Speaking and listening is how true men and women learn to walk. It is the word that gives form to that walk that goes on inside us. It is the word that is the bridge to cross to the other side. Silence is what Power offers our pain in order to make us small. When we are silenced, we remain very much alone. Speaking, we heal the pain. Speaking, we accompany one another. Power uses the word to impose his empire of silence. We use the word to renew ourselves. Power uses silence to hide his crimes. We use silence to listen to one another, to touch one another, to know one another.
—  Subcomandante Marcos (‘The Word and Silence’ Oct. 12, 1995)
From Farm to Fork

Our first volunteer project was at Carlos´s farm in Puerto Morelos. A vivacious, gay man, Carlos is a marvel. A dog lover, his three year old farm houses rescued parrots, rabbits, a number of ducks, geese and chickens (for eggs) as a well as a motley crew of dogs and passing volunteers such as ourselves.

Set within the jungle, Carlos´s farm resides on very dry soil. Blisteringly hot and humming with the life and sounds of the many insects (with which we shared our bed and bodies) it was a world away from the urban idyll of Cancun, which is a good thing.

One of the key tasks, along with looking after the animals, was watering. Carlos had fashioned some raised beds using local rocks which stood about waist height. Spread out and in no particular order he grew chillies, tomatos, maize (corn), cucumbers, courgettes, rocket. The farm is still very much in its early stages and not yet very productive but we got a sense of its potential. It´s a great space but needs a lot of energy and we felt we didn´t get to contribute as much as we would have liked as Carlos held a full time job so wasn´t there to exchange his knowledge with us.

But that is set to change. As we were leaving Carlos was looking into getting solar power installed on site and moving back to live there full time, in time his project will no doubt be a great example of sustainable living. And sorry we forgot to take a picture of the compost loos, it would have been shit anyway.

After the farm we set off on a tourit trail before our next project. Being white and western is a big give away so we´ll always be tourists in one way or another. Regardless, it´s fun! We swam with turtles in Akumal (really, just watching these elegant creatures munch sea grass); walked in the shadows of once great civilisations in the ruins of Chichen Itza and Palenque Palenque, visited natural wonders such as the Misol Ha waterfall and numerous Cenotes, natural sinkholes giving access to the underground rivers that run below the whole Yucatan peninsular.

But enough of that.

After our tourist trip we landed ourselves in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas in the heart of Chiapas.

2,000 metres above sea-level and a vibrant, young and alternative feel we liked the look of the place as soon as we saw it. Yoga on every corner, Capoeira, organic food co-ops, bicycles & of course the seat of the Zapatistas - their story & fight for dignity, justice, and humanity an inspiring & instructive one.

We spent two weeks volunteering for Ron & Kippy. Americans, the stately & oldish couple (Kippy drives a perfectly clean, baby blue old-school Mercedes with faux wooden dashboards; Ron dons an Indiana Jones hat whilst sat with his mac - latest model - receiving new anthropology students and giving counsel in his unhurried West coast canter) have been most accommodating & generous.

They run a garden just out of town. Chiefly composed of allotment style beds with everything from lettuce and spring onions to artichoke and fennel, working on the land gave us a real appreciation of how abundant and productive a space that is only half a hectare can be. This really illustrated the con that is big agri-business and monoculture which views food simply as money. Of course, what is grown in the garden is sent to restaurants and sold at markets but the fundamental premise and the care and attention with which it is done (no pesticides, just human labour and wildlife) is indicative of a way in which the land is respected without the crazed pursuit of profit.

And we’ve been most fortunate to eat at Casa del Pan (the restaurant and building where we stayed during our volunteering) where we saw the results of our labours turn into delicious, nutritious, organic meals.

People rely on the land for their livelihoods and this has become very apparent to us in Chiapas. Land is freedom. This is clear in the struggle of the EZLN (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation) - and of the indigenous and downtrodden the world over.

One of the EZLN chief spokespersons and media tarts (I mean that with the utmost respect: the Zapatistas are very shrewd politically and really know how to work the cameras) Subcommondante Marcos´s adorns t-shirts, postcards and walls. His masked face symbolising the struggle of an “invisible” and forgotten peoples - as well as helping fuel the trade in tourist tat.

So at this point we´ll leave another quote that echoes the one from our previous post (Marcos and Berger have indeed exchanged letters - Marcos himself being a writer):

It is not only in the mountains of southeastern Mexico that neolibralism is being resisted. In other regions of Mexico, in Latin America, in the United States and in Canada, in the Europe of the Maastricht Treaty, in Africa, in Asia, and in Oceania, pockets of resistance are multiplying. Each has its own history, its specificities, its similarities, its demands, its struggles, its successes. If humanity wants to survive and improve, its only hope resides in these pockets made up of the excluded, the left-for-dead, the ‘disposable.’

For more information about the projects we´ve visited: