Chenalho, Mexico, Oct 26 (EFE).- More than 200 indigenous Tzotzil people displaced from their community in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas protested here Wednesday to demand action against the armed groups that drove them off their land.
The 57 families forced out of Santa Martha gathered in Chenalho for a march to San Cristobal de Las Casas, 35 km (22 mi) away.
With slogans written on placards and scrawled on blankets, the party of men, women and children took their campaign for justice and restitution to the city known as the cultural and spiritual center of Chiapas.
Leaders of the community told reporters that a month-long conflict over the division of a 22-hectare (54-acre) parcel of land has left one person dead, 20 homes burned and 246 people forced out.
Human rights advocate Reynaldo Perez said that the aim of the march was to press authorities to punish those responsible for the violence and to ensure that the people of Santa Martha can return to their homes.
“We want to have dialogue with the government, not with the murderers of Santa Martha,” he said, adding that while the traditional governing arrangements of indigenous peoples enjoy legal status, “they are not above the Mexican Constitution.”
“Here, we respect human rights, the right to live and the ancestral rights of the community,” Perez said.
When they reached San Cristobal de Las Casas, the Tzotzils held a rally in Peace Plaza to call attention to their plight and ask for the Catholic diocese to mediate the land dispute.
The children among the displaced of Santa Martha are missing school and often going hungry, and some have started to develop health problems.
“I am sad,” mother of five Cristina Ruiz Alvarez told EFE. “They burned my things and my house and one of my brothers died along with his wife. Besides, my daughter is sick, she has diarrhea and a cough. We just want justice.”
Between 2010 and 2021, according to figures compiled by the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, more than 14,000 people have been forcibly displaced from 15 different municipalities in Chiapas. EFE mmf/dr