Chapter 11: The Consultations
The EZLN Orders a Partial Deactivation
of the Red Alert in its Territories
[La Jornada, 4/22]
April 20, 1994
To the people of Mexico:
To the people and governments of the world:
To the national and international press:
Brothers and Sisters:
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army addresses you to declare the following:
First: The EZLN recognizes the honest and dedicated efforts by the Commissioner for Peace and Reconciliation in Chiapas, Mr. Manuel Camacho Solís, and of the mediator, Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, to create conditions favorable for the continuation of the dialogue, whose objective is to achieve a just and dignified peace. In the last few days, both the commissioner and the mediator have worked on the solution of several obstacles that oppose the peace process. The EZLN salutes this true willingness of these two Mexicans.
Second: The EZLN salutes the liberation of some civil prisoners, unjustly accused of belonging to our troops, and sees in it a good signal for the beginning of the continuation of the dialogue for a just and dignified peace.
Third: With respect to this, the CCRI-CG of the EZLN orders the partial deactivation of the red alert in its territories and the return of part of its troops to their communities and ejidos, beginning April 23, 1994.
Fourth: If this climate, favorable to dialogue, is maintained, the EZLN will restart the consultation with its bases, in a progressive manner, starting with the least vulnerable territories, as soon as possible.
Fifth: The EZLN reiterates its real desire for a political solution to the just demands that animate its struggle, and it salutes the sincere effort of civil society and Mexican personalities to find dignified solutions to the large national problems through reason, and not through force.
Holding high the popular demands of freedom, justice and democracy for all Mexicans.
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.
General Headquarters, The mountains of the Mexican Southeast, Chiapas
Mexico, April, 1994
We are Surrounded
[La Jornada, 4/22]
April 21, 1994
To the national news weekly Proceso:
To the national newspaper La Jornada:
To the national newspaper El Financiero:
To the local newspaper of San Cristóbal de las Casas Tiempo:
To the national and international press:
We hereby communicate to you about those freed, about red alerts, and about consultations.
We are touched by the stupidity of those who declare, with solemnity
and without reservation, that we are purposefully delaying the re-
initiation of the dialogue. They say we are looking for pretexts and trying to extend the solution to the conflict. To reach a solution, perhaps we should greet with complacence the assassination of our compan~ero in the "peaceful" lands of Altamirano; perhaps we are pleased by the arbitrary detentions of civilians carried out by the military troops in Ocosingo? Maybe it is the federal troops and the government, and not us, who are surrounded; perhaps we enjoy not having food or medicine, nor any way of acquiring tham; perhaps we are enthused by the inexorable asphyxiation of the civilian population of our territory (to whom the supreme government impedes the arrival of humanitarian aid; the federal troops, unhappy with their duties, argue that the food is not for the civilians, but is meant only to "fatten the little Marcoses"); perhaps our doubt about the supposed exit of governmental troops from the area is without foundation; perhaps the nighttime airplane is ours (the Zapatista Air Force?) and is only watching to see that nothing happens to us?
I am sorry to inform you, brilliant analysts, that we are surrounded. However, in order to not contradict you, we have resolved to follow in the footsteps of "the lords of the Central American guerrilla" and follow the example of a "foreigner," "transgressor of the law," and a "professional in violence" from the days of yore called Jose' María Morelos y Pavón. About this man and his troops, the "legal" General Fe'lix María Calleja del Rey wrote:
"If the constancy and activity of the defenders of Cuautla had morality,
and were led by a just cause, they would deserve a distinguished place
in our history some day. Stretched by our troops and afflicted by necessity,
they express happiness in all of the events. They bury their cadavers with
peals of celebration in their glorious death, and they celebrate with clamor,
dances, and drunkenness the return from their frequent trips, whatever
the particular success happens to be, imposing pain or death on anyone
who speaks of disgraces or surrender..." (recited in the book Siglo de
Caudillos: Biografía política de Me'xico (1810-1910) [A Century
of Caudillos: A Political Biography of Mexico (1810-
1910)]. Tusquets Editorial. February, 1994.) The author is suspected of being "an apologist for violence," Enrique Krauze, who I read with the same, and sane, critical spirit with which he sees us).
In sum, we confirm that this is "the last Central American guerrilla
group," and we celebrate 100 days of military encirclement and 112 days
of war with a great dance to which, of course, you are not invited (rigorous-evening-gown-ski-mask-
admission). There will be no dinner, and not because we are surrounded, but because we are on diets. The Zapatista orchestra has plenty of guitars with no strings, tambourines, harmonicas and one or two violins. Its repertoire is one of "delicious foreignism," and includes the Marcha de Zacatecas and the one that goes:
"For a bit, two reales
for a sergeant, a tostón;
for my general Morelos
I give all of my heart."
That is all. I promise to send the chronicle for the "Social" section. All right.
Health and history, remember it points towards the future.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Insurgent Subcommander Marcos
To the Workers of the Republic
[La Jornada, 5/2]
May 1, 1994
To the people of Mexico:
To the people and governments of the world:
To the national and international press:
Brothers and Sisters:
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army directs itself to you to declare the following:
Today, May 1, 1994, we celebrate one more day for the workers. All over the world, rural and urban workers celebrate their rebellion against exploitation and reaffirm their aspirations for a more just world. In Mexico this is a day of struggle. Ever since the evil government, which now oppresses us from the Zócalo in Mexico City, usurped the just demands of the Flores Magón brothers, a chain now strangles the best of the Mexican workers. False and corrupt leaders, some for more than nine decades, traffic in the pain of the Mexican workers. They are the sustenance of the supreme government that now offers our history and our soil for foreign money. The struggle of the workers for organizational independence has revealed the triple alliance between the evil government, the corrupt leaders, and the powerful men of money.
Businesses of evil wealth have a new etiquette. Another mask hides our pain from our own eyes. A new name has been given to injustice, to slavery, to the usurpation: neoliberalism.
The workers that build this country bleed from three wounds. The powerful bleed them with unjust salaries, humiliations, and threats. The heads of the great central government unions bleed the workers with extortions, beatings, and death. Those who sell the country bleed the workers with the dispatches of usurpation, writing the laws that their treason dictates.
The workers die three times in the factory for the history of the country. They die of poverty because they are not paid fairly according to their work. They die of humiliation because their words of rebellion are silenced by the treachery of those who claim to represent them. They die of slavery because the evil government ignores their will and their efforts.
The Mexican workers struggle three times on land and on asphalt. They struggle for justice so that there can be bread and truth in their houses and on their tables. They struggle also to speak and walk freely and to not bequeath shame to their children. They struggle for democracy because it is their power to transform matter, and also their power to govern and to govern themselves.
The future has three lives that we all desire for the whole country. The life of their own strength in their brothers and sisters in recognized labor. The life of the workers and campesinos, hand in hand. The life of their embrace that includes all of the people, so they can march together again with a new, good direction.
Faceless, the worker lives and dies three times. Without a clean face because of the hunger that dirties it. Without a free face because of the treachery that kills it. Without a true face because of a will usurped.
They die three times, they struggle three times, they live three times. Faceless, they walk three times, those who make the riches of the country into something located, something measured, something changed.
Brothers and sisters:
From another history, the same and different, another faceless being looks with hope on this day. From the mountains of the last corner of Mexico, faceless hope, tender voice and fire walking alone greet the workers.
Three times the false masks which rob us today must fall.
Injustice at work and in pay must fall. The treachery that leaves us speechless must fall. The government that usurps our will must fall.
Justice! Freedom! Democracy! These are the three keys to the three chains. Justice in the right to a dignified job and to be well paid. Freedom in the right to organize ourselves with independence from the powerful and their spokespeople. Democracy in the right to demand that the government obey us in its mandate.
This is what we, the smallest of these lands ask for. We want this: three rights, three struggles, three suns. A tomorrow of a new Mexico.
Mexican workers of the city and the country:
Let your voice run together with ours. Let your shout sound strong and hard on this soil. Accept this hand that your smallest brothers and sisters offer you. Three forces should unite their paths: the force of the workers, the force of the campesinos, the popular force. With these three forces there will be nothing to detain us.
Our blood is already losing itself in history. Let the brothers and sisters of the machine not let their brothers and sisters of the country die in vain. Let all of the people unite. Let the curse that divides not come again to our skies.
Receive our voice, which, although far away, says: "Greetings, workers of the sea and of the land! The Zapatistas follow you in their struggles! With you there will be a country and future for all some day! Without you, night will continue to rule these lands!"
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-
General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army
General Barracks, Mountains of the Mexican Southeast, Chiapas, Mexico
May 1, 1994
Interview with the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
[Transcribed from the original tape]
May 11, 1994
Interviewers: Eugenio Aguilera (Nightcrawlers Anarchist Black Cross), Ana Laura Hernández (Amor y Rabia/Mexico), Gustavo Rodríguez (Amor y Rabia/Mexico), Pablo Salazar Devereaux (Haitian Information Bureau)
Q: You are members of the regional committee of the General Command?
CC: The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee. Yes.
Q: The Tzetzal Committee?
CC: Tzetzal? Yes.
Q: What is your name? Or what name do you want to give?
Q: Manuel, what is your role in the Committee?
M: What do we do in the Committee?
Q: No, but, do you also have a military rank, are you a commander, or is it simply civilian work that is carried out by the Committee?
M: Yes, civilian work. The political and economic work.
Q: What are you specifically responsible for, as part of the Clandestine
M: Well, seeing what goes on in the region. If there are any problems within the towns, the communities.
Q: What type of problems?
M: Whatever type of problem that may arise. Then we go around as the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee to resolve these problems.
Q: Are you also responsible for finances?
M: Yes, to raise funds in the community, as well as throughout the zone.
Q: How does that function? Do you charge taxes to the civilian population? How does the raising of funds take place?
M: Well, in the civilian population, no. Only, also from some farmers. What's being done now is that there are some farmers, or ranchers, actually, who come to talk to us, who want, for example, to take some livestock. So we'll say: Yes, you can, if you leave some money. No, no it's not like a tax so much as a collaboration with the EZLN.
Q: And the farmers collaborate, or are there farmers who are against the EZLN, who are in favor of the government and things like that?
M: Up until now, no. They have always been...supporting as well.
Q: They're not large landowners?
M: No they're not large landowners. They are small.
Q: And many of them are Tzetzales, Tzotziles...
M: They also speak Tzetzal.
Q: How long have you been in the EZLN?
M: Ten years.
Q: Have you always been in the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee or did you first enter into the militias?
M: Yes, first we entered into the militias.
Q: Were you an insurgent?
M: Me? No.
Q: You were never in the...
M: No. I'm in the militia.
Q: You always worked in the communities?
M: Yes, we've always done work here with these towns where you have to look at whatever problems occur.
Q: You are from here? You are from this ejido, this zone?
M: No. I'm from another town.
G: Far from here?
M: Yes, about five hours from here to there.
Q: I also wanted to ask you, the work that the Clandestine Committees do in the regions, is there also, for example, security of the ejidos, where there are problems like in the case of alcoholism, people that drink, that don't respect the laws of the EZLN regarding alcohol, or when you find that a man is beating his wife or their kids? Do you have to act in these cases, do you have to intervene?
M: Yes, that yes, here inside the EZLN we don't permit that compan~eros go around getting drunk, and even if they're not members of the EZLN. We don't permit alcoholism. Yes, that is prohibited throughout the zone.
Q: And as I was saying in the case of a campesino who hits his wife? What do you in this case? If there were such a case?
M: Yes, depending, we go out as a Committee to see about these problems among the people. Then the people decide what kind of problem it is, and the nature of the problem. And if the people say so, we'll punish. Then the people are the ones to decide. It's not just up to the Committee. We talk as a Committee. As a Committee we go to see that this is OK. If they can be punished in this way. There it remains.
Q: What means do you use? Do you fine people?
M: Yes, a fine. What's being done now is that if a compan~ero has a drink we fine him 10,000 pesos. Or give him a job to do. Cutting wood or other things. That's what's been done in the past.
Q: We interviewed Major Benito, as well as asking others in charge.
They told us that in the Army there didn't exist laws against homosexuality
but that it was the Committees, due to tradition, that don't permit for
there to be homosexuals. How do you understand... As a Committee, why don't
you permit it? And if there are lesbians or gays, what methods do you take...how
do you...do you punish them? Can they be gay freely? Are they expelled
from the community for that? How do you manage this?
[Another member of the CCRI answers the question: Joaquín]
J: Well, if there's a compan~ero who, as you've asked about alcoholism, also if someone gets drunk or begins to fight with his woman. Well, we...are going to call to attention [to the fact] that a compan~ero is doing this. To make it clear...or to make them understand that it can't be this way. Because it shouldn't be that you will do whatever you want. Even if it's not their wife but another compa. We have to make it so that they have to obey, have to carry out an order that we give.
We are going to criticize...conduct a self-
criticism. This is what we are doing. Some, who have a very grave problem, where you have to punish--well, the punishment is not very severe. Nothing more than so that the people will see. Since we are the Zapatisa Army we have to demonstrate our heart in the struggle, not fuck with compan~eros. It's to call to attention--to tell someone how a certain job can get done, that people shouldn't be getting drunk, better, there's time.... We are trying to carry out collective work. That is what we are explaining to the compan~eros. That they shouldn't be getting drunk...
Q: Your name is...?
Q: How long have you been [in the CCRI]?
J: It's been about 10 years now.
Q: Well, the question I was asking, when you responded about alcoholism and about how people are punished when someone mistreats their woman or their children. But I had asked the compan~ero Manuel... I don't know if you understand the question...homosexuals.... They were telling us that the Army doesn't have any law against that. They respect it, but that the ones who, in fact, don't permit it are the Committees. It is because of the Indigenous tradition. In the communities there is no tradition of homosexuals; that is of men who like men, who go with men and not with women. Or women who go with women and not with men. Therefore since you are members of the Committee, I want to ask you: In this case, if this exists, is there punishment? How do you proceed? Is it prohibited?
[They talk to each other in their native language.]
J: Well, what you are asking about, well, the law...like ourselves who work throughout the zone...this can be decided in the communities...if they have their plan, they have their...an agreement, in each town. A compan~era who wants to get married... has to decide to do so...and if she doesn't want to we are not going to oblige her if she....
Q: Yes but, the case that I was talking about was, if there is a compan~era who is a lesbian or a compan~ero who is gay--who doesn't like women but likes men or a woman who doesn't like men but likes women ...the Army explained to us that they, for example, don't have any law against this. But, that the Committees, depending on the region, have laws, or actually agreements, that don't permit it. So, the case that I'm speaking of, for example, if a man likes other men, if he goes with another man, if he has sexual relations with another man, has sex with another man. Or a woman that doesn't like men, but likes other women and has a relationship with a woman. Is this punished? Are they expelled from the community? How do you proceed in this sense?
[More discussion in their native language.]
Q: Do you not understand what I'm saying?
M: Yes...this... We are not really familiar with that. Because here in the region, throughout the zone, this almost does not exist. Therefore we don't really know about this.
Q: It almost doesn't exist?
M: Better said, it doesn't exist. Maybe in other places, but, around here we're not familiar with it.
Q: Then you don't know what you would do...
M: No, nothing more than as the compan~ero said, what happens to these people is that... We see it depends on the man or woman. If a woman wants a man, that is on her part, if the man also wants it....
Q: Since it doesn't exist here...no law exists against it, because it
M: No, it doesn't exist because it hasn't happened.
Q: The work that Joaquín does, I imagine that it is similiar to yours. To try to raise and collect funds, to try and economically help the EZLN in their regions?
M: Yes, yes.
Q: Do you also dedicate yourselves to recruitment in the regions where you work?
J&M: Yes, we also do that.
Q: You recruit compan~eros and compan~eras in the towns?
M: Yes, it's up to the towns. If they want to join our struggle. They have to report that they want to visit our community. If we go to visit it's because a compan~ero wants us to talk with the people. We are going to meet with all the people--to call out all of the people to explain what the struggle is about. Because there are compan~eros in other communities who don't even know how the struggle began, and now the struggle has been clarified. Or they are seeking out the Committees because they want to speak to them. If he comes, we are going to reach an agreement with all the compan~eros of the Committees. Not only is one Committee in charge, but there has to be an agreement between all the compan~eros of the various Committees. And all the compan~eros of the Committee say you have to go to that town because we need you to fulfill your responsibilities, to get to know those compan~eros, to discuss and see how the struggle is going there. That is the work that we do.
Q: For example, in towns that are not like these villages and towns here in the liberated territories--towns like Ochuc? For example...where there are a lot of people who don't understand the struggle...who are on the side of the Federal Army. Are there compan~eros there as well who do work as Clandestine Committees?
Q: The only thing being that they have to be careful...
M: Yes, they have to be more careful because it's not very close to here. In various places there are compan~eros from the Clandestine Committees. Then there are various areas where the Committees can't reach because you can't reach there, you can't do it.
Q: In San Cristóbal, for example, do you have Committees?
Q: Because there are zones, especially colonies like Hormiga, that are almost a majority Tzotzil, Tzeltal. Do you work within these communitites in San Cristóbal?
M: Possibly yes, I don't know in which places... But yes, it exists. The same in Ocosingo, everywhere.
Q: Are you working in other states outside of Chiapas as Committees?
M&J: [They speak to each other in their native tongue.] We can't speak about that...for security reasons.
Q: OK. Thank you; that's all that I have... I don't know if the other compas have questions?
Q: To follow up on the other interviews we did with the compan~eras and compan~eros, they all told us about the equality that women have within the Zapatista Army. But, we also discussed with them the fact that in the communities this equality hasn't been completely arrived at yet. I imagine that you want this equality to extend to the civilian population.
Q: What are the methods that you use so that the compan~eros accept this equality for the compan~eras, the same that exists within the EZLN? Has it been difficult, does it take a lot of work?
M: Well, yes. Right now it's been more work, it has required more work. There are compan~eros in the towns who need to have things explained more about our struggle so that they will understand, so that they will begin to understand that there needs to be equality. So as a committee we struggle more so that they will understand more about the organization.
Q: What is the position of the Clandestine Committees regarding abortion?
M: I don't understand too well.
Q: Is it prohibited by the CCRI that in the towns, is abortion permited...abortion being when a compan~era in the town is pregnant but doesn't want to have more children, but she wasn't taking care of herself [on the pill] and she became pregnant. If she wants to end her pregnancy, if she doesn't want to continue her pregnancy...is it permited or is it the same as in federal territory, outside of Chiapas where abortion is not permitted?
M: Yes, that depends on the conscience of the compan~era or the compan~ero. If they come to an agreement and they want to cancel that, have an abortion, that's that. In those times it depends on the compa..
Q: But, it's a personal decision, you don't get involved in that?
M: No, not us. There are no laws against it. No, we are not going to give an order, we are explaining, educating... If someone wants to plan...but it's a question of whether they want to, it's up to them.
Q: You have to respect the decision of the woman.
M: There it is. Yes, in this case, now, the compan~eros and compan~eras are understanding the situation here with us--we were very fucked. So now it's being limited, pregnacies among the woman in each town. There has been a little advance regarding this. Some women have five or six children and now as we've explained, it depends on the father, whether or not he can sustain so many--well then, no more. But we also don't require it either.
Q: The Revolutionary Women's Law says the woman has the right to choose.
M: Right. She has to say, she has to choose.
Q: Thank you compan~eros, it was very interesting.
Interview with Subcommander Marcos
[Transcribed from the original tape]
Wednesday, May 11, 1994
Somewhere in the Lacandona Jungle
Interviewers: Eugenio Aguilera (Nightcrawlers Anarchist Black Cross), Ana Laura Hernández (Amor y Rabia/Mexico), Gustavo Rodríguez (Amor y Rabia/Mexico), Pablo Salazar Devereaux (Haitian Information Bureau)
Q: Much has been written and said about the Zapatistas, but little is concretely known about your ideology. There are many who are trying to claim your struggle as their own. The Maoists say that you are Maoists, the Trotskyists say that you are Trotskyists, and the list goes on...
M: The anarchists say that we are anarchists...
Q: No, we have never been able to say for sure [laughter]. We need proof.
However, you have insisted that you are Zapatistas. Even now we remember
the words of an EZLN Major who affirmed: "We are not Marxists, nor are
we guerrillas. We are Zapatistas and we are an army." Anti-
authoritarianism is felt in each of your words and actions, in the manner in which you are organized, in the structure of the Clandestine Committees, in the collective participation [within the EZLN]. In Mexico, the only precedents for your actions and attitudes go back precisely to those whose names you constantly evoke: Zapata and Magón. Has Magonismo permeated your ideology?
M: This is a question?
Q: [laughter]. No, a presentation.
M: I thought it was a speech.
Q: No, no, a presentation.
M: Well then, I'm going to explain. The EZLN was born having as points
of reference the political-
military organizations of the guerrilla movements in Latin America during the '60s and '70s: That is to say, political-military structures with the central aim of overthrowing a regime and the taking of power by the people in general.
When the first group of the EZLN arrived here, in the jungles of Chiapas, it was a very small group with this political-military structure that I am talking about. It began to adapt itself to the surroundings, to try to survive--that is to say, to permeate the territory, to make it survivable. But, above all, it began to forge in the combatant, in that initial group of combatants, the physical and ideological strength needed for the guerrilla process. I mean by this that the mountains served as a school for cadres, inflexible and constant, day and night. But things were taking shape. In this period there were no cameras, there were no recorders, there was no press, nor were there military actions. The only thing that lets you stay in the mountains and endure is hope, because there isn't any payment. I'm not referring to monetary payment, of course there never was any of that, but to some moral reward, to something that would serve as some sort of assurance that it is all worth it.
Ten years ago, we were clinging to the hope that everything that we were learning, with much suffering and many problems, was going to have results someday. In that period, there was a double learning process: the learning process of the mestizos (the inhabitants of this area call everyone who lives in the city "mestizo") and the process of the Indigenous peoples. The process of the Indigenous people includes learning the very basics--to speak Spanish, the history of Mexico, reading and writing, basic notions of mathematics, geography, biology, chemistry--in all, everything that we mestizos have as our basic culture. And we, for our part, had to learn and understand not only the world view of the Indigenous peoples of this zone, but also learn a series of physical aptitudes that are not innate to the Indigenous peoples, but that they learn when they are small: to handle a machete, to carry large loads over long distances, to reduce their food intake to the minimum required--in this case corn and sugar.
In this interplay, this exchange, this give and take, we both went to the mountains changed. What I mean is that, for the Indigenous people, the mountains are something sacred, something special, something magical, and ultimately something terrible. No, the Indigenous peoples do not go to the mountains. In fact, when we entered the mountains, many of them feared that something would happen to them before they could accomplish anything. The mountains are the place of the dead, of the gods, of good gods and bad gods, and because of this there was nobody who had experienced, not even on their part, life in the mountains. The Indigenous people were only used to living in their villages, to going hunting, to searching for land where they could plant. We should talk about this "romantic vision," if you understand me, of guerrilla war, with its references to grandiose military actions: the taking of power and triumph, all of those things that could be references to the triumphant guerrilla wars of that era, the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions.
This environment brings you back to reality and makes you understand
that all revolutions have a cost and only those who are willing to pay
it can carry out the revolution. To begin with, at that time you had to
be crazy or stupid to try to carry it out. I think that we were both stupid
and crazy. There was nothing that would tell us that we were fine and that
the venture was going to have a future or that it had a chance. There was
the fact that we had tried to bring about change--not necessarily revolutionary
change--by other methods and in different places. But all of our struggles,
our struggles in the university, campesino struggles, workers' struggles,
collided with the State, with Power. It is better to speak about Power,
because there are places in which the action of the State is not perfectly
definable as such, and it makes more sense to speak of Power--in this case,
the Power of a dominant class that spreads to other areas--
culture for example. Then you arrive at the conclusion, intuitively or scientifically, that another road is necessary, the road of armed struggle.
We then confronted the common belief that an armed revolution was possible in any country other than Mexico. That is to say, Mexico was considered the country of solidarity, but never the country of the revolution. When we proposed a revolution, we were considered heretics among the left. The left said that revolution wasn't Mexico's role, that we were too close to the United States, that the regime in Mexico resembled the European model, and that because of this a "revolutionary" change was only possible by electoral methods, by peaceful methods, or, in the most radical scenario, by insurrectional methods. This means that the unarmed masses, with broad mobilizations, would disrupt the economy and create a crisis in the State apparatus, which would then fall and a new government would take power. When we proposed a guerrilla war, an armed struggle, we broke with this tradition, a tradition that was very strong during that time. With what was happening in Nicaragua and what was beginning to happen in El Salvador, well... Similar things had always been happening there, but they were becoming more intense. The struggle in Guatemala was rejuvenating itself a second time, a third, a fourth. I don't know. Eventually someone said, "And why not here in Mexico?" Immediately, there was a sense of caution, of prudence, as if to say, "Not here; here our role is to help those peoples that are liberating themselves and only later, eventually, Mexico might aspire to revolution." The fact that we broke with this idea implies that we also broke with other theoretical schema.
We were always confronted with the mountains. Let's say we survived that first stage, that this first stage was, in effect, about two things: surviving and beginning our political work. In this initial political work, a connection began to take place between the proposals of the guerrilla group, the initial group of the EZLN, and the communities. This means that there are different expectations of the movement. On one hand, there were those who hoped that armed action would bring about a revolution and a change of power, in this case the fall of the governing party and the ascension of another party, but that in the end it would be the people who took power. On the other hand, there were the more immediate expectations of the Indigenous people here. For them, the necessity of armed struggle was more as a form of defense against groups of very violent, aggressive, and powerful ranchers. In addition, there was an approaching storm--no, let's not say approaching storm--as if there was a wall, a wall that was the same mountain that separated the jungle from the city and that separated the Indigenous peoples from political power.
It was this wall that permitted the EZLN to grow so scandalously without anyone realizing to what point it had grown. The Indigenous peoples realized the necessity of learning to defend themselves. They had weapons, but they used them only for hunting or to protect their homes from animals or thieves. Then, we found each other and we began to speak in two different languages, but in this common point of necessity of armed struggle a relationship began to develop. They needed military instruction, and we needed the support of a social base. And we thus tried to convince them of the necessity of a broader political project. That didn't occur until elements of the community entered the Army. In that moment the difference between combatant force and civilian force began to disappear, until it reached the point you see now, when whole communities are Zapatistas, when there is no line that separates the civilians from the Zapatistas.
Then, when this began to occur, there began a confrontation, a relationship of convenience, between two ways of making decisions. On one hand, there was the initial proposal of the EZLN: a completely undemocratic and authoritarian proposal, as undemocratic and authoritarian as an army can be, since an army is the most authoritarian thing in this world, and also the most absurd in that one single person can decide the life and death of his subordinates. On the other hand there was the Indigenous tradition that before the Conquest was a way of life, and that after the Conquest became their only way of surviving. In other words, the communities, isolated, cornered, saw themselves as obligated to defend themselves collectively, to live collectively, to govern themselves collectively.
Since the internal life of the communities was totally separated from national and local political forces, the important thing was the work done by the communities, and because of this, a collective government came about. No, it was always there: a way of making decisions in common about problems that affect the entire community. These decisions included decisions about work that had to be done in common, judicial problems at an internal level--because it isn't possible to appeal to the judicial power of the State. What I mean to say is that the isolation of the Indigenous communities provoked the development of another type of "state," a state to deal with the survival of the collective, of a democratic collective with these two characteristics: The leadership is collective and it is removable.
In any moment, if you hold a position in the community (first, the community has to have appointed you, independent of your political affiliation), the community can remove you. There isn't a fixed term that you have to complete. The moment that the community begins to see that you are failing in your duties, that you are having problems, they sit you down in front of the community and they begin to tell you what you have done wrong. You defend yourself and, finally, the community, the collective, the majority decides what they are going to do with you. Eventually, you will have to leave your position and another will take up your responsibilities.
So, on one hand, there is this form of organization. I'm going to make a reference so that you understand better--student assemblies. Student assemblies are better as forms of protest or for analyzing problems. In the case of the Indigenous communities, it is a way of life. On the other hand, we have the authoritarian form of the Army, of a political-military organization, but a military organization above all. One began to see a confrontation between these modes of decision-making until people from the communities began to join the EZLN and the Indigenous form of decision-making began to take precedence.
I want you to understand me; we didn't arrive and say, "It is necessary that the collective and democracy guide us." That isn't true, of course. This wasn't our conception. Our conception was vertical: "What is necessary is a group of strong men and women, with ideological and physical strength, with the resistance to carry out this task." Our conception was that we were few but of high quality. Well, I'm not saying that we were of that high quality, but we sure were few.
Finally, I can't say exactly when--it's not something that's planned--the moment arrived in which the EZLN had to consult the communities in order to make a decision. At first, we only asked if what we were doing was going to cause problems for the compan~eros. And later, when we left the jungle and entered the mountains, we also entered the assemblies and discussions of the communities. A moment arrives in which you can't do anything without the approval of the people with whom you work. It was something understood by both parties: They understood that we wouldn't do anything without consulting them, and we understood that if we did anything without consulting them, we would lose them. And this flow, this increase of men and women who left the communities in order to enter the mountains, made us realize that we couldn't draw a solid line between combatant forces and civilian forces. Even geographically this line had broken down. There were military units that didn't live in the mountains but that instead lived in the communities and participated in communal labors. They gave military instruction, but they also participated in the work of the communities. When we reflect on this now it isn't a question of "us" and "them"--now "we" are the entire community. It was necessary to organize, to establish this collective authority alongside the absurdity of a vertical, authoritarian structure. Then it was possible to divide the process of making decisions. I mean by this that strategic decisions, important decisions, have to be made democratically, from below, not from above. If there is going to be an action or series of actions that are going to implicate the entire organization, the authority has to come from below. In this sense, even the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee isn't able to make every decision. You could say that the EZLN is different because in most political-military organizations there is only one commander, and in the EZLN the Clandestine Committees are composed of 80 people, 100 people, 120 people or however many. But this is not the difference. The difference is that even the Clandestine Committees cannot make certain decisions, the most important decisions. They are limited to such a degree that the Clandestine Committees cannot decide which path the organization is going to follow until every compan~ero is consulted. In the EZLN a decision cannot be made until everyone is consulted, even if it appears that the majority of the compan~eros have already decided for one of the options. Only after consulting everyone can the Committee say, "We have asked everyone, and this is the result." The Committee cannot say, "We consulted the majority and..." This could cost you your life. You can't play games here.
