In this February 2022 episode, Sikowis catches up with guests, Evette Padilla and Kate Keller, about the Zapatista community in Chiapas. Due to harsh living conditions created by colonial oppression, in January 1994, the Indigenous Zapatista Army of National Liberation declared war on the Mexican Government, demanding “work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, liberty, democracy, justice and peace. Here in the US, there have been several groups across the nation that have supported their move towards sovereignty such as the Chiapas Support Committee, a grassroots collective based in Oakland, California that serves as a center for education and information about Chiapas, the Zapatista communities and Mexico. They have worked with Indigenous Zapatista communities since 1998 to support and accompany their process of constructing autonomous (self-governing) institutions such as health care, education and economic production.
The Chiapas Support Committee supports the Zapatista autonomous education system through the construction of schools, providing supplies for teachers and students. They also support the production of indiginous foods by purchasing from Zapatista cooperatives in Chiapas at the price the co-op members set, selling those products in the San Francisco Bay Area and returning any profits to the Zapatista communities. The committee even assists and accredits applicants to study at the Oventik Language School, a language school for activists to study either Spanish or a Mayan language.
More on Chiapas Support Committee at https://chiapas-support.org/
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Evette Padilla is Chumash and Civil Rights ParalegalI who lives in Oakland. She is a Board Member of the Chiapas Support Committee who instantly admired and respected the work of The Zapatistas upon first learning about them in her undergraduate studies in 2003. Their existence and resistance helped her understand who she was supposed to be and she dove deeper into better understanding her own indigenous identity and strength. Almost 20 years later, that deep admiration, love and profound respect has grown ever stronger and her commitment to their endurance will be lifelong.
Kate Keller has spent most of her life in western Montana on the ancestral territories of the Seliš, Q’lispe and Ktunaxa peoples. Her serendipitous acquaintance with the Zapatista communities in 1997-98 has shaped nearly every aspect of her life since, from activism in food and environmental justice to her current work. In addition to her work in solidarity, she is an orchardist, growing apples and pears.