College of Law > Academics > Study Abroad > Chiapas, Mexico
The Chiapas Human Rights Practicum immerses law students in issues of human rights, international law, and lawyering in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Students meet with lawyers, activists, nongovernmental organization directors and representatives, indigenous communities, religious leaders, and more—all to learn about the context of human rights and ways that people in Chiapas are coming together to resolve not just cases of human rights violations, but also such fundamental issues as education, employment, health and well-being, environmental issues, and more.
Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico, and also one of the poorest regions in Latin America. The indigenous-majority population is largely Maya, with five indigenous groups most represented: Tseltal, Tsotsil, Chol, Tojolobal, and Zoque. Many people in Chiapas do not speak Spanish and live in communities without basic facilities or services. Many communities are composed of people displaced from conflicts in other parts of the state.
In January 1994 on the day that the NAFTA agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico went into effect, the indigenous Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) revealed itself in what has become known as the Zapatista Uprising. The Zapatistas gained international attention for their stand against a government that was destroying their land and population. In their declaration of autonomy and their demand that their dignity be acknowledged and respected, the Zapatistas have inspired social movements around the world and continue to do so today.