Chapter 7: Before the Dialogue
Conditions For The Dialogue
[The following are several communique's concerning the dialogue that
were released as preparations were being made and delegates were still
A Letter of Introduction
February 16, 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:
To the national and international press:
Well, here I send you the communique' of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN that defines, in general, the position that it will take to the discussion with the Commissioner for Peace on February 21.
We are intent on seeing that the delegates arrive on time at the points where they will be picked up.
I am not sure if the noble city of San Cristóbal will welcome them, but, after all, that is the risk we have to take.
While the CCRI-CG of the EZLN decides whether or not to send me to the
dialogue, I am very worried about what clothes to wear (if I do go). I
looked with skepticism through the giant wardrobe that I carry in my bag,
and I worry anxiously whether winter clothes are still in fashion or if
I need to take something coquettish for the spring. In the end, I decided
on a coffee-colored shirt (the only one), a pair of black trousers (the
only ones), a bright red bandanna (the only one), a pair of dirty boots
(the only ones), and a ski-
mask in a discreet shade of black (the only one). Whatever happens, whether I go or not, the CCRI-
CG has ordered me to written silence, therefore I will keep my powerful communique' machine (a pen) until the end of this.
I wish you health and good luck in the journalistic cannibalism. (Note: leave something for the smallest ones. Take the political initiative and inaugurate the Pronasol of communication, a press-pool, that is.)
"The Merchant's Postscript" Section
P.S.: How much would a dirty, smelly ski mask cost in dollars? How much more for the Attorney General (Procurador General de la Republica, PGR)?
P.S. to the P.S.: How much can you get if some brand of bottled soda appears on the dialogue table?
P.S. For a high interest rate: How about a streap tease (is that how you spell it?) of ski masks? How much for this show? In other words, how much dough for that?
P.S. On the decrease of the Stock Market: How much for one minute of speaking nonsense? How much for a half minute of truths? (Remember that truths are more in demand than lies, and therefore, fewer are sold.)
P.S. Macho but sought after in the Stock Market: How much for the half personal information from the waist down?
P.S. Of crack in the Market: How much for an exclusive, a close up, of the big nose?
P.S. Devalued by "external" pressures: And the "communique' machine," how much for it to continue? How much for it to stop?
P.S. It has no monetary value: And for our dead, what is their pain worth? How much light do they fill their pockets with? How much more blood so that their silence will not be useless? Who wants the exclusive on their pain? Nobody? Well...
P.S. Which pulls out of the stock exchange: Goodbye... I thank those of you who tell the truth. My deepest condolences to those who follow the path of lies. All right.
El sup in ostracization
An Invitation to the Political Parties
to Attend the Dialogue
February 13, 1994
To the Mexican and international press:
To the registered political parties:
To the candidates for the presidency of the Mexican Republic: Attention: PAN, PRI, PRD, PFCRN, PT, PARM, PVEM, PPS
We speak to you through this medium, we the Clandestine Revolutionary
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, to say to you the following:
First: As everyone knows, in a few days the negotiations for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas will begin between the federal government and the EZLN, with Bishop Samuel Ruiz acting as intermediary.
Second: Opening dialogue is an important part of the peace process, if we set out from the start in the direction of a peace with dignity, justice, freedom, and democracy. However, we think that the accords that we will be able to reach with the federal government's representative may be poorly implemented in the future electoral process and in the coming change in electoral powers.
Third: Because of this, we invite all of you to send delegations from the national leadership of your political parties in order to keep yourselves informed of the advances of the dialogue for peace, and so you can give us your opinion about the way in which the accords can be implemented, if agreement is possible. We understand that the presidential candidate of one of your parties' will be the next federal executive of our country, and this next President of the Republic will also be responsible for the implementation of the above-mentioned accords.
Fourth: We hope that our invitation to participate in the dialogue will be accepted by the leadership of your parties and the campaign teams of the individual aspirants for the country's highest office. It will be a great honor for us to speak with delegates you may be able to send.
CCRI-CG of the EZLN
To The Conac-LN
February 14, 1994
To the organizations that make up the National Coordinating Committee of Civic Action for National Liberation (Coodinación Nacional de Acción Cívica para la Liberación Nacional, Conac-LN):
Brothers and Sisters:
We received your letter of February 9, 1994. It is a great honor, and our ranks are inclined to recognize the words of our General Emiliano Zapata coming from the mouths of workers, students, teachers, and intellectuals, honest men and women that make up the Conac-LN.
Following the words of Zapata, we call on the Mexican people who might be aided by the just cause that inspires the song of our rifles. We respectfully salute the return of this call to unity that comes from other parts of our country.
Brothers and Sisters:
For years and years, we have harvested our own death in the countrysides of Chiapas. Our children were dying at the hands of an unknown force. Our men and women were walking in a long night of ignorance that darkened our paths. Our people went without truth or knowledge. They wandered--without a destination--merely living and dying.
The oldest of our peoples' elders spoke to us words that came from very far away, from before our lives began, from when our voice was silent. And there is truth in the words of the oldest of our elders. And we learned from their words that our peoples' long night of pain comes from the powerful, that a house for the powerful was built on top of the bones and dust of our ancestors and our children. We learned that we weren't allowed to enter this house, and that the light that illuminated it fed on our darkness, and that the abundance of their table fills itself with the emptiness of our stomachs. Their luxuries were born of our misery, and that the strength of its roofs and walls were raised upon the fragility of our bodies. The health that filled its spaces came from our death. The wisdom that lived there was nourished of our ignorance. The peace that it sheltered was war for our peoples. Foreign vocations sent them far from our land and our history.
But the truth that is passed along in the words of the oldest of our elders was not only of pain and death. The words of the oldest of our elders also brought hope for our history. And in their words the image of one like us appeared: Emiliano Zapata. And in that image we saw the place where our paths should lead to be true. And it returned our history of struggle to our blood, and our hands filled with the cries of our people, and dignity returned, once again, to our mouths, and our eyes saw a new world.
And then we made ourselves soldiers, war covered our soil, and we struck out on our paths, newly armed with bullets and fire. Our fear was buried with our dead, and we saw to take our new voice to the land of the powerful, and we carried our truth to plant it in the middle of the land where falsehood rules. We arrived in the city carrying our dead to show them to the eyes of the blind compatriots, the good and the bad, the knowledgeable and the ignorant, the powerful and the meek, and the rulers and the subjects. Our cries of war opened the deaf ears of the supreme government and its accomplices. For years and years before our voice of dignified peace could not descend from the mountains; the rulers raised strong, high walls to hide our death and misery. Our force must break down those walls in order to enter, once again, our history, which they have stolen along with the dignity and reason of our people.
In that first blow at the deaf walls of those who have everything, our blood ran generously to wash away the injustice that we are living. In order to live, we die. Our dead return to travel the paths of truth. With mud and blood we pay for our hope.
