dorset chiapas solidarity

February 24, 2017

EZLN: What’s Next II. The Urgent and the Important

Filed under: Autonomy, CNI, Displacement, gal, Indigenous, Maize, Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:32 pm



EZLN: What’s Next II. The Urgent and the Important



January 3, 2017

I’ve been listening to you. Sometimes when I’m here with you all, sometimes via the CIDECI stream, sometimes via what your Zapatista students mention to me.

I always try to get a grasp on the meaning of your presentations, the path and direction of your words. We have heard brilliant presentations, some didactic, some complex, the majority polemical, but on and about things that can be debated. And we think you should do so, among yourselves. For that discussion, perhaps it would help you to first clarify the confusion that exists between science and technology.

With regard to the rest, we are as surprised as you are. This interest [of the Zapatista students] in science is not something we ordered or imposed, but rather something that was born from inside [of the Zapatista communities].

Twenty-three years ago, when feminism came to demand that we order women’s liberation, we told them that wasn’t something that can be ordered, because it belongs to the compañeras. Freedom is not ordered, it is conquered. Two decades later, what the compañeras have achieved would put to shame those who at that time claimed to be the vanguard of feminism.

It’s the same now. Science is not imposed. It is the product of a process of the peoples, exactly as Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés explained.

I’ve told you that we thought the majority of your presentations were good, but there were some, just a few, that, well I don’t know what to tell you.

One of them said admiring things about me; I listened with attention and waited for the moment when he would say: “everything I have just said is a fraud, I presented it to you so you would see what pseudo-science is and so that you don’t trust the principal of authority; just because someone has a formal education doesn’t mean that what they say is scientific.” But no, that moment never came.

I scrutinized his face to see if he was smiling maliciously, but no. He was sincerely convinced of the barbarities he was presenting, and appreciatively received the applause of his buddies in the crowd and others he had managed to sweet-talk.

When a compañera insurgenta heard that thing about not needing to make babies, that it’s better to adopt because there are a lot 15941338_1341911112495607_3922665712756661550_nof people on the planet already, she said to me: “so that’s how they get rid of people, the Hydra isn’t even necessary, that idea is sufficient. That’s the idea of rich people; even if there are only one or two of them, they are the ones who are in the way and of no use. That idea that was presented tells us there is no need to struggle to make another world, we just need to take contraceptives.”


I’m going to tell you what someone once told me about the time when the world was like an apple, waiting for the bite of original sin.

This man was explaining to me how he made a living. He used the “Boa Constrictor” method, as he called it. He had a helper, and together they would put vaseline into small jars and make labels that read “Balm for Absolutely Everything.” The small print told you that this balm could cure everything from Alzheimers to a broken heart, including along the way polio, typhoid fever, hair loss, evil eye, toothache, foot odour, bad breath, and some other ailments that I don’t remember.

This is what this person would do: stand on a corner and begin to rail against zoos and circuses, that oh the poor little animals, locked up like that. And he would announce: “That is why we are going to show you a boa constrictor, 7 meters long, that we found in the sewer and rescued and now take care of, and right here and now we are going to show it to you, madam, sir, young man, young lady, child, the public in general.”

People would gather around curiously, mostly because the boa constrictor was nowhere in sight, just an old suitcase full of small jars of a balm called “Absolutely Everything.

When he decided there were enough people around, he would turn to his helper and say loudly, “Secretary! Brrrrrinnnnnngg me the boa!” The accomplice would nod and run off to who knows where.

The man would watch his helper move into the distance. Picking at random, he would comment to someone close: “It seems like a lie, but just a few weeks ago that boy couldn’t move, not even with a cane, only in a wheelchair. And just look at him now. It seems like a miracle, but no, that’s not it. What happened was, luckily, I found the scientific formula for a medicine that cured him. Here, I’ll show you.”

Of course, the “innocent” comment that was supposedly aimed at one person was said in such a way for several to hear. The man would then go to the suitcase and take out a jar and tell the first person to whom he had directed the comment: “Look, this is what I was telling you about.” The person would take the jar and read the label while the man would pretend indifference, rearranging the little jars and looking in the direction the assistant had gone and commenting as if to himself, “why is that boy taking so long? I hope the boa constrictor hasn’t escaped on him, because if it has, we’ll see it in the news tomorrow, poor animal, they might cage it or turn it into bags and shoes.”

In the meantime, the innocent person who received the jar would be showing it to the person beside them, commenting on what had happened to the boy who went to get the boa. In a few minutes the jar had been passed through some 10 people, and the man would say then: “Okay now, give the medicine back to the madam, the gentlemen, the young man, young woman,” accordingly, and then to that person would add, “you keep it, as a gift, try it, you’ll see.

Others would then come up asking for their free sample too and the man, apologetically, would explain: “No, I’m sorry, I can’t give them to everyone, it’s a special order from the Secretary of Health. But, not that I think about it, it’s better for you all to have a chance to try it instead of those government scoundrels. Just give me 10 pesos each so I can replace the government order.”

It was enough that 5 or so people would come up for others to join in, and soon he would have around him a decent number of people. The people would comment among themselves what the balm was all about and the man, pretending indifference, would merely charge for each jar while lamenting the delay of his “secretary” and and the cursed boa.

In a matter of minutes, the helper would come back all agitated and worried and whisper something to the man. The man would answer “My god, really? Are you sure?” Then he would quickly pick up the now empty or almost empty suitcase and, addressing the people gathered there, proclaim: “Run! The boa escaped and the police and patrols are on their way.” He and the helper would take off with alarm and as the word of warning spread the people would scatter also.

I asked him how much the cursed medicine cost. He told me he pulled the little jars out of the trash and the vaseline, well that came out to about a peso per jar. So this method earned him some 100 pesos a day, at a time when the minimum wage was 8 pesos a day.

Anyway, I just wanted to say to those who tried to apply that method in this gathering that even if you have an academic degree, we’re not buying your little jars. You’ll have to look for another corner from which to hock your quack commodities.



Perhaps somebody out there still has the image in mind of the ignorant and naive indigenous, and thought they could tell us they were going to talk about one thing knowing full well that they were going to talk about something else that had nothing to do with science. Hell, it doesn’t even manage to be pseudoscience. I’ve read better developed, more original, and equally false things on social media.

Let me tell you: if you complain that the science departments in academia don’t take seriously what is pure existential nonsense, well, here we don’t either.

If in academia they don’t take your political activism in account, well we don’t either. But I can tell you where they do: on the institutional left. There, yes, you can go and say: I’m a doctorate in who knows what and I’ve participated in this many marches, rallies, and classes, and indeed they will give you some leadership position in something, anything, as advisors or coordinators.

Here, if you came because you know mathematics, then we want to hear you talk about mathematics, even if you don’t know what surplus value or class struggle is, even if you don’t know if “The International” is a song of struggle, an opera, or the name of a corner store. As Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés already told you, science is science, whether you are a partidista [associated with a political party] or a Zapatista.

It’s also not worth your time to come here and fawn over or court us, although I think that does work in academic institutions.

Neither are we interested in being manipulated around skin colour, sexual preference, or religious belief. You either know what you’re talking about or you don’t; it doesn’t matter if you are dark-skinned, white, red, yellow, black, or mixed; it doesn’t matter if you are a man, woman, homosexual, gay, trans, or whatever; it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Mohammedan, or whatever; if you’re going to do science, then you do science, not religion, philosophy, or the quackery currently trending on social media.

So here we don’t discriminate. Here differences aren’t a demerit, but they aren’t a merit either. With respect to the personal sufferings or dramas you may have, fine, we understand. But you should understand that we are a very poor audience from which to expect pity. With everything you have suffered and continue to suffer, it could not compare with what it has been, and is, to be what we are.

But I understand what’s going on with you, everyone gets off with what they can. However, it doesn’t seem honest to us to come here and lie, saying you came to talk about science and not your existential lashings.

But the compañeros and compañeras are noble and understanding. We invited you to talk to us and we have honoured that; we have listened with respect, which isn’t the same as saying that we have swallowed all your tall tales. We honoured the agreement. Those people did not.

Imagine that this is an assembly in one of the Zapatista communities, and you go up to present one of your projects. You have said you are going talk about biology, medicine, laboratory work, clinical analysis, agroecology, engineering, or pharmaceuticals, and the assembly says, yes, go ahead, these things are urgent. Or you are coming to talk about physics, chemistry, math, volcanology, astronomy, and other sciences, and the assembly says yes, go ahead, these things are important.

But if someone comes who says they are going to tell us that science needs to do postmodern philosophy and take the existential variables of each person into account, well, the assembly is going to listen to you, but they aren’t going to tell you to go ahead. They are going to propose that you infiltrate Skynet and convince Artificial Intelligence to accept your scientific proposal. I’m sure that it would collapse in no time, which would relieve the duality suffered by John Connor, and humanity as a whole would be liberated from the Terminator sequels.

Of course, I recommend that you truly study and realize that you are closer to Aristotle and Ptolemy than to Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler.



The Apocalypse According to Defensa Zapatista

The mountains of the Mexican Southeast. Territory in resistance and rebellion. There is an autonomous school. A classroom. There, the education promotora is talking to the Zapatista girls and boys:

Before we leave I’m going to tell you a story. You have to think about it and respond to the question I ask at the end.”

On one of the benches at the back, a little girl stops drawing complicated diagrams in her notebook which, although they appear to be flowcharts, are really diagrams of soccer tactics. At the margin of the lines and arrows one can read “when we fill up the team.” At the little girl’s feet there is a ball, frayed and full of lumps, and on her laps sleeps a kind of cat…or a dog… or something.

It’s not just the little girl, but the whole class that’s hanging on the words of the promotora, who says:

There is a voice that tells us what it sees. It says to realize that the world is going to end once and for all, and that we can see that there are only two men left. The two are standing face to face; they aren’t talking to each other, but you can tell they are very angry. They are the only men left, everyone else has died already. They are the last men on Earth. These two men don’t talk to each other or look at each other, but they are arguing angrily. And they aren’t talking to or looking at each other because they are sending each other messages on their phones. That is, as they say, they are fighting as if their cellphones were weapons, the only ones left because the world is ending. They are scolding each other harshly, as only the two of them can see. One is saying to the other, that is, he is sending him a text message:

It is all your fault because with science you created destruction.” (send)

The other looks at the message on his phone, gets angry and answers:

No, it is your fault because instead of science, you starting saying we should do what the ancient primitives did and not use technologies.” (send)

The first really gets mad now and you can see in his eyes that it’s like he wants to burn up the screen of his phone. He writes:

No, it’s your fault because with your science and technology you created the weapons that killed off everything, including the poor little animals.” (send)

The other looks at the message and you can see in his eyes he’s thinking “you’ll see, you bastard,” and he responds:

No, it’s your fault because you said that we shouldn’t learn science because science is bad because it doesn’t respect Mother Earth and does her harm.” (send)

The other looks with hate at the screen and types out:

No, it’s your fault because you think you know so much with your science and you don’t take the people’s needs into account and you go around with a big head thinking nobody can match you and all that shit you talk.” (send)

The first reads and gets so furious you wouldn’t believe it. He looks at the other and in his eye you can see “you’re going to die, bastard.” So he writes:

No, it’s your fault because you criticized science out of pure laziness, you don’t want to study or learn because it’s clear that you’re just slothful and trifling.” (send)

The two men go on like this for awhile, fighting angrily over their cellphones. They don’t know it, but this is the last day; as soon as night falls, everything is over. But because they were fighting and looking at their cell phones, they didn’t realize when the sun hid itself in the mountains and the land fell dark.”

The education promotora who has used everything she learned in her education preparation courses in order to tell the story, concludes:

Okay, so this is the story the voice has narrated. So, the question you must answer is: “Which of the men survived the end of the world?

The children stay quiet, thinking.

In the first row of the classroom sits Pedrito. He says it’s so that he can pay close attention, but we all know it’s because he’s totally in love with the promotora, but we’re not going to publish that because it’s his secret.

Pedrito raises his hand, asking to be called on.

The promotora is about to say, “Let’s see, Pedrito, what do you think,” when from the back of the classroom a little girl’s voice says:

Well that’s easy.”

Everyone, including the promotora, turns to look at the little girl who has stood up and already has her bag over her shoulder with her notebook and pen inside. In her little hands she holds the frayed ball, while the Cat-dog stretches at her feet. The teacher says resignedly:

Okay Defensa Zapatista, tell us what you think.”

The little girl is already moving toward the door of the classroom as she announces:

The answer is easy, because it’s clear that it’s the fucking men’s fault that the world is ending because they’re so terrible with that patriarchality of theirs which is just impossible to believe in anymore. And they didn’t study the fucking Hydra which has been consuming and screwing over the whole planet earth. So there they are, all macho, fighting with their cell phones and their songs about horses and love and then about lost love, I mean why can’t they just decide already.

Anyway, teacher, so that you understand as the women that we are, I’m going to explain the word “patriarchality” which is like where the men rule and they want us women to just be waiting on them hand and foot, and then later they tell us how much they love us and how we have very pretty eyes, as if they were looking at our eyes, no, they’re looking at something else. I don’t know what it is that they’re really looking at because I’m not grown up yet, but that’s what my moms told me the fucking men do. When I grow up, they better not even think about it, I’m going to give them their slaps upside the head and a few kicks if they look at me wrong. So, the “patriarchality means that the fucking men just want us to make them their pozol and then are always pestering us for a kiss. Do you think we’re just going to give them a kiss, just like that? Oh no, I don’t think so, maybe instead of a kiss a knock on the head. And then they think they’re going to convince us with their songs about horses. They’re just so dumb, let’s see if they can find a horse to make them their pozol, what are they going to come up with then, never ever…”

The teacher knows the little girl very well already, so she interrupts:

Okay, Defensa Zapatista, answer the question.”

The little girl is already at the door. As the Cat-dog wags its tail happily at her feet, she responds:

Look, it’s easy. Neither of the two men live; they both die because they were stupid. Clearly it’s the fault of the patriarchality that the world is going to end, but it doesn’t, because it turns out there is someone who lives which is the compañera who is telling the story. Because if it’s not a compañera who tells the story then there’s no story. And the compañera who tells the story carries her little baby on her back in her shawl and is giving what you might call political lessons to the baby, so that the baby learns that we have to support each other as the women that we are.”

The little girl didn’t wait to see what the education promotora would say, and accepting as a given that her answer was correct, ran out of the classroom yelling “Let’s play!” as the Cat-dog and the rest of the class followed her out the door.

The education promotora smiles as she puts away her notebooks and books, one of which reads across the cover, “Twentieth Anniversary Anthology. National Indigenous Congress. Never Again a Mexico Without Us.” Ready to leave, the teacher notices that not all the children have left.

On the front bench sits Pedrito, looking all sad and defeated. The promotora goes over and sits down beside him asking,

What’s wrong Pedrito, why are you sad?”

Pedrito sighs and answers, “Because I didn’t get to answer the question because Defensa Zapatista spoke first.”

Ah,” the teachers says, “don’t worry Pedrito, what was your answer?”

Pedrito explains with a tone of the obvious:

Well I was going to answer that the story doesn’t hold up, because if there are only two men left, arguing over their cell phones, then who is working so that there’s a cell signal? This means that there are others who continue working, that is, that there can’t just be two left. So you see what I’m saying teacher, your story lacks logic, coherence in the argument. So the answer is that the very premise is faulty and for that reason, the conclusion, whatever that may be, is false. This would have been understood if critical thinking was applied to the analysis.” (trust me, that’s how Pedrito talks, if you get to meet him some day you’ll see I’m not making things up).

Pedrito, after finishing talking, returns to his posture of sorrow and sadness.

The education promotora is thinking about what the words “coherence” and “premise” mean, and that this is always the case with Pedrito, that he uses words that challenge even the Comandancia. The promotora isn’t embarrassed to ask Pedrito what those words mean, but she sees that Pedrito is sad so she hugs him and says:

Don’t worry Pedrito, your answer is good, too.”

Pedrito, upon being hugged, turns all shades of red and puts on his “no one has ever hugged me before” face, just like the deceased SupMarcos taught him. Letting himself be loved on, Pedrito thinks that it turned out well after all that Defensa Zapatista answered first, because this was why the promotora was hugging him and from within the embrace, Pedrito understands that no, the world is not going to end, that as long as the embrace lasts the world will keep giving opportunity to life, because that is what life is, an embrace.

Pedrito is reflecting on this when the little girl appears in the doorway and says to him, “Hurry up Pedrito, we have to fill up the team so we can bring a challenge.”

Pedrito separates himself from the embrace of the promotora as if tearing his heart out, but he goes over to the little girl because he is, in addition to a little boy, a Zapatista, and a Zapatista can’t allow the team to be let down on their account. Before leaving the room Pedrito says to the little girl: “But I’m telling you straight-up right now that I’m not playing goalie anymore, put the one-eyed horse on goalie, I want to play forward.”

Defensa Zapatista is not going to let a boy have the last word in this story, so she says:

Forward? Puh-leeze. SupGaleano showed me some videos and now I have a new plan. Now we are going to play according to the science of ‘total soccer’ like those Dutch orange ones. Don’t you know you have to study for that? You do. Both things, science and art. Later I’ll explain it to you. Just as soon as we fill up the team you’ll see, don’t worry, there will be more of us, it might take awhile, but there will be more.”

The little boy and the little girl leave. It is only then that we can see that the little girl has on an orange t-shirt that hangs nearly to her heels and taped on the back are crooked letters that spell “Cruyff”i and below them: “Resistance and Rebellion.”

Off to the side of the pasture waits a motley crew including: a old horse leisurely chewing on a empty tobacco bag; a short man with gray hair shivering despite his coat; and a tall, thin man who stands out for his height and the strange hat he is wearing. He is using his magnifying glass to study with great interest a small strange animal that, at a distance seems to be a dog… or a cat.. or a cat-dog.

Nearby, where the community has been working to deepen the scratches in the wall, anonymous hands have written, below and to the left, a graffiti that is bursting in colour. It reads:

We are the National Indigenous Congress and we are going for everything, and it will be for everyone.”

In a bunker far away, alarms are going off and the earth is trembling. Above, brother John Berger, smiling, has drawn a question in the clouds, for whoever looks high: “Y tú qué?”



The Urgent and the Important

The story I’m going to tell you is a little bit sad.

It’s sad because it includes the tears of a little Zapatista girl. But despite this, or precisely because of it, I’m going to tell the story because after hearing you speak, present, reflect, and try to respond and teach, I’ve been thinking about what’s next. I don’t know if you all have thought about it. If not, I recommend that you do—think about what’s next.

I’ve imagined that we’re in another time, further ahead. Here goes:

This time, without being announced by a soccer ball rolling in, “Defensa Zapatista” has arrived at my hut. It’s clear that she’s been crying, and a few tears still glow on her cheeks. “Defensa Zapatista” maintains that little girls don’t cry, that that’s for men, and that women are stronger. So I understood why the little girl had come to my hut, where there are only ghosts and silences. Here she is safe, here she can cry without anyone, except me, seeing her. Here she can put her strength away in a box and let feelings fill her gaze and sorrow become liquid.

I didn’t say anything. I acted like I didn’t see her and that I was busy sweeping tobacco and crumpled up papers off the floor around the table.
Finally, she wiped her tears with a red handkerchief, sighed, and cleared her throat in order to ask me:

Hey Sup, do you know what it’s like to have a bad dream?”
“I sure do,” I responded, “bad dreams are called nightmares [pesadillas].”

She looked intrigued and asked, “And what’s the purpose of those quesadillas, why do they exist and who made them? Because they’re beastly.”

They’re called “pesadillas,” not “quesadillas.” Quesadillas are good because they have cheese. Pesadillas aren’t good. But why do you ask?”

I had a really bad dream and I woke up with something like a stomach ache, like something wasn’t okay, something was hurting,” she said.

Tell me about it,” I encouraged her and lit my pipe.

“Well, I dreamed we were in the community assembly and as it turns out the situation is really rough because of the bad system. And a lot of people are coming here and asking to stay in the community because other places have become unliveable, and so the people come here because we Zapatistas did in fact prepare.

But the people are coming from other countries, as far away as goodness knows where.

So there isn’t enough food and the community has to make the land produce more, because as Zapatistas we have to support other peoples of the world because we’re, as they say, compañerismos. So in the assembly they’re looking at how to organize to be able to give food to those brothers and sisters.

So then someone in the assembly says that we have to find more terrain where we can plant.

And then someone else says what about in the pasture where we play soccer, the Petumax flowers are already blooming, like white, but not, sort of gray but not, I think cream-colored or whatever you call that colournn.

And they say the saw the Chene’k Caribe flower too, which is true because I play with those flowers and pretend they’re little baby chicks.

And that they also saw the “Sun” flower which seems like a sunflower, but isn’t.

So then that compañero said that means that the soil is good in the pasture, that we can plant corn and beans there. And then I got, as they say, worried because there in the pasture is where the one-eyed horse lives and where we play soccer. Well, we don’t exactly play because we haven’t completed the team yet, but we practice and we train really hard.

So then the authority asks the assembly if there’s agreement that we’ll plant in the pasture and make a milpa [corn field] there, and if there’s anyone who disagrees they should say their piece so we can figure out what to do.

So then the whole assembly is silent and nobody asks to speak. And I want to talk to say that we shouldn’t plant in the pasture because then we won’t be able to play, or train that is. But I don’t know how I’m going to say it, because I can see that we do need food to support those other sisters and brothers.

And I’m really upset because nobody says anything and I don’t have the thinking to convince the assembly, and I can see in the authority’s eye that they’re about to say that if nobody has any other comments, that they’ll approve the proposal to plant in the pasture.

And there I am, looking for a good thought and I can’t find one, and I get mad that I can’t find the right words and with the anger the tears come out, and it’s not that I’m crying, it’s just the anger of not knowing what to say.

And right there I woke up and I came running. And on the way I got even madder because of that stinking bad dream, and who sent it or why they’re doing that.”

As she’s been talking, “Defensa Zapatista’s” face is reproducing her pain and desperation.

I remained quiet, but the little girl kept looking at me as if waiting for what I was going to say.


Even though I realized that “Defensa Zapatista” hadn’t come to sit on the [psychiatrist’s] divan, nor just to vent, I was looking for the right words. I understood that the girl hadn’t come just to hide, she was also looking for answers, and me, well I’m the Subcomandante of stainless steel, the one who, according to “Defensa Zapatista’s” criteria, has the grave defect of being a man. But nobody’s perfect, and besides, I let the Cat-Dog climb up on the keyboard and ruin the texts, and sometimes I have cookies to share (which, for Defensa Zapatista means that she and her little animal gobble up all the ones I like and the ones I don’t, too, and they just leave me the empty package), and I tell stories where she and her gang get into mischief and come out triumphant.

So I’m presenting with you all with the, as they say, context, so you understand that the girl had not really come to tell me a bad dream, but rather to present me with a problem.

When I had been looking through the trunk of memories that the deceased SupMarcos left in my custody, I remembered having seen something that could be useful. I gestured to “Zapatista Defense” that she should wait and I started looking. Under some drawings that John Berger made when he was in Cideci, I found what I was looking for. The papers were shabby, stained with tobacco and humidity, but the clumsy handwriting of the deceased was still legible.

I picked my pipe back up and lit it. I read almost in silence, only making a few gestures and emitting incomprehensible grunts. The girl watched me in suspense, waiting. The Cat-Dog had left the computer mouse in peace and, its ears perked, remained expectant.

After acting all important for a few minutes, I told her:

There it is, there’s no problem. I’ve found the solution to your nightmare. It turns out that in this writing by the deceased SupMarcos (may baby Jesus keep him in holy glory and may the dear Virgen fill him with blessings) explains that nightmares are problems and that they can be alleviated if you resolve the problem of the nightmare.

Then he says that dreams are the solution to nightmares.

That what you have to do is find the solution and then the good dream comes out.

That way you save a ton of money on psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and antacids. Okay, that’s not related.

And in this other writing, he says that the problem isn’t just knowing what’s urgent and what’s important.

What’s urgent is what you have to do right now, and what’s important is, for example, what you know you must do.

For example, in the case of the bad dream you’re telling me about, what’s urgent is that the compas have to increase food production; and what’s important is not to lose the space where you play.

In which case it’s a big problem, because if you protect the place to play, well, then they won’t plant there and there will be hunger; and if they plant there, well then there won’t be any more place to play.”

Defensa Zapatista” nodded, convinced of what I was saying to her. I continued:

So the deceased says here that that’s called ‘exclusive options,’ which is to say that you do one thing or the other, but you can’t do both. SupMarcos says that this is almost always false, which is to say that it’s not necessarily one or the other, but rather that something different can be imagined. And he gives the example of the originary peoples, which is to say the indigenous.

He says: ‘For example, the originary peoples, going back centuries, have always done two things at the same time: what’s urgent and what’s necessary. What’s urgent is to survive, which is to say to not die, and what’s important is to live. And they resolve this with resistance and rebellion, which is to say that they resist dying and at the same time they create, with their rebellion, another way of living.’ So he says that whenever possible, it’s necessary to think about creating something else.”

I put down the papers and I turned to “Zapatista Defense”:

So I believe what you can do with the problem of your bad dream is explain to the assembly what’s urgent and what’s important.

Which is to say that both parts have good thought behind them, but if you pick one, well, you’ve screwed the other.

So explain to the assembly that it doesn’t necessarily have to be one thing or the other, but rather that it’s necessary to think of something else, something different but so that both objectives are met.

And then it’s not that the assembly’s problem is getting resolved nor that your problem is getting resolved, but rather that it’s a different problem altogether.

And it’s the new problem that you both have to think about, that is, you and the assembly.”

The whole time the girl had been sitting quietly with her chin in her little hand, paying attention.

Contrary to his usual habits, the Cat-Dog had also been still.

Zapatista Defence” stayed silent, looking fixedly at the floor.

I don’t know much about what happens in the head of a little girl. Of a boy, sure, perhaps because I haven’t matured despite the many kilometres I’ve covered. But girls, whatever their age, continue to be a mystery that perhaps science will one day be able to solve.

Suddenly, “Zapatista Defence” turned to look at the Cat-Dog, and he in turn looked at her.

The mutual glance lasted only a few seconds, and the Cat-Dog began to jump, bark and meow. The girl’s little face lit up and she practically shouted: “Yes, the Cat-Dog!” and she began to jump and dance together with the animal.

I didn’t just put on my confused face, in fact I didn’t understand what all this was about. But, resigned, I waited for ““Zapatista Defence” and the Cat-Dog to calm down, which didn’t happen for several more minutes that seemed eternal to me. Finally the commotion died down and, still excited, the girl explained:

It’s the Cat-Dog, Sup! I have to bring the Cat-Dog to my bad dream and I have to bring him to the assembly and he’s going to help me and so then it’ll be a good dream.

The solution to the problem was right here but I hadn’t studied it.

It’s the Cat-Dog, it’s always been the Cat-Dog.”

I think that my “What?!” face must have been very obvious, because “Defensa Zapatista” felt obliged to clarify:

Look I’ll explain it to you Sup: the Cat-Dog, is he a cat? No. Is he a dog? Not that either. So then he’s neither one thing nor the other, but rather something else, he’s a Cat-Dog. If I show the Cat-Dog to the assembly, obviously they’re going to see that we have to do something else, so both sides can happily be in mutual agreement.”

I couldn’t understand how the assembly was going to make the, as they say, “epistemological leap” from that thing, that is to say the Cat-Dog, to the disjuncture between the pasture for playing soccer or the pasture for planting. But it seems that “Defensa Zapatista” wasn’t worried about that.

The next day, on the way to town, I passed by the pasture. Night was already beginning to fall and the sound of those who were scratching at the wall continued. There was still enough light, because “Zapatista Defence” was on the field, together with a group in which I recognized the old one-eyed horse that accompanies her sometimes, the Cat-Dog, and Pedrito. There were also two men, one short and one tall, whom I didn’t recognize and I assumed that they were from the Sixth and that the girl was trying to incorporate them into her perpetually incomplete team.

The girl saw me from afar and greeted me with an energetic wave of her hand. I returned the greeting, realizing that “Zapatista Defence” had resolved the problem because she laughed and ran from one side to the other, showing the group where they should position themselves in some sort of formation that looked to me to have the shape of a snail.

I continued on my path, remembering the ending to that day of tears, when “Defensa Zapatista,” then smiling and with her face lit-up, said goodbye: “I’m leaving now Sup, I’ve got to go.”

And what are you going to do?” I asked her.

She was already gaining distance when she shouted: “I’m going to dream.”

While I waited for the compañeros and compañeras to whom I had to give a talk, the night arrived with its own steps and sounds.

I thought then that perhaps the deceased SupMarcos would have liked to have been present for “Defensa Zapatista’s” dream to know how she made her argument and what the decision of the assembly was. Or perhaps he was in fact there. Because, at least in these lands, the dead walk around. They laugh and cry with us, they struggle with us, they live with us.

Thank you very much.

From the CIDCI-Unitierra, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.


Mexico, January 2017.

iHendrik Johannes “Johan” Cruyff, a Dutch professional soccer player and coach famous for promoting the philosophy known as “Total Football.”



February 17, 2017

EZLN: The Walls Above, The Cracks Below (And To The Left)

Filed under: CNI, gal, Indigenous, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:50 am



EZLN: The Walls Above, The Cracks Below (And To The Left)



maxresdefault-csub-702x468February 2017

The Storm On Our Path

For us, as Zapatista originary peoples, the storm—the war—has been going on for centuries. It arrived to our lands with the lies of the dominant civilization and religion. At that time, the sword and the cross bled our people dry.

Over time, the sword was modernized and the cross was dethroned by the religion of capital, but it continued to demand our blood as an offering to the new god: money.

We resisted, we always resist. Our rebellions were displaced by the dispute between various forces for Power. Those forces, always from above, demanded that we struggle and die to serve them. They demanded obedience and submission under the guise of liberating us. Like those who said and say they fight, they came and come to rule. There were supposed independences and false revolutions, those past and those to come.

Since then, those above have taken turns and continue to take turns in order to govern, badly, or aspire to do so. In past and present calendars, their proposal continues to be the same: that we offer our blood, while they lead or pretend to lead.

Before and now, they forget those of us who do not forget.

And always, yesterday and today, the woman is below, even in the collective that we were and are.

But as the calendars went by, they not only brought pain and death to our people. Upon expanding its dominion, Power created new brotherly and sisterly bonds in tragedy.

We saw then the worker and the peasant become one with our pain, lying under the four wheels of the mortal carriage of Capital.

As Power advanced in its path through time, those below grew increasingly more, broadening the base over which Power is and has Power. We saw that we were joined then by teachers, students, artisans, small business people, professionals, and the etceteras with different names but identical sorrows.

But that wasn’t enough. Power is an exclusive space, discriminatory and selective. Thus different kinds of difference were also openly persecuted. By colour, race, creed, and sexual preference, they were expelled from the promised land and given hell as a permanent residence.

Next came young people, children, and elders. Power thus converted the calendars one holds into cause for persecution. Everyone below is guilty: for being a woman, for being a child, for being a young person, for being an adult, for being an elder, for being human.

But, upon expanding exploitation, displacement, repression, and discrimination, Power also expanded resistance… and rebellion.

We saw then and now the raised heads of many [muchas, muchos, muchoas]. All different, but similar in their rage and refusal.

Power knows that it is what it is only when wielded over those who work. It needs them.

It responded and responds to every rebellion by buying or fooling a few and imprisoning or murdering many. It is not afraid of their demands; it is their example that terrifies it.

Still it was not enough. Having dominated nations, the Power of Capital sought to put all of humanity under its heavy yoke.

Even that wasn’t enough. Capital now attempts to manage nature, to dominate, domesticate, and exploit her. That is, to destroy her.

The destructive advance of Capital, always through war, demolished the first fiefdoms and kingdoms. Upon their ruins it raised nations.

Later it devastated nations and upon their ruins erected a new global order: the market.

The entire world became a big warehouse for commodities. Everything can be bought and sold: water, wind, land, plants and animals, governments, knowledge, fun, desire, love, hate, people.

But it is not only commodities that are exchanged in the great market of Capital. “Economic freedom” is a mere illusion that simulates mutual agreement between those who buy and sell. In reality, the market is based on dispossession and exploitation. The exchange then is one of impunity. Justice is transformed into a grotesque caricature and upon its scale, money always weighs more than truth. The stability of this tragedy called Capitalism depends on repression and disrespect.

But that wasn’t enough either. It is not possible to dominate the world if one does not dominate ideas. Religious imposition was intensified and reached the arts and sciences. Philosophies and beliefs emerged and emerge like passing fashions. The sciences and the arts ceased to be something distinctively human and instead were placed on a shelf in the global supermarket.

Knowledge became private property, as did recreation and pleasure.

Capital thus consolidated itself as a giant shredder, using not only humanity in its entirety as raw material for commodity production, but also knowledge, art, and…nature.

The destruction of the planet, the millions of displaced, the rise in crime, unemployment, poverty, the weakness of governments and the wars to come are not products of the excesses of Capital, or of a mistaken detour of a system that promised order, progress, peace, and prosperity.

No, all of these tragedies are the essence of the system.

It feeds on them; it grows at their cost.

Destruction and death are the fuel for the great machine of Capital.

Attempts to “rationalize” or “humanize” its functioning were, are, and will be futile. Irrationality and inhumanity are its key parts. There is no possible repair. There wasn’t before, and there is no way now to mitigate its criminal path.

The only way to stop this machine is to destroy it.

In the current world war, the dispute is between the system and humanity. That is why the anticapitalist struggle is a struggle for humanity.

Those who still try to “repair” or “save” the system are really proposing to us a mass global suicide, like a posthumous sacrifice to Power.

In the system there is no solution.

Neither horror, condemnation, nor resignation are sufficient, nor is the hope that the worst has passed and things can only get better.

No. What is certain is that things will get worse.

For these reasons, in addition to what each of us can add from our particular calendars and geographies, we must resist, rebel, say “no,” struggle, organize.

That is why we must raise the wind from below with resistance and rebellion, with organization.

Only then will we be able to survive. Only then will it be possible to live.

And only then, as we said 25 years ago, will we be able to see that….

When the storm calms, when the rain and fire leave the earth in peace once again, the world will no longer be the world, but something better.”



The War and the Walls Outside and Inside

Provoked by the greed of big money, the intention above is to make those suffering the current nightmare pay for it. Borders are no longer just lines drawn on maps and customs checkpoints, but walls of armies and police, of cement and brick, of laws and persecution. In the world above, the hunting of human beings increases and is celebrated with clandestine competitions: whoever expels, incarcerates, confines, and murders the most wins.

As we have been saying for more than 20 years, neoliberal globalization did not bring about a global village, but rather the fragmentation and dissolution of the so-called “Nation-States.” Then and now we called this process by the name that best describes it: “world war” (the fourth, according to us).

The only thing that was globalized was the market, and with it, war.

For those who operate the machines and bring the land to life, borders continue to exist and continue to be what they always have been: prisons.

Two decades ago, our assertion of this reality provoked mocking smiles from the international intelligentsia, tied to its old and expired dogmas.

Those same people today stutter in the face of a frantic reality, or they recommend old recipes, or they move on to a currently trendy idea that, through complex theoretical elaboration, hides the only truth at hand: they haven’t the slightest idea what is happening, nor what is coming, nor what brought on the current nightmare.

They lament this. The thinking from above had promised them a world without borders, and the result was instead a planet crammed with chauvinist trenches.

The world was not transformed into a gigantic metropolis without borders, but rather a great sea writhing in an unprecedented storm. In that sea, millions of displaced (who are grouped together by the media paintbrush as “migrants”) flail in small boats, waiting to be rescued by the gigantic ship of big Capital.

Not only will it not rescue them, but big Capital is the principal cause of the storm that threatens the existence of humanity in its entirety.

Under the awkward disguise of fascist nationalism, the most retrograde dark times return, claiming privileges and attentions. Tired of governing from the shadows, big Capital dismantles the lies of “citizenship” and “equality” before the law and the market.

The flag of “freedom, equality, and fraternity” with which capitalism adorned its conversion into the dominant world system is merely a dirty rag, tossed in the garbage bin of history from above.

Finally the system unmasks itself and shows its true face and vocation. “War Always, War Everywhere,” reads the name on the proud ship that navigates through a sea of blood and shit. It is money and not artificial intelligence that fights humanity in the decisive battle: that of survival.

No one is safe. Not the naive national capitalist who dreamed of the bonanza that was offered by open global markets, nor the conservative middle class surviving between the dream of being powerful and the reality of being the flock for the shepherd in turn.

Then there are the working classes of the city and countryside who increasingly find themselves in even more difficult conditions, if that were possible.

And, to round out the apocalyptic image, the millions of displaced and migrants piling up at the borders that have suddenly become as real as the walls that governments and criminals raise with every step.

In the global geography of the mass media and the social networks, the displaced, nomadic ghosts without name or face, are merely a statistic that identifies their location.

The calendar? Just one day after the promise of the end of history, of the solemn declaration of the supremacy of a system that was to have guaranteed wellbeing to those who worked for it, of victory over the “communist enemy” who sought to restrict freedom, impose dictatorships and create poverty, of the promised eternity that would annul all genealogies. The same calendar that announced just yesterday that world history was only getting started. And it turns out that no, it was all nothing more than a prelude to the most frightening nightmare.

Capitalism as a world system is collapsing, and the great captains, now desperate, can no longer figure out where to go. That’s why they are withdrawing into the lairs from which they came.

They offer the impossible: local salvation against global catastrophe. And this rubbish sells well among a middle class that is blurring into those from below in terms of its income, but which aspires to make up for its unmet economic needs with authentications of race, creed, color and sex. Salvation from above is Anglo-Saxon, white, religious, and masculine.

Now, those who lived on the crumbs that fell from the tables of big capital watch desperately as walls are erected against them, too. And the worst part is that they intend to head the opposition to this warlike policy. Here we see the intellectual right making contrary gestures and attempting timid and ridiculous protests. Because, no: globalization was not the triumph of freedom. It was and is the current age of tyranny and slavery.

Nations are not Nations anymore, although their respective governments might not have noticed it yet. Their flags and emblems are threadbare and discolored. Destroyed by globalization from above, sick with the parasite of Capital and with corruption as their only sign of identity, the national governments try with inept haste to protect themselves and attempt the impossible reconstruction of what they once were.

In the airtight compartments created by their walls and customs checkpoints, the system drugs the middle sectors of society with the opium of a reactionary, nostalgic nationalism, with xenophobia, racism, sexism, and homophobia as a plan for salvation.

Borders multiply within every territory. Not just the ones that are drawn on maps; also, and above all, the ones that are erected by corruption and crime turned into government.

The postmodern bonanza was nothing but a balloon inflated by finance capital. And then reality came to pop it: millions of people displaced by the great war fill the land and waterways, they pile up in customs and begin making cracks in the walls already raised and the ones still to be built. Encouraged before by big Capital, fundamentalisms find fertile ground for their proposals for unification: “from terror will be born a single way of thinking: ours.” After being nourished with dollars, the beast that is terrorism threatens the house of its creator.

It’s the same thing in the United States as in Western Europe or neo-czarist Russian; the beast writhes and tries to protect itself. It extols then (and not only then) the crudest stupidity and ignorance, and, in its government figureheads, synthesizes its proposal: “Let’s go back to the past.”

But no, America will not be great againNever again. Nor will the whole system in its entirety. It doesn’t matter what those above do. The system has already arrived at the point of no return.



Against Capital and its Walls: All the Cracks.

The international offensive of Capital against racial and national differences, in promoting the construction of cultural and legal walls as well as those of cement and steel, seeks to shrink the planet even further. In this way they are trying to create a world where the only ones who fit are those above who are equal amongst themselves.

It may sound ridiculous, but this is how it is: to face the storm, the system is not looking for roofs to protect itself, but rather walls behind which to hide.

This new period of Capital’s war against Humanity must be faced, yes, with organized resistance and rebellion, but also with solidarity and support for those whose lives, freedoms, and goods are being attacked.

For this reason:

Whereas the system is incapable of stopping the destruction.

Whereas below and to the left there must be no room for conformity and resignation.

Whereas it is time to organize to struggle and to say “NO” to the nightmare they impose on us from above.


I- A global campaign:

In the face of Capital’s walls: resistance, rebellion, solidarity, and support from below and to the left.

With the objective of calling for organization and global resistance in the face of the aggressiveness of big money and its respective overseers on the planet, which already terrorize millions of people all around the world:

We are calling for people to organize themselves in autonomy to resist and rebel against persecutions, detentions, and deportations. If someone has to go, let it be them, those above. Every human being has the right to a free and dignified existence in the place that they deem best, and has the right to fight to stay there. Resisting detentions, displacements, and expulsions is an obligation, just as it is an obligation to support those who are rebelling against those arbitrary actions REGARDLESS OF BORDERS.

It is necessary to let all those people know that they are not alone, that their pain and rage are seen even from a distance, that their resistance is not only welcomed, it is also supported, even with our limited possibilities.

It is necessary to get organized. It is necessary to resist. It is necessary to say “NO” to persecutions, expulsions, prisons, walls, borders. And it is necessary to say “NO” to the national bad governments that are and have been accomplices to that policy of terror, destruction and death. Solutions will not come from above, because that’s where the problems were born.

For this reason we are calling on the Sixth in its entirety to organize itself, according to its times, ways, and geographies, to support activities for and by those who are resisting and rebelling against expulsions. This may be by supporting their return to their homes, by creating “sanctuaries” or supporting the ones that already exist, through legal advice and support, with money, through the arts and sciences, through festivals and mobilizations, through commercial and media boycotts, in cyberspace, wherever and however possible. In all the spaces we move through it is our duty to support and be in solidarity with each other.

The time has come to create solidarity committees with the criminalized and persecuted of humanity. Today more than ever before, their house is also our house.

As the Zapatistas we are, our strength is small and, although our calendar is wide and deep, our geography is limited.

For this reason, and to support those who are resisting detentions and deportations, over the last several weeks the Sixth Commission of the EZLN has begun contacting individuals, groups, collectives and organizations around the world that are adherents to the Sixth, to figure out how to send them a small bit of assistance that may serve as a base to launch or continue all kinds of activities and actions in favour of the persecuted.

To start, we will send them works of art created by indigenous Zapatistas for last year’s CompArte, as well as organic coffee produced by the indigenous Zapatista communities in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. This is so that, through their sale, they can undertake artistic and cultural activities that will concretize support and solidarity with migrants and displaced people who, all over the world, are seeing their lives, freedoms, and goods threatened by xenophobic campaigns promoted by the world’s governments and the far-right.

That’s just for now. We will be thinking of new forms of support and solidarity. The Zapatista women, men, children and elders will not leave them on their own.

II- We also invite all of the Sixth and anyone who is interested to the seminar of critical reflection, “THE WALLS OF CAPITAL, THE CRACKS OF THE LEFT,” to be celebrated April 12-15, 2017, at the CIDECI-UniTierra facilities in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Participants include:

Don Pablo González Casanova.

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez (CNI).

Paulina Fernández C.

Alicia Castellanos.

Magdalena Gómez.

Gilberto López y Rivas.

Luis Hernández Navarro.

Carlos Aguirre Rojas.

Arturo Anguiano.

Sergio Rodríguez Lascano.

Christian Chávez (CNI).

Carlos González (CNI).

Sixth Commission of the EZLN.

We will provide more details soon.

III- We convoke all artists for the second edition of “CompArte for Humanity” with the theme: “Against Capital and its Walls: All of the Arts” to be celebrated around the world and in cyberspace. The “real” part will take place between July 23-29, 2017, in the caracol of Oventik and at the CIDECI-UniTierra. The virtual edition will be August 1-12, 2017, on the web. We will provide more details soon.

IV- We also ask that you be on the lookout for the activities to be convoked by the National Indigenous Congress as part of its process of formation of the Indigenous Council of Government.

V- We convoke the scientists of the world to the second edition of “ConCiencias for Humanity” with the theme: “The Sciences Against the Wall,” to be celebrated December 26-30, 2017, at CIDECI-UniTierra, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico and in cyberspace. We will provide more details soon.

That’s not all. It is necessary to resist, it is necessary to rebel, it is necessary to struggle, it is necessary to get organized.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés.

Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.

Mexico, February 14 (the day of our dead), 2017.




February 6, 2017

EZLN: Zapatista Alchemy

Filed under: gal, Indigenous, Marcos, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:41 pm


EZLN: Zapatista Alchemy



January 2, 2017.

We take a lot of care with the value of the word. When we talk about someone, we’re not just saying his or her name: we’re naming his or her presence with us.

That’s what we mean when we say “brother” or “sister”; but when we say “compañera” or “compañero,” we’re talking about a back and forth, about someone who is not outside but rather who sees and listens to the world, and fights for it, together with us.

I mention this because here with us is the compañero Don Pablo González Casanova, who is, as is evident, a Zapatista Autonomous Municipality in Rebellion unto himself.

Since the compañero Pablo Gonzalez Casanova is here, I’m going to try to raise the level and scientific rigour of my presentation, avoiding any sort of double-entendre (large or small, pay attention).




Alchemy. Before you use up your data on your cell phones and tablets checking what “alchemy” is on “Wikipedia,” and overwhelm me with all sorts of definitions, let me clarify that with this term we’re referring to an antecedent, a step that precedes (whether necessary or not, you can decide) the constitution of science as such. Or as the late SupMarcos used to say, “alchemy is a sick science, a science invaded by the parasites of philosophy, ‘folk wisdom,’ and the kind of evidence that saturates the complex world of contemporary communication,” as we can read in one of the documents left behind after his death.

In that text, the deceased indicated that alchemy was not necessarily a precursor to science as indicated by the saying, “all science was alchemy before it was science.” Rather, it was a non-science that aspired to be science. He also said that alchemy, unlike the pseudo-sciences, does not build on a mix of truths and knowledges, with evidence and clichés. Pseudo-science, he says, does not move closer to science but rather separates itself from it and will become its most ferocious enemy; it will succeed in getting more publicity in times of crisis. It does not constitute an alternative explanation of reality (as is the case with religion), but rather a “reasoning” that supplants, invades and conquers scientific thought, defeating it in the most important contest in a media society: that of popularity.

Pseudo-science does not aspire to the argument of faith, hope and charity. Rather, it offers an explanation with a logical structure that “tricks” reasoning. To put it plainly: pseudo-science is a fraud, typical of the charlatanism that abounds in academia.

Alchemy, on the other hand, aspires to free itself, to “cure” itself, to “purge” the parasites that are the non-scientific elements.

Although it claims dubious maternity rights over the sciences, philosophy, which calls itself “the science of the sciences,” is, according to the text of the deceased, one of those very parasites. “Perhaps the most dangerous one,” continues the late Sup, “because it presents itself to science as a way out of that affirmation-negation, ‘I don’t know’, that, sooner or later, science bumps up against. Its commitment to rationality leads science to supplant religion with philosophy when it arrives at its limit.”

For example, if it didn’t have the capacity to explain why it rains, instead of invoking the argument that god is the one who decides about rainfall, science would prefer to invoke a reasoning along the lines of, “The rain is none other than a social construction, with a theoretical-empirical appearance revolving around a random perception that occurs in the context of a continual conflict between being and non-being; it’s not that you get wet when it rains, but rather that your perception of ‘getting wet’ is a vacillating part of a universal decoloniality.”

Even though all this could be summarized as, “it’s really up to the rain whether it falls, or falls on you,” science would embrace this external explanation, because, among other things, science believes that its explicatory power is in language, and not in the power to make possible the transformation of reality. “Know in order to transform,” they told us here a few days ago. Philosophy successfully sells science its certificate of legitimacy: “you are science when you achieve a logic in language, not when you are able to understand.”

If we go even further, for “Zapatista alchemy,” science not only understands reality and thereby makes possible its transformation; scientific knowledge also “opens the path” and defines new horizons. That is to say, for Zapatista alchemy, science completes its duty by continually arriving at the recognition that “what is missing is yet to come.”

If, in the philosophical and scientific thought of the last century, the sciences progressively “dismantled” religious explanations, offering verifiable knowledge; then in the coming crisis, the pseudo-sciences do not confront reality with a magical explanation, but rather “invade” and “parasitize” the sciences, first in order to “humanize” them, and then in order to supplant them.

Philosophies are then transformed such that they no longer function as the tribunal that sanctions scientificity according to the logical structure of language, but rather the generic, naturopath and homeopathic explanation opposed to the “obvious”, scientific one. To make myself clear: for postmodern philosophy, micro-doses are the best weapon against the big pharmaceutical monopolies.

The popularity of the pseudo-sciences is rooted in the fact that a scientific background is unnecessary: it’s enough to nourish oneself in the hidden corners of language, to supplement ignorance with badly concealed pedantry and evidence and platitudes with complex linguistic inventions.

Faced with an affirmation like: “the law of universal gravitation says that the force of attraction between two bodies with mass is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance that separates them,” science will recur to observation and experimentation, while philosophy will analyze the logical reasoning in the language.

Another example: an assertion from the neurosciences, like “a lesion in area 17 of the occipital lobe can cause cortical blindness or blind spots, depending on the extent of the lesion,” can be confirmed with functional magnetic resonance imaging, an electroencephalogram or similar technologies.

Clearly, in order to be able to do this it was necessary for science to advance to be able to study the brain and explain its parts, but the development of other sciences was also necessary to obtain the functional neuroimages.

When, upon the recommendation of a compa, I read that excellent text called The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, by the neurologist Oliver Sacks, I thought that Sacks must have been itching to open that man’s head to see what was happening in his brain. Although I would have preferred to open his wife’s head to understand how she could stand to be confused for a hat and why she didn’t “fix” her husband’s dysfunction with a good smack upside the head.

Now, scientific-technological advances will make it possible to study, for example, what happens in the Cat-dog’s brain without the necessity of opening its head.



Despite this, faced with a scientific explanation for brain function, pseudo-science will offer its own explanation using a supposedly scientific language, and it will tell us that our problems are due to the fact that we haven’t developed the full capacity of our brain function. And so, theories abound that say that intelligence is measured by the percentage of the brain that is used. A more intelligent person uses a greater percentage of his or her brain. For example, Donald Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto would have in common that they use 0.00001% of their brains, while Einstein would have used, let’s say, 30%. The success of the movie “Lucy” is not limited to the box-office, nor due only to the fact that it was directed by Luc Bensson and stars my ex, Scarlett Johansson; it’s because it permits the appearance of charlatans who offer courses so you can become more intelligent using “scientific techniques” to take advantage of your maximum brain capacity.

And so the commercial success of products with pheromones to attract the opposite sex was brief. (“If you, my friend, can’t manage to catch the bus much less a man or woman-friend, it’s not because you can’t pull yourself away from the TV or computer screen, it’s because you don’t use this soap-perfume: after the first use, you’ll see how they throw themselves at you as if you were a youtuber, tweetstar or a trendy meme. And just look, for one time only we have a special offer of 333 for the price of 2, but only if you call the number on the screen in the next 15 minutes. Remember to have your credit card number on hand. You don’t have a credit card? For the love of…well that’s why you can’t even catch a cold, much less a partner; no, friend, not even pheromones will help you. Change the channel or go watch videos of funny accidents, the prophecies of Nostradamus or similar things that will provide conversation material in the chat room of your preference).

But just behind in the relay race is the stupid blunder of “brain capacity,” which is supplanting the pheromone lotions with products that develop your cognitive capacities: you too, friend, can be a successful person and learn to fly and repair interstellar spaceships on youtube.

Perhaps this proposal, which is neither modern nor post-modern, would not be so supported even by some scientists if they knew that one of its promoters was Dale Carnegie, with his self-help best-seller, which dates from 1936, titled How to Win Friends and Influence People, which sits on the bedside table of John M. Ackerman et al.

In sum, while scientists try to confirm or discard their hypotheses about how the brain works, pseudo-scientists sell you courses on brain gymnastics and things like that.

And, in general, while the sciences require rigour, study, theory and exhaustive practice, the pseudo-sciences offer knowledge at the click of that dark object of desire for the Cat-dog: the computer mouse.

Which is to say that science is not easy: it’s hard, it demands, it obligates. It’s obviously not popular even among the scientific community.


And then science doesn’t do anything for itself and it decides to break your heart without a second thought. It happened to me, for example. You all have to be strong and mature for what I’m about to tell you. Sit down, relax, be in harmony with the universe, and prepare yourselves to learn a crude and cruel truth. Are you ready? Well, it turns out that the moka or moca doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as a moka tree or a moka mineral. The moka is not a creation of the first gods to alleviate the life and death of SupMarcos. It’s not the prohibited fruit with which the serpent, dressed-up as a seller of rejuvenating cosmetics, tricked wicked Eve, who in turn coaxed noble Adam and screwed over Rome. Nor is it the holy grail, the sorcerer’s stone that moves the search for knowledge. No, it turns out that…. moka is a hybrid or a mix or something like that. I don’t remember of what with what because, when they told me about it, I got more depressed than when one of the scientists said that the most brilliant alchemist was not present, and then, I confess, I threw myself into vice and perdition. I distanced myself from worldly distractions and I understood, then, the success of the philosophies and pseudo-sciences in vogue today. What is there to live for if the moka is nothing but a construction of the social imaginary? Then I got a better understanding of that spontaneous philosopher who would have had great success on social networks, and who responded to the name of Jose Alfredo Jimenez. “Paths of Guanajuato” [“Caminos de Guanajuato”] would have been the Critique of Pure Reason that Kant couldn’t elaborate.

But, despite injuries and scars, the presentations you all gave start to produce effects:

One insurgente official listened to the talk that Dr. Claudio Martinez Debat gave about genetic inheritance, and he concluded that it’s true. “I applied it quickly, thinking about the communities and, yes, if a compa is a certain way, you see that his father and mother have the same way about them. For example, if SubMoy is very bad-tempered, then it’s because his father was very bad-tempered himself.”

“Ah,” I said to him, “so SubMoy gets mad at us not because we don’t complete our tasks, but because his father was very bad-tempered?”

The scientific investigation is still pending because at that moment SubMoy arrived to check whether we had prepared the things to go to Oventik. That is, justice fell upon on us.




This is a meeting of the Zapatistas and the sciences. We added “con” to “sciences” not just because of the play on words, but also because your having accepted this meeting with us goes beyond your duty and could imply a reflection about the world, too, as well as an explanation of what you work on in your respective specialties.

As in our previous participations, Subcomandante Insurgente Moises and he who writes and reads this are making an effort to give you data so you can form an image (a profile, they would say these days) of the type of Zapatista who is interested in learning from you all.

We’re striving for this because, as we also said in our other intervention, our aspiration is for this meeting to be repeated, and for it to multiply quantitatively and qualitatively.

With your presentations, you all give us an idea not only of the knowledge you possess, but also of your reasons for accepting our invitation and for being present here in person or via texts, audios and videos.

Because we need science, we are displaying all our charms now, together with SubMoy, in order to convince you all that here, with us, you can and should do science.

That’s why we’re telling you not about science, but about what we have been and what we are, and what we want to be.

We can do what we can. We can’t offer you scholarships, resources, or recognitions to plump up your curriculum vitae. Gosh, we can’t even help you get a few class-hours, much less a tenured position.

It’s true, we could try to con you and put on our “I’m a poor Zapatista who lives in the mountains” face.

Or insinuate, with a seductive voice, “What’s up my plebeian friend, I know you want a piece of this, come on already. You know the scientists say not to produce any more production because the world is as full as the metro at 7:30am: don’t make any more products they say, better to adopt instead. So you and I are going to offer them a full assortment as they say, like cow-tongue or shredded pork tacos, so they have options. If it comes out a boy we’ll keep going until we get a girl, or the other way around, switching, going by pairs. The point is that what’s important isn’t winning, but rather competing.”

Or with a DM that invites: “Come on, let’s deconstruct our clothes and contextualize our private parts.”

Or we could send you a whatsapp that suggests: “You, me, and a particle accelerator: I’m just saying, think about it.”

We could do that, though it surely wouldn’t be successful.

What we’re thinking of doing is what we’re saying: show ourselves as we are and how we’ve come to be what we are.

So that you don’t feel you’re at a disadvantage knowing that you’re being not only listened to, but evaluated (the closing ceremony of this event, on January 4, is when the 200 masked men and women, our compañeros and compañeras, the Zapatista bases of support, will evaluate this event), we’ve tried to give you elements so that you can evaluate us and decide how to answer the complex question of whether you will return, or file these days under “never repeat ever again.”

That evaluation will be our first disagreement and we will have to decide if we overcome it like mature adults and take up couples therapy, or if we call it a day.

In any case, it is to be expected that on your way home you’ll say to yourselves, “sonofa…and I was complaining about the Conacyt [National Council of Science and Technology] and the National System of Researchers.”



Before, I told you that one way to get to know us was to ask why we ask what we ask. So other possible questions could be, “what do you understand by and expect of science and of scientists?”

For us, science implies knowledge that doesn’t depend on other factors. Note, that’s science, not scientific research. That is, for example, exact science by antonomasia, mathematics in the singular or various kinds of mathematics. Is there a capitalist math and one below and to the left? I give this extreme example because, starting from the still-developing sciences, the “young” sciences as they say, with their understandable errors and stumbling explanations, generalizations are made that say “science is guilty of this and that.” “Science is racist, discriminatory, and doesn’t take into consideration the personal and passionate drama of the scientist.” And there, in the apocalypse of the cat-dog, it becomes the “mother of all misfortune.”

We Zapatistas don’t do science, but we want to learn it, study it, know it, apply it.

We are familiar with the courtship the pseudo-sciences offer us, and with their path of poverty-optimization: the attempt to sweet talk us with the idea that the non-knowledges we have are really “wisdoms.”

I’m going to ignore for now the fact that this position invariably comes from someone who has never done science, that is, beyond middle school science experiments.

But that’s what they tell us, and they give us the example that we know when to plant. It’s true, we do know when to plant; we identify certain “signals” in nature and, through tradition and custom, we know it’s time to sow seeds.

But we don’t know why those signals indicate that it’s time to plant, nor what the relationship is between those signals.

The Zapatista young peoples’ interest in science (as in the example of the estafiatei that Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés told us about a few days ago) finds echo and support from the adults and the elders, because climate change has caused those signals to become blurry.

So now, with climate change, the dry season and rainy season have been disrupted. Now it rains when it’s not the time for rain and doesn’t rain when it is. The cold season has been reduced in time and intensity. Animals that are supposed to belong in certain zones begin to appear in others that have neither similar vegetation nor climate.

When the rains are late in coming and the crops are at risk, the custom in the communities is to set firecrackers off into the sky “to wake the clouds,” or to remind god that it’s time for rain, like a reminder of the work at hand in case god got distracted. But it turns out that god is either really busy or not listening, or just doesn’t have anything to do with the extended draught.

So you see, ancestral knowledge isn’t enough, if in fact you can call it knowledge.

So what some call the “ancestral knowledge” of the indigenous confronts a world that they do not understand, that they do not know. And the Zapatistas, instead of consoling ourselves in churches or shrines or resorting to prayer, realize that we need scientific knowledge, now not out of curiosity but out of the necessity to do something real to change our reality or to confront it under better conditions.

That’s why the generations that prepared and carried out the uprising, those that sustained resistance with rebellion, and those that grew up in the context of autonomy and maintain the rebellion and resistance, all agree on one need: scientific knowledge.




We don’t know how sensitive science is to public opinion, social networks, or the imposition of paths or explanations, not because of the pressure of money, Power, or the system, but because of self-censorship.

We don’t know if something exists that could be called “another science,” and if it would correspond to a media or social court that judges, condemns, and executes sentences against the sciences.

To whom does the construction of another science correspond, if there is something that can be named as such?

We Zapatistas think it corresponds to the scientific community, regardless of its phobias, affinities, political militancy or lack thereof. And we think that community should resist and combat the parasites that latch onto it, or that already inhabit and weaken it.

That is why, even if we don’t manage to convince you that ours is an effort for life as well and that we need you in that endeavour, you should keep on without tiring, without compromise, and without concessions, to us or anyone else.

You should keep on because your commitment is to science, that is, to life.

Thank you very much.

From CIDECI-Unitierra, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.


Mexico, January 2017


From the Notebook of the Cat-Dog

The 3-of-3 of the Cat-Dog

I don’t know if this is still the case, but 10-12 years ago, people sang and danced ska. I vaguely remember that concerts were organized in solidarity with various people’s struggles. At those concerts, and I don’t know either if they still do this, but instead of paying money, dough, bread, cash, you could get in with a pound of rice, beans, or sugar that would later be sent to those movements. Some of those concerts were to support the Zapatista communities’ resistance, and on one occasion, I think in 2004, they sent me some videos where the only thing you could see was a cloud of dust, in the midst of which you could vaguely make out the crowd jumping around as if they had ants in their pants to the rhythm of “La Carencia,” which is what Defensa Zapatista found on the internet when she looked up the word. I told the compa you couldn’t see a damned thing on the video and he responded that maybe it was my computer, because on his you could see, I quote, “dope, man, dope.

Of course it turns out that his computer was one of those super-modern ones with a foot control, a heliport, a bowling alley and a minibar, and mine, well how can I tell you, it had a DOS operating system and the most modern thing it could read was a 5-inch floppy disk (which was like trying to read the “Piedra del Sol,”ii which is or was housed in the National Museum of Anthropology, with the disinterested support of IBM).

On one trip that compa made to these mountains, he checked my laptop over and declared, and I quote: “yeah that’s lame, plus it’s not even the original video, who knows who that’s from, here, this is the real thing,” and he pulled up another video taken from the stage. There you could hear the music and see the crowd holding up different kinds of stuffed animals. If people still play, sing, and dance to that kind of music, they must have been dying of envy when they saw the Sherlock Holmes and Einstein dolls I had here during the first talk.

It turns out around that around that same time the deceased SupMarcos recorded a CD with the musicians who call themselves “Panteón Rococó,” named “3 times 3,” although I don’t know the reason or motive for the name. This is relevant in this case because perhaps one can find there the antecedent for this “3of3.” Now that it is publicly known that the National Indigenous Congress has decided to form an Indigenous Governing Council and run the spokesperson of that Council as candidate for the Mexican presidency in 2018, the Cat-Dog felt obligated to present its own “3of3,” you know, not to be caught flatfooted and better a bird in the hand and sit down before you’re knocked off your feet.iii

1 of 3: Artificial Intelligence versus Zapatista Intelligence

“The political system has been hacked,” reads the news ticker across all of the screens in the Society of Power Artificial Intelligence complex.

The central Chat forum lights up and almost simultaneously various nicknames appear, all worse than ridiculous.

A dull conversation begins, but stops immediately when the nickname “Bossy” appears.

It’s not just any meeting. And I don’t mean because nobody is physically there. There aren’t even real avatars, just voices.

But every voice knows its place in the hierarchy. The less they speak the higher their rank.

At that moment a voice points out:

I don’t think there’s anything to worry about really. It’s clear that this will only further saturate the [political] centre. One more option for those who think they choose and decide. I don’t really see that there’s a problem, let them do it. And well, that geography was defined a long time ago. I suggest we move on to the next item…”

A voice interrupts, their rank evident in their dubious tone:

Pardon me. I think we should not underestimate what they intend. That should be clear from the fact that this wasn’t even contemplated among the thousands of scenarios that our systems predicted. In fact, we didn’t even realize it was happening until it appeared on the screen.

When we saw the warning blinking “The political system has been hacked,” we thought it was another hacker invasion and that there was no reason to worry. The firewalls would take care not only to neutralize the attack but to counterattack with a virus that would send the intruder back to smoke signal communication. But no, the system didn’t even warn of a virus or infiltration risk. It just indicated that there was something for which it didn’t even have a category of classification.”

Another voice, same volume, similar tone:

I agree. The proposal is too daring for them to be satisfied with a dispute over the centre. I was doing the calculations and I think they are aiming for those people who don’t even appear in our statistics. Those people want to destroy us.”

Several voices begin to murmur. The screens erupt with texts in characters illegible for those not familiar.

A voice inquires with authority:

What do you suggest?”

A vacuum,” says another voice, “that the media focus elsewhere. And that the well-behaved left attack them. There’s no lack of racism there, a mere insinuation will be enough for it to carry on with its own inertia. We’ve done it before, there won’t be a problem.”

Proceed,” the voice with authority states, and “offline” immediately appears on several screens.

Only the smallest voices continue chatting:

Well,” one says, “I think we’re going to have to deal with unpredictable surprises, like that of 1994.”

And what would you do?”

Hmm… remember that bad joke from a few years ago, that if you wanted to prepare for the future you should learn ChineseWell, I recommend that you start studying originary languages. You?

Well, we could try to find a bridge, some kind of communication.”

For what?”

Well, to negotiate decent conditions in prison. Because I don’t think these people are going to offer any kind of amnesty, not before or after the fact.”

And what do you suggest?”

A voice, until that point silent says:

I’d say to learn, but I think it’s too late for that.”

But I have a hypothesis,” the voice continued, “what happened is that the Artificial Intelligence that motors our central server functions with the information that we give it. Based on that data, the AI predicted all of the possible scenarios, their consequences, and the appropriate measures to take. What happened is that what they actually did wasn’t in any of our scenarios; the AI got upset and didn’t know what to do, simultaneously activating the anti-hacker and antivirus warnings and launching the reaction to the closest scenario on hand, which was SupMarcos as presidential candidate.”

Another voice interrupts: “But isn’t Marcos dead?