In this way, we were not a guerrilla group, but an army, an army with territory, with troops, with a general strategic plan. Our initial plan was a defensive plan, a plan in which the compan~eros could participate in one of three different ways: as part of the regular combat force that lives in the mountains, as part of the irregular combat force that lives and works in the communities, or as part of a reserve force composed of the elderly and children. These last also receive military training. At last, we arrived at the point where we were able to mobilize 5,000 people and concentrate them in a village as part of a military exercise.
What was it that made this possible? A centralized command? No! Rather, it was that decisions of this kind were made by consensus or consultation. It is more than consultation; it is not a consultation to see what you think, but more to ask, "What do you want to happen?" The purpose of this is to give power to those who should have power.
Then, in this interweaving, in this exchange between two different forms of decision-making, the most orthodox proposals of Marxism or Leninism, theoretical concepts or historical references--for example, that the vanguard of the revolution is the proletariat, that the taking of state power and the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the aim of the revolution--were confronted by an ideological tradition that is, how can I say this, somewhat magical. It is magical in one sense, but very real in another. What I mean by this is that it is an ideological tradition born of war--in this case, the war of the Conquest that began, well, not exactly five hundred years ago, and that continued through different historical periods. It continues... It continues, and it grows. If we had been orthodox leftists, we would never have worked with Indigenous peoples. Now, today, I believe there are many theories in crisis. Who would have thought that it would be the Indigenous peoples who would provoke all of this? Not even in the Leninist conception of the weakest link was it thought that it might be the Indigenous people, right? I told you that there was a learning process at the beginning of our work here, albeit a forced one. It's not like we said, "Well, we are going to learn and see what happens." No! We were closed-minded, like any other orthodox leftist, like any other theoretician who believes that he knows the truth.
Q: Even in "pure" Marxism there is discrimination against Indigenous people.
M: Yes! Definitely. The events of this last January will bring changes at the theoretical level as well. We arrived here and we were confronted by this reality, the Indigenous reality, and it continues to control us. Ultimately the theoretical confronted the practical, and something happened--the result was the EZLN. Therefore our combatants are right when they say, "We are not Marxist-Leninists, we are Zapatistas." They are referring to this synthesis, this coming together, this compatibility that incorporates--I'm going to be very schematic--the historical traditions of struggle and resistance of Indigenous people and the necessity of a national revolution.
Q: Excuse me for interrupting. This is exactly the meaning of the initial question: whether you believe that Magonismo has permeated the Zapatista movement. Let's look at the history of the Mexican revolution, in which Magón, who was also a descendent of Indigenous people, of Indigenous parents in Oaxaca, had a similar vision. He took into account the needs of the Indigenous peoples and didn't limit himself to saying, "Those poor Indians!" but also assumed the responsibility of analyzing how to create an army with Indigenous bases, an army with a collective participation in the command structures. This is the point of the first question: Do you believe that Magonismo has permeated the ideological formation of the EZLN?
M: Look, I have to be honest. When we talk about Magonismo, it also makes me think of the orthodox line, closed-minded and stupid. This is the truth. The Magón brothers are only talked about in the context of the labor movement, although we know that they developed many other important projects as well. But, ultimately, the unintentional result is that they are spoken of in this way. We referred to the Flores Magón brothers in order to highlight the need for the workers to participate in the revolution, and in order to highlight an important force that existed during the time previous to the outbreak and spread of the armed struggle in 1910-21.
Ultimately, this synthesis or confrontation that I am speaking of occurred in such a way that the EZLN was born without any links to the workers. I think that perhaps the synthesis was not enough. Probably it could have used more influence from Magón. It probably lacked more input from the history of the Mexican workers' movement so as to be able to truly incorporate the workers into the armed struggle. I'm not saying that we didn't consider this on a theoretical level, but evidently in practice nothing happened. This is to say that there was an error, not in the reality--I can't say, "Reality is stupid because it doesn't suit what I am thinking." It means that we were stupid because we didn't understand reality.
Q: In this sense, the Zapatista movement and the Zapatista revolution have been called the first post-modernist revolution. Now, let's analyze the fact that many current theories of the new left, of an anti-authoritarian left with a definite tendency toward libertarian communism, break with the blueprint that sees the working class as the vanguard of the social revolution. Many of these new theories even see the working class as a class in decline, a class that does not recognize itself as a class, a class that less and less wants to be considered the working class. Is this conception of the working class one that you have adopted during your experiences?
M: No, definitely not. Those idols against which we were fighting were different. The idea that armed struggle was possible in all places except Mexico was so omnipresent that we were obligated to confront it first and leave the rest for later. Beyond this, in historical or theoretical terms, who would have speculated before December 31, 1993 that it wasn't going to be the proletariat leading the revolution? Then who? Who was it going to be? They could have speculated that it would be the teachers, they could have speculated that it would be the unemployed, they could have speculated that it would be the students or some sector of the middle class, they could have speculated that it would be leftist or democratic factions within the Federal Army or within the supposedly democratic faction of the PRI. They could have speculated many things, including that the United States would become socialist and then they would invade us and make us socialists [laughter]. This was the reasoning then. Even in the university this idea had taken root.
It didn't occur to anyone that the Indigenous peoples were going to play this role and that they would manage to demand their place in the nation, or that they would demand that the nation recognize that they have a proposal, that they have a proposal for the nation. The same or better or worse--it's open for discussion--as any other proposal that intellectuals or political parties or social groups have for this country.
Q: We don't want to deviate much from the questions that we planned
to ask you, but now that you have brought up the term "nation"... There
have been many discussions regarding this concept. Even within the discussions
modernism the term "nation" continues to be marked by a petit-bourgeois conception. The "nation" is used as an abstract feeling of a patriotism that ultimately does nothing more than pit us against one another, country against country. And in this sense, we have felt a certain distance, for example, between points such as the autonomy of the Indigenous peoples and the national proposals of which you speak. We would like it if you could tell us a little of the vision of which you speak. When you refer to your national proposals, is it with this bourgeois vision of the nation-state-fatherland, or are you merely using a language a little, well, we could say, more common--something more direct and easier to understand?
M: When we speak of the nation we are necessarily speaking of history, of a history of common struggle with historical references that make us brothers to one group of people without distancing us from other groups. But what more do we have in common with the history of what is today called Mexico? I say this because the first accusation against Zapatismo is that it is aligned with Central America. Therefore it has to delineate itself and explain that its vision is not directed towards the South, but rather towards the North. That is to say, to that historical tradition that has brought it together with a group of people--in this case with the Mexican people, not with the Central American peoples. Because... remember that the other thing being said is that this revolution is the last Central American revolution. Some say it is the first post-modern revolution, others say that it is the last Central American revolution, even geographically speaking.
What occurs as a result of this insistence... When the concept of autonomy is brought up, the state understands it in this way: "Well, what the Indigenous peoples want are reservations, like the ones North American Indians have." This is where the compan~eros say, "No, if we are going to end up like the North American Indians on reservations, no." This is not the concept of autonomy that we want, rather, that they recognize, for example, this structure of government that I have explained, a structure that gives us validity. We don't want them to operate as if they were conquering territory. When the Federal Army entered the communities before the war, or the judicial police or the Public Security police, or the municipal police, they entered as an invading army in enemy territory, even physically. When an army invades a country, everyone from that country is an enemy. When they entered the communities, they entered acting as if everyone were an enemy. At that point, the compan~eros said, "We have our own forms of government, we have traditions of community decision-making that must be respected by the government. And not only that--these traditions are a good example for the national government, for the government of this country, for any government that pretends to be a democracy."
For this reason we speak of Mexico, of the Mexican nation, because we must mark our boundaries, we must say, "It is not nostalgia for Central America, it is not nostalgia for Nicaragua, nostalgia for El Salvador." On the other hand, when they speak of autonomy they are speaking as sectarians. They don't look to the future but to the past, the nostalgia... They look to ethnicity in a pejorative sense, as if we wanted to create a bubble, a bubble like the one in the movie, a bubble that isolates you from contamination or from what happens outside it. Therefore, any concept that you put out there... We must make clear what we are speaking of in all senses.
Q: From our point of view... We felt a little shocked by the discrepancy in your positions. For example, what is put forward as the "nation" of Mexico we understand to be very similar to what Indigenous peoples understand to be the "nation" of the United States. It is a large nation that dominates a large number of Indigenous peoples, of small Indigenous nations. In this case they may be Choles, Tzotziles, Triquis, Yaquis. The same thing happens in the case of the United States. It is a large nation that has oppressed a large number of small nations, such as the Yaquis, the Pomos, the Apaches, the Dakotas, etc. And in this sense we understand Mexico to be an imperialist nation that has kept all of these peoples oppressed without recognizing their culture, their traditions, their identities, a nation that has imposed a culture and an identity and that is trying to maintain the entire territory under its control without the least respect for cultures, traditions, identities, or anything of the kind. This then we see as a kind of contradiction, speaking of a national project... Well, we can see it in history with the example of Lázaro Cárdenas when he was in the Army. He went to war against the Yaqui, no? And this was to massacre and oppress the Yaqui people, a people who were in rebellion, and who had not allowed themselves to be oppressed, a people who were one of the bastions of resistance against the so-called "new nation." Therefore, we see a contradiction. I don't know if you have given thought to this, if you have come across this contradiction in your experiences.
M: No, this is your position, but since this is my interview, I am going
to explain ours. Look, we believe that today's Mexico, the Mexico that
we are fighting against, is not a Mexico in the abstract but rather a project
of a certain class, of a certain social group. This project was born of
the disorder or of the internal agreement provoked by the revolution at
the beginning of this century. The implementation of this project has brought
about a series of things as you indicate: domination, questions of land,
of forms of government. For example, the lie that there is a federation
when in reality the states depend upon the central government, or the lie
that there are free townships when in reality the townships are dependent.
