chiapas and participate in a variety of actions and demonstrations.
Today, Schools for Chiapas works in education for literacy, education for health, education for ecological agriculture, and education for sustainable production. We have launched a new and improved web page which we hope will both educate and allow us to tell the story of our current work. We welcome your participation in our efforts to birth a new world and hope you will feel free to contact us with any questions, criticisms, concerns, or suggestions.
Behind the work of Schools for Chiapas is the long history of our fiscal sponsor and parent organization, Grass Roots Events. For over twenty years a variety of collectives, teams, and individuals had carried out a multitude of cultural and educational solidarity projects under the auspices of Grass Roots Events, Inc., a California based non-profit corporation. These diverse projects have included a progressive bookstore and performing space, the gallery show Mexico’s Political Renaissance, U.S. school visits by Super Barrio, school building efforts in Central America and Africa, plus large public performances by artists such as the San Francisco Mime Troupe, John Handcox. Los Alecranes Mojados, Pete Seeger, Peggy Watson, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Gabino Palomares, Roy Brown, Holly Near, Intiliamani, Floyd Westerman, and many, many smaller cultural events and gatherings. Grass Roots Events, Inc. occasionally serves as fiscal sponsor for progressive groups and projects such as Schools for Chiapas.