Zapatistas! Documents of the New Mexican Revolution

Chapter 3: The Cease-Fire

Interviews With Officers and Militants

Interview with Major Mario

[La Jornada, 1/16]
January 15, 1994

Ricardo Alemán Alemán, reporter, and Elio Henríquez,
correspondent, somewhere in the Lacandona Jungle

From the opening of a wool ski mask, a pair of brilliant black eyes sink in harshly on the reporters: "Let it be clear that we are respecting the cease-fire! We're not going to attack the federal government. We're going to respect their commitment, but if they come to bother us, we're going to respond," he nearly shouted.

His parents have been "PRIistas forever." He is between 23 and 26 years old, of Tzeltal origin, speaks Spanish with difficulty, and has "almost 10 years of political and ideological preparation." Major Mario of the Zapatista National Liberation Army received the reporters of La Jornada, to whom he said: "Very soon the Clandestine Indigenous Committee will respond to the government" on their proposals for dialogue.

Surrounded by 11 well-armed men--almost kids--
Major Mario denied that the EZLN "seeks power." He explained: "We haven't proposed socialism," but said the Indigenous people and campesinos of Mexico "only want the fulfillment of the 10 points we have stated. We want democracy and elections without fraud, independence, land for all the campesinos, work, and housing. We want to have health care, justice, education--but not the kind to keep us stupid; that they stop killing the Indians, that they treat us like humans, that we eat not only pozol, but meat, like people elsewhere. These are very simple points," he explains vehemently in his rough Spanish.

The amiable Major Mario becomes indignant when he's asked about the presidential elections of 1994, the presidential candidates, and the validity of the electoral process.

"These elections will be illegitimate. The people vote very infrequently and have to be PRIistas. We aren't voting because all the candidates are the same. My brothers and sisters voted for the PRI and nothing happened, for the PAN and nothing happened, for the PRD and nothing happened. There are no results. There's no trust in anything. Now my brothers and sisters don't trust anything," he said in an agitated voice, with watery eyes, his index finger nearing the trigger of his AK-47.

After an 18-hour day, four of us on foot through the Lacandona Jungle, this paper's reporters neared an EZLN camp where a very young man, barely 25, gave us a warm welcome despite the cold and humidity of the forest.

"Kindly allow me to see your identification," said the youth, barely 5 feet tall, from an unidentifiable crack in the forest. He said that he was Major Mario, and he asked his superiors for authorization to see us.

Knowledgeable in handling arms, "ours and the enemy's," accomplished with the AK-47 rifle that he never stopped fondling, Mario jumped in without any preamble, leaving the reporters speechless. "What do you want to know?"
The reporters began a long interrogation in the forest highlands--we didn't know how we got there and had trouble getting out.

"We're not going to stop the war until there's a response to these 10 points. But I'll tell you, the war won't end soon. We're not going to give up our arms because we prefer to die fighting with dignity than to die of cholera, of measles, repressed by the landlords who treat us like pigs. We don't want crumbs; we want freedom, the right to express ourselves, to govern--for them to not send us to our deaths. We want democracy and real peace, like in other countries."

A member of an army "mainly of youth, with plenty of men and women," Mario explained that the Zapatista National Liberation Army "yes, is related" to the guerrilla movement in Ocosingo that was neutralized by the Mexican government in 1974. "Yes, we're from them. The examples remain, but there's no one here who was there then. The examples remain."

"What caused this armed uprising?"

"First, I want to point out that we haven't attacked the Federal Army; we are respecting the cease-fire, and they also have to respect it, as they promised. We haven't attacked the enemy, but if they come to attack us or bother our towns, we will respond, too. These are the orders we have now."

"Have you also held the cease-fire?"

"We have been respecting it for two days."

"There haven't been any confrontations for two days?"

"There have been. But it's the Army that isn't fulfilling what they said, and have come to attack us; we are only responding."

"And has there been some meeting with Camacho Solís?"

"At the moment, no. That will be decided by Subcommander Marcos."

"Marcos is your main leader?"

"Of the commanders, yes, but our orders come from the Clandestine Indigenous Committee."

"In Mexico and abroad, they have tried to show that most of you are not Indigenous people and that there are foreigners [in your ranks]."

"This is a lie. They accuse us of being foreigners, but not even the government knows us. We all speak Indigenous dialects and we are legitimate Mexicans and Chiapanecos; we all love our tricolor flag and our Mexican anthem."

"And what about their saying that the priests and the Church were the ones who brought on this insurrection?"

"No, it's clear that it's the people. If the people rise up, this isn't based in the Church, but in their own misery. We aren't religious, but we aren't against it either. We respect beliefs. Every one of us is struggling because of our poverty--Catholics, Protestants."

"Do you recognize the Church or the Bishop of San Cristóbal, Samuel Ruiz, as an effective mediator to establish dialogue?"

"Not according to what my other brothers and sisters are deciding. I tell you, there's a bunch of us; we're plenty and we're all over Chiapas."

"Are you in other states?"

"You'll see when the news comes out."

"Is your intention to take power, or what is it concretely?"

"No. Concretely, according to the Declaration of War, there are 10 simple points. We want land for all our poor brothers and sisters, our campesino brothers and sisters, because they don't have any. Look where they live--the best lands are occupied by the planters. We want them to have good jobs, but not only the campesinos here, because campesinos are ignored not only here, but throughout the Mexican Republic. My brothers and sisters here don't speak Spanish, and look at where they still are. We want them to have good housing; look what their houses are like, and where is the government aid? And the government wants to help us only when there's a confrontation. We would have wanted them to do this much earlier. Now they want to humiliate us like dogs, but this pains us as humans. For being Indigenous, they have cornered us in the wilds; we have no services, no education--only to keep us stupid. No, there's nothing, and if it's legal, we know that it's really for the landowners. The campesino makes a little move and they kill him. So the government, when there was no fighting, came to kill us, repress us, dislodge us, give us nothing and send us a few little things to shut us up. We aren't just anything; we're human beings, and they don't consider us people. We need work and land, and our campesinos and workers need to eat well. We all want to struggle so that we won't eat only pozol, because we want to eat meat like they do elsewhere. We don't have any, so we're fighting. We want democracy, for the people to freely choose, that they not carry out frauds and snares in the upcoming elections through force or money. We don't want this, nor do our ignored brothers and sisters. And they still tell us we're foreigners."

"And how long will there be an armed uprising?"

"Until they fulfill all of these 10 points, until they do all of this: bread, education, housing, health care, independence--so no one comes to kill us. Now they're coming to command everyone, and it isn't their country. We were born here, our grandparents died here, and they don't consider it ours. We will stop the war when all of this is done. We're not going to stop it now; we're not going to put down our arms."

"And how long will the cease-fire last?"

"This depends on what our leaders decide."

"If they fulfill the 10 points you are asking, will you remain armed in the wilderness?"

"It depends where we are, but our plan is not that our people only eat well, but that they not be controlled. We want to have freedom, the right to express ourselves, to lead, to have democracy, independence. We want peace, but not like before, when they treated us like pigs. We want there to be real peace like in other countries, that they consider us humans. We're not going to stop for crumbs."

"Why did you take the name of Zapata?"

"Because Zapata was a campesino leader and revolutionary. He loved us and wanted to give land to all, but it was taken away again by the bourgeoisie."

"How many casualties have there been?"

"Well, we have to clear up something, and I want to tell the truth, the whole truth. We confronted the enemy this time, but the enemy killed civilians while dressed as Zapatistas, accusing us of killing them, and that isn't true. It was they who killed many campesinos."

"Were you in Ocosingo on January 1?"


"You led the fighting there?"

"Yes. We attacked them; we ambushed them. And if there are many dead now, they died for their dignity, because they no longer wanted to be poor, because they no longer wanted to be humiliated. This is why we rose up and we're never going to give up our weapons."

"Do you consider the withdrawal from Ocosingo a defeat?"

"No, we withdrew to demonstrate to the enemy that they're not fighting drug traffickers or people who come to kill unarmed campesinos, as they think."

"How did you get arms, and how is it that the federal troops didn't discover them for 10 years?"

"We don't have support from abroad or anywhere else. We depend on our own strength. The Guatemalans haven't supported us."

"Is Subcommander Marcos Mexican?"

"Of course. He eats tunas and nogales [indigenous fruits]. It's not true that he's a foreigner," said the Tzeltal, laughing along with his 11 men.

"Where did you get the weapons?"

"The ones we have here, we have. I don't know where our leaders got them, but we're armed," he assured us. [...]
"What do you feel about the Mexican soldiers? Is there any hatred or resentment?"
"Yes, hatred exists, but mainly for their leaders, not for the plain soldier who comes from the class of the poor. And this seems to oblige us to struggle among ourselves, the poor," he said in a melancholic tone.

"Why didn't you start the war before January 1, when they were discussing NAFTA?"

"The Clandestine Indigenous Committee decided this, but I'll tell you straight out that the NAFTA will bring us poverty and the benefits will only be for the bourgeoisie. They already had screwed us enough, they had already destroyed Article 27, which Zapata won in the revolutionary struggle. Salinas de Gortari and his lackeys and his groups came and destroyed it in a minute. We and our families had already been sold out, or like they say, our pants were already sold. What could we do? There is no other remedy. We tried everything legal, we asked the government through elections and organizations and there was no result." [...]

"How many people are members of the Clandestine Committee?"

"There's a lot. It's a collective body that has to discuss how things are going," he says while gesticulating as if to show us the size of their Army with his arms.

"What's the ideology of this committee and the Zapatista Army? Do they want socialism?"

"They [the leaders of the EZLN] still have not considered socialism. What we want are the 10 points." And he repeats vehemently that they want democracy, clean elections, "education that doesn't make us stupid."

"It's been said that you might have connections to people operating in Peru [Communist Party of Peru-Sendero Luminoso]."

"No, this is untrue--pure ideology invented to scare the people."

"Has there been any machine gun fire in the last two days?"

"Yes, planes and helicopters have come firing and bombing to frighten the people," which agrees with the version in La Jornada, which reported on [the government's] non-compliance with the government-proposed cease-fire.

"Will this war go on for a long time?"

"Yes, until all the things we poor people are asking for are fulfilled."

"Are you prepared to hold out? For how long?"

"Until this is done."

"Can you defeat the Amy?"

"Yes, because war is long and hard. We don't want deaths, but it's necessary because we've suffered so much. Many here have died of cholera. We asked the government for aid and there isn't any. We prefer to die confronting bullets instead of cholera."

"Did you carry out the attacks in Mexico City and elsewhere?"

"No, we certainly know who is our enemy. We don't attack civilians because they are not responsible for the war. We aren't terrorists; we have rules for battle and we follow the Geneva Conventions."

"You propose clean elections. Do you think that this year's will be legitimate?"

"No, they're illegitimate. The people don't vote, and those few who do must be PRIistas."

"Which candidate would you vote for?"

"We aren't voting for any candidate because they're all the same. My brothers and sisters have voted for the PRI, the PAN and for the PRD and nothing happened--there's no results and there's no faith in anything."

"And what do you think of Samuel Ruiz?"

"Well, he has a different job."

"But do you see him as a supporter of your struggle?"

"No, he's not supporting us."

"Does someone support you?"

"Only our own people. We count on them for what we have--beans, rice."

"Can you tell us, Major Mario, if you're all young?"

"The majority of us are young."

"And are there women in the Zapatista Army?"


"They say the commander herself is a woman."

"No, no!"

"What degree of preparation do the members of the Zapatista Army have?"

"We don't have any preparation. Many of these people don't know how to read or write. All the government gives us is a third grade education--
nothing more."

"But haven't they fought? Weren't they in other countries?"

"No, we have learned like Villa and Zapata; we learned to fight."

"Apart from Zapata and Villa, is there any other Mexican figure with whom you identify?"

"Yes, with Hidalgo and Morelos, priests who rose up with the Indians."

"Have you read Marx and Mao?"

"Yes, I've read them, but we're not Maoists."

"Are you going to obstruct this year's elections?"

"No, we're not going to obstruct them. We're going to keep fighting for the 10 points that we've demanded."

"And why did you take San Cristóbal?"

"Because we're angered by what's happening, we're upset by what they're doing. This is why there are dead among our troops. But we're not crying about it. On the contrary, they died for their dignity, they died like a human being should--so they wouldn't go to their grave in vain, dying of cholera or measles, like many have died here."

"How old were you when you were invited to participate in forming this Army?"

"Around 11."

"How many weapons can you handle?"

"I can handle the weapons brought by the enemy."

"Do you have any kind of heavy weaponry?"

"Yes, we do"

"Can you tell us what kind?"


With our discussion almost finished, Major Mario sent a message to the people of Mexico: "Don't fear the war. It's ours. We're fighting for all the campesinos, for all the Mexican people, so they can be free and not like they are."

Elisa, Laura, Leonel and a Militia Member

[La Jornada,1/18]
January 19, 1994

Gaspar Morquecho, correspondent, in the mountains of Chiapas.

"When I lived in my house, with my family, I didn't know anything. I didn't know how to read, I didn't go to school. But when I joined the Zapatista National Liberation Army, I learned how to read, I learned all of the Spanish I know, how to write, and I was trained for war," affirmed Captain Elisa, one of the 12 women who, along with 100 other insurgents and armed militia members, received the national and foreign press in a wooded area.

To get to this place, we passed through three positions of the EZLN, which sent communications to the chiefs ahead. As we arrived at a small town, they told us that we would have to wait an hour and a half, since "some" members of the EZLN were coming to meet us; they asked us to not take photographs and to not film the town.

At about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a member of the militia indicated that we could continue, and that they were waiting for us "further on." Two vehicles were in the opening, and we walked some 500 meters to the place where they were kept.

We spoke with Laura. She is Tzeltal, 21 years old, and for over three years has been the captain of an assault troop of the EZLN. She carried an R-10. "I was born in my town, grew up in my community, and I was able to study until the fourth grade; I was very small when I learned about the EZLN; I worked the land with the women that we joined with to produce food. That was where the conversation began, and we understood the misery and why we can't live better; there they recruited me. Study advisors came and we understood and advanced."

Laura was married on the mountain. She says that she does not have children so she can remain in the struggle, and that she uses birth control. Couples come together without any ceremony, and they only have to inform their commander, "so that all of the compan~eros know what is going on."

"I began, out of conscience, to fight in favor of the poor, since it is not right that they keep killing the children. I participated in the combat at Ocosingo. When the enemy came, I felt brave, I wanted to kill someone, to shout with anger and hit them so that they would be humiliated as they have humiliated us for so long."

She explained that in the EZLN men and women fight equally. "We are in revolt and we don't have problems with the men. They treat us like compan~eras and there is mutual respect from everyone. We share all of the work."

Leonel is 21 years old. We asked him why he joined the EZLN and he said: "The people are looking for their own organization, where they belong. I worked in San Cristóbal de las Casas as a plumber, a brick-laying peon: I looked at the work, and the pay didn't add up; it wasn't enough to live on. One time I came to my town for my papers to join the Federal Army. My family told me: It would be better for you to go join the EZLN.

"I said yes, and I went to the mountain with a guide from the town who was organizing with the Zapatista Army. There they treated me well, better than in my family. They started to talk about how 'here we are fighting because of poverty.' When I was there I quickly understood what the problem was like and that we had to take up arms."

Elisa has been in the mountains with the EZLN for six years. She is short, like the majority of Tzeltal Indians, and three years ago she married another insurgent.

Elisa remembers her life from when she was small. "I saw how my family lived, in utter poverty, and we organized ourselves to make war, to live better. We struggle for the 10 points: land, work, housing, dignified bread and education, freedom, democracy, peace, justice, and freedom.

"We want a better life and that is why I joined the EZLN. That is why. Because if the campesinos do not organize themselves, it will be very difficult for them to get anything. I want to tell people, the poor people of Mexico, that they should join the struggle, that they should help us. We are struggling for poor people, so that they can live better, that they should unite together to make war to live better."

The group agrees to carry out some exercises at the request of the television reporters and photographers. They quickly line up in ranks and stop in front of the underbrush, at the edge of a river. They receive the order to form ranks of three deep, move to the flanks, to the front and present arms. We see order and discipline.

The correspondent for Libe'ration, Jean François Royer, notes that their arms are "very diverse and of varied origin, some old and reconstructed." He observes, "AR-15s, old AK-47s and Steins, which means that they have workshops and do good armory work. Their uniforms are of rudimentary manufacture, but they are well made. There are some Warsaw-pact tank shells." Royer, who has covered the wars in Central America--
mainly in El Salvador--commented that "their weaponry is quite inferior to that of the FMLN before the large offensive of '89."

From the moment we arrived in the zone, we insisted that we be allowed to spend the night in some of the towns, hoping for the possibility of interviewing a high commander.

Finally, at 6:30 p.m., we are given authorization to sleep in a town. The other reporters and photographers went to bed. The insurgents took off their masks and, with a group of three armed soldiers, we arrived in the town.

Our host had a party in his house: It was the "seating of the God Child." In a small, wooden room with a tiled roof there was an altar with the images of Saint Martin de Porres, Christ, and John the Baptist. They were adorned with colored, plastic flags and palm leaves. There is a candle lighting the room. A small wooden crib with a blue bandanna contained the nude God Child. The next day He was seated, dressed and covered with the bandanna.

This is like a movie, commented Royer: to be seated at a table, in front of an altar, with an armed force behind you, in an Indigenous town, eating beans, tamales, drinking chicken broth and coffee.

Outside, a marimba can be heard. It was about 7:30 p.m.; some candles were still lit, and young couples danced happily. The rain, which lasted all night, did not interrupt the procession, and the party ended at two in the morning. In the morning, we were brought hot coffee, and we were able to speak with the militia members.

These are people who offer support from the communities: They work in production and, "If it is necessary, they call us up. We can also go into combat, since we have about 15 days of training." Many members of the militia participated in the taking of various towns. There they were armed with sticks, or with nothing at all.

The testimony of a Tzeltal Indian who is not an insurgent or a militia member was the following: "I support them. I work on production, I help in carrying foodstuffs, and I want to go on to be a militia member."

"The communities send food to the EZLN on the mountain," a group of militia members explained to us. "This is not obligatory, but our children, our brothers and sisters, our flesh and blood are up there."

Captain Irma

[La Jornada, 1/27]
January 26, 1994

Oscar Camacho Guzmán, on assignment,
at an unknown location in the Lacandona Jungle, Chiapas

For the Zapatista National Liberation Army, during the 26 days of the current conflict in Chiapas, "the government has only made promises" that they are willing to resolve problems with the EZLN. The EZLN "will not set down our arms" until [the government] meets the 10 basic points of their struggle.

Captain Irma, an officer in the EZLN, affirms this when she receives [the reporters from] La Jornada in the Lacandona Jungle, and warns that as long as the government does not meet the 10 basic demands, the alternative will be to "win or die."

Captain Irma denounces, with irritation, the fact that the Mexican Army continues to fly over the region.

With respect to this she categorically affirms that "The EZLN will not violate the cease-fire, but if they attack us, we will respond."

In reference to Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, she explains that he is still alive, and that after the trial that he was submitted to by the EZLN Tribunal for Military Justice, "he maintains himself by eating beans or whatever there is, like the rest of us, and he is working also, like the rest of us."

Of the changes in the presidential cabinet, as well as in the government of Chiapas, she affirms that these are not determining factors in the resolution of the problems of the EZLN. She maintains that these were changes made under the same schema of designation, and not of democratic election.

She notes, for example, that the new head of Chiapas, Javier López Moreno, "was not elected by the people. He was designated by them [the government]."

The interview, solicited the day before, was given in the evening of this Wednesday, a little more than 24 hours since the Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation, Manuel Camacho Solís, announced the government's peace proposal.

It is already the fourth week of the conflict. Captain Irma explains what the perception is in the EZLN about what the government has done to resolve the crisis.

"There have been no changes made by the government that will serve to resolve the problems of Chiapas. Until now, they have only made promises. They have not offered anything else."

"What about the political changes, the changes in the government of Chiapas and the change of Patrocinio González in the Secretariat of Government? Aren't these important actions?"

"No, because they have not been changes made by the people. It has not been the people who have chosen."

"That means that, for you, the new governor of Chiapas is not the product of a democratic process?"

"For us, no," Captain Irma responds, without hesitation.

"What do you think of what Manuel Camacho Solís has done to bring peace to the state?"

"We haven't seen him do anything that will improve the situation of Chiapas.

"We have 10 points and we still have them; that will not change until we have achieved them. There has been nothing about that. There has been no response to these 10 points. The government has not recognized them and so we think that they will not be met, even though they promise many things."

"Do you need more actions than promises?"

"Promises are all that we have seen until now."

