EZLN: twenty-five years

By: Adolfo Gilly

One morning 25 years ago, January 1, 1994, we saw an unusual spectacle appear on television: an indigenous army, emerging from the shadows of that New Years night, was taking the city of San Cristóbal. They were many, looked very poor and were opening a new era in the history of this country and its peoples. Its name was and continues being Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional): EZLN.

They said then who they were and what they wanted and were proposing, and since then they have not stopped saying, from the first Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle to the presidential campaign of Marichuy and the Indigenous Government Council.

They then used a language that today, a quarter of a century later, is good to remember. On February 1, 1994, in a letter to the state of Guerrero’s 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Council, they explained their existence in what was actually a manifesto directed to the entire country. Its singular language appeared far from conventional political discourse:

There was so much pain in our heart, era our death and sorrow was so much that it no longer fit, brothers, in this world that our grandparents gave us to continue living and struggling. So great was the pain and the grief that it no longer fit in the heart of a few, and it was overflowing, and the pain and sorrow were filling other hearts, and they filled the hearts of the oldest and wisest of our peoples, and the hearts of young men and women were filled, all of them brave, and the hearts of the children, even the smallest, were filled.

The discourse was then directed to the past:

We talked to each other, we looked inside ourselves and we looked at our history, we saw our greatest parents suffer and struggle, we saw our grandparents struggle, we saw our parents with fury in their hands, we saw that not everything had been taken away from us, that we had the most valuable thing, which made us live, […] and dignity lived in our hearts again, and we were still new, and the dead, our dead, saw that we were still new and called on us, again, to dignity and struggle.

That voice continued speaking between religion and myth, history, grievance and pride, prayer and communion:

We leave behind our lands, our houses are far away, we leave everything, we take off our skin to dress for war and death, and we die in order to live. Nothing for us, for everyone everything, what is ours is our children’s. We all leave all of us.

Now they want to leave us alone, brothers, they want our death to be useless, they want our blood to be forgotten among the stones and dung, they want our voice to be extinguished and they want our step to become far away once again. […]

Don’t abandon us, don’t let us die alone and don’t leave our struggle in the vacuum of the great lords. Brothers, may our path be the same be the same for everyone: liberty, democracy, justice!

* * *

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) celebrates in these days its 25 years of life. Besides its history, it has its social organization, its language and its politics.

Nothing can be done in Chiapas, in the vast world of the indigenous peoples and in the national indigenous movement, as long it isn’t old-style state indigenismo, without taking into account the EZLN’s presence, without dialoguing with the Zapatista National Liberation Army, its politics and its history, its proposals, its resistance and its existence.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, December 24, 2018


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee






One Comment on “EZLN: twenty-five years

  1. Pingback: EZLN warns Zapatistas will not permit ‘Maya Train’ mega Rail project – The Free

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