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Nodos Comunes

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Rage One (blog)

domingo, enero 13, 2008

Feliz Año Cabrones: On the Continued Centrality of the Zapatista Movement after 14 years

mck. El Kilombo Intergaláctico

January 1, 2008

“It’s not just our duty and our hope in this country, but in the continent and the rest of the world. If in some way Zapatismo has achieved a synchrony of global sympathy, it’s not because we have made certain use of the word, or because of the unquestionable heroism of the indigenous communities, but because from this moment it was proposing an alternative, the seed of something else. And this is what the Other Campaign means to do: name the enemy, capital, and the ally of this enemy, the political class[….] we intend the defeat of this government and the destruction of capital. And then, like someone said once, we will have only just won the right to start over…but we will have to start where one always has to start, from below.”

—Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos[1]

Zapatista Army for National Liberation

Introduction: Happy New Year

On January 1, 1994, Mexico was set to enter the “first world” with the implementation of NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement). Then president Carlos Salinas de Gortari had made multiple free trade deals, NAFTA being the most comprehensive and important. In order to enter NAFTA, Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution protecting ejidal or communally-held lands had been modified to allow for their possession as private property and thus their availability for sale or appropriation through debt collateral and investment strategies. As businessmen and politicians celebrated their new treaty, guaranteed to reap large profits for large agro-industrial and food distribution companies, the indigenous Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) was coming out of the jungle and down from the mountains, armed with weapons that would successfully enable them to take seven major municipalities in the state of Chiapas and words that would help catalyze not only a new politics in Mexico but a new global movement. When Mexico’s political and business elite woke from their hangovers on January 1, the world, with its eyes on the masked rebels in Mexico, was another.

Throughout their struggle, the Zapatistas have maintained a constant analysis of the trajectory of global capitalism and the strategies of resistance possible in that context. In 2005, after over a decade of resistance and construction, the Zapatistas released the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, announcing a new turn in the struggle. The capitalist system is destroying our communities, our people, and our environment, they stated, what we want we cannot win alone, nor is what we want only for us. The Sixth Declaration announced their desire and intent to organize with other sectors of national and international society, creating a united, explicitly anti-capitalist front of all those “below and to the left;” there would be no more dialogue with those “above,” with any political party or state official. Nationally this organizational process would be called the Other Campaign, launched with the journey of an EZLN commission through every state of the Mexican Republic to meet other people in struggle; internationally it would take the shape of what the Zapatistas call an “Intergalactic” network, beginning with a series of encounters between “Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World.” Thus, 12 years after declaring war on the Mexican government and federal army, the Zapatista commanders left the protection of guerrilla clandestine existence and walked out of the mountains, unarmed, to meet the rest of Mexican and international society.

Many, in the trajectory of the Other Campaign, have condemned the EZLN’s harsh criticism of the PRD (the “leftist” Democratic Revolutionary Party) and its current star, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. It could have been a strategic move, they have fretted, an alliance to gain more space for struggle, an institutional foothold. There are clear and obvious reasons for the EZLN’s criticism, including a rejection of the electoral system of representation in general, but also the insistence that they could not support a party that had treated them as the PRD had and maintain even a minimum of dignity, referring to PRD-sponsored deadly attacks on Zapatista bases of support in 2004, the betrayal of the San Andres Accords (a product of the EZLN-government peace dialogues) by PRD representatives in the national congress in 2001, and the current PRD candidacies of ex-state and federal officials, former members of the PRI and the intellectual authors of the most severe ambushes and attacks against the EZLN and their bases of support from 1994 through 1997.

At this moment, the Zapatista communities are under what may be the worst attack against them in the last decade. There have been multiple “official” evictions, sponsored by state (PRD) and federal (PAN, the right-wing National Action Party) agencies and security forces, including the violent removal of a community in the Montes Azules region of Chiapas (a government designated “Biosphere Reserve”) in August of 2007, where inhabitants were forced into helicopters by uniformed police and airlifted out of their community, the men thrown in jail and the women, some pregnant and with small children, stuck in an abandoned warehouse without food or water.[2] The autonomous authorities of San Andres Larrainzar, a community in the Chiapas Highlands, received direct death threats in late September and October from PRI-(the traditional state Institutional Revolutionary Party) sponsored organizations in the region.[3] Paramilitaries roaming openly with high-caliber weapons have threatened the violent invasion of multiple communities, in particular Bolon Ajaw, a Zapatista community in the Mountain Region, where several Zapatista bases of support have been severely beaten or wounded by bullets and machetes and where, at the time of writing (December 2007), paramilitary forces seem to be closing in.[4] The community 24 de Diciembre, at the mouth of the Jungle, built on lands recovered in the 1994 uprising and currently surrounded by police and paramilitary forces, has lived with the implicit threat of violence and the explicit threat of eviction since mid-2007.[5] The Zapatista Ecological Reserve of Huitepec, near San Cristobal de las Casas, which has suffered increasing military harassment is now imminently and publicly threatened by the campaign promise of the victorious PRI municipal president to evict the reserve on January 2, 2008.[6] The escalation of threats, hostilities, and direct attacks is similar to what the region saw almost exactly 10 years ago, in the months leading up to the Acteal massacre December 22nd, 1997, in which 45 people, principally women and children, members of the indigenous pacifist organization Las Abejas and Zapatista sympathizers, were massacred while praying in their community church. The aggressors this time are a combination of PAN-directed federal police and military forces, PRD-directed state government agencies, state police, and indigenous organizations, and paramilitaries linked to both the PRI and PRD.

In the 1990’s, before the Zapatista uprising, it was said that there was no possibility for struggle, that left-led revolution was dead and the path of global capitalism was the only option. Today it has been said that the Zapatista struggle has faded away, its causes resolved or its militants resigned, or that any struggle that does not aim for or collaborate with state power is at best ineffective and worse, debilitating to the institutional left. But, as we will detail below, the political work and daily organization of the Zapatista communities, which, even under harsh attack have formed not only functioning autonomous systems across their territory but also a national organizational plan and a global network, is a project that remains central for all of us who are trying to build another world. And it is a project we must defend against the war now being waged against it, because in the end it is a war against all of us.

I. North America from Below

1.a. Destruction of the Commons

1.a.(1). Rural Communal Lands

Unlike Canada and the United States, where rural communities and small farms have suffered a long and nearly total process of depopulation and reorganization into agro-industrial farming, Mexico through the late 80’s and 90’s was characterized by a large rural and traditionally self-sustaining population, especially in indigenous areas. Even today, a quarter of the Mexican population is considered rural with an average land parcel of 1.2 hectares (2.97 acres), as opposed to 30.6 (75.61 acres) in the United States and 72.9 (180.13 acres) in Canada.[7] Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the Mexican countryside has lost a quarter of its population, with the rural sector losing 30% of its buying power over the last 20 years. These factors have played a major role in leading Mexico to become, over the past decade, the biggest exporter of labor in the world, with, by official estimates, 15% of Mexico’s laboring population working in the United States, and a total of over 28 and a half million people of Mexican origin living in the US.[8] Immigration to the US as well as internal migration within Mexico from the countryside to the cities or between states has reached such levels that the exodus has literally emptied entire villages, towns, in some cases entire states, ie., there are now more Zacatecans living in the US then in the state of Zacatecas.[9]

Mexico has now moved into first place worldwide as receiver of remittances, which required that internationally it pass India in the quantity of remittances received from citizens outside of the country and that internally, remittances pass petroleum and tourism as a source of national income. Remittances during the six years of the Fox administration (2000-2006) totaled USD$82 billion. In 2006 alone they totaled USD$21 billion, and in the first six months of this year (2007) remittances increased by 22% to reach USD$13.4 billion,[10] on track for a record 27 billion total for the year. With the exodus of the Mexican countryside since NAFTA contributing heavily to the 500% increase in immigration to the US between 1980 and 2002, Mexico now must import grains from the US, paying some 100 billion pesos (roughly USD$10 billion) per year.[11]

1.a.(2). Metropolitan Cooperation

Partly as a result of the depopulation of the countryside as well as a general lack of generation of employment, 60% of the Mexican working population are classified as part of the “informal economy,” that sector of unofficial or underground business which may include street vendors, unregistered home businesses, the reproduction and sale of pirated items, or services rendered, all without tax registration or any kind of employment security or benefits. The informal economy generates approximately uSD$285 billion dollars a year, representing, by conservative estimates, 30-40% of the GDP[12] and making it the 3rd largest informal economy (as percentage of GDP) in the world.[13]

But just as NAFTA erased the livelihoods of millions of campesinos[14] in the countryside, the Mexican government, in partnership with private investment (namely in this case Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim), has now undertaken a campaign to “clean up” Mexico City, meaning ridding its historic district of the enormous number and thriving culture of the street vendors that have long populated it. In just the past month (October 2007), in Mexico City’s historic center, 30,000 street vendors were evicted or “relocated” to non-street and non-central areas. [15]In Tepito, a poor but proud barrio in Mexico City and the largest market of pirated goods in all of Latin America, the eviction raids began in February of 2007. With the displacement of many hundreds of people from their homes and market posts, Tepito residents, made up precisely of those who have had to seek their livelihood in the informal sector for lack or elimination of other employment opportunities, were not only forced out of their homes and jobs but out of the social network and community economy they had created.[16]

1.b. The Flailing State

1.b.(1). Crisis Spots

The number of hotspots in the country, a result of both crisis and of revolt, has been multiplying rapidly, with government-sponsored repression growing in brutality and impunity.

San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, a small town known for its successful resistance to expropriation of its farmlands for the building of a new international airport in 2001, returned to the international spotlight in May of 2006 when Atenco residents supported neighboring flower vendors threatened with eviction from their marketplace with a highway blockade, which turned into a standoff and battle between police and protesters. The following dawn, on May 4, 2006, 5,000 police invaded Atenco, dragging people out of their houses, severely beating community members and supporters, killing two minors, raping dozens of women, and taking over 200 prisoners. Many of the people arrested, beaten, and raped in Atenco remain political prisoners today. [17]

The severe police brutality against those detained in Atenco was followed by the repression against and disappearances of members of the APPO (Oaxacan Peoples’ Popular Assembly) and the state-wide cross-sector resistance movement in Oaxaca demanding the removal of the governor, the repression of protesters against the Canadian San Javier mine in San Luis Potosi, the massive evictions of street vendors in the barrio of Tepito, the repression and detainment of activists and adherents of the Other Campaign in La Huasteca, Veracruz; in Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala; La Zorra, Baja California; Yerbabuena, Colima; Rincón de Chautla, Guerrero; Flor del Sur, Yucatan; Mazatlán, Sinaloa; and many more.

In light of these events it has to be asked, why so many police for a handful of flower-growers? Why this level of repression, of brutality, in many cases of torture, in response to a community defending its marketplace with a road blockade? Or to teacher demands or student protests or indigenous resistance? State violence is not random. Rebellions are not repressed merely for being rebellions, but for threatening the capitalist relation—the system of private property, the imposure of a single measure of value, the obligation to sell one’s labor. In Atenco, Oaxaca, and the Other Campaign, among others, the state has identified people and movements that have created a way to construct power from below, to create autonomous mechanisms of cooperation and daily self-determination that collectively evade individual submission to capitalist exploitation and domination, and that is what the state seeks to destroy. But the significance of such an extensive though abbreviated list is not that there is repression all over the country, but rather that there are almost innumerable movements and rebellions.

1.b.(2). The Crisis State

The repression does, however, create a general sense of instability and crisis, which is accompanied by the natural and manmade catastrophes ignored, mishandled, or manipulated by the state: the burying of 65 miners in the collapsed mine in Pasta de Conchos in 2006, the still unremedied effects of Hurricane Stan in Chiapas in 2004, the drainage disasters in Mexico City and other metropolitan areas as a result of heavy seasonal rains in 2006 and 2007, the floods in Tabasco and Chiapas last month, and the increasing frequency and force of tropical storms battering the coasts, to name just a few. In addition, though closely related to a state at the service of capital and a political class without relation to the “represented,” is the increasing lawlessness (or rather power struggles) in the north where narcotrafficking and drug cartels have a much firmer grasp on power than the local governments, when they do not work directly together, and where the heads of non-compliant or non-complicit police officers and security officials appear regularly in public places as signs and warnings of who rules. As manifestations of economic, environmental, political, and social crisis and corruption surface, and with the mass media striving to maintain the simulation of governance by their respective political patrons, the state grabs terms like “state of emergency,” “national security interests,” and “rule of law” as facades for suppressing democracy and wielding violence. All of this occurs in the midst of the discursive wars and literal fistfights between the principal political parties for control over the moral and symbolic territory of the national consciousness and the media spotlight.[18] The crumbling of the official powers above, between parties, and the battling between the unofficial powers-that-be—drug cartels and their political mafias—demonstrate that repression toward those below is not the result of a powerful state exercising absolute rule, but is rather the flailing of a failing state, itself subject to powers above its own sovereignty and forces below that it can no longer subjugate or manipulate, desperate to maintain some semblance or see a reflection of its own power. This is the show of extreme force on the physical bodies of a population that comes only when the powers-that-be have lost all control over their imagination.

1.c. Where to? North...

Displaced from the countryside, kicked out of the cities, with manifestations of social struggle carrying the threat of harsh repression, where do people go? Some 1600 cross into the United States every day.[19]

The United States, while clearly not the land of opportunity and equality it is advertised to be, is now not even a refuge for a decent wage and an increase in quality of life. The average real wage in the US today has remained static despite the fact that the economy and productivity have been growing steadily; adjusted for inflation, the average wage in the US has grown by a grand total of one-half percent since 1973.[20] According to data for 2006, 36.5 million US citizens live in poverty, five million more than in 2000.[21] Health care premiums in the country have risen 78% just since 2001,[22] while 47 million have no health insurance at all, a rise of 2.2 million in just the last year, which, without socialized medicine, means almost no access to health care.[23] In this already bleak scenario, migrants make less than half the wage of US citizens for the same work, are more vulnerable to injury and illness, and have even less access to labor-related and medical protection.[24]

In addition is the current wave of foreclosures and evictions devastating communities across the country due to the sub-prime lending crisis. 1.7 million families lost their homes in the first eight months of 2007 and another 2 million are expected to foreclose in the next two years,[25] the highest rates since the Depression of the 1930’s.[26] The phenomenon of the foreclosures is not random market fluctuation, it should be noted, but the result of predatory lending policies that have resulted, some analysts say, in the largest transfer of property from families and communities of color into the hands of banks and investment firms in the history of the country. In an eerie echo of abandoned towns in Mexico due to migration, whole sections of US cities with large poor populations are emptied out; for example, one in 10 homes in Cleveland is now vacant.[27] In addition, decades of public neglect in inner cities has become the pretext for “urban renewal” projects across the country. Through combined state and private “development funds” and the concurrent rising property taxes, urban spaces have undergone a process of intense gentrification, pushing communities of color, working class sectors, and the poor further into non-serviced, isolated, and undesirable areas. At the same time, land speculation, investment projects, and the cultivation of an elite, ultra-rich class has turned mountainous, costal, and rural areas into vacation homes and tourist stops, unaffordable for their original inhabitants pushed out by high rents and property taxes, who now drive into their former hometowns in order to perform jobs in the tourist or service industry.

This is the United States in the 21st century, which has, at the mercy of neoliberal policies and parallel to what we have come to consider characteristic of “developing” nations, experienced that once curious and now commonplace combination of statistical economic expansion on a national scale and falling wages and job growth for the great majority of the population. The rewards of US economic expansion and globalization in fact do not benefit even the top 10% of the US population, but rather the top 1%. And while that 1% has enjoyed a salary growth of 87% in the last 30 years, the top .1% has enjoyed 181% increase and the top .01%, a 497% increase,[28] this alongside the average wage growth of .05%.

Meanwhile, while it appears that there is a debate over immigration policy, in reality there is merely a productive tension between the promotion of an anti-immigrant sentiment through a false patriotism and national protectionism and the constant corporate necessity for labor. Thus a social, moral, and legal conflict is created—with corporate media urging people to hate the migrants while corporate business continues to hire them—as a facade for what is really desired: an immigrant population providing cheap labor with no labor rights. The government-sponsored raids, deportations, and discriminatory housing policies, the wall being built on the border, the armed citizen squads “hunting” immigrants in borderlands; these are matched in force not by any alternative argument or ethic but rather by the insistence and demand by the corporate sector to maintain the flow of cheap labor.

North America is now a largely integrated economy. If this was not achieved officially by NAFTA, or unofficially in the recent US-Mexico agreement Plan Mexico/Merida initiative, then the labor pool of migrants supporting at least two economies—the United States and Mexico—achieve it in practice.

As dictated by NAFTA, January 1, 2008 marks the total market liberalization of Mexico’s two most important crops, corn and beans, guaranteeing a fresh flood of migration north.[29] Increasing tensions in the US about migration and the building of the border wall have made crossing more difficult, and the recent burst of the US housing bubble and consequent stock drops have threatened the level of remittances sent south, with these numbers showing reductions almost immediately after the crisis. These factors, in addition to the growing intensity and frequency of storms, floods, droughts, and fires as result of development-related environmental damage and global warming conditions, have created essentially a pressure cooker in Mexico. With the escape valve to the north—migration and the relief sent in the form of remittances—threatened, and with growing resource scarcity as a result of privatizations and over-exploitation, the likelihood of continued social conflict is nearly guaranteed.

1.d. A Globally Consistent Pattern (One System, Four Axes)

The neoliberal restructuring and “free” trade treaties leading to widespread privatizations and unemployment in the countryside and the city that precipitated the crises and uprisings in Mexico is a global phenomenon. The combination of government “development” programs (administered by both “left” and right-wing administrations) and private investment initiatives have generated in all parts of the globe massive land privatizations, the patenting of material sources and traditional knowledge of biodiversity, the extraction and exploitation of water and other resources, and the converting of subsistence croplands to agro-industrial use, natural reserves to tourist resorts, and farmers to wage laborers.

The Zapatistas have done their own study of this phenomenon in Mexico, as part of the journey of the Other Campaign throughout the Mexican Republic, and have begun the same process globally, through the international encounters and organizing initiatives with people from all over the world. The stories from a great variety of social, physical, and economic geographies are consistent on four basic axes, which were also identified in the Sixth Declaration: the dispossession of land and resources from the community level or from a socialized use to individual or private, usually investment-oriented ownership; the forced or coerced eviction of people from lands, neighborhoods, or spaces where resources were held or used in common; the violent repression of resistance to these initiatives and attacks; and the harsh discrimination against sources and aspects of difference created in and upheld by the diversity of a community and the choices permitted by collective self-sustainability. The differences repressed and resources held in common in many cases are the natural resources of the earth—soil for cultivation, plant biodiversity, traditional seed preservation, forests, mountains, oceans, beaches, fish, wildlife, etc., but they also include common spaces—street corners, meeting spaces, local markets, classrooms; collective practices—bartering, internet file-sharing, street carnivals; and public institutions—free education, public health care, social security funds, etc. This has resulted in global waves of population displacement as well as the elimination of any community controlled space or practice, be that by deliberate policy and violent removal, or by the devastating effects of the pollution, contamination, flooding, and resource depletion resulting from such “development” initiatives.

1.e. Fighting the Fourth World War

The capitalist onslaught, so far-reaching in its speculative activities and so short-sighted in its destructive tendencies, has been theorized extensively by the EZLN over the past decade. Neoliberal globalization required a new internationalist design, that of the empire of money, in which the nation-state lost most aspects of what defined national sovereignty.[30] But making the world world-wide in a time and space adequate to a global market was still a project that needed to be directed, and the state, in some cases at least, turned out to be an adequate instrument for such management, not as the politically and economically independent entity it once supposedly was, but as the “hologram” of a nation used to simulate national governance while carrying out the wishes and demands of a new, global “society of power,” a conglomeration of international financial organizations, mass media companies, large corporations, educational centers, and an elite class of billionaires.[31] In this context, the traditional political class is made irrelevant by the much more useful market analyst, and the politicians who managed to keep their jobs take on the role of managers for bosses whose loyalty is not to a nation but to a currency, any currency currently valuable in the global markets. This is what the EZLN has called the Fourth World War, not a war between national entities for territorial control, but a war of a capitalist class to conquer the entire world—labor, land, and resources—for profit-making purposes.[32] The flags waving in Kabul and Baghdad, the EZLN warned us in 2003, are not stars and stripes but those of transnational corporations.[33]

Yet it is precisely those who have suffered most from this complicit conjuncture of state utility for capitalist interests who now say, at so many points in and moments of the encounters of the Other Campaign and the international organization of the Sixth Declaration, that with the cooperation of social movements and struggles from below, that global assault can not only be stopped but turned into something new.

II. A Society to Create

The land where the compañeros and compañeras are now is their own property, property we recuperated. We discovered... that what [capitalism] does is make us prisoners of where we work. That’s how capitalism functions: you work on ranches, or work in factories, and the profit is not for the working people. As you will see in this Encounter between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World, the compañeros have much to tell you about their experience because they have in their hands the means of production, the land [...] and they have now constructed more things [...] like zapatista schools, zapatista clinics, warehouses for buying and selling their goods. The compañeros and compañeras of the Zapatista communities, when they took into their hands the means of production, that is, the land, they began to work it communally, on local, regional, and municipal levels, in collectives, societies, and cooperatives. [...] Without this, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It is clear to us as zapatistas that since we became owners of these lands, as they are our means of production, this was and is the base from which to attack capitalism [...]

All of this now, everything we have and do now, good or bad, it is we as zapatistas that decide and do it, not the bosses/masters [...]

This is the change we have undergone; this is what gives strength to the autonomous government of the compañeros. If we had not taken the means of production, the land, in our hands, the autonomous municipalities would not function, [autonomy] would be only words...

—Teniente Coronel Moises, July 19, 2007, CIDECI roundtable, San Cristobal de las Casas

Little over three short years after their conception, the autonomous Good Government Councils of the five zones of Zapatista territory attended the First Encounter Between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World in December of 2006 to report on their progress in the organization of self-rule and direct democracy, the community-based organization and exercise of justice, and the implementation of autonomous institutions in health, education, and agricultural and artisan production. In July of 2007, at the Second Encounter Between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World (described at more length in next section), the roundtables are held by the EZLN bases of support, the civilian, campesino men and women, many illiterate, describing their daily work of organization, production, and governance in the autonomous systems to thousands of people from all over the world. These people have not been “given the floor” by anyone; the manifestation of democracy, the demonstration of responsibility and accountability to their communities and to the world watching, the collective courage and creativity of the path of self-determination presented here is the result of a long process of constructing a place from which they can speak for themselves.

The summary below is not intended to document the autonomous projects in great detail or specifically by zone, but rather to present what the autonomous systems have enabled for the Zapatista communities materially as well as the kind of individual and collective subjectivity that is created in the process of such serious—in the sense of the stakes involved—self-determination.[34]

2.a. A Territory

The 1994 uprising and taking of seven municipal seats in Chiapas resulted in the recuperation of an estimated 500,000-700,000 hectares (1,235,483-1,729,676 acres, or 1,930-2,701 square miles)[35] of lands, previously controlled by latifundistas (large landowners, like plantation owners). Not all of these lands were occupied by Zapatistas (other indigenous and farmer organizations took advantage of the latifundista exodus to occupy lands) but those that were, which may approximate 250,000 hectares,[36] were converted into communally-worked plots for the indigenous communities in Zapatista territory. The significance of the recuperated lands in the Zapatista rebellion must be understood in the context of their existence before the uprising, and in the context in which they now live. Telling the stories of their abuelos (grandparents and previous generations), the indigenous men and women of the Zapatista communities describe lives as peons, in near slave-like conditions, that the indigenous experienced under the rule of the latifundistas. Some describe a day working 6am to 6pm for two pesos per day, or 18 hour days paid in merchandise or vouchers from the ranch store, or in locally-brewed liquor. Latifundistas had agreements with each other, they explain, to cooperate to catch runaways; punishment might entail being left stretched in the sun for days without water or relief. All of the indigenous workers were made to be submissive, but women in particular were subject to the whims and demands of the landowners, in all that entails. The taking of the lands in the 1994 rebellion gave the Zapatista communities not only a form of subsistence, but a freedom and control over their lives and forms of organization of which they had long been deprived through the trajectory of colonialism, imperialism, racism and marginalization, and neoliberalism. It is on these lands, liberated territory both in geographic and social terms, where autonomous systems of education, health, commerce, and justice were generated as the Zapatista communities went about creating a new society.

2.b. Good Government

Each of the five caracoles,[37] representing the five zones of Zapatista territory, has a “Good Government Council” (JBG by its Spanish acronym), a form of rotating autonomous government which serves as a local justice system, a representative body for interaction with other regions and projects from outside the zone, a source of financial and ethical accountability for the distribution of funds and the coordination of collective projects, and a delegated body to carry out the mandate of the community assemblies they are chosen by and accountable to. Beyond the existence of the JBGs, each zone creates and decides on its own autonomous programs and processes. The term lengths, form of rotation, number of members, and other details of the JBGs are thus decided locally by each zone, ranging from turns of a week to three months serving in the zone’s caracol as part of the governing body. Common across all zones, community members take their turn governing, and then return to the cornfield or the kitchen, and each community covers the work of its currently governing members with funds from collective projects or through collective labor. The number of women members of the Councils, while not yet equal to that of men, is increasing steadily, and the restructuring of family and collective life to allow women to leave the duties of the home to govern is slow but significant. The JBGs in general, as well as the EZLN in particular, now report regularly on the rates of women’s participation on community and zonal levels, a source and show of accountability unprecedented for a social movement and nearly unheard of for a guerrilla force.[38]

One of the most interesting aspects of autonomous governance is the justice system, where issues, conflicts, and crimes are debated, reconciled, or punished as decided by the people in each zone. The JBGs explain for example that the perpetrator of a murder receives the punishment of sustaining both families, his own and that of the victim, for the rest of his life. In one case a human-trafficker charging Central Americans exorbitant prices to take them north across Zapatista territory received seven months of community labor, while the migrants were given food and lodging and permission to stay in Zapatista territory as long as they liked. “We are a bridge,” the JBGs say, we listen to each case and investigate the charges and allegations of each side. Each region decides for itself, based on the case and the situation, what the punishment or resolution should be. We don’t want high-security prisons, they say, we want justice and the reconciliation of someone in violation of our laws back into the collectivity and cohesion of the community. The JBG justice system is also in charge of land disputes and protecting the lands recuperated in the 1994 rebellion against expropriation. “We have a commitment as Zapatistas: we will not permit that they take those lands from us again. We will defend them so that our children will never have a master.”

2.c. Education

Those trained to work in the health and education systems are called “promoters” rather than teachers or medics to describe a different relationship with those they teach or care for: “we feel our patients’ pain and accompany it”; “we learn with our students, we are not their bosses.” In the education systems they emphasize that the promoters are not an authority over the children, but rather partners in a learning process, members of the same community and thus the same collective process. This must be understood in relation to the government schools previously available, the communities explain, where teachers from the SEP (Secretary of Public Education) were known to be either indifferent or discriminatory towards the indigenous children, who often did not speak Spanish. The autonomous schools teach in indigenous languages and in Spanish, and children are taught not to “memorize like machines,” but to understand the history and traditions and problems of their communities and to think critically about them. The children must learn how to learn from others and from each other, the promoters report, as well as to create new thoughts and knowledge by themselves and among themselves. Most of the schools spend part of the school day in classrooms and part in productive projects, like school gardens, or in tasks, like interviewing the elders of the community. Education is understood not just as a set of lessons to be learned, but as integrated with other parts of creating one’s life: knowing how to cure oneself, for example, or learning to “live without fear.” The most important part of autonomous education, it was said repeatedly, is to not separate intellectual activity from manual activity; “That is a capitalist concept,” they explain, “to build autonomy we must be capable of conceptualizing and carrying out a task.”

2.d. Health

The health systems vary widely in the tools and capacities present, but all express an emphasis on prevention, on knowing how to care for and heal oneself, and in understanding health as a collective phenomenon. Health is not just lack of illness, they express, health is also desire, such as the desire to participate, and knowledge, knowing how to respect and take one’s compañero into consideration; “individualism is ill-health.” Prevention and knowing how to care for and cure oneself includes caring for nature, they add, as this helps us to be well not only in terms of the knowledge of plant medicines and herbal remedies, but also in understanding how nature creates a healthy living environment and how the community can preserve this. The clinics usually consist of a combination of laboratories and western technologies with herbal pharmacies and traditional remedies. The supplies and training in each zone vary from capacities to do blood analysis, vaccinations, and basic health screenings, to treating external hemorrhaging and carrying out minor surgeries. An ophthalmology center in one zone includes the capacity to treat conjunctivitis, myopia, and to manufacture lenses for eyeglasses. There is a special emphasis on sexual education and women’s reproductive health across the zones, with some promoters trained specifically in this area, including midwives who use a mix of traditional customs and modern technologies to assist births.

This again must be understood in the context of what was previously available to the communities in terms of health care. In every zone’s presentation, across what is a large land area and a population of hundreds of thousands, they expressed the same thing: before the uprising and the launch of the autonomous systems, the sick almost always died in transit. If one made it to the hospital, they would be treated, if they were treated at all, with discrimination and scorn, subject to treatments or medicines without consultation, or sterilizations without consent. Babies commonly died of diarrhea and the women and children of malnutrition and curable diseases. Through the autonomous health systems the communities have been able to lower maternal and infant deaths, diagnose and treat basic illnesses, generate a circulation of knowledge and practice promoting community health, and organize safe transit to hospitals in serious cases, with some zones in possession of their own ambulances. “We make a commitment to health so people can struggle with strength and truth for their dignity and rights as humans.”

2.e. Production

In the area of productive projects and technology, there is an extensive variety of coffee cooperatives, artisanship collectives, garden projects, collective bakeries, chicken coops, and other projects which collectivize work and commerce in order to minimize labor and costs and provide increasingly self-sustainable production that doesn’t depend on the whims of the market or the cuts taken by intermediaries. One the most notable projects is that of the collective warehouses in the Jungle zone. These warehouses provide the communities with a collective storage space and accessible commercial center which allows them to beat the market game of selling low and buying high, to avoid the high transportation costs which nearly eliminates their profit margin in going to market, and to produce quality food and supplies for themselves. These warehouses have been so successful that they are able to use the extra earnings to support other movement activities—such as marches or encampments—and to send their own solidarity to other places of struggle: last year corn was sent to the people of Cuba; this year contributions were sent to the resistances in San Salvador Atenco and Oaxaca.

2.f. Creating Amidst the Destruction

It should be pointed out that these systems and practices are not ideological or trivial achievements, but have had real material effects on the lives and well-being of the population in resistance. Infant mortality rates for children under five have dropped in Zapatista territory, along with maternal mortality rates and general indices of severe poverty,[39] and, as the EZLN recently declared, hunger no longer exists in Zapatista territory.[40]

The justice systems have proved to be so successful and well-received that non-Zapatista communities often opt to take their cases or complaints to the JBGs rather than to the official municipal or state courts. Autonomous schools are open to Zapatista and non-Zapatista children alike, and the clinics will treat anyone regardless of organization affiliation. The great majority of the costly parts of these programs has come from outside donations—usually international solidarity—which continues to be the principal source of support while the autonomous systems build their own self-sustainability. “The compañeros are reporting back to you,” one of the EZLN comandantes reminds the crowd at the Encounter in July, they are telling you where your support has gone and how it has been used all these years.” One JBG member says, against the background of a green foggy valley surrounded by mountains and over the sound of monkeys howling from the trees, “we thank you for your support with our air, water, rains, and mountains, which is all we have to offer here.” But it isn’t all they have to offer. These systems have been created from almost zero material infrastructure and with no state aid, by people who must scramble for their individual and collective survival, and without any model or instructions to follow in taking on such a monumental task. “Compañeros, we didn’t have a manual to do all this work,” Comandanta Sandra reminds us.[41]

Nor did they have a privileged time or space. The autonomous systems were not built in the paradise of an accomplished rebellion; rather, their resistance has had to be constant, subject to a long-term low-intensity war with periods of siege, outright attack, and assassination. The militarization of Chiapas by the Mexican army, the creation, arming, and training of paramilitary groups all over Zapatista territory, the cooptation and division of communities by political parties and state forces, and the introduction of programs to either directly buy out people in resistance or coerce them into releasing land has aimed constantly over the past 14 years at weakening the resistance, dividing the organization, and eliminating leaders.

Despite this, the Zapatistas have never, thus far, returned to the trenches of open warfare, nor have they shrunk into fear or helplessness against the attacks and what is sometimes the overwhelming weight of poverty. They have continued building autonomy, slowly and steadily, giving themselves voice and searching out that of others with whom they can co-inhabit the daily makings of the new world they are committed to creating. They have understood a historical lesson as well as a collective dream: a system so comprehensively social, economic, and political does not fall because you tip it over, but because something new is created which makes it irrelevant.

The plans and the dreams of the Zapatistas, however, have never been contained by the boundaries of their territory. What has always been a global project—“We can walk a good path if all of you who are us walk together”[42]—was made explicit in the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign: “This is our simple word which seeks to touch the hearts of humble and simple people like ourselves, but people who are also, like ourselves, dignified and rebel... in order to explain how we see the world and our country, in order to say what we are thinking of doing and how we are thinking of doing it, and in order to invite other persons to walk with us in something very great which is called Mexico and something greater which is called the world... This is our simple word, because it is our idea to call on those who are like us and to join together with them, everywhere they are living and struggling.”[43]

Autonomy is not just for the indigenous, the EZLN has said over and over. And in the communiqués surrounding the release of the Sixth Declaration they say it again: You can participate directly, they address their civil supporters, or you can distance yourself from what we do next. You can stick to supporting the indigenous fight, thanks for your help, or you can join us and fight for yourselves.

III. Encounter: The Politics of Bridge-Making

Behind our black face, behind our armed voice, behind our unnameable name, behind the us that you see, behind us we are you. We are the same men and women, simple and ordinary, that repeat across all of the races, that paint themselves of all colors, that speak in all languages and that live in all places. [...]Behind us, we are you.

—Major Ana Maria, EZLN words of welcome at the First Intercontinental Encounter For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. July 1996

3.a. Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World: Zapatismo in Tzotzil and Thai

July of 2007, 13 and a half years after the uprising of the EZLN, the Zapatista caracol of Morelia is filled with several thousand people and the sound of multiple translations, Thai to English to Spanish to Tzotzil. This is the second Encounter Between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World. It occurs 12 and a half years after the formation of the Autonomous Zapatista Municipalities, 11 years after the first Intergalactic Encounter, 4 years since the emergence of the Good Government Councils (autonomous Zapatista governance), 2 years after the release of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, and a year and a half into the Other Campaign. What has happened throughout those years is marked by the 46 countries represented in this Encounter, the multitude and diversity of voices circulating here, and the communications from those who could not come. Present are Mayan indigenous and urban punks, teachers, students, farmers, artists, housewives, unionists, sexworkers; Edith, political prisoner taken in San Salvador Atenco, writes from the Penitentiary of Al Molino de los Flores in Mexico State, the Yaqui Indian tribe writes from Sonora, representatives from the Landless Movement in Brazil bring messages from their communities, campesino leaders from Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Bolivia speak on behalf of bases that number into the millions in their countries. The visible contrasts that tend to characterize Zapatista Encounters—giant, multiply pierced, pink-mohawked Europeans alongside four-foot indigenous women in skimasks, the leather pants and woven skirts—which is always and once again striking, is this time newly accompanied by a new diversity of Asian, Oceanic, and South American voices brought by the specially invited Via Campesina delegation, and the ever-growing cross-section of groups and sectors brought by the new political formations and alliances of the Other Campaign and the Sixth Declaration. What has made such an encounter possible? Our hosts here are among the poorest communities on the continent, of multiple language groups, people who speak humbly in a language not their own, asking permission from their public to address them, apologizing for their limitations in this second tongue, completely masked and completely open; it is they who have organized a meeting of thousands. Their power of convocation is what has given them not the position of vanguard, which they have constantly refused, but rather the role of what somebody once called the “armed matchmakers of a new international movement against globalization.”[44]

The first of these international meetings in Zapatista territory was held in July of 1996, the Intercontinental Encounter For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism, also known as the “Intergalactic.” At that meeting, the thousands of visitors from other countries spoke at the thematic roundtables organized for discussion, with the limited though significant participation of the commanders of the EZLN. Ten years later, in December 2006, in the first Encounter between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World, the roundtables belonged to the Good Government Councils, those currently serving in the autonomous community government. The ingenuity of each moment of encounter is matched only by the innovation—and further democratization of the word and the voices of below—of the next initiative: time they report that the next International Encounter will be held in December of 2007, this time between Zapatista Women and Women of the World.

