Stirring Up The Hive

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Title: Stirring Up The Hive NGO Discourse and Indigenous Subalternity The Case of Las Abejas Chiapas, Mexico
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Stavig, Lucia Isabel
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: NGOs
NGO Accountability
Social Movements
Las Abejas
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: There exists a large body of scholarly literature on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in development and democratization, the relations between NGOs in the global North and South, and the methods of accountability of NGOs to their funding agencies and clients. Much of this literature assumes that NGOs� presence and support of democratization, grassroots activism, and social transformation is positive. However, there is a growing body of literature that critiques this assumption. This thesis adds to this body by exploring the relationship between a group of human rights NGOs in Chiapas and the Las Abejas indigenous social movement organization. I analyze this relationship on the level of discourse and find that the dominant NGO discourse bounds indigenous resistance through the practice of NGOing (the everyday practices of NGOs). NGO discourse limits NGO workers� ability to read as resistance actions that fall outside of these bounds, while also limiting NGOs� possibilities for action. Using Subaltern Studies and Peasant Studies, I re-read the actions of Las Abejas that NGOs found �transgressive.� I discovered that although these actions did not fit within NGOs� discursive parameters for resistance, they did make sense within the history of Las Abejas and, perhaps, within larger frameworks of indigenous resistance.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lucia Isabel Stavig
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Hernandez, Sarah

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 S77
System ID: NCFE004329:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Stirring Up The Hive NGO Discourse and Indigenous Subalternity The Case of Las Abejas Chiapas, Mexico
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Stavig, Lucia Isabel
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: NGOs
NGO Accountability
Social Movements
Las Abejas
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: There exists a large body of scholarly literature on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in development and democratization, the relations between NGOs in the global North and South, and the methods of accountability of NGOs to their funding agencies and clients. Much of this literature assumes that NGOs� presence and support of democratization, grassroots activism, and social transformation is positive. However, there is a growing body of literature that critiques this assumption. This thesis adds to this body by exploring the relationship between a group of human rights NGOs in Chiapas and the Las Abejas indigenous social movement organization. I analyze this relationship on the level of discourse and find that the dominant NGO discourse bounds indigenous resistance through the practice of NGOing (the everyday practices of NGOs). NGO discourse limits NGO workers� ability to read as resistance actions that fall outside of these bounds, while also limiting NGOs� possibilities for action. Using Subaltern Studies and Peasant Studies, I re-read the actions of Las Abejas that NGOs found �transgressive.� I discovered that although these actions did not fit within NGOs� discursive parameters for resistance, they did make sense within the history of Las Abejas and, perhaps, within larger frameworks of indigenous resistance.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lucia Isabel Stavig
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Hernandez, Sarah

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 S77
System ID: NCFE004329:00001

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STIRRING UP THE HIVE: NGO DISCOURSE AND INDI GENOUS SUBALTERNITY THE CASE OF LAS ABEJAS CHIAPAS, MEXICO BY Luca Isabel Stavig A thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts under the sponsorship of Dr. Sarah Hernandez Sarasota, Florida May 2009


Abstract There is a large body of scholarly litera ture on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in development and democratizatio n; relations between NGOs in the global North and South; and accountabilit y of NGO to their funding ag encies and to their clients on the ground. Much of this literature assumes that NGO presence and support of democratization, grassroots activism, and so cial transformation is positive. However, there is a growing body of literature that critique s this assumption. This thesis adds to this body by exploring the relationship between a group of human rights NGOs in Chiapas and their relationship to the Las Abejas indigenous social movement organization. I analyze their relationship on a discursive level and find that NGO discourse bounds the forms that indigenous resistance can take through the practice of NGOing (the everyday practices of NGOs). NGO discourse limits NGO workers ability to read as resistance actions that fall outside of these bounds, while also limiting NGOs possibilities for action. Using subaltern studies (Gayatri Chak ravorty Spivak) and p easant studies (James C. Scott), I re-read actions that NGOs found t ransgressive as histor ical contiguous with the history of Las Abejas. Keywords: Las Abejas, NGO accountability, discourse, suba ltern studies, resistance. 2


Acknowledgments Writing the acknowledgments was a soul searching experience for me. Not just because my mind drifted back over the people who ha ve help and influenced me, but because it seemed like acknowledgments were a little like ca usal forces in histor y. I agree, Dad. Acknowledgements can never really convey the e ffects that people have had on our lives. Nevertheless, I feel I would be remiss not to tr y. So with a heart full of thanks and love I make this attempt. I would like to acknowledge a ll the social movement organizations and NGOs that support them in Chiapas. Your bravery a nd commitment are inspiring. Otro mundo es posible! I would like to thank New College for th e opportunities it afforded me. Without institutional support, I would not have been able to embark on the adventure that has been my education or this thesis. Especially th ank you to Sarah Hernandez for her generous and knowledgeable guidance of my thesis. I would also like to thank David Brain, Anthony Andrews and Jos Alberto Portugal fo r their time and attention as members of my baccalaureate committee I would like to thank my professors for impa rting not only their knowledge but their love and support. I reserve special thanks for St ephen Miles and Jos Alberto Portugal for taking a genuine interest in me as a student and person. Your offi ces and homes (thank you, Kathy) became both intellectual and emoti onal refuges for me. You were kinder and more generous with me than anyone has a right to expect. I would like to thank my roommates, Joohyun Kim and Kate Boeyen, for their friendship and for putting up with me, my plants, and a couple other pesky habits. I love you! To my friends Kate Cummings, Erica Schoon, Brian Caper and Jessica Anne Wheeler, I extend my heart and my thanks. Your friendship has meant the world to me. I would also like to thank Fraser, Giovanna, Ca rlo and Vittorio; Adriana, Alex and Maia; Joan Doolittle; Peg and Phil; Ann, Charles, Liz, Mary, and Paul; and Sonia, Pablo and Ana Luca for their love and support over all these years. Youve been my family and my home. To my grandmother, Lois Stavig, I love you and thank you for the man we shared. A mi familia en el Per: Quisiera decirles lo mucho que los quiero, pero cmo expresar un amor tan fuerte y profundo, que no tiene sin pr incipio ni fin? Mien tras tanto, les envo un beso y un abrazo para que se acuerden de cmo los quiero. To Tate for the time we have shared and th e lessons we have learned together. I adore you. 3


And last, but not least, gracias a mi hermanita Mariana, y a mi mam, Ella. Son mi vida, mi luz, mi esperanza. For all that we have b een, for all that we are, and all that we will be, I love you. 4


Table of Contents List of Illustrations 1. Introduction....8 1.1. structure of thesis.. 1.2. methods.....11 2. Background.. 2.1. history of Chiapas.....14 2.2. indigenous organizing in Chiapas..... 2.3. NGOs and their history in Mexico....24 2.4. NGOs in this case study....30 3. History of Las Abejas......36 4. Literature Review. 4.1. discourse... 4.2. top-down indigenous identity construction..53 4.3. human and indigenous right NGO discourse in Mexico..55 4.4. critiques of NGO discourse..58 4.5. subaltern studies....64 5. Analysis....70 5.1. building and defining Las Abejas.74 5.2. explaining the division..84 5.3. explaining the factions..95 5.4. observations on NGOs....101 6. Conclusions 6.1. avenues for future research. Appendices 5


List of Illustrations Figures 1 Example of the boomerang effect ....28 (adapted from Tavanti 2002: 152) 2 Illustration of influences on the identity of Las Abejas ..38 (reinterpreted from Tavanti 2002: 209) 3 Stages of communication between Las Abejas and NGOs..46 (Tavanti 2002: 189) 4 History of Las Abejas..50 5 Discursive power of NGO by religion a nd level of bureaucratiz ation in Chiapas.. 6 Construction of Acte al/ Abejas identity.. (Adapted from figure 4.1: Th e meaning of Acteal in Tavanti 2002: 70) Maps 1 Chiapas and the Indigenous Mexico....15 (Tavanti 2002: 7) 2 The Chenalh Municipality.17 (Tavanti 2002: 8) 3 Military Presence in Chenalh.....41 (Tavanti 2002: 86) 4 Public Security Police in Chenalh..42 (Tavanti 2002: 81) 6


In memory of my father Ward Allen Stavig 7


Chapter 1: Introduction and Methods In January of 2008 I volunteered at Inte rnational Service fo r Peace (SIPAZ), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) situated in San Cristbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. During my stay, a fifteen-year old i ndigenous social moveme nt organization in Chiapas called La Sociedad Civil de Las Abejas (The Civil Society of the Bees, here on out called Las Abejas ) split into two separate factions. Las Abejas had been a moral powerhouse in the fight for human and indigenou s rights in Chiapas since the massacre of forty-five of its members in a brutal att ack on December 22, 1997 which was carried out by a government-armed and trained paramilitary group. Las Abejas stance as an organizations fighting for justice and au tonomy brought it international fame. Splits such as this one are not uncommon in social movements. I was told by an NGO worker that the miracle of Las Abejas was not that they had split but that they had stayed together for as long as they ha d. Nonetheless, some of the NGO workers I interacted with during the split expressed great emotion; and not just sadness, but betrayal, anger, and disbelief. I began to wonder what informed these emotions, what expectations lay behind these reactions. I returned to Chia pas in the summer of 2009 to begin the process of understanding why NGO wo rkers reacted to the split the way they did. Pulling from my fieldwork, I argue that these feelings and expectations are expressions of an underlying discourse that frames and informs NGOing (that is, the every day practices of NGOs) in Chiapas. This discourse is based on global discourses on indigenous rights, human ri ghts, as well as on the c onflict between indigenous 8


movements and the government of Mexico. Through process of NGOing (the everyday actions of NGOs) NGOs define, analyze, and act upon their c ontext through this discourse. Although the dominant discourse of NGOs in Chiapas expresses the necessity to recognize the autonomy of indigenous peoples their actions do not always reflect this. I found this to be true in regards to NGO versus indigenous definitions of resistance. NGOs define resist ance as working outside the sy stem and fostering autonomy while Las Abejas appear to have a much broader se nse of what resistance can be. However, A tendency has been around for a while in the indigenist circuit, namely the fabrication of the perfect Indian whose virtues, sufferings, and untiring stoicism have won for him the right to be defended by the professionals of indigenous rights (emphasis added). That Indian is more than the real Indian. He is the hyperreal Indian (Ramos 1994: 161 in Beckett 1995: 10). Although Las Abejas have worked with NGOs, the government, and other indigenous organizations in their fifteen-year hist ory, NGOs continued to impose restrictive definitions of resistance that are policed through withdrawal of NGO political and material support. Discourses always exist in dialogue with one another. However, the belief that the dominant discourse correctly defines the Chiapanecan context coupled with the perception that indigenous agents accept this discourse keeps NGOs from acting upon all but hyperreal definitions of indige nous resistance that privileges autonomy from the government. In order to construct dynamic adaptations to their soci al context, subaltern (nonelites and/or oppressed) peopl es in Chiapas maintain comprehensive understandings of their historical and current lo cation in the power structures of the Mexican state, the imagined Mexican nation, and the transnat ional political acti vity of local NGOs. 9


Indigenous identity is far from static and in cludes identifiably western traits. This plasticity of culture and id entity allows indigenous pe ople to represent themselves tactically depending on the situ ation (Collier and Quaratiello 1999). The strategic use of diverse identities is part of indigenous resistance against oppr ession. In order to survive and resist in their own ways indigenous people must firs t negotiate the powerful and semi-deterministic discourses that otherwise limit their self-determination. Government, NGO, and academic discourse s on indigenous people tend to reduce their complexities into platitudes and one-layered characters that lack density, agency, and cultural savvy (Ramos 1992) that through their ope rationalization, silence indigenous agents (Spivak 1988). Indeed, us ing the methodology of subaltern studies (which emphasized the role of action as an analyzable speech act) (Maggio 2007), I make the case that the majority of Las Abejas members did not strictly adhere to the NGOs version of resistance, but to th e benefits doing so might bring. Although subaltern and peasan t studies open the possibili ty of reading indigenous action as resisting discourse, little field work has been done on this in the context of indigenous group-NGO relations. Mo st of the literature that focuses on Indigene-NGO relations critiques the projects of indigenous empowerment that became popular in the 1990s, but does not touch on the effect of NGO discourse (Atack 1999). Indeed, there are relatively few detailed studies of what is happening in particular place or within specific organizations, few analyses of the im pact of NGO practices on relations of power among individuals, communities, and the state, a nd little attention to the discourse within which NGOs are presented as the solution to the problems of welfare delivery (Fisher 10


1997). Thus, this thesis adds to the relati vely sparse literature on NGO discourse and action and its effects on i ndigenous organizations. Structure of the Thesis Chapter one and chapter two encompass the background of this thesis. Chapter one presents a socio-political history of Mexico (with a focu s on Chiapas) that explains the conditions of the formation of Las Abejas the formation of NGOs, and their history in Chiapas. Chapter two documents the development of Las Abejas from their establishment in 1992 through their split in 2008. The Literature Review encompasses Chapte r three and reviews previous research on NGOs in Latin America, the shifts in di scourses on indigenous people, the current interaction of NGOs and indigenous groups, and the literature on subaltern studies which makes up the theoretical basis of my analysis. Chapter four gives an analysis of the conflict between Las Abejas and the NGOs that worked wi th them. A fifth discussion chapter follows. Methods In the summer of 2009, I conducted thirteen interviews in Spanish that ranged between 35 minutes and 2.5 hours with NGO workers concerning the split of Las Abejas. These interview represent seven NGOs based in San Cristbal de Las Casas that work with Las Abejas. Along with th ese interviews, I also volunt eered at S!PAZ translating documents into English. In my double capacity of volunteer and researcher, I was able to see the everyday goings-on of an NGO in the context of Chiapas. My sample of NGO workers represents a wide range of intere sts within the indigenous and human rights movements, including the Catholic Church, mental health professionals, economic rights 11


groups, cultural rights groups, and international civil society groups. All of these groups shared the common purpose of supporting a nd guiding indigenous social movement groups toward the successful recognition of their collective and communal rights as indigenous peoples. I approached the particip ants through connections I made at S!PAZ during my stint as a volunteer in Janu ary of 2008. Employees of S!PAZ facilitated connections with other NGO workers with whom they had prof essional connections. They did this by placing calls on my behalf to individuals w ho had been suggested to me by previous interviewees. Thus, I acquired my thirteen -person sample using the snowball method. The interviews were conducted in the mo st convenient place for the interviewee. This was usually the office of the NGO they worked for, though several interviews were conducted in private homes, and one during a car ride from San Cristbal to Acteal. Interviews began with a brief explanation of who I was, where I was coming from, and why I was interested in the split of Las Abejas and the NGOs that work with this organization. I also procured verbal consent for their interview as well as permission to digitally record them. Interviews were semi-structured and addressed three main themes: 1) the goals of the NGO; 2) their relationship with Las Abejas before and after the split; and 3) their reactions to the sp lit and visions for why it happened 1 Once the themes of the interview had been explained, the interviews took a more narrative turn. These narratives revealed th e discourse that NGO workers use to talk about Las Abejas and about the overall context in Chia pas. Thus I allowed them to talk only interrupting their st ories to ask for clarification or to redirect the conversation back into the structure of my questionnaire. 1 Please see Appendix A for interview questions. 12


Given more time, I would have conducte d more group interviews (I was only able to conduct one), and interviews with the whole team from each NGO. This would have revealed whether or not there is a consistent discourse that is policed by the members the organization. However, there is a high level of group salience and so lidarity within each NGO and goals and missions are explicitly pa rt of group discussion. Because of this, I feel that the individual interv iews gave me information that is representative of their respective NGO. I analyzed interviews by first separating them by the type of discourse employed: that of religious NGO or secula r. I further subdivided these tw o groups into the levels of bureaucratization present in each NGO. This re vealed a larger pattern of responses when I analyzed comments using three broad categories: NGO discourse on solidarity with and acompaamiento (accompaniment: support and advising) of indigenous groups; reflections on Las Abejas as an organization, its ethos and discourse; and the NGOs relationship with and attit udes/feelings about the split and the two new sides of Las Abejas I corroborated historical data presented by interviewees with academic histories (where possible) in order to better understa nd the context out of wh ich their statements where being made. I found a parallel effort to understand what people are up to in subaltern and peasant studies. Both of these disciplines attempt to contextualize peoples actions through their history to gain an understanding of what these actions mean. As I read more essays in subaltern and peasan t studies, I decided to use th em to analyze my interviews and create a framework to understa nd my thesis as a whole. 13


Chapter 2: Background The history of Chiapas is one of local c onflicts turned global and global conflicts turned local. As such, this background will cover several disparate yet interconnected groups and histories to establish th e framework for the formation of Las Abejas, the NGOs that support them, and the split that late r divided both. This sec tion presents a brief history on the Chiapanecan context, focused mostly on the 1970s through the present. I offer a short reflection on the implementation of neoliberal economic policies that began in the late 1980s, their effect on politics in Chiapas, and on the decline of the PRI. I also explore what Non-Govern mental Organizations are, and their history in Mexico and Chiapas. History of Chiapas The historical events that fostered the current wave of indigenous and NGO mobilizations in Chiapas need to be understood as the result of the interactions of at least four actors: indigenous people, elite la ndowners, the government, and NGOs. Chiapas came under firm control of the Spanish in 1527 under Diego de Ma zariegos (one of Corts men), but remained a regional outpost for most of the colonial period (Meyer, Sherman, and Deeds, 1999). The Indigenous people of Chiapas were nonetheless displaced from their lands in the valley and into the highlands by Spanish officials (Carmack, Gasco, Gossen 2007: 189). This trend continued through Porfirio Dazs dictatorship (1876-1911), whose ec onomic policy relied on forei gn investment in land for plantations and mining. As a consequence, in digenous people in Chiapas lost substantial amounts of land to non-indigenous and mestizo ranchers (Tavanti 2002: 51). 14


Map 1: Chiapas and the Indigenous Mexico Tavanti 2002: 7 The Mexican revolution (1910-1917) was fought to reverse this trend as well as other deleterious effects of the Porfiriato. However, effective land distribution of was slow to arrive [in Chiapas], blocked by po litically powerful landowners. Thirty years after the revolution, about 50 percent of the land in the Highlands was held by ejidos of [indigenous] communal farms, but the wealthy and polit ically powerful ladino [white] minority retained the best lands and the resources to develop these lands (Tavanti 2002: 15


58). Indeed, the federal government does not hold much sway in Chiapanecan politics, a situation that retains its truth the present. Land owned by Chiapanecan elites becam e one of the most productive and profitable regions of Mexico due to its large exports of agriculture, electricity, and watera situation that continues into the pr esent. Before the 1970s, most of Chiapas wealth was concentrated in coffee plantations which accounted for four to five percent of the countrys export incomethe highest pe rcentage export until the rise of the petroleum export industry in the 1970s. Many indigenous people from the Highlands took seasonal jobs at these plantations located (m ostly) on the western coast of Chiapas (Rus, Hernndez Castillo, and Mattiace, 2001). It has been estimated that through the 1970s eighty percent of all indigenous men from the highlands of Chiapas were migrating from plantation to plantation in order subsidize th eir life and families in the Highlands (Rus, 1995). While migrating, indigenous workers came into contact with various political ideas (including unionism) that would later influence their organization. 16


Map 2: Map of Chenalh Acteal is roughly 30 km from San Cristbal de Las Casas Tavanti 2002: 8 In the 1980s, the deterioration of the world agricultural market coupled with a population boom that nearly doubled the indigenous popul ation forcibly deep ened the poverty in which indigenous people lived (Rus 1995). The meager lands allotted to families were no longer large enough to support even subsiste nce farming. This situation was further exacerbated by the influx into Chiapas of 200,000 Guatemalan Maya fleeing their 17


countrys civil war. Of these people, 40,000 we re men in need of jobs to support their families (Rus, Hernndez Castillo, and Mattiace, 2001). The plight of indigenous people the he Me xican state also st ruggled through the economic crisis of the early 1980s. Many Latin American countries including Mexico took loans and aid from international financ ial institutions (such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank) to remain afloat. As this went on, internationa l financial institutions began to suggest and then condition the loans of the implementation of econom ic structural adjustment policies that limited the role of the government in the economy (Vanden a nd Prevost 2002: 165). Mexicos government had been quite active in the economic sector It created and ran public works projects, programs of urban em ployment and, importantly, subsidized rural development and agriculture. When the austerity plans were implemented, many government programs and projects were axed, including the subsidies and tariffs that had supported indigenous agriculture and rural development (Vanden and Prevost 2002). Pulling the government out of the eco nomy also meant that the Mexican government no longer had contro l over the employment opportuni ties and money that had been the central means of patronage in support of its corporatist politics. The PRI began lose power and split. This lead to the formation of opposition parties like the PRD (Partido de la Revolucin Democrtica (the Party for the Democratic Revolution)a leftist party dedicated to democratic refo rm (Hamilton 2002: 308). Social movements that had been calling for electoral reform were able to push through their reforms, further opening the political climate and paving the way for other social movements, including those of indigenous people (Sikkink 1997). 18


The political and economic changes in th e late 1980s and early 1990s prompted more social upheaval. The tcnicos 2 within the PRI, such as Salinas de Gortari (Mexicos president from 1988 to 1994), pushed Mexico to ward greater integration in the global economy by orchestrating and signing th e North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the U.S. and Canada in 1992 (Hamilton 2002: 308). Under this agreement, the United States pushed Mexico to change the communal property laws established by Article 27 of the 1917 Revolutio nary Constitution. This article reallocated lands stolen from indigenous people since c onquest in the form of communal lands called ejidos and made these lands legally unsellable In preparation fo r NAFTA, the Mexican government signed the Mexican Land Law of 1 992, repealing article 27, and placing new emphasis on individual propert y rights (Hamilton 2002: 311). C onsidering that neoliberal reforms need not be carried out in this way, 3 that Mexicos lawmakers chose to amend the constitution to reflect more Western conceptions of land rights shows a point of conflict within a larger ideological fight over what democracy and progress mean to different sectors of Mexican society. Additionally, NAFTA ended Mexican government subsidies and protective tariffs for agricultural products, the mainstay of indigenous incomes. This act unnerved, infuriated indigenous people in Chiapas (Nash 2001). But while the polit ical sphere at the national level has become more open through pr essure by trading partners, investors, and 2 PRI politicians who emerged in the 1980s, had studied abroad([mostly in the United States), and had adopted the Washington Consensus 3 Societies with a more communal or collective history (i.e. societies that contain indigenous people that still abide by usos y costumbres or traditional law) may choose to reflect this history in the rights they allow, such as corporatist or collective rights and re presentation. Citizens within such societies may find it desirable to protect the rights of collectives from the encroachment of individuals, especially propertied ones, and they may choose to set aside certain forms of property for public or cooperative ownership (Yasher 1996: 156). 19


human rights organizations to limit repres sion of political movements (Weyland 2004: 138), state level politics became more authorita rian and repressive. Indeed, Chiapas is precisely one of those violent semi-feudal encl aves in which the local PRI has allotted itself more power with the weakening of the Mexican presidency (Hernandez Navarro 1998: 2). The federal government only ever had a tenuous contro l over politics in Chiapas; but the upsurge in repressive viol ence since the implementation of neoliberal reforms and the zapatista re bellion (which has damaged the image of the federal government) indicates that even when worki ng in tandem with the federal government in counterinsurgency campaigns, the state govern ment often takes matters into its own hands. This is the political context in which the social movements in Chiapas have come to be. Neoliberal policies have undercut indi genous sources of income (agriculture) and have threatened their lands, but have al so deepened democracy and opened political space for contestation and protest of polic y within Mexico (Weyland 2004: 138). This history allows us to understand how the neol iberal and democratic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s created openings through which i ndigenous social movements began to articulate their claims. These movements ha ve led to a broader definition of democracy that has extended the understand ing of who gets to be part of the national discourse and how. Indigenous organizing in Chiapas The largest push toward indigenous or ganization in Chiapas came after the National Congress of Indigenous Peoples in 1974. This Congress was the brainchild of the national government, but was held in Chia pas and orchestrated by Don Samuel Ruiz 20


Garcia (the Liberation Theo logy bishop of Chiapas from the 1970s through the 1990s) (Nash 2001). Indigenous people from throughout Mexico attended the congress, enabling indigenous people in Chiapas to see they we re not alone in suffering from poverty and marginalization. After this congress, indige nous people in Chiapas began to form their own organizations, taking their lead from or ganizations in Oaxaca and Guerrero (ibid). This effort was the product of conscious reflectionof what seemed to be their waning control over their livestheir increasing poverty, and powerlessness and declining confidence in their future (Eber 2001: 48). As poverty in Chiapas deepened in the 1980s an increasing number of people in the Highlands became involved in alternative social groups (Rus 1995). Artisan and agricultural coopera tives as well as non-corporatist uni ons were set up in an effort to overcome economic hardships, capture a degree of independence, and redirect outsiders interests to some degree to serve their own desires for d ecentralization and autonomy (Eber 2001: 52). 4 A growing regional solidarity be tween indigenous people also spurred them to address the causes of their oppressi on. This lead to mass m obilizations in the mid to late 1980s for events such as the 500 anni versary of the discovery of the Americas in 1992 (re-termed by indigenous people year s of resistance) (Nash 2001). By the time NAFTA was implemented, indigenous orga nizationsnot just the zapatistaswere already well established. The other push toward organization in the Highlands of Chiapas came from the Catholic Church. Las Abejas came into being with a number of other indigenous 4 Interestingly enough, their experience with these cooperatives and other religious or political groups have led Pedranos to have an equal suspicion of both governmental and nongovernmental organizations: They perceive both types of organizations as having the potential to control them for their own aims (Eber 2001: 52). 21


organizations in what has been called la expresin social y abierta del movimiento del pueblo creyente (the social and open expression of a movement by the community of believers) (Interview 8). This pueblo creyen te or community of believers finds its roots in Liberation Theology, which was adopt ed by the Church of Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia in the 1970s (Kovic 2003). The ethos of Liberation Theology squared with that of the indigenous people of Chiapas. Indeed, it expressed what they had always known: that they were mistreated, exploited, and oppresse d. And with the attention of Don Samuel and others like him, the indigenous people of Chiapas realized that the discourse of human rights could be a powerful tool in th e fight for a place in the nation-state. The Catholic Church fostered organiza tion around human and indigenous rights at the grassroots level by trai ning and introducing catechists 5 into the rural villages of Chiapas. Catechists trained in the vein of Liberation Theology were not only religious figures but also community leaders, organi zing courses for local health promoters and midwives, and workshops on human rights and cooperatives. It bears noting that it [was] not that the indigenous people suddenly b ecame aware of their poverty and oppression because of the Churchs work[,] but that pastoral workers brought the language of human rightsa language denouncing oppression th at is recognized nationally and internationallyto indigenous communities (K ovic, 2003: 60, my emphasis). This gave indigenous people tools to link up to larger networks of s upport to bolster their efforts toward autonomy and self-determinationan effect that was influenced, but not controlled, by the Catholic Church (61). This is the socio-political context in which Las Abejas came to be in the early 1990s, a context in which ordinary peoplea nd not just professional theologians or 5 A catechists is a person, man or woman, trained to give the sacraments and give religious instruction 22


politiciansconstruct, adapt, live by and appropriate theological, et hical, and political systems to meet their needs and construct a future (ibid). However, indigenous organizing unde rwent a shift with the zapatista 6 rebellion in 1994. As NGOs and the military moved into Chiapas, many indigenous organizations subsumed their message to that of the internationally-renown zapatistas (******). This organizational strategy was vastly different from that of the mid-1970s through the early 1990s in which indigenous groups organize d, changed, split, a nd morphed around many different causes (human rights, indigenous rights including land, au tonomy, and cultural rights) and strategies. It is possible that in ter-organizational plural ism was substituted for a more unifocal mission after the rebellion a nd militarization of Chiapas for securitys sake as well as to ease relati ons with Western NGOs. Indeed, [t]he fissioning and fusing that took place in indigenous movement [sic] during these years of ferment are difficult, if not impossi ble, to comprehend in the Aristotelian and Cartesian traditions that dominate Western pe rspectives. In this framework, hierarchy and opposition are the framework for think about social mobilization. Continuity and persistence of the same organizations are applauded, and the shifting processual coming into being only to become something else is often considered a sign of failure (Nash 2001: 173). Due to the types of decision making structur es used within indigenous organizations (especially consensus), intra-group pluralism is often seen as c ounterproductive instead of enriching. The problemis that pluralism which Westerners see as beneficial and encourage, is seen by many indigenous peopl e as divisive. Fearing outsiders, friends almost as much as enemies, are undermini ng their consensus-based politics...[indigenous peoples] have recently taken measures to reassert control of their own organization and territory (Leyva and Ascencia 1996, in Ru s, Hernandez Castillo, and Mattaice 2001: 1415). Thus, there exist tensions between indi genous organizations a nd NGOs at the most 6 The zapatista do not capitalize the name of their movement. 23


fundamental level: what a social movement organization should look like. However, Las Abejas (along with many other groups) chos e to appropriate a mo re Western style of organizational management that eased NGO-indigenous organization relations. NGOs and their history in Latin America and Mexico Indigenous organizations in the late 20th and 21st centuries have increasingly worked with national and international non-governmental organizations. Such organizations have played an important ro le in strengthening the power of indigenous organizations vis--vis the St ate. However, before engaging in an analysis of these organizations relationship with Las Abejas, it is necessary to understand what an NGO is and the history of their arrival in Latin America and Mexico more specifically. [t]here is no single answer to the question of what an NGO is, what is wants, and what it does. NGOs are many things at the same time. An NGO may adopt a certain structure, but in practice wher e are its boundaries? (Hilhorst 2 003: 4). This is the central problem of my thesis. Although older scholarship on NGO formation tend to see NGOs as a bounded third sector of society that connects governments and civil society (the general population) (Edwards and Hulme: 1996), I found the relationships between NGOs and the clients and the state to be much more fluid than bounded, especially on the level of discourse. Thus, to understand NGOswe have to take on board a more dynamic approach to organizations, pay more attention to the workings of discourse within them, and above all, ac cord more importance to the question of how actors in and around NGOs deal with the local, international and global complexities that affect NGOs shapes, values and practices (Hilhorst 2003: 4) Advocates of this view believe that 24


NGOs should not be treate d as things but as processes ; instead asking what an NGO is, we should ask how NGOing (the everyday practices of NGOs) is done (5). This actor-oriented analysis recogn izes that NGO workers negotiate the international ideological trends, donor policies, and agendas [that] interact with national historical and cultural cond itions in a complex way to shape NGOing. This vision of NGOs fits the Chiapanecan context in which NGOs are constantly negotiating the above conditions. The NGOs observed in this thesis employ fifty people or less, are nationally and international connected (only one has a in ternational office),are progressive and/or radical leaning, and tend to take the globa l human rights discourses (both the negative rights of the Universal Declarat ion and the positive rights of later covenants) as their frame for advocacy of indigenous peoples. W ith the exception of the Catholic Church, their appearance coincides with an ideologi cal shift in Latin American human rights activities and discourse from documenting a nd prosecuting gross human rights abuses to undertaking projects th at foment and support democratiz ation and seek ways to support those groups most affected by the withdrawal of the social safety net (Weyland 2003; Yasher 1996). In the process of NGOing, the NGOs in Chiapas come up against the ideologies of the State. One of the bi ggest political obstacles for effective NGO advocacy of indigenous rights in Chiapas remains a lack of legal recognition of these rights by the State for ideological reasons. Traditional indige nous (collective) righ ts, such as land and territory, are especially thor ny subjects as they straddle both issues of statehood and human rights (Stavenhagen 1996). Indeed, co llective rights question the dominant discourse of states and the human ri ghts movement through the politics of 25


representation. 7 As indigenous organization and move ments demand rights of their newly democratizing states, they challenge the con cept of nation as e qualing one people (i.e. culture). Their movements push against assimilationist multicultural national projects that deny indigenous rights, necessitating the redefinition of the ideas of nation and state to include difference Although collective righ ts do not reflect or originate from more individualistic Western notions of democracy and human right s, they play a crucial role in helping redefine more inclusive conceptions of democr acy and are of interest to the global human rights projects aimed at deepening democracy (Sikkink 1996; Cleary 1997; Yasher 1996). Indeed, while the human rights movement has been more open to allowing indigenous voices into national discussions states (the main enforcers of human rights and the targets of NGO advocacy) have been slow to move toward a more inclusive and pluralistic vision of democracy. Acceptance of indigenous input in law-making processes (with notable exceptions) has been limited; and where it has been accepted, it has only been superficially so. Thus, it appears that we still live in an age of the indio permitido (Otero 2003), an age in which indigenous peopl e are allowed a voice but are not always (or even usually) regarded with authority or respect in political or juridical realms. State recalcitrance often e xpresses itself through violen t repression of indigenous movements and the NGOs that support them. In Chiapas, this has hist orically translated into repression of foreign born NGO worker s supporting the efforts and movements of 7 The politics of representation (as applied to indigenous rights) refers to the idea th at difference (cultural or ethnic difference, e.g.) has been historically ignored in asymmetrical encounters in which one entity [the state] has been able to construct realities that were taken seriously and acted upon and the other entity has been denied equal degrees or kinds of agency a situation that does not refer to truth and knowledgebut rather to the ways in which regimes of truth and knowledge have been produced (Lynn Doty 1996: 2-3). 26


indigenous people, especially following the zapatista rebellion. The Mexican government and media rejected the right of foreign count ries to criticize its military tactics, and blamed the violence in Chiapas on NGOs as outside instigators. The Libro Blanco de Acteal or the White Paper of Acteal 8 (the government report on the Acteal massacre) blamed the massacre of Las Abejas on intercommunity c onflict congealed and propagated by NGOs. The report stated that NGOs brought together conflicting power groups in a series of meetings that attempte d to reach an end to the chain of mutual aggression which ended in violence ( El Libro Blanco de Acteal in Nash 2001: 196) a claim which according to many academic a nd NGO sources is untrue (Stahler-Sholk 1998; Hernandez Navarro 1998; Kampwirth 1998; Kovic 2003; Tavanti 2002; FRAYBA 2000, 2002). Feeling its sovereignty threatened by the zapatista rebellion, the State has used this explanation to oust and repre ss NGO workers to regain footing in the Chiapanecan conflict. However, NGOs in Chiapas use Mexicos renewed economic relation with the United States and Europe to denounce government and military actions against NGOs and indigenous people. In a process known as the boomerang e ffect, NGOs report these violations through the human rights network to NGOs in the United States and Europe. NGOs in these countries put pressure on their govern ments through their economic involvement in Mexico. In turn, these governments pressure the Mexican government into changing its repressive practices (Sikkink and Keck 1998). However, the efficacy of the boomerang effect has been mitigated by the low-intensity war being waged by the Mexican government against movements for social change in Chiapas. This brand of conflict does not involve open war but rather less direct tactics that do not directly implicate the 8 Nashs translation 27


Mexican government 9 such as paramilitary action agai nst indigenous peoples, divisive political practices (i.e. attempts at co-opt ation), media silence around the Zapatistas and the conflict in Chiapas, and expulsion and repression of NGO workers (S!Paz presentation 1/2008). By creating silence around the conflict, the Mexican government hopes to draw attention and support away from Chiapas and have its poverty and repression fall back in to distant memory. Figure 1: An example of the boomerang effect Adapted from Las Abejas human right network of communication in Tavanti 2002: 152 It is in this context of change and violence that NGOs have been operating in Chiapas for the last twenty years. While some, like the Fray Bartolom de Las Casas Human Rights Center (FRAYBA), have been in place since the late 1980s, the vast majority of the NGOs in Chiapas were es tablished directly fo llowing the zapatista uprising of 1994 (Nash 2001). In the proce ss of NGOing (the everyday practices of 9 Though it has been shown that the Mexican government funds, trains, and arms the paramilitaries in Chiapas. Please see the CIA documents pertaining to this in Appendix B. 28


NGOs), the NGOs I observed engage in three interlocking sets of activities: advocacy, solidarity, and self-definition. Advocacy consists of acti ng on behalf of indigenous groups by denouncing human rights abuses and engaging the boomerang effect (Sikkink 1996; Sikkink and Keck 1998). Solidarit y work is made up of the actions NGOs engage in as part of their mission to fome nt and support social processes in indigenous organizations. This can take the form of teaching human rights, offering services of conflict resolution, supp orting cooperatives by aiding with certification a nd location of outside markets, or teaching pe ople how to appropriate free electricity from electrical poles (personal observations). While these two activitie s denote actions taken outside the NGO, the third activity, self-definition, takes places within the NGO itself. Self-definition organizes realm of NGOing around the tools available to NGOs to support indigenous movements (means of advocacy), their material resource base for their continued operation and activities (funding), and their continued role in the conflict in Chiapas (reflexivity). The options and avenues open to NGOs are limit ed by the discourse that is at the center of self-definition. Most the NGOs I observe d use the human rights discourse (both positive and negative rights) to frame their th inking and their actions, though it is further flavored by their respective missions (f omenting human rights, conflict resolution, economic autonomy, gender equity, etc). Alt hough not all of the NGOs in my study are human rights NGOs per se, the most powerful, discourse-setting ones are, and many NGOs in Chiapas choose to organize their NGOing around the dominant discourse set by human rights NGOs in order to gain access to the resources and advocacy possibilities available through the human rights network. 29


Indeed, resources and funding plays a ma jor role in how NGOs organize NGOing. Funding is a constant struggle for NGOs in Chiapas. Their projects and continued operation depend on transnational NGOs and funding agencies in the global North retaining interest in their pa rticular missions and activities (Pickard 2007). This creates tension between the projects NGOs would like to enact in response to their particular context, and what the current discourse on the co rrect projects happens to be in the global North. Funding fads allow for unresponsive proj ects to be funded at the expense of projects that respond to commun ity needs but do not fit within the current discourse on the appropriate projects. Thus, the tactics and strategies of support for indigenous people are often not set in Chiapas but somewhere el se, creating strain between NGOs as well as NGOs and their indige nous clients. NGOs in this case study With the above understanding of the larg er context of Indigenous movements and NGO work, we can now better comprehend the particular experience of the organizations I studied. As a means of introduction, I allow th em to speak for themselves as much as possible. Once the context was set, I felt they expressed themselves far more accurately than any interpretation I could give. 30


The Diocese of San Cristbal de Las Casas and the Parroquia of San Pedro Chenalh The work of the Diocese of San Cristba l de Las Casas rests on the tenets of Liberation Theology that, among other things emphasizes the role of communal action based on shared religion and fo rging interrelations to crea te a united brotherhood of Christians. The discourse of Liberation Theolo gy also extends into the political realm, such that it was a natural step for catechists to bridge into collec tive political action by supporting unionization of eji dos. Thus, for the Catholic Church in Chenalh and Chiapas, spiritual dialogueunderlays the communitarian ideals that primed the Christian Base Communities to accept the revolutionary message (Nash 2001). Critas Guided by the principles of solidarity, subs idiarity and inclusiveness, Caritas Mexico aims to be a force for peace and reconciliation, and for hope among the poor and marginalised. It defends human rights and the dignity of the human person and promotes love and care for creation. Caritas Mexico works in the areas of justice, peace and reconciliation; faith and politics; work; health; prisons; human mobility; and indigenous people. Programmes focus on economic solidarity, HIV and AIDS, emergencies and citizenship ( accesed 2/15/10 ) 31


FRAYBA El Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolom de Las Casas (Frayba) es una Organizacin Civil sin fines de lucro, independiente de cualquier gobierno o ideologa poltica o credo religioso. Fundada en 1989 por iniciativa de Samuel Ruiz Garca, obispo catlico de la Dicesis de San Cristbal de Las Casas, el Frayba tiene una inspiracin cristiana y ecumnica. Mision: El Frayba tiene como misin caminar al lado y al servicio del pueblo pobre, excluido y organizado que busca superar la situacin socioeconmica y poltica en que vive, tomando de l direccin y fuerza para co ntribuir en su proyecto de construccin de una sociedad donde las personas y comunidades ejerzan y disfruten todos sus derechos a plenitud. El Frayba tiene como premisas orientadoras de su labor: La Integralidad e Indivisibilidad de los Derechos Humanos. El respeto a la diversidad cultural y al derecho a la Libre Determinacin. La justicia integral como requisito para la paz. El desarrollo de una cultura de dilogo, tolerancia y reconciliacin, con respeto a la pluralidad cultural y religiosa The Fray Bartolom de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) is a non-profit Civil Organization, independent from any government, political ideology, or religious credo. Founded in 1989 by Samuel Ruiz Garca, the Catholic Bishop of San Cristbal de Las Casas, Frayba is inspired by both Christian and ecumenical thought. Mission: Fraybas mission is to walk with and be of service to the poor, excluded, and organized people who are working to overcome the socioeconomic and political situation in which they live. From them we take our direction and strength to contribute to their project of creating a society in which everyone exercises and enjoys their rights to the fullest. The organizing premises of Fraybas actions are: The integrity and indivisibility of Human Rights Respect of cultural diversity and the right of self-determination Comprehensive justice as a prerequisite for peace The development of a culture of dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation, in respect to cultural and religious pluralism accessed 2/15/09 SIPAZ SIPAZ acts as a deterrent in the moments and places of greatest tension and thus assists in conflict prevention. The observation-work we engage in provides a measure of protection and violence-prevention, so that threatened persons and groups can continue their work in favor of peace and human rights. We monitor several organizational processes in different parts of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero that promotes the prevention of violence and the strengthening of those actors that favor this. Working in such circumstances, we seek to assure that our presence as international observers will reduce the tensi on, rather than contributing to generating more.. Therefore, the SIPAZ team is careful to cultivate contacts among the many different actors: leaders of the conservative gr oups, opposition forces, security forces and paramilitary groups, members of different churches, Zapatista support bases, rural and social organizations, NGOs, etc. Many of these groups are not in contact with each other; therefore, SIPAZ serves as a bridge for creating spaces of dialogue, easing tension and preventing possible human rights violations (from S!Paz organization accessed 2/3/10 ). 32


