dorset chiapas solidarity

September 24, 2013

Notes from the Course “Freedom According to the Zapatistas”

Filed under: Women, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:24 pm

Notes from the Course “Freedom According to the Zapatistas”

 By: Gilberto López y Rivas

Escuelita-Roberto-Barrios-Andalucía-13It was a privilege to attend as a student the first grade course “Freedom according to  the Zapatistas”, which was run in parallel in various territories of the autonomous governments, as well as in the Indigenous Centre of Integral Capacity Building –Unitierra, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, from 12th to 17thAugust.

Because of its many meanings – political, strategic, programmatic and tactical – in the current tragedy of a country devastated by the government of national treason and its corporate-repressor associates (including organized crime), the course imparted by indigenous peoples from the different ethnicities which make up the autonomous Zapatista governments constitutes an urgent call to the national conscience, to the men and women with dignity and integrity to organize, resist and struggle for a better world where those who govern obey the peoples, based on the seven principles: 1. Serve and don’t self-serve, 2. Represent and don’t supplant, 3. Construct and don’t destroy, 4. Obey and don’t order, 5. Propose and don’t impose, 6. Convince and don’t conquer, 7. Go down and not up, and based on the maximum ethic that reigns in the EZLN: “Everything for everyone, for us, nothing,” that is, the opposite pole of conduct to that with which the Mexican political class acts.

Throughout this memorable week, accompanied by our Votán, the tutor or “guardian-heart of the people and the land,” and of our textbooks for reading-consultation-discussion, the students entered into the study of the history of autonomous government. The arduous years of clandestinity were remembered, with the arrival of the Forces of National Liberation in the Lacandón Jungle on November 17, 1983; the 10 years of preparation that preceded the declaration of war; the slow but extended process of awareness of the role to play “when so many men and women arise who think about the others, who rebel to demand land and freedom.”

They remembered the establishment of 38 autonomous Zapatista rebel municipalities (municipios autónomos rebeldes zapatistas,Marez), once the failure to fulfil the San Andrés Accords had been consummated and, afterwards, the teachers explained the conditions and problems that led to the creation of the five Good Government Juntas on August 8, 2003. The students learned how government is organized within the community, municipal and regional settings. With linguistic turns of phrase and a great capacity for synthesis and conceptualization, our teachers demonstrated the path of the construction and strengthening of their autonomy by means of the collective practice of men, women, children and elderly, with trials and errors, throwing out what doesn’t work and changing what’s necessary. “If something goes wrong, we make it better. It’s only been 19 years that we have been constructing our autonomy, against 520 years of oppression!”

In the conveyance, participation and thematic content of the course, they emphasized the scope and victories of women in the autonomous governments, in the commissions of education, health, productive projects, in the changes that take place in day-to-day life, domestic work and care of children, as well as in sports and public events. Here also, the women teachers remembered how in clandestinity the integration of women started in the militias, in the ranks of the insurgents, making clear the current gender parity in the three levels of government. The machistas (macho men), who still exist, are now faced with the autonomous authorities, the assemblies and the right of women to report any mistreatment. If the woman holds a position, “the compañero has to take care of the children, make the food, wash the clothes,” my Votán commented to me.

Another important theme of the classes was that of resistance, because the bad government has not left the Zapatistas in peace for one single day. They know well that the media are powerful instruments of propaganda which lie all the time; therefore, they have created their own communications media. They identify the political parties of all signs as instruments of division and manipulation which promote the attacks against the Zapatistas peoples and their governments. But in this conflict, the Zapatistas assume a non-confrontational policy which has led to their advantage: “we have tried not to get upset to avoid violence. By not becoming upset, we have come out winning. With our patience, we have been able to resolve many problems. Our strength is our organization, without attacking those who do us harm.” That is the way the teachers refer to how the “party member brothers” have become so dependent on government aid and programmes that they abandon productive work and sell their land, while the Zapatistas collectively work on the recuperated lands and have their own resources and savings. Paradoxically, many party members end up asking the Zapatistas for help. They go to their clinics, where they treat them like human beings, and they resort to their governments to impart justice and speedy conflict resolution. “We bring resistance itself. Resistance has given us the strength to construct autonomy. Since 1994, the bad government has wanted to see our face; it sought ways to attack us, but today, we are here! It (the bad government) introduces its policies and we organize ourselves and struggle for everyone.” In this way, our teachers showed how they resist ideologically, economically, politically, culturally, “which is the way of life.” They demonstrated that neither soldiers nor paramilitaries have impeded the development of their autonomies.”

Many more themes were treated, all with depth, a sense of humour and frankness, with pride in all they have achieved, but with modesty. On finishing the course the moment arrived to say goodbye to the teachers and Votáns, with a lump in our throats and many openly crying. For the graduates of the Escuelita, the world will not be the same.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Saturday, August 30, 2013

En español:

For many otherarticles on the Escuelita, see:


1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on .

    Comment by aboriginalpress — September 25, 2013 @ 12:57 am

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