The invitation to Via Campesina to attend the July Encounter with Peoples of the World again expanded the movement’s horizons. Here stories from four continents represent a small but symbolic sample of these trends. The Korean Peasant League (KPL) fight a free trade treaty with the US that would condemn an already flailing farming economy and damage further a farming population that has declined from 6.5 million to 3.3 million in the last decade. In Brazil, the acceleration of private land monopolies driven by the new ethanol market is leading to massive displacements and driving farmers into the Amazon, which signifies both further deforestation as well as the heavy water depletion and air pollution resulting from ethanol production. Whole cities have closed their schools, the Landless Movement (MST) delegate reports, as a result of the heavily polluting burning of sugarcane in ethanol plants, and this year alone there are 20 cane workers dead from the pollution. In India, the peasant union Bhartiya Kissan (BKU) reports that between 1992 and 2007, as a result of massive land privatizations and credit-lending policies which have led to farmer’s loss of livelihood and heavy debt, 150,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, suicides both of desperation and a refusal to die slowly under such policies. The delegate from Thailand’s Assembly of the Poor tells how organized farmers and indigenous communities are either starved off their land or burned out of their houses, the young people educated against their own communities, part of a privately-sponsored governmental campaign to condemn indigenous farming practices in favor of industrial-level and chemical-based agriculture. “We have lived the future of the market,” states the representative of the US National Coalition of Family Farmers, referring to neoliberal agricultural policies implemented in the US since the 1950’s which led to the essential extinction of the small farm in the country, “and it is a lie.”[45]

The tragedy of such an assault is matched only by the stories of resistance brought by the Via Campesina delegates: The Korean Peasant League is known to put together mobilizations of 100,000, to shut down every single highway in South Korea and block train tracks with farm implements, and that traveled to Mexico to fight police in the barricades of Cancun during the World Economic Forum meetings of 2004; the 350,000 families of the MST in Brazil that have recovered lands greater in area then the size of Italy, and the 2,000 MST women who destroyed 2 million eucalyptus plants in protest of export-driven mono-cropping during a trade meeting between Brazilian president Lula and other world leaders; the Peasant Network, part of the Assembly of the Poor in Thailand, that walked for a month to the capital where they occupied government buildings for 99 days protesting the criminalization of traditional farming techniques; the Indonesian farmer’s union that has occupied lands in order to produce their crops organically, insisting, “we will not poison our own people”; the 71,000 Indian farmers arrested in a protest who took over the jail where they were being held, refusing to leave until they were given food and train fare home. These farmer and peasant groups learned in the Encounter about struggles of marginalized youth from the cities, urban occupation/squatter’s movements, student organizations, teacher’s unions, anarchists’ collectives, of the struggles of sexworkers for dignified working conditions, of transsexuals for dignified treatment, of punks and goths for freedom from discrimination and criminalization. Interesting in this context was what almost every Via Campesina delegate presented as a decision arrived at by their organizations and bases: the need to organize with other sectors, to form united fronts and alliances across customary cultural and class lines. The MST said that their struggle, in order to advance, would have to be tied to the student organizations and the workers’ unions; the Korea farmers’ league said that for the first time they were joining the labor unions in their strikes and vice versa; the Indian farmers’ representative, the US small farm leader, and the Thai delegate repeated this necessity, in a striking simultaneity of strategy with the Other Campaign.

3.b. An Army for Abajo

“You must see that we are the rebellious mirror which wants to become crystal and shatter. You must see that we are what we are in order to cease to be what we are and begin to be the you that we are.”

—Major Ana Maria, EZLN words of welcome at the First Intercontinental Encounter For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism

Contrary to what many have thought and said over the past 14 years, the Zapatistas have always maintained that theirs is a struggle for everyone, that their initial cry of “everything for everyone” was borderless and boundary-less. The Sixth Declaration made explicit what had been practice for over a decade: a series of attempts to make connections, or more precisely to be a bridge, to and between groups and peoples, each attempt going out in different words and forms until something caught wings and resonated with people across the world. The first National Democratic Convention was held in August of 1994, the first Continental Encounter in April of 1996, the first “Intergalactic” in July of 1996; In September 1997, 1,111 civilian Zapatistas traveled to Mexico City to attend the National Indigenous Congress, 5,000 went out into all of Mexico in March of 1999 to hold a national and international referendum on the EZLN’s demands, 24 EZLN commanders went to Mexico City in February of 2001 in the “March of the Color of the Earth.” Then came the inauguration of the five caracoles as gathering places for the rebellions of the world, the Other Campaign, the Encounters with the Peoples of the World, and the Encounter of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, in Vicam, Sonora. Even the dialogues with the government have been described by the EZLN as only secondarily about negotiations with the state, and primarily about getting to know the society that had come out in the streets to protect and support them, as well as to free themselves from the isolation that clandestinity had forced on them. The Zapatistas have been windows, mirrors, and bridges to and for the world, and though their own name and many of their supporters may contest it, they are an army not so much of a nation but an army of and for abajo, for all those below. They take what they have, the richness of the poor—struggle, spirit, generosity, collectivity, cooperation—and begin to fight for everyone, everywhere.

The EZLN has made abajo not a term for victims, but for a different organization of people, a different way of composing community, a different collective subjectivity. Abajo is a political initiative; it cannot be an opposition to arriba (above), a reaction, or a consequence. It is an affirmative project, a new organization or arrangement of forces; this is what the Other Campaign is at the national level and the Sixth at the international. The “todos” and the “otros” (the “all” and the “others”) aspects of the Sixth Declaration and the signing-on by national and international civil society as partners in the effort requires understanding the construction of “below” in this sense; that is, in the construction of a below among all that wants everything.

3.c. A New We

In 1996, at the first Intergalactic, the Zapatistas were already talking about constructing a new “we,” one that would become much more deliberate and explicit in the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign. The pending intergalactic, preluded by these Encounters between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World (December 2006, July 2007, and December 2007) is another exercise in this construction. There are of course plenty of mis-encounters along the way: many of us still do not understand why we are being called together, why we are not given the microphone, what it is we are hearing, or how to listen. Along the way there are and have been needs ignored, desires smothered, dialogues cut short. We clearly have a lot to learn from the Zapatistas about our own adopted banners in the movement—autonomy, horizontalism, respect for the other—and hopefully we will have much to teach them also. Differences are great and barriers of misunderstanding high, but if we were to accept that differences and misunderstanding go together naturally we would be doing ourselves a great injustice and dealing the movement a death blow. In the intergalactic network, or the”Zezta Internazional,” as the Zapatistas now call it, we are in the first small steps of the creation of a community and political project at a global level, which requires the creation of a “we” at this level.

We see this already in process, not only in political coordination and joint protests, but in the creation of new legends, stories, dreams, and practices with their base in a new community or society, a new configuration of social organization. The innovations of the Zapatistas and their contemporaries in the alterglobalization movement have led to a proliferation of practices and experiments in democracy and collectivity: assembly forms for decision-making, network forms for organization, community forms of becoming the media and reclaiming the radio waves, constantly opening more spaces and channels for listening to each other; and then in shared and loved, real and imagined, characters and persons that give us new compañeros in the struggle: Don Durito,[46] Don Andres,[47] Don Amado Avendaño,[48] El Viejo Antonio,[49] Mariana and the Doc,[50] Carlo Giuliani,[51] Magdalena Garcia[52] political prisoner and Magdalena the compañera of Elias Contreras,[53] Alexis,[54] Nacho,[55] the farmers of South Central Farm in Los Angeles,[56] the Mapuche,[57] the Kiliwa,[58] el Alibrije,[59] Tepito,[60] Santiaguito,[61] and so many more.

Conclusion: The Tightrope of Democracy

“We will walk then the same path of history, but we will not repeat it; we are from before, yes, but we are new.”


Perhaps one of the most important things the Zapatistas have taught us is that holding a position or having an opinion is not doing politics. Part of what has been considered the EZLN’s talent for innovation and infinite ability to surprise us is their drive to constantly abolish themselves and become something else. They never build a fort around what they have won or established, but instead open it up, expose it to the eyes and opinions of the world around them, and allow it to transform once again through that contact and connection to a diverse reality. They never stay the same, never allow their practices to become static, and in that sense, never allow power to accumulate or isolate or sit in one place. That movement, that constant transformation, is a commitment to politics—politics as movement that constantly reopens the decision-making power of the community and the possibility for acting on one’s own collective life. They have taught the left that that dogmatism of idea and practice, the insistence on an ideology or model that transcends history and the decision of those in the present, always accompanied by a refusal to move, re-analyze, change, adapt, transform, is, in fact, a conservatism.

The power of community and emphasis on collectivity that we have seen and heard in so many ways in Chiapas is not simply an indigenous tradition or geographical organization or survival mechanism, though it is in part all of those things. The social power that has come from the development of particular laws and practices in Zapatista territory—the Revolutionary Law for Women,[63] the prohibition on alcohol, the rotating authority positions—are progressive, but not in themselves radical. Their radicality comes from the fact that they are collectively decided upon and implemented, and subject to the continual re-approval or removal by a collective body. Any particular policy in any particular moment can have progressive or regressive effects; what makes politics is the capacity and structure to decide on those policies in democratic fashion, and to hold open the space for the constant and continual reevaluation or recreation of that decision. That is the great significance of community: community doesn’t just exist, simply by sharing an identity or a block or even a barrio. Community is the capacity to exercise power through the ability to make decisions and take action collectively, and thus it must always be constructed. What has been constructed in Zapatista territory—through the Good Government Councils, the autonomous institutions or systems, the entity of the assembly—is that capacity, not merely progressive policy but rather an enormous social power and potential.

There is no policy or law or order that can protect us from tyranny or repression, from fascism or domination. There is only the decision of the people of the present—that is, our infinite decision-making capacity in the present. And there is no way to guarantee the goodness of what the people of the present decide, there is only the guarantee that it will be their decision. True democracy is a tightrope walk; there is no time to close your eyes. It is always a risk, but it is also the only hope for a collective life free of domination and free for our construction.

As we leave La Realidad, where the Second Encounter between Zapatistas Peoples and Peoples of the World ends, it feels as though we are standing on the edge of time, under a nearly full moon, smelling the rain out the cracked window as jungle turns back into mountain, the head of the Korean farmer’s league representative falling with sleepiness onto the shoulder of a Chiapas indigenous compañero in the back window of the car in front of us. The new “we” is still in process, but the global generation—that shares not just a milieu of capitalist-driven war and environmental destruction, but also an understanding that today Iraq is in the Mexican Southeast, Oaxaca on the Mexico-US border, that New Orleans and Atenco are everywhere—has already been constructed. It is a generation that insists on having, as the Zapatistas have put it, “the air as homeland and tomorrow as their flag!” “So many people and so many colors! So many words to name hope!” [64]

[1] From Subcomandante Marcos’ speech on Other Campaign journey through Morelia, Michoacan. April 5, 2007.

[2] See the full report by the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center:; see also the denunciation by the Council of Good Government of La Realidad:

[3] see the denouncement by the Good Government Council of Oventic:

[4] see the most recent denouncements by the Good Government Council of Morelia:; see also the report on Bolon Ajaw published by the Centro de Análisis Político e Investigaciones Sociales y Económicas A.C. :

[5] See the denunciation by the Good Government Council of La Realidad:; see also the report published by the Centro de Análisis Político e Investigaciones Sociales y Económicas A.C.:

[6] See the denouncement by the Good Government Council of Oventic:

[7] World Bank data from a report published October 19, 2007, as reported in La Jornada, “La apertura en el campo expulsó a un cuarto de su población: BM.” Roberto González Amador and David Brooks. October 20, 2007.

[8] Data from the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the 2006 census, there are an estimated 44.3 million Hispanics in the US, 64% of which are of Mexican origin.

[9] As reported by members of the community El Tesorero, Zacatecas, in a meeting of the Other Campaign..October, 7 2006.

[10] World Bank data from a report published October 19, 2007, as reported in La Jornada, “La apertura en el campo expulsó a un cuarto de su población: BM.” Roberto González Amador and David Brooks. October 20, 2007.

[11] Data from the Campaña Nacional en Defensa de la Soberanía Alimentaria and the Reactivación del Campo Mexicano Sin Maíz No Hay País, as reported in La Jornada, “Desempleo, migración y escasez.” December 26, 2007.

[12] ”Mexico’s Economic Challenges.” Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, Political Economy Fellow, Global Economy and Development. The Brookings Institution. September 5, 2007

[13] Behind Turkey(34%) and Brazil (40%). Data from INEGI (National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information), as reported by Roberto González Amador, “Mexico: The Informal Economy a Third of GDP.” October 14, 2006.

[14] Spanish word for largely subsistence-level peasant-farmers.

[15] The historic center, as announced by the Mexican government’s tourist office, is now under vigilance by the “guardian angels” of ex-New York City mayor and current Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a kind of security squad charged with carrying out something similar to the “zero tolerance” crime reduction policies in New York after September 11th. In Mexico they are officially designated to “orient tourists,” “train” community members to “monitor” their own communities, and “identify strangers in the community.” They are to be paid by private funds for their work in Mexico City.

[16] The Movimiento Unido por el Barrio de Tepito (United Movement for the Barrio of Tepito), a community group that organized itself to fight the evictions, is an adherent of the Other Campaign. During the journey of the Other Campaign, the Zapatista delegation made Tepito one of their key stops in Mexico City, and Tepito residents have sent delegations to the Zapatista Encounters.

[17] For recent reports on the juridical situation of the political prisoners, the audio reports and interviews at; For information on the Other Campaign mobilizations for their liberation, see

[18] For instance, the literal sound war carried out by competing speaker systems in the Mexico City town square between the PRD city government and the PAN federal government for the right to usher in independence day, September 16, 2007, and the near physical confrontation between their supporters; or the fistfights in San Lazaro, the federal congressional hall, between PRD and PAN /PRI representatives and senators, caught on TV cameras as they fought over privileges to symbolic governmental spaces after PAN president Felipe Calderon took office,in 2006, an election widely accepted to have been won by massive fraud.

[19] “Una llamada a terminar con politicas de malestar.” Miguel Pickard. CIEPAC bulletin 529.

[20] “Wages haven't kept up with growth of U.S. economy.” Mark Weisbrot. Arizona Daily Star. September 3, 2007.

[21] Data from US Census Bureau. As reported in “En seis años baja el ingreso y hay 5 millones más de pobres en EU.” David Brooks. La Jornada, August 31, 2007.

[22] From the annual survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, as reported in The Washington Post, “Rise in Cost of Employer-Paid Health Insurance Slows.” Christopher Lee. September 7, 2007.

[23] Data from US Census Bureau. As reported in “En seis años baja el ingreso y hay 5 millones más de pobres en EU.” David Brooks. La Jornada, August 31, 2007.

[24] University of California, The California Endowment and Secretary of Health (Ssa). As reported in La Jornada, October 24, 2007.

[25] Data from the US Congress's Joint Economic Committee.

[26] “Housing Crash Still Weighs on the Economy. Mark Weisbrot. December 12, 2007.

[27] “Foreclosure wave sweeps America.” Steve Schiffers. BBC News, November 5, 2007.

[28] “Where did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income.” Ian Dew-Becker and Robert J. Gordon, Northwestern University, with statistics from IRS micro-data files. September, 2005.

[29] The Mexican federal congress estimates a 10% increase.

