Chiapas: The Thirteenth Stele

by Subcomandante Marcos

Part One: A Conch  |  Part Two: A Death  |  Part Three: A Name  |  Part Four: A Plan

Part Five: A History  |  Part Six: A Good Government  |  Part Seven and Last: Postscript and Invitation

Part One: A Conch

Dawn in the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
Slowly, with an unhurried but continuous movement, the moon allows the dark sheet of night to slip off her body and to finally reveal the erotic nudity of her light. She then reclines across the length of the sky, desirous of looking and being looked at, that is, of touching and being touched. If light does anything, it delineates its opposite, and so, down below, a shadow offers the cloud its hand while murmuring:

“Come with me, look with your heart at what my eyes show you, walk in my steps and dream in my arms. Up above, the stars are making a shell, with the moon as origin and destiny. Look and listen. This is a dignified and rebel land. The men and women who live it are like many men and women in the world. Let us walk, then, in order to look at and listen to them now, while time hovers between night and day, when dawn is queen and lady in these lands.

Take care with that puddle and the mud. Better to follow the tracks which, like in so many other things, are the most knowing. Do you hear that laughter? It is from a couple who are repeating now the ancient rite of love. He murmurs something, and she laughs, she laughs as if she were singing. Then silence, then sighs and muted moans. Or perhaps the other way around, first sighs and moans, afterwards murmurs and laughter. But let’s continue on ahead, because love needs no witnesses other than glances turned flesh, and, since it is sunlight regardless of the hour, it also undresses shadows.

Come. Let us sit for a bit and let me tell you things. We are in rebel lands. Here live and fight those who are called “zapatistas.” And these zapatistas are very otherly…and they despair of more than one of them. Instead of weaving their history with executions, death and destruction, they insist on living. And the vanguards of the world tear at their hair, because, as for “victory or death,” these zapatistas neither vanquish nor die, but nor do they surrender, and they despise martyrdom as much as capitulation. Very otherly, it’s true. And then there is the one who is said to be their leader, one Sup Marcos, whose public image is closer to that of Cantinflas and Pedro Infante than to Emiliano Zapata’s and Che’ Guevara’s. And it’s a waste of time to say that no one will take them seriously that way, because they themselves are the first to joke about their being so otherly.

They are rebel indigenous. Breaking, thus, the traditional preconception, first from Europe and afterwards from all those who are clothed in the color of money, that was imposed on them for looking and being looked at.

And so they do not adapt to the “diabolical” image of those who sacrifice humans to appease the gods, nor to that of the needy indigenous, with his hand extended, expecting crumbs or charity from he who has everything. Nor that of the good savage who is perverted by modernity, nor that of the infant who entertains his elders with gibberish. Nor that of the submissive peon from all those haciendas which lacerated the history of Mexico. Nor that of the skillful craftsperson whose products will adorn the walls of he who despises him. Nor that of the ignorant fool who should not have an opinion about what is further than the limited horizon of his geography. Nor that of someone who is fearful of heavenly or earthly gods.

Because you must know, my blue repose, that these indigenous become angry even at those who sympathize with their cause. And the fact is that they do not obey. When they are expected to speak, they are silent. When silence is expected, they speak. When they are expected to move forward, they go back. When they are expected to keep going back, they’re off on another side. When it’s expected that they just speak, they break out talking of other things. When they’re expected to be satisfied with their geography, they walk the world and its struggles.

Or it’s that they’re not content with anyone. And it doesn’t seem to matter to them much. What does matter to them is for their heart to be content, and so they follow the paths shown by their heart. That’s what they seem to be doing now. Everywhere there are people on paths. They are coming and going, barely exchanging the usual greetings. They are spending long hours in meetings or assemblies or whatever. They go in with frowning faces, and they leave, smiling in complicity.


Whatever it is, I am sure that many people will not like what they are going to do or say. In addition, as the Sup says, the zapatistas’ specialty is in creating problems and then seeing later who is going to solve them. And so one shouldn’t expect much from those meetings other than problems…

Perhaps we might guess what it is about if we look carefully. The zapatistas are very otherly – I don’t know if I already told you that – and so they imagine things before those things exist, and they think that, by naming them, those things will begin to have life, to walk…and, yes, to create problems. And so I am sure they have already imagined something, and they are going to begin to act as if that something already exists, and no one is going to understand anything for some time, because, in effect, once named, things begin to take on body, life and a tomorrow.

Then we could look for some clue…No, I don’t know where to look…I believe their way is looking with their ears and listening with their eyes. Yes, I know it sounds complicated, but nothing else occurs to me. Come, let’s keep on walking.

Look, the stream is turning into a whirlpool there, and in its center the moon is shimmering its sinuous dance. A whirlpool…or a shell.

They say here that the most ancient say that other, earlier ones said that the most first of these lands held the figure of the shell in high esteem. They say that they say that they said that the conch represents entering into the heart, that is what the very first ones with knowledge said. And they say that they say that they said that the conch also represents leaving the heart in order to walk the world, which is how the first ones called life. And more, they say that they say that they said that they called the collective with the shell, so that the word would go from one to the other and agreement would be reached. And they also say that they say that they said that the conch was help so that the ear could hear even the most distant word. That is what they say that they say that they said. I don’t know. I am walking hand in hand with you, and I am showing you what my ears see and my eyes hear. And I see and hear a shell, the “pu’y', as they say in their language here.

Ssh. Silence. The dawn has already yielded to day. Yes, I know it’s still dark, but look how the huts are filling, little by little, with light from the fire in the stoves. Since now we are shadows in the shadow, no one sees us, but if they did see us, I am sure they would offer us a cup of coffee, which, with this cold, would be appreciated. As I appreciate the pressure of your hand in my hand.

Look, the moon is already slipping away to the west, concealing its pregnant light behind the mountain. It is time to leave, to shelter the journey in the shadow of a cave, there, where desire and weariness are soothed with another, more pleasant weariness. Come, here, I will murmur to you with flesh and words: “And, ay, how I would wish to be/a joy among all joys,/one alone, the joy you would take joy in!/A love, one single love:/the love you would fall in love with./But/I am nothing more than what I am”/ (Pedro Salinas. “La voz a ti debida”). We will no longer be looking at each other there, but, in the half-sleep of desire, moored in a safe harbour, we will be able to listen to that activity which is stirring these zapatistas now, those who insist on subverting even time, and who are once again raising, as if it were an external flag, another calendar…that of resistance.”

Shadow and light go. They have not noticed that in a hut a faint light has been kept up all through the night. Now, inside, a group of men and women are sharing coffee and silence, as they shared the word previously.

For several hours these humans with their dusk-colored hearts have traced, with their ideas, a great shell. Starting from the international, their eyes and their thoughts have turned within, passing successively through the national, the regional and the local, until they reached what they call “El Votan. The guardian and heart of the people,” the zapatista peoples. And so, from the shell’s most external curve, they thought words like “globalization,” “war of domination,” “resistance,” “economy,” “city,” “countryside,” “political situation,” and others which the eraser has been eliminating after the usual question: “Is it clear or are there questions?” At the end of the path from outside in, in the center of the shell, only some initials remain: “EZLN.” Afterwards, there are proposals, and they paint, in thought and in heart, windows and doors which only they see (among other reasons, because they still don’t exist). The disparate and scattered word begins to make common collective path. Someone asks: “Is there agreement? There is,” the now collective voice responds affirmatively. The shell is traced again, but now in the opposite path, from inside out. The eraser also continues the reverse path until only one sentence remains, filling the old chalkboard, a sentence which is madness to many, but which is, to these men and women, a reason for struggle: “A world where many worlds fit.” A little bit later, a decision is made.

Now is silence and waiting. A shadow goes out into the night rain. A spark of light barely illuminates the eye. Once again smoke rises from his lips in the darkness. With his hands behind his back, he begins a coming and going without destination. A few minutes ago, there, inside, a death has been decided…

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Mexico, July of 2003


CHIAPAS: The Thirteenth Stele

Part Two: A Death

A few days ago, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation decided on the death of the so-called “Aguascalientes” of La Realidad, Oventik, La Garrucha, Morelia and Roberto Barrios. All of them located in rebel territory. The decision to disappear the “Aguascalientes” was made after a long process of reflection…

On August 8, 1994, during the Democratic National Convention held in Guadalupe Tepeyac, Comandante Tacho, in the name of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, inaugurated, before some 6000 persons from various parts of Mexico and the world, the so-called “Aguascalientes,” and he handed it over to national and international civil society.

Many people did not know that first “Aguascalientes,” whether because they couldn’t go, or because they were very young in that year (if you are 24 now, or turning 25, you would have been 14 then, or turning 15), but it was a formidable ship. Run aground on the side of a hill, its huge white sails hoped to travel the 7 seas. The flag, with its ferocious skull and crossbones, waved fiercely and defiantly above the bridge. Two huge national flags were unfurled at the sides, like wings. It had its library, infirmary, lavatories, showers, piped music (which alternated obsessively between “red bow” and “marked cards”), and, it is said, even a place for attacks. The layout of the buildings looked, as I have related once, like a huge conch, thanks to what we called the “crooked house.” The “crooked house” wasn’t crooked, it had a crack that appeared at first glance to be an architectural error, but which, from above, allowed one to observe the spiral formed by the buildings. The crew of the first “Aguascalientes” was made up of individuals without face, clear transgressors of maritime and terrestrial laws. And their captain was the most handsome pirate who has ever sailed the oceans: a patch over his missing right eye, a black beard glistening with strands of platinum, a pronounced nose, hook in one hand, saber in the other, a leg of flesh and one of wood, pistol in his belt and pipe in his mouth.

