This family's home is now beneath a tarp. This family's home is now beneath a tarp.

A humanitarian crisis in Chiapas: observers

5,000 indigenous people have been forced to flee their homes

Violence stemming from a longstanding territorial dispute in the central highlands of Chiapas has forced more than 5,000 indigenous Tzotzil people to flee their homes, according to a human rights organization and the Catholic Church, which warn there is a humanitarian crisis under way.


The Frayba Human Rights Center says its records show that just over 5,000 people have left nine communities in Chalchihuitán while a further 300 have abandoned their homes in the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó.

A flare-up of a 40-year-old dispute between the two municipalities over the ownership of 900 hectares of land is responsible for the exodus.

Many of the displaced people are currently sleeping in makeshift camps where they are facing cold temperatures, illness and food shortages. Among them are 114 pregnant women who require urgent medical attention, Frayba warned.

The organization has called on the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) and the United Nations (UN) to pressure the Mexican government to attend to the problem and warned that displaced residents from both municipalities are suffering serious human rights violations.

“The responsibility of the different levels of government that have allowed this situation to become a humanitarian emergency is clear. In addition, the authorities have been unable to deal with the causes and effects of the violence,” the organization said in a prepared statement.

Residents of the C’analumtic community say they were forced from their homes after a group of armed men from Chenalhó — intent on taking over their land — murdered farmer Samuel Luna Girón on October 18.


One local woman, identified only as Hermelinda, said that residents fled amid the gunfire with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. The armed men subsequently ransacked nine homes before setting them alight and even their chickens and pigs were stolen, she added.

Similar incidents played out in other nearby communities, forcing their residents to flee in search of safety as well. Displaced residents accuse Chenalhó Mayor Rosa Pérez of buying weapons and ammunition for the armed men whom they refer to as “paramilitaries.”

Conditions in the improvised camps have worsened as supplies run out and temperatures drop.

In one camp in the community of Pom, almost everyone is sick and in the absence of medicine, traditional healers try to treat the young and old alike with mixtures of medicinal plants and boiling water. Fever, stomach aches and coughs are among the most common ailments.

Dwindling food supplies, limited to stale tortillas and beans, are shared among children while adults are forced to go without.

San Cristóbal de las Casas Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel compared the current situation to a 1997 massacre in Acteal, Chenalhó, that left 45 people dead.


Those living in the camps are desperate to return to their homes but while the threat of violence remains, they are too scared to do so.

“. . . We want peace and tranquility,” one young woman at the Pom camp told the newspaper El Universal.

“Help us. Our families are sick and suffering. Our children, aunts, uncles and grandparents are dying in the mountain like animals,” she pleaded.

Source: Reforma (sp), El Universal (sp)

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  • bob

    chiapas is a beautiful state, but the natives there are out of control and have been for a long time. they block the roads and say it is for political reasons, but 500 or a thousand pesos can buy your way through the roadblock. they still worship subcommandante marcos whose silly “revolution” made him famous but, in the long run, really didnj’t accomplish anything. the government should establish order there.

    • DreadFool

      yup, to hell with the natives, long live law and order, bring in more Army thugs and make room for more gringo geezers!

  • Jeff Swanson

    WHOA HERE, ya gotta know the truth, when you read this story, your “LIBERAL” heart breaks and go’s out to these poor people, er right?
    TRUTH IS, in MEXICO it is always nearly impossible to separate truth from LIE’s as told here by the media, these people ARE SQUATTERS, because of Mexican VERY outdated laws on adverse possession, they move onto another’s land they DON’T own, lean two palm prongs up against a tree and sleep there, for all intensive purposes THEY NOW OWN IT!
    To LEGALLY evict them cost thousands of USD and takes years, in a very corrupt, outdated legal system that favors them anyway! BUT if ya don’t they steal your land, SO wadda ya do?
    Hire gunman to go in and evict them, THAT’S what I would do too! Fast and clean!
    Read the story carefully, and it says they were squatters, I take issue as well with the statement 114 woman are pregnant and require urgent medical treatment, HOW were they getting “Urgent medical treatment” on stolen land in the jungle, AND EXACTLY WHAT is preventing them from getting it now?
    Pregnant woman DO NOT require urgent medical attention, let alone 114 of them? GET REAL HERE!
    These people squirt of babies like a Red Neck spits out watermelon seeds at a picnic!
    More liberal BS!
    That’s the problem with Mexico and their stupid “Revolution” a bunch of uneducated people who want AND EXPECT ALWAYS, something for nothing! The “Mexican Revolution” UNLIKE real legitimate revolutions like in the USA, was only about free “STUFF” for a bunch of poor people who did not want to work for it.
    In this case free land!
    This “Revolution” culture and a free for all mentality has ruined the Mexican People.
    After the revolution, which was communist as well by the way, the “Ejido” was established, give all these lazy poor dirtbags free land to farm, the food will be sold to and sent to the cities, the system failed, the “Recipients” of all this free land WERE TO LAZY TO FARM IT !
    The cities began to starve for lack of food, the government quickly went to plane “C” which was a TOTAL return to capitalism for farming and food production, read about it, it is fact a fascinating story of why you can not give free land to a ” MOB” who want something for nothing, THEN expect record crop production and harvests.

    • KIKE

      You are talking about the most vulnerable sector of people here. Extreme poverty, no education. They do not know the internet they do not even speak spanish. The have been left behind and are the target for son of a bitch politicians. Exactly how the fuck do you suggest these people not be like Rednecks? Then you are so proud of usa, like you didn´t know that everything that country owns is because THEY STOLE IT. There are no poor countries, There only exist ROBBED, LOOTED but not poor countries..

  • WestCoastHwy

    Mexicans thought that “Reservations” were just that, allowing you a seat at a restaurant. I still have a hard time explaining to Mexicans that the USA have sovereign nations of aboriginal people.

    • KIKE

      Yeah right, You are talking about the ones you stole the land from? Or the ones that recently police almost take the shit out because protecting their land from Oil companies?

      • WestCoastHwy

        I would believe both would be the proper answer. The BIA is a very complicated thing and that’s why the Aboriginal Nations have educated people working on compensation and property right as I type.