Schools for Chiapas * Escuelas para Chiapas
Chanobjunetic ta Chiapas

June 1, 2000
San Diego, CA

Dear friend,
Today Maya children and adults throughout the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas are attending schools created through a unique Mexican and international collaboration.

After surviving over 500 years without elemental justice, the Maya peoples have launched an autonomous education system designed as a model for public schools everywhere. Please join this effort by helping to:

  • Build concrete block classrooms which will serve generations of
  • indigenous students.
  • Construct desks, tables and chairs needed for classrooms in the Lacondon Jungle.
  • Purchase blackboards, notebooks and texts.
  • Provide a healthful diet for teachers and students attending one of several autonomous, boarding schools.

This summer four caravans of Mexican and international volunteers will carry your donations and then live side-by-side with Maya parents and students as they construct autonomous schools in the misty mountains and steamy jungles of southern Mexico. Please use the enclosed coupon and send a generous gift today!


After only four years of work - following centuries of injustice - Maya educational complexes like the one at the civilian center of Oventic Aguascalientes II (including classrooms, dormitories, computer lab, library, print shop, kitchen, and dining hall) are an impressive accomplishment. As construction continued during the last year without government funds or support ~ laughter, energy, music and enthusiasm of young indigenous men and women training to become teachers echoed from the hills of Oventic.

The primary goal of these new Maya schools is the survival of Maya culture and communities into the 21st century.

The peace accords of San Andres, which were supported by millions of Mexican citizens in a March 1999 plebiscite, acknowledge the Maya peoples' right to their own schools. In addition, this plebiscite affirmed massive popular support for Zapatista dreams of dignified education and social justice.

However, the optimism and hope embodied by the Maya directed education programs continues to face grim realities and outright government repression.

Jailing and violence against autonomous authorities like the ones directing the school at Oventic are common. The massive military build-up and government protection of para-militaries has been denounced by the United Nations but continues without relief.

Helicopter overflights, heavily armed military patrols, and constant intimidations are a daily reality for children in Chiapas. Nevertheless, over twenty thousand Maya people, expelled by government-sanctioned paramilitary violence, continue their non-violent resistance in refugee camps and are committed to autonomous education for their children.

"Eventually our schools will be integrated into a new democratic, public school system," explained one indigenous leader when looking beyond the current impasse between the Indian rebels and the government.

The "Primero de Enero" secondary school at Oventic represents a vision for indigenous children - where traditions are shared and globalization is directed from below. This dream is as important as food and medicine to the many indigenous families who are bearing the brunt of the struggle for peace and justice called Chiapas. Your financial support at this moment will allow these Maya peoples to build classrooms; construct student desks; purchase notebooks and texts; and help feed the many teachers and students studying outside of their traditional communities.

Your donations affirm the right of indigenous peoples' everywhere to direct their future and to educate their children.

Fundamentally, the Zapatista Education System challenges corporate driven globalization by creating an autonomous, public education values Indian survival more than the global market. Your donations will help begin construction this summer on a new secondary school at Francisco Gomez Aguascalientes III. Schools like the "Primero de Enero" school at Oventic Aguascalientes II and the new education center in the Lacondon Jungle are some of most proactive and inspiring Indian run projects in the world.

These schools confirm the hope and belief that a better day is coming for Maya peoples; these projects represent a significant triumph of reason and learning over irrationality and violence specifically by:

  • Training inspiring, young indigenous men and women from local communities to be the faculty of the autonomous schools throughout Chiapas.
  • Involving thousands of indigenous volunteers in the construction of classrooms, dormitories, print shops, cafeterias and kitchens, and even computer laboratories.
  • Gaining hundreds of donors and volunteers from 18 countries worldwide.
  • Producing regular updates about indigenous education and the situation in Chiapas for distribution to the Mexican and the U.S. Congress people.
  • Distributing a monthly email magazine; maintaining a web page (note new address:; producing newsletters and mailings.
  • Completing a 5000+ book library and beginning a Spanish and Tzotzil Language Institute to provide ongoing funding for autonomous projects.

These Zapatista schools are successful educational and development projects that deserve your assistance TODAY!

It's hard to believe that such simple needs - or the basic desire for community run schools that are respectful of indigenous languages and culture - could be controversial. However, as the invasion of San Andres and dozens of autonomous communities, my permanent expulsion from Mexico, and the ongoing public vilification of the autonomous school system demonstrate; there are powerful interests opposed to simple justice. Education for Maya youth is very threatening to some!

Today, please be as generous as possible in your support of this peoples' desire to be free. Help make grass roots globalization a reality by joining the Maya people of Chiapas in offering hope for their children and for children everywhere.

Por y para los niños,
Peter Brown, Executive Director
Schools for Chiapas * Chanobjunetic ta Chiapas

ps. The eighteenth team of Mexican and international volunteers leaves for Chiapas on June 11; #18 on June 25; #19 on July 9; # 20 on July 23 - please return the enclosed envelope ASAP so our indigenous hosts and volunteers can use your donation to help construct Maya schools this summer in Chiapas, MEXICO!

pps. Know anyone who wants to learn the Spanish or Tzotzil language? The new Spanish and Tzotzil Summer Language Institute in Chiapas offers intensive language classes while raising funds for autonomous, Maya education projects in Chiapas.

ppps. There are also still openings on several cultural and educational caravans to Chiapas. See ( or call (619)232-2841 if you, or someone you know, would like live and learn with the Maya peoples of Chiapas, MEXICO this summer!

Credit card pledges and donations are welcome.

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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
©Copyright 1997-2000 Jeeni Criscenzo