We are an alliance of collectivities engaged in learning through action: doing what we want to learn alongside those who are doing it.
In 1997 at the Indigenous Forum of Oaxaca, different peoples of the state publicly declared that “schools have been the main instrument of the state to destroy Indigenous peoples and their cultures”. These people were seeking public recognition of a historical reality that the Mexican educational system, as in many other places, was created to “take the indianity out of the Indian”.
Universidad de la Tierra, or Unitierra, was thus born amongst the context of radical reactions against schooling observed in many Indigenous communities. We call ourselves a University to claim back the old tradition of first universities: that of learning together with friends around a table for the sole pleasure of learning and for the passion that studying inspires. Our university is not for getting a diploma or climbing the educational pyramid. We welcome young people with and without diplomas; some of whom have formal degrees while others never went to school.
Unitierra was born as a coalition among Indigenous and non-Indigenous civil organisations: Asesoría Técnica de Comunidades Forestales; Bibaani; Centéotl; Centro Cultural Triqui; Centro de Encuentros y Diálogos Interculturales; Coalición de Maestros y Promotores Indígenas de Oaxaca; Comité de Voluntarios para la Reforestación y la Protección del Ambiente; Coordinadora Estatal de Productores de Café; Fundación Comunalidad; Instituto de la Naturaleza y la Sociedad de Oaxaca; Opción; y Servicios del Pueblo Mixe.
Unitierra has shared its experiences with other people and organizations for the creation of similar autonomous projects, such as Universidad de la Tierra in Chiapas, Universidad de la Tierra in Puebla, Universidad de la Tierra in California, and Universidad de la Tierra in San Pablo Huitzo, Oaxaca.
Some of the people that are part of Unitierra dedicate a substantial part of their time to its activities and therefore receive some money from it. The majority come to Unitierra regularly or occasionally to participate in our activities.
There are no formal hierarchies in Unitierra. For organizing and administrating our activities we have created an assembly which makes decisions about the direction of our organization. Those who belong to the assembly have accepted a certain degree of responsibilities and duties regarding the activities that constitute Unitierra. Emergent councils or collectives are also set up for specific activities. General assemblies are held when all the people who participate regularly in learning or work groups can coordinate their different efforts.