ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY
To women who struggle all over the world:
Sister, compañera, woman in struggle:
We send you greetings, from the indigenous and Zapatista women that we are.
Perhaps you remember that at our First Gathering, we made an agreement that we must live. We see of course that the killing and disappearance of women continues—of women of all ages and social positions. We are killed and disappeared because we are women, and then told it is our fault, and that these things happen because of how we were dressed, because of where we were walking, because we were out at certain hours in certain places. Both men and women in the bad government utter such stupidities to imply that we shouldn’t go out at all. According to this mindset, women should be shut up in their homes; they shouldn’t go out, shouldn’t study, shouldn’t work, shouldn’t enjoy themselves and shouldn’t be free.
We see clearly that the capitalist and patriarchal system is like a judge that has declared us guilty of being born women and sentenced us to violence, death, or disappearance.
It’s hard to put it into words, sister and compañeras, it’s like an evil so great that it can’t be named. Now they call it “femicide” or whatever but the name doesn’t change anything, the deaths and disappearances continue to accumulate. And then our families, friends, and acquaintances have to fight so that we are not effectively killed and disappeared all over again when our murderers go unpunished, or when it is said that we were merely victims of bad luck; or worse, that we were asking for it.
Sister, compañera, this is extreme stupidity. We fight against discrimination at home, in the street, at school, at work, on public transportation, against both those people we know and those who are strangers, and on top of that they want to tell us we’re asking for it, that we are at fault for dying. No, we aren’t dying, we are being raped, murdered, cut up, and disappeared. Anybody who faults us is sexist, and even women can demonstrate sexist thinking.
Compañera, sister, given that at the First Gathering we made an agreement to live, now we have to evaluate what we have done or not done to honor this agreement.
Thus we are calling for a Second International Encounter of Women Who Struggle, focused on one theme only: violence against women. We want to address this theme in two parts: to denounce the violence and to discuss what we are going to do to stop the massacre. So we invite you sister, compañera, to come meet with us so that we may together express our rage and state clearly what is happening to us all over the world.
We think this is important because we see that they try to scatter our pain: they talk about a woman raped somewhere, a woman beaten somewhere else, a woman disappeared over there, a woman murdered over here. They do that so that we think this is the problem of some woman somewhere out there, but that such a thing wouldn’t happen to us, that the problem isn’t that serious and that the bad governments will handle it.
But that’s not true—it will happen to us or to someone close to us, and it is a serious problem, very serious, and the bad governments are not going to do anything other than make declarations and insist that they are going to find the culprits. But by culprits they don’t mean the murderers, rapists, or kidnappers; they mean the women who break windows or graffiti statues out of rage.
That’s how the patriarchal capitalist system works, sister, compañera: a piece of glass or a wall with graffiti are more important than the life of a woman. This simply cannot continue.
We want to tell you about a time, years ago, before our uprising and the beginning of the war against oblivion, when here on the plantations a chicken was worth more than a woman. Hard to believe? Well that’s how it was, that’s what the plantation owners themselves used to say. Now, shocked and scandalized by a broken window and a graffitied wall, they say even worse things about us women. The truth is that not only are we raped, killed, and disappeared—that’s true—but also that we are not going to be quiet, obedient, and well-behaved as if nothing is wrong.
We are attacked so consistently that it would seem to be good business for the system: the more women murdered, raped, beaten, or disappeared, the more profit produced. Maybe that’s why they don’t stop the war on women. There is no other way to explain that every day more women are killed or disappeared all over the world and the system just calmly and happily marches on, paying attention only to its bank accounts.
Could it be that if we live, that if we are not abused and brutalized, that business goes down the drain? It seems like we need to analyze if profits for big capitalists increase with the number of brutalized women in the world, if the number of beaten, disappeared, and murdered women comes out about even to their millions of dollars or euros or whatever currency. We say this because we know very well that the system only cares about whatever affects its profit margin. We also know that the system profits off war and destruction. So we think that our deaths, the violence we suffer, are profitable for the capitalist, and that our lives, our freedom, and our serenity come out as monetary losses for the system.
So we want you to come and make your denunciation, not for a judge or a police officer or a journalist, but so that you may be heard by another woman, by other women, by many women who struggle. That is how, compañera, sister, your pain will not be yours alone but will unite with other suffering, and from that suffering comes not only a very big and deep pain, but also a rage that serves as a seed. If that seed is cultivated with organization, then pain and rage can turn into resistance and rebellion, as we say around here, with which we stop waiting to see if we’re going to be personally affected and we start to do something, first to stop the violence against us, and then to win our freedom as women.
That is our experience and our history as women, as peasant women, as indigenous women, and as Zapatistas. Nobody is going to give us peace, freedom, and justice. We have to fight, sister and compañera, fight for and wrest our freedom from the ultimate Ruler.
That is why we say this focus on violence against women is not only to denounce it, but also to say what we are doing, what we have done, and what we can do to stop these crimes.
We know that as women we have many ways and forms of struggle, because we saw and heard you in the First Gathering. We know that some think their way is best, and that other ways are useless or wrong. It’s fine to debate these things, even without coming to any agreement.
But the problem that we as Zapatista women see is that in order to discuss and debate who’s more feminist than who, well we have to be alive. And the reality is that we’re being killed and disappeared.
So the invitation to this gathering is based on one theme alone: violence against women, divided into two parts, denunciation and proposals for how to stop this war against us. It’s not that we’re going to come to an agreement to all struggle the same way; we know everyone has their own ways, calendars and geographies. But listening to different forms of struggle can give us ideas for how to shape our own struggles, according to what we see works for us and what doesn’t.