But the words of the oldest of our elders didn't stop there. They spoke the truth, saying that our paths cannot be travelled alone, that our history of pain and hardship is repeated and multiplied in the flesh and blood of brothers and sisters of other lands and skies.
"Raise your voice to the ears of the other dispossessed, raise your struggle to other struggles. There is another roof of injustice over he who hides our pain," said the oldest of our elders. We saw in these words that if our struggle was alone, once again it would be useless. So we directed the flow of our blood and the paths of our dead to find the path of others who walk with truth. We are nothing if we go alone, we are everything if we walk together with others who are dignified.
Brothers and sisters, our thoughts have reached our hands and our lips. And we begin to move forward that your paths should come towards us, brothers and sisters of the National Coordinating Committee of Civic Action for National Liberation, our heart is open to your word and truth. We have little to offer you, since we continue to feel the huge poverty of our lands and our very small place in Mexican history. But together with your path, and that of all good people of this world, we will grow and find, in the end, the place our dignity and our history deserve.
Good health, brothers and sisters of the Conac-
Liberty! Justice! Democracy!
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
CCRI-CG of the EZLN
An Invitation to the PDM and
the UNO to Attend the Dialogue
February 15, 1994
To the registered political parties:
The Mexican Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Mexicano, PDM), the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Opositora, UNO):
To their candidates for the presidency of the Mexican Republic:
We speak to you through this medium, we the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, to say to you the following:
First: Due to a regrettable error caused by haste and a lack of attention, the names of your political organizations were omitted from the list of addresses of our invitation to send delegations to the negotiations for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas. We deeply regret this error and sincerely hope that you will forgive us and honor us with the presence of your delegates at such an important event.
Second: The opening of the dialogue is an important part of the peace process; if we set out from the start, in the direction of a peace with dignity, justice, liberty, and democracy. However, we think that the accords that can be reached with the federal government's representative may be limited in their implementation by the future electoral process and the change in federal powers that is drawing near.
Third: Because of this, we invite you to send delegations from the national
leadership of your political parties in order to keep yourselves informed
of the advances of the dialogue for peace, and so you can give us your
opinion about the way in which accords can be implemented if agreement
is possible. We understand that one of your parties' presidential candidates
will be the next federal executive of our country, and this next president
of the Republic will also be responsible for the implementation of the
Fourth: We hope that our invitation to participate in the dialogue will be accepted by the leadership of your parties and the campaign teams of the individual aspirants for the country's highest office. It will be a great honor for us to speak with delegates you may be able to send.
From the mountain of the Mexican Southeast,
CCRI-CG of the EZLN
Regarding the Liberation of Absalón Castellanos Domínguez
February 15, 1994
To the Mexican and international press:
To Mr. Samuel Ruiz García, National Commissioner of Mediation:
To Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation:
We, the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the EZLN, address you once again to say the following:
First: In order to expedite the prompt beginning of dialogue for the dignified peace that we all, as Mexicans, want, and as a sign of the sincere willingness of our EZLN, we announce that on Wednesday, February 16, 1994, Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez will be freed.
Second: Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez will be handed over to the Commissioner for Peace, Manuel Camacho Solís, and the Commissioner of Mediation, Samuel Ruiz García, in the community of Guadalupe Tepeyac in the township of Las Margaritas, Chiapas. Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez's state of health should be examined at the moment of his release by a doctor of the International Red Cross.
Third: In order to decrease tension in the war zone during the dialogue for peace with dignity, the CCRI-CG of the EZLN announces also its decision to suspend the collection of war taxes in the territories under the control of its troops for the day of February 17, 1994.
From the mountains of Southeast Mexico
CCRI-CG of the EZLN
From the Guadalupe Tepeyac Community
[The following is from a manuscript entitled "Popular Love in the Chiapaneca Jungle" (Amor popular de la selva Chiapaneca), read after handing over Absalón Castellanos. The Guadalupe Tepeyac Community is at a hospital built with federal funds, but poorly staffed and stocked.]
February 16, 1994
To Manuel Camacho Solís, peace envoy, we present the following:
In the following we are addressing you with the aim to show you the reality of the zone of the jungle of Chiapas. As a health concern, we would like for the clinic to begin functioning on a normal basis, that it be stocked with medical supplies as soon as possible, and that it be staffed with doctors specializing in different areas.
Moreover, we still have not received all of the materials because Mr. Salinas de Gortari has provided us with an incomplete clinic, according to its director, Wilfrido Mendoza. He declared to inhabitants of the various communities that the operating room was incomplete, and for this reason no type of surgery is performed. There are also no personnel to take x-rays.
While it was being built, no one received service, and they were taken to the city of Comitán or to Tuxtla Gutierrez. Also, most of the personnel have no training in curable diseases. Our zone needs doctors who are experts in different curable diseases, since the marginalization, misery and poverty of our communities prevents us from going to the city to seek care. This is why we are asking that the clinic be made functional as soon as possible.
As far as education goes, we have had no support for many years. Teachers have been divided into two sectors, those who are democratic, and those who are called charro. We want for there to be only one class of teachers and that they be permanent at the place they work instead of working as they have been, no more than a week or three days per month. We also need teaching and construction materials for the development and training of our children as future professionals. We need scholarships for those who want to continue at secondary or preparatory schools and universities.
Another point is the holding of land. The campesinos do not have fertile land, farm machinery or all the innumerable things needed for production, since it is the latifundistas who get the best land, as well as the machinery, fertilizers, credit and loans.
The government has paid the most attention to them, while the poor people all over Mexico, who deserve it the most, do not have their support. Nevertheless, they are asking us for the ecological reserve and the mountains, as well as reforestation of the same zone. How can the government not figure out where to exploit wood and other natural resources that are exploited? Those that clearly have no land to survive on, what hope do they have to cultivate anything, if they have nothing?
Another important point is housing. The Mexican government has ignored the question of housing just like all the other issues. They say that they have helped some people, but that is not true, since the campesinos themselves constructed their houses out of materials from the region with unqualified labor. Nevertheless, they use construction costs to continue taking advantage of the people. Another thing is that when we want to make things with local materials, we campesinos are forbidden from using wood that we know will last, because that same government has implemented laws that forbid this from happening.
As with the situation of using materials of the region, what can be said of the situation with electricity, potable water, and decent housing, which is what our people really need, because the majority of the income of our rich country, which has so many natural resources, comes from us.
We also need bread and food. We don't even have the basic things, not even meat, eggs, fish, etc., to complement the daily, healthy diet that the health officials sent by the government talk about so often. All of this because of what was mentioned before: the bad land, lack of machinery and technical advice that would allow us good production. As a consequence of all of this, our children do not receive good education, much less what they need for good health.
Democracy. The Mexican government speaks about democracy, but only for a select group of people who support it, the oligarchy, the monopoly, be they Mexicans or foreigners. It is this group of people who decide who will rule, they choose between the senators and deputies who will govern and look after their interests without taking into account the population or the Mexican people.
The senators never come to propose who will govern. No, we don't elect them, we don't even know them. They are elected because they are known, and they publish in other countries that Mexico's government is legitimate so that they can get loans and help, but only for them.
We know that the lawyer Salinas de Gortari is illegitimate because he got his position by cheating, fraud, violations and threats. We believe that democracy is what we put forth in our programs of struggle that the people elect their government freely and democratically, which should have the interests that the people need. For this to happen, it is necessary that we be honest about all of the rights that belong to the Mexican people.
Work. How is it possible that after all of these years we're still working with primitive tools like the machete, hatchet, hoe, etc, in these the poorest areas of all Mexico, when we have all kinds of large industries that can manufacture the best machinery for the Mexican countryside and can produce a good agricultural development like the big businesses do?
This shows that the government has no interest in the campesinos, the laborers or the working class who produce so that the government can live. The laborer's salaries are very low, and not even enough to survive on, because there is so much deducted for loans and the taxes that are applied are very high.
Freedom. The Mexican government talks about freedom. Mexicans don't know what freedom the government is talking about, because when we have to travel to the capital city, we face the immigration and have to show our identification, explain where we're from and where we're coming from. We think that it is not true that we have freedom, because we're not even free to go from one place to another without the judicial police chasing us like dogs. We don't have freedom of expression either, because when campesinos, teachers, laborers or students express their feelings, the government immediately orders them killed, tortured, detained or threatened and they are accused of being agitators.
They do not worry about removing the bad functionaries because they are all from the same class and and the same family. For this reason we say there is no democracy or freedom in Mexico. It is remarkable because the governments have been practicing it for many years. With a capitalist system we lack the means, such as television, radio or the press, by which to spread our ideas. It is not in the government's interest to have everyone else have thoughts that could be used to defend our rights as exploited workers.
Independence. As one can see clearly, we are not independent because the Mexican government is directed and managed by foreign governments that are interested in our natural resources. But also because foreign businesses can get cheap labor here in Mexico.
Changes put in place are foreigners' plans and ideas that will once again lead us into slavery. NAFTA will not benefit us campesinos of Mexico, because we lack the machinery we need to be competitive. The Mexican government lets itself get easily carried away by foreign governments. This is why we say that the government doesn't (...interruption in tape...) of misery, inequality and injustice. The Army mistreats the people, threatens them, burns their houses, and many other things, treats them like animals, not human beings. For example, right now the Federal Army is bombing, using machine guns, and using other methods to repress the civilian population. The people want the same peace that the Mexican oligarchy has. If the people don't achieve the things we have mentioned, we will keep struggling.
We have another point. We would like to ask you directly to stop coming in helicopters to chase us in the roads where we are working. We wonder what kind of peace it is that they are proposing if we can't even work in our corn fields, coffee fields, or other places where we work. They follow us and fire on us, which is why we believe that this kind of peace proposed by the government is not necessarily peace.
We want for the federal troops that are still on the sidewalks of the municipal buildings and other streets where we walk, to pull out so that the civilian population can move around freely. Right now they are detaining anyone who passes by areas where there are troops. Because of them, humanitarian aid meant for our Indigenous people, such as from the House of the Images (Casa de las Imágenes) and other humanitarian aid organizations cannot get through.
We want for the EZLN to be respected and recognized with respect to
the different issues it raises. All of this, Mr. Camacho, we want to be
known to you.
Communique's Before the Dialogue
On the Opening of the Dialogue
February 16, 1994
"Those who fight with honor, speak with honor."
To the people of Mexico:
To the peoples and governments of the world:
To the national and international press:
Brothers and Sisters:
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the EZLN is honored to address all of you, to speak its words, what is in its heart and in its mind:
On Monday, February 21, 1994, a dialogue will begin between the federal
government and the EZLN, with the purpose of finding a just and dignified
political outcome appropriate to the present conflict. Honoring its promise,
CG of the EZLN has freed General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez and has now named the delegates that will represent it in the debate with the national intermediary commissioner, Mr. Samuel Ruiz García and the commissioner for peace and reconciliation in Chiapas, Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís. In spite of the risks to their lives, our delegates will be present at the determined location and will represent with honor and truth the minds and hearts of the men who walk in truth.
The word of truth that comes from the depths of our past, from our pain, from our dead that still live among us, will fight with dignity on the lips of our chief. The mouths of our rifles will be silent so that our truth can be spoken with the words of every person. Those who fight with honor, speak with honor, there will be no lies in our hearts, being true men.
Our voice will carry the voice of the majority, those who have nothing, those condemned to silence and ignorance, ripped from their lands and their history by the sovereignty of the powerful, of all good men and women who walk in a world filled with pain and rage, of the children and the elderly who died from solitude and abandonment, of the humiliated women and the small men. The dead, our dead, will speak through our voice, so alone and so forgotten, so dead and yet so alive in our voice and in our steps.
We will not ask for forgiveness or implore, we will not beg for alms nor gather up crumbs that fall from the abundant tables of the powerful. We will go to demand that which is everyone's right and reason: freedom, justice, democracy; everything for everybody, nothing for us.
For all the Indigenous people, for all the campesinos, for all the workers, for all the students and teachers, for all the children, for all the elderly, for the women, for all the men, everything for everybody: freedom, justice, democracy.
For us, the smallest beings on the earth, faceless, with no history, armed with truth and fire, we have come out of the night and out of the mountains, true men and women, the dead of yesterday, today and always...for us nothing. For everyone, everything.
If the lies return to the mouths of the powerful, our voice of fire will speak again, for everything for everyone.
Receive our blood, brothers and sisters, so that all this death is not in vain, so that truth can return to our lands. Everything for everyone.
Freedom! Justice! Democracy!
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
CCRI-CG del EZLN
About the Evictions of Indigenous People
February 17, 1994
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.
To those evicted from San Juan Chamula:
To all Indigenous persons evicted from their lands and from their history:
Brothers and Sisters:
We received your letter of February 15, 1994. It is a great honor to receive word from you. We would like you to receive our humble word that speaks the truth.
For several days The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army met in order to make a list of their demands for the supreme government to carry out. Since that time, the compan~eros of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN realized that great injustice is alive in the hearts of the caciques and that the truth is that all men and women deserve the freedom of and respect for their thoughts and beliefs.
For this reason, the demand for the unconditional return of all evicted persons to their rightful lands and the punishment of those who oppress their own race and bleed their own brothers and sisters appears high on our list of demands, and on the world path of truth and justice that will have to come from our death.
Your voice, brothers and sisters, and the voice of all of the evicted, will be heard in our voice. Men and women all have the right to freedom, to justice and to democracy. When we achieve this, the world will be a world, and not this long chain of injustices that bind and oppress our history.
Good health to our evicted brothers and sisters!
Your demand for justice and respect is our demand!
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeasr,
CCRI-CG of the EZLN
Interview with Marcos
Before the Dialogue
Vincente Len~ero reporting.
By reporters from Proceso, El Financiero and The New York Times
"Did Patrocinio make a fool of himself? Did he misinform the President?"
"The first military action was in May '93, when the Army accidentally discovered a camp where the January attack was being planned. Then the Army proceeded, as an army should proceed: It discovers an enemy, begins to deploy and cut off, and tries to destroy the guerrillas. But suddenly, a few days later, it pulls out. This was not a military decision, but a political decision. In military terms, they thought that our group could be exterminated. But actually exterminating it, and sending troops, would mean that the national government had to acknowledge the existence of the guerrillas. And we believe, after careful thought, that on the eve of NAFTA withdrawal was not a mistake by the Federal Army. I'm sure that it was a top-level political decision. It could only have been made by the president of the Republic."
The one speaking is Subcommander Marcos.
It's three or four in the morning on Thursday, February 17. It's cold and everyone's tired. It's drizzling outside.
The room, large but simple, is part of a campesino building on a hill, who knows where: in the tangle of "the mountains of the Mexican Southeast," as the Zapatista Army's communique's are signed. A lightbulb hanging from the rafters is the only light, but it's enough. The shelves leaning against a wall are stacked with books and notebooks, falling apart from use. Over a dozen combatants with ski masks, and Indian men and women without uniforms, are gathered on the floor drowsily, fighting off sleep to hear Marcos' words. Some are already asleep, with checkered blankets covering them, even their heads. All are toward the back, against the walls.
"The Zapatista movement is a wake-up call. When everything in the world was saying no to armed struggle, because the option of communism had disappeared, we thought that people here would also say no to change, and particularly to armed struggle. It was logical, there was tremendous ideological bombardment. But the opposite happened in the communities. That was when more people joined us, when more people joined the Zapatista Army militia, when more towns declared: 'We are being left with no other choice.' When everything internationally was saying no to armed struggle, Indigenous campesinos in Chiapas were saying yes, yes, yes."
Sitting on a low board turned into a backless bench by vertical legs, Marcos responds to the questions posed by the three reporters he agreed to see in his second public meeting with journalists: representatives from The New York Times, El Financiero and Proceso. The Subcommander only authorized one camera, from Proceso, to take pictures of him from any angle:
"If you could just wait a minute so the compan~eros in the background can put on their ski masks." And he explains: "They have relatives in the communities here who could be endangered if they were identified."
The conversation about the EZ, as Camacho abbreviates it, about the peace talks expected to begin on Monday, about the situation in Chiapas, about the August elections, about the country's future...had become lengthy, covering some subjects that had already been reiterated in communique's from the Clandestine Committee, as well as by the Subcommander himself in his interview with La Jornada and Multivisión.
Marcos insisted on the subjects he was interested in--to clarify points, give details of events and narrow down concepts. Suddenly, the questions become quicker, a virtual barrage aimed at finding out a little more about Marcos' personality.
"Come on, subcommander, tell us once and for all, who is Marcos?"
As in the withdrawal from Rancho Nuevo, he defends himself and counterattacks with silence, evasive anecdotes and a quiet chuckle, as if to himself. But a few things do slip out.
Of course Marcos isn't named Marcos. He refuses to tell his real name, hiding behind a quiet laugh, but admits that it is a pseudonym, or rather, a symbol.
"For Saint Mark, the first evangelist who..."
"Heaven help me, no," he says, turning to Oscar Hinojosa. "Contrary to what Carlos Ramírez says, that they took pictures of me at a religious service, I want to say that the last religious service I attended was when I took my First Communion. I was eight years old. I didn't study for the priesthood, or for Pope, or for Papal Nuncio," and he laughs.
"You mean to say you're not religious in the sense of..."
"Hold it. I'm not a catechist, or a parishioner, or anything. Put it like that, because before you know it they'll be saying I'm Joel Padrón."
The name Marcos was actually taken from a compan~ero named Marcos who died years ago, in this struggle of his group. He was a dear friend who had earnestly studied the guerrilla [tactics] of Arturo Gámiz, founder of the September 23 League (Liga 23 de Septiembre), while Marcos studied the guerrilla [tactics] of Pancho Villa. They used to talk a lot, exchange ideas, discuss issues. But then he died... And Subcommander Marcos' already soft voice becomes softer. He looks up as he lifts the slippery edge of his ski mask over his nose.
"A symbolic name then, like the ski masks?"
"Because of Marcos' work, no one can know who Marcos is. That is, if Marcos becomes identified and disappears, it will bring problems to the Army."
"I don't understand."
"If Marcos disappears with his ski mask, anyone of us can put on a ski mask and become Marcos."
He only uses it in front of strangers, of course. Many had used the masks before to shield themselves from the cold and the elements. And, since "it was cold as hell" the day they attacked San Cristóbal, many put them on. Then the press arrived and a reporter from Televisa asked him "What's your name, Commander Tiger, Commander Lion or Commander Dog?" He saw that this was useful and kept using it.
Marcos just has one ski mask. "Why would I want two?" he says, laughing, when asked how may he has. They are made of wool, knit in Chiapas of course, and purchased in the markets of San Cristóbal and Ocosingo. But there aren't any around these days. He laughs again, showing some premature smile wrinkles. "At my age of 63?" he jests.
"How old are you, really?"
"Blanche Petrich says 39, but that's only a feminine hallucination. What does the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) say, 25?"
"Hiding one's face is unusual in guerrilla movements. Fidel Castro, El Che, and Tomás Borge didn't hide their faces."
"Superbarrio," notes [New York Times correspondent] Tim Golden, joking.
"It gives the impression of something clandestine, to hide crimes."
"I don't even have traffic tickets."
"Or to be here today with the ski mask and tomorrow somewhere else and no one would recognize you, Marcos."
"No, rather, it's," and he becomes serious as he presses his nose with both hands together, in a typical gesture., "rather, it is respect for the true protagonists, or the corruption that could occur, and that message that anyone can be Marcos. Anyone, not only in the EZLN, but in this country."
"It is also associated with terrorism, and you aren't terrorists, I suppose."
"Or with Shining Path. They were the only ones who used ski masks."
"Also because of the cold, I imagine. It must be cold in the Andes."
Marcos drops the cunning tone and pats the reporter on the back. The low position of the bench forces him to frequently straighten his back with his hands on his thighs, while he glances towards the floor. He entwines the fingers from both hands.
"And so, what about during the talks, will you take off your ski mask?"