The process that led to the building of that first “Aguascalientes” was fortuitous…and painful. And I am not referring to the physical construction (which was carried out in record time and without television “spots”), but to the conceptual construction. Let me explain:

We, after having prepared ourselves for 10 years for killing and dying, for handling and firing weapons of all kinds, for making explosives, for executing strategic and tactical military maneuvers, in sum, for making war,…after the first days of combat, we found ourselves invaded by a genuine army. First an army of journalists, but later one of men and women from the most diverse social, cultural and national backgrounds. It was after those “Cathedral Dialogues,” in February – March of 1994. The journalists continued to appear intermittently, but what we call “civil society” – in order to differentiate it from the political class, and so as not to categorize it in social classes – was always constant.

We were learning, and, I imagine, civil society was as well. We learned to listen and to speak, the same, I imagine, as civil society. I also imagine that the learning was less arduous for us.

After all, that had been the EZLN’s fundamental origin: a group of “illuminati” who came from the city in order to “liberate” the exploited and who looked, when confronted with the reality of the indigenous communities, more like burnt out light bulbs than “illuminati.” How long did it take us to realize that we had to learn to listen, and, afterwards, to speak? I’m not sure, not a few moons have passed now, but I calculate some two years at least. Meaning that what had been a classic revolutionary guerrilla war in 1984 (armed uprising of the masses, the taking of power, the establishment of socialism from above, many statues and names of heroes and martyrs everywhere, purges, etcetera, in sum, a perfect world), by 1986 was already an armed group, overwhelmingly indigenous, listening attentively and barely babbling its first words with a new teacher: the Indian peoples.

I believe I have already related previously, several times, this part of the EZLN’s formation (or “re-founding”). But, if I’m repeating it now, it’s not in order to overwhelm you with nostalgia, but in order to try and explain how we got to the building of the first “Aguascalientes,” and their later proliferation in zapatista, that is, rebel, lands.

What I mean by this is that the main founding act of the EZLN was learning to listen and to speak. I believe, at that time, we learned well and we were successful. With the new tool we built with the learned word, the EZLN quickly turned into an organization not just of thousands of fighters, but one which was clearly “merged” with the indigenous communities.

To put it another way, we ceased to be “foreigners,” and we turned into part of that corner forgotten by the country and by the world: the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

A moment arrived, I can’t say precisely just when, in which it was no longer the EZLN on one side and the communities on the other, but when we were all simply zapatistas. I’m simplifying, necessarily, when remembering this period. There will be another occasion, I hope, and another means, for going into details about that process which, in broad terms, was not without contradictions, setbacks and backsliding.

The fact is, that’s how we were, still learning (because, I believe, learning is never done), when the now “newly appeared” Carlos Salinas de Gortari (then President of Mexico, thanks to a colossal election fraud) had the “brilliant” idea of making reforms which did away with the campesinos’ right to the land.

The impact in the communities which were already zapatista was, to say the least, brutal. For us (note that I no longer distinguish between the communities and the EZLN), the land is not merchandise, but it has cultural, religious and historic connotations which don’t need to be explained here. And so, our regular ranks grew, quickly and exponentially.

And there was more. Poverty also grew and, along with it, death, especially of infants under the age of 5. As part of my responsibilities, it was up to me at that time to check in with the now hundreds of villages by radio, and there wasn’t a day when someone didn’t report the death of a little boy, of a little girl, of a mother. As if it were a war. Afterwards, we understood that it was, in fact, a war. The neoliberal model which Carlos Salinas de Gortari commanded in such a cynical and carefree fashion was, for us, an authentic war of extermination, an ethnocide, given that it was entire Indian peoples who were being destroyed. That is why we know what we are talking about when we speak of the “neoliberal bomb.”

I imagine (there are serious studies here that will recount with precise figures and analysis) that this took place in all the indigenous communities in Mexico. But the difference was that we were armed and trained for a war. Mario Benedetti says, in a poem, that one doesn’t always do what one wants, that one can’t always, but he has the right to not do what he doesn’t want. And, in our case, we did not want to die…or, more accurately, we didn’t want to die like that.

Previously I have already, on some occasion, spoken of the importance memory has for us. And, therefore, death by forgetting was (and is) the worst of deaths for us. I know it will sound apocalyptic, and that more than one person will search for some touch of martyrdom in what I am saying, but, in order to put it in simple terms, we found ourselves then facing a choice, but not between life or death, rather between one kind of death or the other. The decision, collective and in consultation with each one of the then tens of thousands of zapatistas, is already history, and it was the spark for that dawn of the first of January of 1994.

Hmmm. It seems to me as if I’m wandering, because what this is about here is informing you that we have decided to kill off the zapatista “Aguascalientes.” And not only to inform you, but also to try and explain why. Ah well, be generous and keep reading.

Cornered, we left on that dawn in 1994 with only two certainties: one was that they were going to tear us to shreds. The other was that the act would attract the attention of good persons towards a crime that was no less bloody because it was silent and removed from the media: the genocide of thousands of Mexican indigenous families. And, like I said, it could sound as if we were inclined to being martyrs who sacrificed themselves for others.

I would lie if I said yes. Because even though, looking at it coldly, we had no chance militarily, our hearts weren’t thinking of death, but of life, and, given that we were (and are) zapatistas and, ergo, our doubts include ourselves, we thought we could be wrong about being torn to shreds, perhaps the entire people of Mexico would rise up. But our doubts, I should be sincere, didn’t extend so far as imagining that what actually happened could have happened.

And what happened was precisely what gave rise to the first “Aguascalientes,” and, then, to the ones which followed. I don’t believe it’s necessary to repeat what happened. I’m almost sure (and I’m not usually sure about anything) that anyone reading these lines had something, or much, to do with what happened.

And so make an effort and put yourself in our place: entire years preparing ourselves for firing weapons, and it so happens that it’s words which have to be fired. When it’s said like that, and now that I read what I just wrote, it seems as if it were almost natural, like one of those syllogisms they teach in high school. But believe me, at that time nothing was easy. We struggled a lot…and we continue to do so. But it so happens that a guerrero doesn’t forget what he learns, and, as I explained earlier, we learned to listen and to speak. And so then history, as someone I don’t know said, grew tired of moving and repeated itself, and we were once again like we were in the beginning. Learning.

And we learned, for example, that we were different, and that there were many who were different than ourselves, but there were also differences among they themselves. Or, almost immediately after the bombs (“they weren’t bombs, but rockets,” those connected intellectuals – the ones who criticize the press when it talks of “bombing indigenous communities” – will then hasten to clarify), a multiplicity fell on top of us that made us think, not a few times, that it would have been better, effectively, if they had torn us to shreds.

A fighter defined it, in very zapatista terms, in April of that 1994. He came to report to me about the arrival of a caravan from civil society. I asked him how many there were (they had to be put up somewhere) and who they were (I didn’t ask each one of their names, but what organization or group they belonged to). The rebel considered the question first, and then the answer he would give. That generally took a while, so I lit my pipe. After considering, the compa~ero said: “They’re a chingo, and they’re absolute chaos.” I believe it is useless to expound on the quantitative universe embraced by the scientific concept of “a chingo,” but the rebel wasn’t using “absolute chaos” disapprovingly, or as a means of characterizing the state of mind of those who were arriving, but rather of defining the composition of the group. “What do you mean, absolute chaos?” I asked him. “Yes,” he answered. “There’s everything, there’s…it’s absolute chaos,” he ended up saying, insisting that there was no scientific concept whatsoever which could better describe the multiplicity that had taken rebel territory by storm. The storm was repeated again and again. Sometimes they were, in effect, a chingo. Other times they were two or three chingos. But it was always, to use the neologism utilized by the rebel, “utter chaos.”

We intuited then that, no way, we had to learn, and this learning must be for the most possible. And so we thought about a kind of school, where we would be the students and the “absolute chaos” would be the teacher. This was already June of 1994 (we weren’t very quick at realizing we had to learn), and we were about to make public the “Second Declaration of the Selva Lacandona” which called for the creation of the “National Democratic Convention” (CND).

The history of the CND is a matter for another story, and I’m only mentioning it now in order to orient you in time and space. Space. Yes, that was part of the problem with our learning. That is, we needed a space in order to learn and to listen and to speak with that plurality that we call “civil society.” We agreed then to build the space and to name it “Aguascalientes,” given that it would be the seat of the National Democratic Convention (recalling the Convention of the Mexican revolutionary forces in the second decade of the 20th century). But the idea for the “Aguascalientes” went further. We wanted a space for dialogue with civil society. And “dialogue” also means learning to listen to the other and learning to speak with him.

The “Aguascalientes” space, however, had been created linked to a current political initiative, and many people assumed that, once that initiative had run its course, the “Aguascalientes” would lose meaning. A few, very few, returned to the “Aguascalientes” of Guadalupe Tepeyac. Later came Zedillo’s betrayal on February 9, 1995, and the “Aguascalientes” was almost totally destroyed by the federal army. They even built a military barracks there.

But if anything characterizes zapatistas, it’s tenacity (“stupidity,” more than one person might say). And so not even a year had passed before new “Aguascalientes” arose in various parts of rebel territory: Oventik, La Realidad, La Garrucha, Roberto Barrios, Morelia. Then, yes, the “Aguascalientes” were what they should be: spaces for encuentro and dialogue with national and international civil society. In addition to being the headquarters for great initiatives and encuentros on memorable dates, they were the place where “civil society” and zapatistas met everyday.

I told you that we tried to learn from our encuentros with national and international civil society. But we also expected them to learn. The zapatista movement arose, among other things, in demand of respect. And it so happened that we didn’t always receive respect. And it’s not that they insulted us. Or at least not intentionally. But, for us, pity is an affront, and charity is a slap in the face. Because, parallel with the emergence and operation of those spaces of encuentro that were the “Aguascalientes,” some sectors of civil society have maintained what we call “the Cinderella syndrome.”

