dorset chiapas solidarity

January 19, 2017

A Few First Questions for the Sciences and their ConSciences

Filed under: CNI, Indigenous, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:52 pm



A Few First Questions for the Sciences and their ConSciences



December 26, 2016

Scientists [Científicas and Científicos]:

Compas of the Sixth:

Observers and Listeners who are present here and those who are at a distance:

Good morning, afternoon, night, and, as always, the dark hours before dawn:

My name is SupGaleano. As I am only a little over two and a half years old, my version of what used to be called a “curriculum vitae” and now is called a “user profile” is quite brief. In addition to being an insurgente and a Zapatista, I have various other professions. One of them, for example, is to make those who consider themselves fine upstanding citizens uncomfortable, and to awake the basest instincts of those who do not. I do this by showing my clearly seductive and voluptuous figure, which I have achieved, through much effort, via a rigorous diet of greasy meals along with supplementary junk food at my discretion.

I am also, much to my own dismay and that of many readers, the unwilling scribe for the whims of a particular being—mythological for people over 12 years of age and of obvious existential importance for any person passionate about science and any child [niño, niña, or niñoa] who doesn’t care about calendars except to play with. I am referring, of course, to that being whose mere existence lays social and biological Darwinism to rest and marks the emergence of a new epistemic paradigm: the cat-dog. Perhaps, when this entity abandons the prison of the word, world history will be marked and its calendar redefined with “a before and after the cat-dog.”

(The Sup takes out two figurines of the Cat-Dog, carved out of wood and painted by insurgentes).

Another of my professions, at times and on the orders of my bosses, is to feed the paranoid conspiracy theories against the always “suffering,” “selfless,” and well-behaved institutional left that, for lack of real arguments and proposals, resorts to the role of eternal victim in the hopes that pity will translate into votes and for whom fanaticism substitutes for reason and even a minimum of decency.

Yet another of my professions is transgressor of laws such as those of gravity, seriousness, and good manners.

One more profession, which is most relevant in this case, is that of alchemist. Really I should be a scientist, but as I have not yet managed to transform the essence of one thing into its contradictory opposite, I have not received the level of recognition that my admirable labours deserve. But not to despair, I continue experimenting in my laboratory with test tubes and plants, under the ever-critical gaze of the cat-dog, trying to eliminate the essence of that aberration of nature called squash soup and transmute it into something likable and nutritious like pecan ice cream, which, along with popcorn and hot sauce, are some of the few things that science has produced for the benefit of humanity and which differentiate us, along with the opposable thumb and despite the specimen of Donald Trump, from non-human primates.

Thus, today it is my job to try to make you feel, not know, our happiness as Zapatistas that you have accepted our invitation and, despite the calendar, have found the way and means to participate in this gathering.

As Zapatistas we have been waiting for you for almost 23 years. As original peoples, well, you can do the maths.

Of course, many will say that it is not their first time here and that they have, in heart and body, come before. They are right. They have been here, but not as they will be here in the coming days, that is, here to teach and maybe, possibly, to learn from us.

We as Zapatistas are here as your students, your apprentices.

Although we are ready to learn like anybody else, we are a very other kind of student. So that you can get to know us as Zapatistas, we will start by telling you what we don’t want and what we do want.

For example, we won’t help you to haul around your books, nor prepare a bibliography, nor bring your lab materials. Nor we will be hoping that you don’t show up so that we have an excuse to leave. We aren’t looking for good grades, credits, degrees, or, upon finishing our studies, to start our own business based on science, pseudoscience, or false science hidden behind an official letterhead.

We do not aspire to profit from knowledge, nor to achieve prestige by offering the glass beads that are the pseudosciences and philosophies claiming “change comes from within,” “love will redeem the world,” “this concoction/party/politician/leader-of-the-moment-will-bring-us-happiness” that come into fashion or not in times of crisis when the least common of senses, common sense, is defeated by the offer of magical solutions for everyone and everything.

We do not think of knowledge as a social status symbol or measure of intelligence. It’s clear that anybody can graduate using plagiarized material, or by pretending to have valid solutions thanks to the increasingly weak magic of the mass media.

We don’t want to go away to the university, we want to build a university in our communities, for you to teach and learn alongside our peoples.

We don’t want to go to the big laboratories and scientific research centres of the metropolis; we want them to be built here.

Instead of army and police barracks, open air mines and fancy hotels, we want—constructed here, under our leadership and collective operation—astronomical observatories, laboratories, physics and robotics workshops, sites for the observation, study, and conservation of nature, and even a Large Hadron Collider or something that allows us to free the graviton from the hypothetical prison of that particle and to thus begin to determine, once and for all, whether the physicists who subscribe to String Theory are members of a frustrated neo-cult or a group of paradigmatic scientists.

We want to erect schools to train scientists, not workshops disguised as schools that only teach vocations that serve capitalism (cheap and unskilled labour), or that only serve to pass the time or for the bad governments, or whoever aspires to become them, to say they built new schools or institutes.

We want scientific study, not just technical study.

We don’t just want to know how to drive or repair a vehicle, a sewing machine, a carpentry tool, a microscope; we also want to know the scientific principles of mechanical movement and optic physics, what combustion is; we want to know that speed is not the same as acceleration; one shouldn’t confuse value and price.

We don’t want to enter those scientific and technological competitions that so enthuse the public and private universities in order to see which machine or machinist is best. We want to learn and do science and technology to win the only competition that is worthwhile: that of life against death.

We don’t want to go to the big cities and get lost there. And that isn’t because we don’t have the knowledge to do so—the kids who have been educated in the autonomous schools have a greater level of knowledge then those who were educated in the state-run schools—nor is it for lack of intelligence or money.

It’s because we do not want to cease to be what we are. And we are originary peoples, indigenous, as they say. What makes us what we are is our land, our people, our history, our culture, and as Zapatistas, our struggle.

In sum, we want to understand the world, to know it. Because only by knowing the world can we make a new one, a bigger one, a better one.


A wise man of the originary peoples, Purépecha by blood, Mexican by geography and internationalist by heart, Tata Grande Juan Chávez Alonso, once said that the life of the original peoples is, among other things, a continuous preparation. “We have to prepare ourselves for everything: to be born, to grow, to love, to hate, to learn, to build, to destroy, to struggle, to die. And in the end, this is what we leave for those who come after us. We do not leave them an inheritance of riches, surnames, and positions. We only leave them the lesson that they must prepare themselves—for everything, all of the time, everywhere.”

That is why you should know that we have been preparing ourselves for this event for months.

We didn’t just show up here in front of you to see what you say, to see how you are, what your ways and times and geographies consist of. No, we came here prepared.

The doubt that moves us, the scientific curiosity, the eagerness to learn and know, comes from long ago, so long ago that the scientific calendars can’t keep track.

For example, we prepared questions.

We know well that just as you have to prepare to teach, we who don’t know yet have to prepare to learn.




We also know that, just as one has to study to give answers, one also has to study to ask questions.

It hasn’t been easy. For example, we had to study how to say and write words like “anabolic,” “salbutamol,” “clenbuterol” “pre-eclampsia” and “eclampsia.” We had to learn to say “el mioma” [myoma] and not “la mioma.” We had to find a way to explain to you what it means “to burst out fish” and other things that we see in our world as indigenous people.

We met multiple times. First we met as zone-level assemblies. There we chose who would participate in this event given their area of work, for example, those who are promotores [trained practitioners] in the area of health, education, agro-ecology, medicinal plants, community radio, bone-setting and midwifery, etc. It didn’t matter if the person is young or old, if they are 15 or 524 years old. They did however have to understand Spanish, in order to understand all of you. And of course, they had to be interested in science.

Later the compañeras and compañeros who were selected met multiple times to prepare our questions. The first and most important questions we created were: what are we going to ask these brother and sister scientists? Do we only ask them what they know about science? Or do we also ask them how they see the current situation, if they think things are bad or everything is calm? Do we ask them how they view their scientific work? Do we ask them how they struggle for justice and freedom?

These questions that we are going to read to you now are some of the ones that we prepared in our meetings. As you will see, many of the questions don’t correspond to the exact and natural sciences, which should give you an idea of what the next gathering will be. Here goes:

Do genetically modified organisms do harm to Mother Nature and human beings or not?

Is there a scientific explanation for why, in some regions, in gullies where in times of drought there is no water, as soon as the first rains come (in May and June), there is a sudden spike in the production of fish? This is what we call “bursting with fish.”

