Notes from the field: Building Fair Trade in Chiapas

Erbin Crowell
Publication Date: 
Chiapas is one of Mexico's poorest states and has the country's highest concentration of indigenous people. Historically, indigenous peoples have been marginalized in their pursuit of land, resources, and capital. The Mexican government's decision in 1992 to halt land reform and strip Article 27 of the Constitution paved the way for NAFTA and had detrimental effects on the small farmer in Chiapas. The changes in Article 27 effectively removed protections on communal and indigenous lands and permitted their privatization and sale.
As George Collier points out in his book Basta: Land & the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas, "the repeal of land reform legislation robbed many peasants not just of the possibility of gaining a piece of land, but, quite simply, of hope." Subcommandante Marcos, spokesperson for the Zapatistas, identified the government's action as a key factor in the rebels' decision to take up arms in 1994, stating in an interview that the Mexican government "really screwed us, now that they destroyed Article 27...We and our families have been sold down the river."