These cooperatives make up the federation of cooperatives called The Women of Corn in Resistance.
We Are Eight Women of the Community of Crucero, Municipality of San Juan, Chamula
We started organizing ourselves on the 25th of June, 1998. We organized ourselves because we have a very poor life. Little by little we have gone improving our work and making new crafts because the people asked us for shirts, blouses, skirts; we’ve had to learn to make what the people want, and it hasn’t been easy at all. There are people who have helped us to collectively add new designs to our work, helping and supporting one another to all come out ahead in the end. What some have learned in workshops they’ve come back to teach to those who don’t know, and in this way we all work together.
We’ve made this agreement after analyzing and seeing that it’s the best for all.
We need those who help us find a bigger market because for the majority of craftswomen in the state this is the hardest thing, due to the circumstances in which our state and our communities live, and also due to the situation in which the indigenous woman lives. The truth is that the money isn’t enough to cover the most urgent necessities (shelter, health, education, food). We don’t want luxury, we only want to have a dignified life for ourselves and our children.
The Group of the Bees of the Community of Los Chorros, Municipality of Chenalhó
We are women of the Civil Society organization The Bees, of the colony Miguel Utrilla. In 1997 we were displaced from many communities which were our places of origin. We denounced the authorities and paramilitaries according to our rights.
This is why we started to organize ourselves on the third of May, 1998, to collectively work on our crafts, resisting in the middle of our suffering. This is why it’s important that all the indigenous peoples are united and struggle together. Although we returned to our community in 2001, we still haven’t found justice in our town, San Pedro Chenalhó.
We, as indigenous women, have not stopped working on our artistry, and we want to find fair markets, to improve the life that we have and to be able to give a more dignified life in the future to our children. We are women who are working collectively and we are going to keep working on our crafts to come out ahead.
For five years we have participated in the collective work of the Women of Corn in Resistance, going to the workshops of empowering and formation, where we have learned new designs, how to combine colors, and many other things.
We are united, supporting one another to be able to come out ahead as women looking for a just and dignified way of life. The artistry we make is the symbol of our indigenous culture of Chiapas.
We have also resisted the criticism of the people in our community who don’t understand and don’t want women to work, and even less so collectively, and of jealous husbands who sometimes don’t let us go out. Only the strength of the collective has helped us resolve problems that we have.
The Nichim Jolobil Group of the Community of Zinacantán
This is an organization which was founded in 1995 with craftswomen to work in an organized way. Then there were 150 women working and they had a lot of support, but the representative of the group stole the strong credits the women had received to work. They came back together to keep working, and in this way the theft did not affect them. In 1998 they had the support of ten industrial machines, but that year there was another representative group which was organizing the women. They were men who didn’t let the women participate in the decision-making. One day they began to disagree, and they began to fight over the machines that were in the house of the representative of the organization. One day the other head representatives went to his house and stole the machines, and shortly after sold the machines at a very low price.
The women got angry and the group was divided. In 2000 they started to work again with the savings and credit program with those of The Forum. Then the women weren’t well organized, now it works only with the women who need to work and sell their crafts.
We teach the women to work better and they support each other and they have a desire to learn. At every meeting we have, we discuss with and listen to each other, we take into account their participation and their desire for a capacity to work together and to learn from the others, and they have an interest in working for the others. We make sure there’s agreement among them and that they have an opinion and that they have the strength to lift themselves up, to grow more.
In 2002 we integrated into the Women of Corn, which has helped them much to organize themselves and to learn new things about how to grow and find new markets.
Now we need fair and solid markets which value our work and support us in our sales, to continue moving forward in this collective work.
April 10th Group, Altamirano municipality
We are indigenous Tzeltal women. Five years ago, when we started working as a group of four women, we realized we have a right of participation. We organized ourselves to see how we could support our family, because we live in extreme poverty.
We decided to work in craftsmanship and made agreements between all of us seeking each other’s support and dividing the work between us equally, all of us with high spirits of learning and determined to move forward.
We invited more women living in the same situation to join us, so we could become stronger and resist the criticism of those who don’t like collective work. Later on we realized that it wasn’t easy, we started to have problems because there are women who don’t know how to sew or outline and there are others whose husbands didn’t allow them to go out, but regardless we kept our unity.
Some of us started out with cutting and dressmaking workshops, sharing what we have learned so far with the other women workers because that’s how collective work is. We are now 10 women who support each other and we are improving our craftsmanship and looking for a fair market, so our families as well as ourselves can have dignified lives.
Ixim Nichim (Corn Flower) Group, town of Yajalón
Our group started in 1999. We realized that as women we have rights and we thought of ways to get on in life without having to depend on our husbands or feeling almost like slaves. We value ourselves and we thought that we could give our children a better education.
For us, collective work is showing each other what we can do and supporting those who don’t know how. We are 10 women, working to better the lives of our children and to satisfy our necessities.
It has been hard moving forward, but collective work is easier than doing it by oneself, even if there is criticism, lack of communication, lack of money, and sometimes a lack of agreement. But in spite of everything, we have hope that we can move on, and what raises our spirits is the fact that we are in the cooperative Mujeres de Maíz en Resistencia, and that gives us strength.
The work is hard. Making a blouse may take us up to 8 hours because we have to wash, ink, cut, sew and border each one. The shirts take us 10 hours. Our group is organized with a board of directors. We join together every 15 days and we divide the work up evenly together, reflecting the materials the factories in San Cristóbal give us. We share the orders and/or sales and we hand in and take work, but in actuality we lack a market because, although our craftsmanship is good, it is difficult to be able to go out and sell our goods ourselves, because of our families and the lack of resources.
Nichim Antzetik (Flower Women) Group, Taniperlas community, Ricardo Flores Magon municipality
Two years ago when we started to organize ourselves, we looked for ways to move forward in life along with our children, because there is much poverty in our community and we couldn’t afford to educate our children. For that reason we began to organize our group of 8 women in total, deciding to work in craftsmanship as well as to find a market where we could sell our merchandise. This is how the Mercado La Paloma has helped us, and we hope it will continue to help us because this community is part of the area where military comes to intimidate us. We women can’t go out easily and we don’t have many means of communication so that, in short, the situation is difficult but despite all of this, we work together to achieve a better life, with dignity, justice, and democracy.
Las Ovejas (The Sheep) Group, Las Ollas, San Juan Chamula
We began to organize in 1998 because we are indigenous women and very poor. Because of this we began working in a collective group, hoping to find strength and a little bit of money so we could support our children. This is why we work together, united, and we give each other strength so we can walk forward together, always united. We are 8 women working together. Most of us don’t know how to read or write, nor do we know how to speak Spanish. These are obstacles, but despite all the obstacles we move on, working with effort, and we will not stop working collectively.