This Day in History

Dec. 22, 1997: Acteal Massacre

Time Periods: Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: Latinx, World History/Global Studies
Las Abejas | Zinn Education Project

Las Abejas painting by Mazatl is available as a poster. Click image for more information. Source: Justseeds.

On Dec. 22, 1997, 45 members of the organization Las Abejas (The Bees) were massacred while praying in church. Las Abejas are a group of Christian Pacifist Tzotzil Maya who support the Zapatistas principles, but maintain their independence as a group.

Artist Mazatl’s poster is dedicated to his friend Manuel Vazquez Luna (1984-2012), a survivor of the Acteal massacre. Mazatl describes the event as follows:

Acteal is a small Tzotzil community in the municipality of Chenalhó part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. This community mainly formed by members of the organization Las Abejas (The Bees) were victims of a massacre on December 22, 1997 by a PRI party sponsored Mascaras Rojas paramilitary group.

Las Abejas is a peaceful organization who have vocally expressed their support for the EZLN and their demands. It was this link with the Zapatistas which led to the massacre of 45 members (4 of them pregnant) of Las Abejas. The members were murdered inside a small church praying, in an environment filled with fear of the EZLN growing stronger.

The poster is called, “Acteal: Sembrando Semillas de Memoria para Cosechar Justicia” (Acteal: Planting Seeds of Memory to Harvest Justice.)

Learn more from a Slate Magazine article by Luis Alberto Gonzalez Arena about a survivor of the Acteal Massacre, Lupita Vasquez, “The Woman Who Won’t Let Mexico Forget a Massacre.”

This tweet thread shares more insights and analysis from Dr. Keisha-Khan Y. Perry, Associate Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.