dorset chiapas solidarity

December 31, 2013

Zapatistas: the wealth of dignity

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:18 pm

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

Zapatistas: the wealth of dignity

Luis Hernández Navarro

In the community of Emiliano Zapata in the caracol Whirlwind of Our Words, 30 Zapatista families work collectively. They have in common a coffee plantation, vegetable gardens and about 350 head of cattle. Its inhabitants do not receive government support of any kind, but their standard of living is much better than that of the surrounding PRI-governed settlements.

In the community there is a small cooperative shop whose proceeds go to works that people need. There, as in all the other rebel regions, the cooperative’s resources are used to finance public works such as schools, hospitals, clinics, libraries or water pipes.

Throughout all the rebel territory, an autonomous system of well-being flourishes, based on a de facto land reform which prioritises the communal use of the lands and natural resources in collective work, as well as in the production of items for use, and fair trade practices in the international market.

In areas of Zapatista influence, they have been overthrowing the law of San Garabato [greed], which dictates that farmers must buy the goods they need at high prices and sell their products cheaply. It happens frequently that coyotes (abusive commercial intermediaries) find themselves forced to pay the rebel support bases higher prices for their crops, livestock and crafts than those offered to the residents who are not organised. The Zapatista cooperatives have acquired a veritable swarm of motor vehicles for moving and transporting their products.

In the rebel communities, an environmental awareness has also been developed. There agroecology is practiced and the use of chemical fertilizers has been banished. Work is done to protect the soil. There is a genuine and widespread concern for conserving forests and jungles.

As the authors of the book “Very Other Struggles (Luchas muy Otras): Zapatismo and Autonomy in the Indigenous Communities of Chiapas”, say: “the challenges of sustainability in community production highlight the tension between the need to survive within the existing socioeconomic scheme and the project to transform that scheme.” What emerges here is, rather than a Zapatista economic model, “an endogenous and diverse process of prioritising the communities as an alternative to submitting to the steamroller logic of transnational capital.”

In the 27 Zapatista municipalities, alcohol is not drunk and drugs are not grown. Justice is exercised without government intervention. Rather than punishment, the focus is put on the rehabilitation of the offender. Women have taken positions and responsibilities which they undertake infrequently in rural communities.

The network of common infrastructure in education, health, agro-ecology, justice and self-government, which the insurgents have built outside State institutions, functions according to its own logic, which is plural and diverse. The Zapatista communities have trained hundreds of education and health promoters and agricultural technicians, in accordance with their own culture and identity.

All this has been achieved because the Zapatistas govern themselves and defend themselves. They have constructed their autonomy without asking permission, in the midst of an ongoing counterinsurgency campaign. They resist continual harassment from 51 military bases and from welfare programmes which seek to divide the communities in resistance by offering them crumbs.

However, towards the end of this year a smear campaign was unleashed which asserts that none of this is true. Falsely, it claims that the Zapatistas are worse off today than they were 20 years ago, that they are destroying the environment and dividing communities. This is the latest episode in a dirty war as old as the uprising itself.

The slanders do not hold up. Hundreds of public testimonies demonstrate that the accusations against the rebels have nothing to do with the reality that the slanderers spread. For example, the painter Antonio Ortiz, Gritón, was in the community of Emiliano Zapata between 11th and 16th August this year, as part of the Zapatista escuelita, and documented his experience in a moving account that he put on Facebook. He was surprised to find that 30 indigenous families owned 350 head of cattle. He was part of a group of 1,700 people who attended the first Zapatista escuelita that month.

Also present were Gilberto López y Rivas and Raúl Zibechi, who, in the pages of La Jornada, shared their reflections. So did the journalist Adriana Malvido in Milenio, and the dancer Algeria Guerrero in alternative publications. All stated directly how the Zapatista communities live, work, educate, heal and think.

For nearly a week, 1,700 guests were transported, housed and fed by their hosts in the communities in which they lived. Each was accompanied by a Zapatista cadre who answered their questions and concerns about their history, struggle and organizational experience, and translated indigenous languages into Spanish for them. This experience is currently being repeated, at the end of this year, and will be repeated again at the beginning of 2014.

An educational initiative of this magnitude, different from the traditional pedagogy, can only be sustained through the existence of communities with a material base capable of accommodating guests, an organization with the skill and discipline to operate such an ambitious project, and thousands of political cadres with training to explain their daily lives and their proposal for social transformation.

From below, the Zapatistas are changing the world. Their life today is very different from what it was 20 years ago. It is much better. Over the past two decades, they have given themselves a dignified life, liberated, full of meaning, outside government institutions. They are not just doing it in a few isolated communities; they are doing it in hundreds of them established over a wide area. There is, in this laboratory of political transformation and liberation, much to learn and much to be thankful for.

Dorset Chiapas Solidarity


Zapatismo: 30 Years of the Most Sensible of Delusions

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:10 pm


Zapatista 20th Anniversary (and 30th)

Zapatismo: 30 Years of the Most Sensible of Delusions

Zapatismo, alien to spotlight, fashion and consensus, not only finds itself in excellent health at 30 years since its birth, but also constitutes a potent decolonial tool.


aje617xIn November of 1983, a small group of men who could be counted on the fingers of one hand arrived to the thick Lacandon Jungle, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. They had decided to give themselves the ostentatious moniker “Zapatista Army of National Liberation” (EZLN in Spanish). Most were incurable urbanites, but in their backpacks they carried a purpose that resonated in their conversations like a delirium: start a revolution. Nonetheless, given the conditions of extreme poverty and of social urgency in Chiapas, this delirium appeared truly sensible. Further, the mountains and the jungles of Chiapas were not only home to indigenous peoples that had been in resistance for almost 500 years, but also, ever since at the end of the 19th century some of the exiled leaders of the Paris Commune ended up in Chiapas, had not wanted for antagonism and dissent.

Armed with rigid language and hackneyed ideological artefacts, this tiny initial group wasted no time in clashing with the common sense of the indigenous inhabitants of those territories. It was then that Subcomandante Marcos, the most recognised participant from that primordial, delirious Zapatista group, decided that their efforts were not bearing fruit, and that it was better to depart that unsteady ship. “Where’s the way out?” he asked. “There is no way out”, the indigenous peoples replied. “So what do we do?” asked a shaken Marcos. “Stay and learn”, declared the Maya peoples.

And that is what they did. They listened and learned from the indigenous peoples, up until the point in which they became indigenous themselves. A sort of possession with traces of magic realism, that not only disarmed the arrogance and traditional clichés of the Left, but also activated a marvellous revolutionary hybrid made of indigenous knowledge and worldview, capable of creating a handcraft of revolutionary social change, replete with paradoxes and bridges to the outside world.

Thus, armed with questions, the Zapatistas were born like an oxymoron: the most sensible of delusions. Today that marvellous delusion is not just populated by thousands upon thousands of women, men, children, grandfathers and grandmothers in Chiapas. It has also been capable of constructing the tangible, breathing materiality of another way of life. One with infinite difficulties, mistakes and winding paths. One in this world, but with other maps, and other coordinates.

Thirty years after its birth, the EZLN is leading one of the most rich and radical experiences of freedom and human emancipation of the last few centuries of history. Since they rose up in arms in January, 1994, the Zapatistas inhabit an everyday restoration of the true meaning of the word democracy, and a hard-fought liberation of real life, rescued from the claws of mere survival. Thousands and thousands of people living in another way. Here, now, already.

26On its thirtieth birthday, the Zapatista dis-utopia decided to open up its doors and its windows in order to share the ways of life that three generations of sensible delusions have generated. To this end, they have created a school called “Freedom according to the Zapatistas”. Above all, the aim is that it be a Little School, in the diminutive, whose purpose is “unlearning”. It does not put forward any model, and neither does it give participants a manual of instructions. As in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”, the Zapatistas know that replicants do not love, nor do they feel emotions. As such, the Zapatistas are not interested in copies nor in receipts. They simply try, with perseverance and infinite patience, to share a treasure map from another world. That map highlights one coordinate above all others, one goal: an urgent necessity to decolonize existence.

Zapatismo, alien to spotlight, fashion and consensus, not only finds itself in excellent health at 30 years since its birth, but also constitutes a potent decolonial tool. In the territories of Chiapas where the Zapatistas are the government, humanity has opened up an irreparable tear in modernity, in the vast matrix of Western thought, and in the rationality of domination. A decolonization of life that transcends the horrific generalized imposition of commoditization, manifesting itself in in the collective and egalitarian construction of a world of use, and not of consumption. A decolonization of power, reaching beyond the domination of the “private” and the “public”, in the weaving-together of the democratic fabric of a commons in which all people are called to be and to do government. A decolonization of the passions, beyond the meanness and selfishness with which the neoliberal imposition subjects us to the sad passions that constitute it. Without requesting permission. Thousands upon thousands of women, men, children, grandmothers and grandfathers. A present, and not a future. Here, now, already. And a message, perhaps sent with a hint of desperation, to those of us on the other side of the mirror: ORGANIZE. Because it’s not enough to merely wish for it.

