Monday, June 29, 2009

The Las Cruses Chiapas Connection

A New Mexico State University professor is working on a book that profiles the struggle of the poor in Mexico's southernmost state.

Professor Christine Eber travels to the Chiapas for anthropology trips, during her time there, she became friends with Flor de Margarita Pérez Pérez. Perez has been a struggling to survive through most of her life, going from one craft co-op to another to sell goods for money.

Eber has also started a charity that helps to find markets for the crafters in Perez's community, called the Las Cruses Chiapas Connection.

From the Silver City Sun News, writer Daniella De Luc interviews Eber about the book and it's subject.

"After knowing Margarita for over 20 years, I have had the opportunity to see the changes through her eyes," Eber said. "With this book, we would like to reach a broad audience and help them understand the conditions of life in Chiapas for indigenous people."

As part of these efforts, Eber recently had her first book translated into Spanish. Eber intends to make a bilingual edition of the life story called "Restless Spirits: The Journey of a Tzotzil-Maya Woman." She will submit the manuscript for publication in fall 2009.

Chiapas has a tumultuous history including long-standing inequalities in access to land and resources, disease and poverty and non-existent health and educational facilities. To combat these setbacks and to support their families, indigenous groups in Chiapas have formed cooperatives that build upon local knowledge and skills in order to market coffee, weavings or other artisan work, Eber said.

"Margarita has been involved in many cooperatives and social movements since she was a teenager. Through her life story, we would like to give a glimpse of the struggles her people go through, and how life has changed in highland Chiapas since the 1960s," Eber said.

When the armed uprising of the Zapatista movement took place in 1994, Pérez Pérez said she was unsure what it was, but thought that the Zapatistas were going to help change the way of life for the better for indigenous people in highlands Chiapas. She is still committed to the struggles of social injustices but doesn't see change happening overnight.

"Although I was very excited at first, later as they were saying, 'We're going to win, we're going to win a better life.' As the years passed, I didn't see any triumph. I began to think, 'Ah, the triumph will not come now.' All we can do is to struggle and struggle more and not give up," Pérez Pérez said.

"I could die in a week, or in a few months, so it's better that I not focus on triumph. It's better just to struggle so that something might change in the future," she said.

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