Zapatista March

by TIM RUSSO

Only the resonating echo of rain pattering down on the cobblestone streets of Chiapas’ colonial cities sounded as tourists from around the globe awaiting the end of the world in the center of the Mayan Civilization were surprised by the silent marches of more than 40,000 masked Mayan Zapatistas who descended on their apocalyptic misinterpretations of the Mayan 13 Ba´ktun.

A faint sound of a baby’s cry would occasionally emerge from a bundle beneath a plastic tarp on the back of a masked Zapatista in the endless lines of Mayan rebels who quietly held formation in the rain. They marched four file booted and bare-footed into the same cities they surprised on a cold new year’s eve night 19 years ago, shouting their first YA BASTA!

Yesterday’s weapon, differing from the 1994 armed indigenous uprising, was the Zapatista silence, their moral authority, the echo of a unified and deafening silence that shouted YA BASTA! once again. A silence that in their massive presence in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Altamirano, Las Margaritas and Palenque shouted without a word that the a new Mayan era has begun and the Zapatistas are present. A silence that was meant to remind Mexico’s recently inaugurated President Enrique Peña Nieto and his PRI party that the root causes of the Zapatista struggle are as prevalent today as they were 19 years ago: lack of health care, education, housing, land, food, indigenous rights, women’s rights, gay rights, dignity, and justice. A silence that reminded the returning PRI that there is a Mexico profundo, a Mexico jodido, a Mexico con hambre, and a Mexico dispuesto a luchar and in struggle. The Zapatistas and the EZLN need not say a word today, their actions and silence said enough. Aqui estamos!

As early as 4 a.m. the Mayan indigenous, Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Tojolobales, Choles, Zoques, and Mames began their mobilizations from their five cultural centers of resistance, known as Caracoles, emerging from the Lacandon jungle, the Chiapas Canyon lands, and the rain soaked highlands. They quietly moved along the mountainous, fog-bearing roads towards the same cities (plus Palenque) that they descended upon when these ill-equipped ragtag rebels launched their armed uprising on January 1st 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went in to effect.

Yesterday’s marches by the Zapatista National Liberation Army comprised of Mexico’s Mayan indigenous peoples was the first mobilization since their May 7, 2011 march demanding an end to the widespread violence and impunity in Mexico. That march echoed Poet Javier Sicilia’s movement for justice demanding the end to PANista President Felipe Calderon’s US-backed War on Drugs that has claimed up to 80,000 lives over the last six years. Calderon, who departs Mexico leaving a bloodstained country, will follow his predecessor Ernesto Zedillo’s footsteps to a safe haven in US academia, entering Harvard and moving to Cambridge, a town ironically that has one of the world´s lowest per capita murder rates, contrary to a Mexico ranking in the world’s top 10 country’s with major violent death tolls. Today’s Zapatista march, explains award winning Mexican Journalist Jose Gil Olmos, marks a symbolic moment being December 21st  on the Gregorian calendar and 13 Ba´ktun, or the end of the 144,000 day Mayan long calendar, silently saying that this is beginning of a new calendar, a new era and the Zapatistas are present:

“The mere presence of the Zapatistas here today just as the new government of Enrique Peña Nieto is getting started and the return of the PRI is a message in and of itself that the EZLN exists and is here, that the EZLN is a social and political force and they are reminding the PRI that things are not good, That the voice of the voiceless and the faceless are saying listen up! There is a forgotten Mexico here, a Mexico that is starving and disparate and the march, a silent march is an emblematic message in and of itself.”

There were no visible Zapatista Commanders in the marches, no words spoken, no chants could be heard, nor banners seen. Only two flags accompanied the thousands of Mayan rebels, a Zapatista five pointed red star on black and the Mexican flag. The same scenario could be seen in each of the five cities that the Zapatistas descended upon despite the unusual rains for the beginning of the Chiapas dry season. The Zapatistas arrived, marched on the city centers, built make-shift stages on top of cars and marched thousands of Zapatistas four by four, fists in the air, over the stages in front of their flags. Then, as quickly and quietly as they arrived, the Zapatistas disappeared into the fog and rain that camouflaged their arrival.

Late in the day a one-page communiqué signed by Zapatista rebel leader Sub-Comandante Marcos, El Sup, began to go viral on the internet. The communiqué simply read the following:

Did You Hear?

That is the sound of your world falling apart.

It is the sound of our resurgence.
The day that was the day, was night.
And night will be the day that will be the day.
Democracy!
Liberty!

Justice!

Tim Russo is a long time media activist, photographer and journalist. Russo has covered Mexico and Latin America for over twenty years.  He is on the Board of Directors of Free Speech Radio News www.fsrn.org, regularly contributes to KGNU in Boulder, Colorado and is active with the Red Mesoamericana de Radios Comunitarias, Indígenas y Garifunas.

This article originally appeared in UpsideDownWorld.

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

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