I’m taking out of the chest of memories right now some excerpts from a letter I wrote more than 9 years ago: “We are not reproaching you for anything (to those from civil society who came to the communities), we know that you are risking much to come and se us and to bring aid to the civilians on this side. It is not our needs which bring us pain, it’s seeing in others what others don’t see, the same abandonment of liberty and democracy, the same lack of justice (…) From what our people received in benefit in this war, I saved an example of “humanitarian aid” for the chiapaneco indigenous, which arrived a few weeks ago: a pink stiletto heel, imported, size 61/2…without its mate. I always carry it in my backpack in order to remind myself, in the midst of interviews, photo reports and attractive sexual propositions, what we are to the country after the first of January: a Cinderella. (…) These good people who, sincerely, send us a pink stiletto heel, size 61/2, imported, without its mate…thinking that, poor as we are, we’ll accept anything, charity and alms. How can we tell all those good people that no, we no longer want to continue living Mexico’s shame. In that part that has to be prettied up so it doesn’t make the rest look ugly. No, we don’t want to go on living like that.”

That was in April of 1994. Then we thought it was a question of time, that the people were going to understand that the zapatista indigenous were dignified, and they weren’t looking for alms, but for respect. The other pink heel never arrived, and the pair remained incomplete, and piling up in the “Aguascalientes” were useless computers, expired medicines, extravagant (for us) clothes, which couldn’t even be used for plays (“se~as,” they call them here) and, yes, shoes without their mate. And things like that continue to arrive, as if those people were saying “poor little things, they’re very needy. I’m sure anything would do for them, and this is in my way.”

And that’s not all. There is a more sophisticated charity. It’s the one that a few NGOs and international agencies practice. It consists, broadly speaking, in their deciding what the communities need, and, without even consulting them, imposing not just specific projects, but also the times and means of their implementation. Imagine the desperation of a community that needs drinkable water and they’re saddled with a library. The one that requires a school for the children, and they give them a course on herbs.

A few months ago, an intellectual of the left wrote that civil society should mobilize in order to achieve the fulfillment of the San Andre’s Accords because the zapatista indigenous communities were suffering greatly (not because it would be just for the Indian peoples of Mexico, but so that the zapatistas wouldn’t suffer any more deprivation).

Just a moment. If the zapatista communities wanted, they could have the best standard of living in Latin America. Imagine how much the government would be willing to invest in order to secure our surrender and to take lots of pictures and make a lot of “spots” where Fox or Martita could promote themselves, while the country fell apart in their hands. How much would the now “newly appeared” Carlos Salinas de Gortari have given in order to end his term, not with the burden of the assassinations of Colosio and Rui’z Massieu, but with a picture of the rebel zapatistas signing the peace, and the Sup handing over his weapon (the one God gave him?) to the one who plunged millions of Mexicans into ruin? How much would Zedillo have offered in order to cover up the economic crisis in which he buried the country, with the image of his triumphal entrance into La Realidad? How much would the “croquetas” Albores have been willing to give so that the zapatistas would accept the ephemeral “redistricting” he imposed during his tragicomic administration?

No. The zapatistas have received many offers to buy their consciences, and they keep up their resistance nonetheless, making their poverty (for he who learns to see) a lesson in dignity and generosity. Because we zapatistas say that “For everyone everything, nothing for us,” and, if we say it, it is what we live. The constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture, and the improvement of living conditions, is for all the Indian peoples of Mexico, not just for the zapatista indigenous. The democracy, liberty and justice to which we aspire are for all Mexicans, not just for us.

We have emphasized to not a few people that the resistance of the zapatista communities is not in order to engender pity, but respect. Here, now, poverty is a weapon which has been chosen by our peoples for two reasons: in order to bear witness that it is not welfare that we are seeking, and in order to demonstrate, with our own example, that it is possible to govern and to govern ourselves without the parasite that calls itself government. But fine, the issue of resistance as a form of struggle isn’t the purpose of this text either.

The support we are demanding is for the building of a small part of that world where all worlds fit. It is, then, political support, not charity.

Part of indigenous autonomy (to which the “Cocopa Law” certainly speaks) is the capacity for self governance, that is, for conducting the harmonious development of a social group. The zapatista communities are committed to this effort, and they have demonstrated, not a few times, that they can do it better than those who call themselves the government. Support for the indigenous communities should not be seen as help for mental incompetents who don’t even know what they need, or for children who have to be told what they should eat, at what time and how, what they should learn, what they should say and what they should think (although I doubt that there are children who would still accept this). And this is the reasoning of some NGOs and a good part of the financing bodies of community projects.

The zapatista communities are in charge of the projects (not a few NGOs can testify to that), they get them up and running, they make them produce and thus improve the collectives, not the individuals. Whoever helps one or several zapatista communities is helping not just to improve a collective’s material situation, it is helping a much simpler, but more demanding, project: the building of a new world, one where many worlds fit, one where charity and pity for another are the stuff of science fiction novels…or of a forgettable and expendable past.

With the death of the “Aguascalientes,” the “Cinderella syndrome” of some “civil societies” and the paternalism of some national and international NGOs will also die. At least they will die for the zapatista communities who, from now on, will no longer be receiving leftovers nor allowing the imposition of projects.

For all these reasons, and for other things which will be seen later, on this August 8, 2003, the anniversary of the first “Aguascalientes,” the well “deceased” death of the “Aguascalientes” will be decreed. The fiesta (because there are deaths which must be celebrated) will be in Oventik, and all of you are invited who, over these ten years, have supported the rebel communities, whether with projects, or with peace camps, or with caravans, or with an attentive ear, or with the compa~era word, whatever it may be, as long as it not with pity and charity.

On August 9, 2003, something new will be born. But I will tell you of that tomorrow. Or, more accurately, in a bit, because it is dawn here now, in the mountains of the Mexican southeast, dignified corner of the patria, rebel land, lair of the transgressors of the law (including the one of seriousness) and small piece of the great world jigsaw puzzle of rebellion for humanity and against neoliberalism.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Mexico, July of 2003.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN

Translated by irlandesa


Part Three: A Name

It’s raining. As it does here in July, the seventh month of the year. I’m shivering next to the stove, turning around and around, as if I were a chicken on a rotisserie, to see if I can dry off like that a bit. It so happened that the meeting with the committees ended quite late, at dawn, and we were camped a good distance from where the meeting took place. It wasn’t raining when we left, but, as if it were waiting for us, an almighty downpour was unleashed right when we were halfway there, when it would have been the same distance to go back or to keep on going. The rebels went to their respective huts to change out of their wet uniforms. I didn’t, not out of bravery, but out of idiocy, because it so happens that, seeking to lighten the weight of my backpack, I wasn’t carrying a change of clothes. And so, here I am, making like a “Sinaloa style chicken.” Uselessly, to boot, because, for some reason, which I’m not able to fathom, my cap acts like a sponge, absorbing the water when it rains and exuding it only when its inside. The fact is, inside the hut where the stove is, I have my own personal rain. These absurdities don’t astonish me. After all, we’re in zapatista lands, and here the absurd is as frequent as the rain, especially in the seventh month of the year. Now I’ve really thrown too much wood on the fire, not figuratively, and now the flames are threatening to burn the roof. “There’s no bad that can’t get worse,” I say to myself, remembering one of Durito’s refrains, and it’s best that I leave.

Outside there isn’t any rain above, but there’s a deluge under my cap. I’m trying to light a pipe with the bowl turned down when Major Rolando arrives. He just watches me. He looks at the sky (which, at this altitude, is already completely clear and with a moon that looks, believe me, like a noonday sun). He looks at me again. I understand his confusion and say: “It’s the cap.” Rolando says “Mmh,” which has come to mean something like “Ah.” More rebels come over and, of course, a guitar (and, yes, that’s dry), and they start singing. Rolando and yours truly burst into a duet, “La Chancla,” in front of a confused public, because the “hit parade” here leans towards cumbias, folk songs and norte~as.

Having seen a repeat of my failed launch as a singer, I withdrew to a corner and followed the wise counsel of Monarca, who, just like Rolando, kept looking at me, looked at the sky, looked at me again and just said: “Take off your cap, Sup.” I took it off and, of course, my private rain stopped. Monarca went over to where the others were. I told Captain Jose’ Luis (who acts as my bodyguard) to go rest, that I wasn’t going to be doing anything now. The Captain went, but not to rest, rather to join in with the singing.

And so I was left alone. Still shivering, but now without rain over me. I went back to trying to light my pipe, now with the bowl turned up, but then I discovered that my lighter had gotten wet, and it wouldn’t even flicker. I murmured: “Son of a bitch, now I can’t even light my pipe,” certain that my “sex appeal” would be going to hell. I was searching in my pants’ pockets (and there’s quite a few), not for a paperback edition of the Kamasutra, but for a dry lighter, when a flame was lit quite close to me.

I recognized the face of Old Antonio behind the light, I moved the bowl of my pipe to the lit match and, still puffing, I said to Old Antonio: “It’s cold.”

“It is,” he responded, and he lit his hand rolled cigarette with another match. By the light of the cigarette, Old Antonio kept looking at me, then he looked at the sky, then he looked at me again, but he didn’t say anything. I didn’t either, certain that Old Antonio was already accustomed, as I was, to the absurdities which inhabit the mountains of the Mexican southeast. A sudden wind put out the flame, and we were left with just the light of a moon that was like an axe, jagged from use, and smoke scratching at the darkness. We sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree. I believe we were silent for a time, I don’t remember very well, but the fact is that, without my hardly noticing, Old Antonio was already recounting to me…

The History of the Upholder of the Sky

“According to our earliest ones, the sky must be held up so that it does not fall. The sky is not simply firm, every once in a while it becomes weak and faints, and it just lets itself fall like the leaves fall from the trees, and then absolute disasters happen, because evil comes to the milpa and the rain breaks everything and the sun punishes the land and it is war which rules and it is the lie which conquers and it is death which walks and it is sorrow which thinks.

Our earliest ones said that it happens like this because the gods who made the world, the most first, put so much effort into making the world that, after they finished it, they did not have much strength left for making the sky, the roof of our home, and they just put whatever they had there, and so the sky is placed above the earth just like one of those plastic roofs. Thus the sky is not simply firm, at times it comes loose. And you must know that when this happens, the winds and waters are disrupted, fire grows restless, and the land gets up and walks, unable to find peace.

That is why those who came before we did said that four gods, painted in different colors, returned to the world. They placed themselves at the four corners of the world in order to grab hold of the sky so that it would not fall and it would stay still and good and even, so sun and moon and stars and dreams could walk without difficulty.

However, those of the first steps on these lands recount, by times one or more of the bacabes, the upholders of the sky, would start to dream or would be distracted by a cloud, and then he would not hold up his side of the earth’s roof tightly, and then the sky the roof of the world, would come loose and would want to fall over the earth, and the sun and the moon would not have an even path and nor would the stars.

That is how it happened from the beginning, that is why the first gods, those who birthed the world, left one of the upholders of the sky in charge, and he had to stay alert, in order to read the sky and to see when it began coming loose, and then this upholder had to speak to the other upholders in order to awaken them, so they would tighten up their side and put things straight again.

And this upholder never sleeps, he must always be alert and watchful, in order to awaken the others when evil falls on the earth. And the most ancient of journey and word say that this upholder of the sky carries a caracol [conch] hanging from his chest, and he listens to the sounds and silences of the world with it, and he calls the other upholders with it so that they do not sleep or in order to awaken them.

And those who were the very first say that this upholder of the sky, so that he would not sleep, came and went inside his own heart, by way of the paths he carried in his chest, and those ancient teachers say that this upholder taught men and women the word and its writing, because they say that while the word walks the world it is possible for evil to be quieted and for the world to be just right, they say.

That is why the word of the one who does not sleep, of he who is alert to evil and its wicked deeds, does not travel directly from one side to the other, instead he walks towards himself, following the lines of reason, and the knowledgeable ones from before say that the hearts of men and women have the shape of a caracol, and those of good heart and thoughts walk from one side to the other, awakening the gods and men so that they will be alert to whether the world is just right.. That is why the one who stays awake when the others are sleeping uses his caracol, and he uses it for many things, but most especially in order to not forget.”

With his last words, Old Antonio had taken a wand and sketched something in the dirt. Old Antonio goes, and I go as well. The sun is just barely peeking through the horizon in the east, as if it were just looking, as if checking to see if the one who is staying awake has not gone to sleep, and if there is someone staying alert for the world to become fine again.

I returned there at the hour of pozol, when the sun had already dried the earth and my cap. At one side of the fallen trunk, I saw the sketch which Old Antonio had made on the ground. It was a firmly traced spiral, it was a caracol.

The sun was halfway through its journey when I returned to the meeting with the committees. The death of the “Aguascalientes” having been decided the previous dawn, now being decided was the birth of the “Caracoles,” with other functions in addition to the ones the now dying “Aguascalientes” had.

And so the “Caracoles” will be like doors for going into the communities and for the communities to leave. Like windows for seeing us and for us to look out. Like speakers for taking our word far, and for listening to what is far away. But, most especially, for reminding us that we should stay awake and be alert to the rightness of the worlds which people the world.

The committees of each region have met together in order to name their respective caracoles. There will be hours of proposals, discussions on translations, laughter, anger and voting. I know that takes a long time, so I withdraw and tell them to let me know when an agreement has been reached.

In the barracks now, we are eating, and then, sitting around the table, Monarca says that he has found a really “fantastic” pool for bathing and he doesn’t know what all else. The fact is that Rolando, who doesn’t bathe even in his own self-defense, gets enthusiastic and says “Let’s go.”

I’ve been listening with some skepticism (it wouldn’t be the first time that Monarca has been up to tricks), but, since we have to wait anyway for the committees to reach agreement, I say “Let’s go” as well. Jose’ Luis stays in order to catch up with us later, because he hasn’t eaten, and so the three of us – Rolando, Monarca and me – leave first. We cross a pasture, and nothing. We cross a milpa, and nothing. I told Rolando: “I think we’re going to arrive when the war is already over.” Monarca replies that “we’re just about there.”

We finally arrive. The pool is in a ford of the river where cattle cross and is, therefore, muddy and surrounded with cow and horse dung. Rolando and I protest in unison. Monarca defends himself: “It wasn’t like this yesterday.” I say: “Besides, its cold now, I don’t think I’m going to bathe.” Rolando, who lost his enthusiasm during the walk, remembers that dirt, like Piporro put it so well, also protects against bullets, and he joins in with a “I don’t think I will either.” Monarca lets out then with a speech about duty and I don’t know what all else and says that “privations and sacrifices don’t matter.” I ask him what duty has to with his bloody pool, and then he delivers a low blow, because he says: “Ah, then you’re backing out.”

He shouldn’t have said it. Rolando was grinding his teeth like an angry boar while he was taking his clothes off, and I was chewing my pipe as I undressed completely, down to completely revealing my “other average personal details.” We dove into the water, more out of pride than desire. We bathed somehow, but the mud left our hair in such a state that we would have been the envy of the most radical punk. Jose’ Luis arrived and said “the water’s a mess.” Roland and I said to him, in stereo, “Ah, then you’re backing out.” And so Jose’ Luis also got into the muddy pool. When we got out, we realized that no one had brought anything to dry ourselves off with. Rolando said “Then we’ll dry off in the wind.” And so we only put on our boots and our pistols, and we started back, absolutely stark naked, with our minutiae exposed, drying ourselves in the sun.

Suddenly Jose’ Luis, who was marching in the vanguard, alerted us, saying “people coming.” We put on our ski-masks and continued on ahead. It was a group of compa~eras who were going to wash clothes in the river. Of course they laughed and someone said something in their language. I asked Monarca if he’d heard what they said, and he told me “There goes the Sup.” Hmm…I say they recognized me by the pipe, because, believe me, I haven’t given them any reason to have recognized me from the “other” average personal details.

Before we got to the barracks, we got dressed, even though we were still wet, because we didn’t want to disturb the rebels either. They advised us then that the committees had already finished. Each caracol now had a name assigned:

The Caracol of La Realidad, of Tojolabal, Tzeltal and Mame zapatistas, will be called “Madre de los Caracoles del Mar de Nuestros Sue~os [Mother of Caracoles of the Sea of Our Dreams], or “S-NAN XOCH BAJ PAMAN JA TEZ WAYCHIMEL KU’UNTIC.”

The Caracol of Morelia, of Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Tojolabal zapatistas, will be called “Torbellino de Nuestras Palabras” [Whirlwind of Our Words], or “MUC’UL PUY ZUTU’IK JU’UN JC’OPTIC.”

The Caracol of La Garrucha, of Tzeltal zapatistas, will be called “Resistencia Hacia un Nuevo Amanecer” [Resistance for a New Dawn], or “TE PUY TAS MALIYEL YAS PAS YACH’IL SACAL QUINAL.”

The Caracol of Roberto Barrios, of Chol, Zoque and Tzeltal zapatistas, will be called “El Caracol Que Habla Para Todos” [The Caracol Which Speaks For All], or “TE PUY YAX SCO’PJ YU’UN PISILTIC” (in Tzeltal), and “PUY MUITIT’AN CHA ‘AN TI LAK PEJTEL” (in Chol).

The Caracol of Oventik, of Tzotziles and Tzeltales, will be called “Resistencia y Rebeldi’a Por la Humanidad” [Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity], or “TA TZIKEL VOCOLIL XCHIUC JTOYBAILTIC SVENTA SLEKILAL SJUNUL BALUMIL.”

That afternoon it didn’t rain, and the sun was able to come out without any problems, traveling through a level sky, towards the house it has behind the mountain. The moon came out then, and, even though it seems incredible, the dawn warmed the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Mexico, July of 2003.


Part Four: A Plan

The zapatista indigenous communities have been committed for several years now to a process of building autonomy. For us, autonomy is not fragmentation of the country or separatism, but the exercise of the right to govern and govern ourselves, as established in Article 39 of the political Constitution of the United Mexican States.

From the beginning of our uprising, and even long before, we zapatista indigenous have insisted that we are Mexicans…but we are also indigenous. This means that we demand a place in the Mexican nation, but without ceasing to be what we are.

The purported zapatista project for a “Mayan Nation” exists solely in the papers of some of the stupidest military persons in the Mexican Federal Army who, knowing that the war they are waging against us is illegitimate, are using this poor argument in order to convince their troops that, by attacking us, they are defending Mexico. The high military command and their intelligence services know, however, that the aim of the EZLN is not to separate itself from Mexico, but, as its initials say, for “national liberation.”

The separatist project for the Mexican Southeast does indeed exist, on the other hand, in the implementation of the neoliberal doctrine in our lands, and it is being directed by the federal government. The now ill-fated “Plan Puebla Panama” was nothing more than a plan for fragmenting the country, assigning the Mexican southeast the function of “reserve” for world capital.

