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Jubileo Newsletter for October 2018

Jubilee Economics/Casa Jubileo

Jubileo in Chiapas!

by Lee Van Ham

Four devoted, energetic people comprise the core of Jubilee in Chiapas: Gloria Gonzalez, Lindsey Mercer-Robledo, Isai Robledo, and Pedro Robledo. They live in San Cristobal de Las Casas, a city of 185,000 at 7200 feet elevation in the highlands of this southern-most Mexican state. Tourists from around the world come to San Cristobal, attracted by its colonial architecture, a large market filled with local cultural artisans and products, cobblestone streets, and more.

But the work of Jubilee lies outside of the city’s attractive center. The activities described below happen in marginalized communities where Indigenous peoples and others live in deep poverty. Some of these communities are in the city, just blocks from the quaint center; others are located within a couple of hours of San Cristobal de Las Casas.

Our three Circles (San Diego, San Mateo, San Cristobal) met in San Cristobal de Las Casas, September 7-10, 2018. We called it an Encuentro—Spanish for “meeting, encounter, or conference.” It’d been two and half years since some of us had seen one another, so joy and eagerness permeated our greetings as we gathered in a house on the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas. We lived in this grand house as a Jubilee community throughout the Encuentro. Hours and hours of planning had gone into maximizing these days for our shared work in Jubilee.

Readers, rather than reading what follows as a report of the Encuentro, please imagine yourself with us in that house. First, we hear from the Jubilee Circle of San Cristobal. Then, in November’s newsletter, we’ll hear from the San Mateo Circle, followed by San Diego in December.

Here’s what we hear being said (paraphrased).

Gloria Gonzalez talking about her work with Na’Xojobal

We see Jubilee as a “law” in one respect—“Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). I’ve been accompanying those who respond to taking care of Mother Earth. I also work and organize with some priests in the Diocese. We defend nature reserves and do rituals ecumenically. Mother Earth is a high priority now. A year ago some of us were arrested during a peaceful protest defending water rights in a community here in San Cristobal.

Na’Xojobal in the middle of an ECCAMM workshop in Alcanfores, Chiapas

Na’Xojobal accompanies and organizes. We don’t impose what we believe a community needs; rather, we listen and organize with the community to achieve the improvements they decide on and desire.

We also do pastoral work together, combining Roman Catholic, Indigenous, and Jubilee approaches. We see “church” in a different way from many. The traditional church rejects what we are doing.

Increasingly, along with Alter-Nativas, we organize for a local community market that includes artwork and organic production. We’re strict about the “organic” part. Na’Xojobal is supporting women on how to produce items for this market, as well as for their personal home use. I’ve learned during this process that food for the stomach is where to start; THEN work for structures that are more just.

We also hold two workshops each month with ECCAMM (Escuela Comunitaria de Conocimientos Ancestrales de la Medicina Maya) teaching women and families how to make their own traditional medicines using the medicinal plants from their own backyards. Normally and when able, the women give a small token of 10 pesos to help cover costs for these workshops.

Na’Xojobal is also present in the local political and social scene, including working with Indigenous peoples and the Zapatistas. One from my group ran for city council; another woman is now a labor leader. Accompanying with other groups, we developed a Plan for Good Government. Everyone was engaged and learned about the democratic process. We’re now structuring a school for women to run for office, sharing sisterhood and political structures for women. We also helped organize the first gathering of women running for political office. One of these women won and is now president of San Cristobal de Las Casas.

Na’Xojobal also helps organize an ecumenical network, planning two state encuentros each year. Between the three projects in San Cristobal (Na’Xojobal/Alter-Nativas/Yobel), we introduced a new program called Intercultural Readings of the Bible, as developed by Hans DeWitt, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who comes to Chiapas often, and Alter-Natives offers their space to hold the activities.

Next, Lindsey Mercer-Robledo and Isai Robledo tell us abouttheir work with Colektivo Alter-Nativas

Our name says much of what we do. “Alter” is from Latin for “the other.” We put ourselves in the place of “the others.” “Nativas” is associated with the Indigenous idea of original and local. Also, the syllable “lek” in “colektivo” means “good” in the local Tzotzil language. That expresses the “buen vivir” (well-being, good living for all) vision of Alter-Nativas, which is also a social movement in many parts of Latin America. Today we will share the two main projects that we are giving most of our energy to this year.

Isai with children during an event at Casa Alter-Nativas teaching them how to plant and grow vegetables in their house without land (urban gardening)

A major project for us is the Plaza Comunitaria—a market combining (1) economics through offering local products for sale, (2) cultural expressions and art, and (3) wisdom sharing, offered through free workshops on various subjects each plaza, such as reclaiming Indigenous botanical medicines. The Plaza is located in northern San Cristobal de Las Casas, the region where the most marginalized Indigenous peoples live and where considerable violence is experienced. The region is only blocks away from the magical center of San Cristobal de Las Casas that makes our city a vacation destination for people from many countries.

The Plaza is administered through a network of producers, artisans, and collectives who assemble every two weeks to make decisions for the next upcoming Plaza. In the past, we have held a training day on the concept of fair trade in our local context as well as bartering and what that means to us as a plaza. We hope to plan more training days similar to this one in the near future.

Culturally, the Plaza is a space for acoustic guitar melodies, jazz notes, and Indigenous hip-hop that uses a contemporary medium to recover Indigenous language and traditions. Indigenous games are played and the traditional ways are encouraged, such as playing bingo or having sack races.

We work with the people to determine what will best serve them and the community. Many NGOs do an analysis and then import their solutions. Our accompaniment model contrasts with that. We always ask what the community wants and then organize together.

In another project, we accompany the Rancheria Huitepec los Alcanfores by holding workshops in producing homemade ecological products and creating mushroom houses. The workshops and activities we do in this community are shared with other communities, as well. Our ecological workshops are made up of classes, such as making homemade butter, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc. These workshops are led by Lindsey. The mushroom house project was started and is led by Isai. He encourages the people to use and reuse the materials they have at home so they don’t need to add on extra cost to producing the mushrooms, such as using corn waste or dry hay as a base. A mushroom house produces crops quickly, so there are many crops in a year. This is a new project that’s generating a lot of excitement and momentum.

Next, we listen to Pedro Robledo tell about the Center for Biblical Studies - “Yobel”

“Yobel” has a double meaning. It is both the Indigenous name for this region (Jovel) and the Hebrew word for Jubilee. We are an itinerant school—no buildings of our own. Yobel is committed to be itinerant, i.e., to go to the communities being served by the students, and to address the realities of those communities. This approach to training differs greatly from expecting students to come to a central building or campus.

Yobel during a workshop with theologist Corrine Lanoire from France

We meet in the buildings of those with whom we collaborate. We arrange and promote courses together. We teach leadership skills to those already involved in various ministries—many serving people who are marginalized from society, poor, struggling for life amid daily injustices. In addition, these ministries struggle to serve people migrating from other Latin American countries—a reality that makes further demands on limited resources. All of us also struggle against environmental deterioration. It is in this reality that we teach and engage in intercultural reading of the Bible.

We offer four Biblical Studies weeks per year. Our local team arranges for visiting teachers such as Hans de Witt, Elsa Tamez, Nestor Miguez, Rene Kruger, and others. We collaborate with other groups and institutions for classrooms and financing for these guest teachers. It is a great experience to hand diplomas to people in these various regions.

Our studies in human formation focus in (1) human development, (2) human rights, and (3) the environment. We use participatory methodologies with 15 people in our workshops, and 30 people in our courses.

We collaborate with various organizations in Chiapas that coincide with our mission at Yobel. Our workshops cover such areas as indigenous theology, personal spiritual growth, pastoral readings of the Bible, intercultural dialogue, migration, gender equality, non-violent culture from a theological and pastoral perspective, food security, cultural regeneration, creation care, intercultural and inter-confessional dialogue—all to promote healthy and sustainable livelihoods and communities.

It’s very important to note that although the three projects in San Cristobal Circle have their own work and efforts, we all coincide with each other and many times we find ourselves working with the other and collaborating together in projects. We see this as a very beautiful thing and will definitely keep doing this in the future.


Wrap-up for this month’s Jubileo

Isn’t it absolutely exciting to hear these projects described by the dedicated team of the San Cristobal Jubilee Circle?

And know, that in 2018, Jubilee Economics Ministries has redistributed $800 every month to this work of the San Cristobal Circle. It is a small amount in so many ways, but in the hands of this team, a lot happens. Many donors designate that their money be used in Mexico for ministries that Dan Swanson had a hand in starting.

After reading this newsletter, you may feel like you want to take action and *be in deeper solidarity with this San Cristobal team. Here’s how:

  1. Donate
  2. Plan to go on a Delegation in 2019 to visit in person what you’ve just been reading about.
  3. Ask for a copy of the little minibook, Jubilee Circles, that describes more about Jubilee. It urges you to form a Jubilee Circle in your area. We’ll send you one free of charge.

Be sure to watch for the November edition of Jubileo where you’ll get to visit the big house in San Cristobal de las Casas again. You’ll sit in on the Encuentro and hear from the Jubilee Circle in San Mateo.

​JEM’s Vision

We believe another world is possible when we:

  • Share resources fairly
  • Reclaim the planet for future generations
  • Hold sacred the interrelatedness of life
  • Live intentionally in peace and community

…in order that those with more will not have too much and those with less will not have too little—not someday, but now.

Support the Work of Jubilee Economics

We invite you to become a financial partner in our ongoing advocacy for economic justice by making a generous, tax-deductible gift to Jubilee Economics.

To learn how, please visit our website

Thank You.

We would love to hear from you, so send us an email.



JUBILEE ACTIONS: “Bag the Bag” is the slogan of the moment.

See how many ways you can figure out how NOT to use plastic bags for carrying items out of any store!

Keep cloth bags in the trunk of your vehicle.

Carry items out in your arms (if there are only a few)

Fewer than 5% of plastic bags are recycled in California. Is your state better? Bags are a major debris on ocean floors and cause death to one million birds and 100,000 turtles and sea animals annually because they ingest them. Paper better? In landfills, paper bags produce more than twice as much atmospheric waste as plastic. Check out the Sierra Club fact sheet on bags.


Economic Recovery—Why Recovery of Sight Is Core to Economic Recovery ala Jubilee

public domain photoThe words are right there in a key Jubilee passage (Luke 4:17-20): “recovery of sight to the blind.” But why is recovery of sight part of the Jubilee model of economics, social design, and spirituality? Here’s a clue: throughout the scriptures of all religions “seeing” is a favorite metaphor for living with greater consciousness than the ego-consciousness that shapes civilization. Seeing empowers us to live with divine consciousness, Spirit consciousness. To bring “recovery of sight to the blind” is to bring economic recovery beyond anything business news talks about.

Click to read more ...


Chiapas reflection by Gabriela Jiménez Machorro 

In conclusion, being in Chiapas permitted me to know another reality, reaffirm that we can do great things if only we unite and work as a team. We need to learn to put aside our differences, respect other points of view affirming that we are all brothers and sister in need of each other. Of course, not forgetting the important relationship with our Mother Earth, without whom we are nothing. This experience has motivated me to continue working for my local community raising consciousness and awakening myself and others to the problems we face and together seeking solutions. I hope we will not have to face as much violence in our region but nevertheless it’s time to not only continue learning but to take action!!!

Click to read more ...


First Joint JEM/Casa Jubileo Delegation to Chiapas

What a delegation! It was a lot to pack into 3 days which exhausted all of us but everything from the appts., to transport and meals to inter-personal dynamics and reflections went superbly. We were 7 from San Mateo (Pastor Nacho and daughter, Berenice, David, Mariana and three young women from a local community group). Amazingly the $500 fee each from our US participants: Marcus, David & Daniel helped to subsidize the Puebla folk as they each only had to contribute an average of about $50. * That also is solidarity economics in the Jubilee way!

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A Call to the Heart...2nd Chiapas delegation JEM/Casa Jubileo (guest post by Pastor "Nacho" Martinez)

Were we simply observers and companions who seek to join our voices saying “Yes to Peace.” Were we really all that brave as I stated at the beginning or now just simply a bit more aware? Will all this just be racked up to one more nice experience? Will our bravery serve to help us face our own commitments, to lift our voice among those with whom we have some influence? ! Will we continue to think that opposites are always stronger against what the Psalmist says: “Mercy and truth embraced; JUSTICE AND PEACE kissed”Psalm 85:10

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Making Applesauce

Waste is disrespect for our Creator. Yes, it takes effort, even some planning and determination to utilize fully the resources for which we’ve taken responsibility. We can’t take care of everybody’s food but we can care for that which we’ve taken into our lives. When we buy food – raw or cooked – we accept responsibility for it. It will not go to waste!

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