PDA Peace and Diversity Australia (PDA) is a not for profit Incorporated Association formed by a group of friends in Melbourne in 2005 many of whom now make up the committee of PDA. Goals:Within three years (end of 2008) Las Abejas will be a strong independent organisation, with greater participation of women, increased food security, more links of solidarity and improved capacity to design, implement and manage their own community development projects and determine their own future. PDA believes that development from below, with horizontal links of solidarity, sound knowledge of the people and environment in which we are working and an emphasis of building the capacity of local people, is the most efficient and effective way of supporting community development. We are non religious but believe that for development to be effective, it must be an integral process that includes the social, economic and sp iritual on both a communal and personal level. Thus we acknowledge and support the spiritual rights of indigenous peoples. We receive in kind support from Madman Entertainment Cracked Pepper Communications Bond Imaging and the National Australia Bank and raise funds through the generous support of family and friends, events such as film screenings, on line donations, support from the Peter Newman Foundation and the Jesuit Community in Melbourne and acts of madness such as one group of friends who swam across the English Channel.¤tSelection=home accessed 2/15/10 CIEPAC Tenemos la conviccin de que las grandes transformaciones que habrn de realizarse para lograr un mundo ms democrtico, con justicia y dignidad, partirn de la s organizaciones de base. El caminar hacia esa utopa, los tiempos y su orientacin general, sern determinados por los movimientos sociales amp lios. Por tanto, como organizacin civil, no aspiramos a abanderar, encabezar o ser vanguardia. Nuestro fin es acompaar, educar, capac itar y asesorar a las organizaciones y movimientos, pero nunca desplazar a stos. Nuestro enfoque particular rechaza el actual modelo econmico neoliberal. Creemos que parte de la construccin de un mundo de mayor justicia es el aportar ideas y propuestas alternativas, esto lo h acemos acompaando a las organizaciones, movimientos sociales y comunidades indgenas. No es responsabilidad de CIEPAC construir las alternativas, sino acompaar a los actores sociales de base en su construccin. We hold the conviction that the transformations that are necessary for creating a more democratic world, full of justice and dignity, will come from the grassroots. We realize that the road toward this utopia, its timing and general direction, will be determined by broad social movements. Therefore, as a civil organization, we do not wish to promote, lead, or be a vanguard to these movements. Our goal is to walk with, educate, train and advise those organizations, and never to replace them. Our focus rejects the current neoliberal economic model. We believe that building a more just world entails proposing alternatives which we do by walking with organizations, social movements, and indigenous communities. It is not CIEPACs responsibility to create these alternatives, but rather to support grassroots actors in their effort to build a better world. accessed 2/15/ 10 33


Espoir Chiapas L'association Espoir Chiapas cre en 2003 et rgie par la loi 1901 cherche aider les communauts du Chiapas s'autogrer en les soutenant dans leurs propres projets de dveloppement durable. Espoir Chiapas was created in 2003 according to the rule of law #1901 which was created to help the communities in Chiapas to manage their own long-range development projects accessed 2/15/10 Maya Vinic While Maya Vinic is a coffee cooperative, and not strictly speaking an NGO, the person I interviewed serves the same f unction as NGO workers as an advisor and coordinator of activities. Maya Vinic was born out the wider civil soci ety "Las Abejas, an organized response to the prevalent injustice in their communities and in the hopes of promoting positive change and autonomous development by pacific means. The plight of their communities came to the public eye in the aftermath of the infamous Acteal Massacre, where 45 men, women and children were killed by paramilitary forces and thousands more displaced from their homes. The organizational structure of Maya Vinic holds a General Assembly as its maximum authority. An Assembly of Community Delegates works in close conjunction with the Producers Board of Director s to accomplish the tasks assigned to the Education, Technical Assistance, Marketing, Administ ration and local Arbitration and Problem Resolution Committees http://www.coopcof accessed 3/18/10 These organizations (and the people th ey employ) seek to support indigenous movements by accompanying their processes an d projects. Some do this by directly engaging indigenous people in denouncing human rights violations, while others help to teach conflict resolution and support economic projects that reinforce indigenous autonomy. However, as evidenced through their self-descriptions, most use the discourse of human and indigenous rights to frame thei r projects and justify their existence. To understand this mutual work between NGOs and indigenous movements, it has been important to offer a view of the larger historical context in which both types of organizations developed. Equally important to understanding their mutual emergence is 34


the specific political economy of the state of Chiapas where these players unravel their struggle against the state and structural inju stice. Thus established, I move into the specific history of the formation of Las Abejas. 35


Chapter 3: History of Las Abejas The history of Las Abejas is well chronicled up to the millennium after which most writing on their history ceases. Initially this seemed to present a problem as one of the only sources of history of Las Abejas came from the NGO workers I interviewed. However, as this thesis is concerned with the reactions of NGOs toward actions that Las Abejas took, I have reconstructed a history from the events that NGOs signaled as important. Though many other political change s occurred during this time, focusing on the events NGOs found significant allows us a peek into the worldview of these NGOs and what they find important for indigenous movements and their own involvement in them. Las Abejas come from a long history of soci al organizing in San Pedro Chenalh (the municipality in Chiapas in which they reside, here on out refe rred to as Chenalh). However, the 1920s mark a pivotal time in organizing in which Pedranos, as they are called, fought to wrest control of their lands and their townships governance back from the ladino landowners who took over both during the 19th century. During this time Pedranos made great strides towards this goal, unseating the ladino leadership of the township, reclaiming lands stolen to establish haciendas, and taking the education of their children into their ow n hands (Eber 2001: 48). But af ter the establishment of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (The National Indigenist Institute) and the institutionalization of education in San Pedro Chenalh, this trend of social mobilization was quieted until the resurgence of the 1970s when indigenous organizing began en masse in Chiapas as described in the background. 36


As mentioned in the background, Las Abejas come out of a larger history of religious organization of i ndigenous people in Chiapas. Las Abejas trace their particular group to December 1992 when a land dispute (w hich mirrored the political divisions in Chenalh), threatened the community of Tzajal -chen (Tzajalchen). On one side of the land dispute stood members of the FCRN (Frente Cardenista de Reconstruccin Nacional, which is tied to the PRI) a nd on the other stood members of SOCAMA (Solidaridad Campesino Magisterial), an independent (non-cor poratist) union. One evening as members of the SOCAMA were l eaving a meeting of their coffee cooperative, men from the FCRN opened fire on them, killi ng one and gravely injuring three others. Five men from SOCAMA were falsely impris oned for the crime by the municipal judge, at which point the catechists from the areathe main political organizers in the region began to organize members of the SOCAMA a nd their sympathizers in the area (Campos Corts 2001: 77). Through the catechists, the pueblo creyente was organized for a pilgrimage to San Cristbal to protest the imp risonment of these men (Las Abejas 2007). It was on this pilgrimage to demand the release of their brothers that La Sociedad Civil de Las Abejas came to be: We came together in 1992 because we are a multitude and we want to build our house like the honeycomb where we a ll work collectively and we all enjoy the same thing, producing honey for everyone. So we are like the bees in one hive. We dont allow divisions, and we all march together with our queen, which is the reign of our God, although we knew from the beginning that the work would be slow but sure (SIPAZ 1998). Las Abejas consider themselves an independent organizationthat is, they have no party affiliation unlike many other indigenous organizations that are organized and funded by political parties through corporatist politics. As an indigenous organization, 37


Las Abejas called for the recognition of indige nous rights by the Mexican government and, in the same vein, protested the revisi on of Article 27 of the 1917 constitution (which stripped them of their land ri ghts) and other effects of neoliberal economic reforms which they experienced as a threat to their livelihood as indigenous people. Furthermore, as the quote above would indicate, their Catholic faith stands at th e center of their organization, informing their organizational st yle, actions, and worldview. Figure 2: Illustration of influences on the identity of Las Abejas Reinterpreted from Tavanti 2002: 209 But the most important element of Las Abejas for the outside world (especially NGOs) is their stance as a pacifist group. Indeed, after the massacre, it is this identity that connects Las Abejas with international NGOs almost more than any other: Las Abejas began opting for nonviolent methods of resistance since its constitution in November 1992. Nevertheless, the organization grew in its non violent strategies and consciousness in relation with nonviolent and religious based international NGOs. Although numerous international NGOs began their presence in Chiapas after the 1994 Zapatista uprising, it was only after the 1997 Acteal massacre that they entered into contact with Las Abejas SIPAZ, CPT, the Mennonite Central Committee, Bruderhof Foundation, and numerous other ecumenical and Anabaptist organizations offered Las Abejas the possibility of associating their identity and experience of pacifism with other nonviolent traditions and examples (Tavanti 2002: 183). 38


But these relationships were not only based in a brotherhood of pacifism, but in economic relations as well. The Bruderhof (a Me nnonite organization), for instance, was economically responsible for day-to-day necessiti es like electricity in Acteal (Interview 8). Las Abejas not only learned tactics for passive resistance, but for economic survival as wella claim I make in the Li terature review and Analysis. The 1994 zapatista rebellion fundamentally changed the political context in which Las Abejas and NGOs did their work. As mentioned in the Background, the state government of Chiapas has been historically repressive toward indigenous movements and their supporters; but with the advent of the zapatista rebellion, both the state and federal government began campaigns of violen t repression against indigenous peoples in rebellion and their potential allies. Las Abejas immediately set themselves apart fr om the zapatista method of violent resistance as well as from their campa ign for total political autonomy (Kovic 2003). Las Abejas nonetheless supported the effo rts of their zapatista bro thers and sisters though they themselves opted for other routes of resistance: La sociedad Civil de Las Abejas se declar como zona neutral, porque nuestro objetivo es buscar la paz por medio de oracin y ayuno de acuerdo a nuestros usos y costumbres. A travs de peregrinaciones y de guerras de papeles, en apoyo a las demandas del EZLN ( Las Abejas, 2007) The Civil Society of the Bees declared itself a neutral zone because our objective is to promote peace through pra yer and fasting according to our customs. We supported the demands of the EZLN through pilgrimages and wars of paper. Over the next several years, Las Abejas became a regular fixture in human rights efforts in Chiapas. They participated in the dial ogues between the government and the EZLN, in 39


the cinturones de Paz (peace belts) that worked to defend the zapatista communities, and in the assemblies at the National Demo cratic Convention (Campos Corts 2001). In 1996, Las Abejas participated in signing of the San Andres Accords. These accords were meant to bring respect for indige nous rights into the core of the Mexican states rhetoric and action. The zapat istas and their allies demanded: 1. Recognition of indigenous peopl e in the Mexican Constitution, including the right to self-determination within the constitutional framework of autonomy. 2. Broader political representation and participation, the recognition of their economic, political social and cultural rights as collective rights. 3. A guarantee of full access to just ice. Access to the legal system and recognition of indigenous normative systems. Respect for difference. 4. Promotion of the cultural mani festation of indigenous peoples. 5. Promotion of their education a nd training, respecting and building of traditional knowledge. 6. Increased production and employ ment opportunities. Protection of indigenous migrants. The implications of these accords were enormous. Had they been ratified, it would have represented an historic and unprecedented step toward a redefinition of the relationship between the Mexican state and indigenous pe ople as the rights to self-determination would inevitably lead to broader participa tion of indigenous people in policymaking (Leyva Solano 1999 in Tavanti 2002: 154). The Accords would have also ensured indigenous people control over th eir lands and the natural res ources in them, and the right to practice their culture (ibid). After the San Andres Accords failed to be ratified by the national congress and the military tried to trap th e zapatista leaders at a pla nned negotiation, dialogues between the EZLN and the federal government broke down and the government began a full-on military counterinsurgency campaign (Collier and Quaratiello 1994). At the highest point 40


of militarization, almost 60,000 troopsone thir d of the Mexican armywere stationed in the state of Chiapas with the express motive of monitoring the situation (FRAYBA 1998). Map 3: Military presence in Chenalh Tavanti 2002: 86 However, much of the violence direct ed at indigenous mobilization was not carried by military forces, but by paramilita ry forces (Stahler Sholk 1998; Hernandez Navarro 1998; Kampwirth1998). These forces were recruited, trained and armed by the Mexican military with the knowledge of the Zedillo government (DIA 1999) and began to engage in what is known as low-intensit y warfare (LIW or counterinsurgency) for one 41


main purpose: to discourage indigenous pe ople from becoming zapatistas or zapatista supporters. Paramilitaries implemented fines, extracted exorbitant war taxes, tortured and raped people for disobeying their command, ki cked people out of their homes, burnt crops, and desecrated churches. Under th ese conditions of terror, thousands of Pedranos fled to refugee camps in Chenalh By the end of 1997, nine refugee camps held between 6,000 and 10,000 Pedranos (FRAYBA 2002; Tavanti 2002; Kovic 2003; Eber 2001). Map 4: Public Security Police in Chenalh Tavanti 2002: 81 In December of 1997, dialogues were held between Las Abejas, the zapatistas, other indigenous organizations whose people were being affected by LIW tactics; NGOs; 42


and municipal and state authorities to addr ess the growing violen ce in the region. After this dialogue, the paramilitary group Mascara Roja, began planning an attack on the refugee camp in Acteal (FRAYBA 2002; Jimnez Prez 2008). It is not precisely known why Acteal was chosen as a target. Perhaps it was because refugees there were primarily Abeja s and, therefore, unarmed, or it could be because the voice of Las Abeja had been growing uncomfortably close to that of th e zapatista. For whatever reason, sixty men from the Mascara Roja armed with AK-47s entered the refugee camp of Los Naranjos at Acteal on December 22nd 1997 and killed forty-five members of Las Abejas. Although plans for the massacre had b een discovered by various parties 10 its execution came as a shock to both Las Abejas and their closest advisors in the Church. This massacre created an inte rnational uproar and was met by incredible solidarity: local, national, and transnational NGOs already established in Chiapas to defend the zapatistas, moved into the highlands to aid the survi vors of the massacre a nd the 10,000 displaced. According to one interviewee, people came from all over the world in solidarity and slept in the refugee camps and saw the real need that there was. The UN gave $25 million through the International Red Cross. It cost $1,000 per day to feed all the displaced only 1,500 of which were Abeja s (Interview 8). Indeed, the Acteal massacre wa s the circumstance that drove Las Abejas into the middle of a national and inte rnational movement for hu man and indigenous rights (Stephen 1999; Yanes 1999). [Furthermore] Las Abejas organization is aware that human and indigenous rights ar e strategic values for framing their demands in global 10 Las Abejas knew that the paramilitaries were coming days before the massacre took place (Tavanti 2002; Interview 4, 8, 10). They had been forewarned by the Zapatistas in Polh (Interview 8) in enough time to send a representative to the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez (half a days journey from Chenalh using public transport) to denounce the imminent massacre (Interview 4). 43


terms (Tavanti 2002: 149). That is, human rights are not only a frame that allows communication between the local with the gl obal and vice versa (ibid) it is also a tactic in a larger strategy of resistan ce. As Michael Kearney states: Numerous indigenous groups have been able to reframe their disadvantaged relationship with the nation-state that encompasses them by redefining their projects in the global sp ace of environmentalism and human rights and by defining their problems in terms of violations of their human rights, many indigenous groups have been able to gain support from the international human rights movement, which is able to pump pressure on renegade states that abuse indigenous people (Kearney 1995, 560 in ibid). From their various interactions with state programs and NGOs projects, I speculate that indigenous people know that suppo rt of their movements and pr ojects is contingent upon global politics and discoursest hat is, that the support they receive responds to current political climate and attitudes and should not be considered permanent. Moving away from the time of the massacre, Las Abejas began to reorganize themselves with a stronger emphasis on human rights and government accountability: The day-to-day activities of our organization of the 3500 people in our organization consist of defending human rights, denouncing violence, strengthening indigenous autonomy, and to bring to fruition the rights established in the Mexican constitution. Working together and in agreement, we work to strengthen the direct participation of our community (they are, after all, the base on which society is built) through the projects that make up our organization. We also look to involve and ally ourselves with other nongovernmental organizations both internal and external, like the so-called NGOs. (accessed 2/26/10) As it became clear that this would be the new position of Las Abejasa position that appealed to universal human rightsvari ous human rights NGOs and other NGOs that use the human rights discourse in their wo rk began or renewed partnerships with Las Abejas in their new incarnation. The monetary and physical accompaniment that Las Abejas received enabled them to begin developing the internal structures and projects that are still part of the organization today. The Mesa Directiva or Directive Board was established in 1999 along 44


with their coffee cooperative, Maya Vinic which began operation with the help of national and international obser ver brigades accompanying the displaced to harvest their crop ( Las Abeajs 2007), and with monetary support from CENAMI, a Catholic funding agency (Campos Corts 2001). Las Abejas also established a womens weaving cooperative (Maya Antzetik ), a radio station (Radio Chapul Pom ), and a program to train health promoters (Cicapach ) (Tavanti 2002; http://, accessed 2/26/10). Both Maya Vinic and Cicapach gradually grew independent from Las Abejas as an organization, though still centered in Acteal. I was informed by an interviewee that has been with Las Abejas since 1998 that the organization of the Mesa Directiva came from the experience that the first president of the Mesa had with union organization in the Yucatn (Interview 8). The Mesa is hierarchically organized with a president, se cretary and other offici ating members that are not only the face of Las Abejas, but also the body that or ganizes when organizational decisions are made. Las Abejas did not use this form of organization previously and I find the appropriation of more Weste rn organizational schema into Las Abejas very interesting for it shows that there is not a ri gid line between what is indigenous and what is Western, but rather between what is contextually useful and what is not. 45


Figure 3: Stages of Communication between Las Abejas and NGOs Tavanti 2002: 189 Indeed, it is quite probable that adopting this type of organizational schema made it easier to interface with NGOs and aid agencies from the West by recreating familiar structures of accountability. Though the chain of communi cation presented above is presented as egalitarian, note that it is not the Mesa Dire ctiva or the communities themselves that are presenting solutions, but human rights NGOs. Th ough further research will be necessary to corroborate this speculati on, I believe this top-down structure of communication has the possibility of creating tension between the communities of Las Abejas and NGOs as. In many cases, Las Abejas received predetermined projec ts (such as a library for the 46


children) from well-meaning NGOs, or were not allowed to handle aid money through their organization (Interview 8), which while done to stave of corr uption and dependence (Campos Corts 2001), nevertheless undermined their autonomy. Thus, although the communication above appears well-developed and functional, in prac tice, it seems that the flow of information from the bottomup was not well channeled or listened to. These tensions grew in the early 2000s as Las Abejas began to express their autonomy from NGO discourse. Unlike their zapatista counterparts, Las Abejas never closed off the possibility for political (i.e electoral) involvement. In fact, they participated in the 2000 elections which the EZLN boycotted (Tavanti 2002: 147). Along with initial aid and reparations after the massacre, Las Abejas received money from the government in order to maintain its coffee coope rative (Interview 3) and maintained close relations with the post-massacre governor of Chiapas, Pablo Salazar (the opposition candidate) beginning in the year 2000 (Inte rviews 2 and 8). In this same year, Las Abejas supported one of their own for federal deputys hip through the PRD. He was elected as an alternate according to Las Abejas history ( Las Abejas 2007). 2001 was a pivotal year in Abeja -government-NGO relations. After living in refugee camps for almost four years, Las Abejas signed a pact of non-aggression known as the acuerdo de respeto mutuo, which allowed for the safe return of refugees to their home communities. This was seen as an act of negotiation with the government and was met with distrust by some NGOs working with Las Abejas (Interview 6). This act, along with the candidature of two more Abejas for municipal president on the PRD ticket in 2003 and 2007 respectively, further eroded NGOAbejas relations. Though they lost all the elections they ran in, each election appeared to NGOs to draw the leaders of Las 47


