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.

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail