For me, lekil kuxlejaltik is to be in balance with nature,
Knowing how to live in harmony with others,
With my neighbor, family, and friends;
It is to take into account the knowledge of grandfathers and grandmothers,
To produce our food.
It is also feeling good about myself;
When that happens, the spirit flourishes and hearts are happy.
cuando eso sucede, florece el espíritu y se tienen corazones contentos.
At Voces Mesoamericanas we understand the main sentiment that drives our actions to be people, and that is why we start from the idea that it is the different actors related to migration that must be considered as subjects of change in their communities. We encourage them to be protagonists in the processes of self-initiative and self-organization in their community life -trans-local and transnational, with their ongoing work and with the demand for policies for the exercise of inclusive citizenship and the creation of conditions in which they can stay in their communities of origin.
We consider the program Self-organization and Sustainability of Indigenous Migrant Communities to be grassroots work with trans-local - transnational indigenous communities, both in the municipalities of the Chiapas Highlands and in their main communities where they’ve settled in the southeastern United States. The work is oriented towards strengthening the migrant organizational fabric and migrant participation in the processes of constructing Buen Vivir, an indigenous concept of communal well-being, and Buen Migrar, a concept of migrating in a safe, dignified, and informed manner.
We dream of and work for the construction of Buen Vivir and Buen Migrar; The first involves exercising the right of establishment, i.e. the right not to migrate, the opportunity to flourish in the community where a person is born, to have the means to develop materially and emotionally, with education, health, work, fair prices for agricultural goods, violence-free environments, food sovereignty, and territorial control. On the other hand, the right to Buen Migrar with dignity implies that leaving the community is an option and that when making the decision to do so, there is a guarantee of respect, human security, and the exercise of human rights in transit, destination, or return to one’s home community.
The Buen Vivir is the alternative of indigenous peoples to the western concept of development, that is, processes of collective existence sustained in the vision and practices that unite nature and society. The Buen Vivir or lekil kuxlejaltik - as it is called in the tsotsil and tseltal Mayan languages of the Highlands region - opposes the hegemonic vision of a development that never takes into account historicity, culture, and the particular needs and ways of seeing the world from the perspective of indigenous people.
Migrant People Organized for el Buen Vivir and Dignified Migration
- Indigenous Coalition of Migrants of Chiapas-CIMICH
- Tsotsil Migrants in the United States
- Indigenous Migrant Laborers
- Dreamers for Education
- Indigenous women in migration
- School for Indigenous Migrant Women
We work in eight municipalities of the Chiapas Highlands: Tenejapa, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chamula, Chenalhó, Teopisca, Zinacantán, San Juan Cancuc, and Chilón. Since 2011 we have accompanied the formation of groups formed by migrants in the United States, returned migrants, and their families. These groups are called Transnational Community Committees (CCTs), because their members create and recreate material and immaterial links between places of origin and destinations, and despite borders they want to work in an organized way for a better life for their families and communities.
CCTs are established as grassroots community actors who are strengthened in organizational aspects by participating in workshops on rights, municipal finances, and diverse skills that give meaning to migrant identity for the exercise of their rights in community life.
As part of the strengthening of the migrant indigenous people, we support the decision of the CCT to form a new social organization, that is, an organization led by indigenous migrant actors.
The Indigenous Coalition of Migrants of Chiapas (CIMICH) was legally constituted in September 2013 as a civil association. The Coalition is an important step of the CCTs in their processes of building Buen Vivir and Buen Migrar. At the moment, it is formed by 25 CCTs located in the municipalities of the Highlands; 250 people participate directly in the committees.
The CCTs have collective savings groups with financial education included and are generating their funds to invest in productive projects that are based on their own experiences, needs, and visions of the future. These initiatives are accompanied by technical training on specialized attention and management in agricultural production, design and project management, processing and marketing of products. The projects are diverse: raising chickens, pigs, and lambs, agricultural and bee production, community stores, bakeries, composting and waste management, and handicrafts.
The productive projects of the CCTs seek to complement the economic income of the participating families, improve their diet with healthy products, but above all, to value and enhance the capacities, experiences, and knowledge of the migrants as important actors in the management of community life.
Through the Vaknaval Plan (“Rainbow” in the Mayan tsotsil language), CIMICH continues to strengthen and participate in various spaces of dialogue with authorities and other organizations at national and international levels.
Voces Mesoamericanas recognizes that the intense migration of Tsotsil and Tseltal people to the United States in the last 20 years has been a factor of change in the ways of life for the indigenous communities of the Chiapas Highlands and other regions of the state.
The transnational community implies an examination of and recognition of the material and immaterial bonds that are created and recreated between communities of origin and places of destination in the United States, which are fundamental to achieve their material, emotional, social, and cultural sustainability.
The international migration of Chiapan peasants and indigenous peoples began in the late 1990s and had an explosive increase in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. The North American Free Trade Agreement and the set of neoliberal policies implanted in Mexico in the 1980s severely affected the subsistence economy of peasant families. The impacts of natural phenomena - such as Hurricanes Mitch and Stan - and human phenomena such as deforestation and fires intensified the crisis in Mexico and Chiapas countryside. The causes of internal and international migration cannot be analyzed separately, as they also have to do with a historical process that deepens the inequalities, exclusion, and marginalization of peasant and indigenous communities.
Chiapas did not appear in the 2000 INEGI census as a migrant-expelling state; For 2010 this changed and was placed on the list of the top ten entities with the largest number of migrants in the United States. It is estimated that about 450 thousand Chiapan migrants crossed the northern border of Mexico and worked for one or more periods in the agricultural, construction, and services sectors in the United States. Due to their situation as undocumented migrants, it is difficult to calculate the number of those who remain in the United States.
The work of CIMICH and Voces Mesoamericanas has focused on the Mayan immigrant community located in the cities of Lutz and Tampa, in Hillsborough County, Florida, and in the city of Cairo, located in Grady County, Georgia. We have made a diagnostic study of their needs and ways of coping with daily pressures as members of transnational families and communities. The annual visits made by both organizations since 2013 facilitate the encouragement of transnational communication that reinforces the ties and sense of belonging, and support in the process of paperwork for personal identification as a "key" to access other rights and benefits. Voces Mesoamericanas has established ties with social actors interested in collaborating with the Mayan diaspora – both of Chiapan and Guatemalan origins - that in both places are promoting civil and religious organizational processes.
Our organization is preparing a multimedia and social networking strategy to facilitate access to strategic information for Mayan migrants in the United States that will enable them to confront the anti-migrant policies promoted by President Donald Trump and to have a basic orientation and contacts for the protection of their rights in case of being detained and deported to our country.
In addition to international migration, Chiapan migrants have accumulated more than three and a half decades of intense migration within other parts of Mexico. It is estimated that of the approximately two million agricultural laborers in Mexico, 15 percent are from Chiapas. They mainly belong to communities of indigenous peoples (Tsotsil, Tseltal, Tojolabal, Chol, and Zoque), who move to agricultural fields in Central, Western, and Northwestern Mexico each year. A significant group goes to the cities of the center of the country and to the tourist centers of the Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Nayarita as construction workers and employees in the service sector. Many of the Chiapan day laborers live in situations of discrimination and abuse during the journey to their multiple work destinations, by agents of the Instituto Nacional de Migración and local public security. In the workplace they face inhuman conditions of labor exploitation, isolation, and social exclusion.
The main destination states of migration from Chiapas for agricultural work are Baja California, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Tamaulipas. The indigenous migrant laborers (abbreviated “JIM” in Spanish) suffers multiple violations of their human rights in the agricultural fields where they work: abuses, exploitation, unfair wages, no access to social security, overcrowding, poor nutrition, and a lack of health services, among others. Most have no contracts and are "hooked" from their communities of origin by deception and false promises, and then transferred to places that are generally far from urban centers. Social and geographical isolation in the camps facilitates the violations of their rights by the businesses they work for, and serious crimes such as forced recruitment and slave labor by groups of organized crime. In addition to that, existing legal and institutional mechanisms for the monitoring and defense of their social and labor rights are ineffective.
In Voces Mesoamericanas we carry out strategic actions to contribute to the visibility of the situation of migrant workers in the northwest of the country, and above all, the generation of social networks for the promotion and defense of their rights. Examples of these actions are:
Establishment of Community Committees of Migrant Laborers who disseminate information about their rights, social support programs, and institutions that can be used in case of violations of their rights and other crimes against them.
Informational, visual, and radio campaigns for the awareness-raising of the rural and urban population, in the regions of both origin and destination.
Awareness-raising workshops with staff working in the agricultural fields and public officials in Sonora.
Workshops on social and labor rights with the JIM population in agricultural fields in Sonora.
We have also developed joint strategic actions within the framework of the Iniciativa Regional sobre Movilidad Laboral (Regional Initiative on Labor Mobility, abbreviated INILAB in Spanish), an effort of 12 organizations that proposes work alternatives from civil society, in dialogue and collaboration with public agencies, private initiatives, and unions. Its purpose is to promote actions in favor of the human and labor rights of temporary migrant workers seeking work opportunities in other countries, through the Transnational Regulated Mobility programs of the Canada-United States-Mexico-Central America region. From Voces we contribute with the design and production of radio spots on the internal migration of agricultural workers and day laborers, sharing measures to protect against possible deceptions and labor abuses.
In collaboration with Justice in Motion (formerly Global Workers) and as part of the Red de Defensores de Trabajadores Globales (Network of Global Worker Defenders), we carry out actions to prevent human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation; We also provide legal follow-up to cases of violations of labor rights of day laborers. Workshop courses are provided with members of social organizations, academia, and government institutions, to publicize mechanisms for prevention, detection, and proper channeling of cases of potential victims of trafficking.
We are part of the Red de Jornaleros Agrícolas Internos (Network of Domestic Agricultural Laborers), a coordinating space for grassroots organizations, civil organizations, and academics in places of origin and destination. The participating organizations implemented social and political advocacy actions in Sinaloa, Sonora, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, and Mexico City. Our objective is the defense of the human rights of the agricultural day laborers, these being understood in their fullest expression as the right a life without violence, with justice and dignity. The purposes and actions of the Network are:
We seek to make visible a situation that has historically been denied and neglected.
We build legal and psychosocial support networks for people who have experienced violations of their labor and human rights.
We walk with the workers so that as informed people they demand their rights and defend them.
We create ways to exert social and political influence in the defense of the rights of the internal migrants who work in unfair conditions in the agricultural fields throughout Mexico.
We defend and value dignified work for all people who grow our food.