In their own way, the Zapatistas have called all of this “autonomy”. An experience of self-government with the participation of thousands and thousands of people, in which the decolonial turn is traduced into Zapatista territory in the form of institutions, schools, hospitals, laws, local administrations, social relations, productive systems, economies, sexualities and profound cultural changes full of suspension points. Concrete and tangible. By and for the people. Was that not the desire for something of that in which we recognized ourselves in the plazas, in a May of more than two years ago?

Translated by Andrew Green


“We Have Made Mistakes…Big Mistakes”

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:03 pm


Zapatista 20th Anniversary

“We Have Made Mistakes…Big Mistakes”

Proceso: José Gil Olmos

pf-9883050102-Ezln-1-c-440x299At two decades following the 1994 uprising, one of EZLN’s longstanding militants speaks with Proceso about the rebel group’s achievements. These, he says, are primarily educational and social organization: the Caracoles the Zapatista Escuelita, the March of Silence, The Other Campaign … Above all, he emphasizes the rebellion’s foremost legacy: autonomy. He warns that even with the “very big mistakes” they have made, the Zapatista movement is still alive, now dedicated to fostering in all communities the “transformation of thought.”

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas – Twenty years after the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), Chiapas seems the same … but it is different: in the last two decades it had six governors who have not only done little to abate poverty, but were dedicated to leaving the Zapatista communities out in the cold.

Nicholas, an EZLN militant from the beginning, denies when asked if the Zapatistas have reached their end: “We don’t know how far we will get. We knew to make a start, and I don’t know where it is going to arrive, but we keep on walking.”

At the end of 2013, at the point of marking the twentieth anniversary of the armed uprising of the indigenous people of Chiapas, the Christmas spirit comes to San Cristóbal imposed in the form of an ice rink and an artificial tree decorated with propaganda from Governor Manuel Velasco. Visiting the city are thousands of tourists who came to celebrate the New Year. The atmosphere is festive.

But they are not the only ones who want to celebrate. In the North and Highland regions of the Selva, in the 29 autonomous rebel municipalities, the Zapatistas also prepare to commemorate the declaration of war in 1994.

The press was not invited to the fiesta marking the EZLN’s twenty years, Subcomandante Moisés announced in a statement released on Thursday, December 19. Zapatista analysts consider this phenomenon may be due to the possibility of changes in the indigenous leadership, where new leaders might appear.

“We do not understand Peña Nieto.”

As a teenager, Nicholas was trained in the ranks of the EZLN. He has experience in the armed struggle–which he had to leave for health reasons, consequences of his participation in the 1994 battles–and now performs organizational tasks with other social groups.

“The Zapatista movement is not weakened because it is in transformation. Although many want more gun battles, we no longer want it. So in the midst of this whirlwind of the power of money, we are preparing ourselves for this transformation. We don’t understand what Peña Nieto is doing, and it doesn’t interest us. We have our little world, our autonomy, and we will continue. That’s the goal of our Escuelita to understand and face reality, to prepare ourselves and get what they did not want to give us in the change. But we do not go alone, there are many valuable thinkers,” he says.

In these final days of 2013 in the five Caracoles–with their respective Councils of Good Government that govern the 29 autonomous Zapatista rebel municipalities–the second of three courses offered by the Zapatista Escuelita are taking place. Attending the first, last August, marking the ten years of the Caracoles, there were 1,500 students. For the latter two, about 5,000.

With the Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Seminar and the March of Silence in December of 2012 attended by 40,000 Zapatistas, the EZLN publicly reappeared after a break of six years, when Subcomandante Marcos led The Other Campaign between 2005 and 2006.

For many people, especially the federal government, this long hiatus was the signal of the beginning of the end of the Zapatistas. Nicholas argues: “Politically, we no longer go out in the media. They think we’re finished. But we are not sitting on our hands. We’re getting ready. Perhaps they are going to set us aside with bombshells … There are still the paramilitaries. “We are evaluating the errors and also building another way of living. There is criticism that (the EZLN) no longer represents the indigenous peasant world as in 1994, but we don’t want to be the vanguard. It behoves us to change this thought in another form of action.”

In his first press interview, he admits that in these twenty years the EZLN has made mistakes, like falling into authoritarianism and not listening to other organizations and to other people who also want to transform the country. But he also speaks of progress: “Of course, we have made mistakes, very big mistakes, but now the errors are our own. Now it’s not the error that comes from outside, but instead they are our stumbles because we don’t know how to manage and other things. But we are practicing with the assistance of many people.”

Proceso: What are those mistakes?

“Those that always are committed because we are very authoritarian. We must hear the word of others. Listen and draw conclusions, to say what we think, and do it. Not to impose many things, because it shouldn’t be so. It goes forward.  Don’t think that because it is a struggle for autonomy, mistakes aren’t made. There are many ways of making decisions. So we must learn.”

Proceso: What are the advances in these twenty years?

“There are many. One of them is to stay alive because of the constant campaigns of propaganda, of social programmes. Brochures arrive and many other temptations. But we’re still alive, we have autonomy and the base continues to be Zapatista.”

Nicholas doesn’t hesitate to point out that for them it’s clear that the objective is to strengthen their autonomy because, like many other organizations and social groups, they are excluded from the system. “We’re outside the play of the system. You might be güero [pale skin], black, indigenous, women, gay, student, we are not inside. So we have to start from where our centre is. We’re already in action, without money to organize ourselves. It’s costing us but we are already acting like Zapatistas.”

He indicates that for the Zapatistas it’s clear that they do not fit into Enrique Peña Nieto’s project of reforms recently adopted by the Congress. “Perhaps it hasn’t been said in a statement, but we have clearly identified that we have no place in the system. But they, those who are in power, they are the actors, they are human beings. So, why can’t we begin to be [human beings]? If we can understand, we can work; if we are going to work, we can transform ourselves,” he points out.

photo-2He emphasizes that autonomy is part of the long process of Zapatista learning: “The autonomous municipalities were not made in a year. It was a preparation of person by person, by family. The great thing about this is that it was known to keep it secret. We needed to do this. Let’s train ourselves and think in another way, because we don’t understand what they are doing, and we see that it’s not going to benefit us.

“We are going to begin this process, and from this we are going to draw a conclusion: What are our weaknesses? Is it money? Do we need the powerful ones in order to live? No. There are things that we can start with our own hands, our own talents.

“We have our science. We are construction workers, farmers, carpenters, welders … and we wonder why we don’t do it. You have to look at the things, changing how we think. That’s what we’re trying to do inside and outside the organization.”

Proceso: Given the country’s situation, do you think the Zapatistas will continue to exist and move forward?

“We don’t know how far we’ll get. We knew to make the beginning. I don’t know where it’s going to arrive, but we continue walking, without sectarianism. There are many groups. We are all Mexicans. We fit in by law and by [being] Mexicans. We neither understand what Peña Nieto’s reforms are for, nor do they interest us, because we have no place in this world of power. Nor in the government of Calderón, where thousands were killed by the drug war. We did not understand what he [Calderón] did. What we definitely understand is that all the powers are in that whirlwind: the narcos, Los Zetas, all those playing with money. And it was the people who paid the consequences, but unfortunately people didn’t react. There was this movement of the poet (Javier) Sicilia who went on to say what was happening [Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity]. There were those who heard him, but those who won were the media, Televisa and TV Azteca.”

Proceso: Do you feel that the Zapatistas are forgotten after these twenty years, that it has been marginalized in their regions?

“Yes, for several factors. Suddenly, the light was too big and then came the government offensive. The media were the most important part of all this political patter, and the left also distanced itself from us because there is much confusion in the left itself now that it signed the Pact for Mexico. There is much confusion in the people. That has happened. But we are not confused. It’s going to cost the State a lot of work to finish us off, because we bring inside the root of change, as it was with Hidalgo, Villa and Zapata. We can do it without involving the power of money. That’s what we understand.”

The Teacher

On Sunday, December 22, Subcomandante Marcos issued the statement Rewind 2: From Death and Other Alibis. It questioned various actors and organizations around what has been left undone in the past two decades and responds to criticism about his performance.

“I want to say, I feel (and talking with other compañeros I know it’s not just my feeling) that the account that I have to give our dead is what has been done, what’s missing, and what’s being done to complete what motivated this struggle. It’s probably wrong, and someone might tell me that the meaning of the whole struggle is to survive in the historiography, written or spoken history, because it is the example of the dead, their managed biography, that motivates the people to struggle, and not the conditions of injustice, of slavery (which is the real name for the lack of freedom), of authoritarianism.

