This independent and informal study is based on good-will, common sense, working ethics and morality, rather than on a pre-meditated education method or strategy, with the goal to increase the public awareness of volcanic risk in the Zoque indigenous community of Chapultenango, near El Chichón volcano (Chiapas, Mexico). Notwithstanding, the outcomes of this grass roots level approach are afterwards contextualized by methods in social volcanology. With the aim to increase the risk perception in the community, communication means were adapted to each target-group (official authorities, primary and secondary school students, religious leader, the main population). The effect of the sensitization campaign is evaluated retrospectively, based on existing literature.
Volcanic risk perception drastically decreases after eruptions and during periods of volcanic quiescence. Despite the fact that the adults in Chapultenango lived the 1982 Plinian eruptions, their awareness of present volcanic risk is low. Especially children, adolescents and young adults (born after 1982) should be informed on the activity of El Chichón, as they are most likely to be affected by possible future eruptions. This grass roots level sensitization project uses a novel approach to poll the risk perception and to transmit knowledge on El Chichón volcano among 6- to 11-year old children by combining scientific information sessions with arts workshops. Similar scientific sessions, although without the arts workshops, resulted less efficient for the older age group (Secondary School students). Moreover, the local Protección Civil and Gobierno Municipal was invited to participate in a basic monitoring of the El Chichón crater lake. A lack in continuity in local political terms resulted the major barrier for an effective and self-sufficient following-up of the volcanic surveillance. The entire population of Chapultenango was involved during informal meetings and semi-scientific projections of "their volcano" on 28 March 2007 (exactly 25 years after), offering an alternative and more scientific view on El Chichón's activity, often referenced in a more mystical-religious frame. It is experienced that the volcanologist is recognized as a highly trusted professional, bridging the gap between the official authorities and society.