On September 28, 2015, the Teamsters Labor History Research Center hosted a Progressive Students Union-sponsored program titled “We Are Subjects of History: A Discussion with Barbara Suárez Galeano (Mexico Solidarity Network) and Guadalupe Moshan Álvarez (Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center)”
The following program summary was prepared by Ross Berry, PSU steering committee member and Class of 201
Mexico Solidarity Network is an Anti-Capitalist, Anti-White Supremacist, Anti-Heteropatriarchy Collective that organizes outside of the electoral system to challenge systems and institutions of oppression and build long-term strategies for resistance and resilience. They organize “from below, and to the left”, meaning they organize with marginalized communities in the United States and Mexico to ensure that their voices can be heard, and organize to build solidarity amongst these communities against the forces that oppress them. Their model relies on solidarity, not service, and includes study abroad programs in Cuba, and in Chiapas, Mexico where students can study with the Zapatistas, a leftist revolutionary political and militant group defending their rights to autonomy, education, and health against the corrupt Mexican narcostate. Their programs seek to understand the knowledge indigenous communities have gained from centuries of resistance, and not to recreate paternalistic relationships. In Chicago, at Mexico Solidarity Network’s U.S. headquarters, they offer “Adult High School” for predominantly Latin@ undocumented women who otherwise have no access to a basic education.
Fray Bartolomé de las Casas is a Human Rights Center located in Chiapas, Mexico, that provides legal representation to indigenous communities in the area who are otherwise unable to afford legal aid or translation services, as many indigenous peoples in Mexico do not speak Spanish. Gudalupe Álvarez has worked for FrayBa now for nearly two decades, drawn to the work herself as an indigenous Tzotzil woman, whose brothers faced false accusation by local authorities for a crime they did not commit. After the state attempted to extort them, and the 1997 Acteal Massacre of 45 people, carried out by a paramilitary group with no intervention from the state, Guadalupe made the decision to dedicate her life to the work of human rights. Just last year alone, Guadalupe received 1,300 complaints of human rights violations, a large number of these violations committed by local, state, and federal officials. FrayBa uses seven categories to document violations: torture, arbitrary denial of life, arbitrary denial of freedom, forced displacement, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, and land/territory violations. Under the motto, “Organization, Work, Struggle, and Solidarity” FrayBa and Mexico Solidarity Network have been able to successfully build international solidarity, allowing for their struggles to prosper and for human rights violations to be identified.
Both Barbara Galeano and Guadalupe Álvarez, when asked what the best way to support their work would be, suggested the place to start is by organizing in one’s own community, and to always respond with solidarity in the face of injustice.