Chiapas: Lacandones flee jungle conflict zone

From Milenio, Nov. 20, via Chiapas95 (our translation):

For the first time in more than three centuries, some 300 Lacandones have fled their communities for fear of new confrontations with residents of Viejo Velasco, who sympathize with the Zapatista National Liberation Army, according to the director of Na Bolom Cultural Association, Jorge Vecellio.

The Lacandones Kayum Yuk Naash and Mariano Lagum Chambor, who in the past 36 hours arrived with more than 60 women and children, said that in the communities of Lakanja Chanza Yab, Naja, Metzabok, San Javier and Barrio Betel, the people are fleeing for fear of being attacked. The majority of the people are seeking refuge in San Cristobal de las Casas, Benemerito de las Americas, Villahermosa and Tenosique, they told Milenio.

“We are concerned about the threats and fear for our lives, the people are in panic, and for this reason they are fleeing,” said the Lacandones during the interview on the premises of the Na Bolom cultural center.

– What is the situation in the Lacandon community?

“We don’t know, the people are fleeing, we have not been able to commnicate by telephone, we think more people are leaving, but we don’t know where they are. The situation is tense, worrying.”

– Are there patrols?

“Yes, the state police are patrolling, but this guarantees nothing.”

Oblivious to the drama, some 15 children play in the principal courtyeard of the Na Bolom association.

“We are struggling for the land, the land is dying, mother earth is crying,” says in a hushed voice, Kayum Yuk Naash, a Lacandon of 70 years, who asserted that Zapatista sympathizers want to take their lands.

The representative of Na Bolom, Jorge Vecellio, said: “You don’t know if there are more displaced or if in the following hours they will continue arriving in search of refuge. What worries us is that at the moment we don’t have clothes or shelter [for the displaced]; we also need medicine for colds and diarrhea.”

-Have the authorities come?

“No, by no means. They should attend to this grave situation. The people require aid.

Meanwhile, agents of state government “intelligence” are seeking more Lacandones in churches, shelters and economical guest-houses where the indigenous presumably could have taken refuge.

For its part, the representative of UNICEF in Mexico, Olivier Degreef, spoke with the Lacandones he found sheltering in Na Bolom to analize the possibility that his agency could aid the displaced children in this conflict, especially in the area of education.

The displacement began after the armed confrontation in which three residents of Viejo Velasco and members of the Lacandon community died last Monday in the dawn hours.

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  1. Rumors of Zapatista reprisals
    From El Universal, Nov. 19 (our translation):

    SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS — The Lacandon Gaspar Ambor Lagun Ambor, blind and 41 years old, arrived in this city to seek refuge from a possible attack on Lacanja Chansayab on the part of the EZLN.

    “Something has scared them, things are difficult there” he said. On Saturday, a total of 47 women, men and children left their homes in the Lacandon Selva because they feared attacks from the EZLN, said Jorge Vecellio, director of the Na Bolom foundation, which has been providing refuge for the displaced.

    He said that yesterday morning the first Lacandones began to arrives from Lacanja Chansayab, some 350 kilometers to the east. The last one arrived at 21:00 hours that night, although more are expected to continue arriving in the following days.

    Vecellio said that rumors are circulating about a possible attack on Lacanja Chansayab, and state police are reiforcing their presence in the community, with up to 1,000 officers deployed.

    Since Friday night, rumors have circulated of violent acts in the Selva, and in recent hours constant police patrols have been deployed along the Fronteir Highway that cuts through the Lacandon Selva.

    “The threat of aggression has provoked panic among the Lacandones and therefore we have seen this exodus,” said Vecellio, who has issued a call to the government to provide medications and blankets for the 51 Lacandones.

    He said that if Lacandones continue to arrive, the Na Bolom foundation could be overwelmed, as it does not have the infrastructure to receive the women and children from Lacanja Chasayab.

    Some 600 to 800 Lacandones are believed to live in the Lacandon Selva, the majority children.

    Rumors are also circulating of Lacandon involvement in the attack on Viejo Velasco. The Chiapas newspaper EsteSur of Nov. 17 (online at Chiapas95) sited a public letter signed by several organizations, including the Fray Bartoleme de Las Casas Human Rights Center and Xinich, which quoted an anonymous telephone message allegedly from a survivor of the Viejo Velasco attacks, which claimed that Lacandones from Nuevo Palestina had donned military fatigues and joined the assault on the community.

  2. Kayum Yux Maash
    Bill, Kayum (God of Song and Dance) is a friend of mine (3 years) and he’s not 70. He just told me that he was born in 1949, in San Quinton and moved to Na Balom with Trudi Blom when he was an orphaned boy and was schooled at Na Balom. He and Carmela Yuk (family of the small deer), his wife have probably gathered up all the people (Lacandones) in ChanSayab as they are all related by blood, I think, even Chan Bor (family of the Bee). I would like to know more about the families. Can you follow up on this story? So many people are being displaced by the lumber companies that the goverment is giving them lands in la sevla, the current home of the Lacandones, but of course not the original settlers. Thanks, Les