We believe that it is possible to have the same Mexico with a different
project, a project that recognizes not only that it is a multi-ethnic state--in
national--but also that new concepts are needed in order to reform the Constitution. But, since there isn't a just relationship between the Federation and its parts, we are proposing autonomy. We are proposing this because we are mostly Indigenous people, but what we say with respect to the need for autonomy could be applied equally to the townships, to the unions, to social groupings, to campesino groups, to the governments of the states or to the states that are nominally free and sovereign inside the Federation.
Q: Could it be said that you view the future society for which you are fighting as one in which the free township, the autonomous township, will be put into practice, a society in which a federation will be put into practice based upon a citizens, confederation?
M: No, before this we have to complete the other revolution. The EZLN... The revolution that we are proposing isn't an Indigenous revolution. The EZLN was born with Indigenous demands due to how it developed, but it aspires to organize the workers, non-Indigenous campesinos, students, teachers, and all of the other social sectors in order to carry out a broader revolution, not just an Indigenous revolution.
We don't believe that the result of this revolution that we are proposing will be a new world, a new country; it will only be a first step, an antechamber that you enter before you enter this new country. We are proposing a space, an equilibrium between the different political forces, in order that each position has the same opportunity to influence the political direction of this country--not by backroom deals, corruption, or blackmail, but by convincing the majority of the people that their position is best. I mean by this... If there is a neoliberal proposal for the country, we shouldn't try to eliminate it, but confront it. If there is a Trotskyist proposal, a Maoist proposal, an anarchist proposal, or proposals from the Guevaristas, the Castristas, the Existentialists or whatever "ists" that you may think of, they shouldn't be eliminated. They shouldn't be discussed in the way we are discussing them now, in small groups. In this discussion, we are demonstrating that we know a lot, that we speak very prettily, but in the discussions that we are proposing... The rest of the country shouldn't be spectators, like they will be for the debate tomorrow [On May 12, for the first time in Mexican history, the presidential candidates of the major Mexican political parties engaged in an open, televised debate--trans.]The people have to decide what proposal to accept, and it's the people whom you have to convince that your opinion is correct. This will radically change the concept of revolution, of who the revolutionary class is, of what a revolutionary organization is. Now, the problem isn't in fighting against the other proposals, but instead, in trying to convince the people. It's because of this that the Zapatista revolution isn't proposing the taking of power, it isn't proposing a homogeneous ideological concept of revolution. We are saying that yes, we do have our idea of how the country should be, but something is lacking before we talk about this. We cannot replicate the same logic as the government. They have a vision for the country that they have imposed on the people with the weapons of the Federal Army. We cannot reverse this logic and say that now the Zapatista vision is going to be imposed on the people with the weapons of the Zapatista Army. We are saying, "Let's destroy this state, this state system. Let's open up this space and confront the people with ideas, not with weapons." This is why we propose democracy, freedom, and justice--justice in order that certain material conditions are satisfied so that people have an opportunity to participate in the political life of the country. We are saying, "We don't want this new world yet. We are not talking about a new world yet. We aren't talking about what form Article 27 should take. We aren't talking about what form the Federation agreement should take. We aren't talking about what form Indigenous autonomy should take. We are talking about a democratic space where the political parties, or groups that aren't parties, can air and discuss their social proposals."
Q: Marcos, in analyzing the way in which you are organized--at least
what you have let us see--
it's evident that when you speak of democracy, you are referring to direct democracy, to total participation, to a participation in which each and every person who makes up this country, everyone that is living at this time in Mexico, can participate. Is this interpretation accurate?
M: Yes. Definitely. Look, what we are trying to do... We are a clandestine organization that has taken up arms against the government, and still we are very careful to try and maintain this democracy. By this I mean the direct vote, everyone's vote. Yes, because only the Zapatistas can vote. It's not the kind of process where you arrive and ask the people, "Are you for war or are you for peace? Well, I'm for war. And you? Peace." And you go adding up the votes.
No, I tell you that it must be the logical outcome of community discussion. The people meet in assemblies and the representatives put forth, for example, in the case of the consultations, the demands of the EZLN and the response of the government. They're explained. What is it that we asked for and what has the government said in response? And they begin to debate, "Well, this is bad, and this is good." After the community says, "We have already debated, we already understand, now we can vote,"--this could take days. In fact, almost all the consultations have gone on for two, three days now and they haven't yet reached the point of voting. They arrive and say, "Well, okay, we are in agreement, let's vote if we are ready to vote, if we already understand what it is we are going to decide." It's not about raising your hand or putting a check-mark for one option or the other. You have to debate and analyze the pros and the cons.
In this case, you're not voting for a governor where he could turn out to be a son of a bitch, you're voting for your life or death as an organization. If you're at war you already know that you could live or die. But, if you err in a decision and you vote for war when it is time for peace or you vote for peace when it is time for war, you disappear as an organization. You might disappear because they destroy you, because you lose prestige or moral authority, or because you become a traitor to yourself by signing a fictitious peace that nobody wants. You can't leave decisions of this magnitude to a group of leaders, no matter how collective they are or how large the group is. Not even the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee can decide these things. The Committee can't meet and decide, "We analyzed what Camacho said and we are going to decide yes or no." They can't do that.
Q: Do you strive for consensus in the general assemblies?
M: No, there is direct voting. It isn't the sort of voting where at the end they say, "The majority of the people voted yes and therefore it's yes for all the people." No, it has to be known how many said yes and how many said no, because these yeses and nos are added up proportionally. It's not the consensus of the government, for example, that says, "Well, nobody said no [laughs] so we have consensus. Are you in agreement? Nobody said they didn't agree so that means that you agree." No, it has to be a direct vote.
Q: We want to ask you another question that deals with ground that's already been covered to some extent, since it's been made clear during the interview that the EZLN has never considered itself to be the vanguard of the Mexican revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, I need to ask this question directly because other groups, specifically the Revolutionary Worker's Clandestine Party-Union of the People [Partido Revolucionario Obrero Clandestino-Unión del Pueblo, PROCUP], have said that they are the vanguard of Zapatismo, that they, as a party, are the vanguard of Zapatismo. PROCUP recently circulated a document in which they implied that the EZLN is one of their "belligerent groups," and that all the recent events in Mexico are part of PROCUP's national plan, of which, logically, they are the vanguard. Is this true? Do you have some connection?
M: The left is very closed-minded. The traditional left is very closed-minded. They say, "Well, these people don't draw from any of the known ideologies, so they must not have one. I will lend them one." [laughs]. Or they say, "They are good people but they don't know what they want. I'm going to tell them what they want." Or "They're good people but they need a leader. I'll be their leader." This is the reality not just in the case of PROCUP, but with groups of Trotskyists and Maoists who say, "What the EZLN needs is... ME!" [laughs].
Q: My leadership...
M: Yes, ultimately, "my leadership." What upsets the Pentagon is that when you punch "Zapatista" into the computer, nothing comes out that says, "Moscow," or "Havana," or "Libya," "Tripoli," "Bosnia" or any other group. And the left, accustomed to the same way of thinking, says, "Well, they don't fit in anywhere." It doesn't occur to them there might be something new, that you have to re-theorize. And they say, "Well then, these poor people don't know what they want, we need to help them." And furthermore, we are talking about an armed force at war, surrounded, that isn't able to receive all the declarations or the newspapers. Eventually, we find out what is said after a week or maybe 15 days. So, they know that we will not be able to deny it. We can't stop it. But, we believe that... We have confidence in the people, in the community, in that we have been clear about our positions, and that people will have difficulty swallowing that we are the armed arm of PROCUP or of any other organization of any type. But I have seen various magazines...
Q: Very insidious... the commentaries.
M: ...of Trotskyists and Maoists, of all of the orthodox leftists and of the old dinosaurs who say, "Well, the EZLN is very good and what they've done is very good and all, but they lack a program, so here's a program. They lack a party, so here's a party. They lack a leader, so here's a leader." This attitude is held by everyone from Aguilar Talamantes to the left.
Q: Yes, he already wanted you to be a candidate for president, right?
M: No, first he wanted to be our candidate for the presidency. [laughs].
Q: Later he wanted you to be the candidate.
M: Yes, but he made it very difficult. First I had to prove that I was more intelligent than he was.
Q: Really? Imagine! Impossible.
M: Evidently it was impossible.
Q: Going back to the previous discussion, Dr. Armando Quiroz Alejandre of the National Assembly for Human Rights [Asamblea Nacional de Derechos Humanos, ANDH] met with comrades of the Zapatista Solidarity Committee in New York City. During the visit, he insinuated in private discussions with these comrades that PROCUP has a link to the EZLN and furthermore that the EZLN is following the same political line as PROCUP.
M: It's not true. Those people need to be publicly denounced. It can't be. Why should the Zapatistas provide the dead bodies and the other groups collect the dollars and fool people into thinking that they're providing solidarity for an organization that never receives any of this aid? We don't subscribe to their ideologies--in this case the ideology of PROCUP. We definitely don't subscribe... If we subscribed to the ideology of PROCUP, well, we would be PROCUP. We are not, we are not in any way in league with them, we have not even entered in any kind of conversation with them since our inception, since their inception. There is absolutely no type of alliance. Well, in the sense that we are all human beings, you could also [laughs] link us to Clinton or to Reagan, to Perot, to Che, to Zapata.
Q: With anybody... Now that we are clearing some things up. There have been other groups that have manipulated things in a different way. Specifically in the case of CLETA, who said, for example, that you are their vanguard. This is the opposite of PROCUP. CLETA needed a vanguard and put you in that position. Furthermore, as we are talking about the problem of solidarity, they are one of the groups that has organized concerts and collected funds saying that they are for you, saying that it is for...that this aid reaches you, that this money reaches you.
M: Well, we're going to wait until it arrives. But, up until now nothing has arrived [laughs].
Q: Nothing has arrived. A number of very biased press sources have tried to equate the EZLN with the Shining Path [Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path, Partido Comunista de Peru-Sendero Luminoso]. Making a simply objective analysis you can see that both groups are very different. For example, while the Shining Path has committed innumerable executions, you [the EZLN] tried a criminal like Absalón and you put him to work in the corn fields and in the end you freed him. We would like it if you could expound on this because there are Maoists who say that you part of the international Maoist revolution, that there is a link between the Shining Path and the Zapatista Army, etc., etc.
