Unitierra originated directly from our work with Oaxacan communities. When the State Forum of the State of Oaxaca publicly declares that the school has been the main instrument of the state to destroy the populations and a series of communities decide to close their schools and fire their teachers, a scandal was made and every sort of ways of creating pressure was made. Nonetheless, some of them persist.
Some time later, in spite of the enormous success they have had with their children as they learned better ways of living in the community than those taught in schools, there was a concern about what happens when young women and men have already learned everything they could learn in the community and there are some things that interest them that cannot be learned in the community, they did not have diplomas, they needed a place where they could continue studying, because of them and for them, as a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous organizations, Universidad de la Tierra was created.
We call it a university to laugh at the official system and to claim back an old tradition of the first universities: where a group of friends get together to learn and study, around a table, not to obtain a diploma or advance in the educational pyramid, but for the mere pleasure of doing it, because of the passion that a study subject inspires them.
A Zapotec intellectual named it because he thought that it had to be a space with the feet on the ground (tierra) and it should also take care of Mother Earth, which we liked a lot and we adopted a principle from the very beginning: here we must learn by doing. A decision that was also taken from that moment is that this university should be totally rooted in the social movements, this means that we would not have an agenda of our own, but we would be subject to the initiatives and in the sense of social movements of Oaxaca. And so we continued in various directions.
A year after Unitierra was created, there was a strong concern in Oaxaca about how to deal with transgenics and suddenly Unitierra was fully involved in the fight against transgenics and the defense of native corn, together we created the Comité en Defensa del Maíz Nativo and by decision of the committee it was up to Unitierra to organize it. We had to go to Mexico City to impact nationally and there we organized a presentation at the Museum of Popular Cultures on “No corn, no country” (Sin Maíz no hay país), which was a very successful excision, which had a million visitors and allowed this idea of “No corn, no country” to spread to many other groups in the country.
Unitierra remained attached and continues to be to this day. Another struggle line that came out on the road is that we have been on the side of the ‘Profound Mexico’ that Guillermo Bonfil had analyzed, trying to confront the imaginary Mexico, the illusory Mexico, we spoke of this fundamental contradiction in Mexican society and we wanted to see if this same thing was present throughout the continent.
So, we held a meeting called ‘América Profunda’ with Indian people who came from the Patagonia to the north of Canada. We were discussing the existence of this mindset and we have continued to knit with others that seem to be in the same interests and with the same kind of concerns.