Abejas further and further into party politics and away from their commitment to justice. Due to this and other coincident factors (s uch as funding and the pe rceived stability in Chiapas from a distance), many NGOs began to pull out of Chenalh, taking funding for projects along with them (Interview 2,4,6,8,10). The candidacy of Agustn V azquezformer president of Las Abejas and Maya Vinic for municipal president in 2007 revealed the underl ying tensions within the organization. During his campaign, the division between people directly affected by the massacre (the wounded or families of the massacred) and those who had joined in solidarity deepened. Indeed, many members of Las Abejas adhered to the ca use of justice after the massacre not only motivated by an id eological commitment to human rights, but also by the practical hope of a lleviating their poverty that the influx of NGOs and money into Acteal seemed to allow. But after ten years, the development that had seemed so certain had not taken place. Thus, when Agustn Vazquez claime d he could get resources through his connection with the PRD, thirty-two out of the approximately forty to forty-five (Interview 2, 10) communities in whole or part that had constituted Las Abejas chose to follow him. In the lead up to the municipal el ections of 2007, the Mesa Directiva of Las Abejas performed a census of their constituents in honor of the tenth anniversary of the massacre in December of 2008. During this tour the Mesa Directiva found that much of its support base had aligned itself with Agustn Vazquez and, perhaps, a hope for a better future. In fact, I was informed by and NGO worker who accompanied the Mesa on their tour that only elderly people appeared for meetings with the Mesa in what was 48


supposedly the hub and heartland of Las Abejas. The majority of people in the communities they visited were busy supporting Agustn Vazquez in his campaign efforts (Interview 4). Despite his popular support, A gustn Vazquez lost the October municipal elections. However, he was granted four milli on U.S. dollars for his showing (ibid). When the November elections for th e Mesa Directiva took place, Antonio Gutirrez, the first president of Las Abejas was elected. All of the NGOs I spoke with accused (or indicated that Agustn Vaz quez had been accused) of placing puppet presidents on the Mesa Directiva, but th at his campaign for municipal president had prevented him from doing this. This created problems for Agustn Vazquez as he and the Negotiation Committee of Las Abejas had already signed a renewal of the Acuerdo de Respeto Mutuo which the new Mesa Directiv a would have to ratify. It is unclear whether Antonio Gutirrez and the new Mesa Directiva rejected the Acuerdo de Respeto Mutuo on ideological grounds or whether they chaffed under the pressure Agustn Vazquez placed on them to sign. The reason notwithstanding, Antonio Gutirrez refused to ratify the Acuerdo, closed the office of the Mesa Directiva in Acteal, and expelled Agustn Vazquez and various othe r people associated with him from Acteal. Agustn Vazquez then took the municipal funds granted him by his showing in the election and created a new so cial organization based in Nuevo Yibeljoj called the Asociacin Civil de Las Abejas, which now encompasses the thirty-two communities in whole or part as discussed above. The Sociedad Civil de Las Abejas remains in Acteal, but has begun to take a new shape in light of the division. Re sponding to the loss of membership, Las Abejas de 49


Acteal have begun implementing social programs that address poverty which the previous incarnation of Las Abejas had not widely done (Interview 7). Massacre 1 9 9 7 Disagreement over strategy 2008 Sociedad Civil de Las Abejas Las Abejas de Acteal Mesa Directiva Civil Societ y of the Bees Nuevo Yibeljoj Asociacin Civil de Las Abejas Civil Association of the Bees La Sociedad Civil de Las Abejas The Civil Society of the Bees (1992) Return of the displaced 2000 and 2001 Figure 4: History of Las Abejas Efforts at reconciliation have been made to no avail. Mediations have taken place with the ex-bishop of Chiapas, Samuel Ru iz Garcaprobably the most important political figure in Chiapaspresiding, but no headway has been made. The NGOs in this thesis almost exclusively support the Las Abejas de Acteal making true reconciliation difficult, and leaving communities that chose to go with Nuevo Yibeljoj or to remain neutral stuck in the middle. 50


Chapter 4: Literature Review If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time... But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let's work together Lilla Watson (Aboriginal Territory, Australia) In an effort to establish the basis of my argument that NGOs and indigenous groups have different readings of their shared social contexts whic h lead to different strategies of resistance, this literature review will cover four separate but interlocking factors. First, I cover human rights NGO disc ourse and its transformation over the past fifty years; second, I cover the changing repr esentations of indigenous people and their practical reactions to those representations; th ird, I discuss the inte raction of NGOs and indigenous peoples; and lastly, I make a case fo r using subaltern studies as a theoretical basis for analyzing my interviews with NGO workers. NGO discourse followed the mass mobilizatio ns of indigenous peoples and their demands, as well as the new (global) po litics of identity and representation that defined and protected indigenous rights as human ri ghts starting in the 1990s (Nash 2001). As the 1990s waned, the parallel development of NGOs and indigenous movements diverged as indigenous people began to selectively appr opriate NGO discourses and ideologies in order to bolster their political autonomy and range of political choice. The empowerment and solidarity models employed by NGOs presume ignorance of the political system on th e part of indigenous people. However, this presumption does not reflect reality if analy zed through the lens of subaltern studies. Indigenous people understand the system in which they live we ll enough to know to appropriate powerful 51


global discourses, symbols, and rhetoric to ta p into national and inte rnational networks of solidarity and aid. Discourse Before I begin, I believe a short word on discourse is necessary. Discourses frame the way we understand and act in th e world (Hilhorst 2003:8). Subsequently, there are two major ways of looking at discourse and how it affects peoples lives. The first is the foucauldian vision that sees disc ourse as wholly constr ictive. In this vision certain ways of understanding society, includ ing its organization and distribution of power, become excluded, whereas others gain authority (ibid). Another way to see discourse is as a multiplicity in which some discourses appear dominant, but are always accompanied, informed and in dialogue with pa rallel, emerging or count er-discourses (9). Read into one another, these seemingly contradictory beliefs concerning discourse produce something close to the reality I observed in Chiapas. Discourse is not hegemonic (Scott 1992); people are able to think of other realities. Howe ver, people cannot change the dominant discourse that shapes their cont ext at will (Hilhorst 2003) due to the power inequalities that exist between groups. Peopl e who wish to change the discourse (or whose lives depend on change like indigenous pe oples) must find ways to negotiate and recast it through social organization and/or co llective action, e.g. For this reason, I find thinking of discourse as a ve rb rather than a noun useful. Discourses are not ephemeral powers that work upon people; they are ideas and beliefs carried in to the world through peoples every day actions. 52


Top-down Indigenous Identity Construction To understand how NGOs working with i ndigenous organizations frame their discourse, it is necessary to understand the hi storical context in wh ich these discourse are created. Although the discourses on indigenous people have cha nged, the dominant discourse has always painted indigenous people as radically other, justifying the exploitation of their labor and culture, th eir assimilation, and/or their annihilation. In the act of conquest the people who lived in the New World were labeled indigenous. This was to be the first imposed identity that delineated boundaries and possibilities for the people of the New World. 11 Though indigenous people were deemed to have a soul and be exempt from slav ery by the New Laws of 1542, the elite of New Spain (Mexico) created an intricate hierar chy of race that placed indigenous people slightly above the bottom rung (Black slaves ) and laid the groundwork for the structural oppression that indigenous people face into the present day (Carmack, Gasco, and Gossen 2007). During the Republican and Modern (post Mexican Revolution) eras, the discourse on indigenous peoples encouraged their as similation under the guise of nation building (Meyer, Sherman, and Deeds 2003). Two distin ct lines of assimilationist discourse developed during these eras. The liberal refo rms of the Republican era (especially under Porfirio Daz 1876-1911) denied Mexicos indigenous past (Carmack, Gasco, and Gossen 2007). In the post-Revolution era Mexicos i ndigenous past could no longer be denied due to the role of indigenous people in the Revoluti on. However, the customs and 11 Though the indigenous elite were treated (arguably) better than their more pedestrian counterparts, they nonetheless were indigenousespecially when the indigenous communities would rise up against the Spanish authorities (Stavig 1997). 53


traditions of indigenous people were seen as impediments to the modernization of the Mexican state. The assimilationist projects of indigenismo sought to correct the Indian problem by integrating indigenous people int o the economic, politic al and cultural life of national society as citizen s rather than Indians (315 ). A more subtle form of assimilation from this era put forth the idea of a cosmic race, a mestizaje, or racial mixing, that would modernize the Indian wh ile bringing the good of Latin Americas glorious past into the present to create a new and more united race (Vasconselos 1925). Though this discourse purported to defend indigenous people by exalting their culture, it nonetheless had the effect of advocating their assimilation in to Latin American society and did not shed the racist assumptions implied in a hierarchy that favored whiter over darker mestizos (Appelbaum, et al 2003). Thus, in the colonial, Republican, and Modern eras indigenous people have been s een as problems or means toward economic gain. The academic discourse on indigenous people in the 1960s and 1970s began to reflect a concern for indigenous people as oppressed peoples. This academic thought reflected the paradigmatic shift toward Marxist and World Systems Theory based analyses of the poor economic and political state of Latin Americ a and indigenous people by extension (Wallerstein 1973; Vanden 2009; Skidmore and Smith 2005). The identity academics cast upon indigenous people to analyz e their position was that of peasant. However, using class terms like peasant to describe indigenous people is problematic as their identity does not fit neatly into class terms. An indige nous person who owns a small track of land may also sharecrop, work as a migrant farm worker, or be seasonally employed at a plantation, in construction, or at a hotel, thus tran scending various class 54


identifications. However, many indigenous pe ople appropriated the pure peasant identity to become eligible for government aid earmarked for peasants to spur rural development. Appropriating this identity created a space for indigenous people to continue to be indigenous while the powers-tha t-be (both the government a nd labor organizers) tried to mold them into more convenient and comp rehensible social actors (Collier and Quaratiello 1999). By the late 1970s, the Left was in decline and new ways of framing identities were beginning to appear. I ndeed, Indigenous social move ments of the late 1980s and early 1990s focused not on class, but around a mix of class and ethnic identity (Collier and Quaratiello 1999; Otero 2003). These moveme nts recognized that the basis for class difference in Mexico is racial and ethnic difference as established by the pigmentocracy that orders social relations in Latin Ameri ca. With the emergence of these movements, the global politics of identit y, representation, and human ri ghts shifted to include indigenous rights. This shift has resulted in the recognition of indigenous people as selfdetermining political agents with the right to their culture in the global human rights discourse. Mexican state, however, has been slow to accept this shift and continues to view indigenous people and their moveme nts as impediments to the successful implementation of neoliberal reform. Human and Indigenous Right N GO discourse in Mexico Global and transnational human rights bodi es and local NGOs that advocate for the acceptance of indigenous rights are important mediators in the contest between indigenous people and the st ates that oppress them (C leary 1997; Sikkink 1996). 55


However, only in the past twenty years have these bodies and NGOs begun to see indigenous people as self-deter mining political agents. Human rights advocacy in Mexico began in response to the brutal dictatorships and military regimes in Central America in the 1970s and slowly shifted to address the undemocratic practices of the PRI in the 1980s (Cleary 1997). As Mexico began its processes of democratization in the 1980s, human rights NGOs began to focus on groups that had been historically excluded from e ngaging in political dialogues, arguing that the level of inclusion or exclusion of these groups (women, children, homosexuals, and indigenous peoples) in the new political organization of Latin American states would serve as an indicator of the health and dept h of democratic growth (Sikkink 1996; Yasher 1996). This shift in the human rights paradigm in Mexico allowed for the recognition and institutional support of identi ty-based political action, incl uding that of the indigenous movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s (Van Cott 2003; Otero 2003). These movements reframed the way human rights bod ies viewed indigenous peoples. Indeed, the United Nations Intern ational Labor Organizati on (ILO) Convention 107 on Indigenous and Tribal Populations of 1957 12 was founded on the assumption that ITPs [Indigenous and Tribal Populati ons] were temporary societies destined to disappear with Modernisation (ibid). But by 1989, a shift had taken place in the human rights realm. This is evidenced by ILO Convention 169 passed in the same year. This convention is based on a general attitude of respect for the cultures and ways of life of indigenous and tribal peoples and the fundamental assumption that indigenous and tribal peoples constitute permanent societies with a right to determine their own priorities for the development process. The two main principles of the Convention are that these peoples should be consulted and participate in decision-making processes at all levels, as they 12 Accesed February 7, 2010. 56


affect their lives and communities ( HistoryofILOswork/lang--en/index.htm). This convention reflects the dramatic change in how indigenous people were viewed in the human rights realm. From an impermanen t part of society, i ndigenous people are now seen permanent actors that have the right to determine their place in the national polity. Since ILO convention 169, other provisions ha ve been made at the global level to bring indigenous rights to the fore, incl uding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) passed in 2007. In Latin America, more comprehensive transnational human rights agreements have been passed along with the creation of structures to implement them such as the Organization of American States (OAS) Human Rights Commission and Inter-American Court (Medina 1990). Together, these global and regional changes have given human rights NGOs in Latin America more space in which to work. As changes were being made at the global level, the discourse of midlevel and grassroots NGOs in Mexico began to recognize the demands of the indigenous movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s as legitimate. The dialogue between the global human rights bodies and their mid-level and grassroots counter parts resulted in strong advocacy of indigenous peoples and their movements at the state level (Stamatopoulou 1994). The interaction between th ese three levels of human rights bodies and NGOs also resulted in new forms of in teraction and engagement with indigenous clients, especially regarding development. Indigenous social movements made it clear that their situation of povert y was not solely due to their class, but to structural oppression based on their ident itya violation of their ri ghts as indigenous people. Slowly NGOs realized that poverty and hum an rights violations would have to be 57


addressed jointly if either were to be alle viated. NGOs began to combine the two in order create a hybrid rights-based development in which indigenous people would be empowered to set terms of development (D arrow and Tomas 2005). The discourse that came of this shift further established indi genous people as self-determining political agents. Carried into action, this discourse has several goals, such as establishing mechanisms to oversee governments and NGOs in reference to their right and obligations toward claim-holders (indigenous people); fo stering the participation and empowerment of disempowered peoples; combating asymme tries in power by resorting to objective and universally agreed upon standards in th e definition of development problems and the assessment of development results (Tomas and Darrow 2005: 518-23). These goals offer sites for accountability of governments as we ll as NGOs. Much of the literature on NGOs assumes that these programs (and others like them) fulfill the NGO discourse of recognizing indigenous people as self-determining political agents. Indeed, much of the academic scholarship on NGOs assumes that NGO work is, overall, beneficial. However, there is a growing body of literature that questions this axiomatic assumption. Critiques of NGO discourse Though there is a large body following th e development of NGO discourse, there is a very small body of literatu re that concerns itself with the discourse of NGOs and its effects on indigenous peoples. Most lit erature on NGOs focuses on the academic discourse surrounding NGO work, but not on NGO discourse itself. The literature on NGO accountability comes close to my goal of ascertaining and questioning the discourse 58


by which NGOs organize themselves and their actions. This literature critiques measures of NGO accountability as being unable to meas ure the effectiveness or responsiveness of NGO projects of development and empowerment to the needs or contexts of their clientele (Atack 1999; Elliot 1987). Indeed, Elli ot calls NGOs to listen to their clientele. Although he does not discuss possible impedi ments to more active listening by NGOs (1987), other authors indicate the discourses used by NGOs as a possible source. Indeed, to understand NGOswe have to take on board a more dynamic approach to organizations, pay more attention to the worki ng of discourse within them and, above all, accord more importance to the question of how actors in and around NGOs deal with the local, international, and gl obal complexities that aff ect NGO shapes, values, and practices (Hilhorst 2003: 4). Hilhorst believes that it is a natural st ep from being interested in NGO politicking to being interested in studying their language and discourses as politics partly consists of the disputes and struggles which occur in language and over langua ge (Fairclough 1989: 23 in Hilhorst 2003: 8); that is, over str uggles how to frame reality. Because of unbalanced power relations be tween actors in a given context, some discourses have more power to frame reality and impulse action toward that reality than others. This has been the case in NGO-client relations in Chiapas where indigenous people have been structurally disempowered. Many NGO worker s were inspired to work in Chiapas because of indigenous movements. Members of civil society, both at the national and international levels, applaud revolutionary sentiments as they seek to construct an imaginary world in which they can encounter common spaces to overcome the isola tion and alienation of their own societies. Attracted by the idealism of revolutionaries and also by concerns of the abysmal conditions of the life of the indigenes, numerous NGOs have arrived in Chiapas since the [zapatista] uprising (Nash 2001: 228). 59


While there is no doubt that NGOs are of se rvice to indigenous movements as buffers between repressive governments and indigenous peoples, bodies that denounce human rights abuse, and as ties to larger resource ne tworks. Nevertheless, this quote reflects that there remains a tendency for NGOs (and the people who are employed by them) to frame indigenous movements in an idealistic manner. This frame often fails to recognize that the goals of indigenous movements are not idealistic. Indigenous people are not just stewards of communal societ ies that represent the solution to the isolation and alienation that pervades Western society according to some. No, indigenous people understand that their very lives depend on the success of these movements. There is a small body of literature regard ing the tendency of NGOs to romanticize indigenous struggles and i ndigenous people by both human right and environmental NGOs (Nash 2003: 228; Sundberg 1998): A tendency has been around for a while in the indigenist circuit, namely the fabrication of the perfect Indian whose virtues, sufferings, and untiring stoicism have won for him the right to be defended by the professionals of indigenous rights (emphasis added). That Indian is more than the real Indian. He is the hyperreal Indian (Ramos 1994: 161 in Beckett 1995: 10). This type of discourse places the onus of correct action on indigenous people instead of on the NGO network that has discourse-setti ng power. Under this discourse indigenous people do not have the right to be themselv es, but are expected to fit the hyperreal image that has been created of them (Ramos 1992: 10). This hyperreal Indian is a new type of social actor that undertakes actions in favour of social change, [thinks] abou t social change as a strategic goal, and recognize[s] that, in order to create cha nge, introspection and self-criticism [are] necessary, as [is] a willingness to change established modes of thinking, acting, working, and relating to the greater community (Pickard 2007: 577). Although this image is quite the impositio ns, the power, resources, and protection that NGOs provide indigenous people who fit th is mold are strategically important for 60


indigenous people who are taking on regional elites. Non-indigenous allies with power outside the region, state, or country expand the idea of an indigenous mobilization and create a broader and deeper network of i ndigenous protection (Deborah Barros Fince, personal correspondence). However, once a community is incorporat ed into the projects of an NGO (a process by which the community or groups discourse is added to but not integrated into NGO ideologies and discourse) the community group becomes part and parcel of larger dynamics over which they have little cont rol and from which they are to defend themselves. Ramos explains this dynamic in the following way. The relations between Indians and indigenist whites, who are allegedly enlightened regarding Indian affairs, are not close enough to permit the crossing of interethnic barriers. Collaboration between Indians and indigenists is possible, but it is never a "mechanical solidarity" in the Durkheimian sense, for it never happens between equals sharing a universe of sameness. An organic collaboration would also be unlikely, for it would first have to put the whites through the test of dealing directly with the real Indian. Since the functional interdepe ndence that characterizes orga nic solidarity presupposes the interaction of elements that are different but of the same order, it would be necessary to abandon the hyperreal Indian, or conversely, to create the hyperreal indigenist, a likely possibility that has not yet come true (or has it?). What seems to be real enough, however, is the tendency for unequal, power-laden relations to develop, according to which the Indians to be defended become subaltern to the defending whites (Ramos 1992: 12) Indeed, the lesser voices of indigenous people vis--vis thei r NGO counterparts are often lost as their movements are championed by indigenist NGO workers, though their claims are the elemental challenges for justice that ignite social m ovements (Nash 2001: 213) Literature focused on the discursive relationship between NGOs and indigenous people finds that indigen ous people defend their position by negotiating and reappropriating NGO discourse Sundberg, who works with the interaction of environmental NGOs and indigenous people in the Petn, presents the following observation: 61


