Words of the Zapatista women at the closing ceremony of the First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in Struggle in the Zapatista Caracol of the Tzotz Choj Zone
March 10, 2018
Good evening, good morning, good afternoon, compañeras and sisters in struggle, wherever you may be.
Sisters and compañeras who have accompanied us in this First International Gathering of Women in Struggle:
We are going to say a few words on behalf of all of us, the Zapatista women of the five caracoles.
We would like to thank the compañeras from the city who worked as part of the support teams: we know very well how fucking hard they worked to handle the emails, registration, organization of transportation, and the scheduling of times and locations for all the activities.
We would also like to send our regards to our Zapatista compañeras who could not come to this gathering, and who stayed behind attending to other tasks so that we could be here.
Similarly, we would like to thank our compañeros who had to stay behind to take care of our families, animals, homes, barracks, and fields, and who were on alert in case the bad governments committed any malicious acts against this gathering.
But our final words are especially for you, sisters and compañeras, women in struggle.
Women in struggle on the five continents of the world, we humbly and sincerely thank you, with all our hearts and with resistance and rebellion, for your participation. This goes for those of you who are here as well as those who are following closely what happened here.
Thank you for your ears, your eyes, your words, your workshops, your presentations, your art, your videos, your music, your poetry, your stories, your plays, your dances, your paintings, your weird things which we had no idea what they were, and all you brought to us so that we could know and understand your struggles.
We take this as a very valuable gift that we are going to care for and make grow even larger because we are going to take it to our communities and towns so that more Zapatista women can share in the gift you gave us.
We receive this gift with respect and affection because all of you made a huge effort to travel here from your places of struggle, from your times and customs, from your worlds, to be at this gathering, which we still don’t know if turned out well or not.
We’ve already looked at some of the comments that were deposited in the Criticisms Box. We still have to read everything and analyze it all among ourselves. In that box, we found a letter whose message we think applies to all of us. A compañera is going to read it.
(A compañera reads the letter: it is from the family members of the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, asking that they not be abandoned and left alone in their struggle, because the bad government wants to close their case and let it fade into oblivion.)
We haven’t looked at all the comments, but we assure you of our commitment to fix what you’ve pointed out as wrong and to improve what you’ve said wasn’t done properly.
We can say clearly, though, that so far the great majority are criticisms of errors and mistakes that we have in our organization.
We are going to take all your critiques into account to improve next time, if there is a next time. All those criticisms, along with our word that we shared over these past few days, will be published on the Enlace Zapatista webpage so that all of you can see them.
But regardless, we want to know what you all think in general.
So we ask you, compañeras and sisters:
Did the gathering turn out mostly all right?
Or did it turn out badly?
Well, regardless of whether you respond that it turned out well or badly, we’re going to tell you something in all sincerity, something that we ask you to keep just among ourselves here, as women and women in struggle. So don’t go around talking about it, especially with men.
The truth is, sisters and compañeras, we suffered a lot because we didn’t know how we were going to pull this off.
This was our first time organizing an event like this, alone, just the women.
And we organized it from below, that is, first we had meetings and discussions in our collectives in the communities and towns, then in our regions, then in the zones, and finally among the five zones together.
And if we women take a long time to come to a small agreement, well you can imagine what it’s like when it’s a big agreement such as the decision to host this gathering.
It took us months to arrive at an agreement among all of us. Because the thing is, if we’re going to do something we have to do it among all of us, collectively.
And there’s no guidebook or manual for how to do that.
Nor could we ask the male compañeros because they don’t know how to do it either because, as we said, nothing like this had been held before.
So among ourselves, we had to figure out how to do it.
We were thinking about it the whole damned day and all the damned night. We could barely eat. And we could hardly sleep.
We were worried about whether it was going to turn out well or turn out badly.
We were worried as Zapatistas yes, but we were also worried as women.
Because we invited you, so it was on us whether it turned out well or badly.
We had to think about where you would sleep, where you would eat, where you would bathe, where you would go to the bathroom, the sound, the lights, the water, what we would do if you got sick, what we were going to say to you, how we would talk to you, and how we would listen to and see you.
So, we apologize with all our heart for the errors and mistakes we made in carrying all this out. To be sure, next time, if there is a next time, the things you critiqued won’t turn out as badly.
Because we think the most important thing, first and foremost, is that you feel at ease here, that you feel comfortable.
But it’s also important that we see and listen to each of you, because you made a long fucking trip to come all the way out here and it is only right for us to listen to and see all of you, whether or not we agree with what you say.
There was no way one collective was going to be able to organize all that. That’s why more than two thousand Zapatista women from the five caracoles were here.
And maybe that wasn’t even enough, because there are about five thousand of you, though some say eight thousand and others say nine thousand.
We can only guess exactly how many women in struggle were here over the past few days, but we think we can all agree that there were a shitload of us.
And we didn’t think so many would come, because this place is very and there are few comforts here.