“It wasn’t the anxiety of enduring, but the sense of duty that has placed us here for good or ill, the need for something to address the age-old injustice, this outrage that we feel as the strongest feature of ‘humanness’. We don’t claim any place in museums, [academic] theses, biographies, books,” writes Marcos.

He asks: “The evaluation that interests and affects us: is it the one from the outside, or is it reality? Is the measure of our success or failure what appears to us in the means of payment, in the thesesin the comments, in the ‘thumbs up’ in the history books, in the museums? Or in what has been achieved, what failed, what we got right, what’s still outstanding?”

And he answers: “I ​​mean, we (and others like us, many, many others, everyone) strive to be better, and we accept when reality tells us that we have not succeeded, but that’s not why we keep struggling. Because it isn’t that here we might not honour our dead. We do, certainly. But we do it by struggling. Every hour of every day. And so we look to the ground, first at the same level, then upwards, concealing ourselves on the companion path.”

Proceso: Nicholas is asked: “What is Marcos for the Zapatistas?”

“Our teacher. He is a white person with thoughts like many of you. He taught us that we have rights that they have not allowed us. He raised us from obscurity to give us a place in this country that they didn’t want to give us. That’s Marcos.”

Nicholas, who participated in the fighting in January of 1994 in the Lacandón Jungle, said that the Zapatista’s road is no longer that of the weapons of twenty years ago, but [instead it is the path of] social organization and transformation of thought. “So far we feel the Zapatistas as something very big that elevates our thought and coordinates with other thoughts that didn’t exist before. This took us many years of preparation. We inform ourselves more about the history of our country. We analyze our situation carefully until our thinking changes.

“Of necessity, we had to learn this thought not in a school, not in a university, but among the sacrifices, on the paths that we have walked with errors and with the death of compañeros that we carry in our hearts. Many of us, indigenous and non-indigenous, who participated on January 1 have the defense of Zapatista thought deeply rooted. [January 1] taught us to see that the system is killing, exploiting, ruining us. It is putting us aside in many ways. We were not taught to be heroes or anything like that. Here we learned that we are many human beings, and they don’t take us into account because this country, like the entire world, is controlled by the power of money, which is constantly in flux.”


Nicholas regards the autonomy of the Zapatista communities as one of the organization’s main assets. Starting from this, you can move forward and face the exclusionary economic system. “Like many other organizations, we think that the solution is autonomy. After the armed uprising, the EZLN gave autonomy to other organizations, to other groups in the country, and the opportunity to tell the world that we are all facing this capital power of money. The Zapatistas taught us that you can live building another world, a world where the people who are outside that power might have a place. Autonomy is our principal strength.”

Proceso: If from the beginning the Zapatistas began working on autonomy, why didn’t we see it?

“Because it was another stage in the transformation. When people ask me why I joined the Zapatistas, it wasn’t just to grab the gun, but in order to learn many things, the country’s history. We come from communities where there is no preparation, neither reading nor writing. Our school was on this side. It was with the Zapatistas. So if a woman of a community learns to speak, to express herself, to say things, to remember what it felt like earlier when she couldn’t, then she is not going to forget. It is rooted in her, and for as long as it has been out of reach, it’s not forgotten. That’s what’s happening with the Zapatistas. It’s what they have taught us. We’ve identified what it is that is hurting us, and how we are going to confront it.”

Proceso gives access to this article to subscribers only.

Translation by Reed Brundage



Zapatista 20th Anniversary :What side were we on?

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:29 am

Zapatista 20th Anniversary :What side were we on?

By Jay Taber, Intercontinental Cry, Dec 30, 2013



When the Zapatista uprising appeared in world media on January 1, 1994, it wasn’t out of the blue; Maya communities had been holding assemblies to discuss the ramifications of armed defence of their democratic way of life for well over a decade.

What was new was the EZLN alliance of Mayas with non-indigenous Mexican revolutionaries — born in the national conflict of 1968 when students organized in response to theTlatelolco massacre of protesters by the army in Mexico City — and a working relationship with international NGOs and civil society human rights networks. Common to them all were principles of participatory democracy, but the driving force was the social base of indigenous communities of Chiapas and their authentic culture.

As the 20th anniversary of the Zapatista uprising fast approaches, the history of the EZLN — the guerrilla nucleusthe millenarian resistance, and the option for the poor — is presented in a three-part translation at Upside Down World.

As Zapatista autonomous communities struggle against ongoing attacks by Mexican police and vigilantes, speakers for the Zapatista movement of liberation continue reaching out to the world to prevent further atrocities by the storm troopers of Free Trade. In describing the betrayal and decomposition of the Mexican political class, Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Marcos in 2006 observed that by turning their backs on the just demands of the indigenous and other dispossessed in their country, something was definitively ruptured beyond reform.

Looking at the dominant neoliberal socioeconomic model as the source of their misery in Mexico, the Zapatista leader noted how this consolidated betrayal by the entire political class has foreclosed their rights as indigenous peoples. Acknowledging that they once thought the process of dialogue and negotiation with the federal government by civil and peaceful means would strengthen the path of dialogue and negotiation as an alternative for the resolution of conflicts; by 2006 they had to admit that they were wrong.

Today, with Idle No More looking to find its feet in fighting globalization and oligarchy — the same foes confronted by the Zapatistas — NGOs and civil society networks are again essential to the liberation movement. While liberation news outlets and network communications are critical infrastructure for liberation, a social base is equally important.

As Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos remarked during the 2012 national campaign for democracy in Mexico,

We are coming after the rich of this country, we are going to kick them out, and if they have committed crimes, well, we will put them in prison… because this is the time that has come. We say that coexisting with them is not possible, because their existence means our disappearance.

As noted at the Americas Program in 2006, the formation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation from 1983-1994 — during which time they were building toward insurrection by empowering citizens as social actors — focused on the non-institutional politics of building autonomies in order to “distribute power so it can do no harm,” the objective being to “free organized discontent from the reductive trap of electoral politics that fails to offer an alternative to the neoliberal model.” For readers looking to better understand the relationships between indigenous peoples, revolution and democracy, my friend David Ronfeldt’s book The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico is both interesting and informative.

I have occasionally written here about dominion theology and religious colonization as part of the indigenous experience that forms a backdrop to many of the ills and unresolved grievances we face today. But while we struggle against the backwardness and cruelties of religious fundamentalism, we must also acknowledge the role of liberation theology in shining a light on the social justification for the indigenous peoples’ movement.

For anyone who has committed their lives to social justice, the ironies that comprise the evolution of human rights for indigenous peoples are simply part of the landscape. In Chiapas, one man who became part of the indigenous landscape was Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia, the bishop of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas from 1959-2000. Tatic Samuel (Father Samuel in the Maya language tzotzil) passed away on January 24, 2011.

While the Zapatista uprising in 1994 was not his doing, the work of Tatic Samuel in raising political consciousness among the Lacandon Maya is part of their story. In his view, Father Samuel illuminated the obstacles and alternative paths for them to recuperate their dignity. In 2004, Samuel Ruiz said, “The question that God puts to us at the end of our existence will be: What side were we on?”


Dorset Chiapas Solidarity


Zapatista 20th Anniversary: Twenty Years Later

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:15 am


Zapatista 20th AnniversaryTwenty Years Later

Francisco Lopez Barcenas*

La Jornada, 29thDecember, 2013

1zapatistas-oventik-391x260This January 1st marks the 20th anniversary of the Zapatista National Liberation Army declaration of war on the Mexican State. Many things have happened from then to now. One of them is that the State has aged and some of its institutions had to be reformed to continue working, others were replaced because they did not respond to the new [neoliberal] guidelines of State policy, while others, it said, were created to serve new social demands. Politicians did not escape the changes: in many cases they were replaced by entrepreneurs and those who remained became their agents. As a result, the economic interests of business were imposed on policy and instead of pursuing the social good, the government produced discourses that sometimes were accompanied by images designed expressly for self-promotion.

The result of these changes has been that a tiny group of businessmen and politicians has seized the wealth of the country, plunging most of the Mexican population into shocking poverty. The natural consequence of this has been the irritation and social unrest that has manifested itself in various ways. One has been the struggle for control of government positions with the idea of ​​promoting other policies. This has been confronted by those in power with sophisticated fraud [reference to narrow losses by the Left in presidential elections of 1988, 2006 and 2012] or deals with those who seek these positions in order to hand them over in exchange for not modifying the substance of the policies of the dominant group. This shows that democracy in neoliberal times does not work for the majority to decide the type of government to implement but for the powerful to legitimize their rule over them. This naturally ends up increasing popular anger and disillusionment with participation in such politics.

Escuelita-Roberto-Barrios-Andalucía-9Others opt for social struggle, including indigenous peoples. They have become key players in national politics, thanks to the opening created by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation which, in the dialogue creating the agenda agreed upon with the federal government, put them front and centre. For these 20 years this has shaped the strongest resistances against the policies of plundering the nation.

