Who are Amigos?

Amigos de San Cristóbal, A.C., are local volunteers, Mexicans and expats, living in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas. We are a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization (NGO) that raises funds through community events, like our annual concert and flea market, as well as through private donations, and distributes those funds to proven nonprofit groups directly serving Chiapas' most disadvantaged people.

Chiapas is home to Mexico's second largest indigenous population. Many families lack basic human necessities. In their rural, agricultural villages, mud-floor homes often lack running water and sanitation; open indoor cooking fires provide the only source of heat and cause health problems for women and children. In towns, displaced and underprivileged families lack proper food, clothes and shelter. Often, children work to help provide for their families, so they cannot go to school.

Amigos’ Mission

Amigos de San Cristóbal, A.C. provides financial support to projects focused on improving the health, education and economic well-being of disadvantaged families and individuals. Proven, well-established projects pass an annual screening process to ensure that funds will go directly to these goals.

Our primary goals are:

Where are Amigos?

San Cristóbal de Las Casas is nestled in the Jovel Valley, in a region known as the Highlands of Chiapas in Mexico's southernmost state. Founded in 1528, the Spanish colonial "royal city" now has over 100,000 residents and is the Chiapas highlands' commercial center.

Mayan villages dot the landscape in the pine mountains, green valleys and tropical jungles surrounding San Cristóbal. Each new day is welcomed in Spanish, Tsotsil, Tseltal, Zoque, Chol, Mam, Mocho, Lacandon, Tojolabal and Kanjobal, reflecting our diverse culture and traditions.

Chiapas is home to abundant Mayan archaeological sites, glorious 16th- and 17th-century churches and historic buildings, the soaring Sumidero Canyon, the mighty Grijalva River, several biospheres and thousands of square miles of virgin jungle. We take pride in the masterful weaving, embroidery and pottery-making skills of the local Maya, and in the culinary arts and musical traditions of Spanish descendants.

The Amigos de San Cristóbal Board of Directors 2012-2013

Alison Abbott

AmigosA four-year Amigos board member, Alison has served as treasurer for three years and as administrative coordinator for one year. Married to Enrique Arreguin Rodriguez, Alison has made San Cristóbal her home for six years, following a 35-year career as a primary school teacher at the Francis Parker School in Chicago. Besides her work for Amigos, Alison volunteers as an English teacher.

Lucía Baráibar Ruiz

AmigosA first-time Amigos board member, Lucía is a San Cristóbal native. She studied both law and political science, but it was her courses in jewelry design that led to her full-time work. She is general director of the jewelry businesses Puerta Azul de Chiapas and Quinto Sol Joyería (where many local Amigos members pay their dues). With this experience, plus her experience as director of the San Cristóbal Tourism Office, past member of the Mexican Businesswomen’s Association (AMMJE), and now a member of the State Council of COPARMEX, Lucía brings a business perspective to the Amigos board.

Ann Conway

AmigosA native Californian and past resident of Colorado, Ann pursued three successful careers: in education, with Citigroup, and as a manager and country director with Peace Corps, before moving to San Cristóbal two years ago. This is her second year on the board, and Ann is also chair of the Project Committee. Ann and her husband John will open their boutique hotel La Joya Hotel San Cristóbal in December 2012.

Hileana Garcia Lopez

AmigosPresident of Amigos in 2011, Hileana is starting her third year as a board member. As cochair of the Special Events Committee, she was instrumental to in the success of the 2011 Susana Harp concert as well as the 2010 and 2011 flea markets. Hileana and her husband, Rodrigo Alfonzo, are the owners of Kitsch & Bagels and Posada del Abuelito, and they are the parents of Sofia, age 3, who will soon be a big sister.

Katherine Faydash

AmigosA member of the Amigos Project Committee for more than a year, Chicago-born Katherine is new to the Amigos board. She has lived in San Cristóbal since 2005. She has over ten years’ experience as a developmental book editor and project manager in the publishing industry. She also is codirector of DePaul University’s Chiapas Human Rights Practicum.

Bruce G. Ferguson, Ph.D.

AmigosA native of Seattle, Washington, Bruce joins the Amigos board after having been an Amigos member for three years. He is a researcher and head of the Agroecology Department at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in San Cristóbal. He has published many articles in scientific journals and has written chapters for seven different books. His research, writing, and teaching projects have focused on ecological restoration (including sustainable food systems), agroecological education, and participatory agroecological certification. He lives in San Cristóbal with his wife Helda Morales and their son, Marcos.

Alma Silva Gutierrez

AmigosAs the cofounder and president of Desarrollo Educativo Sueniños, Alma will continue to offer the NGO perspective in her second year on the Amigos board. Originally from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Alma attended university in Austria, where she met her husband, Christian Szinicz. They are the proud parents of two children, ages 2 and 5, and they have just moved into a new home in Barrio Santa Lucía.

Will you help?

Local membership dues cover Amigos' administrative costs, so we guarantee 95% or more of your gift goes directly to beneficiaries. They, in turn, are visited twice a year by an Amigos representative to ensure the projects funded by Amigos are being administrated properly.

Donations are tax-deductible in the United States and several other countries. The people we serve, those who benefit from your gift, will be forever grateful.

Visit our Donations page here—and thank you for your generosity!