"What would you need so that the government could demonstrate interest, so that the peace talks could advance? That they begin actions around these 10 points, that they put in place a health system in the state, an agrarian reform...?"

"The truth is that the government will not do anything. This is not the first time that we have asked. So many years have passed with us watching people die and the government not doing anything."

A group of Zapatistas accompanies Captain Irma, while the overflight of airplanes does not stop.

"Here comes the plane," Captain Irma indicates to her compan~eros, and all of them hide in the brush. For a few minutes all that can be heard is the motor of the airplane and the sounds of the jungle.

"That is another thing that the government does not fulfill. They do not obey the truce, and have been sending airplanes. This means that for them, this thing has not stopped; on the other hand, we haven't been doing anything, but the government does not fulfill its promises. What are the military planes doing here? Every day they fly over. That is not respecting the cease-fire."

She is asked about the exodus of some of the communities of the highlands, and she is told that campesinos and Indians have complained that the EZLN pressured them to join the armed struggle.

"We are not fighting against the people. On the contrary, what we want to do is defend them. What we are asking for is for the people of the whole country, not just Chiapas.

"Those who are really of the people have no reason to be afraid of us, because we are not fighting against them, but so that they can live well, not like now."

"Does the demand for the 10 points remain firm?"

"It will continue until they have been achieved. We can only speak with our weapons, and we are not going to let them go until we get what we have asked for."

"How can the situation improve, according to the EZLN?"

"I cannot respond to that. Others of us need to answer that question."

"How is Absalón Castellanos? There is talk of a trade..."

"He is fine. We have not tortured anyone, because they are human beings like us, flesh and bones. Nevertheless, it seems like the government does not see it like that, and some of our detained comrades have not been treated like that.

"When they release those whom they have detained, we will let him go, in spite of the shame he has for having mistreated so many people, so many peoples. Anyway, he will be released, but in exchange for those that I talked about, our compan~eros who they are torturing. His punishment is to work the same as anyone.

"But if he is released, they also have to release our compan~eros and those who are probably not members of the EZLN. Absalón is fine, while our compan~eros, we don't know how they have them, torturing them for sure."

"Don't you feel you lose support here in the zone every time that some person says that they're leaving because they are being pressured?"

"No, because we are not obligating anyone. Those who participate do so because of their own will, and because they know that it is their people."

"Is there the possibility that the EZLN could meet with Salinas de Gortari?"

"I cannot respond to that. Only the commanders can respond to that question."

"Do you think that we are close to peace in Chiapas?"

"I don't know, but the situation will last until we achieve what we came for. We are sure, and we are ready to win or die, if that is necessary."

"What will happen if the Army breaks the truce?"

"If they look for us, they will find us. We are respecting the truce, and as long as it lasts there will be no attack from us, because we respect what we say. But the government has not respected it, and if they look for us, we will respond," concludes Captain Irma there, someplace in the Lacandona Jungle, where the EZLN lives, supplies itself, governs and waits.

Second Communique' Packet

[This is the second group of communique's that the EZLNreleased to the press. They were submitted as a group to the press, like the first communique' packet.]

On Government Violations of the Cease-Fire

January 17, 1994

To the Mexican people:
To the people and governments of the world:

We are sending this message to the national and international press to denounce violations of the cease-fire by government troops. On January 16, 1994 at 11:30 a.m. approximately 35 military soldier-transport vehicles carrying 400 soldiers assaulted the municipal seat of Oxchuc and unjustly detained 12 civilians, accusing them of belonging to our EZLN. The CCRI-CG of the EZLN denounces the Federal Army for taking legal authority that does not belong to them, and for continuing to harass the civilian population. The Federal Army's predominant attitude with regard to the peaceful population constitutes a flagrant violation of the cease-fire ordered by the president on January 12, 1994.

On the night of January 16, 1994 bomber planes from the Mexican Air Force bombarded barracks near the town of Monte Líbano in the township of Ocosingo. Again, this violation of the cease-fire affects the civilian population. Our troops continue to follow the CCRI-CG of the EZLN's order to cease all offensive attacks against the Federal Army. We continue to be disposed to use dialogue as a means to find a just solution to the conflict. However, it is our duty to protect the civilian population in the conflict zone. For this reason we warn you that if the violations of the cease-fire continue, we may reconsider our decision to cease offensive attacks. We ask that the truce be carefully monitored by members of the federal government, because repeated violations will destroy the dialogue process, which is only just beginning.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


Letter Accepting Camacho Solís as
Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation

January 18, 1994

To Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas:

Mr. Camacho Solís:

The CCRI-CG of the EZLN again addresses you. We have heard on the radio, with attention and respect, your words in response to our January 13, 1994 letter. Your thoughts reflect some things that we should think about and analyze carefully in order to be able to give a true response. The complete response to what you have proposed will have to wait a while, as we still haven't received the written communication, and we only have what you said on the radio to go on. However, in general, we see great value in your response and we welcome the spirit that your words carry. The CCRI-CG of the EZLN declares:

First: The CCRI-CG of the EZLN officially recognizes Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís as Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas.

Second: The CCRI-CG of the EZLN recognizes Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís as a trustworthy speaker, and all his words and thoughts will be received with respect and attention, analyzed seriously and with care, and will receive formal and honest response.

Third: The CCRI-CG of the EZLN, in agreement with their official recognition of Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís as Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas, guarantees the free movement of the above within territories occupied by the EZLN, and gives assurance that the Zapatista troops will respect his person and belongings.


From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


What are they going to forgive us for?

January 18, 1994


I must begin with some apologies ("a bad beginning," my grandmother used to say). Our Press and Communications Department omitted the weekly national magazine Pro ceso when they sent out the January 13 letter. I hope that the people at Proceso forgive us for this mistake and receive the present letter without any ill feelings or resentment.

I direct myself to you to ask for the distribution of the accompanying statements from the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN. In them, we refer to repeated violations of the cease-fire by federal troops, the government's initiative to apply the Law of Amnesty to the present conflict, and to Camacho Solís's performance as the one commissioned to negotiate for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas.

I believe that the documents that we sent to you on January 13 should have arrived by now. I ignore the response they will provoke and what the government's response to our proposals will be, and therefore do not address them. Up to today, January 18, 1994, the only thing we have learned is that the "pardon" which the government offers to our forces has been made official. What do we have to ask forgiveness for? What are they going to "pardon" us for? For not dying of hunger? For not accepting our misery in silence? For not humbly accepting the huge historic burden of disdain and abandonment? For having risen up in arms when we found all other paths closed? For not heeding Chiapas's penal code, the most absurd and repressive in history? For having shown the country and the whole world that human dignity still exists and is in the hearts of the most impoverished inhabitants? For having made careful preparations before beginning our fight? For having brought guns to battle instead of bows and arrows? For having learned to fight before having done it? For being Mexicans, every one of us? For being mostly Indigenous? For calling the Mexican people to fight, through whatever means, for what rightfully belongs to them? For fighting for freedom, democracy, and justice? For not following the leaders of previous wars? For refusing to surrender? For refusing to sell ourselves? For not betraying one another?