As most readers must remember, on February 16, 1996, the San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture were signed between the federal government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, which laid the foundation to recognize indigenous peoples as subjects of rights and begin a new relationship between them, the government and society. Unfortunately, the Mexican government refused to keep its word and indigenous peoples across the country, faithful to theirs, began the construction of their autonomy. The government responded with the usual welfare policies, dividing peoples and suppressing the rebels, a situation that increases so far in this administration.

Yet the peoples persist in their plans. Sometimes demonstrating openly, sometimes without saying anything, many advance in their internal reconstitution according to their own abilities and situations. Some defend their territories, their forests and waters; others promote community radio stations to communicate and disseminate their culture or create community schools because they feel that teachers in government schools don’t teach them what they need for life, or they promote planting their own food–reassessing their traditional practices and knowledge–to escape from the clutches of those who have made food a commodity and a weapon of domination. This has resulted in various regional processes, each in the direction that is considered most relevant, so the results are also multiple, some very successful, others less so.

Now that 20 years of the Zapatista uprising have been completed, many return to talk about them and the indigenous. The government now says it will fulfil the agreements on indigenous rights and culture. The peoples are sceptical about this announcement because they know that in recent years, the government has only passed laws to encourage the plunder of natural resources, including the recent constitutional reform that allows multinationals to take over Mexican oil. They don’t understand why now the government would fulfil them.

They also know that prior to a reform that actually guarantees their rights, the government should repeal laws that threaten them and cancel licenses and permits which have been granted for the exploitation of resources, which also violate them. People do not want laws that simulate recognition of their rights, but the stopping of the plundering of their patrimony. For this they fight. This is what they have learned in these 20 years of the Zapatistas. There they see the way ahead and their horizon.


Translated by Reed Brundage

Translator’s note: *Francisco Lopez Barcenas began professional work as a corporate lawyer but subsequently became one of the most prominent indigenous legal theorists. His change was marked by his participation in the Dialogues of San Andrés as advisor to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation between November 1995 and September 1996. “San Andrés,” he says “not only changed the way I see the world, it changed my whole life. I learned what it is to be indigenous.”



EZLN: Rewind 1, When the Dead Silently Speak Out

Filed under: Marcos, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:31 am

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

EZLN: Rewind 1, When the Dead Silently Speak Out

When the Dead Silently Speak Out

(Rewind 1)


(A text which reflects on those who are absent and on biographies, narrates Durito’s first encounter with the Cat-Dog, and talks about other things that may or may not be relevant, as the impertinent postscript dictates).

November-December 2013

Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death.
Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual,
we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water,
and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
Me thinks my body is but the lees of my better being.
In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.
Herman Melville “Moby Dick.”

MARCHA EZLN SAN CRISTOBALFor a while now I have maintained that most biographies are merely a collection of documented, well-written (well, sometimes) lies. The typical biography is based on a pre-existing belief and the margin of tolerance for anything that strays from that conviction is very narrow, if not inexistent. The author, starting from that previously held belief, begins the search through the jigsaw puzzle of a life unfamiliar to him or her (which is why the bibliography interests them to begin with), and goes about collecting the false or ill-fitting pieces that allow him or her to document their own belief, not the life they are talking about.

The truth is that we can barely be certain of the date and place of a person’s birth, and in some cases, the date and place of death. Other than that, the majority of biographies should be categorized under “historical novels” or “science fiction.”

So what is left of a life? A little or a lot, we say.

A little or a lot, depending on your memory.

That is, depending on the fragments that life left on the collective memory.

And if that aspect doesn’t matter to biographers and editors, it won’t be important for everyone else. What tends to happen is that what really matters doesn’t appear in the media and can’t be measured in polls.

Ergo, all we have of someone who has passed are the arbitrary pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle made from the shreds and tendencies that we call “life.”

So with that confusing beginning, allow me to pick up some of those loose pieces in order to embrace and envelop ourselves in that step that today we so need and lack…


There is a concert in the Mexican silence. Don Juan Chávez Alonso, Zapatista and Mexican, gestures as if shooing away a bothersome insect. It is his response to my apology for one of my clumsy outbursts. We are in Cucapá territory, a sandy land. The coordinates for this geography and calendar show the Sixth in 2006 in the Northeast of Mexico. In the big camping tent that serves as lodging, Don Juan takes his guitar and asks if we want to hear something he composed. After tuning the guitar he begins a concert that, without words, narrates the Zapatista uprising from January 1,1994 through the presence of Comandanta Ramona in the formation of the National Indigenous Congress.

Then a silence, as if it were another note.

A silence in which our dead were quiet out loud.


Also in the Mexican Northeast, Power, in its bloody mania, paints absurdly and with impunity on the calendar of those below. June 5, 2009. Governmental despotism and greed have set fire to a children’s daycare. The victims, 49 little girls and boys, are merely collateral damage once the compromising documents have been destroyed. The absurdity of parents burying their children is followed by a weak and corrupt justice: those responsible not only are not arrested, but are given jobs in the cabinet of the criminal who will try to hide the bloodbath which he wrought on the entire country under the blue of National Action Party.

Where biographers stop their notes “because a few years of life aren’t profitable,” history below opens its notebook of other absurdities: with their unjust absence, these small children have given birth to other men and women. Their fathers and mothers have ever since held up the demand for the greatest possible justice: that such injustice is not repeated.


“The problem with life is that in the end it kills you,” Durito said once. Chapis always enjoyed his fantasy stories of knighthood, although she would have asked, with that impertinent mix of naïveté and sincerity disconcerting to those who didn’t know her, “and why is that a problem?” Don Durito of the Lacandón, beetle by origin and errant knight by profession, would have avoided arguing with her, given that in the supposed code of conduct of an errant knight, one should not contradict a lady. (This is especially true if the lady in question has influence “high up,” Durito adds, knowing that Chapis was religious, a nun, and sister, or whatever name you give to those women who make their faith their life and profession.

Chapis did not know us. That is, not as those who look at us from the outside and write and talk about us… or talk trash about us (fashions are fleeting you know). Chapis was with us. And she was with us some time before an impertinent beetle would appear in person in the mountains of the southeast of Mexico to declare himself an errant knight.

And perhaps because she was among us, all of this about life and death didn’t seem to worry her much. It was that attitude, so neozapatista, in which one invests everything and it’s not death that concerns or occupies us, but life.

But Chapis was not just with us. It is clear that we were one part of her path. And if now I tell you something about her it’s not to provide notes for her biography, but to tell you how we feel here. Because the history of this believer—her history with us—is one that makes even the fanatic atheists doubt themselves.

“Religion is the opiate of the masses”? I don’t know. What I do know is that she gave the most brilliant explanation that I have heard of the destruction and the depopulation that neoliberal globalization causes in a given territory, not a Marxist-Leninist-atheist-and-a-few-more-ists theorist, but… a member of the Christian, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman parish, adherent to the Sixth, and exiled by the high clergy (“for thinking a lot,” she told me as if asking forgiveness) to one of the geographic deserts of the Mexican plateau.


60111_127122997458076_204348396_nI believe (maybe I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time and, to be sure, it won’t be the last), that many people, if not all people, who approached what is known as neozapatismo, did so searching for answers to questions formed in their own personal histories, according to their calendar and geography. And they stayed just long enough to find the answer. When they realized that the answer was the most problematic monosyllable in history, they turned in another direction and began to walk there instead. It doesn’t matter how much they tell others and themselves that they are still here: they left. Some people more quickly than others. And the majority of them do not look at us, or they do it with the same distance and intellectual disdain as those who brandished calendars before the dawn of January, 1994.

I think I’ve said it before, in some other missive, I’m not sure. But anyway I’ll say, or repeat here, that this dangerous monosyllable is “you.” Like that, in lowercase letters, because that answer was and is intimate to everyone. And each one takes it with their own respective terror.

Because the struggle is collective, but the decision to struggle is individual, personal, intimate, as is the decision to go on or to give up.

Am I saying that the ones who stayed (and I’m not referring to the geography but to the heart) did not encounter that response? No. What I am trying to say is that Chapis did not come looking for an answer to her personal question. She already knew the answer and had made of that “you” her path and goal: her self as a believer accountable to her own beliefs.

Many others, many like her, but different, had already answered, in other calendars and geographies. Atheists and believers. Men, women, and Others of all calendars. It is those men, women, and others who always, alive or dead, place themselves before Power, not as victims, but to challenge it with the multiple flag of below and to the left. They are our compañeras, compañeros y compañeroas… although in the majority of cases neither they nor we know it… yet.