I was immediately struck by the appearance of conserva tion's new vocabulary in the many voices seeking to be heard in the Rese rve. This led me to theorize that certain individuals are appropriating conservationist discourses into their own to achieve goals consistent with their interests. Drawing from ethnographic field notes, this paper illustrates how local people (re)present themselves and their relationship to nature in new ways, thereby articulating new identities to meet changing power structures and values. (Sundberg 1998: 3) This means that indigenous people know that in order to be entitled to solidarity and resources, it behooves them to appear to be a certain way. Thus, they may choose to present themselves in such a way as to a ppear indigenous to a c onstituency that, while sympathetic, may have inappropriate expectatio ns of indigenous alterity (Beckett 1995: 10). Indeed, Ramos states that indigenous people ar e not immune to simulation and that they use this simulation not so much to ma nipulate NGOs as to negotiate impositions of indigenous identity (1992). Indigenous people not only understand that they must appear a certain way, but understand that their speech must reflect the dominant human rights discourse to be heard: Indigenous people are increasingly ap pealing to human rights accords, thereby gaining support from international agencies (Kearney 1995 in Nash 2001: 212). But this means that claims [of human rights abuses] ma de by indigenes are translated into legal terms that define the violation for a court au dienceIndigenes are, for their part, learning what their rights are and are phrasing their political movements in terms of dignity and justice (230). Though this is expressed as a positive out come, I remain skeptical. As it is framed, it appears that indi genous people are just now s eeking the Rights of Man proclaimed by the French and American revolutions (Nash 2001: 212). However, I speculate that it is far more likely that th ese discourses (and the rights that go with them) 62


were not available for indigenous people to use until the human rights movement recognized the demands of indigenous people for pluticultural nation-st ates as legitimate. It would be unfair and un truthful to say that th e work NGOs do to keep indigenous movements from being repressed by their governments is not a critical factor in the success of indigenous movements. Howe ver, we should be cri tical of some of the other projects NGOs implement such as programs of empowerment that seek to create new social actors. These projec ts entail ignoring the indigenous historical subject that was there beforea person who had already cr eated themselves in the image of their situated desires for the future (Errington and Gewertz, 2004). In order to avoid situations like this, the literature on NGO accountability asserts that it is especially important for the local NGO and lender institution to interpret and hear the client [in this case, indigenous ] group (Elliot 1987: 66). Indeed, one must realize that immersed in disc ourse, the analysts failure to take into account the essence of the dialogic encounterwhich is list ening and responding with changed behavior can result in the breakdo wn of the political process (Nash 2001:231). But how can they listen if their discourses and ideologies frame the world such that they fail to hear the radical differe nce between indigenous and NGO strategies of resistance? These concerns ha ve been addressed through suba ltern studies, a strain of thought that not only analyzes history from the bottom up, but also addresses the role of discourse in creating and perpetuating asymmetr ical power relations th at put truth into the hands of the discursively powerful and do no t allow them to interpret actions in other ways. 63


Subaltern Studies Subaltern studies came to the attention of the academic world in the early 1980s with the publication of the Subaltern Studies: Writing on South Asian History. The essays in this volume rewrote Indian history from the bottom up, decentering the colonial forces and indigenous elites as the sole makers of Indian history, and thus, decentering the colonial and dominant disc ourses (Guha and Spivak 1988). By focusing on subaltern political action, culture and hi story, the subaltern studies group pointed out the very important fact that subaltern peoplespeoples previously seen as unimportant and without agency in political formation and cultural productionwere pa rt and parcel to the political and cultural processe s that we know as history. Subaltern studies present subordination as a two-way relationship involving both dominated and dominant, a view developed by Gramsci in his Notes on Italian History. In Notes, Gramsci points out that the political form ation of the dominant and subaltern is interdependent: subaltern groups attempt to influence the political formation of the dominant group which transforms both the po litical formation of the dominant group and the subaltern group. As movements form to create political organizations that are autonomous from the dominant political, they do so in a constant dialogue and tension with the same. This was precisely the purpose of the Subaltern Studies Groups proposed revision of Indian history: to dem onstrate how, in the political transformations occurring in colonial and postcolonial Indian society, subalterns not only developed their own strategies of resistance but actually helped define and refine elite options (Mallon 1994: 1494). 64


The academic world was at once both attracted to and wary of subaltern studies. On the one hand, subaltern studies leaves open the possibility for a future reconstruction of an emancipatory and hegemonic post-colonial political order: if subaltern traditions and practices are better unders tood, they can still serve as the basis for building alternative political commun ities that will truly liberate the people (Mallon 1994: 1496). But academics were also wary of the post-modern, deconstructionist project of subaltern studies. They felt that by reflecti ng on the position of suba ltern peoples at the theoretical level, the subalte rn studies group removed prac tical concernssuch as the material survival of subaltern peoples from its theoretical formulation, making subaltern studies incapable of creating an em ancipatory politics for the masses in whose name it came into existence (Bahl, 1997: 1333). Both this praise and critique of subaltern studies is short-sighted, however, as the ultimate goal of subaltern st udies is to produce a reflexive methodology that has the power to emancipate subaltern people from the paternalistic discourses of academia, governments, aid agencies and NGOs. By fo cusing on the discursive blocks toward recognizing the agency of subaltern peopl es, subaltern studies hopes to teach the advocates of subaltern peoples to stop sp eaking for, creating for, and deciding for subaltern peoples. It calls for a distinction to be made between listening, understanding, and acting on what subaltern people have said, and speak ing on their behalf or representing their world as filtered through id eologies that, ultimately, disempower subaltern peoples. In her essay Can the Subaltern Speak? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak critiques traditional Marxist discourses on dominated peoples that do not allow subaltern people a 65


voice, but rather speak for them and through them. According to Spivak, Marx uses two different German terms for the verb to represent : vertreten and darstellen Vertreten implies a standing in for, like a governmental representative, and Darstellen, implies the re-presentation of a story or event as if it were the original (1988). Neither type of representa tion is necessarily about lis tening to the subaltern; both are concerned with constituting and repres enting the marginalized group (Devadas and Nicholls 2002). ...Both strategies silence the subalte rn because they ignore the positional relations of the dominant to the subaltern[ The subaltern] can never speak because they are both being stood in for and embodied by others in the dominant discourse, (Maggio 2007: 422). Thus, the banality of leftist intellectuals lists of self-knowing politically canny subalterns stands reveal ed; representing [subaltern peoples], the intellectuals represent th emselves as transparent (Spivak 1988: 275). This last statement attests to the fact that the problem is not th at subaltern peoples are not speaking, but rather that those in pos itions of power (NGO wo rkers, researchers, governments, etc.) have not de vised the tools necessary to listen, and that, because of our tendency to represent and re-present the Other, we will not be able to. The critiques of Spivaks work try to take us out of this post-modern bind by dev elop[ing] resources to begin to talk about culture as a multiplicity of trajectoriesthat is, by opening up what our conceptions of culture can be (Maggio 2007).Indeed, not all resistance is spoken: where oppressed people resistshort of rebell ionthere is often very little speech, but rather action that can be read as speech. One possible method of translating the sp eech and action of subaltern peoples so that we in academia can understand them is by becoming sensitive to the historical and 66


socio-political context of suba ltern peoples. When subaltern ac tion or speech is translated from the position of the subalte rn to the position of the dom inant through its historical position, there is some hope of understanding su ch communication as it relates to and is negotiated with other actors. Researchers te nd to privilege speech acts when analyzing the modes of resistance of s ubaltern people. But by adding everyday action to the acts that we deem analyzable, we open the door to understanding what people who have been silenced and/or have learned to speak without words are up to (Maggio 2007). One tool for active listening available is the analysis of peas ant life and resistance by James Scott in Weapons of the Weak: Everyd ay forms of Resistance. Though more part of the Marxist mainstream than subaltern studies 13 Weapons of the Weak proposes using action (like Maggio) as a way of understanding the ways in which subaltern peoples resist and negotiate their position vis--vis the elite (1983). Western social science has privileged open and visible resistance and political action over more subtle forms. But this em phasis silenced peasant in two ways. Because Western social scientists were familiar with the Western form of organized protest which manifests itself in public, they were unable to detect the more subtle forms of protest and resistance taking place in everyday peasant life. While it is true that over 500 years there have been significant indigenous peasant rebellions, these have been few and far betwee n. Where there have been rebellions, social scientists have been, according to Scott, quick to emphasize willy-nilly the role of outsidersprophets, radical intelligentsia, political partiesin mobilizing otherwise 13 However, Scott does say that had he been aware of Subaltern Studies at the time he was writing his book, he would have called it that. In his later works, he both cites and praises the work of the subaltern studies group ( Domination and the Art of Resistance, 1992) 67


supine, disorganized peasantrythis first step toward concluding that the peasantry is a political nullity unless organized and led by outsiders (1983: xv). Thus, by looking and not finding resistance or by attr ibuting moments of rebellion to outsiders, Westerners not only missed the point, but also reemphasized the image of the timid, obedient and politically ignorant indigenous peasant. This image does not appear to be an accurate account of indigenous peasant resistance for it does not account for the pe rseverance of indigenous peoples in Latin America over 500 years of cons tant colonial and national pr ojects aimed at annihilating both indigenous culture and indigenous peoples. It is Scotts endea vor to address failing of the Western intellectual to account for the perseverance of peasant ways of life and to find out what does account for it. What is missing from the [Western] perspective, he begins, is the simple fact that most subordinate classes throughout most of history have rarely been afforded the luxury of open, organized, political activit y. Or, better stated, such activity was dangerous, if not suicidal (1983: xv). And even more interestingly, Even when the option did exist, it is not clear that the same objectives might not al so be pursued by other stratagems (1983: xv). What Scott suggests is that peasants em ploy other modes of resistanceones that differ from non-subor dinate groups which can organize openly that must be understood, as Maggio rightly points out, on their ow n terms by situating them in their socio-historical context: Here I have in mind the ordinary weapons of relatively powerless groups: foot dragging, dissimulation, desertion, false compliance, pilfering, feigned ignorance, slander, arson, sabotage, and so onTheir individual acts of foot dragging and evasion, reinforced by a venerable popular culture of resistance and multiplied many thousand-fold, may, in the end, make an utter shambles of the policies dreamed up by their would-be superiors in the capital (Scott 1983 vxi, xvii). 68


I believe that the theoretical formula tions of Spivak, Maggio and Scott go the furthest to explain what may be happening in the cas e of Las Abejas. Did Nuevo Yibeljoj, the group that went with the governme nt really stray from their path as NGO workers say, or did this break signal a con tinuation of a larger strategy 500 years in the making? As established by Spivak, the path toward understand passes through critiques of discourse that enable us to see that discourse limits what we hear, see, and do. This is an ongoing practice that begets new methodologi es of reading action, such as that of Maggio and Scott that show us that we not n eed privilege speech, but that we can look to the historically contextualized actions of people to begin understands what they are doing. By looking at action, we also de-privilege the place of theory over practice making it possible to hold NGOs accountab le for having a hypocritical rhetoric. This thesis is very much about the space between theory and pr actice, which is what I will turn to in the next section on Analysis. 69


Chapter 5: Analysis my paper is undoubtedly critical, sometimes ruthlessly so, but not cynical. SecondI must make cl ear that I do not doubt the noble motivations and good intentions of NGO leaders and activist. But we do not judge the outcome of a process by the intentions of its authors. We aim to analyze the objective effects of act ions, regardless of their intentions (Shivji 2007: 2). This, too, is my aim. The interviews I collected and observations I made revealed a dominant discourse around which NGOs arrange themselves and th eir actions. Although it is in constant dialogue with other discourse, this dominant discourse stead ily contains the following characteristics: 1) NGOs are there to accompany and stre ngthen social processes (such as community building, decision making, economic autonomy, and critical thinking) within indigenous organiza tions. Strengthening social processes includes giving workshops on human rights, conflict resolutio n, and structural analysis of the Chiapanecan context with an emphasis on low intensity warfare and the deleterious effects of neoliberalism. Supporting autonomy means supporting communitarian lifestyl es and making sure that indigenous people are not dependent on the government. 2) NGOs do not make decisions for indigenous organizations, but rather provide guidance, accompaniment, and advice in decision-making processes. 3) NGOs are reflexive. Though as individuals, NGO workers may become personally attached to people, pr ocess and outcomes of indigenous organizations they are not indigenous people and do not face the same challenges or have the same worldview as their indigenous counterparts do. 4) The government is not to be trusted due to its politics of repression that include co-optation of indigenous or ganizations and use of violence. This discourse is commendable. This is espe cially so considering the historic discourses on indigenous people that have directly im posed visions of what indigenous people should be and that led to pr ojects designed to make these visions realities. This discoursewhich is organized around the global human rights and indigenous rights discoursesshows that NGOs envision themse lves in a supportive role vis--vis 70


indigenous actors by championing the agency and autonomy of indigenous people. NGOs purport to see indigenous peoples as legitimate political actors who do not need to be spoken for, but whose voices nonetheless need supporting. This discourse also shows that NGOs understand the structural roadblocks to the political, social, and economic advancement of indigenous people in Ch iapasmainly their discrimination and oppression by various sectors of Mexican society including the government. Progressive in word, this discourse nonetheless limits the actions indigenous organizations can take and still be consid ered legitimate political actors. NGO action does this by exhibiting: 1) A type of paternalism that assumes indigenous people lack an awareness of human rights and the political context in which they liv e. This gives a primacy to Western analyses of the situation over local ones. 2) A narrow definition of autonomy whic h includes rejection of government programs, aid, and interventions. This de finition also rejects participation in electoral politics. Thus, autonomy doe s not mean self-determination, but independence from the government 3) An assumption that all indigenous coll aboration with the government signals co-optation and potential for division as well as deviance from the path of resistance and justice. This precludes the possibility of indigenous agency and strategic positioning/manipulation of political forces. 4) An assumption that resistance only takes place in th e public arena through marches, denouncements, etc. NGOs have a restricted view of resistance that mainly focuses on the success of public resistance and ignores more subtle means of resisting (i.e. silence or strategic acquiescence). If the actions of an indigenous organization fa ll outside of this fram e, their authenticity, commitment and knowledge are questioned. Thei r actions are no longer representative of autonomy, but of poor political decisions. It is important to understand that NGOs are neither intentionally paternalistic nor controlling. Rath er, their ideology and discourse frames the world in such a way as to make ac tions that fall outside of their assumptions and pre-suppositions of indigenous resistance appear transgressive. 71


Of course, not all NGOs think in the sa me terms or function out of the same discourses; through the interview process, it became quite clea r that several organizations did not relate to Las Abejas in this way. As the intervie ws went on, I found that the NGOs engaged in this discourse were the most es tablished and powerful NGOs in Chiapas. The Catholic Church and offshoot organizations lik e FRAYBA and Critas represent this type of NGO. The status and consis tent funding of these organizations afford them the power to put their ideas into acti on while other NGOs struggle to do so. This power reaffirms their discourse as the dominant one. Discourses parallel to this dominant one tend to be less dualistic. The NGOs that employ these parallel discourses are le ss established and/or bureaucratic 14 and do not label indigenous organizations or actions as co rrect or incorrect acco rding to discourse. This translates into broade r support of indigenous efforts, often at the cost of the reputation of the NGO who does not choose sides. Indeed, due to inter-NGO power dynamics parallel discourses are of ten suppressed by the dominant one. 14 The idea for analyzing NGOs by level of bureaucratization comes from Ramos, 1992. 72


Hierarchy of NGO discourses in Chiapas Dominant discourse Parallel discourse Type of NGO The Catholic Church (Parish of Chenalh) Religious Bureaucratic Critas Non-religious FRAYBA (associated with Catholic Church) Bureaucratic SIPAZ Non-Religious Amnesty International Bureaucratic Maya Vinic Non-Religious NonCIEPAC Espoir Chiapas Bureauccratic PDA Figure 5: Discursive power of NGO by religion and level of bureaucratization in Chiapas Note: None of the NGOs in my case study were religious/ non-bureaucratic, which is reflected in the absence of this categor y in my chart. Also, where there exist NGOs that use dominant or parallel discourses in the same organization category, the parallel is always subsumed to the dominant. My research supports the claim that th e dominant discourse places tacit limits on indigenous actions and, li kewise, disables these NGOs ability to listen to or interpret the actions of their indigenous clients. This claim is supported by the information I gathered from NGOs through interviews and observations about Las Abejas prior to the division, the split itself, and attitudes toward both of the postsplit factions ( Las Abejas de Acteal/ La Mesa Directiva and Nuevo Yibeljoj ). Thus, this analysis is structured around perceptions NGOs have of their relationship with Las Abejas. 73


Building and Defining Las Abejas Discursive definition of NGO work All of my interviewees had one thing in common. They all believed their work with Las Abejas involved accompanying (supporting, guiding, advising) processes, strengthening the organization and being gene ral advisers, but stopped short of making decisions for the group. I always had it really clear that it was their proceso. 15 It was never mine. I dont live their lives; I dont know how they make decisions (Interview 4). Yo soy de los que aplaudo las personas que dicen yo tengo la dignidad y no acepto nada del gobierno. Pero no es lo mismo que yo[nombre omitido], una clase media burgesa de la ciudad de Mxico que un indgena que esta pasando hambre, que est pasando enfermedad. Entonces yo aplaudo la posicin de los ms radicales, pero no me puedo ponerme a juzgar mal de los otros (Interview 1) I am one of those that appl aud those who say that I have dignity and I will not accept anything from the government. But its not the same that I [name omitted] a middle-class bourgeois person from Mexico City [compared to] an indigenous person that is experiencing hunger and illness. So I applaud the position of the more radical people, but I cant go and judge the others (Interview 1). These characteristic statements show that NGO workers believe their work is clearly bounded, a boundary that maintains indigenous people as the central actors in the processes of Las Abejas. However, other statements expresse d a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between their NGO, Las Abejas, and the NGO community at large. Interview one slowly turned into a group interview, and through the interaction of two NGO workers I observed tensions between the belief that NGO work is bounded and does not judge the actions of indigenous groups, a nd the belief that it is not bounded and does. 15 Process. This interviewee mixed both English and Sp anish in their interview. I have retained this mix where it occurs. 74


Interview 1: Entonces yo aplaudo la posicin de los ms radicales, pero no me puedo ponerme a juzgar mal a los otros. Por eso insisto que tienes que ir a los otros [Nuevo Yibeljoj]. Porque siempre los han tachado de que ellos son los que se fueron, ellos fuer on los que crearon la divisin. Yo creo que no hay ni 100% buenos ni 100% malos. Interview 14: tu no, pero muchos de los extranjeros aqu s. Interview 1: Extranjeros s, pero locales? Muchos ONGs etctera Interview 14: Pero la mayora de ongeros en San Cristbal son chilangos [extranjeros]. Interviewee 1: So I applaud the position of the more radical people, but I cant go and judge the others. Thats why you need to go and talk to them [Nuevo Yibeljoj]. Th eyve always been cast as those that started the problems and left, but I dont think that there are people who are 100% good or 100% bad Interviewee 14: You dont, but many of the foreigners here do. Interviewee 1: Foreigners, yes, but locals? Many ONGs, etc Interview 14: But the majority of people working in NGOs in San Cristobal are chilangos [foreigners] Evidently, some NGO workers avoid passing judgment on the decisions reached by the group that split from Las Abejas At the same time they recognize that the majority of NGO workers do not share such attitudes. Inst ead, most tend to evaluate the decisions reached by the Indigenous population through their discursive worldview. 16 The dominant discourse is nothing bu t well intentioned. Nonetheless, it perpetuates a belief among NGO workers that there is a right way and a wrong way of resisting, even before they b ecomes acquainted with a particular indige nous organization. This will be illustrated through my case study of NGO relations with Las Abejas, beginning with how NGOs defined Las Abejas using discourse and created boundaries for right and wrong actions within that definition. Discursive Definition of Las Abejas Before the massacre, Las Abejas had a cl ear agenda (Campos Corts 2001). After the massacre, Las Abejas began to fulfill those pre-massacre projects (like setting up agricultural, artisan, and health cooperatives) but added a specific emphasis on universal human rights. Though they continued to deal with indigenous rights such as autonomy, 16 chilango usually means a person from Mexico City and, indeed, I include Mexican non-indigenous nationals as foreigners to the indigenous world. However, interviewee 14 used this term in a broader sense to include non-nationals as well.


these efforts were now undertaken with a si multaneous involvement in the larger human rights movement. As Las Abejas began redefining themselves through action, the NGO community (made up of both local NGOs and the tran snational human rights network) began defining them as well. Earlier I noted that the Mexican human rights community chose to make Acteal a high-profile example of the atrocities committed by the Mexican government (Cleary 1997). By acting as buffe rs between Las Abejas and the Mexican government, army, and paramilitary, intern ational human rights network undoubtedly saved many indigenous peoples lives. Figure 6: Construction of Acteal/ Abejas identity (Adapted from figure 4.1: The meaning of Acteal in Tavanti 2002: 70). NGO advocacy was a double-edged sword for Las Abejas. In order to defend Las Abejas the international human rights network used the organizations identity as an indigenous, pacifist organizati on to gain sympathy for the movement in the international realm. Because of the power of the interna tional human rights network to set discourse 76


relative to Las Abejas the position of this group became reified in the hubbub surrounding the massacre and the recovery. They had a lot of prestige for being Las Abejas who had been killed, which is why other groups agglutinated around what was Las Abejas in other municipalitiesAnd because they had this prestige, they acted as a magnet for aid and a magnet for international attention (Interview 4) Thus, out of this advocacy, Las Abejas became The Bees a monolithic group seeking (mainly) justice for the massacre. The NGOs in question did not construct this definition of Las Abejas without their help. Indeed, Las Abejas were quick to establish their new rhetoric and respond to the outcry of the human rights movement with act ions that NGOs identified as agreeing with their definitions of resistance. Las Abejas did not dialogue with the government after the massacre but demanded that the intellectual and material authors of the massacre be brought to justice; they openly protested th e military instillations at Xoyep; they marched against the repression of the zapatis tas; and they did this all while demanding their specific indigenous right s such as land and autonomy. A ll of this was done with an emphasis on the importance of their communitari an lifestyle as indigenous people and as part of the pueblo creyente (the community of belie vers) (Tavanti 2002). We [ Las Abejas ] came together in 1992 because we are a multitude and we want to build our house like the honeycomb where we all work collectively and we all enjoy the same thing, producing honey for everyone. So we are like the bees in one hive. We dont allow divisions, and we all march together with our queen, which is the reign of our God, although we knew from the beginning that the work would be slow but sure (SIPAZ 1998). Therefore, with th e collaboration of Las Abejas, ten years later, the NGO workers I interviewed continued to use such rhetoric to define Las Abejas. Th eir first criterion for being an Abeja was seeking justice the traditional Abeja s stands for we want justice in the case of this massacre(Interview 4) 77


The second criterion was being autonomous, with a well-established, self-propelled organization: [E]n ese sentido yo creo que Las Abejas haban logrado ir caminando con un modo propio de fortalecer su proceso de autonoma. Tenan muchos procesos o proyectos organizativos haca su interior Las Abejas tenan una organizacin ya muy, como funcionando ya en buen camino. Y ellos tambin estaban resolviendo problemas de su propia organizacin y de las mismas Abeja s, no? (interview 6). And I think that in this way Las Abejas had been able to take their own path with their own ways of strengthening their process toward autonomy. They had a lot of processes and projects within their organization Las Abejas had an organization that was on the right track. They were also resolving problems within their organization and of the members (Interview 6). The third was living up to the communitarian ideal Las Abejas had espoused. The following two comments illustrate this view through a critical, pos t-division outlook. The first comment illustrates the idea that the struggle did not only belong to Las Abejas. Both quotes note that indigenous participants be gan to focus on personal economic benefit, presumably moving away from the higher ideal of human rights and the search for justice for all. No es slo de ellos la causa. La causa es que siguen en situaciones de pobreza extrema. Y que los que les han ofrecido ayudas las ONGs incluidas, probablemente nosotros pedimos ayudas sin formar a la gente para recibir las con un espritu ms colectivo, comunitaria. Entonces siguieron buscando para adquirir bienes para si mismos (Interview 8). Its not only their fault. The cause [of the division] is that they still live in situations of extreme poverty. And that those that have offered aid, NGOs included, probably we asked for help [on behalf of Las Abejas] without training/educating people to receive [aid] with a more collective or communal spirit. So they kept looking to receive aid for themselves as individuals. (Interview 8). LS (Luca Stavig): Se supone que Las Abejas no toman recursos del gobierno. Int 5: Pero luego rechazan esto y al ratito ya estn en la filaeso se dio de maneracomo uno de los antecedentes de la separacin (Interview 5). LS: Supposedly, Las Abejas dont take resources from the government. Interview 5: But then they reject this and very soon theyre standing in linethis is one of the antecendents to the division. Both the post-massacre and pos t-division definitions of Las Abejas accurately portray the values of Las Abejas as established in 1998. However, neither of these definitions


takes into account a broader understanding of Las Abejas, a vision that has been developing since the groups inception in 1992. Before the massacre Las Abejas was a social organization committed to making the everyday lives of indigenous people better through securing land and other indigenous rights. During the zapatista rebellion, Las Abejas distanced themselves from the strict autonomy of the zapatistas that included no involvement with the government (Campos Corts 2001; Kovic 2003; Tavanti 2002). At the time of the massacre, Las Abejas did not object to having their movement portrayed as an organization that would never again work with the government. Yet as time moved away from the massacre, actions of Las Abejas began to show that their defini tion of autonomy continued to be much less rigid than NGO activists had thought. Nevertheless, the NGO post-massacre definition of Las Abejas persisted through the time of the division in 2008. It appears that discourse ma y have played a role in keeping the definitions of Las Abejas static. Ramos finds that this is not uncommon in NGO advocacy of indigenous groups. A tendency has been around for a while in the indigenist circuit, namely the fabrication of the perfect Indian whose virtues, sufferings, and untiring stoicism have won for him the right to be defended by the professionals of indigenous rights (emphasis added). That Indian is more than the real Indian. He is the hyperreal Indian (Ramos 1994: 161 in Beckett 1995: 10). The NGOs understandings of Las Abejas as anti-government explains NGO workers shock and disappointment when Las Abejas started working within more systemic tactics of resistance, such as electoral politics. 79


Teaching Another instance in which NGOs treated Las Abejas as ahistoric, hyperreal Indians was in teaching human rights. The discourse of NGOs expresses that they are there to accompany and strengthen processes within indigenous organizations. There is, however, a fine line between accompanying and strengthening social processes and imposing certain ideals of what the group s hould be. Human rights tr aining straddles this precarious divide. Many of the NGOs I interviewed teach hum an rights as part of their larger mission of strengthening social processes. Interview 6: Ahora estamos trabajando ms en una lgica de fortalecer procesos sociales que existen all [en las comunidades], en general, con comunidades o con organizaciones que tienen planteamientos de querer trabajar de manera ms autnoma y organizativa. Entonces nuestro fortalecimiento de proces os sociales va en el sentido de que conozcan sus derechos, y de que puedan fortalecer tambin su organizacin. Entonces, con la finalidad o el objetivo es que van a poder resolver sus problemas legales o jurdicos. Que ya no nos estn viendo como bufete jurdico en donde ellos tienen que venir a preguntarnos que van a ser con tal o cual violacin a sus derechos o situacin. Interview 6: The logic of our work is to strengthen social processes that already exist [in communities], in general with communities or organizations that have taken a more autonomous stance or wishes to organize. We work in the vein of getting people to know their rights and getting them to the point that they can strengthen their own organizations. So the objective or final product of our work is that they will be able to solve their own legal problems. They will no longer see us as a legal practice or law firm that they have to come to ask what they are going to do with this or that violation to their rights or this or that situation. This quote shows that NGOs engaging in hum an rights training believe it empowers indigenous organizations to work more au tonomously. Understanding rights and the structures through which they are to be implemented is, indeed, important for both indigenous people and a democratizing Mexic o. The human rights training NGOs provide creates access to this type of information. However, self-sufficiency does not go hand-inhand with self-determination as the above quote supposes. The human rights training Las Abejas received reinforced the importance and us efulness of the rhetoric of rights that had been part of their movements since th e 1970s; but it also delineated the difference 80


between correct and incorrect types of political action as defined by the human rights discourse. Such views of acceptable and in acceptable action shape NGO decisions to support or withdraw support from indigenous organizations. Such conditioning of support limits the indigenous groups self-determination. The human rights training given by the NGOs I worker with defines autonomy as independence from the government thr ough rejection of government programs, aid, and interventions, and non-participation in electoral politics. This stems from the assumption that all indigenous collaboration with the government signals political cooptation and deviance from the pa th of resistance, justice. Human rights training not only teaches avenues of self-advocacy, but also lim its the field of possibl e resistive action and strips indigenous people of thei r self-determination. There is an element of protectionism in human rights activism: protecting culture, protecting people, protecting history from more powerful actors or proce sses that threaten to erase them. Creating bounded choices for action neither protects nor liberates indige nous people, but retrenches their actions in new types of oppressive re lationships (Nat Colletta personal correspondence). Boundary Work Teaching human rights discourse to Las Abejas functioned simultaneously as boundary work. Once it was established who and what Las Abejas were and could be on a discursive plane, it became easierif not necessaryto delineate between the discourse-abiding Abeja s and the transgressing Abejas. No hay dos partes en Las Abejas Slo hay una. Hay un grupo de gente que se ha apartadoUna organizacin, sea lo que sea que tieneun objetivo, una poltica, un pronunciamiento que se repiteY all es donde se establece por donde vamos a seguir caminando. Si alguien dice que yo camino por otro lado esta saliendo de la organizacin. Aunque se mantenga con el nombre. Pero se est saliendo. (Interview 10b) There are not two parts of Las Abejas. There is only one. There is a group of people that has moved awayAn organization, no matter what it represents, has a party line, an objective, a pronouncement that is repeatedAnd that is 81


what sets the path of the organization. If someone says that I am going to take another path, they are leaving the organization. Even if hey carry the same name, they have moved away. Extrapolating from evidence in my intervie ws, I argue that NGOs felt it important to create such boundaries. These boundaries enabled them to ensure that they were working with the group that followed the disc ourse by which NGOs defined their NGOing. ..El momento de mi decisin de que hacer y que postura tomar, fue cuando me di cuenta que todo el grupo, con el nombre que tena, iba ha dar legitimidad al grupo de Nuevo Yibeljoj Porque ellas [las mujeres] dijeron estamos invitadas a una reunin en Nuevo Yibeljoj Vamos como grupo y a ver con quienes nos quedamos. Entonces yo les dije no. Este grupo se fund, se form con Las Abejas Quien quiera estar con Las Abejas que decida a nivel personal y el resto adis. Y yo les dije yo estoy invitada por la Mesa Directiva y ni modo. Yo me quedo con Las Abejas I made my decision as to what to do and what side to take when I realized that this group [the womens group], with the name that it had, would give legitimacy to Nuevo Yibeljoj The women said we are invited to a meeting in Nuevo Yibeljoj Lets go as a group and see what side we want to be on. So I said No. This group was founded, was formed with Las Abejas Whosoever wants to be with Las Abejas should decide for themselves and bye to everyone else. I told them I am here invited by the Mesa Directiva, and too bad.. I am staying with Las Abejas. In spaces of division and c onfusion, NGO workers responded very strongly to their identity as NGO workers. This reveals that there was little if any negotiation of identities once the dominant discourse had been put into practice in the case of Las Abejas. Si hay dos, no eres buena gente si trabajas con los dos [lados]. Es que yo no me meto en vuestros los. No. Si tu tr abajas con los dos, te ests metiendo en el lo. Es muy duro pero es as. Es decir, ests apoyando la asfixia de una organizacin, una or ganizacinque quiere anular a la otra organizacin. Usan su nombre, lo usan, ah. Lo usaron despus de ser expulsados. Porque fueron expulsados por nombre. Y una persona que haya sido expulsado no puede usar el nombre de una organi zacin (Interview 10b). If there are two, you are not truthful if you work with both sides. Its that I dont want to get involved in your mess. No. If you work with both sides, you are getting in this mess. Its harsh, but thats the way it is. That is, you are supporting the asphyxiation of an organization, an organizationthat wants to quash the other organization. They use their name, they use it. They used it even after they had been expelled. Because they were expelled by name. And a person who has been expelled cannot use the name of an organization. This statement leaves no question: there are Las Abejas and then there is everyone else. This statement also shows that NGOs can be trusted based on who they work with. If an NGO chooses to work with a group whose actions fall outside the pre-established discursive plane, its status within the NGO realm is threatened. Indeed, NGOs use the 82


dominant discourse to police one another, a them e that will be further treated in part four of this analysis. Reasons behind defining and bounding Las Abejas It is likely that Las Abejas status as a symbol of re sistance is what motivated NGOs behavior in defining and bounding Las Abejas. This status gave their organization moral prestige and power in th e international realm which warranted them funding and protection. Eso es que estamos viendo: el desmantelamiento de un proceso interesante que es pacifista, ambientalista, que es de lucha por la justicia, por la memoria histrica, y que es un punto de referencia de la comunidad internacional. El prunuciamiento que saca la Mesa es escuchado, es leido, y es una parte de la sociedad que simblicamente es parte de la memoria y de la justicia (Interview 10). This is what we are seeing: the dismantling of an interesting process that is pacifist, environmentalist, that is fighting for justice, for historical memory, and which is a point of reference for the international community. The pronouncement that the Mesa puts out [every month] is listened to, is read, and makes up a part of society that is symbolically part of memory and justice (Interview 10). Losing this power in its context puts Las Abejas at risk of losing in ternational support and falling back into the obscurity that has historically allowed their oppression and repression. Understanding the importance of trus t within the local and international NGO realm, NGOs have tried to keep Las Abej as within the bounds of acceptable action. For once that trust is broken, finding or renewing support can be difficult both in the local NGO community and in the international realm. siempre en los ONGs ha habido desconfianza, pues con cualquier persona. Si no te muestras tu como seguro, no te dan fcilmente nada (Interview 8). NGOs have always distrusted people. If you do not show yourself to be trustworthy, they dont give you anything very easily (Interview 8) LS: Well right now Tonio and the people from Tzajalchen aredenouncing something promised them by the govt. Interview 4: Thats what I mean about having no political center. The just kind of roam around and say we dont take stuff from the govt, but wheres ourmedicine?! LS: but on the other hand, it kind of makes sense because we dont take things from the govt but we also have needs. 83


Interview 4: yeah, but it means that people dont trust them, especially in this state where people are so anal about what were you doing talking to the govt? As well intentioned as NGO protectionism is, it nevertheless clashes with the tactics that Las Abejas adopted in their resistance. This was especially true of Las Abejas foray into electoral politics. Many NGOs assumed that th e relationship between Las Abejas and the government was one of co-optation as this is how the NGO discourse frames such interactions. Although it is true that the government ha s engaged in actions of co-optation before, two issues stand to be addressed. The first issue is whether Las Abejas are actually being co-opted. It could be that they are, or it could be that working with the government in this instance is a tactic in a larger strategy of resistance ; a tactic in which Las Abejas take resources from the body (be it NGO or government) most aligned with their interests. The second and more importa nt issue is whether NGOs have the right to step in and dictate how i ndigenous movements relate to any other body. According to their discourse of accompaniment and solidarity the answer is no. However, the expectations of indigenous action that NGOs have built belie this discourse. Explaining the Division When I asked NGO workers for explanations for the division, they cited organizational deficiencies within Las Abejas; dependency on NGO aid; and cooperation and involvement with the government. To them these actions signaled a general decline in the ethos of resistance in Las Abejas to NGOs (Interview 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11). I will move through these points below. I conti nue to illustrate the tension between the 84


definition of Las Abejas as an autonomous indigenous group fighting for justice and the actual actions of NGOs. Victim Politics The NGO workers pinpointed victim politics as the main underlying cause of the division of Las Abejas. Victim politics 17 they said, did not allow Las Abejas to move beyond the massacre: I think that one of the major issues that Las Abejas have had is that they have never gotten out of victim politics. When they were the original Abeja s, they started to act like an organizacin soci al [social organization] and not as a victim organization; but not very much. Really they were like somos las vctimas, somos las vctimas, somos las vcitmas [we are the victims, we are the victims, we are the victims] (Interview 4). When I asked what victim politics implied, one interviewee responded Asking for handouts. And not only asking for handouts, but expecting them and them being the only thing you can recognize and the only thing you know to ask for, and sacrificing your autonomy because what you want is people to save you They were taught that victim discourse would get them what they needed. They were taught that victim discourse would get them schools, and that victim discourse would get them money and that victim discourse would get them international attentionAnd it did. And they either didnt have the political tools or the political analysis to root around that and go weve put ourselves in a box. Were all were going to be, all were choosing to be is victims. I dont think they had the political tools to analyze that (interview 4). As I mentioned before, the internationa l human rights network reified the position of Las Abejas as martyrs and bestowed upon their or ganization the prestige necessary to be worthy of international aid. However, when transnational NGOs like the Red Cross and Witness for Peace came to Chiapas to offe r disaster relief after the massacre, they realized the true and dire n eed of indigenous people in the every day. The situation in which aid began entering into Chenalh for di saster relief (10,000 we re still in refugee 17 Interviewees used words like martirolgico (martyr logic), dependencia (dependency), and victim politics to describe this situation. 85


camps) was complicated by the structural povert y in which the indigenous peoples of the highlands lived. Both the Church and Las Abejas had previously combated economic dependence through the creation ag ricultural cooperatives (mainl y coffee) in the early 1990s. However, the displacement of Las Abejas from their lands preceding the massacre made it impossible to plant or harvests their crops. They lost their coopera tives along with their means of subsistence and food aid became n ecessary for the displaced to survive. Llegaban cada quince das los camiones con azcar, con aceite, con lo que necesitaban para su alimentacin, frijol, etctera. Entonces de un da para otro, se dan cuenta que hay dinero, que hay gentes que les pueden ayudar y que pueden vivir sin trabajar o mantenerse con las ayudas de dinero porque son desplazados. S lo necesitaban porque no estaban cultivando ya el caf porque no haba tranquilidad social en la zonapero empiezan como a una dinmica de dependencia econmica (Interview 10) Every fifteen days trucks would come with sugar, oil, ever ything they needed for their meals, beans, etc. So from one day to the next they realize that there is money, that there are people who can help them and that they can live without working, or can maintain themselves on the aid money they get because they are displaced. And they did need it because they werent growing coffee at that point because there wasnt social peace in the regionbut they begin with a dynamic of economic dependence. However, fears of dependence led some pastor al workers to argue th at aid should not be paternalistic. Although their Catholic brethren were displaced, they argued they should look for work to avoid dependency on the aid they were receiving. Estas ayudas se solicitaron a Critas. Al principio no hubo dificultades para conseguir los alimentos, pero despus las solicitudes a Critas aumentaron porque aumentaron los desplazados de otros municipios. Los agentes de pastoral argumentaron que las ayudas no deberan de ser paternalistas, que aunque los catlicos estuvieran desplazados, deban buscar las formas de trabajar para conseguir su alimen tacin (Campos Corts 2001: 86) Aid was solicited from Critas. There was little difficulty at first to am ass the necessary food. However, as time went on, solicitations to Critas rose as the number of displaced people from other municipalities became larger. Pastoral workers argue that aid should not be paternalistic. Even though their brethren were displaced, they argued that should look for work to buy food After the massacre Las Abejas started se veral cooperatives with money from CENAMI (a Church aid agency). Again, fear s of dependency were expressed (Campos Corts 2001), revealing that the pastoral workers in Chenalh did not see indigenous 86


people as equally capable of assessing their so cio-political context accurately. The worry of being paternalistic reveals a preoccupa tion with protecting indigenous people from themselves and not solely on making sure th eir organization was not an impediment to Las Abejas growth and maturation. Many other NGOs aided in the initial disaster relief and rebuilding of Chenalh; but again, their method of ai d did not reflect their own discourse on the real selfdetermining autonomy of indigenous people. Th e actions of NGOs show that they were not serious about treating Las Abejas as th e autonomous organization they applauded it for being: otra lnea de entrada del dinero era la cruz roja internacional. Pero ese dinero no lo vean Las Abejas. Vean el producto que les entregaba: se les entregaba la comidala luz. (Interview 8). Another avenue of funding was the International Red Cross. But Las Abejas didnt see that money: it came to them in the form of food, of electricity (Interview 8). haban ONGs que trabajaban con sus propios recursos. Por ejemplo witness for peace vivio seis meses en Acteal. En algn momento, ayudaron a comprar un terreno, pero siempre la administracin corra a cargo de las ONGs, no a las Abejas mismas (Interview 10). There were NGOs who came in and worked with their own funding. For instance, Witness for Peace lived in Acteal for six months. At one point, they helped buy a piece of land, but the NGO was always the one who administered it, not Las Abejas (Interview 10). Whereas the international human rights movement had the power to define Las Abejas, Las Abejas had neither the pow er to define NGOs discourse or action, nor the incentive to do so in the immediate post-massacre chaos. Indeed, Las Abejas were better off with NGO aid and protection than not. When Las Abejas did begin addressing this di ssonance between NGOs rhetoric of autonomy and their behavior towards Las Abejas, they did not do so through words. I speculate that due to prior experience with NGOs and the State they knew that contesting this discourse in word would not yield much change. 87


Immersed in discourse, the analysts failure to take into account the essence of the dialogic encounterwhich is listening and responding with changed behavior can result in the breakdown of the political process. Indigenous people of Chiapas have a highly cultivated capacity to listen and hear. The primary skill of indigenous curer is listening to the blood speak so they can diagnose the stat e of the heart. In Amantenango, the chief woman speaker addresses the arriving guests at a ceremony, saying: Speak and we shall listen. The ability to listen is, then, more highly valued than simply speakingAs Kay Warren suggests, audience responses and resynthesis are part of a larger dynamic of reappropriation (Nash 2001: 231) NGOs failed listen to indigenous people not because they did not want to, but because they could not hear given their current discourse. To Las Abejas it may have appeared that NGOs were not listening and perhaps usi ng Las Abejas in a larger fight for human rights in Mexico. Indeed, Chris tine Eber finds that the people of Chenalh are just as distrustful of NGOs rhetoric on change as that of the State (2001). Seeing that they were once again being left behind, Las Abejas began negotiating disc ourse through action. El Acuerdo de Respeto Mutuo (The Pact of Mutual Respect) By 2001, many of the displaced indigenous people had been living in refugee camps for four years. Though the violence ha d quieted, people were nevertheless fearful of returning home. In 2000, the oppo sition candidate, Pablo Salazar, 18 was elected governor of Chiapas. It is clear from the in terviews that Las Abejas had a working relationship with Salazar before his election (Interview 6, 8, 10); and when he proposed a pact of mutual non-aggression between the government of Chiapas and Las Abejas to assure a peaceful retu rn of the displaced, Las Abejas signed. This act on the part of Las Abejas co nfused and upset many in the NGO sector. They saw it as a return without justice, a blow agai nst Las Abejas own cause. 18 Salazar represented a coalition of opposition parties such as the PRD, PAN, PST and others seeking to oust the PRI from the governors mansion. 88


ya haban estado all 4, 5 aos y ya queran retornar. Y es una injusticia porque lo llaman un pacto de noagresin. Pero por qu llamarlo eso si Las Abejas nunca agredieron a nadie? Este documento es horrible, injusto, pero lo aceptan. Y all podemos decir que empieza un tiempo de acercamiento con el gobierno (Interview 10) they had been [in refugee camps] four or five years and they wanted to return [to their homes]. And it is an injustice because they call is a pact of no aggression. But why call it that if Las Abejas never hurt anyone? This document is horrible, unjust, but they accept it. And there, we can say, begins a new era of closeness with the government (Interview 10) This NGO worker (along with many others) felt Las Abejas allowed the government to walk away without taking re sponsibility for its role in the Acteal massacre. Co-optation was a major theme when my interviewees spoke about the Acuerdo de Respeto Mutuo. Al gobierno le interesa mucho borrar las huellas de la masacre. (Interview 10) The governemnt is very concerned with erasing the evidence of the massacre (Interview 10) Statements like this assume that by signing this accord, Las Ab ejas forfeited their position of resistance. However, read from the bottom up, signing the Acuerdo de Respeto Mutuo responded to the abject situation in which indigenous people had been living since 1997. More than 6,000 people were still living in impromptu refugee camps. Men had not been able to tend to their fields and women lived in fear of being assaulted by the military while collecting wood or wa ter (FRAYBA 2000). Thus, the decision to return did not reflect Las Abejas commitment to resistance, but their desire for a better quality of life. Nevertheless signing the Acuerdo was met with disillusionment and distrust by NGOs. Were Las Abejas who they said they were? From 2001 on, NGOs began their slow march out of Chenalh convinced that Las Abejas were not what they claimed to be (Interview 4, 8, 10). Recall that it was not Las Abejas who defined themselves as an organization that did not work with the government. NGOs did. Las Abejas were punished for transgressing defin itions and limits that they did not set.


Electoral Politics Electoral bids for municipal a nd federal office by members of Las Abejas in 2000, 2003, and 2007 on the PRD (opposition) ticket fu rther shook the confidence of NGOs. In the early 1990s, members of Las Abejas attempted the electoral route without success (Ramos Corts 2001: 88), but the political climate of Chiapa s had changed radically since then. After the zapatista rebellion of 1994, a parallel opposition government was set up in protest to the fraudulent elections of that year; the year 2000 saw an opposition candidate into the governorship of Chia pas, as well as the end of the seventy year PRI run in Los Pinos. Even so, NGOs were skeptical. Should left wing parties be trusted any more than the PRI? The answer of the NGO workers I interviewed was no. Interview 6: De entradada, hay una obligacin del estado de educacin gratuita, de salud, de proyectos productivos, inclusoDesafortunadamente en nuestro pas ha sido que todos esos proyectos siempre han servido para cooptacin y, pues, que se traduce en te doy proyectos, pero me das tus votos en el manejo de la cuestin electoral. En este caso lo desafortunado es eso. Que el estado mexicano sigue teniendo como esta lgica paternalista de decir s te doy. Lo que me pides, te doy. Pero tu me respondes ese favor a cambio de votoseso es desafortunado porque una obligacin del gobierno se convierte en una herramienta [de manipulacin]. Interview 6: To begin with, the state has an obligation to provide certain things to its people: free education, health care, even development projects Unfortunately, in our country those projects have served as means of co-optation that translates into well gi ve you projects if you give us your votes to control the electoral situation. And this is what is unfortunate in this case. That the Mexican g overnment continues to use this paternalistic logic of sure Ill give you stuff. Whatever you ask for, I will give you. But you will pay back the favor with your vote This is unfortunate because an obligation of the government becomes a tool [for manipulation] (Interview 6). Nevertheless, I believe NGO workers distrust lay not with political parties, but with indigenous peoples. NGOs know and understand political party strategies. Would Las Abejas give into lures of cooptation? Although there is a history of co-optation of indigenous peoples in the Highl ands by political parties, it cannot be assumed that all indigenous involvement in electoral politics will result in co-opt ation of indigenous groups. This assumption denies indigenous know ledge of the actors in their context and 90


also imposes limits to their autonomy (self-determination). In the quote below, an NGO worker presents NGO work as less pa ternalistic than government project LS: Qu implica trabajar con el gobierno en Mxico? Interview 6: Pues, una serie de prcticas contra las que hemos siempre estado. Como el paternalismo. Ven a los indios como si fueran nios los que hay que darles, que hay de proveerles, y pues, siendo asistencialistas. Pues, no es nuestro modo de trabajar tampoco. Nosotros, al contrario, queremos que la gente que viene ha exigir que se cumpla un derecho de que ella misma tiene la capacidad de hacerla, o demandar la exigencia de su propio derecho. Que lo conozca en primer lugar, y que lo puede exigir y cumplir...y en ese sentido no tener que depender de funcionarios LS: What does working with the government imply in Mexico? Interview 6: Well, a series of practices that we have always opposed. Like paternalism. They [the state] see the Indians as if they were children, children you have to support and provide for, and, well, be a paternalistic welfare provider. That is not th e way we work. We, on the contrary, want the people who come to demand their rightswe want them to have the ability to make sure their rights are realized, or to demand that their rights be realized. We want them to know their rights in the first place, and to be able to demand and have their rights fulfilledand in this way, not have to depend on government employees. This worker presents autonomy from th e government as freedom from patronizing politics; however, as evidenced by NGO be havior, autonomy from the government can mean having to deal with the equally patr onizing politics of NGOs. In contrast, NGO workers who used a parallel discourse took a more historic approach to Las Abejas, allowing them to see that this organiza tion never strictly a dhered to either NGO discourses or those of the government (Interview 13). Thus, it seems that the dominant discourse use by some NGOs to frame and define Las Abejas has not allowed them to understand or see the actions of Las Abejas within their larger hi storical context. They focus on a very select moment in the history of Las Abejas (the massacre) and ignore their larger history (Intervie w 3), making the actions of Las Abejas incomprehensible. Las Abejas: the social experiment These three issues (victim politics, signing the acuerdo de respeto mutuo and making electoral bids) caused NGO workers to lose faith in Las Abejas. This reaction further emphasizes that within their discursive frame, NGOs have particular notions of 91


acceptable action/behavior that they enfor ce through NGOing. By labeling certain actions as politically incorrect, NGOs limit the actions that groups such as Las Abejas can use to resist oppression without being punished by removal of the NGOs support. The tension between NGOs and Las Abejas is thus reveal ed as a tension between NGO definitions of resistance and indigenous ones. In Weapons of the Weak, James Scott shows that actions that do not appear to be resistance are sometimes just that. Indee d, the post-massacre actions of Las Abejas fulfilled the function of resist ing the structural oppression of indigenous peoples as well as the oppressive discourse of NGOs. As Las Abejas engaged in victim politics, signed the acuerdo de respto mutuo, and made electoral bids, NGOs experienced tension, anger and betrayal. Yet Las Abejas were acting autonomously, a lthough not by NGO standards. During the decade of the 2000s, NGO workers made several efforts to correct and redirect Las Abejas towards more discursively accep table actions. Some NGO workers felt that a lack of structural analysis by Las Abejas was to blame for their deviance from the NGOs definition and pushed them toward such analysis (Interview 4). However, pushing Las Abejas toward a particular kind of structural analysis (in the case of Chiapas, one based in Marxism and World-Systems Theory) exposes the tendency for NGO workers to think that indigenous people do not understand their soci o-historical context and the reasons for their oppression. And to deal with being so rippingly poor you [indigenous people] join together, you know. At least you get more of you saying thats not fair. Why dont know why, but its not.But they are not dealing with the underl ying issue that there is structural racism against indigenous people and that there is this thing called the NAFTA which means they cant grow their own corn anymore because its cheaper to buy GMO corn. None of the structural issues have changed in the last decade (Interview 4). 92


This type of view ignores th e history of indigenous orga nizing in Chiapas. Indeed, indigenous organizing from th e 1970s on reflects a complex consciousness of what being indigenous in Mexico means. Furthermore, in pushing Las Abejas to ward structural analysis some NGO workers may have breeched the line be tween accompaniment and manipulation. The traditional Abeja s stands for we want justice in the case of this massacre. Which various people at different times, [name omitted] being among them, have tried to push them to structural analysis. If you look at their communiqus you see that they have a much higher level of sophistication than anyone [i.e. indigenous person] you are going to talk to in the community [of Acteal](Interview 4) This interviewee recognizes how some NG O workers push a part icular structural analysis, even though there is evidence that members of Las Abejas already have their own structural interpretati ons. As such, NGO workers are not supporting Las Abejas, but imposing their world view. While local and global processes are inextri cably linked, local issues are not strict re-articulations of global issues. Though the local sphere is embedded in global power relations, local proce sses respond to local power relati ons and politics. Nevertheless, local processes and groups are often divorce from their context to support ideological battles between the Left and the Right at the transnational and global level. While this process is often necessary to defend groups at the local level, it can reduce the local group to a representation and sta tic object instead of a process. I argue that this is what happened in the case of Las Abejas. Indeed, forcing indigenous organizations into this global ideological battle has th e effect of subsuming the local to the global, allowing for the local structural conditions that make the movement or group to be ignored. Another way in which NGOs imposed their views on Las Abejas was by pushing particular social programs that the gr oup was not ready to take on. One NGO in 93


particular wanted Las Abejas to implement a gender program to empower women leaders. When I asked what this meant in th e context of Las Abejas an interviewee, who was critical of the way the pr ogram was implemented, replied: It meant that [name deleted] came along and told them that they had to have a gender program and that he would fund it and that they needed to deal with gender in their communities because they couldnt keep going without women talking in meetingsespecially since women had been the ones who had been [killed in the massacre]. He made them do it. He made them have an asemblea [community assembly] and pick women leaders but they picked women who had huge workloads. They were herbalists or catequistas or in the chorusThey were completely overworked. So in the end being a woman leader didnt mean ve ry much. The whole thing was imposed from the outside, was there because [name deleted] was funding it (Interview 4) According to this interviewee, the womens empowerment project did not help women, but created more work and more sites for th eir manipulation. After the split, the women leaders group became an object of contention. With the knowledge that womens groups appeal to the outside (i.e. Western NGO) world which is currently focused on gender and empowerment, both Las Abejas of Acteal and Nuevo Yibeljoj wanted the womens group on their side. The womens group was ne ver supported as a group for womens empowerment by male leaders of Las Abejas, but as a tool for pol itical means and photo opportunities. While these two examples are extreme, we should not dismiss them as extraordinary. Las Abejas experienced many pr essures to conform, these just being the most obvious. The explanations NGOs gave for the split (victim politics, signing the acuerdo de respeto mutuo and making electoral bids) also explain reasons for NGO distrust of Las Abejas. Post-division, this di strust transferred to Nuevo Yibeljoj, the faction whose actions appeared to stem from the reasons for the split. The rhetoric that allows this distrust illustra tes that NGOs have a discursive frame they use to judge the actions and trustworth iness of members of Las Abejas. It appears that Las Abejas chose 94


to ignore the limits place by NGOs and con tinue their strategy of resistance. NGO workers interpreted this change as de viance from the essential character of Las Abejas, justifying the withdrawal of their support. Explaining the factions Through NGO members definitions of La s Abejas as a communitarian group fighting for justice and autonomy and their e xplanations of the sp lit (victim politics and working with the government), we observe th eir view of correct and incorrect action. This view of the world extends to NGOs pe rceptions of the two re sulting sides of the division. The NGO workers I spoke with establis hed the correct side of the conflict as La Sociedad Civil de Las Abejas, Las Abejas de Acteal or La Mesa Directiva and the incorrect one as La Asociacin Civil de Las Abejas or Nuevo Yibeljoj Again we find that their assessments are based on their e xpectations for indigenous action. Nuevo Yibeljoj Many NGO workers set up a stark dualistic comparison between Nuevo Yibeljoj and Las Abejas de Acteal Whereas Las Abejas de Acteal do not allow themselves to be co-opted, Nuevo Yibeljoj takes money and favors from the government; whereas Las Abejas de Acteal continue to seek justice, Nuevo Yibeljoj has veered from that path; whereas Las Abejas de Acteal have maintained their communitarian and collective ideal, Nuevo Yibeljoj is falling away from it. But what purpose does this dualistic contrast serve? Though it is made with the benefit of Las Abejas in mind, it also functions to perpetuate NGO definitions a nd expectations for indigenous action. The break between Las Abejas and Nuevo Yibeljoj has not been black and white. Both sides have failed to 95


uphold NGO visions of the hyperreal Indian (Ramos 1992). Treating the division as a dualistic split ignores the communities and famili es that are torn betw een the two factions of Las Abejas and communities that have refused to choose sides alt ogether (Interview 12). Most of the NGO workers I spoke with cr eated this dualistic picture by focusing on the leaders of each side, and especially on those of Nuevo Yibeljoj, to which this interviewee refers. La contra-insurgencia realmente no est tan violenta al grado de crear grupos paramilitares. La divisin de las organizaciones, esa es la guerra contra-insurgencia ahora. Es la seduccin de los grupos: te doy dinero, te doy prestigio, te doy coches, te doy liderazagoun cargo poltico. Te trato con deferencia porque tu eres indgena y eres importante. Y entonces el gobierno del estado ha trabajado mucho en nivel de las bases de las organizaciones, las comunidades con toda esta seduccin y todo este buen tratoy los lideres dicen con este plata yo arreglo mi comunidad, mi region y organizacin y yo quedo como el queyo voy a pasar al historia como el que resolv el asunto.y entonces este liderazgo de Las Abejas call en la trampa (Interview 10) Counterinsurgency is not so violent as to create paramilitary groups [anymore]. Dividing groupsthats the war of counterinsurgency now. Its the seduction of groups: Ill give you money, Ill give you prestige, Ill give you cars, Ill give you leadershipa political position. Ill treat you with deference because you are indigenous and are important. And so the state government has worked extensively on the basis of organizations, the communities, using that seduction and good treatmentand the leaders say with this money I will fix my community, my region and organization and I will come out as the oneI will go down in history as he who brought solutionsand so the leadership of Las Abejas fell in the trap (Interview 10). According to this interviewee, Agustn Vazquez has been co -opted, has lost a communitarian sense of change, and no longer thinks in collective terms. All of these behaviors go against NGO expectations for i ndigenous action. Thus, it appears that some NGOs see the splitand the expulsion of the leaders of Nuevo Yibeljoj as a purification of Las Abejas: 96


Interview 10: Lo que queran Agustn y Nuevo Yibeljoj, queran jalar a toda la organizacin hacia su postura. Pero no pudieron. El contrapeso fue Acteal, la comunidad de Acteal y las vctimas, los sobrevivientes. Entonces, para mi es entender que hay varios pasos en donde el gobierno juega a la coopt acin de los liderazgos. Porque hay un planteamiento de el estado tiene la responsabilidad que es su porsupuesto de darme Por qu? Por que es mexicano. El principio de sostenerte en la resistencia y la autonoma es una opcin que toma poca gente. En este caso qued la minora con est opcin Interview 10: W hat Agustin and Nuevo Yibeljoj wanted to do was pull everyone toward their political stance. But they couldnt. The counterweight was Acteal, the community of Acteal and the victims, the survivors. So, I think its important to know that there are various points at which the government tries to co-opt the leadership. Because there is a political stance [within indigenous people] that is the state has the responsibility, it is in its budget to support me. Why? Because they are Mexican. The principle of maintaining ones self in resistance and autonomy is an option that very few people choose. In this case, the minority opted for this choice. After the expulsion of Nuevo Yibeljoj Las Abejas de Acteal revamped their organization into social projects that respond to their members poverty. This has resulted in an organization that NGOs feel they can work with: an organization that fits squarely into their expectations for indigenous action: Interview 10: Una parte de la comunidad deca no, no estamos de acuerdo con eso. No queremos.Y cancelaron la visita del gobernador y empezaron una consulta interna para ver quienes querran firmar [el acuredo de respeto muto] y quienes no. Y esto es cuando la organizacin, dice que hay persona que no estn respetando los procesos internos de la organizacin y tienen que ser expulsados. LS: Y tu diras que la misin del grupo es buscar justicia? Int10: Pues s, y no tomar proyectos del gobierno. Esa fue la posicin de Las Abejas del 1997, 1998: sal de aqu, seor Gobernador. No queremos nada. Slo queremos justicia (Interview 10). Interview 10: One part of the community [of Las Abejas] was like, no, we dont agree with that. We dont want to. and th ey cancelled the visit of the state governor and began an internal consultation to see who wanted to sign [the acuerdo de respeto mutuo] and who didnt. And this is when the organization [that is, the new Mesa] says that there are some people who are not respecting the internal processes of the organization and we have to kick them out. LS: and would you say that the mission of the group is to seek justice? Int 10: Well, yes and to not accept projects from the government. This is the position of Las Abejas from 1997, 1998:Get out of here, Mr.. Governor. We dont want anything. The only thing we want is justice. NGO workers further expressed this id ea of organizationa l purification by referring to Nuevo Yibeljoj as those who divided (Interview 8) and the negotiators (Interview 6). I find these epithets interesting as Las Abejas de Acteal expelled the leaders and adherents of Nuevo Yibeljoj from Acteal. Thus, it can be inferred that the NGO workers who use these epithets are referr ing not to the divisi on itself, but to the 97


actions of the leaders of Las Abejas (some of whom became the leaders of Nuevo Yibeljoj ) prior to the division and purification of Las Abejas. As stated before, many of the NGO workers I spoke with did not approve of the actions Las Abejas took after the year 2000. Thus, this split and purification signals the first time Las Abejas (as Las Abejas of Acteal ) have squarely fit into NGOs ex pectations for indigenous action. The main leader of Nuevo Yibeljoj, Agustn Vazquez, appears to be an unsavory sort, keen on manipulation and power game s for personal gain (Interviews 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10). However, the leader of Las Abejas de Acteal at the time of the split (who remains in the leadership structure) is no less political. Interview 7: Antonio se postul en 2001 creo para ser deputado federal al lado del PRDel tambin es un hombre poltico. Por eso digo que es un pelea entre dos personas polticas Antonio y Agustn se pelearon, se acusaron cada uno. Antonio dice que Agustn acepta dinero del gobierno. Eso, pues, ms o menos es ciertoAgustn dice que los de Acteal tambin aceptan dinero del gobierno, per de manera indirecta, como la luz, y el agua que no hay en Nuevo Yibeljoj. Tambin hay el problema de los sobrevivientes que reciben [mucho] dinero del gobierno LS: Entonces s reciben [dinero]. Interview 7: S, y lo manejan super mal. Tambin hay tensin en las comunidades porquepues no los sobrevivientes si no los heridos [de la masacre] reciben plata para ir hasta el D.F. para ver al doctor. Y no todos aceptaronalgunos s lo tomaron. Hay mucha tensin y es muy complicado. Las personas los empez a poner un poco envidiosos (sic). Interview 7: Antonio [Gutirrez, Tonio] was a candidate around the year 2001 to be a federal deputy for the PRD. Hes also a political man. This is why I say this conflict is between two political people: Antonio and Agustn fought and accused each other. Antonio says that Agustn accepts government money, which is more or less true and Agustn says that Acteal also takes money from th e government, but in an indirect manner, like from electricity, water, which they dont have in Nuevo Yibeljoj. And thats the thing that the survivors get lots of money from the government LS: they do receive [money]? Int 7: Yes, they do and they do a poor job of handling it. Not the survivors, but the ones who were hurt [in the massacre] get money to go to Mexico City to see doctors. Not everyone took it. There were some that did. There is a lot of tension and the situation is really complicated people started to get envious. The difference between Agustn Vazquez and Antonio Gutirrez is that the latter, while still part of a group that accepts government reparations, is not seeking government office and remains a watchdog of the State (the role of NGOs). Thus, it is not possible to say which side remains loyal to social justice and which does not. Recall that the original goal of Las Abejas was to improve their lives of their members. However, after the 98


massacre the leaders of Las Abejas did not respond to their adherents poverty but remained loyal to the focus of justice though th e rest of organization was ready to return to the original goals. Ind eed, only after the split did Las Abejas de Acteal begin addressing the economic needs of their remaining adherents. Though Agustn Vazquez and the leaders of Nuevo Yibeljoj may be unsavory characters, they are finding ways to support their communities. This may explain why thirty-two communities out of the forty or forty-five that constituted Las Abejas joined Nuevo Yibeljoj. Some NGO workers dismiss the action of these thirty-two communities as the result of co-optation (Interview 8, 6, 10). However, the quotes above and below (as well as the history of Las Abejas ) indicate that the thirty-t wo communities are responding to something more than power games a nd co-optation by Agustn Vazquez: So the traditional Abejas is we want justice for this massacre but the traditional Abejas is pretty much only Acteal andI dont know where else anymore. And the rest of them are like be buggered. We want powerwe dont want power were just sick of being poor. Agustns got the contacts to get us cash (Interview 4). Perhaps these communities voted with their f eet, aligning themselves with the side that seemed to respond best to their most immediate needs: potable water, houses, roads, and schools. Indeed, due to his showing in th e municipal election, Agustn Vazquez was allotted a four million U.S. dollar budget (Interview 4). Some of the NGO workers I interviewed recognized this al ternative interpreta tion as a possibility and acknowledged their right to take this path. However, they still saw it as a political mistake (Interviews 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 11). They might be correct: aligning themselves under a character like Agustn may not serve them well. 99