"At some point I'll have to take it off. I mean, specifically: We won't take them off during the talks. We were going to talk to the commissioner without the masks, and then put them on in front of the press, or the police," he adds jokingly. "But as the lesser acknowledgement came of 'emerging political force' we decided: If you don't acknowledge us, you won't see us. Not even at the level of Camacho."
"How would you evaluate Camacho's role to date?"
"There have been changes in Camacho. Sometimes he has a certain attitude, and later it's as if something is pressuring him, and it's not exactly our armed forces. I think it's from the federal level, the government..."
"Specifically, yes. Some of the power groups. He makes a proposal and later has to take his word back. Not of his own free will, but because someone is pressuring him. Clearly he's under a lot of pressure."
"Just a minute. A matter of order." The reporters are all speaking at the same time and the conversation is bouncing from one subject to another. "We must get back to the Marcos of the ski mask. The one who's from Mexico City?"
"No, I'm from a province."
"From Nuevo León?" Golden asks.
"It's no fair if you're going to go through all 32 states until you get it."
"From the North?" Golden insists.
Marcos says he was a professional journalist, not a student. He studied in the university, graduated and got a master's degree, though, he says, "he can't say" which profession, or if he went to the UNAM. But, he emphatically denies, with a long "Noooo," almost of repulsion, Oscar Hinojosa's question of whether he is an anthropologist.
He does open up, though, when telling of his experience in 1983 when a group of 12 young people, organized as a political group, decided to go to Chiapas to do precisely that, politicize.
"We felt invincible. We felt that just with our conviction we could defeat any army. That's when we started talking to the communities, and where they taught us a huge lesson. The democratic organization of Indigenous social life is very honest, very clear. It is very difficult to act like a fool or become corrupt. In addition, we saw many people die, many children. They died in our hands as we were carrying out the health campaigns that the government didn't do, and we had to do ourselves. Not out of charity, but rather because they were our people. Vaccination campaigns, record keeping. For quite a while our fighting forces were doing that. And people died on us. There were children of four or five who played at being Zapatistas and said: 'When I grow up I'm going to give vaccinations.' But a few days later we would learn that they had died of diarrhea, fever... Before the war, and even more so now, the girls played that when they grew up, instead of getting married, they would go to the mountains to make their lives, to learn Spanish, which is almost an impossible dream for an Indigenous woman. From that to learning how to handle a weapon is a big step. So, when they decided to set a deadline to begin the war they gave that argument: 'What's the problem, if death is ours? The only difference is that now we'll chose how we're going to die. Come with us, or stay behind,' they would tell us. And we couldn't answer: 'No, wait another five years to see if the administration that takes office in 1995 changes things.' We had no right to, because every year that passed we had seen more and more people die. So, with that logic of death, we decided to struggle. The compan~eros taught us the mountains, they taught us to walk, to carry loads. The only way to be accepted is if you can carry the same load they do, if you walk the path as they do, when you get fucked the same as they do. Then, they will accept you."
"And that committed you forever, Marcos? Did you at one point plan on coming and then going back?"
"I placed all my bets on the mountains. The government should know that, once and for all. If they're going to offer a governorship or something, no way."
Marcos isn't married and doesn't have a compan~era.
"Nor am I homosexual."
He can't say if he's an atheist or religious.
"The compan~eros have prohibited me from using those words. Because if you say you're religious, they'll say the movement is religious. If you say you're Catholic, they'll say it's Catholic. Or the same if you say you're Muslim. Whatever you say."
"But the faith of the Indians must be contagious."
"There are two kinds of faith. The kind that is in books, and the kind that is in the mountains. When compan~eros go to the mountains they learn stories that come from far away and they hear them when on guard duty, or at campfires. Stories of ghosts, of magical worlds, that cross over from one ethnic group to another. Stories of the great fear created by the mountains. It's sad to be in the mountains, isn't it? Well yes, it is. There are stories that dance in the mountains... I don't know if I'm making myself understood or if I understand your questions."
The subject of magic leads to the subject of death.
Marcos already said that he was ready for death.
"Yes, I'm living on borrowed time, because we thought that the world would come down on us on January 1. When January 2 came around, and we were still alive, everything from then on has been extra. That's why now I'm writing like crazy, everything that I hadn't written. So if Petrita writes a letter to Subcommander Marcos, I send back everything that I ever meant to say and didn't say. I'll send Petrita six, seven, or eight pages. I've got nothing to lose. So if they are going to criticize my literary style, it doesn't bother me. I also don't give a damn if people like or don't like the letters."
In his literary days, Marcos wrote literature and published something under his own name, "but I won't do it again." He says it is a style of literature to give to women, not to be published.
"Poetry, you're a poet."
"I read an interview with [Mexican writer] Heberto Padilla that said: 'Well that Marcos should be given a governorship, or publish a book to calm him down. You can see he's a poet. All guerrillas are poets.'"
As a youth, Marcos read Neruda, León Felipe, Antonio Machado, Vallejo. He read Ernesto Cardenal and Borges later, as well as the Mexicans Efraín Huerta, Rosario Castillo, Sabines, Montes de Oca. He says he only likes Paz's poetic essays.
Although he is an avid reader of Carlos Monsiva'is and remembers the first time he read Días de Guardar, he won't confess whether the joking style of his messages from the mountains were influenced by Monsi, or perhaps by Ibargüengoitia? He just laughs.
He doesn't write the messages on computer or electric typewriter, as one might guess when reading an original [communique'] with Marcos' signature at the bottom. He writes them by hand, or dictates them, and then someone types them and prints them on pages that he has previously signed. He used to have a portable Olivetti, to write operative orders, but that was the first thing he dropped when they fled Rancho Nuevo.
"Ask Godínez if he has it. I don't think so."
He also gradually rid himself of the many books he read.
"I used to carry books around in the mountains, and was scolded for it: why was I carrying them around? It really was suicide. When you first come, you want to bring your whole library, right? But the load of ammunition, food and everything else is divided equally, and on top of that you're carrying books. You end up getting rid of them, because no one is about to say: 'Well, since you're carrying so many books, I'll give you less ammunition.' No, you carry the same amount... And I got rid of them gradually in the different camps."
He says he had a lot. A good reader. Monsiva'is; Poniatowska's La Noche de Tlatelolco. Everything from Cortázar, Fuentes, Vargas Llosa "when he was still palatable" and García Márquez, "who's another story, that is, special."
"When we arrived in the mountains we were very lonely, and then some officer would say, like in García Márquez's book, 'Marcos has no one to write him,' because I was moping around."
Of course he has many political books, which he doesn't go into details about, except for his favorites of Los Agachados and Los Supermachos, by [Mexican political cartoonist] Rius.
