By: Maialen Ferreira
It’s the first time that the indigenous leader María de Jesús Patricio, known as Marichuy, a leader of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) of Mexico, visits Euskadi [Basque Country]. Upon passing through the narrow streets of Bilbao’s Casco Viejo she cannot avoid comparing it to the famous Alley of the Kiss of Guanajuato, an alley in her country in which, according to legend, two lovers whose relationship was prohibited could communicate without being seen, thanks to the closeness of the balconies of both houses. Marichuy will visit some cities in Spain, like Bilbao, San Sebastián, Vitoria and Madrid, where she will offer talks at universities and associations in which she will treat themes like the violation of rights that indigenous communities suffer in Mexico, a struggle she has been heading for years and that last year led her to the pre-candidacy for the Presidency in Mexico’s federal elections, becoming the first indigenous woman to run for the position. Despite the fact that the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) supported her pre-candidacy, she did not achieve collecting enough signatures to get on the ballot as an independent candidate for the presidency, which, after a controversial campaign, ended up in the hands of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
How is Zapatismo currently lived in Mexico?
They continue organizing, and continue growing their organization from below, men, women and children. Even we indigenous people are surprised when they walk little by little, they don’t come out in the media, you don’t see them, but they are there, and there they continue constructing. Here you have asked me if it’s an armed group and my answer is that although they declared war on the Government in 1994, they decided that the correct path was not that way. They are part of the CNI and that to the indigenous peoples of Mexico shows us that we can achieve that organization that we sometimes consider impossible. We can really construct a government from below and to the left.
What did it mean to you and your country that an indigenous woman could achieve being a pre-candidate in the Federal Elections?
Participating in the 2018 elections was a pretext not to occupy the presidential seat, but rather to achieve making visible the problems of our indigenous peoples and also to get closer to the different towns, barrios, districts to show that the only way of really constructing this government from below is through organization. That was the idea of participating in the electoral process; we decided to insert ourselves into “the fiesta of the rich” because they consider it theirs and they pass the power from hand to hand, so that’s why we decided to use their own weapons to fulfill our objectives. That’s why this proposal was launched and it was decided to form the Indigenous Government Council (Concejo Indígena del Gobierno), which is representative of the peoples through a councilor.
Generally the positions of above are for men, but this struggle that we are constructing from below has to include women, has to be equal. If we see that something is wrong, it is the people who must, organizationally, be the one that governs and the government that obeys.
And did they achieve that objective of making the problems of the indigenous communities visible?
Although we didn’t collect all the signatures, I believe it was achieved. Many took us as an example. At the beginning they said to us: “how if you are a minority do you want to appear” [on the ballot]? And we said” “And why not?” It’s what’s missing; that the people below, the workers of the countryside and the city, don’t feel less and that we see that we have the same values and rights. Our dignity is what has to hold us with our heads held high, because it’s enough of so much rejection, so much abandonment, oblivion, humiliation that our grandparents have had. For them I believe it’s worth the pain to struggle and say that there are other ways of communicating with us, of relating to us, to construct this new organizational form.
AMLO has achieved bringing the left to power for the first time since democracy was established, in 2000. In his campaign he criticized the structural reforms of the last 25 years and declared the end of the “neoliberal period” in Mexico. How does the president evaluate his mandate so far?
For the peoples there has not been much benefit since he arrived. The change that he assured when he took the command, we see that it’s not true; it has been the opposite. The problems in the communities have worsened; there have been more deaths, more disappearances and more repression. Organizational attempts, raising your voice to say: “we disagree” with the intrusion of these megaprojects has derived, among other attacks, into the murder of our compañero Samir Flores in February. He was a member of the CNI and he said that his community disagreed with the electrical plant that the Morelos Integral Project wanted to impose and what happened? They murdered him at the door of his house. That was a declaration of war on the peoples so that they would not speak, would not organize and would peacefully leave the doors open for them to insert megaprojects. What does this mean? That one thing is said above and another below. Not only Morelos, but Puebla, Oaxaca, Yucatán and Quintana Roo is a strip where they are going to impose different megaprojects like gas pipelines, hydroelectric dams, wind farms or the Maya Train. The people have said they don’t want that, that they disagree, because it’s going to bring destruction of life, of the land, the forests, the waters, the animals and it’s also going to damage the organization of the communities, because there will be some communities that will have to be divided, passing over their forests and waters. They say that the train is going to bring a benefit, but for whom? The communities know that it’s not for them. Therefore, we believe that they are not listening to the people below, nor are they interested in listening. We believe that an agreement to transfer those lands to those who want to invest in those projects has already been made.
In Mexico the issue of colonialism is something very delicate, in Spain October 12 is a National Holiday. What does that date mean to you?
I am going to explain it from the [point of view of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. In Spain, they call that day the discovery of America; in Mexico, they call it the bleeding of America, because it was when they arrived and there were massacres, there were murders, there was a way of imposing something from outside. They brought, or at least that’s how we see it, a cross in one hand and a sword in the other and if they didn’t convince you, they forced you. But it’s not something that has ended, what began on October 12 continues being reproduced with the imposition of the megaprojects, because it’s also a way of colonizing us, because they are projects that bring death. In school they taught us that the Indians were some savages and that it not true. The communities have and have had their way of life. They came seeking gold and silver and it’s the same thing that is occurring now, what wasn’t finished then they want to finish now, it’s death, it’s repression. So what are we going to celebrate? Yes, they made us believe in school that it was good, that they brought benefit to our land, but what benefit if they killed our people? They robbed us of our gold, our silver; that is not bringing benefit.
In Mexico, despite the fact that the left governs, as you comment, there are communities in towns that do not feel represented. In Spain, the left has not been able to form a Government. Why do you believe that a real government of the lefts costs so much?
There are people that are getting organized, struggling, and to the extent that they are determined I believe they are going to achieve it. There comes a time in which the people say plainly “up to,” and it’s when the water is already coming up to their neck. The problem is that people set ideology aside when there is a comfortable life. If we feel that there are things that are bad and that we would like to change, we must start looking for those alliances, because sometimes it seems impossible that we can do everything alone. To the extent that we are walking and meeting more compañeros and compañeras that are in agreement with our ideals, with our struggle, we will be creating an organization of the left, an organization from below and to the left, but not pretending that they are the left son to then at the hour of truth show that they are the right. No, it really has to be constructed from below and that can be applied to any country.
Originally Published in Spanish by El Diario Norte
Friday, October 11, 2019
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee