Zapatista National Liberation Army
To the compañer@s of the Sixth:
To whom it may concern:
Compañeroas, compañeros and compañeras:
Now we are going to tell you a little bit about the Zapatista communities, where the support bases resist and struggle.
What we are going to share with you now comes from reports by the Zapatista compañeras and compañeros in the communities who are coordinators for their commissions (for example, health, education, youth, etc.), autonomous authorities, or other organizational coordinators. But along with the compas of the Comité [CCRI] we checked to make sure this information wasn’t a lie, that things hadn’t been altered so that the good things would appear and the bad things would remain hidden. The work of these writings is not to lie to our compas of the Sixth or to those who support us and are in solidarity. We won’t lie to you, to them, nor to anyone else.
If things are going badly we will tell you so clearly, but not so that you feel even more sad on top of everything that is happening in your own geographies and calendars. We tell you because it is our way of being accountable, of letting you know what’s happening and so that you know if we are on the path we said we were on or if we have wandered off that path, perhaps repeating the same vices we criticize.
But if we are on the right track, well we want you to know that too in order to bring joy to the collective heart that we are.
How do we know if we are on a good or bad path? Well, for us as Zapatistas it’s very simple: the communities speak, the communities rule, the communities do, the communities undo. The very moment someone heads down a bad path, the collective quickly gives them what is more or less a knock on the head, and they correct themselves or they’re out.
This is our autonomy: it is our path, we walk it, we get things right, we make mistakes and we correct ourselves.
In sum, we tell you the truth because we imagine you are sick and tired of lies. And truth, while sometimes painful, is always a relief.
So we don’t want to be like the bad governments that recently put on a lot of makeup, apparently to please the visitor so that he wouldn’t see what was happening below. But all that makeup only served to show how false the government is. In other words, what reasonably intelligent person wouldn’t see the truth? Now whether that person admits or denies what they see, that is something else and that’s on them.
Okay then, without more fanfare. What we share with you here is happening in addition to what was already explained in the Zapatista Little School textbooks. If you didn’t attend the Zapatista Little School in community or from elsewhere or you don’t know what the textbooks say, we recommend you read them. There you will learn all about the process of the construction of autonomy.
What we are going tell you about now is new, new things that have since appeared, things that weren’t there a year or two ago.
Zapatista growth continues, and more and more young people [jovenes y jovenas] are joining.
In the area of health, the compañeras and compañeros are doing well. We see that there are fewer patients at the autonomous clinics because the work of prevention has grown substantially and the autonomous health promoters attend to the people. Meaning, the people get sick less. Those who are in fact arriving more and more at the Zapatista autonomous clinics are the partisans [people affiliated with political parties].
In the area of education, primary school education is equally available everywhere. But there is a new demand from the communities: middle school and high school education. In some zones there is already a middle school, but not everywhere. There are now young people who are demanding higher education. They don’t want workshops, but higher education in the arts and sciences. But they don’t want a capitalist education in the institutional universities, but rather an education that respects our ways. In this sense we still have a lot to do.
In the area of economy, and not counting what already existed and is maintained through collective and individual work (cultivation of corn, beans, coffee, chickens, bananas, sheep, cattle, vegetable gardens, honey, as well as the supply stores, livestock sales, and other products), what we have seen is that overall production has grown, which has improved our nutrition and health, above all for the young people and children.
In some zones the autonomous health promoters are already being trained to perform ultrasounds, working in the laboratory, holding general medical consultations, and practicing dentistry and gynecology. In addition they carry out preventive health campaigns in their regions. In one zone, the profits from a collective livestock project were used to buy laboratory equipment and an ultrasound machine. They already have compañeras and compañeros trained to operate these devices, which is an outcome of the health promoters of one Caracol teaching those of another Caracol; in other words, they are teaching each other. Another hospital clinic is already under construction where minor surgeries can be carried out, similar to what already exists in La Realidad and Oventik.
Regarding work on the land, the corn cultivation and cattle-raising collectives have grown substantially. With the profits from that work, in addition to buying medicines and equipment for the clinics, the bases of support have bought a tractor.
In the autonomous stores there are no fancy name-brand clothes or the latest fashions, but there is no lack of slips, dresses, blouses, pants, shirts, shoes (the majority of which are made in autonomous shoemaking shops) and everything anyone might want to cover their private parts.
Those who have advanced the most in production and commercialization are the compañeras. A few years ago, with the fruit of the collective work of the comandancia, the comités and the insurgents (yes, we also work in production in order to generate income), a portion of our earnings were sent to each autonomous municipality so that the compañeras bases of support could start a collective of whatever kind they desired.
