Mexico - The Chiapas media project

My story is a story of collective resistance, so it’s not just mine, it belongs to the organization I work for.  In Southern Mexico, in the highlands of Chiapas, in a tzotzil community, when a compañero greets you they say “How is your heart?” The English translation sounds terrible, something you hear in a doctor’s office but in Zapatista communities it encompasses the rhythm of communication the indigenous communities are fighting for.

My role is in this beautiful movement of words, I work in the distribution of their stories of resistance. The Chiapas Media Project/Promedios de Comunicacion Comunitaria. We are a bi-national project, our office in Chicago focuses on distribution and the office in Chiapas, Mexico focuses on production and training workshops. The communities own all the equipment used to produce films that they collectively work on. In the U.S. we organize tours presenting these videos in order to raise funds to maintain the project, a different perspective, a slower way to tell stories. In the western world, our resistance carries this war against time, instead of taking our time to connect and listen; in general we love to react quick-a communication of instant gratification.

Indigenous Video making in Latin American has a 20+ year history, in the Zapatista communities it has been present since 1998.

In the last decade CMP/Promedios has:
- trained over 250 indigenous men, women and youth in video production in Chiapas, many who have gone on to become video trainers in their own regions

- built four Regional Media Centers (RMCs) in Chiapas in collaboration with Zapatista communities that are equipped with video and audio production and post-production equipment and satellite internet access.  In addition to the equipment necessary for producing videos, access to the internet has proved invaluable for communication between the communities and their fair trade partners in the US, Canada and Europe.

- assisted in the production of hundreds of videos for internal use within the communities that document important meetings, celebrations, ceremonies, and development projects in communities across Zapatista territory.  These videos have been an important vehicle for communication and cultural exchange between communities that often remained isolated from one another.

- facilitated the growth of a network of 73 indigenous video makers in Chiapas named Caracole Productions.  Through the four RMCs, members of Caracole Productions are coordinating and collaborating on productions, workshops, and trainings.

- provided training in the video documentation of human rights abuses, and worked with the Community Human Rights Defenders Network to establish six human rights offices in the most conflicted regions of Chiapas. In 1999, a CMP/Promedios associate presented video evidence of an incident involving the army in a case in which the state court ruled against the army and awarded a Zapatista family a sizable monetary settlement.  In 2000, a video produced by the Defenders with the assistance of CMP/Promedios provided evidence that led to the arrest of 11 leaders of a paramilitary organization.

- produced four documentaries with Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña region of Guerrero on deforestation, a local indigenous policing project, the effects of militarization in the Montaña, and internal migrant workers. These documentaries have brought the grave human rights situation in Guerrero to audiences through universities, film festivals, and TV broadcasts in Mexico, the US, and beyond.  In 2005, CMP/Promedios was awarded the prestigious Reebok Human Rights Award for our work in Guerrero.

- put 28 videos from Chiapas and Guerrero in international distribution through our distributors in Mexico City, the US, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany.  Since 1998, CMP/Promedios has distributed over 3500 videos that have been screened at over100 film festivals in 20 countries and received 13 awards worldwide, and have been broadcast on TV in New Zealand, Canada, US, and Mexico.  We have also presented videos at over 100 universities to more then 15,000 students. CMP/Promedios videos are in 215 university libraries throughout the world.

The camera is a weapon, this is their story of resistance, I only play a small role in the bigger picture.

Chiapas Media Project
Aasia Mohammad Casteñeda
4834 N. Springfield
Chicago, Il 60625

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