Rodriguez talks fight for social justice in Mexico

The University of Detroit Mercy recently hosted an event, “Fighting with the Heart of a Woman: the voices of women of Chiapas Mexico,” to shine a spotlight on the fight for social justice and democracy in southern Mexico.

The event was sponsored by Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive (CLASA) and cosponsored by Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Gabriela Torres Rodriguez discussed the peace and justice issues native and indigenous people face in Southern Mexico, and the women who help the fight for their democracy.

Like many known narratives on the fight for freedom, freedom from the harsh treatment of the Mexican government is a constant struggle for the native and indigenous people in Chiapas.

Rodriguez is from the United States and Mexico border in South Texas, and a member of International Service for Peace (SIPAZ).

SIPAZ is an international program that was established in 1995 that aides in conflict resolution and non-governmental peacemaking in Chiapas, Mexico.

SIPAZ developed in response to the Zapatista uprising of 1994 against the Mexican government, Rodriguez said. It sympathizes with and supports the native and indigenous resistance to their oppressors.

According to Rodriguez SIPAZ has been an organization of all women for several years.

As a member of SIPAZ, Rodriguez is presently working as a human rights observer and defender in Chiapas, Mexico

Rodriguez has seen firsthand the effects of the violation of human rights, violence, and injustice imposed “legally” by the Mexican government on the native and indigenous people in Chiapas, and how the United States and Canada, due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), helped influence these issues.

“Chiapas is about 80% Native and Indigenous,” said Rodriguez informing the crowd about how thousands of these people have been being forcefully displaced or forcibly disappeared away from their own sacred land for decades due to things such as mining projects and organized crime.

A big issue for the native and indigenous people of Chiapas is being taken away from their homes, because the Government wants their land for its natural resources.

Rodriguez mentioned how the Mexican government buys off native and indigenous people from resistance, mainly women, to extract natural resources from their sacred land.

Rodriguez said that women are the main ones that are being bought off.

 “Women are still territory, they're still being colonized, and being told what to do and how to do it,” she said. “Women are being used to displace their own communities.”

The mining projects on these sacred land causes proliferation of problems; their homes washed out by floods, toxic wastes dumped in their sacred rivers, and pollution the air they breathe.

Rodriguez stated that the Zapatista movement, was the first movement (in Mexico) that accepted women as leaders.

“Word is our weapon,” said Rodriguez about the native and indigenous women who fight for justice.

Rodriguez hoped that in sharing the stories of these women, people would see themselves in the struggle and want to support.

“We need to decolonize together,” Rodriguez said.

Detroit Mercy student, Drew Baker, was unaware of the issues in Chiapas.

“It’s very concerning that people are suffering like that and they don't have any power, and so that it's good that this organization is helping to bring those issues forward,” said Baker.

The Rev. Denise Giebler, a SIPAZ board member, said that issues in Detroit are similar to those in Chiapas.

“There are things that Detroit and Chiapas really hold in common, the dignity of people who struggle in the face of really difficult oppression, and still struggle for the fight for dignity,” Gielber said.