Our friend, Juanita Rodriguez, decided to join the current Pastors For Peace caravan in Corvallis, Oregon. She's been in one previous caravan. This time she participated in local work to inform the public about the Pastors' purpose.
The Pastors started from several points in the US, loaded up with supplies desired by the intended recipients. All meet at one point on the Mexico border, all supplies are there checked and entered into a manifest, and only then does the convoy of "caravanistas" enter Mexico with the aim of arriving in Chiapas.
Before leaving Corvallis, Juanita was twice interviewed by the Portland Community radio station KBOO, the first interview was 90 minutes, and the second was 30 minutes. She was also interviewed by a local commercial station KGAL - the record of that interview is available at http://www.unisun.org/chiapas. She has also been interviewed "on the road".

This post contains Juanita's journal entries 21 through 30

On the road to Chiapas, April 1, 2000

Enroute to Papantla....bumpy road, palm trees, men with machetes cutting down roadside brush, then burning it in order to plant it, near the Gulf...lush green growth, young boys with burros loaded with milk cans, fruit stands...watermelons, papaya, coconuts, oranges, "houses" of sheets of plastic, women sweeping dirt courtyards, girls selling vanilla and jars of honey...did I say BUMPY road? {and a toll road at that.}

Talk of revolution all around me....how white male dominated leftist leaders are thrown off balance by this indigenous led movement in Chiapas {this said and agreed upon by 3 white males}, that the 30% Mexican Army in Chiapas leaves Oaxaca and Guerrero open to lead the revolution, that Mexico has a 100 year cycle of violence, that the Mayan calendar doesn't go beyond 12/10/2012.....sort of gives an apocalyptical element to the Zapatista movement.

Another conversation behind me about the radicalness of Jesus and the Gospel of Mark which turns into a three hour conversation moving on to Isaiah....

Another about how racism divides the leftist movement and whites spend so much time worrying about if enough people of color are present at meetings or included in the process. Eventually, it all got translated for our Zapatista guide, and he told us how the Zapatistas have had the same problem bringing women into the leadership. How beginning by fortifying the number of women participating, eventually generated leadership.

I stayed out of all of it today....am feeling more fatigued, and not energetic enough to jump in.

We stopped in Papantla and went to El Tejin, with a Totonaca FZLN supporter guide. We had a cloak and dagger scene here, undercover men photographing our guests receiving us. We are beginning to get followed, but so far from undercover guys. Have been stopped at several check points, but no big deal. It seems they are now required to fill out a paper to turn in....just a hassle.

The big issue here is that the government decided to use the archaeological zone where the ruins are to stage a huge turning of the millennium festival. They built pavilions right over the sites, brought helicopters in and removed huge chunks of stone ... findings from the site itself ... and physically trashed the area for future research. Additionally they have shown total disregard for the traditional Totonaca culture. It has been experienced as a violation of that culture.

When 400 indigenous people protested, the army came in and squelched it. They are taking legal actions now. The site is totally covered with hundreds of tents for overnight visitors, toilets, and more permanent construction supplies, as they now plan to stage this festival every year.

Just another disturbing example of how the indigenous cultures of the world are being stamped out. It is very sad to see.

The people have formed a civil alliance and representatives from this group made a presentation to us today. There were huge floods here in November '99. 800 people were killed...maybe more. Houses were swept away....but the people say it was not a natural disaster, but rather the poverty and lack f government response to their calls for help that killed them. They are very clear on how they are being marginalized.

Tomorrow we are going to the community that served as the distribution center for the help that they were able to get.

They are working on combating the machismo that is incorporated into their lives from the top of the governmental hierarchy. They have plans to start a women's shelter and were very interested in my work at CARDV. They took a referendum on International Women's Day.....the results of which reflected the machismo. They gave me a copy of that questionnaire.

This is the first time P4P has stopped here. It has been a very good connection. We will leave farm tools and some food.

CHIAPAS JOURNAL - Entries #22 &23

On the road to Chiapas (Polutla)

I just learned that today was Saturday...after a hard day yesterday {I think I was just too tired}, I had a great day today. I got up at 5am, hearing a rooster crow outside our hotel window {in Spanish!...was my waking thought!}. I went out and walked around, watching as Papantla woke itself up...warm and humid even at that early hour.

About 9:30, we boarded our vehicles, and went to Polutla, a Totonaca community. We had to go up a long deeply rutted road, and when we stepped out, there was a big pile of dog manure with a tapeworm in it. It was gross and has come to symbolize for me the horrendous conditions these people live in. While others were searching through our aid to find a computer monitor, printer, mouse, etc., I strolled over and greeted several women who had come out to stare at us. They spoke Spanish. There was a young girl named Concepcion Guadalupe...16 yrs who was very articulate and mature. Finally, we all walked down the dirt road to their secondary school where the teacher, priest and principal, with 5 students made a presentation.

Words cannot describe it. This is a community that has put itself together in solidarity, maintaining its traditional Totonaca heritage, teaching its young people the clearest picture of their reality....through education, religion, and speaking the truth about their situation in life. We sat in a bare room, with some handwritten chemical charts on the wall. There were 5 students able to come {others were at work}. Each spoke to us, with such strong, clear and proud voices.....of their love for their school, their teachers, their parents for affording them the opportunity to learn. They spoke of their heritage, and how important it is to them to preserve it. They spoke so clearly, seemingly without the clutter of self doubt or confusion...yet humble and with dignity. They fielded our questions and became our mentors....powerful models of what can happen when young people are connected to their roots, treated with respect and high expectations, and provided with the most accurate information and view of reality. You should have seen their faces when we presented them with the computer amidst the aid. These are among the most amazing human beings I have ever met. While the manure and worm symbolize their struggle, these students bright eyes, clear faces, and brilliant thinking represent hope for humanity to me. When asked about Zapatismo, one replied that like anything else they give it conscious analysis....and then compared it to his parents....that when you go astray as a child, your parents hit {spank} you, and so it is with Zapatismo, when you get off track, you are hit {he implied} with the truth.

The school is a public school but in such a poor community that no one wants to teach there, and so they are given relative freedom, but little support. Students need to pay $200pesos per term to attend, and all work in the fields, or carpentry shop as well. This is a community that is just beginning..those students are five who will lead their people, the next generation. They seem ripe for P4P support, or even a sister city type relationship. Our visit to them was obviously overwhelming and of indescribable value to them...to know, as their teacher kept repeating, that there are people out there that know and care about them.

I got the address of the Alliance and I hope to ask her about future support networking.

I am scarfing mucho garlic {raw}...my personal ritual here in Mexico...there is a medical physician along who describes it as a Nature's antibiotic, so I am not alone. We eat on the bus...peanut butter, rice crackers, canned bean sandwiches, fruit we buy along the way, granola, carrots, celery stix, chips and salsa.....lots of water....not a bad spread.

The group is very evolved politically, and thus the conversations are on going and inspiring. But these are also fun people....perhaps the Irish influence; lots of joking and camaraderie....eating and drinking together each evening. It feels very inclusive, and committed to our goals.

We have had an ongoing gold jeep escort until today; it is the Mexican equivalent of the FBI...and apparently they approached our staff in Reynosa. But the individual has changed with the region we are traversing.....yesterday speeding by us to go have lunch, then catching up again! Last night as we approached Acayucan, we came to a toll booth and there was great activity and motioning to enter a certain lane, where we were informed that "Somebody is waiting for us at _______"...a town we had no intention of going to. When asked who it was, they couldn't say! Very mysterious.

When we got to our hotel, our Zapatista guide received a strange phone call saying they were a group that wanted some help "organizing"....they didn't have a name for their group, were very vague, etc. It is against our FM3 visa to engage in the political process here....we are carrying humanitarian aid. So this call was perceived as a trap, to engage us in activity that could warrant our expulsion from the country.

We are on our way to Palenque...have some time at the ruins, a nice motel there, some rest and then early take off for San Cristobal tomorrow.


On the road to Chiapas - Palenque (April 3, 2000)

I think that I totally forgot to mention to you all the destruction that Papantla and the Totonaca people have survived from the severe flooding in November of last year....we have seen huge pieces of bridges left standing where once there was an entire bridge, houses toppled over, and mud plowed off the roads from the slides. There are many detours. Imagine the chaos and tragedy for the indigenous people who already live in very flimsy houses made of cast off wood pieces and clapboards. Thousands have been left homeless, hundreds died. The government has denied the figures, and been very slow to respond.

So what is a day without a crisis, eh? We got to Palenque, to a very nice motel, complete with a swimming pool. I did not bring a suit, but I figured if I just acted normal, I could get away with swimming in my blouse over my underwear, yes? So I dropped my pants in my room, wrapped a towel about my lower half and sauntered on out to the pool....taking a deep breath, I put my towel on a chair, ignored the stares of the little Mexican children and their parents and entered the pool....uhhh, still trying to act nonchalant, I fought with my blouse that waned to float about my neck, so I headed into deep water...mostly to avoid the by now fascinated children that had begun to gather around me. It was at about that moment that I felt a tugging on my left shoulder and momentarily loosening my grip on the flighty blouse....I saw it: my passport purse with money, FM3 visa, traveler's checks and all floating by! That was the end of my nonchalance! ...My closing act was probably the best, as I climbed the closest steps, grabbed my towel and scurried too my room.


S JOURNAL - Entry #25

On the road to Chiapas; Palenque Ruins (April 3, 2000)

I am in Palenque at the ruins, looking at all the beautiful stone temples, under a tree with monkey turds all about, listening to the mournful sound of "howling monkeys" in the jungle just behind me. We changed our plans at the very last minute to take two hours to come here. It is still early, and the locals are setting up there blankets preparing for a day of selling their trinkets, mostly leather wall hangings with burned and colored pictures of the gods and history.

I have asked where are the pictures of my ancient sisters...but they shake their heads and do not know, then repeat their learned selling pitch. I share a profound collective outrage for my sisters...is it their society and mine that failed to recognize them or just my modern day brothers', interpretation? Their loss is my loss... I go out to an indigenous woman from the Ocosingo region and buy a blouse she has just finished stitching...I connect with her...I ask if the women wear anything under their blouses..."No, nada" she replies, lowering her blouse over her shoulder to show me. I do the same and we giggle. She asks me why women in my country usually do {wear bras}...I try to think about how to talk about fashion to this beautiful, barefoot indigenous woman, with glowing skin, bright shiny eyes, and a warm smile...Shaking my head, I admit I do not know.

This is such an awesome and sacred place....gray, white, and blackened stones worn for hundred of years, by the footsteps of the Maya, Mother Nature and now the thousands of international tourists. The stone steps are high, and narrow....too challenging for me. The Mayans used to run up them!

I can imagine the plaza full of these people come to gather for ceremonial passages of their life experiences. It was here that they came to pay tribute to their deities, to honor their good fortune and harvests, to mourn their collective losses. It is a special place. Although more peaceful than the Aztec, the Maya practiced sacrifice and self sacrifice, believing that pain added to their honoring....

I have walked through the jungle. There are both monkeys, birds and bugs singing and greeting the day, their sound becoming an endless symphony that soon becomes both quieting, and restorative. I feel close to something very big and very beautiful. I feel that there is a peace here, if only we reach for it.

How could a civilization, that was born and nurtured in such an incredibly majestic place, surrounded by mountains, the lushness of the jungle, and that over centuries developed such beauty and scientific precision....have been so obliterated from today's world. Could it have been their own humanity that led them to fall?

They may not be present at our decision making tables, but they are not forgotten, and I believe the current day Zapatismo is bringing to the world's attention the gifts they have to offer us.

For those of you who know about my physical disability, .... I am surprised at how much better I feel here now, than 2 years ago! My body is serving me well, and I am sooooo appreciative.

Today's Rick quotes: After passing a road kill ..."If dogs are ever going to evolve to a higher species, it will be here in Mexico."

Suggested bumper sticker: "Drugs are better than your evening news."


On the road to Chiapas; April 3, 2000

We have just left and are on our way to Hospital San Carlos where I will turn over the money that the Corvallis community collected. We are told that there is a big military check point, but we hope our visas will get us through. We are still being followed...it has gotten very eerie.....they sat across from us at breakfast, and probably recorded our conversation. We are less hopeful that we can get any revision of our visas...which means we all have to be out of the country by the 12th....For those going overland that means leaving here the 9th. It is all putting great pressure on us getting our work done.