The system would prefer that we limit ourselves to screaming our pain, desperation, anxiety, and impotence. It’s time to scream together, but now out of rage and indignation. And not each of us on our own, scattered and alone which is how they rape, kill, and disappear us, but together, from our own times, places, and ways.
What if, compañera and sister, we learn not only to scream out of pain, but to find the way, place, and time to scream a new world into being? Just think, sister and compañera, things are so bad that in order to stay alive we have to create another world. That’s how bad the system actually is, that in order to live we have to kill it off—not fix it up a little, or give it a new face, or ask that it be a little more considerate and not so mean. No. We have to destroy it, disappear it, kill it until there is nothing left, not even ashes. That’s how we see the situation, compañera and sister, it’s either the system or us. And it was the system that made those rules, not us.
We invite you to arrive to this gathering on December 26, 2019, and stay December 27, 28, and 29 of 2019, with the closing on the 29th.
The gathering will be held at the Semillero that we are going to call “The Footprints of Comandanta Ramona,” in the Caracol “Whirlwind of Our Words” in the Tztoz Choj zone (community of Morelia, Autonomous Zapatista Municipality in Rebellion [MAREZ] of 17 de Noviembre). This is the same place where we held the First Gathering.
You can arrive directly to the caracol where you will receive nametags and the program schedule and where the compañeras who are drivers will take you to the actual semillero where no men are allowed, even if they are good men or normal men or whatever men. By that we mean that men will not be able to see, even from afar, our gathering, because the semillero is surrounded by mountains.
Men may wait in the Caracol during our gathering, but only if they are accompanied by a woman who answers for them and who is responsible and accountable for any foolishness they commit. We’re going to call that place «mixed.» In other words, people who call themselves men and women can all be there. It just might be the case that a commission of Zapatista women attending the gathering in the semillero go to the caracol to talk to the men about what is being denounced at the gathering, so they know what’s going on. And assuming they have any conscience at all those men will go tell other men what was said, most importantly the key thing, which is that we’re not going to wait for them to understand or to behave or to stop fucking up, but that we’re going to organize to defend ourselves first, and then we’re going to change everything. And we mean EVERYTHING.
One more thing, compañera and sister, we’re also going to be reviewing what we didn’t do well in the First Gathering. That’s why we want to hold this one in the same place, to see if we can correct our errors.
Another thing we realized from the First Gathering is that in the registration and programming process there was some favoritism toward the submissions that were most in line with the thinking of those helping out with registration and programming, and that some women and activities were left out. That happened because those working on registration and programming prioritized the activities of those who thought the same way as them and then there wasn’t time or room for the others.
So that this doesn’t happen again, that some women are valued more than others, we Zapatista indigenous women are going to do everything ourselves, including the registration and programming. We’ve never done it before, but then again, we had never been drivers either and as you can see now we’ve learned how to do that. So we might mess up and the program might not work out perfectly, but that will be because we are learning and not because we like the women who think like us more than the others.
We are now organizing and distributing tasks so that we ourselves are organizing the gathering in its entirety. So when you send your registration email (we’ll tell you later where and when to send it), you’ll know that it is we as Zapatista indigenous women who are going to open your email and write down your name and your organization, or your group or collective if you have one, or just you as an individual, and we will send you a response so that you know we have you on the list. If your email says you want to do something at the gathering, we’ll put that on the program. That’s why we want to ask you to send your registration in Spanish, because our languages are of Mayan roots and while we know some Spanish we don’t speak other languages. If we mess up and don’t get your name down, don’t worry because you can register when you get here and we’ll give you your nametag for the Second International Gathering of Women Who Struggle.
Alright now you know the date and the place, and you can go about organizing yourselves to come or to send someone or to put someone in charge of reporting back to you what happened and what we said. Then even if you are far away, you’ll know that our duty as women who struggle is to not let that little light that we gave you go out. You’ll know that that little flame isn’t just for light, but to burn down the whole damned patriarchal capitalist system.
That’s all for now, sister and compañera. Later we’ll let you know when and where to send your registration email. For now you have the most important information: December 26, 27, 28, and 29, 2019, at the same place as the First Gathering, the very same place from which we write you these words and send you our embrace. That is…
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Coordinators of the Zapatista Women for the Second International Gathering of Women Who Struggle
Marisol , Yeni, Mirella, Neri, Yojari, Arlen , Erica, Mariana, Mayder, Cleyde, Evelin, Alejandra and Nayeli
Chiapas Highlands Zone:
Yessica , Zenaida, Lucía, Teresa, Fabiola, Flor, Gabriela, Lidia, Fernanda, Carla and Ofelia
Selva Tzeltal Zone:
Dalia , Rosalinda, Marina, Carolina, Alejandra, Laura, Ana, Cecilia, Julia, Estefanía, Olga and Eloisa
Tsots Choj Zone:
Gabriela, Elizabeth I, Maydelí I, Elizabeth II, Guadalupe , Leydi, Lauriana, Aliz, Ángeles, Maydelí II, Jhanilet , Fabiola, Mariela, Daniela, Yadira, Yolanda, Marbella, Elena and Elissa
Chiapas Northern Zone:
Diana , Ximena , Kelsy, Jessica, Ana María, Marina, Valentina, Yadira and Elizabeth
Mexico, September 2019