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Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Human Rights, War/Conflict
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Zapatistas, Chiapas, Mexico, Army, Revolution
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The state of Chiapas, Mexico, has been in a state of change since 1994 when, on January 1st, 1994, Indians of Chiapas calling themselves Zapatistas, took over the city of San Cristobol and several other cities in the region. With a change in the government, these is hope for peace, and the people are learning to live their lives outside of war.
Logan Mock-Bunting

2000 — student winner

The state of Chiapas, Mexico, has been in a state of change since 1994. On January 1st, 1994, Indians of Chiapas calling themselves Zapatistas, after the legendary Mexican people's revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, took over the city of San Cristobol and several other cities in the region. The National Zapatista Liberation Army (EZLN) soon became international news. The fight for Indigenous Peoples' rights made the EZLN heroes to some and villains to others.

This struggle has not disappeared over the years. For years, small communities that allied themselves with the Zapatistas were threatened by the Mexican Army. Entire villages were attacked and killed, such as in the infamous massacre at Acteal, in which nearly an entire community was slaughtered, in December 1997. In order to stave off these attacks, villages began to turn to human rights organizations for help. These organizations and communities created Peace Camps, where outside, usually foreign, observers could report any human rights abuses and basically serve as human shields.

The community of Union Progresso used to be an afinca, a rich man's farm. In 1986, a group of farmers bought the land, and today about 20 families live together in this small town. In 1998, an estimated three thousand armed men, believed to be a combination of paramilitary troops and the Mexican Army, entered Union Progresso. They killed five men before running the rest of the citizens out of town. The men looted the town, taking everything they could carry, including livestock, food and crops. A few months later the community was again attacked, but this time managed to escape without any fatalities. Soon after, they approached a human rights group for help starting a Peace Camp.

There are children growing up now that have known nothing but this conflict. To them, there is nothing strange about trading places with their fathers on guard duty, posted around the town every day and every night. The goal is better education, better heath care, more respect and rights: the children's parents fight this war because they want the children to have a better life than they do.

The first sign of hope for a political remedy occurred when the PRI, the prevailing political party for over 70 years, lost the presidency to Vicente Fox of the PAN party last year. Although a conservative, Fox took the position that a peace must be negotiated. The Zapatistas, also wanting peace, marched a delegation to Mexico City to address the congress. Although many Mexican political powers did not want the talks to take place, they did, leaving both sides feeling, for the first time in years, that there was a possibility for peace.

During my time in Chiapas, I saw this hope becoming a reality. Although children still stand guard duty, they are slowly learning just to be children. Although the adults are cautious, they are slowly learning to live their lives without the fear of the past. There is still hope in Chiapas. I tried to make pictures that captured this hope, within the context of a land still caught in war and fear.

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In 1998 a group of armed men, believed to be a combination of paramilitary troops and the Mexican Army, entered Union Progresso. They killed five men before running the rest of the citizens out of town. The men looted the town, taking everything they could carry, including livestock, food and crops. Since then the town has always had guards on duty. The men trade shifts, with two people on lookout during the day and four at night. Here a fifteen-year-old boy plays with his friends, doing a handstand before going on night guard duty. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Newspapers are a somewhat of a rarity in Union Progresso. When one does arrive in town, everyone wants to read it and find out what is happening with Zapatista struggles and government issues. Nearly every night men gather for a card game or two before dark. When a newspaper is in town, more people show up at the game to discuss the news. Since children aren't allowed in town meetings, these informal discussions around the card games allow younger adults exposure to politics. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Two young women attend the Zapatista Rally in San Cristobal in February 2000. The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) traveled from Chiapas around Mexico, arriving in Mexico City in a peaceful demonstration and attempt to have dialogue with Mexico's congress about the rights of indigenous people. It was the first public appearance of the Zapatista leadership since the uprising began in 1994. Although opponents of the Zapatistas point out the masks appear threatening or terroristic, ski masks, such as the ones these women wear, have become a symbol of the Zapatismo. According to the Zapatisatas, they are symbolic for several reasons: "The ski-masks point out that the government does not look at the indigenous when they show themselves, and, now that they conceal themselves, they do see them. It's also an invitation for everyone to feel part of this struggle." Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
A child learns to ride on the only bicycle in Union Progresso. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Melacio, whose son was killed by government troops in 1998, carries a piece of lumber that will be used to build a schoolhouse in Union Progresso. The little help the community does receive from the Mexican Government does not include assistance to build a schoolhouse, so they built it on their own. One Saturday, all of the men in the town got together to transport lumber into town. They carried the wood for miles - over rocky streams, through humid cloud-forests, up and down steep mountain trails - before dropping the lumber off in Union Progresso, then heading back for a new load. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Antonio works for a health organization that provides care to poor and indigenous communities in Chiapas. His work takes him away from his family and his young daughter Nari for weeks at a time. He usually returns to Union Progresso for about two weeks, working in his father-in-law's fields during the day, spending time with his daughter and family at night until he leaves again. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Patrick Glogowsky, of Germany, teaches Alfredo how to throw a Frisbee as Bernadette Konzett, of Austria, plays with other children in Union Progresso. Many small towns and Zapatista communities seek help from various human rights organizations in the form of "Peace Camps." In these Peace Camps, foreigners act as observers and "living shields" to protect the communities against any aggression from government or paramilitary. The sign at the entrance of Union Progresso reads "Civil Camp for Peace." Union Progresso wanted observers after many violent episodes, including several deaths and an invasion by government troops. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
In San Cristobal De Las Casas, where the Zapatista's first armed uprising took place in 1994, transitions loom. Fashions and traditions are changing. While older generations still commonly wear more traditional outfits, it isn't unusual to see a younger person who has traded pantalones for blue jeans or a sombrero for a backwards baseball cap. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Alfredo and his younger brother Claudino bathe in their unfinished house. Their father is trying to sell a bull to make enough money to finish the house. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting
Children play a game in which the object is to knock down a thrown Frisbee with large reed poles. Patrick Glogowsky, an observer for Union Progresso's Peace Camp, brought the Frisbee. The children found it limiting only throwing the disc: only two or three people could participate at once. So they ran and gathered the poles so everyone could have fun, those throwing AND everyone else trying to knock it down. Alexia Foundation/Logan Mock-Bunting