FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Zapatistas Prepare to Honor Their Dead and Call for a Reality Check

Chiapas, Mexico.

In May of last year, José Luis Solís López, a teacher in the Zapatista community of La Realidad (one of five affiliated communities of the now 20-year-old Zapatista experiment in autonomy and self-governance) was killed by paramilitaries during an ambush in which several other unarmed Zapatistas were also injured. The paramilitaries proceeded to destroy the community’s clinic and seriously damage its school. Such tensions have been a constant part of life in Zapatista territory in the remote south of Mexico. Failing to dislodge the Zapatistas by force after their initial uprising in 1994, the Mexican government, wealthy landowners and developers have been waging a slow dirty war against them ever since, using paramilitary organizations made up of paid locals, practicing hostility and harassment which sometimes erupts in violence and death.

In spite of this, the communities organized along the lines of horizontal and participatory democracy (governing from below, or “commanding by obeying,” as the Zapatistas call it) have survived, grown in population and a second generation is now coming into the ranks. Fifty thousand Zapatistas marched in the streets of the several cities in Chiapas in December 2013, a few weeks before the 20th anniversary of their uprising, in an effort to show the rest of their society that they were still active and strong, not diminished or irrelevant as the Mexican mass media has often tried to portray them. The clinic and school have since been rebuilt with international support, and the Zapatistas are preparing to repeat a previous experiment of inviting large numbers of interested people from Mexico and abroad to live in the communities temporarily and study their way of life. The communities refuse all aid from the Mexican state, and manage all internal governance themselves. Extreme poverty is still a constant fact of life, but so, according to many reports, are a level of dignity and equality almost unknown among other populations in similar economic conditions.

To honor Solís López, who went by the name Galeano in the community (perhaps a nod to the great Uruguayan leftist writer and activist Eduardo Galeano – recently deceased), a year after his death, the Zapatistas have organized a commemoration open to friends of the communities from Mexico and beyond. Another honoree is the Mexican academic and philosopher Luis Villoro Toranzo, who participated in an exchange of letters on a wide-ranging series of topics with Subcommandante Marcos in 2011. He passed away in March at age 91.

From the gently jokey communiqués of their eternal spokesman Marcos (who has since assumed the name Galeano, in honor of the murdered teacher), you’d never know tensions had been running so high in the region. But in addition to organizing the commemorations of these dead friends, the Zapatistas have put out a call to trusted members of the international community to come and share their thoughts on the current situation, globally, and in Mexico particularly. The tone of the invitation was fairly dark, indicating that the Zapatistas may be on the alert for a new wave of large-scale repression against their communities, or simply indicating that in a Mexico rife with corruption and murder perpetrated with absolute impunity, with no sign that the forces in charge are capable of self-reform, and no mass movement as yet capable of forcing it – dark days are guaranteed.

With his usual gift for metaphor, Marcos/Galeano described what he called “Night Watch Syndrome” in which those who are always on the alert for danger (i.e., the Zapatistas themselves) sometimes fail to recognize it when it is coming, simply from fatigue at always being on the alert. Or conversely perhaps they are over-sensitive to the possibility when really things will just carry on as usual. So the idea of bringing in experienced friends from other movements in Mexico and beyond is to get a kind of reality check – by assimilating information from many realities of confrontation or suppression by the system, and from analysts who’ve been “on watch” a long time themselves.

We don’t know yet what the conclusions will be, or even who all the presenters are. Over a thousand people are currently registered to attend. Family members of the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa are on the list of invitees, as well as international activist-intellectuals like Immanuel Wallerstein, Sylvia Federici, and John Holloway. On May 1st and 2nd, commemoration ceremonies will take place in Zapatista territory. From May 3rd to May 9th, invited thinkers, activists and supporters will meet, listen to one another, and try to get a collective understanding of the situation they face and the difficulties ahead. More to come.

Christy Rodgers has lived and traveled extensively in Latin America and worked in solidarity with the FMLN in El Salvador during the country’s twelve-year long civil war. She has been visiting Mexico for over 20 years and is currently there visiting various projects for change in the country and writing a series of reports on them.

More articles by:

Christy Rodgers lives in San Francisco, where all that is solid melts into air. Her essays and reviews have appeared in CounterPunch Alternet, Upside Down World, Truthout, Dark Mountain Project, and Left Curve Magazine. Her blog is What If? Tales, Transformations, Possibilities.

June 25, 2018
Laura Flanders
National Suicide Point?
Ludwig Watzal
The Death of Felicia Langer
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail