Zapatismo and the struggle for life

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) announced a new political initiative in October of 2020 that makes up another link in the chain of anti-capitalist rebellion that they have continued to move forward in the past twenty-seven years of their public presence. There isn’t space to discuss them all, but it is important to highlight that with the government’s betrayal of the San Andrés Accords, which were formalized in 2001 with the indigenous counter reform, the Zapatistas withdrew to create the autonomy exemplified in their Councils of Good Government. And they did not stop with this historical achievement. Rather, they worked on encouraging reflection about the cracks in the capitalist system in gatherings and seminars. One thing that stands out is the effort to systematize the experience of the Zapatista support bases and to organize the Escuelitas project that brought together thousands of sympathizers, supporters and organizations from the National Indigenous Congress. The focal point was to call for organization beyond Zapatista territorial boundaries. More recently, they organized the gatherings, Women Who Struggle, where thousands participated from different countries and shed light on the serious impact of patriarchy, expressed by the increase in femicides, among other things. We can’t omit the Zapatista recommendation to the National Indigenous Congress that an indigenous woman, María de Jesús, appear on the ballot as an independent party candidate for president of Mexico in 2018. The CNI-CIG did not achieve her candidacy, but they triumphed by organizing a tour throughout the country calling to action and making the reality of indigenous people visible.

To whom does it matter that a small, tiny group of native people, of indigenous people, live, or rather, struggle? Because as it turns out we are alive. Despite paramilitaries, pandemics, megaprojects, lies, slander, and being forgotten, we live. Or rather, we struggle.

October 5, 2020 EZLN Communique

Furthermore, in the current context of the pandemic, where the crude reality that the life of the planet is at stake has been made obvious, the Zapatistas remain aligned to the inseparable coupling of struggling to live and living to struggle. They asked themselves: 

To whom does it matter that a small, tiny group of native people, of indigenous people, live, or rather, struggle? Because as it turns out we are alive. Despite paramilitaries, pandemics, megaprojects, lies, slander, and being forgotten, we live. Or rather, we struggle. And this is what we think: we will continue to struggle. Or rather, we will continue to live. And we think that during all these years we have received the fraternal embrace of people from our country and from the world. And we think that if we have been able to withstand, resist, and flourish, and not without difficulty, it is thanks to the people who defied distance, red tape, borders, and cultural and linguistic differences; thanks to the women, men, and those who transgress gender boundaries, but above all, the women, who challenged and overcame calendars and geographies. 

And in all of this we think of our collective heart, and it came to our minds that it is time that us Zapatistas correspond with the ear, word, and presence of those worlds, those that are near and those that are far. 

We have decided that various Zapatista delegations will journey out into the world. We will walk or sail by foot, by sea, or by far away skies, in search not of difference, not of superiority, not to humiliate, and much less to forgive or pity. We will go to find what makes us alike. We will arrive in Madrid on August 13th, 2021, five hundred years after the alleged conquest of what is today is Mexico. We will talk to the Spanish people to tell them that they did not conquer us; our rebellion and resistance continues and they don’t have to ask for forgiveness. (Oct. 5th, 2020 EZLN communique)

In other communiques, the Zapatistas analyzed the global situation on the premise that capitalism is the axis of harm to communities, nature, and women and men of different cultures, ideologies, and sexual orientations, and that migration is a result of it. Corporations operate, displace, and exploit in the same way in all countries. Therefore, the solution is not in governments or nationalism or in focusing on the past. They also shared these reflections in Zapatista communities.

In this context, on January 1st of this year, they issued “a declaration… for life,” directed towards the peoples of the world and to the people who struggle on the five continents. It was signed by the EZLN and backed by numerous organizations and people from Greece, Germany, France, Basque country, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Catalonia, Cyprus, Scotland, Slovakia, England, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Check Republic, Russia, Switzerland, the Spanish State, Italy, Nigeria, Togo, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, Peru and Mexico. They will conduct conferences in Europe from July to October (with later dates for Asia, Africa, Oceania, and America). A Mexican delegation will participate, which will be made up of the National Indigenous Congress -Indigenous Governing Council [CNI-CIG], the Committee in Defense of Land and Water of Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala, and the EZLN.  It will be a great challenge and an indispensable one. In Mexico, the megaprojects will continue their course, and so will the violence against indigenous people and their territories, so the global struggle for life will have to coexist with the struggle from our national habitat.


Translation from Spanish to English provided by the Chiapas Support Committee. The original was published by La Jornada newspaper, available here

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