Who should ask for forgiveness and who can grant it? Those who, for years and years, sat before a full table and satiated themselves while we sat with death, as such a daily factor in our lives that we stopped even fearing it? Those that filled our pockets and souls with declarations and promises? The dead, our dead, who mortally died "natural" deaths, that is, of measles, whooping cough, dengue, cholera, typhoid, mononucleosis, tetanus, bronchitis, malaria, and other gastrointestinal and pulmonary diseases? Our dead, who die so undemocratically of grief because nobody did anything to help them, because all the dead, our dead, would simply disappear without anyone paying the bill, without anyone finally saying, "ENOUGH!" Those who give feeling back to these dead, our dead, who refuse to ask them to die over again, but now instead ask them to live? Those that denied us the right to govern ourselves? Those who treat us as foreigners in our own land and ask us for papers and to obey a law whose existence we ignore? Those that torture, seize, and assassinate us for the great crime of wanting a piece of land, not a big piece, not a small one, just one on which we could grow something with which to fill our stomachs?

Who should ask forgiveness and who can grant it?

The president of the republic? The secretaries of state? The senators? The deputies? The governors? The municipal presidents? The police? The Federal Army? Powerful businessmen, bankers, industrialists, and landowners? Political parties? Intellectuals? Galio and Nexos? The media? Students? Teachers? Our neighbors? Workers? Campesinos? Indigenous people? Those who died useless deaths?
Who should ask forgiveness and who can grant it?
Well, that is all for now.

Best wishes and a warm embrace; hopefully with this cold both things are appre ciated (I think), even if they come from a "professional in violence."

On Moving Toward a Dialogue

January 20, 1994

To Don Samuel Ruiz García, National Commissioner for Mediation:
To Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas:

The CCRI-CG of the EZLN adresses itself to you to tell you the following:

First: We have learned through the press that there exists an initiative for a law of amnesty which President Salinas de Gortari has presented to congress for approval.

Second: As we stated in point number three of our letter to Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, dated January 13, 1994, "all proposals for dialogue or other matters the government wishes to discuss with us should be directed to us through Samuel Ruiz García, bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. We will only consider as valid those communications which we receive through Bishop Samuel Ruiz." We have not received any written communication on the supposed law of amnesty which is being discussed. Therefore, we cannot make an official declaration on its contents.

Third: From the little we have been able to gather from the press about the "Law of Amnesty," we can only say that in general the initiative is premature, since the social and political causes that impelled our movement continue.

Fourth: We ask that the dialogue process move slowly and take all the necessary steps to find a just political solution to the conflict, just as Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís has declared publicly on several occasions.

Fifth: We remind you that the conditions set out for beginning a dialogue have not been fulfilled entirely. The Federal Army continues to violate the cease-fire and remains outside of its bases harassing our forces and the civilian population.

Sixth: We believe that the process that you have begun is following a just and respectful path. We welcome your participation and reiterate our disposition to listen to you and to maintain the possible and necessary channels of communication open for the good of our people and the entire country.

From the mountains the Mexican Southeast

On the Importance of Diverse Voices
          January 20, 1994
          "The land that gave us life and struggle is communal."
          To our Indigenous brothers and sisters of other organizations:
To the Mexican people:
To the people and governments of the world:

Brothers and sisters:

We are speaking to you, Indigenous brothers and sisters of the different independent and honest Indigenous organizations of Chiapas and of Mexico. We, the Indigenous peoples of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN, are speaking to you to tell you the following:

First: We, the Zapatistas, have always respected and will continue to respect the different honest and independent organizations. We haven't obligated them to enter our struggle; when they have entered, it's always freely and of their own accord.

Second: We look at your form of struggle with respect; we salute your independence and honesty, if they are true. We took up arms because they didn't leave us any other way. If you continue in your way, we are in agreement with it because we are struggling for the same things, and the land that gave us life and struggle is shared.

Third: Our form of armed struggle is just and true. If we had not raised our rifles the government would never have preoccupied itself with the Indigenous people in our lands, and we would have continued on in poverty, forgotten. Now the government is very preoccupied with the problems of Indigenous people and campesinos, and that is good. But it was necessary for the Zapatista rifle to speak so that Mexico could hear the voice of the poor Chiapanecos.

Fourth: We will continue to respect you and your forms of struggle. We invite you to, in accordance with your organization and form of struggle, to unite our heart with the same hope of freedom, democracy, and justice.

All organizations and just one struggle!

From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army
Mexico, January 1994

About the Main Demands and the Forms of Struggle

January 20, 1994

"We want all who walk with the truth to unite in one step"

To the People of Mexico:
To all people and political and civil, democratic, independent, honest organizations of Mexico:
To the people and governments the world:

Brothers and Sisters:

The dignified struggle of the combatants of the EZLN has received the sympathy of various people, organizations, and sectors of the Mexican civil and international societies. The honest and decided result of the action of these progressive forces is that they have, truly opened the possibilities for a peaceful, just, political solution to the conflict that covers our skies. Neither the will of the federal government nor the glorious military actions of our forces have been so decisive for this turn in the conflict as have public protests: in the streets, the mountains, and the media of the different organizations and honest, independent people who are part of what we call Mexican society.

We, the last among Mexican citizens and the first of the patriots, have understood from the beginning that our problems and those of the whole nation can only be solved through a national revolutionary movement around three basic demands: freedom, democracy, and justice.

Our form of struggle is not the only one. Perhaps for many it may not even be an adequate one. There are many other valuable forms of struggle. Our organization is not unique; for many it may not even be a desirable one. There are other honest, progressive, independent organizations of great value. The EZLN has never pretended that our way of struggle is the only legitimate one. In fact, it is the only one we have been left with. The EZLN welcomes the honest and consistent development of all forms of struggle that take us all along the path of freedom, democracy, and justice. The EZLN has never pretended to be the only true, honest, and revolutionary organization in Mexico or Chiapas.

In fact, we organized the way we did because it was the only way we were left with. The EZLN welcomes the honest and continuous development of all independent and progressive organizations that struggle for freedom, democracy, and justice for the whole country. There are and there will be other revolutionary organizations. There are and there will be other popular armies. We don't pretend to be the one, only, and true historic vanguard. We don't pretend to group all honest Mexicans under our Zapatista flag. We offer our flag, but there is a much bigger and powerful flag with which we can all be covered. The flag of the national revolutionary movement where all the most diverse tendencies can fit, the most different thoughts, the different ways of struggling; yet there will only be one longing and one goal: freedom, democracy, and justice.

The EZLN calls on Mexicans to fly that flag, not the EZLN flag, not the flag of armed struggle, but the flag that is the right of all thinking beings, reason of our people and understanding of our people: freedom, democracy, and justice. Under that great flag we'll fly our Zapatista flag. Under that great flag our rifles will march, too.

The struggle for freedom, democracy, and justice is not the task of the EZLN alone, it is the work of all Mexicans and all honest, independent, and progressive organizations. Each one in its own area, each one in its own way of struggle, each one with its own organization and its own ideas.

The steps everyone takes with the truth should unite in one single path: the one that will lead to freedom, democracy, and justice.