Because rebellion, friends and enemies, does not belong exclusively to the neozapatistas. It belongs to humanity. And that is something that must be celebrated. Everywhere, everyday and all the time. Because rebellion is also a celebration.


___ZAP___puenteThe bridges that have been built from all corners of the planet Earth to these lands and skies are neither few nor weak. Sometimes with gazes, sometimes with words, always with our struggle, we have crossed them to embrace that other who resists and struggles.

Maybe that’s what it means, not anything else, to be “compañeros”: to cross bridges. Just like in this embrace-made-word that we send to the sisters of Chapis who, like us, miss her and, like us, need her.


Impunity, dear Matías, is something that only Justice can grant; it is the system of Justice exercising injustice”

Tomás Segovia, in “Cartas Cabales

I have already said that, in my humble opinion, each person is the hero or heroine of his or her own individual story. And in the soothing complacency of narration, “this is my personal story,” actions and mistakes are revised, the most incredible fantasies are invented, and narrating anecdotes resembles a bit too much the accounting practices of the miser who steals what is not his.

The ancestral desire to transcend one’s own death finds a substitute for the elixir of eternal youth in biographies. Of course, this substitute may also be found in one’s descendants, but the biography is in a certain sense, “more perfect.” It is not just someone who resembles you, rather it is the “I” extended in time thanks to the “magic” of the biography.

The biographer from above uses the documents of the time, perhaps testimonials by family, friends, or compañer@s, of the person whose death is being appropriated. These “documents” have the same accuracy as meteorological forecasts and the testimonials obviate the delicate separation between the “I think that…” and the “I know that…” And so the “veracity” of the biography is measured by the number of footnotes on each page, as these footnotes have the same value for the biography as do the expense sheets of money spent on governmental “image”—the longer they are, the truer they are.

Today, with the internet, twitter, facebook, and their equivalents, biographical myths and fallacies circulate and take shape, and voilà, these fallacies reconstruct the story of a life, or fragments of it, so that soon the biography has nothing to do with what actually took place. But that doesn’t matter, because the biography is published, printed, circulated, it is read, cited, and recited….just like the lie.

Check the modern sources of documentation for future biographies. That is, check Wikipedia, blogs, facebook and the relevant “profiles.” Now compare these sources with reality:

Doesn’t it give you chills to realize that, maybe, in the future:

Carlos Salinas de Gortari will be considered “the visionary who understood that selling a nation was more than a family business (taking family to mean blood and politics of course), it was an act of modern patriotism,” and not as the leader of a band of traitors (don’t act the fool, we all know that a number of those that supported the reforms made to Article 27 of the constitution—that watershed moment in the destruction of the Mexican National State—are today members of the “mature and responsible” opposition);

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León won’t be remembered as the “Statesmen” who dragged the entire nation from one crisis to an even more severe crisis (in addition to being one of the intellectual authors, with Emilio Chuayffet and Mario Renán Castillo, of the Acteal massacre), but rather as the one who took “the reigns of the country,” with a singular sense of humor…and ended up being what he had always been: a second-rate employee in a multinational corporation.

Vicente Fox will be the proof that the posts of President of a Republic and President of a soft-drink subsidiary are interchangeable…and that useless people can occupy both posts.

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa will be known as a “courageous President” (with others doing the dying) and not as a psychopath who stole a weapon (the Presidency) for his wargames…and who ended up being what he always had been: a second-rate employee in a multinational corporation.

Enrique Peña Nieto will be thought of as a cultured and intelligent President (“ok, he is ignorant and foolish, but crafty”; this is the new profile that they are developing in the corridors of political analysis), and not as a functional illiterate (either way, as the popular saying goes: “that which nature doesn’t give, Monex can’t buy”)…?

Ah, the biographies. Often they are autobiographies, even if it’s their descendants (or their buddies) who promote them and, in doing so, are able to adorn their own genealogical tree.

The criminals of the Mexican political class who have misgoverned these lands will, according to those who suffered their abuses, always be mere unpunished criminals. It doesn’t matter how many lines they buy in the press; or how much they spend on spectacular events that will fill the streets, the written press, the radio, and the television. From the Díaz (Porfirio and Gustavo) to the Calderóns and Peñas, from the Castellanos and Sabines to the Albores and Velascos, the general rule is that of exposing the ridiculous frivolity of the “juniors” (but only on social networks since the paid press still considers them “mature and responsible people”).

But the world turns and in the continuous rise and fall of the politicians up above, one can pass quickly from a picture on the cover of “Hola,” to one that says, “WANTED: DANGEROUS CRIMINAL,” from the revelry of the December of NAFTA, to the hangover of the Zapatista uprising; from “man of the year” to the “hunger strike,” undertaken with a “chic” brand of bottled water (what can I say, even in protests there are social classes), from applause for bad jokes to the upcoming murder of a supposed family member; from nepotism and corruption dressed in witty remarks to an investigation for links to drug trafficking, from extra large military uniforms to fearful and bloody exile, from the binge of the December of the sell out to…


ramona2With all of this and what follows, am I saying not to read/write biographies? No, but what makes the old wheel of history move are collectives and not individuals. Historiography thrives on individualities but history learns from a people.

Am I saying that we don’t have to write/study history? No, but what I am saying is that it is best done in the only way that it can be done, that is to say, organized with others.

Because, friends and enemies, when rebellion is individual it is pretty. But when it is collective and organized it is terrible and marvelous. The former is the material of biographies, the latter is what makes history.


It is not with words that we embrace our Zapatista compañeros and compañeras, atheists and believers.

To those who carried a backpack and history on their backs in the night.

To those who took lightening and thunder in their hands.

To those who put on their boots without having a future.

To those who covered their face and their name.

To those who died without expecting anything in return.

So that others, everyone, in a morning that is yet to come, would                                                                 be able to see the day as we must,

that is to say, head-on, on our feet, and with the gaze and the heart upright.

For them, there are neither biographies nor museums,

For them our memory and rebellion,

For them, our cry:

liberty! Liberty! LIBERTY!

Vale. Be well and may our steps be as great as our dead.


PS. WITH OBVIOUS INSTRUCTIONS: Now it would be nice to read, in reverse order, Rewind 1 through 3, and maybe in doing so you will find the cat-dog and resolve some of your doubts. And yes, you can be sure that more questions will arise.

P.S. WHICH RESPONDS TO, AND DEMANDS FROM, THE FOR-PROFIT MEDIA. Ah! What a moving effort by those counter-revolutionaries in the for-profit media who try to build arguments for the few counter-revolutionary readers/listeners/viewers that they have left. But, as I’m feeling generous for the holidays here are a few tips that you might use as material for your stories:

– If the conditions of the Zapatista indigenous communities are the same as they were 20 years ago and there haven’t been any advances in their quality of life, why would the EZLN “open” itself through our Little School in which people from below can see and know for themselves, WITHOUT INTERMEDIARIES, what exists here, just as we did with the press in 1994?

And now that we’re asking questions, why during that same twenty years was there an exponential decrease in the number of readers/listeners/ viewers of the paid media? Pst, pst, you might want to respond that you don’t have fewer readers/listeners/ viewers – cause that might reduce your advertising and the bribes, what you can say is that now readers/listeners/viewers are simply more “selective.”

.-You ask, “What has the EZLN done for the indigenous communities?” We respond with the direct testimony of tens of thousands of our compañeros and compañeras.

And now you, the owners, shareholders, directors, and bosses should respond to this:

What have you done, in these past 20 years, for those who work in the media, one of the sectors hardest hit by the crime enacted and encouraged by the regime that you so adore? What have you done for the journalists that have been threatened, kidnapped, and assassinated? And for their families? What have you done to improve the life of your workers? Have you increased their salary so that they could have a dignified life and don’t have to sell their word or their silence in the face of what is actually taking place? Have you created the conditions for them to have a dignified retirement after years of working for you? Have you given them job security? That is to say, so that the job of a reporter no longer has to depend on the mood of their editors or on the “favors,” sexual and otherwise, that are demanded of them regardless of gender?

What have you done so that a job in the media is something to be proud of and which does not result in the loss of freedom or of life when done honestly.

Can you say that your work is more respected by governments and governors than it was 20 years ago?

What have you done against imposed or tolerated censorship? Can you say that your readers/listeners/television viewers are better informed than they were 20 years ago? Can you say that you survive thanks to your readers/listeners/viewers and not from advertising, the majority of which is government sponsored?

You should provide your answers to your workers and your readers/listeners/viewers, just as we are accountable to our compañeros and compañeras.

Oh, come on, don’t be so glum. We’re not the only ones that have escaped your role as judge and executioner, begging your forgiveness and always receiving your condemnation. There is also, for example, reality.

Vale, for the 9th time. Or even better, for the 69th time.
El Sup saying that a thumbs-down is better than a raised middle finger above.

It is Zapatista territory, it is Chiapas, it is Mexico, it is Latin America, it is Earth. And it is December 2013; it is cold, as it was 20 years ago, and, just like then, today a flag covers us, the flag of rebellion.


Watch and Listen to the videos that accompany this text.

In one of the autonomous Zapatista schools, boys and girls dancing at a school party.

From and for León Gieco: “The landing.” Pay attention to the words, because if “there are those who resist and never complain/…./we don’t claim to see the change/only to have left something/on the road taken.

Joan Manuel Serrat with his “It Would be Fantastic”, which could really be a program of struggle: “It would be fantastic/…/if the same ones didn’t always lose/and if the disinherited inherited./ It would be fantastic/ if the best won/ and if force didn’t make one right/…/If everything was as it should be/ and if no one ruled/…”

Hugh Laurie (who you might recognize as Doctor Gregory House), with a very special interpretation of the blues “Saint James Infirmary”. For those who die on their feet.

Translated by El Kilombo Intergaláctico



December 30, 2013

Rebellion is the Patrimony of Humanity; it must always be celebrated: the EZLN spokesperson

Filed under: Marcos, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:45 pm

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

Rebellion is the Patrimony of Humanity; it must always be celebrated:  the EZLN spokesperson

 ** Comunicado from Subcomandante Marcos on the eve of the Zapatista anniversary

** Reflections on life, biographies and the indigenous, 20 years after the armed uprising

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, December 29, 2013

1488308_633494246707993_1133754377_nIn the days before the twentieth anniversary of the armed uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, its initials in Spanish), Subcomandante Marcos maintains in a comunicado: “Rebellion is not the exclusive patrimony of the neo-Zapatistas. It is the patrimony of humanity. And that is something that must be celebrated: Everywhere, every day and at every hour. Because rebellion is also a celebration.”

The rebel spokesperson considers the value of the lives and biographies of those who have struggled, and he bitterly opposes the role of the governments of the period: “The criminals of the Mexican political class who have badly governed these lands will continue being, for those who suffered their misconduct, unpunished criminals. It does not matter how many lines they pay for in the same media; nor how much is spent on spectaculars in the streets, jn the written press, on radio and television. From Díaz (both Porfirio and Gustavo) to Calderón and Peña, from Castellanos and Sabines to Albores and Velasco, only observers mediate (via social networks, because in the media for pay they continue being ‘responsible and mature people’) the ridiculous frivolity of the ‘juniors.’”

But he warns that: “the world is round and in the continual ups and downs of the politics of above, it can pass, in a short time, from the front page of Hola, to the ‘dangerous criminal sought;’ from the extra large size military dress to an exile of fear and spotted with blood; from the revelry of December intrigue to historiography, which, he maintains, “is nurtured from individualities; history learns from peoples.”

He dedicates special attention to the “for pay” communications media and judges as “moving” the effort of the counterinsurgents “who work in them to try to give arguments to the few ‘contra’ readers-listeners-watchers that they have left.” Nevertheless, he offers them “some tips” for their information: “If the condition of the indigenous Zapatista communities are the same as they were 20 years ago and nothing has advanced in their level of life, why did the EZLN –like it did in 1994 with the for pay press– ‘open’ the escuelita so that the people from below may see and know directly, without intermediaries?”

And since he questions, he asks: “Why in the same period were the number of readers-listeners-watchers (of said media) reduced exponentially?” “You ask what the EZLN has done for the indigenous communities. And we are responding with the direct testimony of tens of thousands of our compañeros and compañeras. Now you, the owners and shareholders, directors and bosses, answer: What have you done in these 20 years for the media workers, one of the sectors hardest hit by the crime adopted and encouraged by the regime you adore so much?”

Subcomandante Moisés had specified days ago that the press will not be admitted to the Zapatista commemorations. Now Marcos asks: “What have you done so that being a media worker is a pride that does not cost the loss of freedom or life for being honest? Can you say that their work is more respected by the rulers and the governed than 20 years ago? What have you done against the censure imposed or tolerated? Are you able to say that your readers-listeners-watchers are better informed than 20 years ago? Are you able to say that you have more credibility than 20 years ago?”

Marcos reflects on the veracity of biographies: What remains of a life? A little or a lot, depending “on the fragments that that life imprinted on the collective memory,” while “it usually follows that what is really important does not appear in the communications media nor can it be measured in polls.”

He points out that, with the Internet and its equivalents, “biographical myths surrround their fallacies” and the story of a life is reconstructed with something “that has little or nothing to do with the real story.” “Doesn’t it give you chills that, perhaps, in the future Carlos Salinas de Gortari will be ‘the visionary who understood that selling a nation was, as well as a family business, an act of modern patriotism, and not the leader of a gang of traitors?” Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, a “man of State”, or one of the intellectual authors, with Emilio Chuayffet and Mario Renán Castillo, of the Acteal Massacre? Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, “a ‘brave’ man (so that others would die) and not a psychopath who stole the weapon (the presidency) for his war games.” And Enrique Peña Nieto, “cultured and intelligent (‘well, he is ignorant and foolish but clever,’ is the new profile that was constructed for him”), and not a “functional illiterate.”

Subcomandante Marcos concludes: “It is Zapatista territory, it is Chiapas, it is Mexico, it is Latin America, it is Earth. And it is December 2013, it is cold like it was 20 years ago and, like then, a flag covers us today: the flag of rebelliousness.”

En español: Comunicado completo


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, December 30, 2013

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the International Zapatista Translation Service


The EZLN are alive, with strength and plans, says Felipe Arizmendi

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:55 pm

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

The EZLN are alive, with strength and plans, says Felipe Arizmendi

The ‘¡Ya basta!’ remains: Bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas

A great achievement, that the indigenous feel they have dignity and rights

Elio Henríquez

La Jornada
Monday December 30, 2013

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, December 28.

The bishop of the local diocese, Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel said, about the twentieth anniversary of the armed uprising of January 1994: “Many people wonder if the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) still exists, and I tell them that it not only exists, but it is active, it has presence, strength, plans and projects, it is not something of the past or half dead.”

In an interview with La Jornada, he held that “the cry of ¡‘Ya basta’! (‘Enough’!) still retains its value, because although there has been progress in Chiapas and also with the Zapatistas, the conditions of marginalization have been so abysmal that they are not easily overcome.”

He said: “I have spent 23 years in Chiapas, and have seen many advances in roads, clinics, schools, electricity, potable water, but there are still many communities which lack light; also there are clinics, but without doctors or medicines; schools sometimes without teachers and adequate teaching tools; there are many roads, although some are difficult to transit due to landslides and potholes.”

Arizmendi Esquivel, who since May 2000 has been leading the diocese of San Cristóbal, in whose territory, inhabited mostly by indigenous, the communities with rebel presence are mainly based, said the EZLN is a movement which seeks to demonstrate that it can live and move forward in an autonomous way.

– What do you think is the main achievement of the EZLN in these 20 years?

-Not only that progress has been made in the fight against poverty and marginalization, but above all, the most important is that today the Indians feel they have dignity, that they are people who have rights, that they have worth and cannot so easily be subjugated. For me it is the most important value of all, because they were not even allowed to walk on the pavements, and now they own the cities, control the markets and public transport and when they are organized they definitely have influence in politics; they have strength, not only in numbers but in awareness of their dignity.

He said that the autonomy being practiced in the Zapatista communities “is giving them a lot of dignity; they want to show that another way of life is possible.”

He reiterated that “they continue organized with their own rules to prevent the consumption of alcohol and drugs, for example, they are doing this very clearly. They are seeking a form of education with autonomous schools. They seek to have hospitals and clinics that are not dependent on the government and some remain, but it is not so easy for them to last a long time because there are not enough financial resources. Several international organizations have supported them, but to maintain a clinic costs a lot of money and although there are volunteers who are giving their service free, they cannot do it permanently.”

He stressed: “I value greatly that they combat drugs, alcohol and corruption, which is not always possible, as it happens everywhere, but the EZLN and their communities are more trustworthy, the mysticism with which they put it into practice from the beginning is very reliable and they strive to carry it out.”

The successor of Samuel Ruiz García said that “autonomy in communities is a strength because they want to preserve their cultural identity, but it is a weakness at the same time. The autonomies have benefits and risks.”

Interviewed at the offices of the diocesan clergy, the prelate insisted that “the struggle for autonomy is an effort to show that not everything is done by the government, and questions why we have to depend on all of this, saying that society can organize and fend for itself.”

He believes that, “in practice, the above is an important principle which should be achieved in dialogue with the government, because much of the aid which they are given does not qualify as alms, but the rights of the peoples. Having roads, electricity, clinics, schools, supports, are rights, not gifts from the governor or president at the time, but a way to give back the taxes we all pay.”