If we had known there would be so many of you, perhaps more Zapatista women would have come so as to be able to embrace each and every one of you and say to you personally what we say to you now collectively.
Six Zapatista women would have come for each one of you: a “pipsqueak” (that’s what we call babies who’ve just been born), a little girl, a teenager, an adult, an elderly woman, and a deceased woman.
All women, all indigenous, all poor, all Zapatistas, all embracing you because it’s the only gift we can give you in return.
But in any case, sister and compañera, understand that what we’re telling you here is being whispered in your ear, in your language, in your way, in your time, by a Zapatista woman as she embraces you:
“Don’t give up, don’t sell out and don’t give in.”
And it is with these words that we say, “Thank you sister. Thank you compañera.”
Sisters and compañeras:
On that March 8, at the end of our contribution, each of us lit a small flame.
We lit this flame with a candle so it would last, because a match goes out too quickly and a lighter could easily break.
That small light is for you.
Take it, sister, compañera.
When you feel alone.
When you are afraid.
When you feel that the struggle is very hard; when life itself is very hard.
Light it anew in your heart, in your thoughts, in your gut.
And don’t just keep it to yourself, compañera, sister.
Take it to disappeared women.
Take it to murdered women.
Take it to incarcerated women.
Take it to women who have been raped.
Take it to women who have been beaten.
Take it to women who have been assaulted.
Take it to women who have been subjected to all kinds of violence.
Take it to women migrants.
Take it to exploited women.
Take it to deceased women.
Take it and tell each and every one of them that she is not alone and that you are going to struggle for her; that you are going to struggle for the truth and justice that her pain deserves; that you are going to struggle so that the pain she carries will not be repeated in another woman from any world.
Take it and turn it into rage, courage, and determination.
Take it and join it with other lights
Take it and, perhaps, you will come to think that there can be neither justice, truth, or freedom in the patriarchal capitalist system.
Then, perhaps, we can meet again to set fire to the system.
And perhaps you will be beside us ensuring that no one puts out that fire until only ashes are left.
And then, sister and compañera, on that day that will be night, perhaps we will be able to say together with you:
“All right, yes, now we are really going to begin building the world we need and deserve.”
And then perhaps we will understand that the really fucking hard work will have begun, and that right now we are only practicing, or training, so that we will know what is really most important and what is most needed in society.
And what is needed is for no woman ever again—whatever her world, her color, her size, her age, her language, or her culture—to be afraid.
Because here we know that when we shout “Enough!”, it’s only the beginning of a long road, and that what is missing is yet to come.
Sisters and compañeras:
Here, in front of all of us here present and those who are not here but who are present in their hearts and minds, we propose an agreement to stay alive and continue struggling, each of us according to our ways, our times and our worlds.
Do you accept our proposal?
Well, as we’re writing this document we don’t know whether you’ll respond yes or no, but I’ll continue to our second proposal:
As we have already seen, not all of you are against the patriarchal capitalist system. We respect this and so we propose that we study it and discuss it in our collectives whether it’s true that the system imposed on us from above is responsible for our suffering.
If it turns out to be true, well then, sisters and compañeras, there will be another day to agree to all struggle against the capitalist patriarchy and any patriarchy whatsoever.
And we state clearly “any patriarchy”, regardless of whatever ideas are behind it or its color or its flag, because we think that there is no good or bad patriarchy, but rather that they are the same thing against us as women.
If it turns out not to be true, well, regardless we’ll be seeing each other in the struggle for all women’s lives and for their freedom, and each one of us, according to her thoughts and her perspective, can build her world as she sees fit.
Do you agree, in your worlds and according to your ways and times, to study, analyze, discuss, and, if possible, agree to name who is or who are those responsible for our suffering?
Well, we still don’t know at the time of this writing whether the agreement has been made or not, but we’ll continue to the next proposal:
We propose an agreement to get together again in a second gathering next year, not just here in Zapatista territory, but also in each of your worlds, according to your times and means.
That is, for each person to organize gatherings for women in struggle or whatever they want to call them.
Do you agree?
We still don’t know what you will have responded, but either way you will be welcome here, sisters and compañeras.
But we must ask you to please let us know ahead of time, because it’s really rough when you tell us 500 of you are coming and you must have lost a “zero” along the way because 5,000 or more show up.
And hopefully when you come back you’ll be able to say that in your worlds you met, discussed, and agreed upon whatever agreements you came to.
That is, that your hearts, minds and struggles will have grown.
But regardless you will always be welcome here, women in struggle.
Thank you for listening.
We will now have the formal closing.
Comandanta Miriam has the floor:
Good evening compañeras and sisters.
Thank you compañeras, thank you sisters from the countries of the world and from Mexico who made the effort to arrive here to this little corner of the world.
We have arrived at the end of our First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in Struggle.
The time is 8:36pm, Zapatista time, and I declare our first gathering “closed.”
Take care and safe travels.
From Caracol #4, Whirlwind of Our Words,
Morelia, Chiapas, Mexico. March 10, 2018