Our struggle doesn't end, nor does our cry end after the "ENOUGH" we uttered on January 1, 1994. It is still a long walk. There are different paths but one longing: Freedom! Democracy! Justice!

We will continue to struggle until we achieve the freedom that is our right, the democracy that is our reason, and the justice that is our life!

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


Conditions for Dialogue

January 20, 1994

To Mr. Samuel Ruiz García, National Commissioner for Mediation:
To Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation:


We, the members of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, are addressing you again to tell you the following:

First: We have yet to receive any written communication concerning the "Amnesty Law" that has been mentioned. And we go on, but are unable to express ourselves in regards to it. Whatever it may say, we want to tell you that the content of the "Amnesty Law" is not, nor will it be, an incentive to dispose us towards dialogue that will lead to a just, political solution to the actual conflict. That is to say, independent of said law, we will move forward with the process of dialogue, if it isn't a condition to subscribe to this law to initiate a dialogue. If it is not a condition to sit down to discuss a political way out to our struggle, then we will continue with the process of dialogue.

Second: Since the letter of Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, dated January 18, 1994, we have not received any other written communication from the commissioner for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas. We remind you that only written communications sent to us through Mr. Samuel Ruiz García will be considered valid by us.

Third: The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN read with care the letter from Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas, dated January 18, 1994. Regarding this letter, we have one question: In what capacity does the federal government recognize us in order to negotiate with us? As a belligerent force? As a political force? We need to understand this in order to know what guarantees we have during the dialogue process ,and for the fulfillment of the accords that eventually come out of that dialogue. It is not clear exactly what recognition was given to us by Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís in his letter of January 18, 1994.

Fourth: The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN declares that it is holding no hostages. It only holds the prisoner of war, Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, whose release is underway, as we will communicate at the appropriate time. After freeing Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, we will have no hostages or prisoners at all, neither military nor civilian. They have all been set free.

Fifth: The CCRI-CG of the EZLN has learned, through the communications media, that the Federal Army will retreat from the civilian zones that it currently occupies and return to its barracks.

Sixth: The CCRI-CG of the EZLN declares that, from January 17 to today, there have been no violations of the cease-fire on the part of the federal troops.

Seventh: The CCRI-CG of the EZLN declares that the previous conditions for the initiation of dialogue with the Commissioner of Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas have yet to be complied with, and we therefore exhort Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís and Mr. Samuel Ruiz García, so that we can begin the work underway at the beginning of a real public dialogue with full guarantees for the respect of life, freedom, free transit and well-
being of those who are named as delegates by the CCRI-CG to personally attend the dialogue meeting.

Eighth: Once respect for the lives, liberty, free transit and well-being of Zapatista delegates is guaranteed by Manuel Camacho Solís and Samuel Ruiz García, we propose that the first point of the dialogue be to establish, by mutual accord, the agenda of discussion and the times for initiating them.

Ninth: The agenda of discussion being proposed by the CCRI- CG of the EZLN is the following:

A: Economic demands. All of these refer to the grave material living conditions that we, the Indigenous people of Chiapas, endure. The actual situation, and approaches to immediate as well as long-term solutions.

B: Social demands. All of these refer to what we endure as Indigenous people of Chiapas: racism, marginalization, lack of respect, expulsions, attacks on our culture and traditions, etc. The actual situation and approaches to a definitive solution.

C: Political demands. All these refer to the lack of legal space for the real participation of us, the Indigenous people of Chiapas, and of all Mexicans in the national political life. Actual situation, and approaches to an immediate solution.

D: An end to the hostilities and violent confrontations. Guarantees to both parties in conflict.

We await your written response to this.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army

A Letter from Subcommander Marcos to the Press

January 20, 1994

To the national weekly, Proceso:
To the national newspaper, La Jornada:
To the national newspaper, El Financiero:
To the local newspaper of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Tiempo:


We were trying to move nearer to each other, looking for the possibilities of personal contact with Mr. Camacho Solís, but were forced to fall back by the pressure of the federal troops. They have also delayed our deliveries. Here I send you another series of communique's: one directed at other Indigenous organizations in Chiapas, another directed at the people of Mexico, another about the trial of Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez that has just been sent to me by the Zapatista Justice Tribunal, and the final one directed at Mr. Samuel Ruiz García and Manuel Camacho Solís. I thank you in advance for recognizing them as being in the public domain.

Time is running out; the walls are closing in. It is more and more difficult to send you things so that you can know us as more than ski masks, wooden rifles, spears, and frightening cuernos de chivo [AK-47's]. Sheltered by the supposed "cease-fire," the federal troops continue weaving an apparatus of military intelligence and repression that allows them to deliver the spectacular blow which, in the end, obscures their clumsiness in combat and their abuses of the civilian population. With military actions that they call "commando," the Federal Army touches the tempting possibility of reaching the central command group and annihilating it. For years now, all of this has been within the predictable for us. In the event that they are successful, nothing will change fundamentally. The succession of command and the omnipresence of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees will stand up to any blow whatsoever, no matter how spectacular and overwhelming it may seem.

Well, finally, I have had the opportunity of a few hours in which to read some of the publications that someone was kind enough to send me (the arrival of newspapers or subscriptions to the southeastern mountains is as improbable as a vacant seat on the metro in the capital city during rush hour). I have realized here the anguish that is caused by the ski masks and the "obscure" intentions of the Zapatista "leadership." I have mistreated you, consciously, by using you as interlocutors. Nevertheless, I believe that this inopportune and delayed correspondence has served everyone. Now the horizon begins to darken and every line may be the last. Therefore, reiterating the mistreatment, I take advantage of this to touch on several points even though they remain sketchy. I thank you for reading them, even more for publishing them. Over here the predictions are grim, and these could be the last.

I have the honor of having as my superiors the best women and men of the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Tojolobal, Mam, and Zoque ethnicities. I have lived with them for more than 10 years and I am proud to obey them and serve them with my arms and my life. They have taught me more than they now teach the country and the whole world. They are my commanders and I will follow them along whatever paths they choose. They are the collective and democratic leadership of the EZLN, their acceptance of dialogue is as true as is their struggling heart, and as real as is their mistrust at being tricked again.

The EZLN has neither the desire nor the capacity to stop midway its project and its path toward all Mexicans. But it does have the capacity and the desire to add its force to the national force that gives our country life on the path of justice, democracy, and freedom that we all want.

If we have to choose paths, we will always choose that of dignity. If we find a dignified peace, we will continue the path of dignified peace. If we find war dignified, we will draw our weapons to achieve it. If we find a dignified life, we will continue living it. If, on the other hand, dignity means death, then we will go, without doubting, to find it.

What the EZLN seeks for the Indigenous inhabitants of Chiapas is the same thing that should be sought by all honest organizations in the whole country for all Mexicans. What the EZLN seeks with arms, should be sought by all honest organizations with different forms of struggle.

We will not take the country hostage. We neither want nor are able to impose on Mexican civil society our ideas by the force of our arms, as the current government imposes its project on the country with the force of its arms. We will not impede the future electoral process.

