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Participatory Research Programs with Mexican Social Movements
Sponsored by the Mexico Solidarity Network and
accredited by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Xochimilco
1. Follow the application procedure for our other study abroad opportunities as outlined here.
However, instead of the Approval of Participation form found on that page, please use the Approval form found here for Summer Research programs and here for Semester Research programs.
2. Submit a 3-5 page research proposal written in Spanish to msn [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org.
3. Become familiar with the MSN's policies regarding academic integrity and Human Subject Review.
Mexican social movements are among the most important and dynamic in Latin America. Indigenous communities, workers, women, campesinos, students, colonos and urban dwellers are all part of a broad cross section of organized social actors that make up an increasingly consequential Mexican civil society. With the apparent failure of the neoliberal system, the ensuing world economic crisis, and a general mistrust of politics as usual, Mexican social movements are developing new methods of analysis and organization outside formal institutional politics. Autonomy and direct democracy are among the principal demands of these "new social movements."
The Mexico Solidarity Network's Participatory Research Program places students in a research situation unlike any other. Guided by a deep commitment to popular education, we believe that learning happens best and is most useful when it's at the service of changing the world. In short, there's no social justice without education, and education should promote social justice. For this reason, from start to finish the participatory research project is a collaborative process. We put the utmost emphasis on crafting a project prioritizes the social movement's longterm political goals over narrow academic interests.
Together with social movements in Mexico, students develop a research project that will benefit both the organization's longterm work and the students' research interests. Then, the student spends the semester working both as a volunteer and researcher, participating in the day-to-day of the organization's work, producing materials that aid the group's current campaigns, and producing original research. Students are advised by a program director from the Mexico Solidarity Network, as well as an organizer from the Mexican organization they're collaborating with. Students contribute their skills (English classes, computer classes, popular education workshops on various topics, technology and design training, etc. - though no direct involvement in the political activities of the social movements, which is prohibited by Mexican law) while learning directly from the social actors that are leading civil society in new cultural and political directions.
Social movement organizations in Chiapas, Mexico City, Tlaxcala and Ciudad Juarez host students. Students may choose from the following organizations that are currently participating in the program:
- Universidad de la Tierra, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. UniTierra is a project in truly integral education for autonomy, offering three month courses for indigenous youth in electricity, carpentry, music, organic agriculture, sewing, cooking, computers, auto mechanics, etc while also coordinating philosophical, theological, and political study in Latin American social movements and the pursuit of autonomy. Between 80 and 130 indigenous youth attend UniTierra at any given time. UniTierra is located on the outskirts of San Cristobal on a densely forested hill side. Students live in dormitories on the grounds of UniTierra.
- Comunicación Campesina y Popular (COMCAMPO), San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. COMCAMPO organizes community radio stations in barrios around San Cristobal de las Casas. Currently COMCAMPO facilitates three community radio stations, with community members assuming full control over content and management of the stations. Students live with the Director of COMCAMPO in San Cristobal de las Casas.
- Consejo Nacional Urbano y Campesino (CNUC), Tlaxcala. CNUC has active committees in 23 rural Tlaxcalan communities dealing with the agricultural crisis, organic agriculture, the defense of native corn, women's empowerment, health, etc. As an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, CNUC is committed to autonomous organizing and direct democracy. Students live with campesino families who are active members of CNUC. Students may work with CNUC on a number of projects, including:
- Asamblea Nacional de Braceros, Tlaxcala. The Asamblea is organized by CNUC and includes more than 6,000 former Braceros who harvested fruits and vegetables during the post-World War II Bracero Program. The US and Mexican governments deducted 10% of the Bracero paychecks for a retirement fund, but the money "disappeared." Now the former Braceros, senior members of their communities, are organizing to recoup their retirement funds and to address problems faced by the current generation of undocumented workers who are often their grandchildren. Students live with a member of the Asamblea or a member of CNUC.
- Unión Popular Apizaquense Democrático e Independiente (UPADI), Apizaco, Tlaxcala. UPADI is organized by CNUC and is composed of urban residents in Tlaxcala's second largest city, Apizaco. UPADI has about 3,000 members and organizes around issues of popular power and community budgeting regarding property taxes, privatization of garbage collection, privatization of water resources, etc. Students live with a member of UPADI or a member of CNUC.
Video on corn and CNUC by program alum Clayton Conn
Video on the Braceros' (agricultural guest workers) struggle for stolen wages by program alum Francisco Diaz
- Frente Popular Francisco Villa Independiente-UNOPII (FPFVI), Mexico City. The FPFVI, also known as "Los Panchos," is the largest independent community housing movement in Mexico, with more than 20 settlements in Mexico City and affiliates in Chiapas. Each settlement involves a land occupation, followed by construction of houses and infrastructure by the members of the settlement. The FPFVI is an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and is dedicated to anti-capitalist, independent and autonomous organization. Students live in one of the FPFVI's established settlements and work directly with the youth culture committee that directs much of the political and cultural education work for Los Panchos.
Video comparing the Panchos and the Occupy movement by program alum Francisco Diaz
The Mexico Solidarity Network maintains close contacts with organizers in Ciudad Juarez. We collaborate with a number of organizations and issues, including:
- Alianza para el Desarrollo Alternativa (ALDEA), a barrio-based group on the south side of the city that develops alternatives to maquiladora employment.
- Families of victims of femicides.
- Immigration dynamics.
- Labor issues, with a focus on maquiladora workers.
The program is designed for self-motivated students who want to work with an active social movement while conducting original research for a senior, masters or doctoral thesis. The ideal student is an advanced Spanish speaker, has experience doing qualitative, participatory research, has good cross-cultural communication abilities, and can adapt to new and challenging situations.
The Participatory Research Program is quite flexible. Students with intermediate Spanish can spend time at the Oventic Language School before beginning their research project in earnest, and the program can be done for as few as 4 weeks and as many as 16. Depending on the students' familiarity with participatory research models, Zapatismo, or other contexts, the orientation period can be extended accordingly. All students are expected to share the results of their projects with the organization's members and other MSN study abroad students at the end of their stay.
The "Participatory Research Program with Mexican Social Movements" is accredited by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), one of Mexico's most prestigious public universities located in Mexico City. The UAM accredits the program as a "Diplomado." Diplomados are master's level, self-contained educational programs designed and promoted by the UAM, and approved by the University Rector and Director of the Division of Social Sciences and Humanities.
The cost of the program is $9,000 for a Spring or Fall program of 15 weeks, and $4,800 for a Summer program of 8 weeks. The fees cover the following:
Spring and Fall program of 15 weeks:
Food and housing $2,500
Social movement advisor $1,500
Summer program of 8 weeks:
Food and housing $1,300
Social movement advisor $700
Suggested pre-trip reading on participatory research:
Bonfil Batalla, Guillermo, 1996, México Profundo, University of Texas Press.
Freire, Paulo, (cualquier edición), Pedagogía de los Oprimidos.
Fals Borda, Orlando y Carlos Brandao, 1986, Investigación participativa,Montevideo, Instituto del Hombre, 1986.
Cano Flores, Milagros, 1997, "Investigación participativa: Inicios y desarrollos," Ciencia Administrativa, Nueva Época, Número uno, Xalapa, Veracruz.
For more information on the Participatory Research Program with Mexican Social Movements, contact the Mexico Solidarity Network at:
Tel: 773 583 7728
Email: MSN [at] MexicoSolidarity [dot] org