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Interview 7: Es que ahora Agustn ha puesto el nombre como Asociacin Civil de Las Abejas y no Sociedad Civil de Las Abejasque es pura provocacin LS: Y lo hace para confundir a la gente de afuera? Interview 7: Exactamente, pero todo se convierte en un desmadre especialmente para el pueblo. La gente se pierde en esta pelea con la Asociacin Interview 7: Agustn has now named [his group] the Civil Association of Las Abejas and not the Civil Society of Las Abejaswhich is pure provocation. LS: He does it to confuse people from the outside? Interview 7: Exactly, but it all becomes a huge mess, especially for the communities. People become lost in this fight with the Association. The people who lose in this fight between Las Abejas de Acteal and the NGOs versus Nuevo Yibeljoj are the communal actors. I asked NGO workers whether they would ever consider working with Nuevo Yibeljoj Some said they would consider it if they were invited to do so. Others expressed that Nuevo Yibeljoj already had res ources (that is, government funding) and would rema in with those who did not ( Las Abejas de Acteal) However, they also know that the government often does not deliver on its word, leaving me to believe the decision of NGOs to not work with Nuevo Yibeljoj is based on personal animosities toward Agustn Vazquez and the co-optation he appears to have accomplished. Given that NGOs impose upon indigenous peop le a particular way of carrying out their resistance, true autonomy (self-determ ination) sometimes involves working outside of the NGO frame of action, subverting it, or reappropriating it by posing as hyperreal Indians while evaluating options for further action. I argue is what the leadership of Nuevo Yibeljoj along with the thirty-two communities that went with them may be doing. However, because the actions of Nuevo Yibeljoj are considered to be products of political navit and ill will on the part of its leader s (Interviews 2, 4, 6, 8, 10), there has be little dialogue between the adherents of Nuevo Yibeljoj and the NGOs that served Las Abejas. This is regrettable as dialogue would enable indigenous people to express to NGOs what they needed as time moved away from th e massacre and possibly start a process of 100

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reconciliation. It appears that NGO discourse and power wins out over dialogue and reconciliation. Observations on NGOs From my interviews and observations of the day-to-day interactions of NGOs, I noticed some behaviors and tr aits of action that further enable the dominant discourse espoused by NGOs. At the same time, these be haviors and traits al so create space for indigenous organizations to navigate and negotiate the NGO world. By defining indigenous organizations and bounding their choices for action, NGOs also define and bound themselves. Through establishing which indigenous organization is correct or incorrect in their actions, NGOs define which NGOs are trustworthy or untrustworthy based on with whom an NGO works. As stated by an interviewee, you cannot work with both sides of Las Abejas and be a good NGO. You must pick sides (Interview 10). The only NGO in my study exempt from this line of thinking is S!Paz because of their status as an NGO engaged in conflict resolution. Nonetheless, this line of thinking feed s into the established NGO hierarchy. This hierarchy was established through size and resources but has come to include the discourse and actions an NGO engages in. For instance, one of the newest NGOs in my sample is distrusted not for being small and young, but for working with both sides of Las Abejas. This indicates to other NGOs that this NGO is ignorant of politics in Chiapas. Additionally this maligned NGO does not adhere to the dominant discourse or its strict in-group/out-groupi ng, making it an even larger target of distrust. Maintaining strict in and out groups either between NGOs or NGOs and indigenous groups does not facil itate conflict resolu tion but maintains the status quo in 101

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which some people are correct and some pe ople are incorrect regardless of the actual effects of their actions. In and out groupi ng translates into being excluded from information sharing. An NGO worker from a from a smaller NGO told me that they regularly pass information on to FRAYBA, but that no information is passed back down in return. This type of NGOing reinforces the general trend of information to flow up the hierarchy and away from the grassroots inst ead of being shared in a more egalitarian manner. I found this interesting as the NGOs I studied work to facilitate communal and collective forms of social organization which tend to privilege horizontal versus hierarchical relationships. Indeed, one of the overall pa tterns of action I noticed in NGOs is that they do not share information with one another. Though several bodies are set up for this express purpose, it appears difficult to assemble a la rge number (ten or more) of NGOs for the express purpose of discussing and analyzing trends in polit ical action and repression in Chiapas (personal observation). Moreover, due to the unspoken rules of information sharing which prohibit sharing more than ge neral information, performing more than a superficial analysis as a group is almost impossi ble. This distrust is meant to function as a safety mechanism in contexts of low-intensity warfare when it is hard to tell who is friend and who is foe. But not sharing information has its pitf alls. On several o ccasions, NGO workers told me that they had begun projects a nd denouncements with indigenous groups only to find that they had not been told the w hole story by the indigenous group. Indeed, sometimes denouncements turned out to be personal vendettas or had already been 102

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rejected by other NGOs, putting the denouncing NGO in an awkward situation (Interview 9). Thus, by not sharing information, NGOs leave themselves open to manipulation. In my observations, I found that indigenous people are very much aware of what the hierarchical organization and distrustful na ture of NGOs mean for their own efforts. The health promoters of Las Abejas (who were accused of siding with Nuevo Yibeljoj and subsequently kicked out of Acteal by th e Mesa Directiva) came to the NGO I was currently observing to ask to be supported in making a denouncement 19 ; but when it was discovered that the promoters had already b een to FRAYBA (which had rejected their request), the NGO I was observing informed them that they would also have to reject their request. Thus, having been rejected by the most powerfu l NGO in San Cristbal, the promoters had started to work their way dow n in the hope that some would support them. However, as FRAYBA sets the terms on human rights issues, the NGO I was observing felt it could not over step their decision, leav ing the promoters with little recourse. 20 In another situation, an indigenous group came to the NGO I was observing to have a worker stamp 21 their denouncement. Although having each NGO in San Cristbal stamp a denouncement is a lengthy and potenti ally expensive process for Highlanders, it is nonetheless important. With these stamps comes the force of institutional power. NGOs have seen the denouncement and expect results. Along with their symbolic importance, th ese stamps also function as signaling devices. When an indigenous group comes to an NGO with a denouncement, the NGO 19 The denouncements that indigenous people make were mostly against military and police action, lack of government follow-through on promised projects, and against other indigenous people allied with the government taking action against more autonomous groups. 20 Currently, the health promoters work with Espoir Chiapas, which helped finance an ambulance which was meant to serve all people in Chenalh, and hence, all Abejas regardless of their affiliation with Nuevo Yibeljoj or the Mesa Directiva. However, due to political tensions, the ambulance is only able to serve those from Nuevo Yibeljoj at this time. 21 Each NGO has an ink stamp that they use to signal their support for a denouncement. 103

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representative reads the stam ps to see who is supporting the denouncement and who is not and makes their decision to support or de cline accordingly. This is not to say that NGOs do not make decisions independently of on e another. But within the context of the in-out grouping that occurs, I would not be surprised to find that each NGO makes decisions vis--vis their position in the hi erarchy. Thus, depending on the type and strength of the denouncement they are making, indigenous people either build support from mid-level NGOs up or start from the top of the hierarchy and work their way down. I observed some NGOs to be reflexiv e about the amount of power they wield. Some NGO teams reflect on their work and ro le in the Chiapanecan context on a regular basis. However, whether this reflection gets beyond discourse or not remains to be seen. In this chapter, I have shown that the NGOs I worked with have a dominant discourse through which they define themselves, their context, and their actions toward it. Through NGOing, they impose this discourse onto Las Abejas through definition, boundary work, teaching, and punishment for noncompliance. This discourse had the effect of making Las Abejas hyperreal Indians, bounding autonomy (selfdetermination) by creating a structure th rough which noncompliance was punished. The contextual and relational power inequities between NGOs and Las Abejas made this imposition possible. As indigenous people, Las Abejas suffered from structural oppression; their displacement prior to and following the massacre exacerbated their poverty and powerlessness. After the massacre NGOs made Las Abejas into a symbol of resistance vis--vis the domina nt discourse which imposed an ahistorical definition onto this organization (Interview 13). Though cognizant of this definition (and the benefits that could come of it) Las Abejas chose to adhere to neither the NGOs definition or 104

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discourse nor that of the government. Instea d, they took a third se lf-determining path, resisting both government and NGO imposition and engaging both when they found necessary and prudent to do so. 105

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Chapter 6: Conclusions I undertook this thesis to discover the underlyi ng causes of NGO wrokers reactions to the split of Las Abejas in January of 2008. Through my research, I discovered that there is a discourse that unde rgirds the work of NGOs which is created through negotiations of the global human right s discourse, indigenous rights discourse, and the local context. This discourse allows NGO workers to assume that they and indigenous people share particul ar notions, expectations, and interpretations of their common socio-political context, which translate into shared strategies and tactics of resistance. Through this thesis I have proven this assumption to be false; yet it the basis of NGO relationships to i ndigenous organizations. Although the current discourse on indigenous rights is progressive, it continues to have a limited view and understanding of the indigenous world and its modes of resistance. The current NGO discourse define s and perpetuates the image of a hyperreal Indian, an Indian committed to resisting th reats to his or her traditional way of life through projects that promote autonomy (Ram os 1992). Though this term is based in the idea of self-determination, I discovered that NGOs use the word autonomy to mean distance from the government. Using subalter n and peasants studies and methodologies that stem from them, I read the actions of Las Abejas through time and found that they did not strictly adhere to NGOs version of resistance. Evidence suggests that they saw their acquaintance with NGOs and the State as a tactic in a larger st rategy of resistance that they have practiced for over 500 year s. Indeed, as Ramos (1992) and Sundberg (1998) point out, Indigenous peoples appropriate NGO discour ses when they feel it is beneficial for their cause. 106

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NGO workers interpreted indigenous groups actions as a loss of the ethos of resistance when these actions appeared to transgress NGO discursive definitions of resistance. Due to the discourse in which their work is embedded, NGO workers were unable or unwilling to hear or see the actions of Las Abejas in any other way. Due to their subaltern position, indigenous people are able to be heard by discursively powerful agents operating in their context, such as NGOs. To understand how these unequal power relations were produced, I offered a histor y of the mutual work between NGOs and indigenous movements as well as the larger historical cont ext that shaped these two actors before their convergence in Chiapas. I also included a history of Las Abejas against which I read their act ions through time, as well as the reactions of NGOs. Though many other political changes occurred dur ing the time frame I covered (1992-2008), I focused on the events NGOs found significant. Th is allowed me to further reconstruct the worldview of the NGOs in my study, including what they find important for indigenous movements and their own involvement in them Again, this historical context offered a background against which to transl ate NGO workers statements. The theoretical contributions of Subaltern and Peasant Studies further aided my analysis. Spivaks essay, Can the Subalte rn Speak? shows that the discursively powerful shape visions of real ity that subalterns negotiate and inform through word and action in a dialectical process. In their respective works, Maggio (2007) and Scott (1985) create new methodologies for r eading the actions of resistance that subaltern peoples take. They indicate that speech need not be privileged; we can contextualize peoples actions in their history to gain an understanding of what th ey are doing. In deed, treating 107

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indigenous action as a reaction to NGO discourse makes it po ssible to see the tension between NGO visions of resistan ce and indigenous ones. Through my analysis, I show that NGOs in Chiapas do employ a dominant discourse through which they define themselv es, their contexts, and their work. Through the acts of NGOing (the everyday practices of NGOs), many of the NGO workers impose this discourse and its definitions of re ality onto Las Abejas. They do this through imposing a static definition of Las Abejas as an organization, bounding their possibilities for action; through human rights training wh ich, while a valuable tool for indigenous people, limits their possibilities for action; and through the creation of a dualistic vision of the split of Las Abejas that sees one side of the conf lict as correct and the other as incorrect. This discourse creates an image of Las Abejas as hyperreal Indians, bounding their autonomy (self-determination) by creating a structure through which noncompliance was punished. Cognizant of the benefits a nd limitations of the definition imposed upon them, the vast majority of Las Abejas seem to have chosen not to adhere to either the NGOs discourse or that of the government, but to take a third self-determining path. By understanding their split as a reaction to NGOs expectations and worldviews, we gain a better understanding of how NGOs and indige nous people relate to one another. Another world is undoubtedly possible and necessary. But on whose terms will it be created? If we are concer ned with true liberation, we must address the role of discourse in oppression. Does our way of speaking or relating to others oppress them? If they do, how can we change our actions and worl dview in order to hear and see people as they are? One way of doing this is to tran slate peoples words and experiences through the lens of their historic and cultural contexts Yes, something will be lost in translation; 108

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but if human connection, communion, and unde rstanding are gained in the process, I believe this far outweighs the risk. Further avenues of research In the process of writing this thesis, I have discovered several avenues of possible future research. Now that we have more effective methodologies of reading indigenous action, I would be curious to revisit academic wo rk that cites co-optation as a major issue in indigenous communities. Co-optation does exist and has serious and lasting effects on indigenous communities. Nevertheless, I am interested to see whether all action perceived to be the product of co-optation is actually that. As shown through my thesis, the idea of co-optation is not black and white, but a series of reappr opriations of various identities. Can we assume that all perceive d instance of co-optati on are co-optation and not strategic adoptions of identity? Further research that includes interviews with indigenous people is necessary to determine this. Another avenue of research is the inte rface of indigenous rights, human rights, and the State. Western democracies do not frame land as a positive human right, but as an individual negative right. Historically, land has been shared communally and collectively in indigenous communities. This mode of liv ing was institutionaliz ed as a right in Mexico, but later undermined by neoliberal ec onomic reform. It need not be this way. Institutions like communal pr operty are not inferior to othe r state-based systems such as private property with land titles or stat e ownership. Systems that include a mix of communal lands and private property have been successful in many places and times, in both the developed and developing world (Switzerland, Japan, Turkey, and the 109

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Philippines, e.g.). The research of the recent Nobel Laureate in Economics, Elinor Ostrom, supports this position (Ostrom 1990). It is clear that the types of land institutions that a State chooses to employ are ideologically driven (Yasher 1996) Property rights are enforced by the State and for the States inte rests which frequently do not coincide with the interest of indige nous institutions of land tenure. Further scholar ship and advocacy of alternative mixed land systems and huma n and indigenous rights could ease the relationship between human rights, indigenous rights, and the state 110

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Appendix A Consent and Interview questions Consent Debriefing Form* Estoy realizando un estudio sobre la ruptura que se dio en Las Abejas y cmo lo ven los ONGs. Dado que usted trabaja para esta ONG, le solicito su pa rticipacin en este estudio permitindome que lo(la) entreviste. Su decisi n de participar es voluntaria. Nadie lo puede forzar a hacerlo. Ud. es libre de no querer participar y puede negarse a seguir participando en cualquier momento del estudio o despus del mismo. Asimismo, Ud. puede pedir que su entrevista sea omitida de l proyecto final. La informacin que Ud. comparta es confidencial. Usted no ser id entificado en ninguna forma. Cualquier informacin que pueda ser conectada con Ud. ser omitida del producto final, el cual tomar la forma de una tesis de licenciatura, esta ltima es requerida para mi licenciatura en sociologa dentro de New Co llege de Florida. Me permite que lo(la) entreviste para este estudio? Me permite grabar nuestra entrevista para f acilitarme una presentacin ms exacta de los datos? I am conducting a study on the split of Las Abejas, exploring how NGOs explain the current split of Las Abejas. Given your work at this NGO, I am requesting your participation in this study by allowing me to interview you. Your consent is voluntary and there should be no coercion attached to your decision to participat e. You are free at any point during the data collection process or after to stop your participation and/or ask that your interview be omitted from my study. The information you provide is kept confidential. You will not be identified in any way, and any identifying information will be omitted from the final write-up which will take the form of a senior thesis, a requirement for the completion of my B.A. degree at New College of Florida. Do you allow me to interview you for this study? If so, do you allow me to tape record the inte rview to facilitate mo re accurate reporting of my findings? I found this my original consent form did not adequately explain the nature of my thesis and its focus on the relationship between NGOs and Las Abejas. In the field, I made sure that the workers I interviewed we re made aware of this focus. 111

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Entrevista en Espaol ONG Cul es la misin de esta ONG? En qu capacidades interacta con comunidades indgenas? Cules son las metas que tiene esta orga nizacin para su interaccin con las comunidades indgenas de Chiapas? Tiene esta org metas especficas para que quisiera ver para los com. Indig? Usted comparte estas metas y visi ones? Si s, cmo; si no, por qu? Qu situacin sealara que el trab ajo de esta org ha sido exitoso? Las Abjeas Cunto tiempo ha trabajado esta org con Las Abejas? Me puede dar una historia de la interaccin que ha tenido? o Probing: En qu capacidad a trabajad o con Las Abejas; cmo ha sido la relacin entre Las Abejas y esta org. Me puede contar un poco sobre la mas acre y la lucha contra la impunidad? Tiene alguna idea por qu hubo la ruptura dentro Las Abejas? Cul fue tu reaccin inmediata a la ruptura? o Probing: Les vino como sorpresa? En tu opinin, qu significa la ruptura para Las Abejas y para este ONG? Cules son las metas y visiones de los fr acciones diferentes de Las Abejas (Mesa Directiva vs. Nuevo Yibeljoj) o Follow-up: Estas metas coinci den con los de esta org? Despus de la ruptura, par de trabaj ar con una o la otra fraccin, o mantuvo interaccin con las dos esta org? P or qu eligi este curso de accin? [para orgs que todava trabajan con los dos lados]: Va a seguir trabajando con los varios fracciones de Las Abejas? Por qu? Por qu no? Esta org trabaja en un contex to de guerra de baja inte nsidad. Esto afecta cmo relaciona esta org con las dife rentes fracciones de Las Abejas? Relacin con el gobierno Tiene una relacin esta org con el gobier no (o el municipal, estatal o federal)? Cmo es esta relacin? Los miembros de esta org (el equipo) ha recibido amenazas. Cmo respondi la org ha estas amenazas? Cul fue la res puesta del gobierno en cuanto ha estas amenazas? 112

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Interview in English What are the goals of this NGO? What is the mission of this NGO? In what capacities does this NGO interact and work with indigenous communities? What are the goals this organization has for its interaction with indigenous communities in Chiapas? Does this organization have specific goa ls of what it would like to see for indigenous communities in Chiapas? Do you share these goals and views? If so, how; if not, why not? What situation would signal that the NGOs work has been successful? Las Abejas How long has this organization b een working with Las Abejas? Can you give me a history of this NGOs interaction with Las Abejas? Can you tell me what you know about the massacre Why did Las Abejas split? What was your initial reaction to the split? Probing: Did the split come as a surprise to you? In your view, what did the split mean or represent? Has your view of the split changed since that first reaction? What was this NGOs reaction, as an or ganization, to the split? Probing: Did the split come as a surprise to the or ganization? In your view, what did the split mean or represent for the NGO? What are the goals and outlooks of the two groups? Does this split have the capacity to ma ke Las Abejas more effective, less effective, or will it have no effect on their efficacy as a social movement? Please explain your answer. \ After the split took place, did your orga nization stop interact ing with one of the sides, or did it maintain interactio n with both sides? Why this choice of action? [For NGOs who currently work with both side:] Will this NGO continue to work with both sides of La s Abejas? Why? Why not? Do their goals mesh with those of this NGO? Relationship with the government Does this NGO work with the Mexican government including that of the state of the Chiapas and San Cristbal de las Casas? Why? Why not? This NGO is working within a context of low-intensity warfare. Does this have an effect on how this NGO relate s to each of the split groups? This organization has received threat s against its employees. How did the organization respond to such threats? What was the governments response to this? 113

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Appendix B DIA documents on military activities in Acteal 114

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