From Schools For Chiapas: Marichuy to Mother Seeds, Sowing Seeds for Life

This is another dispatch from our partners at Schools For Chiapas. Check out their web page or keep checking back here for more news on the activities of SFC and the Zapatista struggle for human rights and dignity in Chiapas, Mexico.

In the final days of April, Squadron 421, the Zapatista maritime delegation made its departure from the Caracoles of Zapatista territory, and in its farewell celebrations repeatedly invoked the spirit of the seed, of sowing, of sprouting, of nurturing. “Seeds we carry, seeds we leave, seeds will germinate!” From the mountains of southeast Mexico to the Europe(s) below and to the left, the Zapatistas intend not only to carry the seeds of their stories, but to return home with new ones. In the spirit of the brave EZLN delegation and the seeds that they sow, this is an account of the seeds being sown in Chiapas — seeds of biodiversity, seeds of knowledge, seeds of food sovereignty, and seeds of solidarity.

Agroecology lies at the heart of Mayan autonomy, well-being, and defense of territory. Next to soil and water, the ability to grow, save, and exchange one’s own seed — seed sovereignty — is vital. However, trade agreements and recent legislation continue to threaten the seed and plant diversity in Mexico, in particular with the contamination of native corn, but also through other programs intended to homogenize and privatize access to seeds.

In response to these efforts of the bad governments and transnational corporations to eliminate biodiversity and genetic variation, we are re-focusing our efforts/resources on supporting seed sovereignty by sharing seeds and plants with those communities that best know how to care for them. We stand alongside our compañeras/os Zapatistas, and communities of the National Indigenous Congress in saying #NuestraLuchaEsPorLaVida (our struggle is for life)!

Schools for Chiapas’ 27-year solidarity with the communities in resistance continues to lead us in our own aprendizaje with all that sustains life. In building schools, planting trees, medicinal plants, and tending bees, the Zapatista project for autonomy is a continuous education in how we understand our role in the human and other-than-human community. For this reason, it is a great honor to announce our recent collaboration with DESMI (Economic and Social Development for Indigenous Mexicans), an organization that has worked intimately with the communities in Chiapas for over 50 years.

The first seed packets sorted out for distribution during our Mother Seeds workshop this May 7th-8th.

On May 7th-8th of this year, over twenty participants (including teams from both organizations, community members from several autonomous communities, and coordinators from Veracruz) gathered in the gardens of DESMI in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas for a workshop and planning session to revive the decades-old Zapatista initiative referred to in English as Mother Seeds in Resistance. Launched by Zapatista agroecology promoters 20 years ago, Mother Seeds is a living library of Zapatista native corn seed shared with campesina/os throughout the world in order to protect and preserve it. 

These conversations about a new era of Mother Seeds began a collective process between the two organizations, a sharing of intention and vision around the distribution of seeds and plants back into the Zapatista and autonomous indigenous communities of Chiapas. Seeds that will eventually be multiplied and shared in the territories. The spirit of conversation at DESMI is a fertile seedbed. Words fall gently where they will be watered, nurtured, and cultivated by others. It is the nature of holding space, building trust, and listening. As the conversation over the two days continued, the very first seeds were sorted into packets, catalogued, and readied for delivery to communities who want them — to be grown and shared along with knowledge and stories between campesinas/os and between generations.

The weekend following our workshop, May 15th and May 16th, two Tzotzil men from the highlands of Chiapas and from our respective teams of Schools for Chiapas and DESMI A.C. traveled to the metropolis of Mexico City for a workshop in medicinal plants and herbal medicine-making, led by healer/CNI spokeswoman Maria de Jesus Patricio Martínez. Marichuy, as she is affectionately known throughout the world, is a founding member and spokeswoman for the CNI, is a Nahua healer and knowledge bearer for her people. The workshop was a fundraiser for the Zapatistas’ timely and poetic Voyage for Life across the Atlantic to find old and new comrades in the struggle for life. 

It was an unforeseen adventure for the two men. As an opportunity for aprendizaje (participatory learning) that would be shared with their comrades, communities, and networks, it was the perfect inauguration of the new collaboration between DESMI and Schools for Chiapas. Marichuy’s workshop included the processing of many of the plants that we currently propagate in the nursery in San Cristóbal, including rue, yarrow, hoja santa, and artichoke. It served as a reminder also that diversity is the medicine for our own bodies and for Mother Earth.

A mïstica (ceremony) during the herbal medicine workshop with Marichuy.

Weaving the work of the past year, of preventative measures and medicine-making with food sovereignty and climate resiliency, Mother Seeds in Resistance is about the fabric that connects us to one another and the planet. It is about food as medicine and protecting water. It is about a world where many worlds and all beings fit. It is about sowing and sharing seeds, words, and wisdom in defense of life.

Please join us in this endeavor. You can support the work of Mother Seeds in Resistance here, and also by sharing this link. Thank you so much.