In the fragmentation project which is being operated by the government (this is the real agenda of the political parties and the three branches of the government, not the one which appears in the press), Mexico will be divided in 3: The north, with its states incorporated into the economic and commercial framework of the American Union; the center, as provider of consumers with middle and high level purchasing power; and the South-Southeast, as a territory to be conquered for the appropriation of natural resources which, in the globalized destruction, are increasingly more important: water, air and land (wood, oil, uranium…and people).

Being simple and laconic, we would hold that the plan is to make the north into a great maquila, the center into a gigantic mall and the south-southeast into a large finca.

But plans on paper are one thing, and reality is another. Big capital’s voracity, the corruption of the political class, the inefficiency of public administration and the increasing resistance of groups, collectives and communities, have all prevented the plan from being fully implemented. And, where it is able to be established, it demonstrates the solidity of a shaky cardboard stage set.

Since “suicides” seem to be fashionable for Power of late, we might say that there is no better concept for defining the plan that politicians and businesspersons have for our country: it’s a suicide.

The globalization of Capital needs the destruction of the Nation State. For some time the Nation State has been (among other things) the trench where local capital has taken refuge in order to survive and grow. But there is only a bit of rubble left of the trench.

In the countryside, small and mid-size producers have been succumbing in the face of large agro-industry. They will soon be followed by the large national producers. In the cities, the “malls,” the commercial centers, are not only destroying small and mid-size businesses, they are also “swallowing up” the large national companies. Not even to mention national industry, which is already in its last death throes.

In response to this, the strategy of national capital has been naive, if not stupid. It has been distributing coins on one side and the other of the spectrum of the political parties, thus ensuring (or at least believing) that it does not matter what color [party] is governing, because it will always be at the service of the color of money. And so big Mexican businessmen finance the PRI, the PAN and the PRD equally, as well as any political party which might have a chance in the governmental and parliamentary rackets.

During their meetings (like in the times of the mafia in North America, weddings are generally a pretext for the great gentlemen to sign agreements and settle conflicts), the Mexican gentlemen of money congratulate each other. They have the entire national political class on the payroll.

But I regret to have to give them some bad news: as the now silenced scandal of the “Friends of Fox” demonstrated, the heavy duty money comes from the other side. If the one who pays, governs, the one who pays more governs more. And so those politicians will promote laws commensurate with the checks they receive. Sooner or later, big foreign capital will be appropriating everything, starting by bankrupting and absorbing those who have the most. And all of this with the protection of “ad hoc” laws. Politicians are now, and have been for some time, docile employees…of whomever pays more. National businessmen are quite wrong if they think that foreign capital will be satisfied with the electricity industry and oil. The new power in the world wants everything. And so there will be nothing left of national capital but nostalgia and, if they’re lucky, some minor positions on the boards of directors.

Dying national capital, in its historical blindness, looks at any form of social organization with terror. The houses of rich Mexicans are protected with complicated security systems. They fear that the hand which is going to snatch what they have away from them is going to come from below. By exercising their right to schizophrenia, rich Mexicans are revealing not only the real source of their prosperity, but also their shortsightedness. They will be dispossessed, yes, but not by improbable popular rage, rather by an avarice that is even larger than theirs: those who are indeed rich where the wealth is. Misfortune will not enter by assaulting the great mansions at dawn, but through the front door and during office hours. The thief will not have the physique of the destitute, but of the prosperous banker.

The one who will be stripping everything from Slim, the Zambranos, Los Romo, the Salinas Pliegos, the Azca’rragas, the Salinas de Gortaris, and the other surnames from the limited universe of wealthy Mexicans, do not speak Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol or Tojolabal, nor do they have dark skin. They speak English, their skin is the green of the color of money, they studied in foreign universities, and they are thieves with cultivated manners.

That is why armies and police forces will be of no use to them. They are preparing and entrenching themselves in order to fight against rebel forces, but their greatest enemy, the one which will annihilate them completely, practices the same ideology: savage capitalism.

The traditional political class, for its part, has already begun to be displaced. If the State is viewed as a business, it is better if managers, not politicians, run it. And in the “” neo-business, the art of politics is of no use.

The politicians of yesteryear have now realized that, and they are positioning themselves for ambush in their respective regional or local trenches. But the neoliberal hurricane will also go there to seek them out.

Meanwhile, national capital will continue with their sumptuous feasts. And they might never realize that one of their guests will be their gravedigger.

That is why those who are longing for the defense of the Nation State to come from national businessmen, from politicians or from “the institutions of the Republic,” are waiting in vain. The one, the other and the other have all been intoxicated by the hologram of national power, and they do not realize that they will soon be thrown out of the mansion they now have.

We, the zapatistas, have referred on some occasions to the so-called “Plan Puebla Panama” as something already extinct. This has been for various reasons:

One is that the plan has already been undermined, and even the attempt at its implementation will do nothing but worsen social uprisings.

Another is that the plan expects us to accept that things have already been decided in the north and center of the country and that no one is opposed. This is false. The routes of resistance and rebellion cross the entire national territory, and they are also surfacing there, where modernity seems to have completely triumphed.

Another reason is that, at least in the mountains of the Mexican southeast, its implementation will not, for any reason, be permitted.

We have no problem if Derbez and Taylor continue conning businessmen with the Plan, or if some officials earn a salary for working on a corpse. We have done our duty by letting them know, and everyone can believe whatever they wish.

The government’s main plan is not the “Plan Puebla Panama.” That is only useful for entertaining a part of the state bureaucracy and so that national businessmen will fall for the idea that now the government will, yes, be doing something to improve the economy.

The main plan of the presidential couple, on the other hand, involves something completely separate from the “PPP”: dismantling all of the already weak defenses of the national economy, handing it over completely to globalized disorder and lessening, just a bit, with sermons and handouts, the brutal impact of a world war which has already devastated several nations.

If Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s post-administration plan was “Pronasol” (remember that the “solidarity party” was even beginning to be formed), for Fox it is the “Let’s Go Mexico Foundation” which Martha Sahagu’n de Fox directs. “Pronasol” was nothing but institutionalized handouts. “Let’s Go Mexico” has, in addition, a strong odor of rancid gossip.

Government plans are generally complicated and grandiose, but the only thing which is concealed by so many words are the high salaries of its officials. These plans serve only to have offices, release press communique’s and give the impression that something is being done for the people.

Those who govern governing have forgotten that the virtue of a good plan is that it should be simple.

And so, in response to the “Plan Puebla Panama” in particular, and against all global plans for the fragmentation of the Mexican Nation in general, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation is now launching the…”Plan La Realidad-Tijuana” (or “RealiTi”).

The Plan involves linking all the resistances in our country and, along with them, rebuilding the Mexican nation from below. There are men, women, children and old ones in all the states of the federation who do not surrender and who, even though they go unnamed, are fighting for democracy, liberty and justice. Our plan involves speaking with them and listening to them.

The “La Realidad-Tijuana” plan has no budget whatsoever, nor officials, nor offices. It has only those people who, in their place, in their time and in their way, are resisting dispossession, and who remember that the patria is not a business with branch offices, but a common history. And history is not something which is just the past. It is also, and above all, the future.

Like the Corrido of the White Horse, but in Shadow-Light and departing one Sunday from La Realidad (and not from Guadalajara), the zapatista word and ear will cross the entire national territory, from Cancun and Tapachula, to Matamoros and La Paz, it will arrive in Tijuana at the light of day, it will pass through Rosarito, and it will not back off until it sees Ensenada.

And not just that. Given that our modest aim is to contribute in some way to the building of a world where many worlds fit, we also have a plan for the five continents.

For the north of the American continent, we have the “Morelia-North Pole Plan,” which includes the American Union and Canada.

For Central America, the Caribbean and South America, we have the “La Garrucha-Tierra del Fuego Plan.”

For Europe and Africa, we have the “Oventik-Moscow Plan” (traveling to the east and passing through Cancun this September).

For Asia and Oceania, we have the “Roberto Barrios-New Delhi Plan” (traveling to the west).

The plan is the same for the five continents: fighting against neoliberalism and for humanity.

And we also have a plan for the galaxies, but we still don’t know what name to give it (the “Earth-Alpha Centauri Plan”?). Our intergalactic plan is as simple as the previous ones, and it involves, in broad strokes, in it not being shameful to call oneself a “human being.”

It is obvious that our plans have several advantages: they are not onerous, they do not have any directors and they can be carried out without ribbon cuttings, without boring ceremonies, without statues and without the music group having to repress its desire to play – now to the rhythm of the cumbia and while the respectable kick up their heels – the one that goes “the horizon can now be seen…”

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

July of 2003.

Chiapas, Mexico, American Continent, Planet Earth, Solar System, Galaxy… Galaxy…What is our galaxy called?

P.S. Speaking of evil plans, this July 25, it will be 9 years since the attack on the procession of the then candidate for Governor of Chiapas, Amado Avenda~o Figueroa, in which social activists Agusti’n Rubio, Ernesto Fonseca and Rigoberto Mauricio, lost their lives. Justice is still pending. I don’t know about you, but we have not forgotten.


Part Five: A History

The history of the rebel zapatista Autonomous Municipalities is relatively young, it is 7 years old, going on 8. Although they were declared at the time the December 1994 siege was broken, the rebel zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (the MAREZ) still took a while to become reality.

Today, the exercise of indigenous autonomy is a reality in zapatista lands, and we are proud to say that it has been led by the communities themselves. The EZLN has been engaged in this process only in order to accompany, and to intervene when there have been conflicts or deviations. That is why the EZLN’s spokesperson has not been the same as the Autonomous Municipalities’. The Autonomous Municipalities themselves have directly communicated their denuncias, requests, agreements, “twinnings” (not a few rebel zapatista Autonomous Municipalities maintain relationships with municipalities in other countries, primarily in Italy). If the autonomous have now asked the EZLN to fulfill the duties of spokesperson, it is because they have entered into a higher stage of development and, having broadened, announcements are not the purview of one, or several, municipalities. That is the reason for the agreement that the EZLN would announce these current changes.

