Chiapas Support Committee Holds Speaker Series

Revolution, resistance, and political movements across the Americas are the focus of an ongoing series of events held this semester by the Chiapas Support Committee (CSC) at the 5Cs.

The CSC is a grassroots volunteer organization that began in the Claremont area in 1995 that supports “indigenous people fighting against neoliberal economic models, repression, and [the] legacy of racism against indigenous people across the Americas,” according to Jeanette Charles SC '10, a CSC member who is currently a graduate student in Venezuela. 

This year’s speaker series, “Resistance and Organizing in the Americas,” focuses on political conditions in Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala. Charles and fellow CSC member Natalie Mendoza PZ '13 said that the goal of the speaker series is to explore the meaning of organizing, leadership, and autonomy to the people of these countries. 

The CSC has invited political activists and educators to speak about these topics throughout the year.

One of these speakers was Ana Rivera, a member of Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE)—a large grassroots political party in Honduras—who spoke on Oct. 2 at Scripps College. 

“Ana and many other hondureños have been marching in the streets, building a popular movement in favor of re-electing the president [Porfirio Lobo Sosa] and restoring democracy,” Eli Longnecker PO '14, a student who attended the presentation, wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “It was interesting hearing about a fairly mainstream political movement in response to U.S.-sponsored military actions. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to hear about Ana's experience and be more informed about contemporary Central American politics from a firsthand perspective.” 

Other events included a presentation by Paula Martucci, a member of a queer collective based in Caracas, Venezuela, and a report by CSC members on a delegation they attended about the displacement of people of African descent in Colombia. 

The CSC was founded by students, professors, and staff members after the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, when a local group declared a revolution against the Mexican government and demanded that it grant them autonomy.

Since then, the CSC has worked with a center called Frayba in Chiapas, sending delegations to observe communities largely made up of Mayan indigenous peoples. 

"While there, delegates document human rights violations such as police harassment, displacement, and the impact of 'development' projects on indigenous lands," Charles wrote in an e-mail to TSL

Charles said that one of the CSC's important goals is implementing Zapatista principles, such as autonomy, self-defense, and collective models of organizing, in their own practices. The committee seeks to bring together groups from different countries and offers members opportunities to attend international delegations, conferences, and gatherings. 

According to Mendoza, the delegations help members “think about what we can take away from these other movements and apply it to our current situation."

“We connect our struggles amongst the communities of color across the Americas and keep those communications going in order to bridge these different movements together,” CSC member Allison Matamoros SC ’14 said. “The goal is to come back on campus or LA and raise political consciousness.”

“I learned a lot of solidarity through the Zapatista Movement,” she added. “For example, creating and not destroying, [and] governing by listening. I think it’s really important for students here to learn about this.” 

Mendoza said that the CSC finances its programs with revenue from fundraisers and on-campus sources such as student governments and individual donations by professors.

The CSC is hosting a fall celebration called a “Day of Indigenous and Black Resistance” on Oct. 12. Members are also seeking people interested in joining an upcoming winter delegation.