He is,” responds another, “but for the same reason.”

So they did it to us again, fucking Zapatistas.”

And there’s no way to fix this?”

Well I don’t know about you all but I’ve already reserved a flight to Miami.”

I now look with fear on the Indians, it never occurred to me that they would come to rule.”

Almost simultaneously, “Standby Mode” appears on the various screens.

The red lights are still on. The alert sirens are still going off, alarmed, hysterical.

Far away, some women of the colour of the earth that we are turn off their computer, disconnect the server cable, smile and converse in an incomprehensible language.

A little girl arrives and asks in Spanish: “Hey moms, I finished my homework, can I go play? See, we haven’t filled up the team yet but don’t worry ma, there will be more of us, sometimes it takes awhile but there will be more of us.”

The women leave, running and laughing behind the little girl. They run and laugh as if, in the end, there will be a tomorrow.

I testify.


Note: Upon questioning the Cat-dog on why its “3of3” declaration only has one part and not 3 like its name suggests, it only growled and purred: “what’s missing is yet to come.


iAlso known, depending on the source, as Artemisia, white sage, silver herb, mugwort, or wormwood.

iiThe Sun Stone or the Stone of the Five Eras, is a late post-classic Mexica sculpture, often mistakenly referred to as the Aztec Calendar, consisting of a massive 24-ton basalt disc of Aztec carvings:

iiiA mix of three metaphors in Spanish.




January 24, 2017

The Arts and the Sciences in the history of (neo) Zapatismo

Filed under: CNI, gal, Indigenous, Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatista — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:38 pm



The Arts and the Sciences in the history of (neo) Zapatismo

Words of Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano




December 28, 2016.

Last night I spoke to you about the interplanetary upheaval that had given rise to the question “Why is this flower this colour? Why does it have this shape? Why does it have this scent?”

Ok, maybe I was exaggerating with the claim of “interplanetary.” I should have said the upheaval created by the question that young Rosita had put to Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés in the micro-cosmos Zapatismo had provoked.

Although I believe it is obvious, it doesn’t hurt to mention that the response that SubMoy gave to the young Zapatista woman was the same one that, I’m not sure, but probably, I’m imagining, has fuelled the advance of science since its very beginning: “I don’t know.”

Now I think that, certainly, the young woman knew what his response would be, but she also hoped that SubMoy would understand that, within the flower, there was a larger question.

We know now, because we are here in this meeting, that SubMoy knew that the response, “I don’t know” was not only insufficient, but also useless if it did not lead to other questions.

In a few minutes he is going to talk to you about what, as it were, is the context of the question…and about his response.

I am meant to speak to you briefly about the prehistory of this question and this response.

The arts and sciences prior to the uprising, within the eezeelen, had a very small universe and a brief history. Both the sciences and the arts had a purpose, a direction, and an imposed reason: war.

First in the guerrilla encampments, then in the barracks, and later in the communities, the arts were limited to music, poetry, and a little bit of drawing and painting, all with exclusively revolutionary messages. Of course, it was not unusual that soon songs of love and broken hearts, corridos, rancheras and even the occasional Juan Gabriel ballad would appear, but that was only clandestinely within our clandestinity.

Film or cinematography had its exclusive location, its VIP room, in our imagination. One of the insurgents narrated the same film to us over and over again, but he would find a way to change it a little bit each time he told it, or to combine it with the plots of other films. That was how we saw both the original and various “remakes” of “Enter the Dragon,” with Bruce Lee playing the only role, because the compa would spend hours explaining his movements and punches to us. This went on until, with a small electric source and a heavy and cumbersome 16mm projector, we saw a Vietnamese film that I think was called “Point of Contact” or something like that and which, of course, was only in its original language, and so we used our imaginations to add dialogue in Spanish, turning it into a different film than the original. I’m not sure, but I think you call this “artistic intervention.”

I call attention to this because I think that it was the first time that the sciences and the arts came together in a Zapatista encampment. And by the sciences, I’m not referring to the portable generator and the projector, but to the popcorn, which someone had kindly included when they sent the machine and the film.

Of course, we chowed down on the popcorn with the shout of “eat today or die tomorrow.” And the next day we nearly made the slogan come true: beginning in the wee hours of the morning, with collective diarrhoea, the entire insurgent battalion abandoned the spot as if a herd of wild boars had taken it over. We consoled ourselves afterward, imaging that it had been a case of bacteriological war. Moral of the story: be careful with your slogans.

Contact with the communities broadened this limited horizon: in the celebrations, the compas would set aside time for “the cultural program,” as they called it and “for the party.” And, in a program that got shorter over the years, they recited poetry, read thoughts aloud, and sang songs, all about struggle. Gradually, the duration of “the party” got longer and better. At that time they danced and sang whatever was in fashion at the time. Eventually what we call “pop music,” started to be displaced by music that was produced locally. First, they changed the words of the songs; later they wrote the music as well.

The dances changed: from dancing in two lines facing one another, to dancing in couples. Originally, in the dances in the communities, they used to dance in two lines: one was made up of women, and, in front of them there was another line made up of men. This had its own logic: with a clear line of women, the mothers could control their daughters, and they could see whether they escaped or if they had remained in the continuous repetition of “the Red Ribbon.” Later, little by little and after some very heated assemblies, they were allowed to dance in couples, although to the same rhythm. But the existence of the line was deep, and it was not uncommon to see a couple dancing, but with her looking to one side and him looking to the other side. Theatre, or what we called “sign,” happened very sporadically. The drawings and paintings of the periodic murals of the mountains moved to the communities, but the themes remained the same.




If it seems like artistic activity was rather sparse, science was practically non-existent (because the book by Isaac Asimov, which the deceased carried in his backpack, doesn’t count as science). For contact with nature, we used the knowledges of the communities, which is to say, we limited ourselves to knowing facts, without knowing the explanation, or we explained those facts according to the stories and legends that circulated in the communities. For example, regarding the rainy season and the times for planting, there was empirical data that indicated whether it was going to rain or not, and this functioned statistically. In the encampments in the mountains, for example, when the mosquitos grew in number and aggressiveness, it meant that it was going to rain. Of course, we also had barometers and altimeters, but the mosquitos were more accurate. If someone had asked us at that time what the relationship was between the mosquitos and the rain, we would have responded, “I don’t know,” but we wouldn’t have gone any further, and what we did know was that it meant that it was time put up the plastic roofs or hurry to arrive at a community or at the encampment, but not time to do scientific research.

The most scientific thing that we did was calculate the force and trajectory of bullets and the resistance of different materials to those bullets (because we had to know how to protect ourselves from the gunshots of the enemy), align the scopes on the guns, fabricate explosives, and we did “terrestrial navigation” with the use of maps, altimeters and inclinometers, for which it was necessary to study the basics of trigonometry, algebra, and calculus. We wanted to learn how to use a sextant in order to orient ourselves at night, but we didn’t really get to learn how to use it. It was no longer necessary because the compas from the communities knew the land so well that we didn’t need any kind of machine to help us to get around. And they could already “predict” natural phenomena based on other phenomena, or on usos y costumbres.

The world was inhabited then by magical people, with the Sombrerón and Xpaquinté walking along the royal roads, trails, and misplaced paths, and sitting with us in the insurgent encampments in the mountains of southeast Mexico.

In medicine we applied two fundamental methods. Since we didn’t know about the existence of curing with quartz, biomagnetism, or other things of equal scientific rigour, we resorted to the power of suggestion or autosuggestion. Given that it was more than a few times that we didn’t have medicine, if we had a fever, we would repeat over and over: “I don’t have a fever, it’s all in my head.” This might make you laugh, but the deceased SupMarcos told us that he overcame various cases of salmonella with this method. “And did it work?” we would ask him. He responded with his customary modesty, “Well look at me, I’m alive and more beautiful than ever.” Ok, this was before we made him die.

When we did have medicine, we used the scientific method of “trial and error.” Which is to say that if someone became ill, we gave them one medicine, and if that didn’t work, we tried another, and we went on like that until we got it right or until the illness, surely tiring of our methodology, yielded.

Another scientific method for curing illness was called “the shotgun.” If someone had symptoms of an infection, we gave them a wide spectrum antibiotic. This almost always worked and, of course, chemically purified the patient, with just the bare minimum to survive until the next infection.

Years later, as the deceased would tell it, the medical treatments given were based in a simple statistic: in the mountains, x or y symptoms would be treated with x medicines in x% of cases; if in a given troop of x numbers of combatants, a certain number take ill with certain symptoms, there was x% of probability that they have the same illness.




An anecdote from the mountains, also told by the deceased SupMarcos years ago, might serve to contrast with what we are showing you now: the deceased told us that in an exploratory trip into the depths of the Lacandon Jungle, a section of the insurgent infantry was far from the base encampment and found itself obliged to stay overnight with no blankets other than the treetops and the plant leaves; they made a fire to see if they could roast a water moccasin, which was the only thing that they had been able to hunt. At that time, SupMarcos wasn’t “sup” but Lieutenant Infantry Sergeant and he was in charge of this military unit.

As was customary at the time, when the night finally fell from the trees and sat among the insurgents, with the shadows descending to also sit alongside the fire, every kind of history, stories and legends which, among other things, fulfilled their role of mitigating hunger and drying clothes of the sweat and the rain that had drenched them. The then-Lieutenant Infantry Sergeant sat apart from the group and limited himself to listening to what the troops were discussing.

One of the new recruits had rubbed up against, as happens when one walks forgotten paths, the leaves of a plant called La’aj or Ortiga, which had caused hives in one of his hands and it had swelled up. Between hurting and itching, the recruit asked another combatant why this plant, which did so much damage, even existed. The veteran, feeling obliged to educate the new recruit, responded: “Look compa, of course I must inform you that only God and the leaf know why.”

Maybe this story is the reason why the deceased SupMarcos, when he was the Zapatista spokesperson, told and retold legends, stories, and anecdotes that referred more to the explanations of reality that linked to ancestral culture, like, for example, the stories of Old Antonio.

If at that time the deceased was a window to look through onto Zapatismo, and now it is Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés who does this, it is not only that the window has changed, but also what is seen and heard through this window has changed. Zapatismo today in the communities is quantitatively and qualitatively different, not just from what it was 30 years ago, but even from 10 or 12 years ago, which is the period in which the little girl who calls herself “Defensa Zapatista” was born.

With this I want to tell you that if the children that 25-30 years ago were born during the preparation for the uprising and those that were born 15-20 years ago were born in resistance and rebellion; those born in the last 10-15 years were born in a process of consolidated autonomy, with new characteristics, among which is the need for Science. Now Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, to whom I am ceding the word, will talk to you…


Words of Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés




Good evening brothers and sisters, compañeros, compañeras.

The science that we Zapatistas are discussing here, the kind of science that we want is science for life. I don’t need to further explain what Sub Galeano was saying, about the fact that, yes, we also studied science when we were in the mountains, during the period of preparation. And when we finally applied this science, that is when we went to war, killing and dying, our compañeros and compañeras from the communities, the bases of support, told us that there was another way to make war without losing sight of the principles that we wanted. And so from that moment on something good happened. We men and women combatants recognized that something important exists within our compañeros and compañeras, within the communities. So we started to learn, to understand and to know that to be an army, any kind of army, whether an army of the rich or of the poor who struggle, is to be exclusive, because not all men, women, and children can fight in the army. And our compañeros and compañeras proposed that we fight together in order to achieve what we wanted. And they told us that in order to fight together, the weapon of struggle is resistance and rebellion.

And so then that meant that if we didn’t want the bad government, the bad system, we had to reject all of the forms through which they deceived us, and so we, the combatants, the insurgents, we learned how this was done. We learned how to do this. And so we men and women began to understand how to fight together, how the communities themselves lived and still live today in common, in collective. In the face of that the system, now the bad government, tries to divide the communities, but it hasn’t been able to do so. The communities themselves understood, for example, that even though in some communities there are various political parties, or various religions, they are still a community. And so this community has a piece of their land invaded by another community, this invaded community immediately comes together, which is to say they forget that they are divided in various political parties or religions. And that is how it works where they cannot erase what it means to be in common, to be in community.

And so then we started to understand what they were saying, what our compañero and compañera bases of support were saying to us, which was that we had to fight together. And so it ended up being much much better than what we had imagined because when we did that it meant that not only the combatants fought, everyone did. And so we, the combatants began to work together with the communities and what happened was that in this struggle, in this organization, we began creating the very forms that we were seeking. That is to say that the compañeras and compañeros, began at that time to put into practice that which they were seeking.

And so, with their autonomy, with the autonomous government of our compañeros and compañeras, something began that we had not yet known about during our time of clandestinity, during our preparation. So then we started to understand this, which was a new way of thinking about change, and this is what we have done during these 23 years that we are self-governing with our communities. The truth is that since that time we don’t have as many deaths, or bullets, or as many people injured, tortured, or disappeared as we did at first, in 1994. With these 23 years, what our compañeros and compañeras have shown us is another way to make war on the system, where you don’t die and you don’t kill. But to do this, you need organization, you need agreement, you need work, you need to struggle, and you need practice.

Now we see that with this resistance and rebellion as our weapons of struggle, the system has been unable to do anything against our compañeros and compañeras. The system has not been successful at anything that it has tried to do to us. Why? Because the compañeras and the compañeros already live in what they have for 23 years been constructing. As Sub Galeano put it, we ourselves were surprised, because we had never even dreamt this, but if we didn’t see it, it is because it is the compañeros and the compañeras that have managed to do it, through their thinking, by figuring out what they need and thinking about what to do about it. They have managed to do something to make things better and to take steps for the good of our peoples.

And so now these same compañeras and compañeros can confirm this themselves. And of course their mothers and fathers support them, because they had not seen this before. For example there are compañeras who work as, I’m not sure what you call it, the ones who help the doctors by passing them the tools that they need, like mechanics assistants who are like, here are your clamps, here is your hammer, here is your marro, as they call it. Well the compañeras are now working as assistants to doctors in order to pass them the tools that they need while they are doing medical surgeries. They know how to use the ultrasound machines, and because the doctors have taught them how, then can even make diagnoses with these machines. They know how to read the images or the photos that come from the ultrasound machine, and it is the same thing with many other medical devices, which the compañeras and compañeros already know how to use – devices used by dentists, devices for pap smears, and many other things related to the area of health and medical labs.

We never imagined that this would be possible, and now we think back and say, would we have been able to build this with 23 years of bullets? And our response is that with 23 years of bullets we would not be here speaking to you now, brothers, sisters, compañeros, compañeras, scientists. If we had had 23 years of bullets, we would not have even known you. But thanks to their way of seeing, that of our compañeros and compañeras, we are here speaking with you. That is how significant the advances of our compañeros and compañeras were. Of course, we had to separate ourselves from the mode of exploitation, from capitalism, or from the bad government in order to create this freedom that they imagined, that we have achieved, and in order to begin to build our way of understanding it.

And that is how now they have their education, their Agroecology, their community radio, their own exchange of experiences. Our compañeras and compañeros have their own “sharing,” because what they want is life. Just like in the example that Sub Galeano gave from the stories shared by the compañeros of how to stop a baby’s death, as explained in one of the questions posed to the scientists about a baby’s placenta –they boil the placenta in water until they manage to stabilize the life of the baby. But this knowledge comes from struggle, because there is no study that shows whether this is the best way to save the baby.

And so there are many generations that have moved this learning forward. This is what Sub Galeano was saying when he was talking about how the flower is to blame, which is that Zapatista Autonomous Education has advanced to such an extent that the young women and men see that they have already learned so much. And so what happened is that the son of one of the compas, one of the Tercios Compas, started to ask questions. He told his father that he had already finished his primary school, his first level as the compañeros in the communities call it. He said to his father, “dad I already finished my school, but I’m going to continue because I want to learn more.” And so the Tercio Compa who is his father responded, son, let me see how you can, because the second level, or secondary school as they call it, is still being planned, because we want to make sure that in the education that we want we don’t learn things that aren’t useful or that we don’t need, and we are still in the process of thinking about what we should learn and what it will be useful for. And so the young man, who was only 13 or 14 years old said: “Dad, don’t think about sending me there to Cideci, because in Cideci all you learn is how to make clothes, make shoes, and other things. It is better for us to do it here in the Caracol, it’s just that we haven’t decided to do that yet.” And so the young man continued, “what I want to learn is what substance is in the estafiate and what it can cure.” And so the compa, he’s over there with his son, wanted me to tell him when and where he could learn this, and so I told him, well, let me see, I don’t know.

And so I was really surprised, which is a good thing. And even I thought, is it even possible to learn this? And so I was talking to Sub Galeano and he said, well, this has to do with the scientists, with science, with those who study science and are scientists. And so what we are seeing is that the generations now and those that are growing up are already seeing the need to know new things. And the good thing is that they are thinking, because the young man that I was telling you about is in the communities that have the “sharing” as we call it, where they talk about the three areas, or where the compañeros and compañeras go to exchange their experiences about medicinal plants, midwifery, and bonesetting, and that is where this young man heard about this estafiate and other plants that they say cure certain things and not others, right? But what they don’t know there is exactly what it is, what substances the plants have that do the curing.

And so the very practices that they have, their very knowledges that the compañeras and the compañeros in the communities have open the way to other experiences, but they simultaneously open up other needs, the desire to learn more, and so on. And so I think that in listening to what is being put forth here among us, maybe then you will come here to put it into practice with the communities, in collective, it would make the compañeros and compañeras really happy to take advantage of this knowledge because with the little bit that they know, they are doing, well…as I told you, that is what they are doing, what the compañeros and compañeras are building others can see, the brothers and sisters who aren’t Zapatistas. That is, for example, in the hospitals that the compañeros have, in the autonomous hospitals, there are more partidista brothers and sisters who are operated on than there are Zapatistas. And so that is where non-Zapatista people, partidistas as we call them, see that what the Zapatistas are doing is better. They even say that what the Zapatistas are doing is much better. But it isn’t just that the compañeras and compañeros help them to have somewhat better health, but they also help to orient them, or to do politics, to explain to them why they are being deceived, or why they are manipulated, or why they are dominated.

And so if there had been a little bit more support from science, then there would have been more advances among the compañeros and compañeras. So we wanted to tell you that maybe we really should start this, here and now with our compañeros and compañeras in the communities. We could see if they could have classes, workshops, practical things, because the compañeros see that this stuff is so interesting and necessary in order to confront the capitalist hydra. They see that we have to improve health, and we have to improve nutrition, but for this we need to learn, we need science.

The compañeros and compañeras do it, but as we have already said many times, it is through usos y costumbres, or that is to say that they have the proof that if you plant corn you will see that it grows. The same goes for the squash, or the sweet potatoes. You see how they will grow, because there is no scientific study about what is going to grow on this land, or about which plant will grow right here in this location. And living like this has caused a lot of suffering, but if you saw that there is a science, a laboratory for example, then it would be different, it wouldn’t be a question of trying stuff out because there would be a scientific study that could tell us that Mother Earth is missing this or that, or that this thing is what will grow well here, and so on.

And so you see, that is how the compañeras and compañeros do their studies as well, and where what we are here for can be born. The truth is that this thing about the estafiate that the young man was saying that he wanted to know about what the substance was, we also saw there that the other Zapatista Autonomous Schools had other needs so that they could provide what the young people want to learn.




And so, brothers, sisters, compañeros, compañeras, together with the compañeros and compañeros we invite you to join us in making a collective, because we Zapatistas move in collective, and we can later show the people of Mexico that the people themselves can create a way of life. We can show them that we don’t need anyone who manipulates us and our wealth, or who expropriates what belongs to the people. Rather, we as peoples need to come together – the originary peoples with the science of the scientists and the science of the artists. We can show them that together we can imagine or construct, or practice and demonstrate for ourselves what we can do as compañero and compañera bases of support. We can show them that with more and more of your own strength, your own resistance, and your own thinking to see and create, imagine, that even though you may not know how to read and write, and even though you may not speak Spanish very well, but in your deeds you have, as we say here, placed the system, the bad government of Mexico, aside. We are practicing what we think and what we believe, but we feel alone because not only are we indigenous people of Mexico exploited, but the brothers and sisters in the countryside and the city are as well. But for this we need the Sciences, we need a way to build the new world.

We feel the need for this. It is just as the young man was saying, that being a young man he is thinking about what he wants to know, and he wants to know why the substance in the estafiate is so important, because it is much discussed in collective, in the “sharing” that the compañeras and compañeros have. And so this is what we want to propose to you – that perhaps we should unite in order to create another way of seeing, another way of thinking and imagining how we can create change that is more than simply a change in name or in colour.

That is what we wanted to share compañeros and compañeras, brothers and sisters.

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés       Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano



December 2, 2016

By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There

Filed under: gal, Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatista, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:43 pm



By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There





Those of us in the meeting were staring up at the central beam of the shelter. Perhaps we were appreciating the fact that the beam was still up there, sturdy and in one piece; or perhaps we were thinking “maybe it’s not,” and so maybe it’s better to take a seat closer to the door, on the ready to make an exit. “If the beam creaks, that means that it might break,” the person who had the floor at the moment had said.

Earlier, that person had asked us to use our imagination:

“Imagine that the system is like this shelter. It is meant to be lived in. But a large and heavy room has been built on the roof of the house, and inside of that room men and women celebrate their wealth.”

It didn’t need to be said, but the person speaking warned us anyway that the weight was too much for the central beam. The house wasn’t built to support a lot of things on top of it, and the stage where all of those men and women fought each other over the throne was heavy, very heavy, too heavy. So it was to be expected that the beam would groan in protest.

What should we do?” the speaker asked, demanding collective thought.

We considered the options. We could reinforce the beam. If we prop it up here and there, it was said, we might alleviate the weight a bit, but it would reduce the available space inside the house. With more and more reinforcements, the house would be converted into a labyrinth of supports and repairs, making it useless for spending the night, cooking, eating, sheltering oneself from the sun and rain, serving as host to the word and the listening ear, for holding parties, or for resting.

The house wouldn’t be a house anymore. That is, instead of a place to live, it would become something that’s sole purpose is to support what’s above. It would just be another structure. Those who lived within it would do so with the sole purpose of keeping those above up there, initially by working to repair and reinforce the structure, and then by converting their own bodies into another part of that structure. This is an absurdity: a house like that cannot be lived in.

Of course it would have been logical for those who designed the house to have thought to reinforce the lower part before adding weight to the top. But no, in the frenzy of the moment, they added more and more things on top, the majority of which were useless and ostentatious. Then there finally came a time when those above forgot that they were being held up by those below. What’s more, they even started to think that those below existed thanks to the mercy and kindness of those above, and that in fact it was those above who sustained those below.

It’s true that those above were fewer in number, but their things were much heavier.

If they had thought about it a little, with each new weight above, they would have added a reinforcement below. Not only did they not do this, but in their eagerness to accumulate more and more above, they were dismantling the primary supports for the building. As if that weren’t enough all of the beams, especially the principal one, had rotted, because those who had been assigned to maintain the edifice were instead busy stealing parts of the structure and pocketing the money that should have been dedicated to the maintenance of the beams.

These people who claim to manage the building deserve special mention. The main problem is this: they only manage what already exists. But not only that, they also dedicate themselves to looting parts of the building’s structure. And as if some tragic comedy, they compete amongst themselves to decide who will be in charge of that theft.

That is why they go every so often to ask those below to mention them, to applaud them, to vote for them. They want to buy the will of those below with flattery and gifts.

But they get their money by taking it from those very same people below. Then, once they’re settled in to the office, they do nothing but give speeches and steal pieces of the walls, furniture, and even the floor. On top of all that, their very existence is adding more and more weight to the roof. In sum, their essential work is to weaken what is below and strengthen what is above.

Conclusion: it is very likely that the house will collapse. This will be bad for those above; it will be worse for those below. But why maintain a house that is no longer a house? That’s right, collective thought moved from seeking a way to keep the structure standing to questioning the very need for its existence.  Of course, this shift was not immediate. The move started when someone asked:

Okay, so this part above, how is it that it is up there, or for what? What is its function?”

And someone else added:

And those people above who say that their work is to manage the building, which it’s clear they don’t do, why are they up there?”

And to round it off, someone asked:

Okay, since we’ve decided to question, what use is a house like this? What if, instead of thinking about what we should do to keep the part above from collapsing on everything below, we think about how to build another house entirely; that would change how we organize ourselves, how we work, how we live.”

At that moment the central beam creaked. It was soft, yes, but the silence it created allowed us to hear it clearly. Then, although it didn’t have anything to do with anything, someone ventured…

Noah, the ark.”

The story, which can be found in both the Bible and the Koran, is simple: Noah receives a divine warning. God is angry because humanity doesn’t honour the rules and so has decided to punish them. The entire world will be flooded and the only ones who will survive are those who can pilot a boat. So Noah decides to build a gigantic boat, the ark. In it, he puts his people and a pair of each species of animal, as well as plants.

The scepticism of the people around him does not deter him. The deluge comes, the world is flooded and everything on the surface of the earth perishes. Only those who are in the ark are saved. After some time a bird brings a small branch to the ark, signalling that there is a dry place nearby. There, humanity is founded anew.

Hmm…Noah’s ark. Now imagine the debate that would arise in response to this story.

We have the religious fundamentalist: it’s proof of god’s omnipotence, he created the world and can destroy it whenever he wants; it’s proof of his mercy, he chooses a few to survive, the chosen. The only thing to do is praise the Lord for his power and pray for his mercy.

We have the scientist: precipitation with these characteristics is impossible; the surface of the earth cannot be entirely covered with water due to one rainfall. This story is nothing but a good script for a Hollywood movie.

We have the philosopher: in reality, it is an allegory emphasizing the fragility of human beings and the transitory nature of their existence.

The Zapatista listens, but is not satisfied by any of these positions. They think, then think some more, and they conclude: what it tells us is that if you see signs that something bad might happen, then you should prepare for it. So it has nothing to do with religion, science, or philosophy—just common sense. Someone said then,

“It’s a given we’ll share this with the communities, but we also have to let the Sixth1 know.”

“Agreed,” said the collective.

But another voice cautioned that before confirming, it would be good to try to see further, maybe from higher ground, just in case things are not what they seem, that they really aren’t that serious…or that maybe they are more serious.

Either way, that meant climbing up among the branches of the ceiba tree, to the highest part, where the leaves and the clouds compete in their games with the wind. Of course I got tangled up several times on my way up. Let’s just say that the pipe and the nose are no help when you’re moving through the branches. Up there at the top, the cold was even colder.

At the top the clouds had finally cleared and the Milky Way snaked from side to side, like a persistent crack of light in the dark wall of the night. I looked questioningly at the most distant lights, out there where the Hubble space telescope was busy analysing a supernova. I took out my binoculars. I jotted down in my notebook the need for an inverted periscope and, of course, a good microscope.

I descended as quickly as possible, which is to say, I fell. I arrived sore to the tent where my bosses [jefas and jefes] were still discussing the beam and its resistance. I said my part. Nobody looked surprised.

“It is time,” they said, “for the heart that we are to open a space for the word, to speak and to listen. And from among these words, let us choose the best seed.”

That is how the idea of the seminar/seedbed emerged.

They continued to think: It is not enough to tell people what we see. We also have to say who we are that are doing the seeing. Because the changes that we are witnessing are not only out there. Our gaze inward also detects changes, and our gaze itself has changed. So it is clear that to explain what we see, we have to explain our gaze.  Thus before the response to the question about what we see, there is another question: “Who is it that is doing the seeing?”

That is how we constructed the “method” for our participation in the seedbed/seminar. Not only are we drawing attention to what we see on the horizon, we are also trying to account for the gaze that we are. So we saw that history is important: how things were before, what continues on the same, what has changed; that is, a genealogy.

To explain the genealogy, both that of who we are as well as what we see, we need concepts, theories, sciences.  And to know whether these concepts are useful, which is to say that they sufficiently account for this history, we need critical thought.

Because both Zapatista reality and that other reality can be explained in a number of ways. For example, you could say that the eezeeelen is an invention of the government, as they love to say over and over again among the “progressive” intelligentsia. Through the gaze of critical thought then, our movement could be explained in its various parts and in its totality as the product of a governmental conspiracy.

If it cannot be explained as such, then we need to look for a different approach or manner of explaining Zapatismo. For example: it is a scheme created by foreigners; it is part of an alien invasion; it is a vindication of the heteropatriarchal system; it is the cunning manipulation of indigenous peoples; it is just nostalgia for the noble savage; it is a cinematic montage; it is a millennial recurrence; it is the product of brilliant action by a group of enlightened people; it is merely the result of the institutional neglect of the state, etcetera.

Here I have given some of the principal “explanations” for Zapatismo that have been spouted from across the ideological spectrum, as much in academia as in the “analysis” of the private media, as well as among political forces, be they institutional or not. If such explanations or theories are not able to account for Zapatismo, then they are no more than opinions and should be taken as such.

But critical thought can go further, for example, by drawing attention to the lack of concepts in any given characterization—that is, the lack of theory.

If an analysis is not supported by an articulated theory, able to emerge unscathed from a confrontation with reality, then where does this analysis come from? From what source does it draw? Who is it that sees with such a gaze?

If instead of concepts what are deployed are judgments, then little to nothing has been understood. And in that case, there is nothing to be done in the face of this reality, other than suffer it. Or, sure, from this one could also construct entire philosophical systems, or “new sciences,” or tweets (these at least have the advantage of being brief).

This critical thought not only helps us give an accounting of our history, what we were, what we are today, and what we want to be, it also allows us to explain reality, that which is most immediate to our calendar and geography. This is what we try to do with our gaze, both when it is oriented inward and when we are looking outward. This is how we come to realize that we need scientific concepts to explain what we are and how we see.

We need basic concepts to understand the capitalist system and the turbulent march of history. Not only can we not spare these things, but we find them absolutely essential: one or a few telescopes, some good binoculars, as many microscopes as there are geographies, and just as many inverted periscopes to study the roots of the matter.

Faced with reality, one can take many distinct positions; one can provide explanations or opinions. Our collective effort is to explain, to understand, to know, and to transform reality.


An initial assessment tells us that other gazes coincide with ours on something fundamental: a storm is coming.

Knowing that critical thought should inspire reflection and analysis and not blind unanimity, we have selected some of the words that were presented in the seedbed/seminar. They are many and they are important and the majority of them are provocative. And that was the idea, for the word to provoke thought.

The problem of the calendar and of geography is that they make it difficult, in an initial sitting, for one to take everything in. That is why we decided to make a book, or a couple of books, that people can read calmly and then ask questions: who said what? Why? When? From where? For what? These are important questions because we think that they can help make more and better seedbed/seminars in many other places.

This collection consists of three volumes. In this first volume we have included the Zapatista word according to how it was prepared. We did it this way because our word was spun together like a thread, like a sequence that would help to reconstruct not the whole puzzle, but one of its pieces. This first volume includes: a double gaze (inward and outward); an emphasis on the changes we have detected and suffered; “aids” for the gaze (microscopes, inverted periscopes, binoculars, orbital telescopes); and the warnings we now sound.

You will find here almost everything that we have observed from the crow’s nest of this vessel that is the synthesis of calendars and geographies. Although we at first set out to sound the alarm, to blow the conch shell, we soon realized that what we saw also made us look inward, as if the sentinel’s post had inverted its mission and the sentinel is forced to explain, or try to explain, what gives it meaning, purpose, place. We thought then that we could better explain what we saw outside if we first could explain what we see inside. Did we succeed? I don’t know. The answer is not for us, the Zapatistas, to give, but rather for the listener.

We also propose a method and lay out a necessity. The method is that of reflecting on history itself, on genealogy. The necessity is gathering the theoretical elements to do so. Finally, in both the method and the necessity we find the relevance of critical thought.

The texts in this first volume correspond to those that were read or presented from May 2-9, 2015. As the readers will see, this book also contains some texts that were not presented there in their entirety, and one that was not released at all. Readers will also note that they do not match the audios exactly because as they were being read some things were taken out or added.

We have made an effort to assure that our thinking, compiled here, is not lazy or conformist, that it does not fail to account for what has changed and for what remains the same; that it is not dogmatic, that it does not impose its particular time and its particular way; that it is not deceptive, full of lies and half-truths. We hope that these words are food for doubt, inquiry, and questioning.

Apart from that, the storm is coming. We must prepare.

A recommendation: read these texts as if they were one single piece, not as isolated or unconnected interventions. Our words were thought out and prepared as a single unit, as if each part came out of a puzzle that, in the end, would reveal its shape, its intention, and its thought only in relation to the other pieces.

As is the Zapatista way, at the end you will find the beginning: we have to make more and better seedbed/seminars; to make space for practice, but also for reflection on that practice; to understand the need for theory and the urgency of critical thought.

We are not creating a political party or an organization, we are creating a place from which to see. For this vision, we need concepts, not good intentions; we need practice with theory and theory with practice; we need critical analyses, not a priori judgments. To look outward, we need to look inward.

The consequences of both what we will see and of how we will see it will be a key part of how we respond to the question, “What comes next?”

Mexico, March-April-May-June 2015.


The EZLN’s full Book, Critical Thought in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra, from which this is excerpted, was just released, and is available now from PaperBoat Press.


(1) In Spanish, “Sexta” refers to adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. The EZLN uses “la Sexta” to refer collectively to these adherents, which we translate as “the Sixth.”

(2) In May of 2014, the EZLN announced the “death” of the figure of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, at which time, in honour of the recently murdered Zapatista teacher Galeano, the person behind the character known as Marcos took on the name Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. Due to the fact that a number of the texts presented at the seminar, “Critical Thought in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra,” were written prior to the announced “death” of Marcos, the reader will find that some of the texts written and signed by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos were presented at the seminar and co-signed by Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. The latter often signs texts with the abbreviated “SupGaleano.”

This book will shortly be available in the UK. See:  Or contact us. All proceeds to the Zapatista communities.

Posted by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity



December 1, 2016

EZLN: a clarifying text

Filed under: CNI, gal, Indigenous, La Sexta, Marcos, Zapatista, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:10 pm



EZLN: a clarifying text



SCI Marcos before he died and became SCI Galeano. Photo: Vice

By: Magdalena Gómez

I dedicate this collaboration to the Cuban people and to Pablo González Casanova for the “Lessons of Fidel” and, also for his own. The text “A story to try to understand, elaborated by sub Galeano and Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, spokesperson and current head of the EZLN, is very opportune. It is obligatory reading for those who in good faith are interested in knowing and sharing the initiative underway, about which the National Indigenous Congress is consulting with indigenous peoples and communities. The detailed story about the gestation of the initiative gives an account of a political conviction of the EZLN that it is certainly not the first time they have put into practice. We remember their historic decision in the dialogue with the federal government, of ceding the table to the country’s indigenous peoples so that they would be the ones that in the first instance would discuss the proposals on indigenous rights and culture in coordination with the indigenous commanders. The San Andrés Accords owe their relevance to that construction and unpublished collective debate.

The correct allegation about the more than evident fact that neither dreams nor nightmares fit into ballot boxes, for the effects of the subject initiative in consultation is a double edged sword, because, as is recognized, “there have been, there are, and there will be doubts and legitimate and rational questionings,” among them is rightly the one that proposes to go to an election when it (the election) is recognized as being meaningless.

Nevertheless, one must turn to that evaluation and the text that proposes it clearly: there is no other more convincing way of making the situation of the indigenous peoples visible than placing themselves on the stage where the whole political class will see them in 2018. Very strong what they shared with the CNI upon presenting their proposal to them: “Our pain reaches fewer people all the time. Our deaths don’t echo like before. And it’s not that the people outside have become cynical or apathetic. It’s that the war we have suffered since a long time ago as Native peoples, now reaches them, it is now in their streets, in their houses, in their schools and in their workplaces. Our pains are now one more among many others. And, although the pain extends and becomes deeper, we are more alone than ever. Each time we’re going to be fewer. Soon the CNI won’t be able to meet because no one will be able to leave their territories, be it because of the cost, be it because of the bad government, be it because of the corporations, be it because of crime, be it because of a natural death or a bad death mala that it impedes you. In a while more we will only be talking among ourselves, already knowing what we’re going to say.”

Also very significant, for those who want to understand, the story about the meeting that the now-deceased Sup Marcos had 10 years ago with a northwest indigenous chief of the country’s northwest 10 years ago, when he (Marcos) was touring with the other campaign.The chief had previously received institutional governments. The chief told Marcos: “I know very well that they didn’t want you to meet with me, that they pressured you so that you would not be here. They also pressured me so that I would not receive you. I don’t know why you are here. I imagine that those who command you told you that you should see us and listen to us. I don’t know. But I’m going to tell you why I received you. I have received the governments. They have come from all the colours and sizes. They come and take their photo, they say a few words, they go away and they don’t come back. I have received them because my predecessors told me that my duty was to see that my people, my pueblo, would not die, that they would survive. I received them for that reason. I receive you because of that. I don’t believe that you bring me ether advice or teachings, although it’s good that you don’t seek a photo and that you listen instead of talking. I received them because I think my people will survive a while longer that way and won’t die. So I receive you because I believe that something will be seen from what we are and that view, although only for a little time, will help my people survive.”

Upon the deceased Sub Marcos questioning whether he wasn’t worried that they would judge him for receiving him, he answered: “Only my own people can judge me. If my people condemn me for what I have done and for what I do, that would mean that I wasn’t wrong. My people will have to have survived in order for them to condemn me. So that would mean that I have fulfilled my duty and I can show the dead that I have done so, although the living condemn me.”

Another of the document’s central messages is the clarification that it will not be the EZLN that participates in the election: “the CNI is who will decide if it participates or not with its own delegate, and, if so, it will have the support of Zapatismo.” It couldn’t be clearer. The decision of the peoples in the consultation is complex, because they rightly resist the enslavement of power, but also, like the indigenous chief of the northwest, they are supported in institutional mechanisms like survival strategy. They know that the community, individual and secret vote will be visible and they will be objects of multiple pressures. There is the task of the indigenous peoples we have accompanied and obviously we decided to assume it.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



November 23, 2016

Galeano: Make no mistake, The EZLN will not bet on electoral means to achieve power, far less force of arms

Filed under: CNI, gal, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:02 am


Galeano: Make no mistake, The EZLN will not bet on electoral means to achieve power, far less force of arms


galeano-600x431Sup Galeano of the EZLN. Photo: from Chiapas Paralelo


By: Isaín Mandujano

33 years after the foundation of the Forces of National Liberation (Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional, FLN) in the Lacandón Jungle, the seed of which would later be the Zapatista Nation Liberation Army (EZLN), Subcomandante Galeano clarified today that he does not struggle to take power and once more made clear that the independent indigenous woman candidate in 2018 is a proposal the armed group made to the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) who made it theirs and will drive I forward.

And it does not matter whether or not they win the presidency of the Republic, “what matters is the challenge, the irreverence, the refusal to submit, the total breakdown of the image of the indigenous as an object of alms and pity.”

Faced with the controversy unleashed, Subcomandante Galeano clarified that the indigenous woman postulated will not come from the EZLN’s ranks, and that nobody will supplant the initials of the armed group for those of the CNI, because the EZLN continues firm in its word of not betting on the electoral path, that it will not convert into a political party and that it will not seek to attain power through the armed route, because they took up arms to make use of them and not to become enslaved by them.

On November 17, 1983, that first armed group arrived, headed by Fernando Yañez, alias Comandante Germán, who in the heart of the Jungle planted the first seed of what would become the EZLN; the group was called the FLN, an organization which was persecuted and repressed since the seventies in different parts of the country. It had a Marxist-Leninist philosophy, with visions of achieving power and installing socialism.

In recent weeks, the EZLN as an integral part of the CNI has caused a controversy, because they proposed a consultation to postulate an indigenous woman as an independent candidate in the 2018 presidential elections, a theme that has provoked the most hostile reactions from the Mexican political class, the media and Mexican analysts.

In his letter, “A story to try to understand,” Galeano himself made it clear that they were the ones who made this proposal last October 13 to the CNI, a conglomerate of indigenous peoples from different regions of the country. This took place within the framework of the 20th anniversary of that national body, but in no way will they [EZLN] have an active participation in nominating that candidacy.

“No, neither the EZLN as an organization, nor any of its members, are going to participate” for a “popular election position” in the 2018 electoral process. No, the EZLN is not going to convert into a political party. No, the EZLN is not going to present a Zapatista indigenous woman as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic in the year 2018. No, the EZLN “has not taken a turn” of any degrees in its path, nor is it going to continue its fight through the institutional electoral route,” Galeano said.

So, is the EZLN not going to postulate an indigenous Zapatista woman for president of the Republic?  Are they not going to participate directly in the 2018 elections? To answer, he responds with a “No.”

“Why not; because of the armed option?

 No. Those who think that is why are profoundly wrong because: the Zapatistas took up arms to serve them, not to be enslaved by them.

 Then, because the institutional electoral political system is corrupt, inequitable, fraudulent and illegitimate?

 No.  Even if it were transparent, equitable, just and legitimate, the Zapatista men and women would not participate to attain and exercise Power from a post, a position or an institutional appointment.

 But, in certain circumstances, for strategic and/or tactical reasos, would you not participate directly to hold office?

 No.  Although “the masses” may demand it; although the “historic conjuncture” may need our “participation;” although “the Homeland,” “the Nation,” “the People,” “the Proletariat,” (ok, that’s very out of style now) may demand it, or any concrete or abstract concept (behind which is hidden, or not, personal, family or group or class ambition) that is hoisted as a pretext; although the juncture, the confluence of the stars, the prophesies, the stock exchange index, the manual of historic materialism, the Popol Vuh, the polls, the esotericism, “the concrete analysis of concrete reality” and the convenient etcetera.


 Because the EZLN does not struggle to take Power.

Galeano said that the postulation of the indigenous woman as an independent candidate is no longer in the EZLN’s hands. Therefore he asked that they stop awarding it to the armed group, because they are only a part of that big body which is the country’s indigenous peoples.

He insisted that no one from the EZLN seeks a position through popular election and that the independent indigenous woman candidate will not come from their ranks.

“No insurgent, male or female, whether from the command or from the troops, nor any comandanta or comandante of the CCRI can even be authorities in the community, nor in an autonomous municipio, nor in the different autonomous organizational bodies.  They cannot be members of the autonomous councils, nor of the good government juntas, nor of the commissions, nor take on any of the responsibilities that the assembly designates, that is created or to be created in the construction of our autonomy; in other words, of our freedom,” Galeano explained.

“Our work, our task as the EZLN is to serve our communities, to accompany them, support them and not to command them.  To support them, yes.  And sometimes we achieve this.  And yes, certainly, sometimes we hinder them, but then the Zapatista peoples give us a slap (or several, accordingly) so that we can correct ourselves,” he clarified.

When the EZLN made the proposal to the heart of the CNI, they told them: “it doesn’t matter if they win the presidency of the Republic or not, but what would matter was the challenge, the irreverence, the refusal to submit, the total breakdown of the image of the indigenous as the object of alms and pity –an image so ingrained in the right, and also in the institutional left of “real change” and its organic intellectuals addicted to the opium of the social networks-, that their daring would move the entire political system and that it would have echoes of hope not in one, but in many of the Mexicos of below… and of the world.”

He said that they are not seeking for an indigenous woman from the CNI to be president, but rather that what is desired is to carry a message of struggle and organization to the poor in the countryside and the cities of Mexico and of the world.

“It is not that we consider that, if we get together the signatures or win the election, it will go well, but rather that it will go well if we can talk and listen to those who nobody talks or listens to.

Here we will see whether it will go well or not, if a lot of people are going to find the strength and hope to get organized, to resist and rebel,” Galeano said.



Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Posted with minor edits by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity



October 24, 2016

Zapatistas Respond to Criticism Regarding Election Proposal

Filed under: CNI, gal, Indigenous, Marcos, Other Campaign, Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:24 pm



Zapatistas Respond to Criticism Regarding Election Proposal


submarcoshorsefromafar-jpg_1718483346EZLN Subcomandante Marcos, now known as Galeano, in Chiapas in 1996. | Photo: Creative Commons


The Zapatista response appeared to reaffirm that their goal in presenting a candidate would be to expose the contradictions of the Mexican political system.

Not long after the Zapatista National Liberation Army and the National Indigenous Congress resolved to present an Indigenous woman as an independent candidate for the 2018 presidential elections, the rebel group began to receive criticism.

The decision made at the Fifth National Indigenous Congress caught many by surprise, as the Zapatistas had long rejected any formal participation in electoral politics.

One of the first to respond was leftist former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who suggested the EZLN, as the Zapatistas are also known, were trying to divide the left.

Lopez Obrador is widely expected to run for president a third time in the upcoming election and an “independent candidate” could draw away votes that might otherwise go to him.

In the 2006 election, Lopez Obrador lost in a disputed, though tightly contested, election. That year the Zapatistas organized “The Other Campaign,” which called on Mexicans to participate in political activity that went beyond voting.

During “The Other Campaign,” Zapatistas — including the group’s most recognizable figure, Subcomandante Marcos — travelled throughout Mexico meeting with activists and social movement leaders in order to build a broad front against capitalism.

In a letter posted online, Marcos, now known as Subcomandante Galeano, responded to the criticism.

“How solid can the Mexican political system be, and how well-founded and reliable the tactics and strategies of the political parties, if, when someone says publicly that they are thinking about something, that they are going to ask their peers what they think of what they are thinking, the entire political party system becomes hysterical?” read the letter.

When the decision to consider running a candidate was first announced by the Zapatistas, they specified that it was not being done as a means of securing power.

“We confirm that our struggle is not for power, we do not seek it,” read the joint statement from the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatistas.

Galeano’s letter appeared to reaffirm that their goal in presenting a candidate would be to expose the contradictions of the Mexican political system.

Referring to Margarita Zavala, the wife of ex-president Felipe Calderon and likely candidate for the presidency in 2018, Galeano presented a juxtaposition.

“You who are reading this: would you be bothered by watching and listening to a debate between the Calderona (Zavala) from above, with her ‘traditional’ luxury brand clothing, and a woman below, of Indigenous blood, culture, language, and history? Would you be more interested in hearing what the Calderona promises or what the Indigenous woman proposes? Wouldn’t you want to see this clash of two worlds?” asked Galeano.

The letter gave no indication the EZLN and the National Indigenous Congress intend to withdraw their proposal.

The idea of running a candidate must still, however, be approved by the grassroots of the organization.



March 5, 2016

EZLN: The Arts, the Sciences, the Originary Peoples and the Basements of the World

Filed under: gal, Women, Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:50 pm





The Arts, the Sciences, the Originary Peoples and the Basements of the World



February 2016

For: Juan Villoro Ruiz:



I’m happy to hear that the rest of your family bajo protesta[i] are well, and I appreciate your serving as messenger to send them our greetings and gifts (although I continue to think that ties, ashtrays, and vases would have been a better choice).

As I picked up my pen to continue this conversation with you, I remembered your text “Speech on the rain” (Almadía Press, 2013), written, I believe, for the stage, which I read imagining, clumsily I’m sure, the set and the gestures and movements of the actor delivering the monologue, feeling the intervention more than witnessing it. The beginning, for example, is a summary of my life: the laconic “I lost my papers!” of the first line would make for an encyclopaedia if I anchor it in the calendars and geographies of this continual lapse and relapse that I have been.

Because inevitably, after the opening line in an epistle, I lose my point (the “tonelada” (ton) as the compas say when referring to the “tone” of a song). That is, I depart from the concrete objective of the letter. It’s true that clarifying who will receive the letter could help, but often the recipient is a brotherly ear for whom the idea is to provoke not necessarily an answer, but always a thought, a doubt, a questioning, not of the kind that paralyzes but the kind that motivates more thoughts, doubts, questions, etceteras.

So perhaps, as for the librarian-lecturer who is the protagonist in your piece, words come that weren’t purposefully sought out, but rather were just there, lying in wait, pending a moment of inattention, a crack in the everyday in order to accost the paper, the screen, or that wrinkled sheet of “where-the-hell-did-I-leave-oh-here-it-is-when-did-i-write-this-nonsense?” The words then cease to be shield and barricade, lance and sword, and become, very much to our chagrin, a mirror in which one is revealed and kept awake at night [devela y desvela].

Of course, the librarian can turn to their aisles flanked with bookshelves, with their alphabetical and numerical order, their calendars and geographies drawing a map of literary treasures. S/he can look for the “o” in “oblivion” and see if there they can find what was lost. But here, in this continual moving around, the idea of a library, even a minimal and mobile one, is a chimera. Don’t think I didn’t look with unfounded hope upon the idea of electronic books (on a “USB” or “pen drive” or “external memory” one could load if not Borges’ library than at least a small one: Cervantes, Neruda, Tomás Segovia, Le Carré, Conan Doyle, Miguel Hernández, Shakespeare, Rulfo, Joyce, Malú Huacuja, Edurado Galeano, Alcira Élida Soust Scaffo, Alighieri, Eluard, León Portilla and the magician of words: García Lorca, among others). But no, like the librarian loses papers, I lose USB drives and who knows where they end up.

But believe me, we all have our embarrassing fantasies. In the USBs of electronic books there was usually a miscellaneous selection of authors, perhaps under the assumption that the drive would be lost and the authors would be together and, maybe, I don’t know, after all, literature is a genre of the impossible concretized in words, they could have a “sharing exchange” among themselves.


