Be a human rights observer with the Fray Bartolome de las Casas (FrayBa) Human Rights Center (link)
"The Civil Observation Brigades for Peace and Human Rights (BriCO) responds to the need to open up spaces of civil society to help keep the faith alive for indigenous communities, to preserve their dignity and to try to reconstruct the social tissue with respect for their own dynamics and in accordance to their self-determination as indigenous Peoples." - FrayBa website (Click here for a brief history of the project)
FrayBa invites international activists to be human rights observers in communities outside of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Volunteers are asked to bear witness to the continued low-intensity war that is being waged against indigenous, campesino communities by the Mexican government, military, local police and paramilitary thugs. Therefore, through the BriCO program, foreigners serve to deter attempts by the bad government to intimidate communities fighting for autonomy and respect.
To participate in the FrayBA BriCO program you must meet the following requirements:
1. Have a letter of recommendation and training from a solidarity organization associated to Frayba (in this case, MSN. Details below).
2. Speak Spanish fluently.
3. Be able to stay for at least 15 days in a community.
4. Be over 18 years of age.
5. (For foreigners) Have photocopies of passport and of current visa.
6. A recently taken photo.
7. Fill out the registration form for participants. (You will receive this upon arrival at FrayBa)
8. Participate in the BriCO training workshop, starting at 11:00 a.m. every Monday at Frayba.
APPLICATION PROCESS: The application process requires a "Carta de Aval" from MSN. In order for MSN to send this recommendation to FrayBa, you must do the following three things.
1) Complete the application attached here and send it to MSN [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org
2) Have someone from your local solidarity group, collective or political project write a letter explaining your involvement with them and ask them to send it to MSN [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org
3) Once we've received and reviewed your application and letter of support, we will contact you to set up an over-the-phone interview.
*IMPORTANT: Please submit your request at least three weeks before you intend to arrive.
LIVING CONDITIONS: FrayBa BriCO volunteers will also be requested to bring food supplies with them that the community will typically cook for you (e.g. dry beans, eggs, rice, salt, sugar, etc). Housing conditions are rustic and you will need to bring your own sleeping bag and mattress pad. Waterproof boots and rain gear are highly recommended. When packing think of cool, rainy mountains with evening temperatures sometimes into the 40s. FrayBa will provide you with more information about this during your orientation.
TRAVEL: Although the program is free, observers are responsible for paying to travel to and from San Cristóbal de las Casas and the communities where volunteers are assigned. From the US, the quickest route is a flight to Mexico City, then a connecting flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez. If you travel to Tuxtla, you will have to arrange for ground transportation to San Cristóbal. Taxis are available from the Tuxtla airport to San Cristóbal for about US$60, and the trip is about an hour. Or you can take a taxi into downtown Tuxtla (about US$12) and catch a colectivo for about $3 to San Cristóbal. FrayBa will give you instructions about how to get to the community you are assigned to.
QUESTIONS: If you have any questions about the FrayBa BriCO application process please contact the Mexico Solidarity Network at 773-583-7728 or MSN [at] MexicoSolidarity [dot] org
For more on the Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center, see frayba.org.mx and this short video