Let me see if I can clarify these questions. Many years ago, let’s say about 30, about the middle of 1986, we were in the mountains…

1986, when Michael Jackson was still of African American complexion…

1986, when the Green Ecology Party of Mexico, the Citizens Movement, the Workers Party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party [PRD] and the party of the Movement for National Regeneration [MORENA] were all still called the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] and they had as designated successor Carlo Salinas de Gortari whose economic policies they all still back today. The New Alliance Party and the Social Encounter Party still went under the name of National Action Party.

(Decades later, the eezeeelen has recognized its defeat and has another structure; Michael Jackson, even with a different colour, kept being Michael Jackson; the PRI and the PAN are still all the same people, although now with other colours)…

Around the middle of 1986, during the soccer World Cup, that intermediary between heaven and earth, the dervish named Diego Armando Maradona, took off from midfield, leaving every British player in the dust until, satisfied, he shot the ball into the net in a play that marked the 20th century and still causes old fans to say, when watching Lionel Messi play, “Pfff! I saw Maradona perform a scientific demonstration that god exists and is round.”

Okay, I guess that wasn’t a very orthodox example.

Well, in 1986, we were in an insurgent camp called “Recruits.” A group of recruits asked the commander in charge for permission to go to a nearby village to collect fish. “You mean to go fishing,” the commander said. “No,” they replied, “to collect fish, because this is the time when the stream bursts with fish.” The commander wanted to know what this was all about, and they told him: “the stream is dry, and at the first rain, it bursts with fish, but since there is no water, you just grab them.” “So are they tiny fish then?” the commander asked skeptically. “No, they’re grown, big fish, sardina or bobito,” they replied. “There’s no such thing as magic, but go ahead,” the commander said. The next day they came back with a burlap sack full of fresh fish. That afternoon we ate so much fish soup that the trees that shaded the camp took on a fluorescent light that could have been seen without difficulty from the space telescope Hubble.

In sum: there’s just a dry riverbed, a first, timid rain, and then, with the riverbed just barely moist and spotted with a few puddles, thousands of adult fish flap around disconcerted with that same distrustful look that you all have right now. What is the scientific explanation? End of the pointless clarification. Continuing with the questions:

When a patient suffers a bone fracture, a doctor amputates the affected area or installs a metal rod or screw. But if the patient is treated by a bonesetter, they’re cured. What is the explanation for this?

With all of the damage that the capitalists have done to the people through their misuse of science, scientifically can you create a science that is truly human in order to avoid falling into a science that is inhuman, and if it is possible create a truly human science, who can create it?

In our struggle for liberation we see and feel the reality produced by the capitalist hydra. We are therefore creating a new society and a new world to save nature for the sake of a humanity without injustice, inequality, exploitation, and poverty. For this we need the originary peoples, all exploited people, the artists and you as scientists to be united, because your inventions and discoveries are very important for the development of humanity. What do you think and what do you have to say about this?

Brother and sister companer@ scientists, you have a different kind of knowledge, but we, and other sectors, all have something in common, because capitalism exploits us all and appropriates our knowledges for its own evil ends. Do you think that we are going to allow this exploitation to continue, or is there another way to live with justice and freedom, a way to work collectively and with unity, to defend life and humanity?

Brother and sister companer@ scientists, the exploitation and abuse of human beings and nature has caused much suffering and death. We want the exploiters and also whoever doesn’t suffer as we do to put themselves in our shoes. This has made us think that something must be done and made us ask who should do it. We have concluded that the artists, scientists, originary peoples, and those below must put together our wisdom and begin to construct a new world where those of us who live will live well. Will you agree to be part of the construction of a new world together with us?

Brother and sister companer@ scientists, as Zapatistas we think that science itself is a series of knowledges that can help us to develop a more human system, where our dreams of unity and the conservation of Mother Earth and living beings can be possible. Simultaneously they will help us to soon destroy this capitalist monster. So we ask, is there room for your dreams, your knowledges and your science in the world of oppression? Is there room for your dreams within dispossession, horror, fear and the extermination of life? Do you believe that science can humanize in conjunction with the peoples of the countryside and the city?

Brothers and sisters, companer@s, scientists, what do you think about the women who are being exploited, manipulated, marginalized, assassinated, tortured, kidnapped, racially discriminated against and used as objects to promote capitalist commodities? What do you think about the fact that they use us as publicity for their propaganda and their transport of drugs, and as objects to satisfy their sexual needs? That they prostitute us to sell articles to make money? Why must we suffer to see the violence and death faced by millions of women across the world on an everyday basis? And we do not only feel pain, but also rage and fury. For example, as Zapatista women we are exercising our right and freedom to participate in our autonomous government of lead-by-obeying, which we see is a space for us to construct a new society. What do you think as scientists can be done to free us from all of this suffering and evil that the capitalist system does to us? And what can we do about it, you and us together? And given that without us women the world cannot live, how much time to you think that we women have to wait to be free? Is it now or never? As Zapatista women we see that it is possible to organize, struggle and work, we see that you and us need one another.




And so to bring this section to a close, I put two questions to you. The first came from Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés:

What is the scientific explanation for why whenever you start to talk about politics the insurgentas and insurgents fall asleep? Some of them even claim that they have trouble sleeping, but all that you have to do is start talking about politics and they start snoring. Is there a scientific explanation for this? Or are they just acting a fool?

The second question will make more sense in the next session:

Why is this flower this colour? Why does it have this shape? Why does it have this smell?


(The Sup takes out his little Einstein and Sherlock Holmes dolls and places them in the middle of the table, surrounded on either side by a pair of cat-dog figures).

Like any self-respecting alchemist, I feel a mixture of envy and admiration for the person who, without stopping to attend to the global problems of injustice and slavery, also practices the hard sciences (like Albert Einstein here) and for those who manage to go beyond the abstract universe and apply the sciences in pursuit of human justice (like detective Sherlock Holmes). Einstein and Holmes, both represent the commitment of their scientific and technical work to social transformation. Both remind us that, as Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés highlighted earlier, we cannot delegate our tasks as full human beings to others.

That is why, despite the fact that I am only a mediocre alchemist, you, who have made scientific work your motor and your destiny, share with me and with those who are huddled here with you, the idea that we must do something. And this something doesn’t have anything to do with the irresponsibility of delegating the responsibility of doing something to others.

Of course, you will say that I am setting a trap. That, in placing the figures of Albert Einstein and Sherlock Holmes in front of you, I am resorting to a crude and caricatured form of blackmail in order to oblige you to adhere to a political proposal that seeks to hegemonize and homogenize everything: the sciences, the arts, life.

Maybe, maybe not. Let’s leave aside for a moment the blackmail, perhaps more appropriate for adolescent romance and the politics of above that pays lip-service to “love” and “fraternity” while they traffic in discrimination, racism, intolerance and the “with me or against me” that all fascists resort to.

Note that alongside Einstein and Holmes I have placed the little Cat-dog figures, which are both looking at them and looking at you.

The Cat-dog is acting like Doctor Watson, ready to sum up his scientific achievements, that is, his human ones.

But the Cat-dog is also pointing to the shadows of Moriarty and the Manhattan Project, alerting you to the ominous and predatory presence of the Hydra, the system that is always inclined to operate its perverse alchemy and convert knowledge made for life and for creation into knowledge for destruction and death.

That is how – one more blackmail – I am showing you what this encounter is about, an encounter between your science and the conscience of us Zapatistas.

I am showing you that we look at you and that our gaze is also a form of listening to you and understanding you.

That our gaze has this mix of admiration and envy for what you are; for what it is that, at least according to us Zapatistas, makes you special.

And our gaze is neither hopeful, nor not hopeful,

Our gaze is simply asking:

And what about you? What are you doing?


From CIDECI_Unitierra, Chiapas, Mexico, Latin America, Planet Earth, Solar System, etcetera.

Mexico, December 26, 2016



June 1, 2016

EZLN supports the teachers in their fight against the education reform

Filed under: Repression, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:43 am



EZLN supports the teachers in their fight against the education reform

A member of the EZLN in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Photo: Isaín Mandujano.


By: Isaín Mandujano

TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ, Chis. (apro). – The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) today came out in favour of the teachers’ fight against the education reform and asserted that with the repression and the closure to dialogue and negotiation, the Mexican government does not seek to apply the law, but rather to do violence to it.

The government: “is not applying the law, the law is being violated. It says it is defending the constitution –the education reform–, violating the constitution -the laws that guarantee fundamental rights such as the rights of assembly, petition and free movement,” it accused.

By means of a comunicado called “May: Between authoritarianism and resistance,” it pointed out that the battles that the teachers, as well as their families unleash now, do not end with May: “They are barely the beginning of many months and struggles that will happen, and not only with the teachers. In the geographies and the calendars of below history doesn’t elapse, it is made.”

At 16 days from the start of the fight of the “teachers in resistance and rebellion,” Subcomandante Galeano and Subcomandante Moisés, spokespersons and military leaders of the EZLN announced today their position on what is happening in Chiapas and other parts of the country where battles against “the misnamed education reform” are taking place.

“The misnamed ‘education reform’ is not about education, it’s about labour. If it were educational the views of the teachers and families would have been received.  When the government refuses to dialogue about the reform with the teachers and families, it is recognizing that we’re not dealing with improving education, but rather with ‘adjusting the roster –that’s how capital calls the firings,” says the missive signed by both masked men.

To the EZLN, what the paid communications media do is useless. Statements come and go: “everything’s normal,” “the majority of the schools are working.” “Ninety something percent of the teachers are working.

“But those statements don’t know the reality, because the teachers are in the streets. In the towns the families already said clearly that they are not going to accept the substitutes, that they are not going to let them enter or that they are going to run them out,” the leaders of the rebel group said.

It clarifies that the teachers are not defending privileges, they are struggling in the last trench for any human being: the minimum living conditions for themselves and their families.

“Does it surprise you that anyone is willing to defend what little is left to them? An infamous salary, some classrooms that appear to have been bombed (and they have been, but by economic bombs), not one but rather several shifts, excessively numerous groups?  In sum: little pay, bad working conditions and very fucked up. The EZLN questions: sound familiar?

In the comunicado the spokespersons for the EZLN say that: “the objective of the alleged educational reform is to destroy that teacher who prepared for years and has dedicated practically all of his or her life to that craft.”

With perseverance “which in the media is paid with banknotes,” they said, the image has been constructed of corrupt leaders, but that image is the lure for biting the fishhook: “No, the objective isn’t the leaders, but rather all the teachers, including those in the servile National Education Workers Union. Now, if you want a model for corrupt leaders, you have it there in the leadership of the SNTE.”

According to the EZLN the objective of the education reform is to privatize education and that in fact, that privatization is already underway, because leaving the schools without attention or a budget won’t finish off public education in México for a human reason: the teachers.

Now the other objective, the guerrilla group abounded, is to destroy those teachers. “It tries to provoke a catastrophe in the education system so that the families tend, doubling shifts, to private schools; or are in agreement that their daughters and sons are formed consuming television, radio and digital media, or in the street.

“The teaching profession does not improvise, nor is it a question of intuition. It studies, demands preparation.  Not just anyone has the ability and the knowledge to educate.  Because one is educated in school, one doesn’t just learn.  Not just anyone can successfully face a group of school-age or pre-school age children.  Therefore, the Teachers Colleges (escuelas Normales) are necessary,” the EZLN’s leaders add in their missive.

Galeano and Moisés ask:

“Have they told you that what occurs is that the teachers are loafers and that they don’t want to be prepared? They lie, any teacher aspires to be better, to be better prepared.  Do what the government hasn’t done; speak with a teacher.  Even better, listen to her!  You will see how, when he or she talks about their situation, it seems that they describe yours.

“If a government is not willing to dialogue and negotiate with its opponents, what path do they leave them? If only the argument of force is used, what do they expect as a counter argument?”


Originally Published in Spanish by

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Re-Published with English  interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



April 6, 2016

Dismantling neoliberal education: a lesson from the Zapatistas

Filed under: Indigenous, Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:50 am



Dismantling neoliberal education: a lesson from the Zapatistas



The non-hierarchical education of the Zapatistas cries dignity and suggests that the suffering of the neoliberal university can be withstood and overcome.

Levi Gahman



I’ve said it before—in contrast to those traditional stories that begin with ‘Once upon a time…’ Zapatista stories begin with ‘There will be a time…’

— Subcomandante Galeano (formerly Marcos)


Excerpted from Levi’s chapter ‘Zapatismo versus the Neoliberal University: Towards a Pedagogy against Oblivion’, in the forthcoming book The Radicalization of Pedagogy, edited by Simon Springer, Marcelo Lopes de Souza and Richard J. White.


The story of the Zapatistas is one of dignity, outrage, and grit. It is an enduring saga of over 500 years of resistance to the attempted conquest of the land and lives of indigenous peasants. It is nothing less than a revolutionary and poetic account of hope, insurgency and liberation—a movement characterized as much by adversity and anguish, as it is by laughter and dancing.

More precisely, the ongoing chronicles of the Zapatista insurrection provide a dramatic account of how indigenous people have defied the imposition of state violence, oppressive gender roles and capitalist plunder. And for people of the Ch’ol, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Tojolabal, Mam and Zoque communities in Chiapas, Mexico who make the decision to become Zapatista, it is a story reborn, revitalized and re-learned each new day, with each new step.

It is with this context in mind that I provide a brief overview of how the Zapatistas’ vibrant construction of resistance offers hope to those of us struggling within-and-against the neoliberal university.


Power was trying to teach us individualism and profit…We were not good students.

— Compañera Ana Maria
Zapatista Education Promoter

Before we dive too deeply into things, I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no faith whatsoever that the academic status quo will ever be reformed. Audre Lorde tells us that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” while Emma Goldman notes that “the most violent element in society is ignorance.” Most universities, after all, were assembled using an ignorant master’s racist and patriarchal logic. That is, the academy was broken to begin with, and remains that way.

Hence, when it comes to the existence of any entity or institution that emerges from the colonizer’s mind-set, like neoliberal education, I agree with Frantz Fanon, who states that “we must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged, and leave it behind.”

In short, neoliberalism, the world’s current “heavy darkness”, must be cast out, and the universities in which it is being taught must be pummelled into ruin. And despite the fact that such a comment may seemingly be replete with cynicism and despair, it is actually deeply rooted in yearning and hope — for resistance.

When speaking of “resistance” one must tread lightly because it is, indeed, an intensely contested term. Resistance can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For this piece then, I draw from (what I feel is) perhaps the most fertile and most evolved source of resistance that exists — the Zapatista insurgency.

The analysis that follows is thus informed by the Tsotsil (indigenous Maya) concept of sts’ikel vokol, which means “withstanding suffering.” And when resistance is defined in this manner possibilities blossom. Possibilities that resistance can mean empathy and emotional labour, as well as compassion and mutual aid, regardless of one’s calendar and geography… or even university.


3The basis of neoliberalism is a contradiction: in order to maintain itself, it must devour itself, and therefore, destroy itself.

— Don Durito de la Lacandona
Beetle, Knight Errant

Neoliberalism is a force to be reckoned with. Globally, it is exacerbating dependency, debt and environmental destruction on a widespread scale through the proliferation of free trade policies, which slash the rights and protections of workers, environments and societies alike.

On a personal level, it convinces people that individualism, competition and self-commodification are the natural conditions of life. Consequently, civil society is compelled to accept, through manipulative capitalist rhetoric, that the world is nothing more than a market in which everything, and everyone, can be bought and sold. The misery of others, then, is deemed to be merely collateral damage of an inherently bleak and fragmented world. Chillingly, higher education is not immune to such malevolent tendencies.

The debilitating effects that neoliberalism has on higher education have been written about at length. The pathological obsession on generating income that university administrators (and even some faculty members) give precedent to (in lieu of encouraging critical thought, self-reflection and praxis) is also well documented.

Less attention, however, has been paid to the psychological injuries inflicted upon people by the disciplinary mechanisms of the neoliberal university, like scholarly rankings, impact factors, citation metrics, achievement audits, publication quotas, pressure to win prestigious grants, award cultures, getting “lines on the CV”, and so on.

If one listens to colleagues or friends working in the academy, it will not take long to hear stories of acute anxiety, depression and paranoia, as well as feelings of despair, non-belonging and hopelessness. Life in the neoliberal university has thereby become a proverbial “death by a thousand cuts” — just ask any mother working within it.

One of the most disconcerting, and overlooked, products of neoliberal higher education is how students are treated by it. “Learning” now consists of rote memorization, standardized tests, high-stakes exams, factory-like classroom settings, hierarchical competition amongst peers, the accumulation of massive debts to afford rising tuition costs, and patronizingly being scolded that “this is what you signed up for.”


Students must navigate this neoliberal gauntlet while also simultaneously being pressured into enthusiastically performing the grotesque bourgeois role of “entrepreneur” or “global citizen”. Paulo Freire said there would be dehumanizing days like this.

Without question, neoliberalism has launched a full-fledged assault on the mental health of faculty and students alike, not to mention the well-being of heavily-exploited, contracted, typically non-unionized workers in the food service and maintenance sectors of many universities. These nearly impossible circumstances are often the only choices many have in simply making a go of it in life. And a situation in which it is compulsory for people to discipline and punish themselves, as well as others, into becoming hyper-competitive, self-promoting functionaries of capitalism is — as a Zapatista education promoter so vividly put it — olvido: oblivion.


The battle for humanity and against neoliberalism was and is ours, and also that of many others from below. Against death — We demand life.

— Subcomandante Galeano
(formerly Marcos)

It should be pointed out that the ongoing project of Zapatista autonomy is the direct result of indigenous people’s self-determination, as well as their decision to engage in highly disciplined organizing against a neo-colonial elite. More pointedly, the Zapatistas sacrificed themselves to make the world a better and safer place.

Fittingly, one of the most widely seen phrases scattered across the rebel territories of Chiapas reads: Para Todos Todo, Para Nosotros Nada (“Everything for Everyone, Nothing for Us”). In the face of global capitalism, such a statement is as profound as it is humble. It explicitly foregrounds cooperation and selflessness; virtues the Zapatistas have integrated into their autonomous education system.

As indigenous rebels, the Zapatistas astutely refer to state-sanctioned schools and universities as “corrals of thought domestication.” This is due to the emphasis that government-legitimated institutions place on coercing students and faculty into becoming docile citizen-consumers. The Zapatista response to the prospect of having to send their children into such hostile learning environments was open and armed revolt.

Thus, on January 1, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rekindled the spirit of Emiliano Zapata’s revolutionary call for Tierra y Libertad(“Land and Freedom”), cried ¡Ya Basta! (Enough!), and “woke up history” by taking back the land they had been dispossessed of.

Given their foresight and actions, one cannot help but be reminded of anarcho-communist geographer Peter Kropotkin, who in 1880 stated: “There are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable.”

4In successfully liberating themselves from belligerent edicts of the Mexican government (el mal gobierno, “the bad government”), the Zapatistas now practice education on their own terms. They are not beholden to the parochial oversight of managerialist bureaucracies like many of us in neoliberal universities are. On the contrary, Zapatista teaching philosophy comes “from below” and is anchored in land and indigenous custom. Their approach is best illustrated by the duelling axiom Preguntando Caminamos (“Asking, We Walk”), which sees Zapatista communities generate their “syllabi” through popular assembly, participatory democracy and communal decision-making.

These horizontalist processes advance by focusing on the histories, ecologies and needs of their respective bases of support. Zapatista “classrooms” therefore include territorially-situated lessons on organic agroforestry, natural/herbal medicines, food sovereignty and regional indigenous languages. Given the geopolitical context of their movement, then, Zapatista teaching methods constitute acts of decolonization in and of themselves.

This leaves one wondering if the neoliberal academy might learn a thing or two from the Zapatistas in regard to endorsing both indigenous worldviews and place-based education as essential to any program of study. And even given the depth and breadth of the Zapatista’s “curricula,” the goal of their rogue pedagogy can be summed up as trying to instill one thing: a capacity for discernment, which they foster through Zapatismo.


Liberation will not fall like a miracle from the sky; we must construct it ourselves. So let’s not wait, let us begin…

— Zapatista Pamphlet on Political Education

A kind and good-humoured education promoter explained the notion of Zapatismo to me on a brisk and fog-blanketed weekday morning in the misty highlands of Chiapas. In describing it, they noted: “Zapatismo is neither a model, nor doctrine. It’s also not an ideology or blueprint, rather, it is the intuition one feels inside their chest to reflect the dignity of others, which mutually enlarges our hearts.”

Additionally, as loyal readers of ROAR’s Leonidas Oikonomakis will recognize, Zapatismo is also commonly comprised of seven principles:

  1. Obedecer y no Mandar (to obey, not command)
  2. Proponer y no Imponer (to propose, not impose)
  3. Representar y no Suplantar (to represent, not supplant)
  4. Convencer y no Vencer (to convince, not conquer)
  5. Construir y no Destruir (to construct, not destroy)
  6. Servir y no Servirse (to serve, not to serve oneself)
  7. Bajar y no Subir (to go down, not up; to work from below, not seek to rise)

These convictions guide the everyday efforts of the Zapatistas in the building of what they refer to as Un Mundo Donde Quepan Muchos Mundos (“A World Where Many Worlds Fit”). Zapatismo, then, can also be thought of as the collective expression of a radical imagination, the manifestation of a shared creative vision, and a material liberation of geography.

5What it gives rise to in terms of pedagogy are possibilities for establishing respectful methods of teaching and learning that champion the recognition (and practice) of mutuality, interdependency, introspection and dignity.

These non-hierarchical/anti-neoliberal facets of Zapatista teaching are evident in the grassroots focus they take. Local knowledge is so central amongst their communities that many of the promotores de educación (education promoters) often come from, and remain in, the same autonomous municipalities as the students. There are no sessional contracts and teachers are not disposed of after only a few months on the job.

In the spirit of equality, Zapatistas maintain neither hierarchical distinction nor vertical rank amongst their “faculty members.” Everyone is simply, and humbly, an education promoter. This jettisoning of professional titles and institutionally-legitimated credentials highlights how the Zapatistas are able to thwart assertions of ego/hierarchical authority and abolish the competitive individualism that so often corrupts neoliberal universities. Fundamentally, they are unsettling the rigid boundaries dividing “those who know” from “those who do not know” — because there is nothing revolutionary about arrogance.

7Even more radically, the Zapatistas incorporate gender justice (like Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary Law), food sovereignty, anti-systemic healthcare, and queer discourse (like using the inclusive terms otroas/otr@s,compañeroas/compañer@s, and so on, as well as “otherly” as a whimsical and respectful compliment) into their day-to-day learning.

They also do not distribute final marks to signify an end to the learning process, and no grades are used to compare or condemn students. In these ways, the Zapatistas underscore how education is neither a competition, nor something to be “completed”. These transgressive strategies have essentially aided the Zapatistas in eradicating shame from the learning process, which they deem necessary because of just how toxic, petty and vicious neoliberal education can become.

To conclude, the academic status quo is punishing — and must be abandoned. Neoliberalism has hijacked education and is holding it hostage. It demands ransom in the form of obedience, conformity and free labor, whilst also disciplining the curiosity, creativity and imagination out of students, faculty and workers. The neoliberal university itself is sterile, negligent and conformist; as well as suffocating, lonely and gray.

Collective resistance is exigent because we need a new burst of hope amidst such a “heavy darkness” — and Zapatismo nurtures hope. Not hope in an abstract sense of the word, but the type of hope that when sown through compassion and empathy, and nourished by shared rage, resonates and is felt.

Zapatismo gives rise to the kind of hope that comforts affliction, enlarges hearts and wakes up history. The kind of hope that causes chests to swell, jaws to clench and arms to lock when others are being humiliated or hurt — regardless of whether it be by individual, institution, system, or structure.

Zapatismo cries dignity and suggests the suffering of the neoliberal university can be withstood and overcome, because truth be told, neoliberalism is not an ominous, panoptic master — it is simply a reality. And realities can be changed — just ask a Zapatista.



October 10, 2015

The second level of the Escuelita Zapatista

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:56 pm


The second level of the Escuelita Zapatista


Zapatista youth and women form much of the current EZLN support base. This photo is from La Realidad during the homage to fallen Compañero Galeano – killed in a paramilitary attack in La Realidad on May 2, 2014. 

Zapatista youth and women form much of the current EZLN support base. This photo is from La Realidad during the homage to fallen Compañero Galeano – killed in a paramilitary attack in La Realidad on May 2, 2014.


By: Gilberto López y Rivas/I

On October 3 the time period ended for sending in the six questions that each second level student of the Escuelita Zapatista (Little School) must send in order to be evaluated on their performance and, in the case of being approved, pass to the next level until eventually completing six. For that, the students must study Chapter 1 of the book Critical thought versus the capitalist hydra, as well as watching a video of a little more than three hours long, in which the genealogy and current characteristics of the EZLN’s resistance and rebellion are shown, in the voice of around 30 of its local “responsables,” [1] men and women, coming from different autonomous municipalities within the fiveCaracoles where the Good Government Juntas are located: La Realidad, Oventic, La Garrucha, Morelia and Roberto Barrios.

From the study of Chapter 1 what stands out are the participations of the current EZLN spokesperson, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, who in the theme of Political Economy is recapitulating how the communities lived 30 years ago, how those who are not organized as Zapatistas live and how the same Zapatistas live now. Before the arrival of the EZLN in 1983, the indigenous of Chiapas did not exist for the capitalist system; they were those forgotten by the governments who survived from the Mother Earth. They resisted domination by the landowners, who unlawfully were retaining the best lands, protected by their armed forces, who were called guardias blancas. [2] There were no roads, clinics or hospitals, programmes or grants then. With time, it wasn’t enough for them (the landowners) to have the best lands, now they wanted the mountains, nature’s riches and, as a consequence, they organized dispossessions and evictions, because of which they reformed constitutional Article 27, whose intent is to privatize the ejidos, selling or renting Mother Earth. When the uprising happens in 1994, a counterinsurgency policy begins in order to avoid the expansion of Zapatismo. Those communities that let their ejidos be privatized by selling their land are in the streets, because they no longer have anywhere to grow their corn and beans, also remaining at the mercy of this policy. The use of the term partidistas (party members) characterizes this social sector that has fallen into the government’s trap, distinguishing clearly the non-antagonistic contradiction of Zapatismo with those who are even considered brothers and sisters; about the paramilitaries: “those are some sons of bitches!”

The Zapatistas recuperated Mother Earth beginning by organizing collectively, combining different forms of agrarian work at the town, region and municipal level, and by recognizing failed attempts and errors. He warns that we must not idealize the Zapatistas, thinking that when they say clean, everything is clean. The trick is to be organized and to distinguish that it’s one thing to say it and another to do it. They discovered resistance in the various forms of doing collective work reacting to those who had been sent from the government to watch over them, like the teachers, who were expelled from the zone, or coming to the conclusion that they wouldn’t receive anything from the bad government, which, in turn, conditioned the start of a large quantity of tasks in different ambits of the land’s exploitation, production, trade, health and education that were giving sustainability to the autonomous Zapatista process as opposed to the dependency, loss of identity, drug addiction and submission of the party members. In this way  Sub Moisés synthesizes the resistance that must be nourished from generation to generation, if one doesn’t want the exploiters to come back: “One of the bases of what constitutes our Zapatista economic resistance, is Mother Earth. We don’t have those houses, cement blocks and all that stuff the bad government gives, but we do have education; and our practice is that the peoples are the ones that command and the governments obey… we don’t pay for electricity, water, land ownership, nothing. But we also receive nothing from the system… And that is our way of being and that’s how we are going to continue working, struggling, and we will die that way if it’s necessary, defending what we are now.”

The Zapatista economy responds to the needs of the resistance and to the counterinsurgency strategy. They handle money only occasionally, like when they have to pay for gasoline. Everything is done starting with political and ideological work, and with much explanation. Sub Moisés gives the example of education, where the teacher with collective work is working his milpa, his bean field, his pasture and that way he can have his little payment. The thing is that no one remains without working collectively for the struggle, for autonomy, and for that the towns, the regions, the autonomous municipalities and the zones are in agreement as to how they want to work. The Zapatista economy has its banks, whose profits also are going to the autonomy movement. Loans are made for emergencies and the funds are made up of contributions from the support bases. He clarified how there were non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that cloaked themselves in the Zapatista struggle and obtained funds to pay for their bureaucracy, in the words of Sub Moisés: “Then from the shoulders of those who are struggling because of injustice and inequality, and misery and everything else, they still hang others from there. How smart we are, right?”

Operations in the rebel clinics are paid for from the rebel economy, even for the partisans, at prices much lower than those of the hospital market. All that is watched over thoroughly, given that it is the work and sweat of the people; therefore, they demand that their authorities render accounts. Collective work is not idealized and with a great sense of humour the EZLN’s spokesperson comments about those who are smoking their cigarette or filing their machete a lot, in order to pass time, in other words, to play tricks. But to these problems, the funny thing is that: “We didn’t stop. We are very stubborn; we are very foolish. We didn’t abandon it. We looked for a solution, counselling, giving clarifications, explanations, well, and that’s how we are going to continue.”

Translator’s Notes:

[1] “responsable” translates into “the one responsible” for something. One of the questions a Chiapas Support Committee member sent in before the October deadline was: for who/what are they responsible?

[2] “guardias blancas” translates as “white guards.” They were the landowners’ private security forces, often local police moonlighting.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, October 9, 2015

En español:



September 13, 2015

EZLN announces second level of Zapatista School

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:39 am


EZLN announces second level of Zapatista School

(@Espoir Chiapas)

In a communique published on 27 July 2015 that is signed by Subcomandantes Insurgentes Moisés and Galeano, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) announced the second level of the Zapatista School.

The dates for the new course are for 31 July-2 August 2015. However, on this occasion, “it is not a question of coming to Zapatista territories” but rather “the second level will take place universally outside of Zapatista lands.”Arguing that the economic situation and the governmental repression toward indigenous peoples makes matters difficult, the EZLN has organized levels 2 through 6 in this way, so that students do not have to come “every so often” to Zapatista territory.

The students who passed the first level will receive an e-mail between 30 July and 1 August that contains the instructions to access the video that contains the contents of the second level.

The communique ends by calling for solidarity with the struggles from below and to the left, as in Ostula and Ayotitlán, in solidarity with the families of the 47 missing students from Ayotzinapa, the families of the children who died in the ABC Nursery, as well as relatives of political prisoners and the disappeared throughout the world, in solidarity with those in struggle in Greece, and the indigenous people who care for Mother Earth.



August 8, 2015

The blitzkrieg against the teachers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:01 pm


The blitzkrieg against the teachers

Oaxaca teachers block access to Pemex (the state-owned oil company) facility.

Oaxaca teachers block access to Pemex (the state-owned oil company) facility.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Pursued by the public ridicule provoked by El Chapo Guzmán’s escape, the uneven devaluation of the peso, the stagnant economy, the failure of the first oil round and the incessant violation of human rights, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto decided to spread a cloud of smoke over its misfortunes and move forward by giving a slap on the hand to the Oaxacan teachers.

As if the teachers were a threat to national security, the Los Pinos [1] blitzkrieg moved thousands of uniformed forces to Oaxaca: 4,000 federal police, three brigades of military police with 660 members each, besides the 4 thousand soldiers from the Military Zone.

And if that was not enough, they occupied public buildings and strategic infrastructures, flew helicopters over the state’s capital, illegally froze the bank accounts of the teachers’ union and of some of its leaders and hung the sword of Damocles (possible detention) over their heads.

On the way, they disappeared by decree, without any notification, the State Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (Ieepo, its initials in Spanish) and unilaterally broke the promises that regulated labour and professional relations between the state government and the teachers.

The Ieepo is the equivalent of the secretariats of Education that exist in other states. It was created in 1992, during the government of Heladio Ramírez, within the framework of the signing of the National Agreement for the Modernization of Basic and Normal [2] Education (Anmeb), impelled by then President Carlos Salinas in order to try to resolve the problems of gigantic growth and bureaucracy in the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP).

Despite the fact that the Section 22 teachers opposed the federalization of teaching, they accepted the institute’s formation as a decentralized body. On October 28, 1992, they signed the principal memorandum. It is false that it (Section 22) has taken power over the institution. The governor has always designated the institute’s director and its board of directors. The teachers chose some of the mid-level directors, using academic and professional criteria.

Los Pinos presents the disappearance of the old Ieepo as the measure that would allow the state government to recover the stewardship of education. This is false. It has already lost it to the hands of the federal government. In fact, the new body abrogates the federalization of education and inserts its leadership group into the SEP. On the way, it incorporates into its leadership people as well informed in educational issues as the secretaries general of Government, Health, Finances, Administration, Social Development, Cultures and Arts, Controllership and Transparency.

Ironically for the education reform, the director of the new Ieepo is the same person who has been at the front of the old Ieepo since October 2014: Moisés Robles Cruz. Trained as a lawyer, a member of the group close to ex-governor Diódoro Carrasco –with whom he collaborated as coordinator of Documentation and Management Control of the office when he was Secretary of Governance–, the man now responsible for basic and normal public instruction in Oaxaca is ignorant of the world of pedagogy.

Rather than heading up teaching, his career makes him more suited to being the chief of police: he was an agent of the Public Ministry in the Oaxaca State Attorney General of Justice and, afterwards, director general of Legal Issues for the Federal Police, in the times of the ineffable Genaro García Luna.

According to the government’s media campaign, the representation of the leaders of Section 22 comes, not from the mandate of its bases, but rather from the alleged control that they have over the Ieepo. They have spread the idea that the strength of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) depends exclusively on Oaxaca. And, on the way, they have made allusions to the fact that, following the current actions against the Oaxaqueños, protests in the rest of the country will stop.

But that is not going to happen. The blitzkrieg will not stop teacher discontent on a national scale. The current uneasiness of the teachers is not limited to the CNTE, nor is the strength of the Coordinator (CNTE) constrained to Oaxaca, although its most consolidated contingent is there. It is false that the legitimacy of the leadership of Section 22’s education workers depends on their influence on the Ieepo.

The democratic movement in the state emerged in May 1980. Between 1980 and 1992 –the date on which the Ieepo was formed– it acted on the state and national political scene with much vigour and capacity to convoke. It did so despite the fact that, at different times, it did not have formal representation, because, between 1985 and 1989, Carlos Jonguitud was opposed to the realization of its congress. The union did not have one cent of union dues for moving. And, despite that, it continued acting and was a headache for the governors. Having or not having Institutional support was not an impediment to its protest.

The current leadership of the union in Oaxaca is transitory; in fact, all of them have been ever since the first democratic committee was named in 1982. No representative is re-elected. At the end of their period in union office, they return to their school. Throughout the 35 years of life that the movement has had, it has formed hundreds of leaders. Putting some of them in prison can be a misfortune, but it doesn’t decapitate the organization.

Oaxacan teachers have a political culture of struggle many decades long. It was nourished in part and developed through centuries of resistance from the indigenous communities. Its actual behaviour has little to do with the caricature that power has made of the movement. It knows how to advance and recede, to pressure and to negotiate intelligently.

The police and the Army are now in Oaxaca. How much time will they be able to stay in the state? It is holiday season. Are they going to send a gendarme to each one of the schools when classes resume? The government has a lot of fronts to attend to. It cannot concentrate forces there indefinitely. This movement has had 35 years of life, and has survived everything they have wanted to do to it. The party is not over.


Translator’s Notes

[1] Los Pinos (The Pines) is Mexico’s presidential residence, like the White House is in the United States.

[2] A “normal” in Mexico means a rural teachers college, like Ayotzinapa.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, July 24, 2015

En español:



July 30, 2015

EZLN: Special Cases

Filed under: Zapatistas — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:18 pm


EZLN: Special Cases


JULY 29, 2015


If you have not received an email with a “pass” to the second grade, it could be because…

…the email address you used to register for first grade has expired, or was erased, or you have forgotten your password.

…you have the same email but you haven’t received a “pass” because we got mixed up and we need your information again…or because you didn’t pass to second grade. If after following the instructions we detail below you don’t receive a “pass” email within a month, then it’s because you didn’t pass first grade.

In either case, the way to resolve the issue is simple: it is sufficient to send a new email to this, from a new email account with the following information:

–your full name and date of birth

–where you live

–your registration code if you remember it or have it

–the dates in which you went to first grade

–the place where you went to first grade (if you went to a community, the name of the community and the caracolit corresponds to); (if it was by videoconference, the name of the place, neighborhood, city, country, and continent where you had the videoconference)

–the name of your Votán.




July 28, 2015

EZLN: Second Grade of the Zapatista Little School

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:00 pm


EZLN: Second Grade of the Zapatista Little School




July 27, 2015

To the National and International Sixth:

To the former students of the Zapatista Little School:


The date for the second grade (only for those who passed the first) of the Zapatista Little School is approaching.

As we had previously announced, the dates are July 31 and August 1 and 2 of 2015.

No, don’t rush. This time it isn’t about coming to Zapatista territory. Rather, this time it is about not coming here, at least not for the Little School. The second grade will be everywhere, outside of Zapatista territories.

Let us explain:

As we have already said, we see that the economic situation is really difficult. Well, not just the economic situation. The government repression against the originary peoples, including the Yaquis (in Sonora) and Nahuas (in Santa María Ostula, Michoacán, and in Ayotitlán, Jalisco), and against the democratic teachers union (first in Oaxaca, later it will come in other states) reminds us all that those above do not honor their word and betrayal is part of the way they do politics.

With respect to the economic situation, we know that it is not easy to get together the money for daily things, much less for frequent travel to spend a few days here.

We Zapatistas know very well that if we say come to the Little School to continue learning how to really see us, well there will be people who can.

But the majority of those who passed the first grade are compas who do not have the money to do so or have to comply with work responsibilities in the geographies where they struggle. That is, they can’t just be coming here every so often. This isn’t because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. There are those who did everything they could to get here for the seminar/seedbed this past May, and it’s really difficult for them to come again this year.

And the Little School should not be only for those who don’t have problems with the calendar or the funds for travel. What we Zapatistas want is for our compas of the Sixth to see us directly, to see us and hear us and, as it should be, take what they think will be useful to them and leave aside what isn’t useful or is bothersome.

Taking all these things into account, we have to think about how to continue talking to you and mutually learning from each other.

So we have organized the next grade levels (2 through 6) so that you don’t have to come so frequently, but rather let’s say once a year. Of course, we will give you sufficient notice when there are possibilities to receive you here.

Given that, we want to let you know that for Second Grade there are no classes in Zapatista territory. Of course, if you want to come to the festivals in the Caracoles,[i] that’s fine. But you don’t have to come for class.

But there is going to be class, and of course, exams.

This is how it will work:

  1. Those who passed the first grade will receive, as of July 30-31 and August 1 of 2015, an email (if you have email that is; if not, we’ll send notice via the person who contacted you for the first grade). This email will have a link to a site with a video. In this video, a group of special Zapatista teachers will explain what is to be explained. In order to see this video you will need a password, as they call it, which will be included in the email. Now, the video doesn’t have to be viewed alone. You can get your collectives, groups, or organizations together to watch it. You can do this in the spaces that the EZLN’s Sixth Commission Support Teams have across Mexico, or in spaces belonging to the groups, collectives, and organizations of the Sixth throughout the world. There is no problem with any of that. Be it individually or collectively, you will see and hear our compañeras and compañeros explain to you a part of the genealogy of the Zapatista struggle. You all have already heard, seen, and even lived with Zapatista bases of support, with your Votanes,[ii] with your families. But this is just one part of the struggle for freedom according to Zapatismo. There are others.
    It is as if we had only given you one part of the puzzle. Or as if, as they say, what is missing is yet to come.
    You will also have to study Chapter 1 of the book “Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra,” the sections titled: “Some of what has changed”; “Toward a Genealogy of the Zapatista Struggle”; and “Notes on Resistance and Rebellion.” Don’t worry if you don’t have the book, because these sections are already on the Enlace Zapatista webpage, but it’s better to get the book because that’s where you get the whole picture.
  2. After you see, hear, and study what our compañeras and compañeros say in the video, and after studying those parts of the book, you will INDIVIDUALLY write 6 questions. You will send these 6 questions to an email address that will be included in the email that you receive. The date for sending your questions can be any day and time between August 3, 2015, and October 3, 2015.
  3. We will not respond to your questions individually, but rather collectively. That is, we are going to put all of the questions together here and then create texts, videos, and recordings where we respond. When you read a text from the [EZLN] Comandancia or listen to a recording from the votanes, you will know that they are answering your questions. If you don’t hear a response to your question, don’t despair, that just means that there are more words coming that will respond to you. There won’t be any individual answers, only general and collective ones.
  4. The questions are important. As is our way as Zapatistas, the questions are more important than the answers. And it is the questions that will be evaluated to decide whether you pass and move on to the third grade.
  5. The idea is that you realize that what interests the Zapatistas is not the certainties, but rather the doubts. Because we think certainties immobilize; that is, they leave one content, satisfied, sitting still and not moving, as if one had already arrived at or already knew the answers. In contrast doubts—questions—make one move or search. They don’t leave one at peace, but rather non-compliant and dissenting, as if there were neither night nor day. And the struggles below and to the left, compas, are born in disagreement, in doubts, in restlessness. If one is satisfied and in agreement it is because they are waiting to be told what to do or they have already been told what to do. If one is discontent, it is because they are searching for what to do.
  6. So we’re telling you right now what we are going to use in order to decide if you proceed to the third grade: the 6 questions that you put forward individually. This is what the votanes will evaluate to see whether to put you on the list for “Continues on to Third Grade.”

Well compas, that is all we wanted to tell you for now. In any case, through the Little School and everything else, we will continue supporting each other and supporting those who struggle for truth and justice, like the Nahua people of Ostula who demand justice for the attack on their community in which the child EDILBERTO REYES GARCÍA was murdered by the federal army; like the Nahua people of Ayotitlán, attacked by guardias blancas[iii]and police working for the transnational mining company Ternium; like the families of the 47 absent students of Ayotzinapa; like the families of the children of the ABC Daycare (just because the media doesn’t report on them doesn’t mean they no longer struggle for justice); like the families of the political prisoners and the disappeared all over the world; like the rebellious teachers’ union; like the Greece from below and to the left that never bought into the story of the referendum; like the prisoners that continue to challenge Power and the State even from behind bars; like those who challenge Power from the streets and countryside in all geographies; like the originary peoples who keep up their defense of the Mother Earth; like those who do not sell out, do not give in, and do not give up.