Literature is a place where it rains,” you have the protagonist say, having fallen into misfortune and been obliged to strip down, without the clothing of his writing, to show himself for what he is: vulnerable.

So imagine a USB with these or other artists of the word. Imagine it begins to rain. Imagine what they talk about among themselves as they try to make sure a raindrop doesn’t ruin the binary code in which they live and thus begin the misunderstandings: 0-1-0 –stain-1-smudge-0-0-smudge-1 or whatever, and from there emerges the “how dare you!” and then the back and forth of “fuck you” and “I’ll beat the shit out of you,” “go to hell,” “vous êtes fou”, “va’ fa’ ta culo,” while Alcira hands out mimeographed copies of his “Poesia en Armas” [Poetry in Arms], something I think won’t do anything to calm the belligerent attitudes. In sum, all of the happy expectations ruined… because of the rain.

Of course, mutatis mutando,[ii] in your letters it is a cat who provides the meagre public for the speaker, and here it is a cat-dog with a little light who may be disconcerted by what I write, as if a cat-that-is-a-dog-that-is-a-cat-that-is-dog with a little light curled up in the shadows wasn’t disconcerting enough.

Do I digress? That seems most likely. After all, this impossible exchange on a USB that trusts that the rain will not ruin its colloquium is just a fantasy.

But if for the speaker the subject at hand is the rain, in this missive the subject is… the storm. Allow me then to take advantage of these lines to continue our exchange of reflections on the complex crisis that approaches, according to some, or that is already here, according to others.

Someone has said that our vision (captured now in the typography of the book “Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra: Contributions from the Sixth Commission of the EZLN”) is apocalyptic and closer to Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” (the comic and the television series it inspired or didn’t) than to Milton and Rose Friedman and their “Freedom to Choose” (the book as well as the economic policies that make it their alibi). They have said that we are mistaken because we are not sufficiently orthodox, or mistaken for being too orthodox. That nothing is going to happen, that upon arising each morning whatever one wants for breakfast will be available, that the neighbor’s dog will continue barking at the trash truck, that upon opening the tap what will come out is water and not the sound of the hereafter. That we are just big ugly birds of ill omen, that in any case don’t have media or academic impact (two things that are increasingly the same).

In sum, that the machine functions and that everyone is where they are supposed to be. The jolts are sporadic and they are only that, jolts, and the turbulence is passing and can be chalked up to the fact that somebody is resisting being where they should be. That it’s just like when a watch breaks because a gear or spring has come out of place, and the State is the “watchmaker” that gets rid of the broken piece and substitutes it with another.

The Apocalypse (everything included)? A universal flood? Humanity imprisoned on the apparently eternal or immortal train from Snowpiercer (the film by the South Korean Bong Joon-ho, titled “Rompenieves” on the “alternative production” DVD that was sent to me—and which I now can’t find) and reproducing within itself the same inhumanity that, wanting to solve global warming, induced the cooling of the planet?

Nothing could be further from our thinking. We Zapatistas don’t believe the world is going to end. We do think that the world we currently know is going to collapse, and that its implosion will give rise to a thousand human and natural tragedies.


If this implosion is already in process or is yet to come is still something that has to be debated, argued, investigated, affirmed, or denied. But as far as we know, there is no one who dares to deny it. Everybody up above accepts that the machine is failing, and they trot out a thousand and one solutions, always within the same logic of the machine. But there are those who want to break with that logic and assert: humanity is possible without the machine.

In any case, given what we are, we are not so worried about the storm. After all, the originary peoples and the dispossessed of Mexico and of the world have lived through centuries worth of storm. If there is anything one learns below, it is how to live in adverse conditions.

Life then, and in a few cases death, is a continual struggle, a battle fought in every corner of the calendars and geographies. And I’m not talking here about global battles, but about personal ones.

As one can conclude from a careful read of our words that our message is one that goes beyond the storm and its pains.

It is our belief that the possibility of a better world (not a perfect nor a finished one, we’ll leave that for religious and political dogmas) is one without the machine, and this possibility rests on a tripod. More accurately, it rests on the interrelation between three columns that have endured and persevered, with their ups and downs, their small victories and great defeats, throughout the brief history of the world: the arts (with the exception of literature), the sciences, and the originary peoples along with the basements of humanity all over the world.

Perhaps you ask yourselves, in part out of curiosity and in (large) part out of direct interpellation, why I have put literature in an exclusive category. I will get to that a little further on.

You will note that, abandoning the classics, I haven’t included politics among the paths to salvation. Knowing us a bit (despite the fact that we now don’t appear even buried in the interior pages of the press, we do have our own abundant bibliography for anyone who has honest interest in knowing what Zapatismo is about), it is clear that we are referring to a classical politics, politics “from above.”

Listen, Juan, brother, I know that this is all heading toward not another letter but really a whole library, since that is what we’ve been talking about, so allow me to leave that point pending. Not because it is less important or transcendent in the storm, but because “I’m on a roll” as the compas say and if I follow whatever tangent that words tempt me with, there is a serious risk that this letter will never get to you, not because of the rain but because it will never be finished.

I have used “the arts” because it is the arts (and not politics) that delve most deeply into the human being and rescue its essence. It is as if the world continued to be the same, but that through art we could find the human possibility among so many gears, screws, and springs humourlessly grinding away. In contrast to politics, art doesn’t try to readjust or repair the machine. Rather, it does something more subversive and disconcerting: it shows the possibility of another world.

I put “the sciences” (and I refer here especially to the so-called “formal sciences” and “natural sciences,” considering that the social sciences have a few things yet to define—note that this doesn’t imply a demand or exigency) because they hold the possibility to reconstruct something atop the catastrophe that “operates” across the entire world territory. And I am not talking about “reconstruction” in the sense of taking what has fallen and putting it back together in the image or semblance of its version before the tragedy. I am talking about “remaking,” that is, “to make anew.” And scientific knowledge can reorient the desperation and imbibe it with its real meaning, that is, “cease to hope.” And anyone who ceases to hope can begin to act.


Politics, the economy, and religion divide, parcel up, split apart. The sciences and the arts unite, connect, convert borders into ridiculous cartographic points.

But, it’s true, none are exempt from the fierce division of classes and they must choose: they either contribute to the maintenance and reproduction of the machine, or they contribute to the demonstration of its necessary abolition.

It is as if instead of re-labelling the machine, prettying or tuning it up, art and science put out, upon the superficial chrome surface of the system, a laconic and definitive sign: “EXPIRED,” “Time’s up,” “to continue watching, deposit another world.”

Imagine (your generation must have heard some John Lennon; mine is more about sones and huapangos), imagine that everything that gets spent on politics (for example, elections by way of the vote and elections by way of war, equally antidemocratic— “politics and the economy are the continuation of war by other means” Clausewitz would have said had he started from social science) went instead to the sciences and the arts. Imagine if instead of electoral and military campaigns there were laboratories, centres for research and dissemination, concerts, expositions, festivals, bookstores, libraries, theatres, cinemas, and countryside and cities where what reigned were the sciences and the arts rather than the machines.

Of course, we Zapatistas are convinced that this is only possible outside of the machine. And that the machine must be destroyed. Not readjusted, not shined up, not made “more human.” No, destroyed. If something of its remains are useful, it will be as a reminder not to repeat the nightmare, like a landmark one can see in the rear-view mirror as that path is left behind.

But we don’t doubt that there are those who think or believe that a readjustment is plausible without altering its functioning, by changing the engineer or assuring that the most luxurious train cars redistribute their riches so that something (not much though, no need to exaggerate) gets to the cars at the tail end. Of course, this is always accompanied by the emphasis that everyone is exactly where they belong. But candidness, brother, tends to be one disguise for perversity.

I have mentioned the originary peoples and the basements of the world, yes, as they are the ones with the greatest capacity to survive the storm and the only ones with the capacity to create “something else.” Someone will have to respond tomorrow to the question, “Is there anyone on Earth?” And here the word presents, not without provocative flirtation, another detour that, for the good of this missive, I will avoid with my renowned restraint.

I commented before, in a sarcastic and argumentative tone, on “the arts except for literature.” Well, that’s because I think (and this is an individual opinion) that literature must create ties between the three legs of the tripod, and make clear, happily or not, their interrelation. Literature must be, “The Witness.” But, most likely I am mistaken and it’s just that, in this hand of cards, I have uncovered the “Joker” in order to ask “Why so serious?”


What do we want? The key to understanding the subterranean message of Zapatismo is in the small stories that, in the form of the little indigenous girl who calls herself “Zapatista Defence,” appear in the book “Critical Though Versus the Capitalist Hydra.”

Imagine what, because it is necessary and urgent, seems to be impossible: a woman who grows up without fear.

Of course every geography and calendar adds its own chains: indigenous, migrant, worker, orphan, displaced, illegal, disappeared, subtly or explicitly abused, raped, murdered, forever condemned to add burden and sentence to the condition of being a woman.


What world would be birthed by a woman who could be born and grow up without fear of violence, harassment, persecution, disrespect, exploitation?

Wouldn’t that world be terrible and marvellous?

So if at some point they ask me, a ghostly shadow with an impertinent nose, to define Zapatismo’s objective, I would say: “to make a world where a woman can be born and grow up without fear.”

Note: I’m not saying that in this world those kinds of violence wouldn’t be lying in wait for her (most of all because the planet could end several times over and still not be rid of the worst of our condition of being men).

I’m also not saying that there aren’t women without fear already. Their rebellious determination has won them that victory in daily battle, and they know that battles can be won. But not the war. No, not until any woman in any corner of the world’s geographies and calendars can grow up without fear.

I am talking about a tendency. Could we affirm that the majority of women are born and grow up without fear? I don’t think so, and probably I’m mistaken, and I’m sure there are figures, statistics, and examples that show I’m mistaken.

But, within our limited horizon, we perceive fear, fear because one is small, fear because one is big, fear because one is slim, fear because one is fat, fear because one is pretty, fear because one is ugly, fear because one is pregnant, fear because one is not pregnant, fear because one is a little girl, fear because one is a young woman, fear because one is a mature woman, fear because one is an elderly woman.

Is it worth it to put effort into that step, into life and death in such a chimera?

We Zapatistas say yes, it is worth it.

And to that task we give our lives, which may be little, but it is all we have.



Yes, you are right that there will be no lack of those who call us “naïve” (in the best of cases, because in all languages there are cruder synonyms). I like this word processor, with its free and open source software, because every time I want to write “case” or “cases” the spellcheck proposes “chaos.” I think the free software knows more about devastating storms than I do.

In sum, what was I saying? Oh! The lost words, their shipwreck in papers or bites, the originary peoples and the basements of humanity converted in Noah’s Ark, the sciences and the arts as life-saving islands, a little girl without fear as compass and port…

Eh? Yes, I agree with you that the result of all of this has more chaos than case, but this is only a letter that will be, as all letters should be, converted into a paper airplane with the intimidating insignia of the “Zapatista Air Force” drawn on one side, and there it goes looking for its destination. Who knows where you are Juan, brother bajo protesta.[iii] Like grandmothers used to say (I don’t know if they still do), “calm down son,” and get into a jacket or an embrace because it’s cold and “the topic at hand, you know, is the rain.”

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.


February 2016

[i] “Bajo protesta” can mean both reluctance/protest and “under oath.”

[ii] The Spanish uses “mutandis mutando,” a riff on the Latin Mutatis mutandis (meaning “the necessary changes having been made” or “once the necessary changes have been made”) using the verb “mutar,” to mutate.

[iii] Here again “bajo protesta” can mean both reluctance/protest and “under oath.”



July 16, 2015

Poetics And Aesthetics In Zapatismo. The Farewell Of Subcomandante Marcos.

Filed under: gal, Indigenous, Marcos, Zapatista — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:20 am


Poetics And Aesthetics In Zapatismo. The Farewell Of Subcomandante Marcos.

Written by Alessandro Zagato

Image by Maria L. Guillen Valdovinos

Image by Maria L. Guillen Valdovinos

Amador Fernandez Savater (2015) has observed that it would be hard to think of an experience with a better capacity of engaging, and that is yet so deeply rooted in a specific territory, than Zapatismo. Indeed it seems that in the experience of this movement, the particular and the universal tend to merge and to intensify each other, producing unprecedented local processes which resonate at international level, where the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberaciòn Nacional (EZLN) inspires people and movements.

This is due to the fact that Zapatismo breaks in many respects with traditional forms of politics. It does so by opening spaces at a creative distance from the state, and by constantly experimenting with innovative ideas and strategic perspectives. In this short article I will give an insight on the organic role that aesthetics and poetics have played in the politics of this revolutionary movement. In the first part I will provide a general overview on this theme. Some of my views are informed by the fieldwork that I conducted in Chiapas between 2013 and 2014, and by my recent experience of curating, together with Chilean art historian Natalia Arcos, an exhibition on Zapatista art within the event “Rights of nature: art and ecology in the Americas” organised by Nottingham Contemporary[1]. In the second part I will analyse as a sort of case study the surprising and spectacular farewell of Subcomandante Marcos, the movement’s leading and iconic figure appealing to the mass media and the educated middle classes, a prominent personality capable to dialogue with intellectuals from around the world. In May 2014 the EZLN revealed that this figure was just a “hologram”, a “complex manoeuvre of distraction, a malicious move from the indigenous heart that we are, (…) challenging one of the bastions of modernity: the media” (EZLN 2014). The “farewell” or “death” of Subcomandante Marcos took place in a highly performative event organised by the Zapatistas in La Realidad (24/05/2014), one of the five political hubs of the movement, in the hearth of the Lacandon Jungle – and in which I personally participated.



The EZLN was born clandestinely in 1983. It was founded by a group of just 6 people: five men and a woman, three mestizos and three natives who had moved to the Lacandon Jungle from various parts of Mexico. There they built a first military camp with the ambition of organising the indigenous population of the area in a guerrilla army, which in some years could eventually defeat the regular army and bring about revolution in Mexico. Initially the group was influenced by an ideology typical of the Latin American revolutionary movements of the Sixties and Seventies, faithful to a Marxist-Leninist style of construction of Socialism.

According to first hand reports (Marcos 2014) already in these initial stages, and despite the harsh conditions of living in clandestinity, the EZLN showed a peculiar penchant towards artistic expression. “Each Monday we used to organise cultural events: the group was convening in what we called the cultural unit and we were reading poems, singing, and representing theatre plays”.The strict military routine involved physical training, the reading and discussion of strategy books of the Northern American and Mexican armies, but also a collective engagement with authors such as Cervantes, Juan Gelman, Shakespeare, Miguel Hernandez, Brecht, among others, who would strongly influence the unique style shaping the official communiques of the EZLN.

However, it was not just a tendency within a tiny group of revolutionaries that determined the political/ aesthetic singularity of Zapatismo, but rather their encounter with the cosmology and the ancestral forms of resistance of the Mayan people living in that region of Chiapas. This encounter constituted literarily an event, a “sublime occasion” (Deleuze 1994:190), a powerful disruption on the original plan, and the opening of unprecedented possibilities around which a new subjectivity started taking shape. “At this stage” – recalls Marcos – “the EZLN was no longer what we had conceived when we arrived. By then we had been defeated by the indigenous communities, and as a product of that defeat, the EZLN started to grow exponentially and to become very other”. In another text Marcos (Le Bot 1997, 123) sounds even more drastic: “We really suffered a process of re-education, of restyling. As if they [the indigenous people] had disarmed us. As if they had dismantled all we were made up of – Marxism, Leninism, socialism, urban culture, poetry, literature – all that formed part of us, and things we did not even know we had. They disarmed us and then armed us again, but in a different way”.

In the effort of starting a political dialogue with the local populations, the subjective disposition of the Guerrilleros had to get through a major reconfiguration. They had to give up conventional strategies of indoctrination and recruiting, where campaigners approach a specific population (which they identify as the actor of change) to generate “awareness”, and indicate the road towards political change – and where propaganda serves as a means of “splitting” and “colonising” subjects by exposing them to ideological content. Contrary to that, the encounter of the EZLN with the indigenous communities is immediately shaped by frictions, which force the two parts into exploring paths of reciprocity and exchange. “We sensed” says Marcos “that our political conception clashed with the political conception of the communities and was changing accordingly. This had also an impact on the cultural life of the EZLN, which was quite intense for a guerrilla unit. (…) Therefore we liked to joke about the fact that for being revolutionary cadres we were also quite round” (Marcos 2014).

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