REPORTS FROM  CHENALO, CHIAPAS about the december 22 murders of 45 mayans

Heart of the Message - A Journal of Trans-Ethnic Spirituality - click to return to main page



Reports from Chiapas (1) 
Reports from Chiapas (2) 
Cyber Sit-In Planned (3) 
Letters to the Editor 
by Hazrat Inayat Khan and a message about the new Sufi Federation 
Rev. Hamid Touchon - P.O.Box 4897 - Pagosa Springs, CO 81157-4897 -

Heart of the Message, copyright 97 is produced for the Church of All and of all churches at Pagosa Springs by Post-Dogmatist Publications, Rev. Hamid Cecil Touchon; Editor-in-Chief. All materials in the Heart of the Message are copyrighted   



     Vivid Report from Road Trip to Chiapas, Jan 7 

    This report was prepared in order to elaborate on the attempt by the Human 
    Bean Company to engage in fair trade with the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and the events and consequences of doing so. 

    by Kerry Appel, Director 

    January 6, 1998 

    The drive to Chiapas was more than difficult.  We had left Denver on 
    December 15th, stopped in Guadalajara to videotape a friends wedding, and 
    arrived at the state of Oaxaca on December 22, 1997.  We had experienced 
    many breakdowns in my 1971 Volkswagen bus nicknamed the "Relampago Rojo" or"Red Lightning" and now we had to deal with the hurricane damaged roads inOaxaca.  Almost every bridge was destroyed and we had to take detours around all of them as well as around the long stretches of highway that 
    were washed out. 
    **** December 22, 1997, Acteal, Chiapas, a Tzotzil Indian village where the 
    coffee for the Human Bean Company is grown, " women and children fled 
    down the steep mountain path towards the valley, armed men shot them from 
    behind...Some who reached the underbrush by the river below were discovered 
    by the assassins when the babies cries gave them away...The assassins cut 
    open the stomach of a young pregnant woman, tore her unborn baby out and 
    cut it up.  A baby less that one year old survived because her mother 
    covered her with her own body and received all the bullets.  One baby was 
    shot in the head at close range...It was not possible to identify the 
    bodies torn to pieces by machetes. The Red Cross found many of the bodies 
    hacked in pieces and thrown in the underbrush in an attempt to hide the 
    immensity of the crime..." 

    "...The massacre went on for almost five hours on that black December 22, 
    1997 while dozens of armed civil guards stood on the road above and did 
    nothing...there are still three people missing from the group of 300 
    refugees that were attacked by men in black, with red masks...A physician 
    in one hospital in San Cristobal de las Casas said he had never seen such 
    big bullet holes. "They looked as though something had exploded inside the 
    body".  "Anti-personnel" bullets were found at the scene that do explode on 
    impact.  The guns have been identified as M-16s, used exclusively by the 
    Mexican Army."  (The text in quotes above was written by Maria ---------.  
    Her last name is blacked out to protect her from the Mexican government) 

    Note:  Don´t those M-16s come from the United States?  Aren´t they supposed to be used to fight drug trafficking? 

    We made it through Oaxaca in spite of the breakdowns and the damaged roads and arrived in Chiapas on December 23rd where the motor on the Relampago Rojo gave up the ghost.  It died in a little Tzotzil village only 15 miles from our destination of San Cristobal de las Casas.  It was nighttime and 
    we had little choice but to make a deal with a Tzotzil mechanic to replace 
    the engine.  We left the bus there and continued the next day, Christmas 
    Eve, into San Cristobal where we heard the news. Forty five of our coffee 
    producers had been massacred and as many as 5,000 were refugees in the 
    Tzotzil community of Polho. 

    I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas sick in bed.  My symptoms were those of a fever but I believe it was also due to grief and despair. 

    At this point I´m going to say that I´m going to skip most of the 
    statistical details of some reports.  There are plenty of reports filled 
    with statistics.  I´m also not going to fill this report with references 
    and sources.  You can either believe me or not.  The governments and the 
    mainstream media try to control the flow of all information that you 
    receive.  I don´t care about them nor do I care for them.  They are 
    involved in the process of this low-intensity war that is being waged 
    against the indigenous peoples in Chiapas for their own profit motives 
    (NAFTA, etc.) 