M: No, there is no link. Look, if the Mexicans couldn't accept that an armed revolution was possible in Mexico, definitely foreigners couldn't accept the possibility. Come on, everyone saw, or still sees, Mexico as the rearguard for political solidarity work. Now I'm remembering something; let's see if this relates to the question--it will make the tape recorder jump. We just received a feminist magazine that says that we are sexists because we chose war and war is sexist, armies are in and of themselves sexist, so therefore the EZLN is sexist. Therefore, what the EZLN needs is to be feminist. The article was brilliant--it moved me to tears. I don't remember what it was called--it was written by "pure" feminists. The article goes beyond anything I've seen.
Q: La Fem?
Q: Is it national?
M: No, it appeared to be...
Q: Well, on that note, I'm going skip around in the order of the questions.
M: No, it's that the article says... the foreward says, "Only for Zapatista women." And I disobeyed and read it, but I will pass it along to the compan~eras.
Q: Well, one of the things that we are most concerned about--specifically
are the gender politics within the EZLN. You facilitated our being able to interview a number of compan~eras and we have seen--to the point that you have allowed us to see [laughs]--that there exists an equality. This can be seen clearly. The women say it themselves: "My partner,"--or in the case of those who are married--"My husband washes his things, does his work, does his part." And when you ask her if she has children, she says, "Yes, I already have mine, my M-16." Things like this show that yes, there is an equality that exists, at least in practice. The single compan~eras that we've interviewed also tell us they do the same work as the men, that they aren't limited to working as nurses or in the kitchen as a result of being women. We would like you to tell us, as spokesperson of the EZLN: What are the politics of the EZLN towards gender issues?
M: Look, there are many problems. I am speaking for the compan~eras... Above all in the civilian population, the civilians have continued practicing many ancestral customs that don't belong in even a pre-revolutionary situation. For example, many still believe that the man should choose the woman that he wants to marry, but that the woman should have no choice in the matter. The difference, including the physical difference, between the civilian women and the combatant women is very clear. At the age when many of the combatant women have, as you say, an M-16, many civilian women already have four or five children, are beaten by their husbands; they don't know how to read or write, they have no opportunity to develop themselves as people. What the compan~eras say is that they cannot have their equality decreed from above, they have to achieve it through struggle. They say, "You can like it or not, but now we are going to change these things." By force. That's why in our list of demands to the government, it doesn't mention anything about gender. The compan~eras say, "We aren't going to ask the government to give us freedom, nor are we going to ask you male fools. We are going to ensure our freedom, our respect, and our dignity as women and as human beings." I'm speaking of the compan~eras... They also criticize us, the men, for our sexist or authoritarian attitudes. For example, in relationships between combatants, many things have changed, things that haven't changed in the civilian population. For example, in the civilian population, when a woman marries, she is no longer allowed to dance. She is married, and dances are places where single people meet and decide to get married. If she is married, then she doesn't dance because now she is somebody's "property." Among the civilians it is still this way. Among the combatants, no, the combatants dance whether they are married or single, and it is very common that the woman chooses her dancing partner. They dance just to dance, to have fun, without any other motive such as to sleep with someone or have a relationship.
The politics of gender in the EZLN, among the regular forces... There isn't a politic of gender, there are only combatants. There are women soldiers and there are men soldiers, but in the end they are soldiers. In order to rise to a command position, in order to rise in rank or to carry out actions and missions, we take into account the soldier's aptitudes; it doesn't matter whether they are male or female. Many times, in our daily life as combatants, in couple relationships, sexist attitudes are reproduced, and because of this our laws tend to favor the woman. It is very common for couples to fight physically when they fight. Let's say that the difference between the women combatants and civilian women is that the women combatants hit back. [laughter]
Q: They defend themselves.
M: Yes, it's common that it's the man who comes to us complaining that his partner hit him. We have to be very cautious in this respect because both are armed; if it occurs to one of them to shoot the other... A blow is much different than a gunshot. For us--for me it's very clear, and I believe that it's clear to many compan~eras as well--that equality isn't something that's conceded. You can't say, "I as a man am going to give you your freedom and now we are going to be equal." That's not true, of course. In the same way, the government can't concede us our rights as Indigenous peoples; we have to fight for them. The women are also fighting for them, many times in very radical ways. I believe that they've achieved many things inside the combat forces and inside the civilian population. For example, men who had never received orders from a woman, who couldn't stand it when women would give them orders in the mountains... When they saw them fighting, they saw that the compan~eras knew how to fight. They look on them with respect now because they realized that the women knew how to fight, and they didn't. They saw them facing death, and they stopped being women. They stopped being women in the classic sense of the term, weak and unable to...
Q: Women in the pejorative sense.
M: It could be also that you see a woman and you think that she's only there to sleep with. But when it changes to, "She's going to give me orders and I have to obey her," or, "I'm going to give her orders and she is going to obey me," in that moment you stop being a female combatant or a male combatant and you become a soldier, equal. I'm not saying that the women stop being women and become men, but that both women and men stop being what they are and become combatants. Since we are soldiers all the time--we aren't able to take vacations--it is very difficult to tell when one is acting in the role of combatant and when one is off-duty. I believe that this has brought more benefits to the compan~eras than to the sexists, to us men, in the sense that this equality in combat, in work is transmitted to other aspects of life.
Q: Do you accept the analysis that we live in a patriarchal society, that men have controlled society for centuries, and that this is also part of the system that feeds Capital, that feeds the bourgeoisie?
Q: We must rise above this and the sexist attitudes that we hold.
M: Definitely! There are compan~eros who are very revolutionary politically, but who are real assholes in relationships, in marriages, in relationships between men and women. But, I believe that changes in this aren't going to be our concession--I'm speaking as a man. The women are going to change things whether we like it or not, despite our closed-mindedness. It is the same thing we are doing with respect to the government. The government doesn't like the fact that the Indigenous peoples have risen up, but we did it. The sexists don't like the fact that the women are doing what they are doing, but they are going to do it and that's that. They have fought in combat, they haven't even won. Some of them led successful missions, they won, they defeated men. They commanded entire units of men. The EZLN is composed of about two-thirds men and one-third women. It is very common to have military units where the only woman is the commander. The entire unit, all of her subordinates, are men. This caused many problems before January 1.
Q: And these problems were eliminated?
M: They finally saw that yes, what was important wasn't that they were women but that they had learned during their years in the mountains to lead the same as any man.
Q: We have seen this. We have met many women captains during our stay
here in the liberated territories. We have met many female captains and
this demonstrates the truth of what you are saying...
M: The male captains hide themselves [laughter]. No, that's not true.
Q: Continuing along this same subject... We have seen that there is also a cultural difference, a difference in tradition. You said this also, at the beginning when you spoke of your links to the Indigenous communities. Many of the compan~eras have told us that they aren't allowed to have sex until they are married, that there is a regulation that says that they must be married. If they like a man and they want to sleep with him, it's easier to marry him. We're not speaking of a religious marriage, but that you, the EZLN, expedite some form of marriage... But we feel this to be a little puritanical, as if to say, "You can't have sex because you are a woman and you have to be married."
M: No, no, it's that marriage for us means that you are a couple and you have permission. Let me explain. When you are going to have a sexual relationship... During the day you can't have sex, you're working. The most logical thing is that you are going to sleep with someone at night. You have to advise the commander that you are going to be having sex somewhere, because if you are attacked the commander has to look for you and... We tell the combatants, "You have to trust the commanders to tell them that you are sleeping with someone." Why? It doesn't matter to me, I'm not going to watch you, I'm not a voyeur. It isn't like that. What I'm interested in is that I have someone covering your position. If we are attacked, we can't have the entire defensive line having sex. Well, it could happen, but it shouldn't happen. We don't demand that they are married.
Q: You mean a woman can have sexual relations freely?
M: Yes, what she is told is to follow a birth-
control method. That's why she is told to let us know, so that she can follow a method. Because if you become pregnant... you can't stay in the mountains pregnant, you have to go to town, go get an abortion there. It has already happened; there are compan~eras who abort on the long walks that... Then, the method has to be followed, you have to look after yourself. Only when the Army says, "Now it's possible to have children and remain in the mountains or at some positions," only then will it cease to be an issue. But, yes, the nurses are asked to be checking for pregnancy. But there is no formal procedure. You do have to ask the commanders for permission, but it's not as if...
Q: As if it's mandatory to be married to have sex, or anything like that.
M: No, no.
Q: Simply put, it's more a matter of coordination, to...
M: Yes, a military question. You let the commanders know, but generally no, they don't get married to have sex.
Q: They can have sexual relations freely?
M: In fact, they have sex and then they say, "Well, not this one." Or
"Yes, this is the one I want to marry. Or maybe I don't want to marry this
person, but I just want it to be clear that we are a couple." They say
this to avoid gossip--
like that he or she gets in bed with one person and then another, and so on.
Q: That involves culture and tradition as well.
M: Yes, we are talking about Indigenous people that come from the villages...
Q: Who hold different concepts than we who come from the cities.
M: But it is a rule that you have to let the commanders know.
Q: Now, when you were explaining this to us, something else came to mind, another question. You spoke of the possibility... well, of pregnant compan~eras who risk abortion while engaging in maneuvers. In the Women's Revolutionary Law it is stated explicitly that a woman has full rights over her body and her life. Radical feminists have been fighting throughout the world to truly have control over their lives and bodies. However, the issue becomes very confused when an article appears in the media, in a paper like La Jornada, saying that the EZLN has presented a law proposal to the governor of Chiapas in which abortion is addressed, but at no time does it make clear in the media the position of the EZLN concerning the issue. I don't know if it was intentional or if there really was no in-depth knowledge about your position, but the media assumed that the EZLN is opposed to abortion. Thus, I would like to divide the question in several parts. The first question would be: What is the proposal of the Zapatistas in relation to the legalization of abortion? And the second question is: At this time, if a compan~era becomes pregnant because her contraceptive method fails and she does not wish to carry the pregnancy to term, if she wants to interrupt it, does she have authority over her body in order to decide if she aborts or not? And the third question...
M: Wait, wait, let's start with the first question.
Q: Well, yes, let's go question by question. The first one is: What does this law proposal consist of?