"In the provinces, politics either came with Rius, or didn't come at all. I learned English," he laughs because the question comes from Tim Golden, "reading Playboy and Penthouse. I speak English like Inspector Calzontzin: 'Esta table es green.' 'The pencil is okey.' Actually I read it because I had to translate the manuals from the US Pentagon. I don't speak Russian. I don't speak Chinese. Now that's enough."
This man who jokes and laughs frequently like a simple, unassuming, mischievous teenager, switches from frivolity to, at other times in the conversation, radicalism and visions of political utopia, which at times seems idyllic, disingenuous. This is the Subcommander Marcos who has turned national politics upside down since the beginning of the year.
He doesn't budge from the uncomfortable wooden stool. The opening of his mask seems like a slice of a tangerine with a sparking glance.
Behind him an increasing number of members of the Army are sleeping. From sitting against the wall, they have slid down to the floor. They pull blankets over themselves, prepare for sleep. The weapons are leaning against the wall, like brooms or work tools. You could say he seems happy to speak with strangers from the city, because even though Marcos now has plenty of people to write him letters, he is trapped, and far from what we call civilization.
He gets nostalgic recalling the dozen compan~eros who arrived in Chiapas in '83. "The 12 quickly became 10; two died; five are elsewhere," he says briefly, but one might believe that they are still involved in radical activities in some other place, or maybe they gave up all together; and three are left. He and two others who must hold important Zapatista positions in key areas of Chiapas, but to whom Marcos does not refer, perhaps for strategic reasons.
He becomes emotional when speaking of fear. Fear that the operations will fail or that the combatants will not survive the attacks, as happened in the takeovers in the townships of Oxchuc and Ixtán. And he was in charge of the operation.
"But what about personal fear, Marcos. The kind that settles in one's stomach?"
"Oh, yeah, when they're shooting at you and you feel everything go weak. I loose my appetite. Others, like that compa over there," he turns to point out one of the ones still awake in the room, "get hungrier than usual. But then you center yourself on the mechanism of response, and you don't notice or feel fear. Until later, when you remember: 'Goddamnit! How could I do that shit, going out by myself with no one on the flanks to protect me!' Fear makes you go weak all over, that's the truth."
He becomes rational in speaking of the mythical stature that Subcommander Marcos has taken on.
"Does it bother you?"
"It doesn't affect me."
"You see it as prudent."
"I don't see it. It doesn't benefit me and we don't know if it is good for the organization. I really don't know, you see, what's happening. I only find out when a journalist gets mad because I don't give an interview. And I say: 'So since when am I so famous that they scold me because I'm being exclusive, and the bright lights and I don't know what else.' As they say up there, that's all ideology, right? We don't have caudillismo."
"It doesn't affect us inside."
"It doesn't cause envy, jealously among your combatants?"
"The moral authority of Marcos," the Subcommander becomes emphatic and shakes two fingers up and down, "didn't start on January 1. That was earned before, among the troops. If out there they say stuff like, 'oh he writes so nicely,' or whatever, people here don't give a damn. No matter what, they keep respecting Marcos for what happened before, not because of what's going on now."
The day begins to dawn. As the door is opened briefly, we no longer see the dark face of night that covered the blind travelers who followed impossible trails to come to this guerrilla stronghold.
We can see the drizzle, and a gust of air enters the room. One can make out green branches hanging from the eaves, and the light of a slow dawn.
Marcos doesn't seem to be cold. You can tell he's wearing several layers, and the thick, black, wool, poncho that's called a chuj in Chiapas. And on top of that, like an X tying in his soul, the two crossed ammunition belts; some are huge red shotgun shells, who knows what the others are.
He scratches his mask, low by his chin, in what looks like a nervous tick, or itch.
"Does your beard itch, Marcos?"
Marcos looks at Tim Golden as if saying "sly bastard" and jokes: "I don't have a beard, I have no facial hair."
He's lying of course. From a meter away, you can sometimes make out through the mouth of the mask, the revealing hair of a beard coming up to his lower lip. It's a gray beard, and seems to be quite thick.
Also through the opening for the face, on the upper edge of the weaving, you can see a lock of black, not brown, hair that sneaks out near his temples.
"Don't help the PGR out," Marcos protests, when Tim insists on the beard.
It's almost his last smile of the talk, because the mysteries of a character who reminds Castillo Peraza of the lasting myth of Robin Hood, and who others consider an unattainable gallant, something like Kevin Costner, or a Rambo playing the part of a leftist villain, or just the current faddish idol... From strictly personal mysteries, this talk always comes back to the serious problems that generated, and continue to generate the Zapatista uprising.
"From the beginning we said that we didn't want power. We said: 'Salinas de Gortari has to get out, and there must be a provisional government.' What I pointed out is that we weren't going to impose our will on 'civil society,'" he uses the term even though he dislikes it, "through the force of weapons. We were not going to take it hostage. The government yes, but not civil society."
"The main point for you," Golden asks, "would be the composition of the Federal Electoral Institute, the Electoral Tribunal, the electoral authorities?"
"There's another option. That Salinas resign and create a transitional government, and that the latter be organized according to existing electoral laws. What we are saying is that the arbitrator must really be impartial. So there are two alternatives: Reform the Electoral Law to give someone impartiality, or have the federal government resign and create a transitional government, and have that one certify [the elections]."
"And if that doesn't happen?"
"We'll continue the struggle. Maybe fighting, maybe not."
"What is your critical analysis of the candidates, Marcos? Of Colosio, Cuauhte'moc, and Fernández de Cevallos?"
Marcos lowers his gaze and thinks about it, longer than usual. In general, he has responded quickly, as if hitting the ball back in handball. Now he thinks about it and looks forward, as if saying he was sorry:
"That's precisely one of the things I can't talk about yet. The Committee doesn't allow me to. The Committee has told me that in referring to political parties I must be very cautious. The members of the Committee are very proud of their independence, at least up until now. And if we start giving opinions about one or the other, it will look like the EZLN supports a party, or said something to make another party mad. The Committee believes that until we have a clear idea of what one says to the other, what one offers to the other, we shouldn't say anything. Basically, they won't allow me to comment."
"What are those guns that look like AK Stopers?" asks Tim, an expert. "Are they rifles or..."
"They are AK rifles, donated by the PGR and the Federal Army."
"And what the compan~eros had before, where they Uzis or Mac-10's?"
"Mac-10's, we just adapted them."
"How did you get them?"
"In the United States. I think we just bought two. At the time they cost around $200. But we couldn't get much there, because US laws are very strict."
"But Mexican police go to Arizona to buy their weapons..."
"We bought them from Mexicans, it was easier. What we never found was an arms trafficker. If we'd found one, now we'd be talking in Cerro del Ajusco."
And Marcos laughs. Openly now, loudly, amazed at his own exaggeration. Perhaps he dreams of it, but he doesn't even believe it himself.
The subject of weapons relates to war. And the subject of war settles on the bad omens of pessimists who fear the failure of the talks that are only just about to begin. It seems that they will.
"Who has benefited from the truce?"
"The government has taken advantage of this impasse to finish placing its troops, complete its intelligence gathering, and define where we are, to be able to attack us without touching the civilian population. All of this time has been used by the government to do all that."
"Do you consider the possibility, or the risk involved, if they launch an extermination offensive?" asks Hinojosa, very formal as usual.
"Definitely. Any middle-rank officer says eight days. And they said that four days ago. So I have four more days," he raises his eyebrows. "The Federal Army already has us surrounded to be able to attack and exterminate us. I don't think the situation will change. All that's missing is for the tanks to roll in, unless something happens to change that impulse. Perhaps it could be the presence of the guardias blancas. The ranchers who are taking up arms; or rather, that have to rearm, because we had disarmed them. They can now rearm and start to attack."
Marcos seems prepared to repel them. With his crossed ammunition belts, and the shotgun he put aside somewhere, and a pistol on his right belt, he seems to be on the alert. As they say, he has his boots on. And they're quite muddy too, from trudging the paths who knows where in the mythical Lacandona Jungle.
"You seem pessimistic about the dialogue, Marcos."
"We're not overly concerned about the agenda, because in the end it will also result from the negotiation process. We want to talk as much as possible. So they know what it is that we want, and we know what they want, and so that each side can pull for itself on a common point. But finally, I say, what is the government going to commit to if it signs the agreement, to what, with whom, if we don't exist?"
"The commissioner doesn't exist as a legal figure either. The, who will guarantee the agreements that arise from dialogue?"
"If the federal government is really willing, it would have to give the commissioner legal standing. Or create a commission just to take responsibility for that."
"Would you propose that during the dialogue?"
"We would say: 'So, what about these agreements we're going to sign? Do you really want to reach an agreement, or did you just close us in here to do what you're going to do anyway? If you are really willing, what structure will carry this out? Because this commissioner doesn't really exist.'"
"The disarmament of the Zapatista Army seems very far off."
"As the compan~eros say, we've waited 500 years. We can wait another 500."
"What will the press see and not see during the negotiations?"
"It's an operative matter," says Marcos. "For example, if we are going to set forth, as the compan~eros of the Committee are going to set forth, autonomy statutes, we will need legal advice. What reforms are needed to the Constitution, what laws should be considered to formulate the specific proposal. All that. In this push and pull of whether to reform the Constitution, or how to do it, the press won't be involved. But what should be public, open, is when we declare: We said this, the commissioner said that, and the intermediary said that, and we agreed on this and didn't agree on that; and we fought about this, and we cussed each other out about that, whatever happened. We will tell it all clearly."
"At the end of a meeting, will there be a reading of the minutes?"
"We are proposing to the commissioner to hold a press conference every day. But apparently you journalists have driven him crazy, and he isn't very willing."
"Have you spoken personally to Camacho?"
"Not personally. By letter. Letters that are more serious than the other ones, of course."
And he laughs through the hole of the mask, which is too small to show the breadth of his smiling mouth.
"What does the commissioner say, that it can't be done logistically?"
"He says we have to see. We were proposing a daily press conference, but he thought it should be after a subject was exhausted."
Marcos doesn't seem tired from talking so much and thinking about what he's saying. He has stayed still, not shifting his rear like the three journalists who can no longer find a way to be comfortable on the hard seat, and he gives the impression that he could keep talking throughout the day that is beginning, through nightfall. His eyelids are a bit heavy, that's true, because he has shared this overnighter, but he's still going strong: He seems strong, although even through the mask, his face has sharp features.
"What's most important for you in the negotiations?" Golden asks.
"Administrative and political autonomy of Indigenous regions."
"Explain that to us."
"The compan~eros say that in the communities where the majority is Indigenous, they already have their specific form of government, that underlies the official one. And they say 'What the government should do is recognize that ours is the one that works, and they should respect it and not interfere with us.'"
"At the community level?"
"In entire regions. What the compan~eros are saying is where there are Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Choles, Tojolabales, the way they have of organizing ejidos works. For example, they elect their representatives and replace them whenever they need to. Then that is the way it should be. And if someone commits a crime, they try to resolve it there, in the community, not send it elsewhere. But the government sends in judicial police, and that bothers them. They say, 'Why do they want to take them to jail, if we've already punished them? If I've already fined them, why do you intervene? You're interfering with my chain of command.'"
"So that means, in this case, not acknowledging police authority."
"Yes, that's what not acknowledging means. That the state police should not get involved."
"Not in anything?"
"Only if called upon. When the community itself says: 'Okay, this is too big for us, and we can't deal with it. Take him.'"
"This kind of change would require constitutional reform."
"The Fourth Article of the Constitution would be reformed to acknowledge the existence of regions populated by several ethnic groups that have their own structure... What the compan~eros are really proposing in the end is a collective government at all levels. The need for a state governor to govern in conjunction with a group of Indigenous governors, for each ethnic group."
"Is this a proposal that will be made?"
"Yes, it will be made."
"To have parallel elections for a state governor and governors for the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, Tojolobal...?"
"Yes, The state governor will be the governor, but in everything relating
to Indigenous matters he will have to come to an agreement with the co-
governor or whatever that post is called. And in the entire state, everyone needs to come to an agreement."
"I understand that democracy in Indigenous communities is very different from democracy as we know it."
"The community makes an agreement and everyone must uphold that. Anyone who doesn't fulfill the agreement is removed. It's not like they say, Marcos is going to win or Felipe is going to win. They say, this is what the community has agreed on. Who will carry it out? Let's say this guy, and if he doesn't, we'll get rid of him. Every so often they meet and evaluate: Has this agreement been upheld? The agreements don't change. They see whether they have been upheld or not. This is the kind of democracy that was adopted by the EZLN. The Zapatista Army was not born democratic, it was born as a political-military organization. But as it grew, the organizational methods of the communities began to permeate and dominate our movement, to the degree that the leadership of the EZLN had to become democratic in the Indigenous manner. They say: There are fundamental agreements that cannot be negotiated, there is no margin. Aside from those fundamental agreements, you can do other things. One of our fundamental agreements was to begin the war, at the latest at zero hour on January 1. You have to fulfill that. You can start on January 1, 1994 or on December 31, 1993, but you have to start."
"Was that same system used to select the Zapatista delegates to the dialogue?"
"Will you go, Marcos?"
Marcos doubts that he will take part in the talks and confides to the reporters, confidentially during the interview, what Camacho later made public: that the sessions will begin this Monday in San Cristóbal de las Casas. He then responds to the unanswered question.