    **** December 25th, Christmas, Acteal.  "When the procession arrived at the 
    small hamlet of Acteal in the highlands of Chiapas at 8:00 in the morning, 
    Maya men were digging the first of two 50 foot long graves...The men dug as 
    other Mayas carried the coffins on their backs from the trucks on the road 
    down the steep, rough, mountain path , through coffee trees to the area 
    that was cleared and carefully smoothed to receive the dead with dignity. 
    They dug as 15 small, white coffins were carefully placed side by side 
    before Don Samuel (Bishop Samuel Ruiz who was there to bless the bodies).  
    They dug as 21 more coffins were carried down and placed beside those of 
    the children, and then 9 more coffins holding the men were placed beside 
    those of the women..." 

    "The men dug as the bishop left. They were digging at 12:30 when I climbed 
    the steep, mountain path to my truck and left with a truck full of Mexican 
    and foreign supporters of the Mayan struggle for Peace and Justice with 
    Dignity for all the poor of the world." 

    "We left the men digging.  We left the survivors to their grief.  We left 
    the "People of Corn" to bury their dead according to the ancient Mayan 
    traditions.  We left them to return their dead to the sacred ground, the 
    same ground that soaked up their blood three days earlier."  (Maria 

    I talked to the president of the indigenous coffee producers of Chenalho 
    which is the municipality where the massacre occurred.  I was told that 
    there was no coffee available for me to buy.  The same Mexican government 
    backed paramilitary groups that had committed the massacre with the 
    assistance of the Mexican government were now stealing the coffee of the 
    dead and the refugees to sell it and buy more guns to use against the 
    people.  The Mexican Public Security Police were protecting the murderers 
    and the thieves. 

    We went to Chenlho and were stopped by these same Public Security Police at a roadblock.  When they came to the window of my bus (I had a new engine 
    now and the Relampago Rojo was alive again) they saw that I was videotaping 
    them and they hid their faces in shame and waved me on.  We continued to 
    Polho, the site where the refugees from the death squads were.  Since the 
    national and international press was there the Mexican Army and the 
    Judicial Police and the Public Security Police were using the opportunity 
    to act as if they were protecting the refugees but when the press wasn´t 
    looking they roamed the refugee camps intimidating the survivors with guns 
    and dogs.  When a woman from the civil society questioned there actions 
    they struck her with the butt of a gun. 

    Though the Mexican government could afford the presence of thousands of 
    soldiers for the press in order to look as if they were trying to protect 
    the people, they couldn´t afford to give the refugees potable water, food 
    of medicine.  Yesterday a baby died there of pneumonia without any medicine 
    while thousands of soldiers and police stood around with machine guns and 
    huge banners that claimed that they were doing "social labor". 

    We went on to Acteal where there was a mass going on for the dead.  On the 
    way to Acteal we passed the coffee processing plant where our coffee for 
    the Human Bean Company is processed.  It was occupied by the Mexican Army. 

    In Acteal we stood in solidarity with the survivors and we walked around 
    the site of the massacre.  There were still shoes on the ground that had 
    come of the feet of the people as they were being murdered.  There was a 
    small cave at the head of the ravine where the massacre took place.  This 
    opening to this cave was only about one and a half feet high.  I was told 
    that some women and children had crawled into this cave in terror to escape 
    the slaughter but that members of the  paramilitary group had crawled in 
    the cave after them and killed them.  We walked through a tiny, rough 
    church which was little more than a shack and counted 22 bullet holes in 
    the walls.  

    This is the "drug war".  This is what the arms and weapons that the United 
    States is supplying to allegedly "fight drugs" is being used for.  The only 
    crime of the dead and the refugees and indigenous people  who are being 
    occupied by 60,000 Mexican Federal Army troops is that they won´t give up 
    their customs and their culture at the orders of the United States and 
    Mexican governments. 