And they turned out to be much better administrators than the men; in one municipality the compañeras not only put together a successful cattle collective, now they are advanced to a point where they are giving their cattle “al partir” to other communities that have women’s collectives (We Zapatistas say “al partir” to mean that what is earned is divided in half, and one half is given to another party).
The same thing has happened with the cooperative stores: now they are making loans to other collectives or communities in the region, and sometimes even to individual compañeras.
All of the autonomous municipalities have collective projects for cultivating corn and some have livestock. All of the regions have collective work that produces profit. For example, in a recent celebration, the regions all contributed to funds for the cow that they ate at the festival and to pay the musicians.
The great majority of the communities have collective projects. In a few the compañeros don’t have collectives but the compañeras do, and in some communities there are two collectives, one of compañeros and one of compañeras. Individually they all struggle to make a living and they have been able to advance. Milician@s as well as insurgent@s work in production collectives in order to support themselves and to help support the communities.
In the Caracol of Oventik they now have an autonomous tortillería. We don’t know how much a kilo of tortilla costs in your geographies, but in Oventik it’s at 10 pesos a kilo. And these tortillas are made out of corn, not Maseca [processed cornmeal]. Even the public transportation vehicles make special trips to buy their tortillas there. Corn is not produced in the Highlands Zone of Chiapas where the Caracol of Oventik is located. The corn is produced in the Jungle regions and then bought and sold between collectives in the zone so that Zapatista families can get corn at a good price and without middlemen. For this commerce they use trucks that were donated to the Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils] by good people who we won’t name here, but they and we know who they are.
In many Zapatista communities around 50% of people work in collectives and the rest work individually. In some, the majority work individually. Although collective work is promoted, individual work that doesn’t exploit other individuals is respected. Collective work and individual work are not only sustaining themselves but are growing.
The collectives are organized according to local decisions. There are collectives at the community level as well as men’s, women’s, and young people’s collectives. There are regional and municipal collectives. There are zone level collectives and Junta de Buen Gobierno collectives. When one collective does well, it supports the other collectives that are behind or slower. Or, in some regions, the collective production of food goes to the warehouses that supply the autonomous middle schools.
The news of all these advances made doesn’t come from the Zapatista commanders; in other words, it doesn’t come out of the heads of a few people, but rather from the sharings among the communities themselves.
In those sharings they talk about their work, their advances, their problems and their errors. In that process many new ideas are exchanged among them. In other words, the compañeros and compañeras are learning from each other.
Of course we as authorities also learn a lot from our Zapatista compañeras and compañeros.
The things we see and hear are terrible and marvelous, so much that we don’t know what will come of all these advances.
Right now we won’t tell you about the rearming of the paramilitaries, the increase in military, air, and land patrols, and everything the bad governments do to try to destroy us. We won’t enter into details because we know well that you all don’t have things easy either, that your resistances and rebellions suffer aggressions every day, every hour, and everywhere. And we know that nevertheless, you continue rebelling and resisting.
But we also know that you know that everything that we are telling you about here takes place in the midst of aggressions, attacks, harassment, slander, and complicit silence. In the midst of a war, that is.
And although in dark periods, like that of the present, there emerge all types of “merchants of hope,” the Zapatistas don’t let ourselves be taken in by ecclesiastic, secular, or lay nonsense of those now calling for a “new constituent”[i] that will “save us” and that rely on the same old methods of coercion that they criticize, and that lie about the alleged support of the EZLN while trying to rewrite history under the guise of obsolete “vanguards” that, as of quite awhile ago, ceded their legacy.
The EZLN does not support selling people little mirrors. We are in 2016, not 1521, wake up already. [ii]
Compas of the Sixth, Sisters and Brothers of the National Indigenous Congress:
With everything that is happening and the threats that pursue us, the Zapatistas are preparing ourselves for the worst, for what is coming.
We are not scared. Not because we are foolhardy, but because we trust our compas.
Indeed, it looks like in the face of the storm that is shaking heaven and earth all over the world the Zapatista support bases have grown. It is as if now is when their ability, wisdom, imagination, and creativity shine brightest.
In reality what these words are meant to do, more than inform or provide an accounting, is to embrace you [iii] and remind you that here, in this corner of the world, you have compas that, despite the distance of calendar and geography, have not forgotten you.
But not everything is going well. We will tell you clearly that we have identified a failure: the Zapatista women are advancing more than the men. That is, there is not equal development.
Everyday less and less remains of that time when the man was the only one who brought money into the home. Now in some zones it is the women’s collectives that are employing the men. And there are more than a few Zapatista homes where the woman is the one who gives money to the man so that he can buy his shirt, his pants, his bandana, and his comb in order to look handsome for the upcoming activities that we will soon announce.
Because maybe we are dirty, ugly, and bad, but this is for sure: we are well groomed.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.