He continued: “They can waive that right freely, but what it is a great strength can also be a weakness because in many parts, accepting a government programme excluded them from movement, because people say ‘I am in need and if the government gave a house to my neighbour why can’t I have one’. It is necessary to find a way to see how, without losing autonomy, they can take advantage of resources that society entrusts to the government administration, but which belong to society; which are not handouts, but the rights of the peoples.”

He considered that “currently the most important fight would be the legal one, to be able to transfer the rights of original peoples into the Constitution, because many things which are in Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization are not in the Constitution, for example, the fact that to build a road or exploit a mine, it is compulsorily required to take their views into account.”


Zapatista 20th Anniversary: The Ya Basta! In Latin America

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:32 am

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

           The Ya Basta! In Latin America

By: Raúl Zibechi

1467485_129418283895214_1662271053_nIn the 20 years that have transpired since the January 1, 1994 Zapatista Uprising, Latin American movements have championed one of the most intense and extensive cycles of struggle in a long time. Since the 1989 Caracazo (Caracas Massacre), uprisings, insurrections and mobilizations occurred that encompassed the whole region, delegitimized the neoliberal model and installed those from below, organized into movements, as central actors of changes.

Zapatismo formed part of this wave of the 90s and very soon became one of the inescapable referents, even for those who do not share their proposals and forms of action. It is almost impossible to enumerate everything the movements realized in these two decades. We can only review a handful of significant acts: the piquetero cycle in Argentina (1997-2002), the indigenous and popular uprisings in Ecuador, the Peruvian mobilizations that forced the resignation of Fujimori, and the Paraguayan March, in 1999, that led to the exile of Lino Oviedo, who led a military coup.

In the next decade we had the formidable response of the Venezuelan people to the 2002 right-wing coup, the three Bolivian “wars” between 2000 and 2005 (one about water and two about gas) that erased the neoliberal right from the political map, the impressive struggle of the Amazon Indians in Bagua (Peru) in 2009, the resistance of the Guatemalan communities to mining, the Oaxaca commune in 2006 and the mobilization of the Paraguayan peasantry in 2002 against the privatizations.

In the last three years a new layer of movements were felt that insinuate a new cycle of protests, like the mobilization of Chilean secondary students, the community resistance to the Conga mining enterprise in northern Peru, the growing resistance to mining, to fumigations and to Monsanto in Argentina, the defence of the TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure) in Bolivia and the resistance to the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil.

In 2013 alone we had the Colombian agrarian strike that was capable of uniting all the rural sectors (campesinos, indigenous and cane cutters) against the free trade agreement with the United States and one of the urban movements, and also the June mobilizations in Brazil against the ferocious urban extractivism of labour for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

This group of actions throughout the two decades permits assuring that the movements of those below are alive in the whole region. Many of them are carriers of a new political culture and organization that is demonstrated in very diverse ways in the different organizations, but make up different ways of doing from what we knew in the decades of the 60s and 70s.

Some of the movements, from the Chilean secondary school students to the Zapatista communities, passing through the Guardians of the Conga Lakes, the Venezuela Settlers Movement and the Pass Free Movement (Movimiento Passe Livre, MPL) of Brazil, among the most prominent, demonstrate some common characteristics that  would be worth noting.

The first is the massive and exceptional participation of youth and women. This presence revitalizes the anti-capitalist struggles, because the people most affected by capitalism are participating directly, those who don’t have a place in the still hegemonic world. It is the majority presence of those who don’t have anything to lose because they are, basically, women and youth from below that give the movements an intransigent radical character.

In second place, a political culture is gaining ground that the Zapatistas have synthesized in the expression “govern by obeying” (mandar obedeciendo), which is still expressed diffusely. Those that care for the lakes in Perú, the heirs of campesino patrols, obey the communities. Youths of the MPL make decisions by consensus so that majorities are not consolidated, and they explicitly reject the “sound cars” that union bureaucracies imposed in the previous period to control the marches.

The third question in common is related to autonomy and horizontality, words that just started to be used 20 years ago and were fully incorporated into the political culture of those who continue struggling. They claim autonomy from the State and the political parties, meanwhile horizontality is collective leadership of the movement and not individual. Members of the Coordinator Assembly of Secondary Students (ACES, its initials in Spanish) of Chile function horizontally, with a collective leadership and assembly.

The fourth characteristic that I see in common is the predominance of flows over structures. The organization adapts and is subordinate to the movement, not frozen in a structure capable of conditioning the collective, with its own interests separate from the movement. The collectives that fight are something like communities in resistance, in which all run similar risks and where the division of labour adapts to the objectives that the group outlines at every moment.

In this new layer of organizations it is not easy to distinguish who the leaders are, not because referents and spokespersons don’t exist, but rather because the difference between directors and directed has been diminishing as the leadership of those below increases. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the new political culture in expansion in the last two decades.

Finally, I would like to say that Zapatismo is a political and ethical referent, but not as the direction of these movements, which it does not seek or could be. It can be an inspiration, a reference and an example if one chooses. I feel that there are multiple dialogues among all these experiences, not in the style of formal and structured gatherings, but direct exchanges between militants, capillaries, not controlled, but the kind of exchange of knowledge and experience that we need to strengthen the fight against the system.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, December 27, 2013

En español:


December 29, 2013

Rebellion shelters the EZLN just like it did 20 years ago: Subcomandante Marcos

Filed under: Marcos, Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:28 pm

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

Rebellion shelters the EZLN just like it did 20 years ago: Subcomandante Marcos

La Jornada, 28 December 2013

marcos.jpgSubcomandante Marcos. Photo from the Archive

Mexico, DF. Subcomandante Marcos, leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), said, in a communiqué released by the group, that like 20 years ago, when they rose up in arms, today they are sheltered by the rebellion.

“Itis Zapatista territory, it is Chiapas, it is Mexico, it is Latin America, it is the Earth. And it is December 2013, it is cold like it was 20 years ago, and like then, today a flag shelters us: that of rebellion,” said the guerrilla leader, who has not appeared in public for five years, in an extensive piece of writing.

Throughout the text, full of the irony that characterizes his writings, Marcos sent a hug to all his “Zapatista compañeros and compañeras, atheists and believers,” for the anniversary of their uprising, which will be commemorated on 1st January.

“To those who that night put their rucksacks and their history on their backs, to those who who took lightning and thunder into their hands, to those whose boots were shod with no future, to those who covered their faces and their names, to those who, without asking anything in return, died in the long night so that others, everyone, on a morning still to come, will be able to see the day as it should be seen, that is to say, from the front, standing, and  with an upright gaze and heart,” he said.

The rebel leader said that to all those involved in the history of the Zapatistas there goes their “memory and rebellion.”

“For them we cry, Freedom! Freedom! FREEDOM! OK. Health to you, and may our steps be as great as our dead,” he said.

Marcos also recalled the death of 49 children in a fire at the ABC nursery in the northern city of Hermosillo in 2009, and found that the incident was the result of “governmental greed and despotism.”

“The mortal victims, 49 children, are the collateral damage when incriminating files are destroyed (…) with their unjust absence, these infants have borne other men and women.

Their mothers and fathers now raise the demand for the greatest justice: that injustice will not be repeated,” he said.

The guerrilla leader also questioned the governments of the presidents who have governed Mexico since the appearance of the EZLN, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto.

“Vicente Fox will be the demonstration that the posts of president of a republic and of a soft drinks subsidiary are interchangeable… and that both positions can be occupied by useless people, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa will be a ‘brave president’ (so that others will die) and not a psychopath who stole a gun (the presidency) for his war games (… ) and who ended up being what he always was: a second employee in a multinational,” he said .

On the current president, “Marcos”, who has questioned the reforms he has promoted, including energy, which will allow private investment in the sector, said: ” Enrique Peña Nieto will be a cultured and intelligent president (‘well, he is ignorant and silly but skilful’ is the new profile being constructed in the corridors of political analysts), and not a functional illiterate.”


Zapatista 20th Anniversary: The Paths of the Wind

Filed under: Maize, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:50 pm

Zapatista 20th Anniversary:

The Paths of the Wind

Silvia Ribeiro*

La Jornada, 28th December 2013

Oh, that we might be capable of continuing to walk the paths of the wind,

despite the setbacks and betrayals and defeats, because history goes on,

beyond us, and when she says adiós [goodbye],

she is saying: hasta luego [until the next time].

Eduardo Galeano

1438_Mayan_CornThe most outrageous legal assault in Mexico’s recent history, the privatization of oil, was barely accomplished when the multinationals went after another of Mexico’s treasures: corn. On December 19, Agrobio (the “civil” association of Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, Dow and Bayer multinationals) issued a bulletin celebrating that the court that in September had ordered suspension of the planting of transgenic maize to settle the demands of a collective civil lawsuit, had now rejected the claim in its entirety and, therefore, could authorize planting of the genetically-modified seed. The celebration was cut short, because the Unitary Court accepted the appeal of the plaintiffs and in the same week reaffirmed the suspension. (Angélica Enciso, La Jornada, 24/12/13).