    For nearly four years I have been traveling regularly to Chiapas.  I have 
    been in the sites where this dirty war is being carried out.  I have seen 
    the suffering of the indigenous people there.  I have learned from the 
    dignity and the hope and the determination of the members of the Zapatista 
    National Liberation Army as they struggle for indigenous rights and 
    culture, justice, democracy and dignity.  I have admired them as I have 
    watched this small group of poor Mayan people hold up the efforts of the US 
    and Mexican governments to exterminate them as indigenous peoples.  Tens of thousands of members of international civil society have done what they can 
    to be in solidarity with the goals and objectives of this small group of 
    rebels with dignity.  I have watched and documented as the indigenous 
    peoples of Chiapas spoke the truth and always kept their word while the 
    Mexican and US governments have waged a campaign of lies and deceit and 
    murder.  And I have watched an read the mainstream media of the US and 
    Mexico as they play their roles in this destruction of indigenous peoples 
    with their omissions of the truth and their broadcasting and printing of 
    the lies of the governments and the corporations. 

    I recall now the statements that have been made to me by members of the 
    press and the United States government. 

    Rick Salazar, Channel 4 (at that time in 1994), Denver, Colorado, "I don´t 
    think that our producers would be interested in your footage of Chiapas 
    Kerry.  We have a business relationship with a Mexican government TV 
    station and we wouldn´t want to jeopardize our business relationship." 

    Kerry, "Are you telling me that the truth of what you show us is influenced 
     by your business relationships?" 

    Rick, "I´m afraid so." 

    Henry Solano, US District Attorney, State of Colorado, (When I asked him if 
    it was true that the US had required Mexico to change their Constitution to 
    end the indigenous land system so that US corporations could buy their 
    land),  "Yes, that´s true Kerry.  We´re going to take their land but 
    they´re not making it productive and someone has to make it productive.  
    But they´ll be better of in the long run because we´ll build factories and 
    give them jobs." 

    What he is referring to is the "Mega-Project of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec" 
    for one thing.  The United States, Europe and Japan have devised a plan to 
    move the indigenous people and peasants off their land in the south of 
    Mexico in order to build ports and railroads across the isthmus, kind of 
    like a Panama Canal.  The US has already made deals with the Mexican 
    government for the oil, uranium, wood, fishing, railroads, ports, 
    hydro-electricity and the other resources that are currently on Indian land 
    and had Mexico change their laws to allow these deals to be "legal".  In 
    order for international public opinion to not be negative toward the 
    corporations they decided to make the Indians "partners".  The Indians 
    would give up their land and rights to the resources and the corporations 
    would give them jobs in return. 

    He doesn´t understand that indigenous people don´t necessarily want to 
    trade their land and culture for a job in a factory.  Besides, nobody asked 
    them their opinion. 

    Ben Nighthorse Campbell, American Indian US Senator from Colorado, "As you know Kerry, I am indigenous myself and I´m doing all that I can for the 
    indigenous peoples of Chiapas." 

    When I tried to find out what he was doing his aide told me that Ben was 
    testifying on committees and panels that dealt with the issue.  When I 
    pressed him for a list of these committees and panels he admitted that 
    there were none and that Ben wasn´t actually doing anything that he knew of 
    for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas. 

    Later, Ben´s assistant, Rita, asked me why I was picking on Ben.  "He 
    hasn´t done anything worse that the rest of the elected officials." (This 
    in regard to the US exploitation of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and 
    the rest of Mexico) 

    Finally Ben Campbell sent me a letter telling me to stay out of Chiapas and 
    leave it to the "proper authorities to fix the problem of Mexico´s impunity 
    in regard to human rights violations at the proper time and in the proper 

    I wonder when it will be the "proper time and manner" for Ben Nighthorse 
    Campbell.  The truth is it will never be the proper time and manner for the 
    governments or the multi-national corporations to be interested in justice. 
     It´s not their job any more if it ever was.  Maximum profit is the only 
    thing that has validity to them. The blood of the 45 Tzotziles massacred on 
    December 22, 1998 is on their hands as well as on ours.  It is the price 
    they have to pay for our greed. 

    This is the racist and arrogant philosophy of "Manifest Destiny". 

    Holger Jensen, International editor for the Rocky Mountain News told my 
    friend Jeff that, "Kerry is crazy.  He can´t make a difference.  Not one US 
    citizen would pay a dime more for a hamburger to save a million Indians".  

    Now is the time for us to tell them and to show them that they are wrong.  
    I don´t believe that they are right that people don´t care about justice 
    for indigenous people . I don´t believe that people would  knowingly accept 
    the extermination of indigenous peoples. But we are going to find out very 

    The US government and the corporations are getting impatient to end this 
    rebellion of indigenous peoples.  They feel that they´ve been successful in 
    undermining international support for the Mayan people and they´ve been 
    working hard for the last two years to make it appear that the rebellion is 
    just a local conflict.  The Mexican army commanders have been traveling to 
    Ft. Benning, Georgia since 1994 to learn counter-insurgency tactics at the 
    "School of the Americas" also know as the "School of Assassins". 

    The tactics learned there are now being used against the people of Chiapas. 
     The massacre of these 45 unarmed men, women and children is just the 
    beginning a new level of violence against the civil population. 

    It is critical for us to make a stand now.  This is the end of the second 
    millennium.  This is the beginning of "the next 500 years" for the 
    indigenous peoples in the Americas.  We have all been made to be 
    participants in "the new Indian wars" by what we buy, or by what we watch 
    on TV, or by what we say or don´t say in regard to these massacres and 
    other human rights violations.  Everything about our current social and 
    economic and political systems makes us participants in the dirty wars that 
    the US and other governments wage either by active participation based on 
    the distorted information presented to us or merely by ignorance of what is 
    going on and the consequent silence as a result of that ignorance. 

    I have received a lot of communications from people who are clients of the 
    Human Bean Company or from people who have seen my documentaries.  A lot of 
    people have said that they agree with my work toward fair trade or human 
    rights.  A lot of people have said that they wish they could do something 
    to help the indigenous peoples of Chiapas.  All of the communications that 
    I´ve received have been extremely critical of the US and Mexican 
    governments actions against the Zapatistas and the indigenous peoples of 
    Chiapas and Mexico.  

    You who read this know who you are and how you feel about these issues.  I 
    am addressing myself to you right now.  By reading this message to this 
    point you have been presented with a choice.  That is unavoidable now.  
    Sorry.  You an I can either struggle for justice or be part of the 

    I know that this affects a lot of people deeply and the recent slaughter of 
    the 45 Mayan peoples by the Mexican government´s proxy forces has made you 
    even more aware of the urgency of this situation.  I imagine that some of 
    you might use that extra dime that Holger Jensen says you won´t spend on a 
    hamburger to make a phone call to the local Mexican Consulate or to the US 
    government to strongly protest the continued violence with impunity in 
    Mexico.  I imagine that some of you might get together with others and talk 
    about the issues and then talk to others and still others.  I wouldn´t be 
    surprised if some of you organized demonstrations and marches in the 
    streets.  Personally, I wouldn´t blame you if you committed acts of civil 
    disobedience or took over and occupied the offices of elected officials or 
    of newspapers or television stations.  Or maybe someone will call Senator 
    Ben Nighthorse Campbell and ask him what he is doing or what he is going to 

    As for me, I´m going to keep doing what I have been doing and that is to 
    keep buying the coffee and weavings from the indigenous people who are 
    under siege by soldiers with tanks and guns that originate from my country 
    and I´m going to continue making documentaries that show what it is that I 
    see and experience while I´m here in Chiapas. 

    Right now I´m going to send this message to you and leave the Cyber Cafe 
    and then I´m going to pick up a few bags of coffee that we were able to 
    find from some Tzotzil-Tzeltal indigenous producers and then the Reampago 
    Rojo will start the long trip through the militarized country of Mexico to 
    bring the coffee back. 

    That reminds me of an incident that occurred two days ago on the way to 
    visit friends in Oventic, Chiapas.  This is a Tzotzil community in 
    resistance, as they say here, and the Mexican Army was creeping closer and 
    closer to Oventic with their roadblocks and their machine guns and their 
    tanks.  We drove up in my bus and the army stopped us. 

    "Get out of the vehicle", they said, "We´re going to search it for guns or 

    "First let me ask you if that is constitutional." I said, "Do you have 
    probable cause to think that we´re violating the law?" 

    "Constitutional?" he responded looking irritated, "You´re in Mexico now you 

    Kerry Appel 

    Chiapas, Mexico.  January 6, 1998 

    Word count:  3,000 
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    CyberC@fe, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. 
    Please visit the Gallery at Cecil Touchon Contemporary Art who supplies the space for this page. 

    produced by Post-Dogmatist Publications copyright 1997