Humberto and Antonia, Nour’s host father and mother, were great people to talk with about the solidarity economy. They are two of five members of a civil association called “Desarollo integral autogestionario” dedicated to solidarity economy, environmental sustainability and community development. It is part of the regional branch for the state of Morelos of the national organization Equipo Pueblo.
Equipo Pueblo is based and was cofounded in 1977 in Mexico City by Humberto and Antonia among others, including the famous radical bishop Sergio Méndez Arceo, to accompany and support efforts of organization between trade unions, teachers and campesinos to cooperate for labor rights, human rights and democracy. It entertained strong links abroad; for example, it received longlasting support from the Belgium-based European organization Frères des Hommes, the Belgian government, and the EEC. Humberto was appointed as coordinator of the Pueblo-Frères partnership. He says this partnership ended, the Belgian organization was weakened following the split in the 90′s between the Belgian-French and Flemish groups, its two main units. They asked Equipo Pueblo to choose between the two, a choice from which Equipo abstained by ending the partnership.
In the 80′s Equipo Pueblo undertook a strategy of regionalization. In 1984 in Morelos was founded the regional Equipo, and in 1992 the organization “Desarollo Integral”. It draws links between sustainable development projects and its funding source, which often are municipalities and civil associations like the Sergio Méndez Arceo Foundation, with which it entertains a key partnership. In fact, Humberto and Antonia receive a salary from the municipality of Tlayacapan, a large town to the north of Morelos, and a stipend from the Sergio Méndez Arceo Foundation. Since the 80′s, they claim to have been salary worker for over 8 different municipalities across Morelos. In Tlayacapan they lead a project to promote alternative medicine: they support workshops for women to share and promote skills and knowledge about the medical properties of local plants and minerals. Another project is the Ruben Jaramillo foundation, which is a women cooperative that sells broderies. Another organization they support is one “that does everything”. It is best known for the support it lends to a fair – the “feria del pescado” – around the laguna of Coatetelco, where they sell local fish and artesania, and do a prehispanic thanksgiving ritual to the Goddess of Fertility who inhabits the laguna.
Projects of the recent past included:
1. a cooperative that recycled plastic to produce wall anchors for screws. Our friend Pancho worked there as a technician before working at ALEM. The cooperative fell apart in the 00′s.
2. a cooperative of farmers who once produced peanuts and then, under the pressure of competition from Argentinian peanut producers, turned to peanut candy production. They still exist now, but no longer as a cooperative. This story was interesting to us because Humberto then spoke of a Morelos-Chihuahua partnership where farmers from the North visited those to the South, and vice versa, to learn from each other.
Themes that ran through our discussion were:
1. the impact of NAFTA, free trade agreements and the Salinas presidency
2. the role of the Zapatistas in the solidarity economy
3. Sergio Méndez Arceo and Liberation Theology
4. the significance of the language of the “solidarity economy”
5. the need for communal ownership of land and farming cooperatives