The problems of the autonomous authorities, in the period which is now over, can be divided into two types: those having to do with their relationship with national and international civil society, and those having to do with self-governance, that is, with relations with zapatista and non-zapatista communities.

In their relationship with national and international civil society, the primary problem has been an unbalanced development of the Autonomous Municipalities, of the communities located within them, and, even, of the zapatista families who live there. Those Autonomous Municipalities which are most well known (like those which were the seats of the now defunct “Aguascalientes”) or closer at hand (closer to urban centers or with highway access), have received more projects and more support. The same thing has taken place with the communities. The most well known and those along the highway receive more attention from “civil societies.”

In the case of zapatista families, what happens is that, when civil society visits the communities or works on projects or sets up a peace camp, they usually build special relationships with one or more families in the community. Those families will, obviously, have more advantages – assignments, gifts or special attention – than the rest, even though they are all zapatistas. Nor is it unusual for those who interact with civil society because of the position they occupy in the community, in the Autonomous Municipality, in the region or in the area, to receive special attention and gifts which often give rise to talk in the rest of the community and do not follow the zapatista criterion of “to each according to his needs.”

I should clarify that it is not a bad relationship, nor what someone proudly called “well intentioned counterinsurgency,” but rather something natural in human relations. It can, however, produce imbalances in community life if there are no counterbalances to that privileged attention.

Regarding the relationship with zapatista communities, the “govern obeying” has been administered without distinction. The authorities must see that communities’ agreements are carried out, their decisions must be regularly informed, and the collective “weight”, along with the “word of mouth” which functions in all the communities, become a kind of monitoring which is difficult to avoid. Even so, instances take place of persons managing to get around this and to become corrupt, but it does not get very far. It is impossible to conceal illicit enrichment in the communities. The guilty party is punished by being compelled to do collective work and to repay to the community whatever he wrongfully took.

When the authority goes amiss, becomes corrupt or, to use a local term, “is a shirker,” he is removed from his position, and a new authority replaces him. In the zapatista communities, the position of authority is not remunerated at all (during the time that the person is in authority, the community helps to support him). It is conceived as work in the collective interest, and it is rotated. It is not infrequently enforced by the collective in order to punish laxness or indifference of some of its members, such as, when someone misses a lot of the community assemblies, they are punished by being given a position such as municipal agent or ejidal commissioner.

This “form” of self-governance (of which I am giving just the sketchiest summary) is not an invention or contribution of the EZLN. It comes from further back in time. When the EZLN was born, it had already been operating for a good while, although only at the level of each community.

It was because of the enormous growth of the EZLN (as I have already explained, this was at the end of the 80s), that this practice moved from the local to the regional. Functioning with local responsables (that is, those in charge of the organization in each community), regional ones (a group of communities) and area ones (a group of regions), the EZLN saw that those who did not discharge their duties were, in a natural fashion, replaced by another. Although here, given that it is a political-military organization, the command makes the final decision.

What I mean by this is that the EZLN’s military structure in some way “contaminated” a tradition of democracy and self-governance. The EZLN was, in a manner of speaking, one of the “undemocratic” elements in a relationship of direct community democracy (another anti-democratic element is the Church, but that’s a matter for another paper).

When the Autonomous Municipalities began operating, self-governance did not move just from the local to the regional, it also emerged (always tendentially) from the “shadow” of the military structure. The EZLN does not intervene at all in the designation or removal of autonomous authorities, and it has limited itself to only pointing out that, given that the EZLN, by principle, is not fighting for the taking of power, none of the military command or members of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee can occupy a position of authority in the community or in the Autonomous Municipalities. Those who decide to participate in the autonomous governments must definitively resign from their organizational position within the EZLN.

I am not going to expand much on the operations of the Autonomous Councils. They have their own methods of acting (“their way,” as we say) as guarantor, and there are not a few witnesses (national and international “civil societies” who have seen them functioning and who work with them directly).

I do not, however, want to leave the impression that it is something perfect or that it should be idealized. The “govern obeying” in zapatista territories is a tendency, and it is not exempt from ups and downs, contradictions and errors, but it is a dominant tendency. Its having managed to survive in conditions of persecution, harassment and poverty that have rarely existed in the history of the world speaks to the fact that it has benefited the communities. In addition, the autonomous councils have managed to carry forward, with the fundamental support of “civil societies,” a colossal labor: the building of the material conditions for resistance.

Charged with governing a territory in rebellion, that is, without any institutional support and under persecution and harassment, the autonomous councils have focused their efforts on two fundamental aspects: health and education.

In health, they have not limited themselves to building clinics and pharmacies (always helped by “civil societies,” it must not be forgotten), they also train health workers and maintain constant campaigns for community health and disease prevention.

..One of those campaigns came very close, once, to costing me being criticized in assembly (I don’t know if you know what it’s like being criticized in an assembly, but, if not, it’s enough to tell you that hell must be something like that) and being “looked at” by the community (the people “look” at you, but with one of those looks which make you tremble, in sum, a kind of purgatory). It so happened that, I think I was in La Realidad, I was passing through, and I spent the night in one of the huts the compas have for these cases. The community’s “health committee” was going around checking out the latrines in each house (there was an agreement that the latrines had to be regularly blocked with lime or ash in order to prevent the spread of disease). Our latrine, of course, had neither lime nor ash. The “health committee” told me, kindly, “compa~ero subcomandante insurgente Marcos, we’re checking out the latrines by agreement of the community, and your latrine doesn’t have lime or ash, so you have to put it in, and we’re going to come tomorrow to see if it has it then.” I began babbling something about the trip, the lame horse, the communique’s, military movements, the paramilitaries and I don’t remember what all else. The “health committee” listened patiently until I stopped talking and said only “that’s all compa~ero subcomandante insurgente Marcos.” When the “health committee” came by the next day, the latrine, of course, had ash, lime, sand, but not cement, only because I couldn’t find any and seal the latrine up forever…

Regarding education – in lands where there had been no schools, let alone teachers – the Autonomous Councils (with the help of “civil societies,” I will not tire of repeating) built schools, trained education promoters and, in some cases, even created their own curricula. Literacy manuals and textbooks are created by “education committees” and promoters, accompanied by “civil societies” who know about those subjects. In some areas (not in all, it’s true), they have managed to see to it that girls – who have been traditionally deprived of access to learning – go to school. Although they have also seen to it that women are no longer sold and may freely choose their mate, what feminists call “gender discrimination” still exists in zapatista lands. The “women’s revolutionary law” still has a long way to go in being fulfilled.

Continuing with education, in some places the zapatista bases have made agreements with teachers from the democratic section of the teachers’ union (those who aren’t with Gordillo) that they will not do counterinsurgency work and will respect the curricula recommended by the Autonomous Councils. Zapatistas in fact, these democratic teachers accepted the agreement, and they have fully complied with it.

Neither the health nor the educational services take in all the zapatista communities, it’s true, but a large number of them, the majority, now have a means of obtaining medicine, of being treated for an illness and for having a vehicle for taking them to the city in case of illness or serious accident. Literacy and primary education are hardly widespread, but one region already has an autonomous secondary school which, incidentally, recently “graduated” a new generation made up of men and, ojo, indigenous women.

..A few days ago, they showed me the diplomas and school-leaving certificates from the Rebel Autonomous Zapatista Secondary School. My humble opinion is that they should have made them out of chewing gum, because at the top they have “EZLN. Zapatista Army of National Liberation,” and then they read (in “Castillo” and in Tzotzil) “The Rebel Autonomous Zapatista Educational System of National Liberation (referring to how it operates in Los Altos, because there are other educational systems in other areas) certifies that student so-and-so has satisfactorily completed the three grades of the Autonomous Secondary School, in accordance with the Zapatista Plans and Programs in ESRAZ, Primero de Enero of 1994 Rebel Autonomous Zapatista Secondary School, obtaining an average of__. Therefore our Educational System recognizes your efforts, your contributions to the resistance struggle and invites you to share with our peoples what the people have given you.” And it then says “For a liberating education! For a scientific and popular education! I put myself at the service of my people.” And so, in the event of persecution, the student will not only be unable to show it, she will also have to eat it, that’s why it would be better if it were chewing gum. There is also the report card (which appears as “Recognition”), and there you can read the subjects (in reality, they aren’t subjects, but “areas”) which were completed: Humanism, Sports, Arts, Reflection on Reality, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Reflections on the Mother Language, Communication, Mathematics and Productions and Services to the Community. There are only two assessments: “A” (“area approved”) and “ANA” (“area not approved”). I know that the “Anas” of the world are going to be offended, but there’s nothing I can do, because, like I say, autonomies are autonomies…

Education is free, and the “education committees” go to great efforts (I repeat: with the support of “civil societies”) to see that each student has his own notebook and her pencil, without having to pay for it.

In health, efforts are being made to see that it is free as well. In some zapatista clinics, they no longer charge the compa~eros, not for the consult, not for the medicine, not for the operation (if it’s necessary and able to be performed in our circumstances), and in the others only the cost of the medicine is charged, not the consult nor the medical care. Our clinics have the help and direct participation of specialists, surgeons, doctors, nurses from national and international civil society, as well as from students and assistants in medicine and odontology from UNAM, from UAM and from other institutions of higher education. They do not charge one single peso, and, not infrequently, they pay out of their own pockets.

I know that some of you will be thinking that this is starting to look like a government report, and the only thing missing is my saying “the number of poor have been reduced” or some other “Fox-ism”, but no, the number of poor have increased here, because the number of zapatistas have increased, and one thing goes with the other.

