The Mountain and the night sky of the Lacandón


By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Since the beginning of the insurrection calendar, the image of the ship has been a central part of the metaphors of the Zapatista narrative. It is a curious irony that a political-military force territorially located in the jungles and mountains of Chiapas, hundreds of kilometers from the sea, uses it as a symbol of its emancipatory project.

It should not seem strange then that, the ship “La Montaña” (“The Mountain”) and the Zapatista delegation have weighed anchor in Isla Mujeres to cross the Atlantic towards the port of Vigo. The night sky of the Lacandón Jungle has always been a kind of sea so large that neither its beginning nor its end can be seen, and in which dreams of all kinds of utopias navigate freely, propelled by the air. What’s new now are not the fantasies of an aquatic landing on the old continent, but rather that more that 26 years after announced, they have come true.

In a postscript dated January 30, 1996 that alerts NATO, the late Subcomandante Marcos assures that Durito, that beetle that the guards later confuse with a dwarf rhinoceros, and that different witnesses claim to have seen boarding La Montaña,” was persistent with the idea of “landing and initiating the conquest of Europe.” However, the Sup declined to be part of the undertaking because “the boat that he prepares looks too much like a can of sardines,” he fears that they want to take him as an oarsman and most of the dampness cause him dizziness.

“La Montaña,” the ship in which the EZLN’s 421st Squadron travels, is not a “can of sardines” like Durito’s, but it has years on its back. It was built at the A. Vujik & Zonene shipyards, in Holland, in 1903, as a fishing vessel. She is not a big ship. Her dimensions are 27 x 6.55 x 2.8 meters. Over the years she has been repaired and improved. Her first two-cylinder engine was made in 1931 in Finland. In 1963, they exchanged it for a 280 horsepower engine, manufactured in 1955. That is the one she continues using to this day. In 2011, the ship was rebuilt in Hamburg. Since 2005 she has been sailing the seas of Panama, Colombia and Jamaica.

Ships, as vehicles to travel to another world, are core pieces of the Chiapan rebels’ project. In the postscript of the essay “Neoliberalism: history as a comic strip,” dated April 6, 1996, presented at the American Continental Gathering for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, Subcomandante Marcos writes: “Old Antonio discovered that all those who got on the boat are the same ones who had always been excluded from all the boats.

“And that’s why they got on –Antonio told Subcomandante Marcos– because those men and women, and young people, some prisoners, the majority indigenous, ‘no longer want to obey orders, but rather want to participate, be captains and sailors and to make that ship advance towards a bigger future, with seriousness and joy, meeting men.”

The First Intercontinental Gathering for la Humanity and against Neoliberalism, also known as the “Intergaláctica,” held in August 1996 in the mountains of the Mexican southeast, was a key moment, in the forging of a network of planetary resistances against neoliberalism. Echoes of that meeting were seen starting with the protests against the World Trade Organization in 1999 in Seattle, and throughout the cycle of alter-world struggles in Quebec, Prague, Sidney and Genoa. The attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001 derailed that wave of discontent and obliged orienting the mobilizations towards demands against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Convened by the EZLN, more than 3,000 delegates attended the Intergaláctica, half of them foreigners from 42 countries, hell-bent on constructing a new world. Representatives were present from a broad political spectrum of the left: from infrared to ultraviolet. Debates of the highest level and theoretical pertinence alternated with meetings somniferous meetings, to diagnose the nature of savage capitalism and anticipate ways of resistance and rupture.

Stimulated by the Zapatista gesture, liberating longings found social and political subjects capable of embodying them at the Intergaláctica. A broad and disperse planetary anticapitalist movement was founded there. “We dream – the event concluded among many other points – of a world where society doesn’t conform to patriarchal structures; of a world without militarism; a world without discrimination because of sex, race, creed, sexual orientation; a world where women, of any race, of any creed and of any class, enjoy pleasure at all its levels. A world without violence, a world where being a woman is a pleasure, and not an excessive workload.”

On their maritime journey to Europe, the Zapatistas are going to meet up with the history that they opened in that gathering, and that comes from far back. They are going to converse with those always excluded who have no place in other ships and don’t want to follow orders, but want to be sailors and captains, with whom they have had, since almost three decades ago, a relationship of solidarity, mutual support and learning. They are not going to meet with officials and governments. At a time of planetary urgency, beyond what happens at national borders or at electoral junctures, they are going to co-exist with their peers, with the Europe of below, to continue dreaming together of those utopias that navigate in the enormous night sky of the Lacandón Jungle.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada on May 4, 2021 and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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