Zapatistas: The prohibition of alcohol and other drugs in indigenous territory.
6th April by sxemad
In effect, if the will of Providence is to clear out these savages to make space for those who cultivate the earth, it seems probable that rum would be an appropriate method. It has already annihilated all the tribes that used to inhabit the maritime coast.
If alcohol consumption and alcoholism pose serious problems to public health in urban centres, they pose even greater problems in rural and indigenous regions, which do not have direct access to health services and other support systems. This was the reality for many communities in Chiapas, and indigenous families suffered the consequences.
This is still a reality for the indigenous communities dependent upon the Mexican state, but for the Zapatista communities, it’s a different story.
Throughout the Zapatista uprising, women played a significant part in the process of change and resistance to the heavy-handed military repression of the Mexican state. Even so, violence and inequality within indigenous communities in Chiapas was palpable. In this context and with their participation in the developing autonomy of the indigenous communities steadily growing, the Zapatista women decided to formulate a series of propositions which in their eyes would improve the lives of women in the communities. One of these laws addressed the prohibition of the consumption, production and distribution of drugs, and in particular, alcohol. Zapatista women recognized alcohol as one of the causes of domestic violence and the impoverishment of indigenous families.
From the ‘Proposal for the extension of the Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary law’, agreed somewhere in the jungle, 4th March 1996, during an assembly to organise activities for International Women’s’ Day.
- The Womens’ Revolutionary law strictly prohibits the planting, cultivation and bodily consumption of drugs (marihuana, heroine, cocaine, etc.), because we the women are the ones who suffer most harshly the consequences of this vice.
- The sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited in our towns and communities because we the women are the ones who suffer blows, poverty and deprivation as a consequence of this vice. *
* Published in the Doble Jornada supplement of the newspaper La Jornada, 6th May 1996.
‘Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol is damaging to our health and only wastes money’, Nayely, Secretary of health, community “LA REALIDAD”.
The prohibition of the consumption of alcoholic beverages and illegal substances was not imposed in the Zapatista territories, rather it was a collective decision. The assemblies of men and women, young people and elders define the Zapatista Revolutionary Laws and the legislation of the Federal Government is neither imposed nor obeyed.
It’s been 20 years since alcohol was banned in Zapatista territory. Time flies. The difference felt in the daily life of the family and community is profound, and has resulted in a reduction in violence, which is nothing but positive. Especially considering the poor quality of the alcohol available in indigenous communities and the health problems linked to it.
By not drinking, the campesinos, in particular the men, eliminate the risk of illnesses common in the communities: ulcers, cirrhosis, malnutrition and machete wounds obtained under the influence. It may not be reflected in government records of public health, but on close examination, the effect on the populace is spectacular.
Translated by Ruby Zajac for the UK Zapatista Translation Service