That is why I want to emphasize that all of this is taking place under conditions of extreme poverty, shortages and technical and information limitations, in addition to the fact that the government does everything possible to block those projects which come from other countries.

A short time ago, I was talking with some “civil societies” about the suffering they had to go through in order to bring a freezer that worked off solar energy. The project involved vaccinating children, but the majority of the communities do not have electricity or, if they do have it, they don’t have a refrigerator. And so the freezer would allow the vaccine to be maintained until it was administered to those who needed it. Fine, it so happened that, in order to bring the freezer, they had to go through an infinity of bureaucratic procedures and, according to their investigation, there was only one organization which could bring what they wanted in from the outside expeditiously: Martha Sahagu’n de Fox’s “Let’s Go Mexico Foundation.” They did not, of course, resort to that publicity agency. They carried out all the procedures, and the freezer will be installed, although late, and there will be vaccinations.

In addition to education and health, the Autonomous Councils look at problems with land, work and trade, where they are making a little progress. They also look at the issues of housing and food. Where we are in our infancy. Where things are doing a bit well is in culture and information. In culture, the defense of language and cultural traditions is being promoted above all. In information, news in local languages is being transmitted through the various zapatista radio stations. Also being regularly transmitted, alternating with music of all kinds, are messages recommending that men respect the women, and calling for women to organize themselves and to demand respect for their rights. And, it may not be much, but our coverage on the war in Iraq was very superior to CNN’s (which, strictly speaking, isn’t saying much).

The Autonomous Councils also administer justice. The results are erratic. In some places (in San Andres Sacamch’en de los Pobres, for example) even the PRIs go to the autonomous authorities because, as they say, “they do take care of it and resolve the problem.” In others, as I will explain now, there are problems.

If the relationship between the Autonomous Councils and the communities is full of contradictions, the relationship with non-zapatista communities has been one of constant friction and confrontation.

In the offices of non-governmental human rights defenders (and in the Comandancia General of the EZLN), there are a fair few denuncias against zapatistas for alleged human rights violations, injustices and arbitrary acts. In the case of the denuncias which the Comandancia receives, they are turned over to the committees in the region in order to investigate their veracity and, when the results are positive, to resolve the problem, bringing the parties together in order to come to agreement.

But in the case of human rights defenders organizations, there is doubt and confusion, because there has been no definition as to whom they should be directed. To the EZLN or to the Autonomous Councils?

And they are right (the human rights defenders), because there is no clarity on this matter. There is also the problem of differences between statute law and “uses and customs” (as the jurists say) or “path of good thinking” (as we say). The resolution of the latter belongs to those who have made the defense of human rights their lives. Or, as in the case of Digna Ochoa (whom the special prosecutor regarded as nothing more than an office worker – as if being an office worker was somehow less – but who was, and is, a defender for the politically persecuted), their death. Regarding a clear definition of whom one should direct oneself to in order to process those denuncias, it belongs to the zapatistas. It will be made known soon how they will try to resolve them.

In sum, there are not a few problems confronting indigenous autonomy in zapatista lands. In order to try and resolve some of them, important changes have been made in its structure and operation. But I will tell you of these later, now I just want to give a brief sketch of where we’re at.

This long explication is owing to the fact that indigenous autonomy has not been the work of just the zapatistas. If the process has been carried out exclusively by the communities, its realization has had the support of many and many more.

If the uprising of January 1, 1994 was possible because of the conspiratorial complicity of tens of thousands of indigenous, the building of autonomy in rebel lands is possible because of the complicity of hundreds of thousands of persons of different colors, different nationalities, different cultures, different languages, in short, of different worlds.

They, with their help, have made possible (for the good, because the bad is our responsibility alone), not the resolution of the demands of the rebel zapatista indigenous, but their being able to improve their living conditions a bit, and, above all, to survive and make grow one more, perhaps the smallest, of the alternatives in the face of a world which excludes all the “others,” that is, indigenous, young people, women, children, migrants, workers, teachers, campesinos, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, unemployed, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, committed and honest religious persons, artists and progressive intellectuals and____(add whatever is missing).

There should also be a diploma for all of them (and those who are not them), which says “The Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the Rebel Zapatista Indigenous Communities certify that____ (name of the accomplice in question) is our brother/sister and has, in these lands and with us, a dusk-colored heart as home, dignity as food, rebellion as flag, and, for tomorrow, a world where many worlds fit. Given in zapatista lands and skies at such and such a day of such and such a month of the year, etcetera.” And it would be signed by those zapatistas who know how to do so, and those who can’t would leave their mark. I, in a corner, would put:

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, July of 2003.



Part Six: A Good Government

…In each one of the five “Caracoles” which are being created in rebel territory, they are working at top speed to see that everything is ready (well, like a compa committee member told me: “It’s going to be a bit ready, but not nearly, but a bit enough”). With more enthusiasm than wisdom, they are constructing, painting (or repainting) buildings, cleaning, straightening up, reordering. A constant hammering-sawing-digging-planting is resounding in the mountains of the Mexican southeast, with background music that varies from one place to the other. There, for example, are “Los Bukis” and “Los Temerarios.” Someplace else, “Los Tigres del Norte” and “El Dueto Castillo.” Over there, “Filiberto Remigio,” “Los Nakos,” “Gabino Palomares,” “Oscar Chávez.” Over that way, “Maderas Rebeldes” (which is a zapatista group which, surprisingly, has been climbing the local “hit parade” by leaps and bounds – but I haven’t found out if they’re climbing up or down).

And, in each “Caracol,” a new building, the “Casa de la Junta de Buen Gobierno” [House of the Good Government Junta] can be made out. As far as can be seen, there will be a “Good Government Junta in each region, and it involves an organizing effort on the part of the communities, not only to confront the problems of autonomy, but also to build a more direct bridge between them and the world. So…:

In order to counteract unbalanced development in the Autonomous Municipalities and the communities.

In order to mediate conflicts which might arise between Autonomous Municipalities, and between Autonomous Municipalities and government municipalities.

In order to deal with denuncias against Autonomous Councils for human rights violations, protests and disagreements, to investigate their veracity, to order Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Councils to correct these errors and to monitor their compliance.

In order to monitor the implementation of projects and community work in the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities, making sure that they are carried out in the time frames and methods which were agreed by the communities; in order to promote support for community projects in the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.

In order to monitor the fulfillment of those laws which, by common agreement with the communities, are operative in the Rebel Zapatista Municipalities.

In order to serve and guide national and international civil society so that they can visit communities, carry out productive projects, set up peace camps, carry out research (ojo: those which provide benefits for the communities) and any other activity permitted in the rebel communities.

In order to, in common accord with the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, promote and approve the participation of compañeros and compañeras of the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in activities or events outside the rebel communities; and in order to choose and prepare those compañeros and compañeras.

In short, in order to see to it that, in rebel zapatista lands, governing, governing obeying, the “Good Government Juntas” will be formed on August 9, 2003.

They shall be seated in the “Caracoles,” with one junta for each rebel region, and it will be formed by 1 or 2 delegates from each one of the Autonomous Councils of that region.

The following will continue to be the exclusive government functions of the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities: the provision of justice; community health; education; housing; land; work; food; commerce; information and culture, and local movement.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee in each region will monitor the operations of the Good Government Juntas in order to prevent acts of corruption, intolerance, injustice and deviation from the zapatista principle of “Governing Obeying.”

Each Good Government Junta has its own name, chosen by the respective Autonomous Councils:

The Selva Border Good Government Junta (which encompasses Marqués de Comillas, the Montes Azules region, and all the border municipalities with Guatemala to Tapachula), is called “Hacia la Esperanza” ["Towards Hope"], and takes in the Autonomous Municipalities of “General Emiliano Zapata,” “San Pedro de Michoacán,” “Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas” and “Tierra y Libertad.”

The Tzots Choj Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of those lands where the government municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Chilón, Teopisca and Amatenango del Valle are located), is called “Corazón del Arcoíris de la Esperanza” ["Heart of the Rainbow of Hope"] (in local language, “Yot’an te xojobil yu’un te smaliyel”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “17 de Noviembre,” “Primero de Enero,” “Ernesto Ché Guevara,” “Olga Isabel,” “Lucio Cabañas,” “Miguel Hidalgo” and “Vicente Guerrero.”

The Selva Tzeltal Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of the land where the government municipality of Ocosingo is located), is called “El Camino del Futuro” ["Path of the Future"] (in local language: “Te s’belal lixambael”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “Francisco Gómez,” “San Manuel,” “Francisco Villa” and “Ricardo Flores Magón.”

The Northern Region Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of those lands where the municipal governments of the north of Chiapas are found, from Palenque to Amatán), is called “Nueva Semilla Que Va a Producir” ["New Seed Which Shall Bring Forth"] (in Tzeltal: “yach’il ts’ unibil te yax bat’poluc”; and in Chol: “Tsi Jiba Pakabal Micajel Polel”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “Vicente Guerrero,” “Del Trabajo,” “La Montaña,” “San José en Rebeldía,” “La Paz,” “Benito Juárez” and “Francisco Villa.”

Los Altos of Chiapas Good Government Junta (which encompasses part of those lands where the government municipalities of Los Altos of Chiapas are found and which extends to Chiapa de Corzo, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Berriozábal, Ocozocuatla and Cintalapa), is called “Corazón Céntrico de los Zapatistas Delante del Mundo” ["Central Heart of the Zapatistas in Front of the World"] (in local language: “Ta olol yoon zapatista tas tuk’il sat yelob sjunul balumil”), and includes the Autonomous Municipalities of “San Andrés Sacamch’en de los Pobres,” “San Juan de la Libertad,” “San Pedro Polhó,” “Santa Catarina,” “Magdalena de la Paz,” “16 de Febrero” and “San Juan Apóstol Cancuc.”

