Unitierra was born in the context of radical reactions against schooling observed in many indigenous communities. These reactions were formally expressed in 1997 at the Indigenous Forum of Oaxaca where the different peoples of the state publicly declared that: “Schools have been the main instrument of the state to destroy indigenous peoples and their cultures”. They were seeking the public recognition of a historical reality: the Mexican educational system, as in many other states, was created to “take indianness out of the Indian”
That is why we created our University. We have with us young people without
diplomas; some of them never went to school. They can learn the abilities
needed for a job or field of studies by being the apprentices of someone
who is a worker in the field- a midwife, a lawyer, a geographer, an urban
farmer, an adobe constructor…
We call ourselves a University to laugh at the official system and to claim
back the old tradition of first universities: that of learning together with friends,
around a table, not for getting a diploma or climbing the educational pyramid,
but for the sole pleasure of learning, for the passion that a studying inspires.
Unitierra was born as a coalition among indigenous and non-indigenous civil organisms: 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. 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 rest come to Unitierra regularly, to participate in some of our activities, but without fully devoting their time to them. 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.
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, la Universidad de la Tierra in San Pablo Huitzo, Oaxaca.