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Gender Justice and Reproductive Rights in Zapatista Communities in Chiapas, Mexico



Globalmother.org supports the integration of a feminist agenda, and specifically the full and effective implementation the 1994 Declaration of Women in Zapatista Communites.  Unfortunately, women’s issues continue to take a back seat to traditional patriarchal structures. We believe strongly that oral testimonies, bearing witness, and taking “cargo,” are essential in disseminating information about gendered reproductive justice and gendered specific violence in indigenous communities.  

In the Field

 The impact on indigenous livelihoods has been destructive and demoralizing as one indigenous farmer put it: “To take our land is to take our life.”

Unfortunately, mothers and children bare the lived reality of land and resource dispossession. Comandanta Ester’s 2001 declaration in Mexico City succinctly affirms how women are caught in a complex gendered, socio-economic triple bind, “because we are poor, because we are indigenous, and because we are women.” 

To this end, while we strongly support the efforts of the Zapatista Communities’ right to sovereignty, globalmother.org stands in solidarity with Zapatista women and their rights to a stronger indigenous feminist discourse—one that promotes gender justice and reproductive rights.


Indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico considered NAFTA a “death certificate” to its peoples and livelihoods foreseeing the corporate takeover of the food supply. The overall agricultural economy in Mexico has declined 40 percent since NAFTA was implemented. Of equal concern was the modification without judicial transparency and civil due processes of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, the legacy of Emiliano Zapata. Article 27 afforded legal protections of common lands and resources in order to prevent privatization, exploitation, and monopolization by private plantation interests. While at the end of the 1990s over half of the Mexican farmland was owned as ejidas, this rapidly changed with the modification of Article 27, which permitted the “privatization of indigenous and peasant collective and communal lands.” 

The redistribution of common holdings and resources to private interest and the intensification of multinational foreign interests have invaded previous communal spaces and collapsed family livelihoods. NAFTA opened the countryside to agribusiness conglomerates like “American Cynamid, Chevron, Monsanto, and De-Kalb-Pfizer Genetics,” introducing “genetically modified seed, agricultural chemicals and the biopiracy of plant life” in their wake.

In an informal gathering of delegates from Global Exchange and Sipaz in San Cristobal de las Casas on August 5, 2014, Miguel Picard, former advocate for the Center for Investigation and Popular Education, spoke on the impact of NAFTA remarking that NAFTA and neoliberal policies have destroyed local peasant and indigenous farmers who cannot compete with US agribusiness who introduce their products on the market at surplus “dumping prices.” 

The result is that local farmers cannot compete and consequently cannot sell their crops. This has indubitably been the case with US subsidized corn, which has wreaked havoc on local corn farmers forcing many to switch from corn, a traditional staple to other crop production, entangling women in the daily struggle to feed their families. 

The rhetoric against corrupt government systems that suffocate indigenous self-determination and autonomy is still the armor worn by the Zapatistas who face relentless attacks by the government and paramilitaries turning some parts of Chiapas into oppressive police states.

The outrage against the takeover of indigenous lands and livelihoods precipitated by 500 years of exploitation and expansion fuels the Zapatista Movement and their concerns for ethnic self-determination, sovereignty, and autonomy. According to Miguel Picard, Zapatistas have successfully secured a geo-political and conceptual space to live and move forward outside the dominant neoliberal paradigm.

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