The rending of the social fabric, the growing violence and the lack of opportunities for study and work for the youth, which increasingly affects the country, are part of a context that in Unitierra we have called the collapse of the capitalist system, and these have caused severe harms to the living conditions of the urban, suburban and semi-rural communities of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, which among other things are suffering very serious problems of water, sanitation, waste, and food.
This process of decomposition has led to serious community problems such as the weakening of the uses and customs, an increase in violence in different spheres, substantial environmental damage, internal community divisions, increases in migration, dispersion, and social and political conflict. It does not seem possible that the situation could improve through solutions that come from above; to the contrary, these are likely to further the deterioration.
Regenerating the social fabric.
In response to these challenges, in 2003 the University of the Earth in Oaxaca (UNITIERRA) initiated efforts of Cultural Regeneration in 400 indigenous communities of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, beginning with workshops of reflection and action and by means of the circulation of written and audiovisual materials produced jointly with the communities. In the second half of 2011, Unitierra continued with these efforts and initiated the project “Regenerating Our Communities”, visiting 18 communities and neighborhoods of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca.
The efforts of Cultural Regeneration consist in people, families and communities promoting for themselves changes that permit them to tackle their current challenges. The focus is on effective transformation, which produces tangible results in the short, medium and long term and which is based in the autonomous efforts of the communities.
The project is based in processes of learning in action, workshops in which the neighbors in the communities construct and use ecotechnologies –alternatives related to the problems of water, waste and food – based in the spirit of tequio (free community work), the mutual support and the sharing of knowledge. The communities decide the area of learning in which they would like to begin (water, waste, food) and once a group of neighbors meets the group begins the workshops, which are adapted to the rhythm of the community. In the medium term, the hope is to strengthen the organization of the community and for the same community to decide which other areas it would like to learn, and which other regenerative actions it would like to undertake, with the accompaniment of Unitierra.
Through the project “Regenerating Our Communities”, workshops on learning in action have been created that in some cases involve meetings with the communities to construct collectively the problematic and its possible solutions, sometimes including participation in the community assemblies where we share our proposals of cultural regeneration. Also, diverse ecotechnologies have been constructed, such as wood-saving stoves, household water filters, solar heaters, and ecological dry toilets; workshops have also been given on urban cultivation and waste management.
Important challenges have also presented themselves: The principal of these is reweaving community organization. In some communities the social fabric has been so damaged that it is extremely complicated to contribute to community actions. Another challenge is government action and the political parties, which represent the main factor in community divisiveness. Despite these and other difficulties the communities are always more and more convinced that the changes will not come from above but rather that they themselves are the ones who must take their problems and solutions into their own hands.
In each community the rhythm of the regeneration is distinct but already some important results can be observed: More than 200 families have participated in workshops of learning in action; diverse ecotechnologies related to the protection of water have been constructed in a collective manner, and families are increasingly reducing, reusing and recycling waste, and planting vegetable gardens – achievements that constitute significant changes in the conditions of life in the communities. Among the achievements of the project, a highlight is the formation of local promoters, who are people of the same community who give workshops of learning in action and respond to the efforts of regenerating the social fabric, based on which the autonomous efforts can begin to be a reality and Unitierra can participate simply through the work of accompaniment.
In the upcoming years the project will hopefully continue as a result of the momentum of the communities and also extend to other communities throughout the region. The project will hopefully also contribute to improving the material conditions of life and deepening the political work with the communities, that is, the daily construction of solutions based in communitarian organization, thus reweaving the social fabric and strengthening the autonomy of the neighborhoods and communities.