M: The EZLN demands that the state's penal code be modified because there is no political freedom. The government, taking advantage of the fact that we are tied up in talks and that we are surrounded, is taking the opportunity to reverse the decriminalization of abortion that existed in the penal code. They say that this is at the EZLN's request, but the EZLN did not request the modification of the Code in that respect. The stupidity of this article is based on the argument that this is a position of Samuel Ruiz Garci'a, that it is evidence of the influence of the Church on the EZLN, and since the Church is against abortion they want it to be penalized. Then, according to the argument, the Church directed us to present this law proposal. We have not presented any law proposal or anything of the kind--nor an electoral reform proposal or anything like that either. The proposal says contextually: "We demand that the penal code of the state be eliminated." We don't say that it should be reformed or replaced by a more just one. We demand that it be removed because it leaves us no other form of political participation other than taking up arms. That's what it says. I sent a letter to La Jornada because of that stupid article that was published.
Q: Very insidious!
M: Yes. That answers the first question. Question two: The compan~era not only has the right to terminate the pregnancy, but the organization also has the obligation to provide the means for her to do it with total safety.
Q: Well, that was the third question, you already answered it.
M: If she says, "I have become pregnant"--it could even be that she became pregnant on purpose, not just that the birth-control method failed--"but I don't want it anymore," this is fine, as long as her life is not in danger; I mean, if a certain number of months have gone by it can't be done. Then she can demand by the right of Zapatista law that the EZLN give her the means to terminate the pregnancy under the best health conditions that the EZLN can ensure. It is the obligation of the commanders that she be given these means. If the pregnancy can't be stopped, aborted, then the commanders have to find the way to resolve the problem.
Q: In this case, for free.
M: It is not, in the strictest sense, control over their bodies, and the compan~eras demonstrate this very clearly, "We are not free in this sense because, for example, I can't become pregnant and continue to serve in the Army. In this sense, I am not free. I am free in that, if I am pregnant, I can stop the pregnancy, but if I am not pregnant, I can't decide to become pregnant, because if I become pregnant, I have to leave the Army." And yes, we do tell them they have to leave the Army, because of the conditions we face. That's why the compan~eras say, "There is no freedom over my own body." In the case of the female combatants, it is only half-freedom, the other freedom is lacking. Right now they can't decide to carry a pregnancy to term and remain in the Army. It is only fair to point this out, and the compan~eras continue to fight for their right to become pregnant. The other side of the issue has already been resolved for many years, and we deal with abortions with the means we have at our disposal. Up to now, no one has died during an abortion. In the communities, abortion is practiced to the extent that our resources allow.
Q: Then it exists also for the civilian population, for the women in the civilian community. There is that possibility, in case she needs it, if she so wishes.
M: Yes. In general, they don't seek it because of their beliefs; also for health reasons, since in their nutritional conditions an abortion can be deadly. Sometimes it is best to let the pregnancy be carried through, even if there is still time for an abortion. But we do facilitate the use of contraceptives and all that, for example.
Q: The compan~eras we met also had access to contraceptives. The question has been raised of whether there is the possibility for the organization of women's groups within the Army, where women could organize as women of the Army, but also autonomously, as women. By this, we mean self-help collectives, where they could gain and acquire more knowledge about their bodies, and could even get to the point... for example, in the case of abortions in the first weeks, there are methods that have been proposed by radical women's groups, like abortion by menstrual extraction, one of the first methods for aborting early in the pregnancy. Is autonomy given in this sense or not?
M: No, I didn't know about this method. The situation here is not so
advanced. The most we managed to achieve some time ago--when I was captain--many
years ago, was to have sex-
education classes, explaining the man's body, the woman's body, what was the mechanism of pregnancy, what things were going on in their bodies. This was received with much enthusiasm from the men, and much embarrassment from the women. The men came to see how a woman's body was. For example--look, this town has a power plant project that breaks down all the time, but when it works... Some months ago it worked for a few days. One of the compan~eros told us, very enthusiastically, that at last he had "seen" his wife. He said, "I finally saw all of her." And they have 10 kids. He had 10 kids and he didn't know his wife's body. He didn't know his wife's body! Until there was electric light, and they thought of making love with the light on, then yes, he could see everything that was going on. And he talked about it as if it had been his first time. He already had 10 children, one of them fully grown, already an insurgent, an 18-
year-old, a member of a combat unit.
We organized these classes in order to combat the diseases that afflict the women, so that they understand the necessity of hygiene. It is a problem for them; the men don't take it into account. They think that when a compan~era has a urinary-tract infection, from lack of cleanliness, for example--or if she has her period--that she is just lazy, that she doesn't want to work. We need to sensitize the men to this so that they understand that a woman's body is not like a man's, in many senses. And that's why we organized these classes. We try in the talks and lectures to address these issues.
Q: Is there an education as far as the use of the condom--not only as
a contraceptive but also to avoid diseases, to avoid contracting and spreading
M: No, in reality, no. In reality, we teach about the condom as a contraceptive when the compan~eras can't use the pill, when they get sick from the pill. There are many who get ill from the pill, they are very young; when they use pills with high estrogen content they get sick. With all the heavy work they do already, they get nauseated, get headaches and all that--it's very hard on them. They can't always get IUDs, the rhythm method is really prehistoric, so then there is the use of condoms. But we should say that the Zapatistas' sexual horizons are very limited. I mean by this that gonorrhea, and things of this sort... Well, we didn't get a chance to catch them in the cities, since we fled before attacking the whorehouses. We are in the mountains, we are at war--within the regular troops, I'm saying, it is very, very difficult to spread diseases. In fact, we have not seen one case. And we can instill fear, in fact we did it, and they tell you, "Not me, I have never been with a woman, where am I going to become infected, or in what whorehouse am I going to catch this?" It's more pragmatic in that sense. I am not saying it is good, because I do think that it would be good to promote their use... but no, we haven't done it, I would lie to you if I said that we were doing it. It is recommended when...as a contraceptive, not for sexual hygiene.
Q: Well, in case this kind of sexual education could be resumed... Do you believe that it would be acceptable that the problem of disease, in the case of AIDS, etc., be included in the instruction?
M: I believe so. Let's say that we understand, for example, about AIDS. Well, according to the information that we were getting when we were in the mountains, AIDS is a homosexual's disease, and therefore, if you weren't a homosexual, nothing would happen to you. In fact, we just found that you can get AIDS in other ways, it can be transmitted even in heterosexual relationships. I am talking about the basic sexual culture here, because in this case all references to AIDS are in the context of homosexuality: "If I'm not homosexual I have nothing to worry about." The main worry here is different: "What I have to worry about is to not get anyone pregnant, or that no one gets me pregnant." No, we don't have a sexual culture based on fear of disease due to our isolation, but yes, we do need educate about it.
Q: Well, let's relate this to another question... We want to ask another question relating to immediate solidarity. Have you received or do you have access to condoms? Would it be feasible to bring them?
M: Yes, but unfortunately they would be very hard to eat [laughs]. But yes, we do get contraceptives, condoms and all that.
Q: So, as I was saying...
M: These things are allowed through by the Mexican Army so that the Zapatistas don't reproduce [laughs]. They have enough problems with the ones that already exist for us to make even more.
Q: Now, relating the answers with other questions... One of the questions that we were asked to ask by compan~eros Mateo and Robin is: what is the EZLN's policy, in the Army and in the liberated communities, toward sexual preference, in this specific case, homosexuality and lesbianism? Is the EZLN given to the "satanization" of homosexuality that has sometimes been found in other leftist groups? Or is it simply unknown what you are talking about when you attempt to address these issues?
M: No, let's say that at a level of, well, of basic culture, it is not punished. I mean, they don't say, "He's a homosexual, put him in jail, kill him." On one hand, they laugh, make jokes, but homosexuals have a normal life in the community. Our position as an Army is that--let me put it to you in a general way--there are many minorities that will have to say, "Enough!" Just as the Indigenous people said, "Enough!" other minorities not tolerated by the powerful will have to say it also. In that sense, then, there is no sexual policy in the Zapatista Army.
Q: That is, there is no law--in the communities either--that forbids lesbianism or homosexuality?
Q: Not even in the Army?
M: No, not even in the Army.
Q: There is no policy in the Army that says, "We found two girls fucking
or two guys fucking," and well... They are jailed, suspended, expelled--I
M: No, there is nothing like that. They go ask the commanders, the same as when it is a male-
female couple. That means, they let us know they are not going to be at their posts, because that is what the commanders are concerned about, that their position is covered.
Communique' About the End of the Consultations
May 28, 1994
To the national magazine Proceso:
To the national newspaper La Jornada:
To the national newspaper El Financiero:
To the local newspaper Tiempo:
This communique' is about the end, finally, of the consultations. In addition, we have sent several letters to various addresses.
We are totally surrounded. We have been "heroically" resisting the avalanche of reactions to the event of May 15. Three days ago, helicopters joined the airplanes that watch us from overhead. The cooks complain that there won't be enough pots to cook all the food we will need if they all fall at the same time. The superintendent argues that there is enough firewood to have a barbecue, and that we should invite some Argentinian journalist to it because the Argentinians know how to barbecue. I think about it, but it's useless: The best Argentinians are guerrillas (for example, Che), or poets (Juan Gelman, for example), or writers (for example, Borges), or artists (Maradona, for example), or chroniclers (for example, Cortázar). There aren't any famous Argentinian barbecuers. Some ingenious person proposes that we wait for the improbable hamburgers from the University Student Council (Consejo Estudiantil Universitario, CEU). Yesterday we ate the XEOCH's control console and two microphones. They had a rancid taste, like something rotten. The medics are giving out lists of jokes instead of analgesics. They say that laughter is also a cure. The other day I surprised Tacho and Moi as they were crying...of laughter. "Why are you laughing?" I asked. They couldn't answer because their laughter had left them short of breath. A medic explained, "It is because they have bad headaches." Day 136 of the military blockade. Sigh.