"To elect the delegates the Committees, and there are several Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees, meet and say: 'This is what is going to be demanded, and you can say this. You have to ask me about that, this other one is a definite no.' One of the things that is a flat no is turning over our weapons to begin the dialogue. So, then they say, who should we send? Who are we going to negotiate with? The government. Then they start choosing those who can express themselves and argue best, the ones who more or less speak Spanish. Those are the ones being sent. But they've already told them how to do it. They don't want little chicks, either, each Committee is sending its roosters."
Golden is distracted for a moment watching Marcos' hands which are in front of him, fingers entwined.
"Do you bite your fingernails, Marcos?"
"No, I cut them that way."
"How many Indigenous delegates will go to the talks?"
"Where is the ghost of Chinameca that you have alluded to in the past, Subcommander?" asks Hinojosa.
"Throughout the dialogue process. Whenever the government decides that it is possible to give a blow like that. No one doubts that it should think it out carefully, and will. When it comes and says, 'OK, I can now do it and come out with a good hand,' it will. That is: Exterminate whoever is there, because the government knows that we send our leadership, not a commissioner. The government sends a commissioner, but we send the leaders of our movement. It could be done at any time they can get away with it, and they can handle the protests that arise. Whether it happens in San Cristóbal or the jungle, or anywhere, it will be done."
The disorderly questions continue, as the reporters are tired but anxious not to run out of time to ask all the questions they planned out a long time before heading for the mountains.
"I hope you don't scold us like you did the ones from La Jornada, for not asking the questions they should have."
The subcommander shakes his head. He laughs and hides the lock of hair that has come out of the mask. He has delicate hands, like those of a pianist: long, thin fingers that end bluntly, whether he bites his nails or not.
"And human rights people don't raise hell with you?"
"Of course. Although there have been violations on the part of our compan~eros. Especially verbal harassment in some areas. That's what the Human Rights Council denounced, and it was true. Our Committee investigated that. And it was true. Some people were threatening people to get them to join the Zapatista Army. Because if they didn't, when the soldiers came, they would kill everyone. So our Committee found out and arrested four guilty compan~eros. What isn't true are the accusations of breaking and entering and everything else they are piling on us."
Suddenly, the subject jumps to Liberation Theology.
"You have implied, whether intentionally or tacitly, the possible influence of Liberation Theology on the Zapatista Army."
"There are no religious people, or people from the religious structure, or religious hierarchy, in the leadership or ideological orientation of the Zapatista Army. That is the truth. The thing is, that in this state, particularly, there has been a great deal of social work on the part of the Church. And the compan~eros know that very well: That work went diametrically against armed struggle, even though it was popular in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and other places. It was said that it's okay there, but it isn't possible in Mexico. Here we must have peaceful change, with open democratic demonstrations. All of the efforts of the Church here were in that direction."
"In some way the Church made the communities aware of their situation."
"No. As soon as we arrived there was a conflict. We said: Armed struggle is necessary and we must prepare for it. They said: 'No. Our efforts should be directed toward economic and health projects that solve the needs of the Indigenous people.'"
"And did that create conflict?"
"Yes, but we let reality take over. The compan~eros did the projects, made the efforts, but the state kept strangling them and the number of deaths grew and grew. When we arrived, we found that people were very clear about their living conditions. They weren't thinking that they were living well or that they were poor because God wanted it that way. Politically, the Church provides a path for open political participation. We come and say, 'We have to prepare ourselves in a different way.' But we tried not to enter into conflict, but rather wait and let time show that we were right. And in the meantime, we needed to prepare ourselves, and learn, because no one was giving us military advice or weapons or anything. We had to learn everything from how to get ready, how to stand at alert, to salute and everything."
"Don Samuel has been accused of creating a breeding ground that favored armed struggle in the Church."
"We who were there know that the efforts of the diocese were going in exactly the opposite direction. If there wasn't a direct conflict, it's because we avoided it. We also think that reality educates. And that the Mexican State was on our side in the sense that it was going to show that that kind of struggle was not sufficient, and that another kind was needed."
"The mediating role of Don Samuel."
"The situation is that the real leadership of the Zapatista Army is Indigenous, and that isn't just propaganda. And they acknowledge Don Samuel as someone who is not an enemy, and they also know that he isn't one of us. When they ask, 'Who should be the one in the middle to be able to talk,' the answer was 'Don Samuel. He's always been in the middle.' "
"In all this process how do you evaluate the role played by Don Samuel?" insists Tim Golden. "The fact that he launched such a strong call, so soon, made it possible that the real causes of the uprising be known. Didn't he play an important role in changing the perspective of Mexican society towards you?"
"The truth is, I'll tell you what I think. What made society change the way it looks at us was the press. Not even television; the written press, photographers and all that. Because it's not that Don Samuel doesn't see the causes. It's when journalists themselves say: 'You see? They really are Indigenous people, they aren't foreigners, and we've seen that this is the way they live,' and all that. So it really was the written news media that began to awaken that change, or critical distrust, that reality was totally different from what the government was saying. That was it. It wasn't the government, or our weapons; nor was it Don Samuel or Camacho. It was the press, that looks and looks and starts to bring out more and more information, and makes people say: 'Wait a minute, look, something is happening.'"
"You do have a beard Marcos."
"What happens is that the press itself, in its dialectic movements, turns against itself. First its Marcos, Marcos, Marcos. And now, goddamn Marcos, goddamn Marcos, because all we hear is Marcos. And the truth is that Marcos didn't say anything. The whole mess was made up by the press, and now they're complaining that why is Marcos the protagonist? I feel like I'm being interrogated in San Cristóbal."
The day has definitely dawned. Its eight. Time to finish.
"And what about the country, Marcos? What do you think about the country's future?"
"I'll give you an example. There is a guerrilla law about the speed of a guerrilla column. It says that the speed of the guerrilla column is as fast as the slowest man. In this case, the country is the same. What should its economic pace be? As fast as its poorest state. So it's impossible for part of the country to enter the First World while the other part, our part, is exterminated."
"There can't be two Mexicos?"
"In this case there are three, because we're in the basement. Bring us to Guatemala to enter the tour."
The subcommander of the Zapatista Army rises for the first and only time throughout the interview. Now he does look tired like the rest. His knees seem tired, or legs cramped. He shivers, but more from lack of sleep than from the cold, which is already giving way, even outside.
One of the masked people stretched in a corner. Others stand up, at attention. Oscar Hinojosa checks his tape recorder, while Tim Golden gives Marcos photocopies of clippings from the US press. He also receives a cassette with the music of Federico Bonasso and the rock group El Juguete Rabioso, and the great non-fiction book about the dirty war in Argentina by Miguel Bonasso. Marcos looks at the cover and reads the title: Recuerdos de la Muerte [Memories of Death]. And asks, smiling, "Are you trying to scare me?"
The three reporters leave the simple room and begin their difficult
return to today.