Bertolucci in the Lacandón

Subcomandante Galeano reviewing Zapatista troops at the 25th Anniversary celebration.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

It’s close to 5.30 in the afternoon last December 31. The afternoon is bright. As if it were the climactic scene from an epic film from Bernardo Bertolucci, [1] troops of the 21st Zapatista infantry division unfold like an enormous serpent from the Cañadas that is coiling martially in the Madre de los caracoles, mar de nuestros sueños caracol (Mother of the caracoles, sea of our dreams caracol) of La Realidad, Chiapas.

In the advance of the military deployment there is a detachment of motorized Zapatista women who, upon reaching the central plaza, are open on all four sides to delimit the perimeter of operations. A group of milicianas that surround the square follows them, as if they were their guardians. The head of the gigantic jungle reptile is made up of commanders on horseback, among them Comandante Tacho and Subcomandante Moisés. A column of more than 4,000 combatants follows in a row two by two, wearing uniforms with green trousers and caps, brown shirts, black ski masks and red bandanas, each one with two wooden sticks about 75 centimeters long, which, upon colliding with each other, mark the step of the troop formation. Not all of them are able to enter.

That same division –it is explained in a video on Enlace Zapatista– is the one that 25 years ago took the municipal capitals of Altamirano, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Chanal, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas and San Cristóbal. It is reinforced with second and third generation combatants, “Zapatistas that were infants in 1994 or had not been born, and grew up in resistance and rebellion.”

The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the EZLN’s armed uprising is not the staging of a social movement. It is a show of power of a political-military force with order, discipline, cohesion, skill, logistical capability, social base, command and control of territory.

If in their public appearances during recent years the Zapatistas privileged showing their civic and popular face, through seminars and colloquiums, art festivals, escuelitas (little schools) and film exhibitions, this December 31 they put on their military face, a face that does not imply grabbing a weapon, but does imply resisting. The symbolic message of their deployment could not be more explicit.

The celebration is finished off by an energetic harangue from Subcomandante Moisés directed to the Zapatista military structures, its civilian authorities and its support bases. He tells them: we are alone, as they don’t look at us, as they don’t listen to us. They want to lie to us and they want to deceive us. It is a mockery, a humiliation. They’re coming for us, for the EZLN. We are not afraid of the government. The bad government doesn’t command here, the men and women command.

As you know (although you often forget and prefer Subcomandante Galeano to speak0, Moisés is the EZLN’s spokesperson. An indigenous Tzeltal, agricultural day laborer on the hellish fincas of Chiapas, a compañero of Subcomandante Pedro with the rank of major in the taking of Las Margaritas and of Subcomandante Marcos, today he is the one who speaks in the name of Zapatismo and its peoples. He is not a decorative figure. He is the spokesperson for the insurgency. His words are the synthesis of a life of suffering and struggle, and of the emancipatory longings of the original peoples.

The military deployment and the words must be evaluated together. Although there is a long history of disagreements between “Obradorismo” and Zapatismo, the harshness of the rebels’ accusations and their year-end mobilization would seem to respond to two central facts: the threat of an offensive against them on the part of the new government and substantive programmatic differences.

It is not paranoia. Spokespersons of the Fourth Transformation (4T) have informally proclaimed to the four winds that the EZLN was defeated, while promoters of the new National Guard threaten to undertake containment actions against the rebels.

Zapatismo (and a multitude of indigenous peoples and human rights groups) have fundamental differences with “Obradorismo.” Persecuted by the militarization of Chiapas for more than a quarter of a century, the EZLN rejects the National Guard and considers it a step forward in the militarization of the country. With a long list of militants murdered, it is opposed to the final point that leaves past crimes unpunished. Persecuted by those who seek to dispossess them of their territories, the EZLN sees in the Maya Train (Tren Maya) and the reforestation projects the spearhead for destroying them. Committed to the reconstitution of the original peoples, it finds deception in the new government’s new age ceremonies. Determined to make another world a reality, it looks upon the pretense of the 4T of governing for the exploiters and the exploited simultaneously, not only as an echo of the words of the repressor Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, but also as madness. Engaged in struggling against capitalism, it believes that the Andrés Manuel López Obrador government is the continuation of it.

One must not get confused. The appearance of Bertolucci in the Lacandón anticipates that, contrary to what some believe, nothing is written definitively in the southeast.

[1] Bernardo Bertolucci was an Italian director and screenwriter, whose epic films include Last Tango in Paris, among many other famous films. He died on November 26, 2018.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

One Comment on “Bertolucci in the Lacandón

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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