The Edinburgh Chiapas Group was formed in late 2002 by a small group of Zapatista supporters, most of whom had worked as volunteers in Chiapas in South-East Mexico but has now grown with members from New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Italy, Mexico, England, Ireland - and Scotland
Our aim is to raise awareness of the Zapatista struggle in the 'communities in resistance'. We do this in a number of ways.
In Spring 2004, Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group and Glasgow Zapatista Solidarity Group twinned with the "16 de Febrero" Zapatista autonomous municipality. The municipality consists of around 40 villages based in the Chiapan highlands. The 16 de Febrero municipality sees our twinning as a vital international link and has asked us to do whatever we can to raise awareness about the reality of their struggle. It is a poor, rural community and they asked us to raise funds to help build a health clinic in their area, as at that time they had no access to health services. Villagers had to travel many hours, sometimes days to reach the nearest clinic. For some, this was one step too far and people had died before reaching help. Together with solidarity groups from Glasgow and Murcia we raised approximately £13,000 and with construction work carried out by over 700 residents of the “16 de Febrero” municipality, the “San Antonio de Padova” clinic was completed in December 2006. Complete with 4x4 ambulance, this autonomous health clinic now treats both Zapatista and non-Zapatista patients in this remote region of the highlands.
Our fundraising efforts now focus on extending health provision across the highlands by supporting all 13 autonomous clinics in the highland zone. This is partly done by selling the amber jewellery and textile crafts made by co-operatives in the municipality itself. Regular fund-raising gigs also make an important contribution. Plus groups and individuals can affiliate to the twinning project – contact us for details. To date we have sent over £28,000 to the Communities in Resistance, mainly to support the Zapatista health system, but also for other important needs, as decided by the Zapatistas themselves.
Members have also gone to Chiapas to give practical support, to install computers in schools (the Zapatistas have autonomous systems in both education and health), to work in health clinics , as human rights observers and on water projects. We can offer advice to people who want to travel to Chiapas to work in the Zapatista villages as human rights observers.
The group publishes articles, shows films and holds public meetings to raise awareness. This is vitally important given the increase in troop and paramilitary activity against the autonomous communities, particularly in the Montes Azules and Agua Azul regions which multinationals are eager to plunder. We raise funds for the communities by importing coffee from the Mutz Vitz zapatista co-operative as well as other Zapatista produce.
We also support the Kiptik Water Project. Kiptik is a UK-based solidarity group that has been working since May 2000 with the Zapatistas to install clean drinking water systems in their remote rural communities.
If you live in or around Edinburgh and you would be interested in helping the Zapatista cause you could get in touch with us by email, coming to one of our regular meetings or talking to us at one of our local events.