[30] “The Fourth World War.” Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. 1999. See the English version at:

[31] Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, “Seven Thoughts in May 2003.” See the English version at:

[32] “The Fourth World War.” Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. 1999. See the English version at:

[33]Seven Thoughts in May of 2003.” Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. See the English version at:

[34] All information here used is taken directly from the discourses given by the Zapatista communities in the First and Second Encounters Between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World, held respectively in December 2006 and July 2007. The audios of these meetings are available at the EZLN’s Zezta Internazional site: See also Subcomandante Marcos’s August 2004 “Leer un video” series on the Good Government Council’s one-year financial report back:

[35] As cited by Hermann Bellinghausen, “La otra campaña, opción para agrupar a la s organizaciones ca mpesinas en lucha.” La Jornada, March 1, 2007.

[36] According to the Centro de Análisis Político e Investigaciones Sociales y Económicas, the Mexican government officially recognizes the 250,000 figure as hectares recovered by the Zapatistas.

[37] Literally “shells” or “spirals,” these are Zapatista cultural and political centers. Originally the Zapatistas created Aguascalientes, places of encounter and collective projects, something like resistance headquarters, a new common space of rebellious territory, in each of five zones in Zapatista territory. In 2003 they symbolically closed the Aguascalientes and inaugurated five caracoles in their place, which would continue to be places of encounter and valorization, but also home to the autonomous governments and something like portals to the world—entry points for all outside interactions and relationships.

[38] See Subcomandante Marcos’ report on women’s participation in the Good Government Councils, as local authorities, and in the EZLN, “Leer un video. Segunda parte: Dos Fallas.” August, 2004.

[39] According to government data collected by the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Geografia, e Informatica.

[40] As cited by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, interview in Gatopardo, December 2007.

[41] “13 years of Resistance,” evaluation given by Comandanta Sandra at the Second Encounter between Zapatista Peoples and Peoples of the World, July, 2007.

[42] Major Ana Maria, EZLN welcome at the “First Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism.” July 27, 1996.

[43] From the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle:, an excerpt from the following full paragraph “This is our simple word which seeks to touch the hearts of humble and simple people like ourselves, but people who are also, like ourselves, dignified and rebel. This is our simple word for recounting what our path has been and where we are now, in order to explain how we see the world and our country, in order to say what we are thinking of doing and how we are thinking of doing it, and in order to invite other persons to walk with us in something very great which is called Mexico and something greater which is called the world. This is our simple word in order to inform all honest and noble hearts what it is we want in Mexico and the world. This is our simple word, because it is our idea to call on those who are like us and to join together with them, everywhere they are living and struggling.”

[44] Auroras of the Zapatistas: Local & Global Struggles of the Fourth World War. Midnight Notes Collective, 2001.

[45] Discourses from the Via Campesina roundtable in CIDECI (Indigenous Integrated Training Center), San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, July 19, 2007.

[46] The literary character and companion of Subcomandante Marcos, a comical beetle-alter ego that steals his tobacco and regaling the public with stories of his adventures as a nomadic knight.

[47] Don Andres Aubrey, French Anthropologist and Historian who spent the last 30 years of his life in Chiapas and developed a politically-committed intellectualism to accompany the indigenous communities and the Zapatista movement in their process of construction of a new history and autonomy. His attention to and support for the process of the Good Government Councils, the Other campaign, and the Sixth Declaration set him apart from many intellectuals. Aubry died in September of 2007.

[48] Amado Avendaño, San Cristobal journalist, the first to spread the news about the Zapatista rebellion in 1994, was elected but defrauded as Chiapas governor in 1996 and subsequently named governor-in-rebellion by the EZLN.

[49] ”Old Antonio,” a character in Subcomandante Marcos’ writings and who he describes as his mentor and bridge in learning to know and understand indigenous ways as the early insurgents from outside Chiapas sought contact with the indigenous communities and learned to live in the mountains.

[50]Dr. Guillermo Selvas and his daughter Mariana Selvas, adherents of the Other Campaign who accompanied the journey of the Other Campaign throughout Mexico and, as they provided medical support to the injured in Atenco on May 3, 2006, were arrested, severely beaten and abused, and incarcerated. They have spent a year and a half as political prisoners in the penal institutions of Almoloya and Al Molina de Los Flores, Mexico State.

[51] The young Italian protester who was shot in the head by police during the protests against the G-8 in Genoa in 2001. Giuliani was one of the first casualties of the series of global protests in cities around the world.

[52] The indigenous Mazahua woman who was arrested and beaten in Atenco on May 3, 2006, just weeks after having spoken on stage with the Zapatistas in the historic center of Mexico City as part of the Other Campaign, and who spent a year and a half as a political prisoner in the penal institutions of Almoloya and Al Molina de Los Flores before being released in November, cleared of all charges.

[53] A character in “The Uncomfortable Dead: What’s Missing is Missing,” a novel by Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II. Published 2005. Magdalena is a transgendered person with whom Elias Contreras, a detective for the EZLN, falls in love. Magdalena reappears in many of Subcomandante Marcos’ stories.

[54] Alexis Benhumea, the 21-year-old student and adherent of the Other Campaign who was shot in the head with a tear gas bullet in Atenco and, unable to reach a hospital because of the police siege, lay for 12 hours hidden in a house with his brain exposed. He entered a coma and died one month later. The Zapatistas and the Other Campaign have claimed him as one of their fallen.

[55] Ignacio del Valle, leader of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land of San Salvador Atenco, now political prisoner. Del Valle led the successful resistance in 2001 against the airport project that would have expropriated Atenco’s lands, and was taken, severely beaten, and incarcerated on May 3, 2006, while supporting vendors from Atenco’s neighboring town Texcoco against a police attack. Del Valle has been in a maximum security prison, Las Palmas, Mexico State, for the last year and a half and was recently sentenced to 60 years in jail.

[56] A community farm and garden in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles created and cared for by mostly Mexican migrants, adherents of the Other Campaign. South Central Farm was evicted and bulldozed for urban development in June of 2006.

[57] The Mapuche are an indigenous people in Chile known for their long resistance and struggle for sovereignty They are adherents of the Other Campaign.

[58] The Kiliwa are indigenous people in Baja California, Mexico. They are at imminent risk of extinction, with only a handful of families remaining in the community, a few dispersed numbers in other parts of Mexico, and only four elders that still speak their indigenous language. They are adherents of the Other Campaign and hosted the Zapatista Sixth Commission on its path through northern Mexico.

[59] David Venegas Reyes, also known as Alibrije, a young organizer with the Oaxacan resistance, member of the state council of the Oaxacan Peoples’ Popular Assembly of Oaxaca and the collective VOCAL, and adherent of the Other Campaign who was arrested, beaten, and put in solitary confinement on April 13, 2007. He remains in jail as a political prisoner today.

[60] The neighborhood in Mexico City known not only for being the largest underground market in Latin America, but also for its strength and resistance as a community defending their territory and their livelihood. In February of 2007, the PRD government of Mexico City began evicting the residents and vendors of Tepito to make room for tourist development as part of a “cleaning up” campaign of the capitol’s historic district.

[61] One of the Mexico State penal institutions where the political prisoners taken in Atenco were held for nearly a year and a half before being transferred to another prison, Al Molino de Los Flores, after the local judge in charge of their cases was ruled incompetent. From the day of incarceration through the transfer date, adherents and supporters of the Other Campaign maintained a constant sit-in and encampment outside the Santiaguito prison to accompany the political prisoners. The encampment was then transferred to Al Molino de Los Flores to continue accompanying the political prisoners in late September, 2007.

[62] “The Fourth Key,” discourse from the March of the Color of the Earth in Cuautla, Morelos, March 7, 2001.

[63] Laws regarding indigenous women’s rights adopted by the EZLN in 1993 and distributed in the Chiapas towns taken by the insurgents during the 1994 uprising. See the English version at

[64] “Ponencia a 7 voces.” Subcomandante Marcos. July, 1996.

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