When one military-political force (such as the Mexican federal government) asks another military-political force (such as the EZLN) to turn in its arms, that means, in political and military terms, that they seek an unconditional surrender. In exchange for that unconditional surrender, the government offers the usual: an audit of internal accounts, a packet of declarations, promises and more bureaucratic dependencies.

Concretely, the request to "put down arms" is the one that provokes the greatest suspicions. National and Latin American history teaches us that those who turn in their arms, trusting the forgetfulness of those who pursue them, end their days riddled with bullet holes in any place by any death squad of any political or governing faction. What reason do we have to think that it would not happen like this in our country?

We think that revolutionary change in Mexico will not be a product of action in just one direction. In other words, it will not be, in the strict sense, an armed revolution or a peaceful revolution. It will primordially be a revolution that is the result of struggle on various social fronts, with many methods, under many social forms, with varying degrees of commitment and participation. And the result will be, not one of a party, organization, or coalition of organizations with its triumphant specific social proposal, but a sort of democratic space for the resolution of confrontation between diverse political proposals. This democratic space of resolution will have three fundamental premises that are inseparable, already, historically: democracy in deciding the dominant social proposal, freedom to subscribe to one or another proposal, and the justice to which all proposals will have to adhere. The revolutionary change in Mexico will not follow a strict calendar. It could be the hurricane that explodes after it accumulates for a while, or a series of social battles that, step by step, will overcome the forces that oppose it. The revolutionary change in Mexico will not be under one leadership, with one homogenous membership and one leader to guide it, but with a plurality of dominant forces that change, but turn around one common point: the trio of democracy, freedom, and justice upon which the new Mexico will be built, or it won't be built.

Social peace will only happen if it is just and dignified for all. The dialogue process for peace comes from a fundamental determination, not from a political initiative of the federal government, not from a political-military strength (that for the majority continues to be a mystery) but from a firm action of what they call Mexican civil society. From the same Mexican civil society and not from the will of the government or from the strength of our weapons, will come the possibility of a real democratic change in Mexico.

Epilogue: "About ski masks and other face masks"

Why all the scandal about the ski mask? Isn't the Mexican political culture a "culture of the coverings?" But, to end the growing agony of some who fear (or wish) that some "Kamarrada" or Boggie el Aceitoso is the one who, in the end, is behind the ski mask and the "pronounced nose" (as La Jornada calls it) of the "Sup" (as the compan~eros call me) I propose the following: I am willing to take off the ski mask if Mexican society takes off the mask that the anxieties of foreign vocations have already been imposing for many years. What would happen? The predictable: Mexican civil society (excluding the Zapatistas, because they know it perfectly well in image, thought and, deed) would realize, not without disillusionment, that the "Sup Marcos" is not a foreigner and that he is not as handsome as was promoted by the "personal record in the Attorney General's Office (Procuradora General de la Republica, PGR). But not only that, by taking off its own mask, Mexican civil society will realize, with a stronger impact, that the image that it has sold itself is a forgery, and that reality is far more terrifying than it thought. Each of us will show our faces, but the big difference will be that the "Sup Marcos" has always known what his real face looked like, and civil society will just wake up from a long and tired sleep that "modernity" has imposed at the cost of everything and everyone. The "Sup Marcos" is ready to take off the ski mask. Is Mexican civil society ready to take off its mask? Don't miss the next episode of this story of masks and faces that reaffirm and deny themselves (if the airplanes, helicopters, and olive-drab green masks allow it).

That is all...but there is not much missing. Well, this may be the end of a very short epistolary exchange between a ski mask of a pronounced nose and some of the best of the honest Mexican press.

Health and no hug now because it could awaken jealousy and suspicion,

Subcommander Marcos

On Misunderstandings about the EZLN
and the Real First Uprising

January 26, 1994

To national newspaper La Jornada:
To the local newspaper from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Tiempo:

Mr. Álvaro Cepeda Neri
"Conjetura" column, national newspaper La Jornada, Mexico City

Mr. Cepeda Neri and family:

I confirm receiving your letter, published in La Jornada, dated January 24, 1994. We thank you for your thoughts. We are doing well here. Helicopters and airplanes come and go, they get close, they see us, we see them, they leave, they come back, and so on, day and night. The mountain protects us, the mountain has been our compan~era for many years.

I would like to talk to you about some things that happened around this land and that, for sure, will not appear in the newspapers and magazines, because everyday happenings are of no interest to them. And there is, believe me, a daily heroism that makes sparkles that from time to time light the seeming mediocrity of our country's history. A few hours ago I met with some members of the CCRI. They discussed the way they will name the members of the delegation to the dialogue with the commissioner for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas. After that, they went over some newspapers that arrived (late, of course). The journalists' notes and comments provoked diverse reactions in all of us.

Javier, a slow-spoken Tzotzil, who looks for words that tell the truth, has read now what happened in the state of Tlalmanalco. Indignant, he comes to me and tells me "We have to invite those people to come here with us." I start to explain to him that we can't invite them, because they are a political party and we can't intervene in the thinking of other political organizations, because that place is too far away, because they will be stopped at the Army checkpoints, because the beans won't be enough for so many, because re-etcetera, etc. Javier waits patiently until I finish speaking. He now tells me, in a very serious tone: "I don't mean the PRD," and adds, "I mean the police officers who beat them." Squatting, he decrees, sentences, and orders: "Invite those police officers to come here. Tell them that if they are real men they should come here and fight against us. To see if it is the same to beat peaceful, innocent people as to fight us. Tell them to write so that we can teach them to respect the humble people."

Javier, still squatting in front of me, waits for me to start writing the letter to the cops of the state of Mexico. I that moment the guard announces that some reporters are coming in and that they want to talk to someone. I excuse myself to Javier, I go to see who is going to go speak with the journalists. The letter of invitation to police officers is left pending.

Now there's Angel, a Tzeltal, whose pride is to have read the complete book by Womack on Zapata ("It took me three years. I struggled, but I finished it," he says every time someone questions this feat). He comes to me with a newspaper in his left hand (he has an M-1 rifle in the right). "I can't understand a world this man says," he complains to me. "He uses hard words and he doesn't know where he's going. He seems to understand our struggle, and then he seems to not understand our struggle." I look at the newspaper and Angel points out the editorial by "X." I explain to Javier what that man is saying, that it is true that there is poverty in Chiapas, but that it is not possible for the Indigenous people to have organized so well and to have risen up with a plan, that the Indigenous people always rise up without a plan, just like that, all of a sudden. That means that there are strange and foreign people taking advantage of the Indigenous poverty to give a bad image of Mexico and its president, that the EZLN is among the Indigenous but does not represent them. Angel starts to turn around and around. Furious, he can't speak clearly, he hurriedly mixes words in dialect and Spanish. "Why do they always think of us as little children?" He throws the question to my face. I almost dropped the half-uncooked rice some novice cook has prepared "specially for the Sup." He keeps going, more calmly after he gets his own rice. "Why is it that, for them, we can't think on our own and have clear thinking with a good plan and a good struggle?" I understand that the question is not for me. Angel understands well that the question is for the improbable man of the "deep article." We both, Angel and I, know that this and other questions will receive no answer. Is it, perhaps, that intelligence only reaches the head of the ladino? Is it that our grandfathers did not think well when they were alive?" Angel asks and asks. Nobody answers, nobody will...