To top it all off, Ton~ita asks me to tell a story. I tell her a story as it was told to me by old Antonio, the father of the Antonio that appears in "Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds, a Storm and a Prophecy":
"In the time before the world came into being, the gods came together and decided to create the world and to create men and women. They thought to make the first people very beautiful and very strong. So they made the first people of gold, and the gods were very content because these people were strong and shining. Then the gods realized that the golden people never moved; they never walked or worked because they were so heavy. So the gods came together again in order to figure out a way to solve this problem. They decided to make another group of people and they decided to make this group of people of wood. The wooden people worked and walked and the gods were again content. Then the gods realized that the golden people were forcing the wooden people to work for them and carry things for them. The gods realized that they had made a mistake, and in order to remedy the mistake, they decided to make some people of corn, a good people, a true people. Then the gods went to sleep and they left the corn people to find a solution to the problem. The corn people spoke the true tongue to find an agreement among themselves, and they went to the mountains in order to find a path for people..."
Old Antonio told me that the golden people were the rich, the white-skinned ones, and the wooden people were the poor, the brown-skinned ones, who forever work for the rich. They are both waiting for the arrival of the corn people. The rich fear their arrival and the poor hope for it. I asked old Antonio what color the skin of the corn people was, and he showed me several types of corn with different colors. He told me that they were of every sort of skin color, but that nobody knew exactly, because the corn people don't have faces...
Old Antonio has died. I met him 10 years ago in a community deep in the jungle. He smoked like nobody else I knew, and when he was out of cigarettes he would ask me for some tobacco and would make more cigarettes. He viewed my pipe with curiosity, but the one time I tried to loan it to him he showed me the cigarette in his hand, telling me without words that he preferred his own method of smoking. Two years ago, in 1992, I was travelling through the communities attending meetings to decide whether or not we should go to war, and eventually I arrived at the village where old Antonio lived. While the community was discussing whether or not to go to war, old Antonio took me by the arm and led me to the river, about 100 meters from the center of the village. It was May and the river was green. Old Antonio sat on a tree trunk and didn't say anything. After a little while he spoke, "Do you see? Everything is clear and calm. It appears that nothing will happen..." "Hmmm," I answered, knowing that he wasn't asking me to answer yes or no. Then he pointed out to me the top of the nearest mountain. The clouds lay gray upon the summit, and the lightning was illuminating the diffuse blue of the hills. It was a powerful storm, but it seemed so far away and inoffensive that old Antonio made a cigarette and looked uselessly around for a lighter that he knew he didn't have. I offered my lighter. "When everything is calm here below, there is a storm in the mountains," he said after inhaling. "The mountain streams run strongly and flow toward the riverbed. During the rainy season this river becomes fierce, like a whip, like an earthquake. Its power doesn't come from the rain that falls on its banks, but from the mountain streams that flow down to feed it. By destroying, the river reconstructs the land. Its waters will become corn, beans, and bread on our tables here in the jungle.
"Our struggle is the same," the older Antonio told me. "It was born in the mountains, but its effects won't be seen until it arrives here below." He responded to my question about whether he believed the time had come for war by saying, "Now is the time for the river to change color..." Old Antonio became quiet and supported himself on my shoulder. We returned to the village slowly. He said to me, "You [the Army] are the mountain streams and we are the river. You must descend now..." The silence continued and we arrived at his shack as it was growing dark. The younger Antonio returned with the official result of the meeting, an announcement that read, more or less:
"We, the men, women, and children of this village met in the community's school in order to see if we believed in our hearts that it is time to go to war for our freedom. We divided ourselves into three groups, one of men, one of women, and one of children to discuss the matter. Later, we came together again and it was seen that the majority believed that it was time to go to war because Mexico is being sold to foreigners and the people are always hungry. Twelve men, 23 women and eight children were in favor of beginning the war and have signed this announcement."
I left the village in the early morning hours. Old Antonio wasn't around; he had already gone to the river.
Two months ago I saw old Antonio again. He didn't say anything when he saw me and I sat by his side and began to shuck corn with him. "The river rose," he said to me after a bit. "Yes," I answered. I explained to the younger Antonio what was happening with the consultations and I gave him the documents that outlined our demands and the government's response. We spoke of what had happened in Ocosingo during the offensive, and once again I left the village in the early morning hours. Old Antonio was waiting for me at a turn in the road. I stopped alongside him and lowered my backpack to look for some tobacco to offer him. "Not now," he said to me as he pushed away the bag of tobacco that I was offering him. He put his arm around me and led me to the foot of a tree. "Do you remember what I told you about the mountain streams and the river?" he asked me. "Yes," I responded, whispering as he had when he had asked me the question. "There is something I didn't tell you," he added, looking at his bare feet. I answered with silence. "The streams..." He was stopped by a cough that wracked his entire body. He took a breath and continued, "The streams, when they descend..." Once again he was stopped by a cough and I went for a medic. Old Antonio turned down the help of the compan~ero with the Red Cross. The medic looked at me and I made a sign that he should leave. Old Antonio waited until the medic left and then, in the penumbra of the dawn, he continued, "The streams...when they descend...have no way of returning...except beneath the ground." He embraced me rapidly and left. I stayed there watching as he walked away, and as he disappeared in the distance, I lit my pipe and picked up my backpack. As I mounted my horse I thought about what had just occurred. I don't know why, it was very dark, but it seemed that old Antonio was crying.
I just received a letter from the younger Antonio with his village's response to the government's proposals. He also wrote me that old Antonio had become very ill and that he had died that night. He didn't want anyone to tell me that he was dying. The younger Antonio wrote me that when they insisted that I be told, old Antonio said, "No, I have already told him what I had to tell him. Leave him alone, he has much work to do."
When I finished the story that old Antonio had told me, six-year-old Ton~ita solemnly told me that yes, she loves me, but that from now on she won't kiss me because "it itches." Rolando says that when Ton~ita has to go to the medic's area, she asks if the Sup is there. If she is told that I'm there she doesn't go. "Because the Sup only wants kisses and he itches," says the inevitable logic of a six year old, which, on this side of the stream, we call "Ton~ita."
The first rains have begun here. We thought that we would have to wait for the arrival of the anti-riot water cannons in order to have water.
Ana Mari'a says that the rain comes from the clouds that are fighting on top of the mountains. They do it this way so that men and women will not see their disputes. On the summits of the mountains, the clouds fight their ferocious battles with what we call lightning. Armed with infinity, the clouds fight for the privilege of dying and becoming rain to feed the land. We Zapatistas are similar to the clouds, without faces, without names, without any payment. Like the clouds we fight for the privilege of becoming a seed for the land.
All right. Health and a raincoat (for the rains and the riots),
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
P.S.: The majority disguised as the untolerated minority. About all of this whether Marcos is homosexual: Marcos is gay in San Francisco, a black person in South Africa, Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Isidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, an Indigenous person in the streets of San Cristóbal, a gang-member in Neza, a rocker on [University] campus, a Jew in Germany, an ombudsman in Department of Defense (Secretaria de Defensa, Sedena), a feminist in a political party, a communist in the post-Cold War period, a prisoner in Cintalapa, a pacifist in Bosnia, a Mapuche in the Andes, a teacher in National Confederation of Educational Workers (Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación, CNTE), an artist without a gallery or a portfolio, a housewife in any neighborhood in any city in any part of Mexico on a Saturday night, a guerrilla in Mexico at the end of the twentieth century, a striker in the CTM, a sexist in the feminist movement, a woman alone in a Metro station at 10 p.m., a retired person standing around in the Zócalo, a campesino without land, an underground editor, an unemployed worker, a doctor with no office, a non-conformist student, a dissident against neoliberalism, a writer without books or readers, and a Zapatista in the Mexican Southeast. In other words, Marcos is a human being in this world. Marcos is every untolerated, oppressed, exploited minority that is resisting and saying, "Enough!" He is every minority who is now beginning to speak and every majority that must shut up and listen. He is every untolerated group searching for a way to speak, their way to speak. Everything that makes power and the good consciences of those in power uncomfortable-this is Marcos.
You're welcome, dear gentlemen of the Attorney General's Office, I'm here to serve you...with lead.
Postscript for the PRD-About the logic of the dead: The compan~eros read what you wrote about "having had more casualties than the EZLN," and immediately they started to count up the casualties. They added and multiplied the casualties starting from more than 10 years ago when we began to lay ambushes along the footpaths and roads "against bandits." The compan~eros say that when it comes to counting the dead, nobody beats them. "We are well trained in this," says Gabino. The discussions among the different "tendencies" in the EZLN have become more heated: The most radical compan~eros want to start counting from when the Spanish began their violent advance toward the jungle and the mountains, but the more discreet and prudent compan~eros want to start counting from when we formed the EZLN. Some ask whether we should count those who have died during the 136 days that the military has had us surrounded. They ask if we should count Amalia, 25 years old and with seven children. She began to become "a little ill" at 6 p.m. on day 125 of the military blockade. Then began the fever, the diarrhea, the vomiting, and the bleeding between her legs, and at midnight we were asked for an ambulance. The ambulance said that it couldn't make it, and at 4 in the morning we managed to get some gasoline and we went to get her in a three-ton truck. One hundred meters from the medical compound, where Lieutenant Elena was, she said, "I'm going to die." And she did die, 98 meters from the medical compound and Lieutenant Elena, the life and blood flowing out from between her legs. When I asked if she was dead, Lieutenant Elena said yes, she died "at once." The morning of day 126 of the military blockade, Amalia's second daughter looked upon the body of her mother on the stretcher and told her father that she was going to ask the neighbors for some stew, "because mother can't make it anymore." The compan~eros ask if they should count Ibarra's daughter, who died "as if she had become bored with coughing." Everyone is counting up the dead. Some are using a calculator taken from the town hall in Ocosingo. They are still doing this when Juana comes to ask them to count old Antonio, "who died of sorrow." Later Lorenzo comes and asks them to count his son Lorenzo, "who died during the night." By radio they transmit the names of dead men and women. Soon people stop and take out their calculators or pencils, and they look at each other. They're confused; they don't know whether they're adding...or subtracting. Of pontificators. Magnificent self-criticism is always opportunistic.
Finally, you might accuse us of not taking into account the scale of the different political forces, you might accuse us of political clumsiness, of not having a satellite [dish] so that we could view the debate ourselves, of not having subscriptions to the principal newspapers and magazines so we could read the post-debate analysis. You might accuse us of not being friendly, of being discourteous, of not recognizing possible allies, of being sectarians.
All right. Remember that all we have done is get hope started. We wish you health and hope that you leave the animosity for the lazy fools.
A hug from this side of of the military blockade,
The impertinent subcommander, just like a tornado.