Among the Good Government Juntas’ first regulations are the following:

One. – Donations and help from national and international civil society will no longer be allowed to be earmarked to anyone in particular or to a specific community or Autonomous Municipality. The Good Government Junta shall decide, after evaluating the circumstances of the communities, where that help most needs to be directed. The Good Government Junta will impose the “brother tax,” which is 10% of the total cost of the project, on all projects. In other words, if a community, municipality or collective receives economic support for a project, it must give the 10% to the Good Government Junta, so that it can earmark it for another community which is not receiving help. The objective is to balance somewhat the economic development of the communities in resistance. Leftovers, charity and the imposition of projects shall, of course, not be accepted.

Two. – Only those persons, communities, cooperatives and producers and marketing associations which are registered in a Good Government Junta shall be recognized as zapatistas. In that way, persons shall be prevented from passing as zapatistas who are not only not zapatistas, but are even anti-zapatista (such is the case with some organic coffee producers and marketing cooperatives). Surpluses or bonuses from the marketing of products from zapatista cooperatives and societies shall be given to the Good Government Juntas in order to help those compañeros and compañeras who cannot market their products or who do not receive any kind of aid.

Three. – It is not unusual for dishonest people to deceive national and international civil society, presenting themselves in cities as “zapatistas,” purportedly sent “on secret or special missions” to ask for money for sick people, projects, trips or things of that nature. Sometimes they even go so far as to offer training in purported, and false, EZLN “safe houses” in Mexico City. In the former case, intellectuals, artists and professional persons, and not a few local government officials, have been deceived. In the latter, it has been young students who have been the victims of the lie. The EZLN is emphasizing that it does not have any “safe house” in Mexico City, and it does not offer any training whatsoever. These bad persons, according to our reports, are involved in banditry, and the money they receive, which they are supposedly requesting for the communities, is used for their own personal benefit. The EZL:N has now begun an investigation in order to determine who is responsible for usurping their name and for swindling good and honest people. Since it is difficult to contact the Comandancia General of the EZLN in order to confirm whether such and such a person is part of the EZLN or their support bases, and whether what they are saying is true or not, now they will just have to get in contact with the Good Government Juntas (the one in the region where the “swindler” says he is from), and in a matter of minutes they will be told if it is true or not, and whether or not he is a zapatista. To this end, the Good Government Juntas will be issuing certifications and accreditations which should, however, still be corroborated.

These and other decisions will be taken by the Good Government Juntas (which are so called, I want to make clear, not because they are already “good,” but in order to clearly differentiate them from the “bad government”).

And so, “civil societies” will now know with whom they must reach agreement for projects, peace camps, visits, donations and etcetera. Human rights defenders will now know to whom they should turn over the denuncias they receive and from whom they should expect a response. The army and the police now know whom to attack (just bearing in mind that we, meaning the EZLN, have already gotten involved there). The media which says what they’re paid to say now know whom to slander and/or ignore. Honest media now know where they can go in order to request interviews or stories on the communities. The federal government and its “commissioner” now know what they have to do to not exist. And the Power of Money now knows who else they should fear.

…The noise and activity continue. Someplace someone turns the radio dial and, suddenly, one can clearly hear: “This is Radio Insurgente, Voice of those Without Voice, transmitting from somewhere in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,” and then a marimba sounds the unmistakable rhythms of “The horizon can now be seen.” The compañeros and compañeras stop their work for a moment and begin exchanging comments in indigenous language. Just for a moment. Once again the celebration of work resumes.

It’s odd. It has suddenly occurred to me that these men and women do not appear to be building a few houses. It seems as if it is a new world which is being raised in the middle of all this bustle. Perhaps not. Maybe they are, in effect, just a few buildings, and it’s been nothing but the effect of shadow and light which the dawn is extending across the communities where the “caracoles” are being drawn, which made me think it was a new world that was being built.

I slip away to a corner of the dawn, and I light my pipe and uncertainty. Then I hear myself, clearly, saying to myself: “Perhaps not…but perhaps yes…”

(To Be Continued…)

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, July of 2003.


Part Seven and Last: Postscript and Invitation

Here it is again! It’s back! After a tragic period when it didn’t delight us with its incomparable style! The much longed for! The……..Recurring…….Postscript! Yes!!!!! Yippee!!!!!! Hurray!!!!!!! Bravo!!!!!!! Cheers!!!!!!!! (It may be assumed that at this point the audience is erupting in joyful applause).

P.S. Which Extends the Hand and the Word. – It’s official: you are formally invited to the celebration of the death of the “Aguascalientes,” and to the fiesta for naming the “Caracoles” and the beginning of the “Juntas of Good Government.” It will be in Oventik, San Andre’s Sacamch’en de Los Pobres Autonomous Municipality, Zapatista and Rebel Chiapas, on August 8, 9 and 10 of 2003. Or, as we say here, arrival is on the 8th, the fiesta on the 9th and departure on the 10th. There is a sign at the entrance to the Caracol of Oventik that reads: “You are in Rebel Zapatista Territory: here the people govern, and the government obeys” (I want to put a similar one up in our camps, but it would say: “Here the Sup governs, and everyone can do whatever they like.” Sigh.).

P.S. Which Reveals Classified Information. – Attending the fiesta, as revealed by our intelligence services (who are, at the end of the day, not so intelligent, because they still haven’t found my sock that I lost the other day), will be the Autonomous Councils of ALL the rebel zapatista municipalities, the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee- Comandancia General of the EZLN, and some thousands of support bases. There will be few speeches and many songs (there have been persistent rumors that zapatista musical groups will be there from various regions, and they will present a hyper-mega-magna-super duper concert for no reason other than the joy of continuing to be alive and rebel – compared to this, any techno concert would be nothing but a snack with a pi~ata, little hats and tiny packets of sweets.

In the unlikely event that you decide to attend and to share this joy with the transgressors of the law, you would do well to listen to the following recommendations:

P.S. Which Blows Its Own Horn Because It Says Still an Umbrella (For the Rain, You Understand). – In zapatista lands, the ground, in addition to being dignified and rebel, is cold, wet and muddy. The fiestas are generally so lively that the rain can’t contain itself, and it has to participate, extremely heavily, right in the middle of dances and heartfelt words. That’s why it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring, in addition to light feet for dancing, an umbrella, nylon, plastic, a raincoat (or, if lost, a magazine), in order to cover yourself from above and below. One of those horrid “sleeping bags” would be of great use to you if you wish to have the good fortune of being able to interpose something between you and the rain, and between you and the ground.

P.S. Which Makes the Sign of the Cross. – In zapato’n soil, the only roof which is guaranteed is the one that the supporter of the sky holds up (Old Antonio dixit), and, given what was explained in the previous postscript, it rains during these days and nights as if it were thirst, and not dignity, that abounded here. Because of that, you should be willing to sleep (ave Mari’a puri’sima!) with many and many more, under the same roof and in such promiscuity that would render Roman orgies mere “children’s parties.”

Or you should bring one of those tents (which are quite practical, because they’re the first to become shipwrecked in the rain and the mud) in order to pass countless moments of silence and tranquility.

P.S. Which Is Preparing a “Marco’s Special” Sandwich. – Under zapatudo skies, the only food which abounds and redounds is hope. Given that, according to scientific studies, a balanced diet is necessary in order to complete hope with calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, hydrocarbons, and other similar things, it would be good if you were to bring an adequate portion of canned food, junk food, rolls, biscuits and cookies (if they’re “pancrema,” they’ll be seized), or something of that nature, because the only thing you’re likely to find here is tortillas (and maybe not even that).

P.S. Which Tunes In. – If you have one, bring your short-wave radio (or “borrow” one, but don’t buy it unless it’s from a stall seller or a small shop – they work better than those from the big malls), because on August 9, at a time we still haven’t decided, the first intergalactic broadcast of “Radio Insurgente” will be heard. Even if you decide to punish us with the whip of your disdain, wherever you are you will be able to tune us in. The exact band and frequency are: band of 49 meters, at 5.8 megahertz, on short-wave. Since it is to be expected that the supreme will interfere with the transmission, move the dial with the same swinging of hips like in a cumbia, and search until you find us.

P.S. Which Cheers. – During the momentous event, there will also be a hard fought basketball tournament. The best team will rise to the victory (note: any foreign team which dares to defeat the locals – the zapatistas – will be taken prisoner, forced to listen, completely, to the “Fox With You” program, and declared “illegal,” therefore voiding his victory). Participate! Support your favorite team! (note: any demonstration of support or sympathy by the spectators towards any team other than the locals – the zapatistas – will be remanded to the closest assembly in order to be criticized and “looked at”). There will be teams from all over the planet (United States, Euzkal Herria, the Spanish State, France, Italy, UNAM, UAM, POLI, ENAH, “Civil Societies,” “Absolute Chaos, S.A. of (i)R. (i)L, of C.V.” and others, including the “dream team” of the “Primero de Enero de 1994 Rebel Autonomous Zapatista Secondary School” (by the time they finish saying their name, the opposing team will already be asleep!). It’s almost certain that the final will be between the EZLN and the EZLN (in order to guarantee it, generous portions of sour pozol will be distributed to the other teams). It has been rumored that there’s been a fierce fight among the large multinational sports news consortiums for broadcasting rights, but it would appear that the Zapatista System of Intergalactic Television has the exclusive. It is also said that the betting in Las Vegas is 7 times 7 to 0.0001 (in favor of the zapatudos, of course).

Vale. Salud and, if you can’t come, don’t worry, you’ll still be with us.

(No longer to be continued)

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, July of 2003.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN


Translated by irlandesa


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