Because resistance and rebellion are what break the geographies and calendars above. Because when above they predict defeat, discouragement, and surrender, there is always one [uno, una, unoa] who says “NO.” Because, look at how things are, at the roots of freedom there is always a “NO” that clings to the earth, nourishes itself and grows from her.

Okay then. And let’s not forget today nor yesterday, so that tomorrow we will remember what’s yet to come.

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés

Little School Director

Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano

Little School Concierge


July 2015

[i] Anniversary parties for the Good Government Councils, usually celebrated between August 8 and 10.

[ii] “Guardians” assigned to each student of the Little School during the First Grade in Zapatista territory.

[iii] Armed private militias.

Colectivo Pintar Obedeciendo.

Colectivo Pintar Obedeciendo.



July 17, 2014

Last push for The Reality Fund and the beginnings of reconstruction

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:11 pm


      Last push for The Reality Fund and the beginnings of reconstruction


Dear Friends of Schools for Chiapas,

 Sign in La Realidad reads "Compañero Galeano, justice not revenge"

Sign in La Realidad reads “Compañero Galeano, justice not revenge”

We’re writing to update you about The Reality Fund, a special fund that Schools for Chiapas established and dedicated to rebuilding the school and health clinic in La Realidad.

As many of you know, on May 2, 2014 paramilitaries murdered the Zapatista teacher José Luis Solís López “Galeano” as he rushed to defend the school and health clinic in La Realidad. Fifteen other Zapatistas were seriously injured and both buildings were



Near the new school site, a sign reads “Autonomous construction brigades for the school in La Realidad”.


Fundraising for The Reality Fund at the 2014 NEA annual meeting Denver, Colorado.

In response to the Zapatistas’ call for an international campaign to rebuild the school and clinic, Schools for Chiapas established The Reality Fund.  After initial fundraising, (also using a few loans) in June 2014 a team travelled directly to La Realidad to make our first donation of 30,000 Mexican pesos to the Zapatista authorities.  In July, Schools for Chiapas participated in the national convention of the National Education Association (NEA) releasing a new video about Zapatista education (made possible with support from Metabolic Studio) and gathering funds for the reconstruction in Chiapas.
Now the Zapatistas have announced in a communiqué that they have reached their goal in collecting funds to build the new building, and that any additional donated funds will be used to purchase furniture, medicines and schools supplies.

Therefore, Schools for Chiapas will continue collecting for The Reality Fund throughout the month of July; the in early August we will again send a team to La Realidad to make our final donation of 100% of the money collected.  So now, there’s only a few days left to join in this historic effort!


Please consider donating today to give the school and health clinic a strong financial foundation!





June 28, 2014

An Introduction to Zapatista Education

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:03 am


An Introduction to Zapatista Education


Posted by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity  28/06/2014



June 14, 2014

All Four Escuelita Textbooks are now Available in English

Filed under: Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:50 am

All Four Escuelita Textbooks are now Available in English

Click titles to download:
(Note: the PDF downloads are of higher quality than the online previews)
Autonomous Resistance

May 30, 2014

Words spoken by Votan Galeano in 2013

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:16 pm


Words spoken by Votan Galeano in 2013



This is the transcription of a presentation given by Jose Luis Solís López (known as Galeano), the Zapatista promoter/teacher who was killed on May 2, 2014.  This document was originally recorded as part of a Zapatista evaluation session of La Escuelita and was published in Feb. 2014 in Spanish in the first volume of the new Mexican journal Rebeldia Zapatista.  While defending the local elementary school, Galeano was targeted and assassinated on May 2 in a paramiltary ambush just outside the Zapatista Caracol of La Realidad, one of the five seats of the Zapatista Good Government Councils (JBG).   The leadership of several anti-Zapatista organizations including CIOAC-Histórica, the Green Ecological Party, the National Action Party [PAN], and the Revolutionary Institutional Party [PRI] are all implicated in planning the attack.


Galeano:  “We are a team of teachers participating at various levels in The Little School for Freedom according to the Zapatistas, like in the video conferences. We are all affiliated to the “Mother of the Caracols, Sea of our Dreams” caracol, located in the Frontier Jungle region. I come from the village of Nueva Victoria, in the municipality of San Pedro de Michoacán.

For me, I see La Escuelita as a very important initiative, because it is a means for us to communicate with people from the city, so that we can share our experiences, our great achievements during these 19, almost 20 years of autonomy. So I say it’s a means, a means for us to be able to share the progress we’ve made in building autonomy with people from outside, and a place where they have been able to come into our territories, to stay with indigenous families, to share and to learn. And at the same time, the visitors come to understand how the Zapatistas have their own ways, our own forms of organizing, our own means of self-sufficiency, and how we do not have to rely on the bad system of government, but rather we build our own system.

Now they have seen it with their own eyes and have come to understand the sacrifice we are making in order to attain all that we have achieved. While staying with families in the communities, the visitors have seen how much has been sacrificed, how much this family has endured in order to harvest, in order to provide for the whole family and to sustain us all in our resistance to the bad government. The visitors have seen how much effort it takes to survive and how the bad government makes us pay with this misery.

Now with their own ears and eyes they have seen the things that we have always said. Maybe they had heard our speeches or read our communiques before, but perhaps they did not really believe what we were trying to say. They knew that the Zapatistas were in the mountains, that’s what they always say, but they never thought of us Zapatistas as flesh and blood, that we are human beings like them, and that this is what we do: we are in the communities and we are organizing.

So La Escuelita for me is a means for us to communicate with other people from the city, from our country and the world. It is like a bridge to communicate.

La Escuelita is one more of our accomplishments that we have achieved through our resistance, through our struggle. We can consider this one more of our accomplishments because during these 500 years of being robbed and exploited by the bad system, the bad government never allowed us this kind of space, the bad government never gave us this kind of freedom that we have now to meet and work with people from other parts of our country.

I value La Escuelita because here in our struggle, there are many young people who were born after the uprising, as well as those born in the city who had not been born in 1994, and they had only heard about the Zapatistas in the media, in the newspapers or on the radio, but they never really knew what the struggle was all about. So I think La Escuelita has been a great achievement, because of course the bad government would never have given it to us. No other organization has accomplished what we have done here in organizing La Escuelita.

Not only are people from the city and from other countries being educated through la Escuelita, but we are also educating ourselves, the youth are being prepared to continue the work of governing ourselves. Through opening up the space of La Escuelita, the youth are being guided and orientated towards learning how we govern ourselves, how it is that the people should lead. For me, I value the school as a very important thing. We ourselves learn many things, and people coming from outside learn from us.

The other really great achievement we see here is that the government is no longer in control, here the people are in charge. The people decide for themselves how things are to going to be, and that is what others need to understand. As we have already pointed out, the people from outside who come to attend La Escuelita may have heard that in Zapatista territory the people are in charge and the government obeys, but now they have come to see with their own eyes just how the people here govern from their villages, municipalities and at a district level. That’s the best thing of all, how people from outside have come to understand the Zapatistas process of self-government.

What is our assessment of the students?

10322847_702630703127680_1438486459225294883_nI have a great respect for those compañero/as and students who have come to attend La Escuelita. You can see the great spirit here, you can see the importance of the initiative for them; they are very interested in what they have come to learn about. So many compañero/as, intellectuals, school teachers, artists, urban dwellers, collectives, student and university groups, have come here and have told us that they have never experienced anything like what they have experienced in La Escuelita. They seem very pleased.

Furthermore, I respect them because they make a commitment. They say that they will pass on what they have learned here with their compañero/as who for whatever reason were unable to attend; that they will share what we have taught them, what they saw, what they learned. So for this reason, I respect the students who came from outside because I saw that they were very excited by the experience.

While some students were somewhat confused or unsure about what they were meant to be doing in La Escuelita, or they were asking questions that reached beyond what La Escuelita was about, I can say for sure that there were no bad intentions, just that they were feeling disoriented or unsure of themselves, and so they went beyond the boundary we had established. I am sure that they did not mean any harm but it was simply that their concentration was not on La Escuelita.

But the students who came to this caracol were very content and greatly appreciated all they had learned. For this, I applaud them because apart from people who came who had the means to do so, there were others who had to take time out from work, or students who had to save up their money to come learn in our school. I appreciate that they made this effort to get here because they had a desire to learn and were interested in what we are doing.