Mexico, February 2016
From the Notebook of the Cat-Dog:
Fragment of a conversation between some partisans and some Zapatistas:
Partisans: The EZLN doesn’t receive government programs like Procampo, Prospera, or Nuevo Amanecer for the Elderly?
Partisans: Who subsidizes you as an organization?
Zapatistas: We are organized and we work together as support bases, we govern, and we have collective work projects. That is how we generate economic resources to sustain our resistance.
Partisans: How can we as civil society organize ourselves and how can you advise, guide, and teach us?
Zapatistas: Look at the situation of the free media or the National Indigenous Congress. We are not here to say or decide how you should organize yourselves or to give your organization a name. The people must think and decide what to do and how they will organize..
Partisans: What should we do?
Zapatistas: Our idea is to take down the capitalist system.
Report on the conversation that took place in the wee hours of the night in the month of February, between those two they call Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés and SupGaleano:
SupMoy: A recent report said that there are death threats and that the government wants to attack the Caracols in order to crush Zapatismo, because we make the government look bad.
SupMoy: It says they are looking for me and for you, in order to kill us.
SupGal: To kill us? It isn’t to arrest us? Take us into custody?
SupMoy: No, the report says “to kill them.”
SupGal: Son of a…. and why me? This is racist-colonialist-hetero-patriarchal-Euro-centrism. You’re the spokesperson, you’re the one they should be after. I’m just the last bastion of Zapatista machismo, which is obviously in clear retreat. And anyway, why such violence? Before they would just say “detain,” “take into custody,” or “arrest warrant,” but now, “kill”? Plus, I’ve already died several times; don’t they take that into account? Why don’t they just accept it and write down “mission accomplished.” But don’t change the subject on me, I was telling you not to put that part about the women’s collectives in the communiqué.
SupMoy: And why not?
SupGal: Because if we include that we’re going to look bad to members of the masculine gender. A whole tradition of film by Pedro Infante and songs by José Alfredo Jiménez is at risk of disappearing. Are you in agreement with the erasure of ancestral cultures? No right?
SupMoy: Well as the ‘deceased’ used to say, Rome is fucked, because I already put that part in the communiqué.
SupGal: What!! And what about gender solidarity?
SupMoy: It would be better to think about how to get the men to try harder so that their collectives advance.
SupGal: Okay, okay, okay. We have to go back to our roots, as they say. I’m going to do a special program for Radio Insurgente. Game of Thrones has nothing on us; this is going to be all songs by that great comrade and leader, the first of his name, king of Garibaldi, father of dragons, and gentleman of “siete leguas”: [iv] Pedro Infante.
SupMoy: Hahahahaha. They’re not going to air it. The programming is run by a compañera.
SupGal: Son of a…. Damn the women’s revolutionary law! And what about José Alfredo Jiménez?
SupMoy: Oooh even less likely.
SupGal: Hmm… how about the Bukis then? The Temerarios? Brindis? Los Tigres del Norte? Piporro?
The discussion went on like that until the cat-dog, grooming its toenails, determined: woof-meow.
It was the wee hours of the night, and it was very cold, but despite a shadow looming over the surface of the earth, a tiny light illuminated the word “resistance.”
I testify, under oath of gender.
Note: This text was written on a word processors with open source free software, with operating system GNU/Linus, distro UBUNTO 14.04 LTS, on a very exclusive and well-known name brand computer “Free handout Z.A of V.C. of L.R” (i.e. “Z.A is “Zapatista Autonomous”; “V.C. is “Virtual Cooperation”; “L.R” is “Ludic Rebellion”), model “Deus Ex Machina 6.9,” “restored (it broke, but we put it back together like a jigsaw puzzle) in the Zapatista Alternative High Technology Department (DATAZ, by its Spanish acronym). Okay, okay, okay, the apparatus ended up as a three-dimensional figure that we call “KEKOSAEDRO”—because nobody knows exactly what it is now—and there were a few cables and screws leftover when we finished but it works well… until it doesn’t work anymore. “UBUNTU” in the Zulu language also means “I am because we are.” Say ‘yes’ to free software. Fuck Microsoft, Apple, and so forth (if you know what I mean)! Linux rules! [English in the original]
[i] This reference is to a recent call from some in Mexico for the establishment of a new constitutional assembly.
[ii] The authors refer here to the historical legacy of European would-be conquerors trading beads and mirrors in exchange for enormous tracts of land and vast riches.
[iii] Abrazarlos, abrazarlas, abrazarloas is used for “embrace you” in order to give a range of possible gendered pronouns including male, female, transgender and others.”
[iv] “Siete Leguas” was the name of Pancho Villa’s horse and a “corrido” often sung by Pedro Infante.
Originally Published in Spanish by Enlace Zapatista