We have met with the two groups that direct our activities here, Enlace Civil {last night} and Carritas {this morning}. The need is so big. We are having to make tough choices here as to where we spend our time and resources. Our days are going to be strenuous I am thinking maybe I will go to Guatemala if I have to leave quickly...that would give me more time here. {If anybody can get me info from Leslie Glassmire as to which community she has worked with, I'd appreciate it.}


Oh my gosh....we just came around a corner on this narrow mountainous road, and there were trucks across the road, one full of concrete reinforcement wire way overloaded and leaning heavily to one side. Men running here and there...our photographer and doctor strolled out to see what was going on....it took several seconds to realize that a man was pinned under the wheel. While trying to change the flat tire, the jack slipped, and the truck was on his ankle/leg. It was horrible, panic...doctor ran for his emergency bag, our drivers scrambling to look for our 20 ton jack, which took forever to find, meanwhile more cars, buses, trucks getting backed up on the road....INCLUDING an ambulance! A truck, full of flammable liquid pulled up in front, a chain was connected and he burned rubber pulling the heavy truck {uphill} off the man just enough that he rolled out. What a drama. I remembered a piece of wood under my seat and took it to them as a splint.

Unfortunately, he will be taken to the state hospital, where his family will be asked to pay for medicine, etc. Our doctor seems to think it unlikely he'll get the preferred treatment....bones were crushed, probably a plate needed, etc.

Later... Oh I don't know how to tell you all this.....we just came to a loooooong roadblock......at least 200 very angry "Priistas" demanding pesos to pass through..."banditos"... They were banging on vehicles, rocking trucks......our FZLN friend went forward and started negotiating with them....swarms of angry men all around us, then a misunderstanding....we had negotiated with the mob, telling them-we had medicines, etc. They had said we could go through for "half price"....so our driver puled out to pass and suddenly the other drivers thought we were cutting in line, and angry drivers were practically ramming us on all sides! I could NOT believe my eyes. They had us cornered, nobody could go an inch...and everybody was tense; the situation very volatile. A French tourist woman got between a bus and a truck, trying to plead reason, and almost got crushed......it was a foolhardy thing she did. I WAS SCARED! It was HOT in side the bus with all the windows up.

Our Chicanos and Mexican caravanista negotiated, agreed to pay 100 pesos, and they let us through. Even then, I was sure we'd crush somebody. These people claim they are not with the government, but have some political local grief. But when we volunteered to photograph them to publicize their cause, they wanted none of it. They, too, are poor, getting jerked around by the government and are upset over a recent corrupt mayoral election.

Now we are waiting for our beloved "White Rose," the boxs truck, to get through.


What a day....is 11 pm, just got back to hotel..no dinner, "oh, well"....we are alive and safe.


CHIAPAS JOURNAL - Entry #27 (Hospital San Carlos)

On the road to Chiapas - Hospital San Carlos (April 4, 2000)

The visit to the hospital was wonderful....and refreshingly ANTIclimatic! It started to rain, then pour, and eventually just dumped, as we unloaded White Rose.....everything had to come off. Our doctor checked and opened boxes, making sure we left all surgical supplies, not too much of the same medicines, etc.

I met two doctors, both with Doctors of the World, who are doing volunteer rotations at this hospital. They were from Canada and USA, and very enthusiastic about their work there. They have to come in and leave in the middle of the night to avoid detection and detention by the military. They work with tourist visas only, which makes them "illegal" in the conflict zone. Hospital San Carlos is the ONLY private hospital that supports, encourages, and serves the indigenous population. Patients come from 12 hours away, many walking. Their families stay with them and care for their needs, like food and laundry, etc.

The Sisters of Charity are fantastic. They seem so serene and calm, and were very happy to welcome us. After unloading and donating a small room full of medicines and supplies.....the men of the community literally running and smiling to help carry our boxes.....we were taken to a little room and served coffee and peanuts. It was very nice, and a sincere gesture of their appreciation and pleasure in receiving us.

