Victories of the EZLN


By: Hermann Bellinghausen

The three musketeers are not the same, the joke would say, 25 years later. Of course not! If they were, what would be the point of commemorating a quarter of a century of the armed uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN)? It’s pure action on New Years 1994, suicidal as it may seem, with a single shot (the formidable Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle) yielded multiple targets, more than expected. Within a few hours, a new historical cycle began on a regional and national level with global repercussions. Coming from the most forgotten corner of the country, a solitary shot seldom gave life to so many important things.

“It put Chiapas on the map,” they said. Rather, it put the world on the Chiapas map. It also placed a lot of things in doubt, from the relevance of the single Western clock to the economic folly that crowned the Free Trade Agreement with North America, which premiered that same morning. The Zapatista torpedo hit the waterline of the Mexican government, which in minutes lost the aura of invincibility and had to grapple with the revolt.

For the communities of the mountains of Chiapas it meant a step forward in their own history, the conquest of autonomy (not called so then), the dignifying of their internal democracy and the right to speak. Instead of dying, they danced. They recuperated lands in the jungle and cemented a solid future that 25 years later is a fait accompli. In spite of the fact that the reflectors keep it off the radar, the Zapatista experience, daily and real, takes place away from the spectacle and the current news. The rebel movement, clandestine in origin and internalized by the patience and experience of the peoples, materializes the rebirth intuited by Guillermo Bonfil in México profundo. It turned out to be “the Mexican alarm clock.”

If for Mexico it meant the resounding campesino rejection of the Salinas government’s agrarian betrayal formalized in 1992. For the world it embodied the first mobilization against the dictatorship of the markets, created a fresh discourse for a Left without compass and impregnated the imminent global resistances against the monopoly of globalized economic power. It was the first social movement to have at its disposal the weapons of the Internet and its networks, and to take advantage of them widely.

It imposed the “indigenous question” on the political table and the debate remains alive beyond 2018, as we observe daily. Time revealed that for the original peoples the alarm clock had sounded just in time, current and future generations would be conceived in another way, notably women; they found that with organization and a clean conscience it’s possible to achieve the deepest demands. Who wouldn’t subscribe to the 13 Zapatista demands? A quarter of a century later, despite the ideological and practical differences, there is not a single indigenous people of Mexico that isn’t in debt to the rebels.

For the original peoples it means the closest thing to their revolution that they have had on a political, mental and human level. To the Zapatista peoples, rebellion, far from killing them, guaranteed them a better life and the precious right to govern themselves. Years pass and we don’t stop seeing their youth flowing, incessant and renewed, a flow that is from an authentic river that joins waters upon descending from the mountain. Heraclitus would say that the river is never the same. But it’s always a river.

Zapatismo taught Mexicans that “president” is written with a small “p” and he can be disavowed with justice to declare war with legitimacy, denouncing his crimes with good reason. The State bared its moral smallness upon failing to recognize its signature on the San Andrés Accords, and the Zapatistas made them the law in their territories. The creation of the Good Government Juntas consolidated the only viable government alternative as of now in the country.

There are more victories but no more space. The challenges of the indigenous awakening will remain valid although the State says it is being transformed. The Nation’s historical debt to the Native peoples will not be paid by denying that indigenismo has died, that charity is an insult, that the State’s development megalomania inexorably passes for dispossession and that the peoples must be subjects of right.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, December 31, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

As the Zapatistas celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1994 Uprising, please consider a donation to the La Garrucha Education Fund, a fund for building autonomous middle schools in the jungle region of La Garrucha. Thank you!





2 Comments on “Victories of the EZLN

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

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