La Caracola and the color of the Earth

Comandanta Ramona

By: Carlos Fazio

In February, the Zapatista women announced from the mountains of the Mexican southeast the suspension of the Second International Meeting for Women in Struggle, scheduled for next March in their regional territories. One of the reasons given was that due to the “capitalist megaprojects of destruction” of “the new bad governments” (Mayan Train, plan for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, planting trees for timber and fruit merchandise, mining, large food companies) and the reactivation of the attack by the paramilitaries, they could no longer provide “security” to women who would attend from other parts of Mexico and the world. They affirmed: “Capitalism comes for everything and wants it no matter at what cost.”

According to the communiqué, the “capitalists” want to “destroy” the Indigenous peoples and turn their lands into merchandise, completing “what Carlos Salinas de Gortari left pending that he couldn’t do because we stopped him with our uprising.” Implicitly, the expression “our uprising” refers to the peasant-indigenous insurrection of January 1, 1994 and the role of women in the political-military organization that became known as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

The period that goes from the uprising to the present marks a line of continuity that links the comandantas of the clandestine era with the girls who were born in the autonomous territories under a siege of military and paramilitary annihilation, the ones who today are the protagonists of active resistance to the the renewed onslaught of big capital with its predatory extractive megaprojects and its covert war to dispossess territories and natural resources and for new markets and semi-enslaved labor.

Since then, also, the discursive construction of the inequality of the Zapatista women went from the initial triple marginalization based on social class (poor), ethnicity (indigenous) and gender (woman), derived from the use of power in society (as domination, repression, exclusion and prejudice against the Other), to an empowerment that is reflected in the living conditions of the new generation of comandantas. It should be noted that when the Zapatistas affirm that “their skin is the color of the earth”, they reflect their respect for something inseparable from the indigenous worldview: Mother Nature.

Twenty-five years after the armed uprising and the Revolutionary Laws of Women in 1994 – which questioned the foundations of the patriarchal order in Indigenous communities and vindicated a female “we” within a “collective” environment that included men – the discourse from victimization has developed towards resistance and respect. The participation of the Zapatistas as militia, insurgents and in communication tasks – for example on the radio, as a way to break the silence – has produced a new counterhegemonic discourse based on two key words: freedom and dignity.

Thus, when in their statement of February 2019 they say they want to take away their land so that tourists come and have their big hotels and restaurants; or to turn them into farms producing precious wood, fruit and water; or in mines to get gold, silver, uranium and other minerals, they add: “They want to turn us into their peons, into servants who sell our dignity for a few coins every month. Those capitalists and the new bad governments who obey them think that what we want is money. They don’t understand that what we want is freedom. […] They don’t understand that what they call “progress” is a lie, that they can’t even provide safety for all of the women who continue to be beaten, raped, and murdered in their worlds, be they progressive or reactionary worlds […] in Zapatista territory, not a single woman has been murdered for many years. Imagine, and they call us backward, ignorant, and insignificant.”

They add: “Maybe we don’t know which feminism is the best one, maybe we don’t say “cuerpa” [a feminization of “cuerpo,” or body], maybe we don’t know what “gender equity” is. In any case that concept of “gender equity” isn’t even well-formulated because it only refers to women and men, and even we, supposedly ignorant and backward, know that there are those who are neither men nor women and who we call “others” [otroas] but who call themselves whatever they feel like… What we do know is that we fought for our freedom and now we have to fight to defend it. We didn’t rise up in arms to return to the same thing. We haven’t been resisting for 25 years in order to end up serving tourists, bosses, and overseers. […] Our dignity has no price. […] We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women. […] We are going to receive them (paramilitaries, the national guard) with our struggle and then we’ll see if they learn that Zapatista women don’t give in, give up, or sell out.”

They are also clear that the urgency, today, is not Reform or Revolution, but, literally, the struggle for life; survival. That is to say: resistance and rebellion. That is why, since last December, La Caracola, a network of Zapatista women, was born to articulate their struggles against patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism; patriarchy understood as a system of domination, depravity, devastation and death, which gave rise to the capitalist system.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, September 9, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





One Comment on “La Caracola and the color of the Earth

  1. I ask myself why are there not many that make direct resistance to the corporate monster of bad government. I ask why others do not see the importance of demanding autonomy. I ask why those I associate with will not stand and say no to the imperialism that is destroying moral and spiritual life on this planet. I ask myself many questions like this. I even ask myself often how I can be more effective in this resistance. I do not have good enough answers for these questions. I do know that my prayer is always for the success of the Zapatista and those that understand that life is only worth living in freedom and justice.

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