We all chatted informally, and then they presented info about the hospital. Finally, I stood up and in Spanish {mind you!} presented them with $2,300. {the rest had been wired directly} from my fundraising project. I told them how many people had contributed and were interested in their work, and sent them their greetings.

They were very appreciative, and I think knowing that people recognized and honored their work meant a lo to them.

It was an amazing day. Much chatter on the bumpy long way home....I learned that the man who had this big old truck sitting on his ankle, completely flattening it, jumped right up and hopped to the ambulance on his own!!! Can you believe?

It's very late now....and we need to be out to our vehicles by 8am. We have a long and difficult day tomorrow, going to PolHo, a community with more than 10,000 displaced persons from the war. They are starving, and suffering from irreversible neurological damage from malnutrition. The First Nation people we met in Albuquerque forewarned us of their situation. We are purchasing 11 tons of corn and frijoles, a lot of which will be going there.

I gotta sleep.



"On the road to Chiapas" Wednesday, April 5.2000

We are on our way home from Polho, where we took 8 tons of corn and frijoles....the community was called over a loudspeaker and it took no time before we were surrounded by hundreds of beautiful people, women in colorfully embroidered blouses, and the men some in their traditional white or black garb. First we emptied the bus of the hundred pound sacks of food. Men slinging it up on their backs and making a long line leading down to the storage building. It was a beautiful sight, of solidarity.

After we arrived in the enormous courtyard, there was a formal presentation. I spoke second in Spanish, and the Zapatista leader translated it into their indigenous language. Basically I told them I could see that their situation was very serious, and that their spirit filled my heart, and that I would go home and tell my community of their suffering at the hands of the military, so that the world will know of their struggle.

There were no women on the stage with us, just the elder men who make up the council and the younger spokesmen. I always feel it is important to speak up and model women taking leadership as well. {We were probably speaking to a thousand people in all...the men and boys on one side, the women and girls and infants on the other, and many others scattered up the hillsides.}

It was a privilege to be with them and to be received by them. There are more than 10,000 displaced people there...people who have been terrorized by the paramilitary and military and forcibly driven from their homes. It is hard to tell you how many people were down in that community, at the bottom of a steep hill....the vistas were amazing, mountains, fog, and every single bit of space available devoted to planting corn.

How can I describe the human suffering? So many children, almost everybody was barefoot and lots of runny noses or eyes, no chance of "sanitary conditions".....have I said anywhere in this journal how aware I am that my chickens at home live in better conditions than these beautiful human beings? Their "houses" are barren, dark inside, dirt floors, completely devoid of all the stuff we are so dependent on. There is NOTHING inside....not chairs, not tables....people sit outside, huddle under plastic or a tree when it rains.

More cloak and dagger scenarios....I can't even tell you. Someday...... Lots of suspicion everywhere, hard for me to tell what is real and what is perceived as real. No doubt we are followed everywhere.

I have decided to make the long trip to La Realidad tomorrow.



"On the road to Chiapas" April 6.2000

We got back to the hotel by 7:30 last night and I was hopeful of a relaxing pleasant dinner.....hah! Dreaming.

We had an important meeting, trying to piece all the ends together...local groups have expectations of us, designated aid to deliver, immigration visits to extend/revise our visas, surveillance talk, schedules for today, Thursday etc. We decided to split up to accommodate all the demands. I am in the bus with 13 others, following a Zapatista guide to La Realidad. We will spend the night in the community. Others are going to Acteal and meeting with the diocese in town. Anyhow, by the time I got a quick dinner {I had skipped it the night before} and got back to the hotel, it was 11:30 pm. We met at 5am this morning. It is very fatiguing.

We eat the granola that Natures donated to us back in the States. We carry soy milk, water, fruit. I ran out and bought tortillas, avocados, cheese, rolls, tomatoes and banannas....we have tuna and beans already...will last until dinner tomorrow night. They are estimating this trip to La Realidad to be 10 hours each way. We are on a dirt road that is too bumpy to describe. If you haven't been here...you could not imagine......

We are up high, but still...it is getting hot.