In recent decades, the looting of Mexico’s natural resources has been brutal: water systems have been privatized, directly or indirectly, by pollution, dams and absurdly beneficial concessions for large corporations. It is the same in mining, where more than a quarter of the national territory is covered by concessions, accompanied by environmental devastation and plunder with impunity by multinational mining companies. All accompanied by a process of savage urbanization, again in favour of corporate profits, which pollutes and steals peasant and indigenous territories leaving behind shanty towns that resemble jail cells, garbage dumps, highways for accelerating the devastation…and much more, as has been documented by the National Assembly of the Environmentally Affected.

Many initiatives spread the lawlessness (high impact projects go forward, despite contrary court decisions), but the majority are supposedly legal, approved by governments and legislative manoeuvres, which like oil, corn, mining and water, as well as in the indigenous counter-reform of 2001, rely on the participation of all political parties. In all cases, communities and grassroots organizations, both rural and urban, democratic unions, push back; they maintain their resistance despite the ongoing repression and the majority media siege that oscillates between silence and slander.

Given this devastation, the silencing, the legal farce and lack of representation, an international indictment began to be woven together from below for presentation before the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal based on a charge of diverting power: the use of the State apparatus and various public resources in order to favour a minority business interest against the interests of the majority of the population. In its first thematic sentences in November 2013, this International Court ruled, inter alia, that the offenses presented (more than 300 cases in three hearings) “can be placed in the category of crimes against humanity, as defined in the Statute of Rome of the International Criminal Court, as verified in the context of a widespread and systematic attack against the Mexican civilian population” ( The Court pointed out the responsibility for degradation and progressive suppression by successive Mexican governments beginning with the presidency of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (1964-1970), and the aggravation that began with the signing of NAFTA [1994].

37643_1507925108214_6637097_n-549x330Therefore, it is even more significant and worthy of recognition that it has been twenty years since the Zapatista uprising and many more of the organization from below and in the communities of the Chiapas territory where “the people command and the government obeys.” As they declared in 1994, they are “the product of over five-hundred years of struggle”; therefore, their times and ways are very different and go beyond “setbacks, betrayals and defeats,” although they know and recognize them. Twenty years ago, the Zapatista uprising changed the political landscape of Mexico and many parts of the world, inspiring millions of young people and grassroots organizations with a different way of talking and being–a communitarian and self-managing way of organizing themselves, a live footprint that continues marking [the path]. In these decades, while the country has been ravaged by privatization, with a consequent increase in poverty and economic, social and environmental devastation, the Zapatista communities have built their own systems of education, health, and self-government.

The “trick” of the Zapatista communities, who do not understand those from above, is that every step, every day, every construction of self-management and resistance makes sense in itself. They do not ask for approval or crumbs from those who arrogate power. They do not hope or despair, they keep on walking. The Zapatistas have passed on to us many messages but perhaps this is the most important. A message that also comes to us from the many ongoing struggles of original peoples, campesinos, urban communities, in defence of the corn, of their territories, of the water, of their right to decide about their lives, of dignity.

So, faced with so many betrayals and looting, it is good to remember that many times the big cities prevent us from seeing the horizon. They do not let us see what is growing from the bottom, tough as the flower that cracks the asphalt and offers its pollen to the wind. History is constructed like this, as Galeano reminds us, it only says hasta luego‘until the next time’.


*Silvia Ribeiro is Latin America Director for ETC (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), which is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights. She is based in Mexico. 

Translated by Jane Brundage

Dorset Chiapas Solidarity


Zapatista 20th Anniversary: Declaration of War

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:45 am

Zapatista 20th Anniversary

Declaration of War

Gloria Muñoz Ramírez

Mujer Zapatista by Antonio TurokIt all began with a declaration of war. The last option, they said, but a war. Many said then that it was all symbolic, that the weapons did not matter, that it was not a regular army, but a ragged group with sticks for weapons. But there was and is a war. Seven municipal headquarters were taken, then the doors of the prisons full of innocent indigenous were opened, municipal palaces, symbols of power and ignominy, were destroyed, lands, farms and livestock held by landlords and caciques were recuperated, police and white guards were disarmed, a prisoner of war was taken. And death, which already existed, was made visible.

So 20 years are not for nothing? It depends. It is now two decades since the EZLN began a path that was never intended to be just for them. Formed mainly of Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Tojolabales, Choles, Zoques, and Mames, they were not born with purely indigenous claims. From their beginning (November 1983 and even before) they spoke of a national struggle. In 1983 the EZLN were asking “how do we secure good health, good education, good housing, for all Mexico? It is a very big commitment. And then we saw it too. In those first 10 years we acquired a lot of knowledge, experiences, ideas, and ways of organizing. And we thought: how will the people of Mexico receive us (because we were not calling them civil society)? And we thought they were going to receive us with joy because of course we were going to fight and die for them, because we want freedom, democracy and justice for all. But at the same time we thought, how will it be? Are they going to accept us?” the now subcomandante Moisés, Tzeltal commander, visionary and revolutionary, recalled a few years ago. The moment came on the 1st of January 1994. The war surprised the world. And the emergence of a civil society with which they have been meeting for 20 years… If there is anything to characterise the movement it is its stubbornness in initiatives which, though they may not have happy endings, what matters is to walk them, not to surrender. Today the Zapatistas are the same and different. They are the same because their claims are as valid as before. They are different because the years take their toll, the years do not pass with impunity. Mexico also is different and is the same. The Salinismo which received them in 1994 is now known by another name. The plunder does not end. No one denies that the Zapatistas dealt the most severe blow to a system that swallows everything. Their “Ya Basta!” was devastating. They continue to be a very vigorous struggle in a world taken over by party negotiations that deliver everything.

The autonomous organization of their peoples, in a way unique in the world, is one of their most notable achievements. Not the only one. Making this the Zapatista legacy is not to see the national and global resonance of a movement that reached its 20th anniversary (30 since its birth) without surrendering. Can anyone say the same without a little embarrassment?

Los de Abajo (Those from Below)

Dorset Chiapas Solidarity



December 28, 2013

The Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón: Freedom for Political Prisoners against Dispossession

Filed under: Bachajon, Political prisoners — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:20 pm


The Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón: Freedom for Political Prisoners against Dispossession


Antonio Estrada2Located in north-eastern Chiapas, the Ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón, adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle of the EZLN, has maintained for years a fierce  struggle against the dispossession of their territory. Various actors, including the municipal, state and federal governments; transnational corporations (Norton Consulting;) and even paramilitary groups (OPDDIC) promote legal and illegal strategies to carry out what would be one of the most ambitious projects in the region and which is part of Plan Puebla Panama: the CIP (Integrally Planned Centre) Palenque, a network of infrastructure and services through which it seeks to combine the natural and archaeological attractions with an elite tourism, reducing its inhabitants into neo-colonial servitude in their own communities.

In this context, one of the strategies used by the state government to ensure territorial control has been the co-option and/or intimidation of the ejidal authorities and the selective prosecution of those who are opposed to being dispossessed. Since 2008, over one hundred people from this ejido have been imprisoned unjustly and arbitrarily in a clear act of criminalization of social protest. Such is the case of Miguel Vázquez Deara, Miguel Demeza Jiménez and Antonio Estrada Estrada, who, after a long struggle and with strong support from national and international organizations, achieved their freedom during the year 2013, representing one more step in the struggle not only for the release of political prisoners in this country but against the dispossession of the indigenous territories in Latin America.

Today, December 27th, we joyfully greet Antonio Estrada Estrada, who obtained his freedom on Tuesday after two years and four months of being unjustly imprisoned. At a press conference in the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, accompanied by his lawyer Ricardo Lagunes and the ejidatario Domingo Pérez Álvaro, Antonio told us about the legal irregularities in his process, the torture to which he was subjected, and how now he is free he will continue in the struggle for the defence of his land, culture, justice and autonomy together with his community.

For the rest of the world, the struggle of the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón is a mirror of learning in which we can look at the horror of war which affects each and every one of our territories, but at the same time we can look at the Resistance which is germinating and emphasises the impossibility of life without struggle.






Antonio Estrada Estrada, former prisoner from San Sebastián Bachajón, is free!!

Filed under: Bachajon, Human rights, Indigenous, Political prisoners — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:18 pm

Antonio Estrada Estrada, former prisoner from San Sebastián Bachajón, is free!!



Antonio Estrada Estrada (on the right) is here seen with Alberto Patishtán Gómez.

All the prisoners from San Sebastián Bachajón are now free!!!

Antonio is talking on the telephone to the last remaining prisoner who is an adherent to the Sexta, Alejandro Díaz Santiz.


Photo: Marta Molina 


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