Health Center Construction
The autonomous health clinics and "casas de salud" (Houses of Health) of the Zapatista movement are conceived, designed, and built by the Mayan people of Chiapas . Because of the extraordinary level of community participation, a Zapatista construction project is rather amazing to experience. Before any construction project is launched there are extensive consultations between a variety of community, educational, spiritual, and political Mayan collectives to establish a harmonious plan of work.
During this oral planning process a location is chosen, a design agreed upon, and a collective “patronato” (usually about 13 people) is appointed which will oversee the entire project. Materials are obtained and communities contacted by the patronato with a request they pledge a certain number of volunteer workers or skilled laborers for the required number of days, weeks, or months.
At the appointed time dozens, or even hundreds, of volunteers will come walking out of the predawn mist at the construction site. For however long it takes these individuals (or their replacements in the event that the plan is to take turns) will dig foundations, pack dirt, haul rock or block, mix cement, cut boards, and nail roofs. The community volunteers carry their own pre-cooked and ground corn that is mixed with water for a nutritious meal called posol. Laughter is everywhere, extensive preplanning and long traditions allow for an easy collectivity of effort that often astounds visitors.
Schools for Chiapas does not build health clinics; rather Schools for Chiapas delegates are occasionally privileged to participate in a Mayan process which offers a radically different experience than anything one might experience on a modern day construction project. The experience will provide exercise for the body, balm for the soul and a first hand look at what a few people working together can actually accomplish!
Click here for information about participating in such a construction project.