On a rather more general level, we could see that the students came to learn from us, and for me, that was something that I respected a lot. Aside from the questions they asked it became clear from their comments and what they said, that they too are exploited, that they too suffer in a similar manner to us, the indigenous. The most important thing is that they themselves said we share a common enemy, which is neoliberalism, and only united can we defeat it.

Translated by Schools for Chiapas

Dorset Chiapas Solidarity


May 11, 2014

New Escuelita Textbook now available in English Participation of Women in Autonomous Government

Filed under: Women, Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:22 pm


New Escuelita Textbook now available in English

Participation of Women in Autonomous Government

(Available now: click here)



April 4, 2014

Reclaiming Our Freedom to Learn

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:49 pm


Reclaiming Our Freedom to Learn

by Gustavo Esteva


        A primary school in the Zapatista village of Oventic, the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Aaron Cain.

Years ago, we started to observe in villages and barrios, particularly among indigenous peoples, a radical reaction against education and schools. A few of them closed their schools and expelled their teachers. Most of them avoided this type of political confrontation and started instead to just bypass the school, while reclaiming and regenerating the conditions in which people traditionally learned in their own ways.

The people in the villages know very well that school prevents their children from learning what they need to know to continue living in their communities, contributing to the common well-being and that of their soils, their places. And school does not prepare them for life or work outside the community. In many communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico, parents no longer delegate their children’s learning to school.

They know by experience what usually happens to those who abandon their communities to get “higher education.” They get lost in the cities, in degraded jobs. A recent official study found that only eight percent of graduates of Mexican universities will be able to work in the field they graduated in. Lawyers or engineers are driving taxis or tending stalls. In spite of such awareness, people still hold the illusion that higher education offers something to their children. They don’t feel comfortable depriving their children of such an “opportunity.”

Life Without Teachers

We once did a thought experiment in which we took a suggestion of author John McKnight—imagining a world without dentists—and applied it to the teaching profession. For a few minutes many apocalyptic descriptions circulated around our table as we imagined a world without teachers or teaching. But then something radically different started to come into our conversation. We imagined a myriad of ways in which the people themselves would create a different kind of life.

One of the most important conclusions of our conversation was the explicit recognition that we learn better when nobody is teaching us. We can observe this in every baby and in our own experience. Our vital competence comes from learning by doing, without any kind of teaching.

After the exercise, a very practical question came to the table. We have learned, with the Zapatistas, that while changing the world is very difficult, perhaps impossible, it is possible to create a whole new world. That is exactly what the Zapatistas are doing in the south of Mexico. How can we create our own new world, at our own, small, human scale, in our little corner in Oaxaca? How can we deschool our lives and those of our children in this real world, where the school still dominates minds, hearts and institutions?

The most dramatic lesson we derived from the exercise was to discover what we were really missing in the urban setting: conditions for apprenticeship. When we all request education and institutions where our children and young people can stay and learn, we close our eyes to the tragic social desert in which we live. They have no access to real opportunities to learn in freedom. In many cases, they can no longer learn with parents, uncles, grandparents—just talking to them, listening to their stories or observing them in their daily trade. Everybody is busy, going from one place to another. No one seems to have the patience any more to share with the new generation the wisdom accumulated in a culture. Instead of education, what we really need is conditions for decent living, a community.

Our challenge thus became to find ways to regenerate community in the city, to create a social fabric in which we all, at any age, would be able to learn and in which every kind of apprenticeship might flourish. In doing this radical research, we surprise ourselves, every day, when we discover how easy it can be to create alternatives and how many people are interested in the adventure.

We have learned, with the Zapatistas, that while changing the world is very difficult, perhaps impossible, it is possible to create a whole new world.

So we created our university, Unitierra. Young men and women without any diploma, and better yet no schooling, can come to us. They learn whatever they want to learn—practical trades, like urban agriculture, video production, or social research, or fields of study, like philosophy or communication. They learn the skills of the trade or field of study as apprentices of someone practicing those activities. They also learn how to learn with modern tools and practices not available in their communities.

As soon as the young people arrive at Unitierra, they start to work as apprentices. They discover that they need specific skills to do what they want to do. Most of the time, they get those skills by practicing the trade, with or without their mentors. They may choose to attend specific workshops, to shorten the time needed to get those skills.


A classroom at Unitierra. Photo courtesy of

Our “students” have been learning faster than we expected. After a few months they are usually called to return to the living present of their communities to do there what they have learned. They seem to be very useful there. Some of them are combining different lines of learning in a creative way. One of them, for example, combined organic agriculture and soil regeneration (his original interest), with vernacular architecture. He is not offering professional services that allow him to move towards the middle class standard of living by selling services and commodities. He is learning how to share, like peasants, what it means to be a cherished member of his community and commons, as has been done through time immemorial—before the modern rupture.

Discipline and freedom

In Unitierra we are not producing professionals. We have created a convivial place, where we all are enjoying ourselves while learning together. At the same time, both the “students” and their communities soon discover that a stay at Unitierra is not a vacation. True, the students have no classes or projects. In fact, they don’t have any kind of formal obligation. There are no compulsory activities. But they have discipline, and rigour, and commitment—with their group (other “students”), with us (participating in all kinds of activities for Unitierra), and with their communities.

Our “students” do not belong to communities. They are their communities. Of course, they can enjoy themselves and have very long nights of pachanga and many fiestas. But they have a responsibility to their communities, that is, to themselves. And hope. That is why they can have discipline, and rigour, and commitment.

Our “students” have the internal and social structure that is a fundamental condition for real freedom. If you don’t have them, if you are an individual atom within a mass of a collective, you need someone in charge of the organization. The workers of a union, the members of a political party or church, the citizens of a country—all of them need organizers and external forces to keep them together. In the name of security and order, they sacrifice freedom. Real people, knots in nets of relationships, can remain together by themselves, in freedom.

“True learning,” Ivan Illich once said, “can only be the leisurely practice of free people.” In the consumer society, he also said, we are either prisoners of addiction or prisoners of envy. Only without addiction or envy, only without educational goals, in freedom, can we enjoy true learning.

An Immersion in Liberated Spaces “Nations and Identities,” a new study abroad program, will explore how the people in Canada, India, and Mexico are reclaiming their commons or creating new ones. In dialogues with the Mohawk, in Quebec, the Zapatistas in Chiapas, and tribal India, and with non-indigenous groups in all three countries, participants will observe how each is affirming their respective identities and conceiving political horizons and convivial ways of life beyond the nation-state.

In Unitierra we have been fruitfully following a suggestion of Paul Goodman, a friend of, and source of inspiration for, Ivan Illich. Goodman once said: “Suppose you had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side won, and you had the kind of society you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now! Whatever you would do then, do it now. When you run up against obstacles, people, or things that won’t let you live that way, then begin to think about how to get over or around or under that obstacle, or how to push it out of the way, and your politics will be concrete and practical.”

We call Unitierra a university to laugh at the official system and to play with its symbols. After one or two years of learning, once their peers think they have enough competence in a specific trade, we give the “students” a magnificent university diploma. We are thus offering them the social recognition denied to them by the educational system. Instead of certifying the number of study-hours, as conventional diplomas do, we certify a specific competence, immediately appreciated by the communities, and protect our “students” against the usual discrimination. Most of our graduates are surprising us, however, by not asking for any diploma. They don’t feel the need for it.

We are also celebrating our wise and our elders with modern symbols. We thus offer diplomas of Unitierra to people who perhaps never attended a school or our university. Their competence is certified by their peers and the community. The idea, again, is to use in our own way, with much merriment and humour, all the symbols of domination. Or rather, as Illich says, to misuse for our own purposes what the state or the market produces.

Our diplomas have no use for those who wish to show off or to ask for a job or any privilege. They are an expression of people’s autonomy. As a symbol, they represent the commitment of our “students” to their own communities, not a right to demand anything. Nonetheless, 100 percent of our “graduates” are doing productive work in the area they studied.

But playing with the symbols of the system is not only an expression of humour. It is also a kind of protection. What we are doing is highly subversive. In a sense, we are subverting all the institutions of the modern, economic society. In packaging our activities as one of the most respected sacred cows of modernity—education—we protect our freedom from the attacks of the system.

In my place, every I is a we. And thus we live together, in our living present, rooted in our social and cultural soil, nourishing hopes at a time in which all of us, inspired by the Zapatistas, are creating a whole new world.


44Esteva_mug58.75Gustavo Esteva is a grassroots activist and de-professionalized intellectual. He is the author of many books and essays, former advisor to the Zapatistas, and member of several independent organizations and networks, Mexican and international; he lives in an indigenous village in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.



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