Susana, a Tzotzil, is upset. A while ago they were making fun of her because, according to the rest of the CCRI, the first uprising of the EZLN, in March, 1993, was her fault. "I am angry," she tells me. I, while I find out what is going on, seek protection behind a rock. "The compan~eros say that it is my fault that the Zapatistas rose up last year." I start to approach carefully. After a while I discover what is going on: In March of 1993 the compan~eros debated about what would later be the "Revolutionary Laws." Susana was in charge of going around to dozens of communities to speak with groups of women and put together, from her thoughts, the "Women's Laws". When the CCRI got together to vote on the laws, each one of the commissions got up: Justice, Agrarian Reform, War Taxes, Rights and Obligations of Reople in Struggle, and Women. Susana had to read the proposals that she had gotten together from the thoughts of thousands of Indigenous women. She started to read and, as she read on, the assembly of the CCRI became more and more restless. You could hear murmurs and comments. In Chol, Tzotzil, Tojolobal, Mam, Zoque and Spanish. The comments jumped from one side to the other. Susana, undisturbed, charged on against everyone and everything: "We don't want to be forced into marriage with someone we don't want. We want to have the children we want and can take care of. We want the right to hold rank in the community. We want the right to speak up and to be respected. We want the right to study and even be drivers." And she kept going like that until she was done. At the end there was a strong silence. The "Women's Laws" that Susana had just read meant a true revolution for the Indigenous communities. The women responsible were receiving the translation in their dialects of what Susana had said. The men looked at each other nervously, restless. All of a sudden all the translators ended almost at the same time. And, in a single movement, the compan~eras responsible for the laws started to clap and talk among themselves. Needless to say, the "Women's Laws" were approved unanimously. A Tzeltal responsible for the law commented: "The good thing is that my wife doesn't understand Spanish, because otherwise..." An insurgent official who was a woman and a high infantry rank, jumped on him: "You're fucked, because we are going to translate it into all the dialects." The compan~ero looked down. The women responsible were singing, the men were scratching their heads. I, cautiously, called a recess. This story that now, according to Susana, started when someone from the CCRI read a newspaper that points to the proof that the EZLN is not truly Indigenous being that Indigenous people could not have agreed to rise up on January 1. Someone, as a joke, said that this was not the first uprising, that the first was March, 1993. They joked with Susana and she left with a sharp "Fuck you" and something else in Tzotzil that nobody tried to translate. That was the truth: The first EZLN uprising was March, 1993 and was lead by the Zapatista women. There were no casualties, and they won. Things of this land.

At midnight Pedro, a Chol with a big mustache, comes closer to me with a candle in his right hand. He sits next to me. He looks at me with his round black eyes and says nothing. "We have to go to Mexico [City]," he says to me and to himself. I start to scratch my head, thinking of the orders that will be given to start the march, the routes we will follow, the casualties we will have, coming to the city lights again, the asphalt of the roads.

Pedro interrupts me: "Mexicans say Chiapas is different from other places, that here things are bad, but they are good elsewhere in Mexico." Now I look at him; he doesn't return the look, but hands me a newspaper. I look for my lamp and start to read the article that Pedro points out to me. It says that our struggle is destined to fail because it is not national and it is not rational, because our demands are local, Indigenous. "That person's thinking is poor," says Pedro, "even poorer than we are because we want not only justice, but also freedom and democracy. And this man thinks that he is not poor even when he can't truly elect a government. He feels sorry for us. Poor little things." The candle burns between us. Pedro understands, I understand, the night understands... "Mexicans don't understand. We have to go to Mexico [City]," says Pedro while he leaves, taking the candle in his right hand. The cold is hard in the morning. The guard screams: "Halt! Who goes?" "The country!" another voice responds, and something warm reaches us.

Well Mr. Cepeda Neri, I wanted to take advantage of this letter to tell you these and other things, but that is all for now. We hope that you and your family are in good health. Until next time, which is improbable.

Health and respect to you and those who are with you,

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

Insurgent Subcommander Marcos

P.S.: Javier just reached me happily to ask if this is the letter to invite the police officers of the state of Mexico. I tell him that it is not, that it is for a journalist. "Ah," he says disappointed. But he adds sharply: "Tell them to not forget us, that our truth is for them as well." All right.

An Invitation to Members of the Press
to Attend the Dialogue

[La Jornada, 2/2]
Mexico, January 29, 1994

To the national and international press:


The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN respectfully addresses itself to you to put forth the following:

First: As is publicly known, the beginning of the dialogue for peace between the EZLN and the federal government, whose time and place have yet to be decided, is imminent. There are already fundamental agreements between this CCRI-CG of the EZLN and the commissioner for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas. There remain a few details to be finalized and a few previous agreements to be fulfilled, but the basic elements are decided.

Second: We know that your work is to report to the Mexican people and to the world about what happens in this stage of the just war of our EZLN against oppression, injustice and lies.

Third: There exist some informational media that have fully declined to report with objectivity what has happened in our state. Various media have specifically preached against our cause and the cause of the Chiapaneco Indigenous people. We have never asked any news media to become "spokespeople" for the EZLN, but we consider objective reporting to be your duty, and the right of the whole society.

Fourth: On the part of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN there is an open-door policy for all news media that, in our opinion, carry out their jobs objectively, without taking part on one side or the other.

Fifth: Therefore the CCRI-CG of the EZLN declares that all print media, regardless of political or party affiliation or ideological orientation, can, as far as the EZLN is concerned, cover the event of the Dialogue for Peace and Reconciliation. As for the television media, the EZLN would only veto the attendance of the national private television networks of Televisa and Televisión Azteca. The first because they do not need to look for news since they invent it and make it up to their taste and convenience. The second because their reporters have demonstrated a lack of professionalism by offering money to our combatants so that they would make statements. The rest of the national and foreign television media will be approved without any problems with the EZLN.

Sixth: The approval by the EZLN of whatever print media will be done by way of the National Commissioner for Mediation, Mr. Samuel Ruiz García, at the time and place that he finds appropriate.

Seventh: The EZLN wants to make a special invitation to the following news media:

A) Newspapers: La Jornada, El Financiero, Tiempo (of San Cristóbal de las Casas), The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, Houston Chronicle.

B) Magazines and news weeklies: Proceso, Siempre, Mira.

C) Television: July 6 Channel, Multivisión, Channel 11, CNN.

D) News Agencies: AP, UPI, AFP, Reuters, Prensa Latina.

E) Radio stations: Radio Educación WM (of San Cristóbal de las Casas), Xeva (of Tabasco), Radio Red, Grupo Acir.

Eighth: The EZLN declares that, if it is at all possible, the reporters specially mentioned above attend.

Ninth: The EZLN reserves the right to give interviews or statements to any of the news media that approach them.


From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army