Press release, 19 December 2003

A Different Christmas


Tzotzil version To the Danish version of the document To the Danish version of the document To the Danish version of the document To the Danish version of the document To the Danish version of the document

Photos of the Pillar of shame in Acteal

So have Tzotzil Indians named The Pillar of Shame, the 8 metres sculpture put up in front of the village of Acteal in Mexico. And the name is a part of a Christmas gift from Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot.

It started with the massacre of 45 Indians at a Christmas service on December 22 1997. Mostly women and children were killed by paramilitaries who surrounded the small wooden church and in cold blood killed the unarmed civilians. Some of the killers have been punished, but the men behind are still at large.

To commemorate this crime the Indigenous National Congress (CNI) put up the Pillar of Shame in co-operation with Jens Galschiot in 1999. The Pillar is a composition of more than 50 human bodies twisted into an obelisk like form. The sculpture was nominated the Noble Prize of Injustice by the international press when Galschiot in 1997 put up the first Pillar in Hong Kong to mark the massacre of the democratic movement on the Tianan­men square in Beijing. The second Pillar was put up in Brazil in 2000 in memory of a massacre on landless peasants.

The Mexican Pillar has until now only carried a text in English and Spanish. Languages that many Indians do not understand. Therefore it has been a wish to have the text engraved in the local language Tzotzil. The translations were sent to Denmark where Galschiot has carried out the engraving of the text that of course is totally unintelligible to him.

The sculptor expelled

On the 22nd of every month the sculpture is the centre of a solemn commemoration of the victims. The ceremonial culminates every Christmas on December 22 when people come from far and near. This year Doris Palvio and Mikkel Iversen from Denmark will present the new bronze plates to the Indians. Galschiot was himself expelled from Mexico after the Pillar was put up in 1999. He was forbidden ever to come back.

I was quite embarrassed when I received the communication about the translations. In a way I have myself been overlooking the Indian culture by only having applied texts in 'white' languages. But now I hope to mend the wrongness, says the artist.

Broken promises

This New Year it is 10 years ago the rebel zapatistas occupied the town halls of five cities in South Mexico. The Indians had enough of broken promises and demanded that the government met the provision of its own laws. A rather unnecessary demand one should think. But like many other countries Mexico has a nice democratic constitution, which nevertheless is in glaring contrast with the actual abuse of power, corruption and violation of human rights.

It is this situation that makes hundreds of people participate in a quiet and noble protest gather every Christmas to commemorate around a sculpture that internationally marks the abuse of human rights.

Photos of the Pillar of Shame in Mexico available free of charge:

or directly:

Further information: Jens Galschiot - Banevaenget 22, DK-5270 Odense N, Denmark Tel. (+45) 6618 4058 - Fax (+45) 6618 4158 - E-mail: - Info:

Doris Palvio can be contacted in Mexico at

Contact to the inhabitants of Acteal through Mikkel Iversen (CIEPAC), Tel. +52 967 674 5168, Direct contact to the inhabitants of Acteal (in Spanish and Tzotzil) at

On the situation in Mexico: (the zapatistas)

and (in Spanish) (Indigenous National Congress)

To the Pillar of Shame index page   |    To AIDOH front
To galschiots mainpage

Relevant documents
  • Acteal, 22 December 2003 to the  version of this document  
  • Level Up

    1999: The Pillar of Shame in Mexico
    Additional Information:
    Categories: 1999: The Pillar of Shame in Mexico | Happenings and Art Installations | 1996-?: The Pillar of Shame
    Themes: Criticism of governments | Indigenous peoples | Massacres
    Sculptures: Pillar of Shame
    Type: Press releases
    Dates: 1999 | 18th April 1999 | 29th April 1999 | 1st May 1999 | 12th May 1999
    Locations: Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico | La Realidad, Lacandona jungle, Mexico | Chapultepec park, Mexico city, Mexico | Zócalo, Mexico city, Mexico | San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Mexico
    Co-operators and Helpers: Amado Avendaño, governor in rebellion | Bishop Samuel Ruiz | Carlos Rodrigo F. Sáenz | CIEPAC | Claudio Cifuentes | Colette Markus | Daniel Markus | Danish Embassy in Mexico | Finn Damgård Andersen | Fray Ba - Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas | FZLN - Frente Zapatista de Liberación Nacional | Gómez Hernández Eliseo | Gloria Rico | Guy Markus | Internationalt Forum (Mayo) | Julie Greve Nielsen | Kasper Markus | Luca Martinelli | Mette Lindgren Christophersen | Niller Madsen | Ofelia Medina | Robert Etches | Silvie Cifuentes | Sofus Markus | Tinku (Mikkel og Doris) | Town Hall of México DF
    Partners: CLETA (Centro Libre de Experimentación Teatral y Artística) | CNI (Consejo Nacional Indígena) | Enrique Cisneros, CLETA | Las Abejas en Acteal
    Related Persons and Entities: Government of Mexico, 1999 | Immigration Office in San Cristóbal
    Sponsors: BUPL | DeTrey Dentsply AG, Schweiz | Fredsfonden | Funch Fonden | Gelsted/Kirk/Scherfig fonden | Kultursekretariatet i Odense Kommune | Lysgaard Fonden | Socialpædagogernes Landsforbund / National Federation of Social Educators | Socialpædagogernes Landsforbund i Vejle | Vedstaarup Lerfabrik A/S