We just got stopped at Guadalupe Tepayac...a former Aguas Calientes, now a military check point...they made us all get out of the bus, detained us 45 min or so.....there were three huge sized tanks lined up next to three little ones that were staffed and at the ready. Here in the middle of this unbelievably rural, beautiful place in the mountains was this sinister scene...gun toting, fully uniformed soldiers. They photographed each of us as we stepped off the bus into the HOT sun. {they must be VERY hot}. They searched our bus, videotaped our bus and us {IF there was film in the camera}. This road has put me to tears. I feel so afraid....it is not describable...very narrow, rutted, twisty turny and sheer drop offs and wash outs.

I distracted myself by making sandwiches for all as I bounced up and down falling all over the sacks of corn and beans.

While we were detained, a four seater, American made plane flew in to deliver newspapers...{Skywagon} ...we had to move our bus as we were on the runway. It was surreal.

I just wonder....WHERE is the war? What are these guys doing way the heck out here?



"On the road to Chiapas" Friday, April 7, 2000

It is 11pm, I just got back from dinner...Mexico is so peaceful at night, with less traffic, and more people walking. Which reminds me of another Rick quote: "The only time people ever walk in L.A is when they go to Disneyland."

We had a very good experience at La Realidad......it is so far out on this narrow dirt road, then all of a sudden you come upon the military....you wonder, For What? Like where is the problem..... Upon entering the community, we were stopped...this time by the Zapatistas....they checked our passports, then invited us in.....it is huge and very well organized. Children everywhere, barefoot and little ones...like 3 yrs old, carrying their baby siblings on their backs! And the babies look and act so content...the older ones playing with them like they were dolls. There were restricted areas where we were not allowed to go....many people seem to assume the La Realidad is the headquarters of the Zapatista community...it is where Sub-comandante Marcos and other leaders are most often seen.

Don Max, the spokesperson, fed us rice and beans and tortillas for dinner, and then his wife showed us her crafts...and I bought my scribe a gift!....then, out of nowhere, a masked man riding a horse appeared, armed and in full Zapatista regalia..... He had come to welcome us to Aguas Calientes...their conference area and said the people were awaiting us there. We think he was Comandante Cacho.......he was very hospitable and shook all our hands, then jumped a top his horse and uhhh rode away....

We went to where the community was gathered and got help unloading about a ton of beans and corn.

Then we had a formal meeting with five masked representatives, three companeros and two companeras. They told us how the military convoy comes through their community four times a day, just to intimidate them. They are not allowed to stop, because it is an Autonomous Community, but cos the dirt road is a "public" road, they cannot be stopped. They drive through and photograph he people. Likewise, the international peace encampment people...two from Spain just now, keep records of the number of vehicles, and how many soldiers. This morning, before we left, 19 American made humvees with 115 soldiers kicked up a huge dust cloud as they made their way through the community. It was very sobering....some of the soldiers looked ashamed, a couple made the peace sign without their comrades seeing, others looked very hostile. It was a sinister show o force.....you can hear them long before you see them, then see them winding their way down the mountain side, then straight through the living space of these simple people. Chickens, pigs, ducks, and children scatter.

But last night the people told us how the military has brought prostitution to the area, alcoholism....which leads to men beating their women. They spoke of the anxiety they feel. They spoke of the peace they wanted, and asked us to tell our communities back home of the gravity of their situation, and to work to influence our government to end their sending all the military vehicles and weapons to their land.

These are absolutely beautiful people, living a very simple life.....in a beautiful highlands area....that unfortunately is rich with natural resources, oil, minerals, even diamonds....and the government hopes to squeeze them out. Our US tax dollars go to training the officers not only at the School of the Americas, but at Fort Bragg and other places. Tonight we had a meeting at Bartolome Fray, the Human Rights organization that works with the Catholic diocese....we were told that in Las Margaritas and San Andreas, people have reported seeing American military personnel.

It doesn't make any sense....to see people who walk hours to get to their fields, or a doctor, or maybe ride a horse.....who have chickens and ducks, turkeys and here and there a pig....how can they pose a threat to this huge and modern military?

—Juanita Rodriguez, Journal author

For more information, visit the web pages at http://members.aol.com/ChiapasJournal
or view the Journal Archive at http://www.unisun.org/chiapas

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
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