In Chiapas, you will be exposed to a human rights battle that poses entirely different and more basic problems than similar international situations. Lawyers in Chiapas spend as much time training and educating the local population about fundamental human rights as they do handling actual legal complaints.
Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico, and also one of the poorest regions in Latin America. The population is overwhelmingly indigenous, coming from many different tribal, ethnic and linguistic roots. Many indigenous people do not speak Spanish and live in communities without basic facilities or services. Many communities are composed of displaced people or refugees from conflict in other parts of the state.
In January 1994, indigenous people and their supporters decided to fight back against the abuses of the government, including those involving land rights, disappearances, domestic violence, military abuse, and the application of international human rights treatises. The Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional led the takeover of a number of small towns in Chiapas. Smaller scale, low-intensity fighting has continued over the years, provoking an increased military presence by the government and an international presence of activists in support of the indigenous people.
Students take positives from troubled area - 05.24.11: