By: Hermann Bellinghausen
The first known attack of the Zapatista air force occurred at dawn of the century, January 3, 2000, on the outskirts of the Amador Hernández ejido, in the depths of the Lacandón Jungle. The second is about to start with the landing in some port of Europe an airborne contingent of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). Despite the two decades and a lot of other things that separate them, both operations share the same paradox: they are peaceful; their word is their weapon.
The contexts and objectives could not be more different, and, nevertheless, they point at the heart of the enemy, who in that remote Tseltal ejido close to the Perla River was represented by the federal Army after the sudden unjustified occupation of a property in the middle of the jungle established by cargo and assault helicopters, Vietnam War style, the same manuals. That occupation lasted several months and ended with the withdrawal of the invaders, a victory for the rebel communities. There were no physical casualties on either side, but the example was set. However poor the people are, they can successfully counterattack by air and for the air that they breathe.
The 2000 attack was reported like this in these pages: “The Zapatista Air Force today attacked the federal Army camp with paper airplanes. Some flew well and entered straight into the part of the dormitories hidden by vegetation and large black plastic tarps. Others missed their flight and fell just behind the sharp mesh [barbed wire fencing].
“The aircraft, white in color and letter size, carried a written message for the federal troops that have occupied the community’s land for almost five months now. Not only are the fence wires sharp: ‘Soldiers, we know that you sold your lives and souls because of poverty. I am also poor, like many millions are poor, but you are worse off because you are defending the one who exploits us, that is, Zedillo and his little group of rich men.’
“The protest of the region’s indigenous people against the military occupation of their lands on the edge of the Montes Azules, daily, persistent, almost unbelievable, has sought in many ways to make itself heard by the troops, who seem to exist on the other side of the sound barrier. This afternoon they attacked the airways, in typewritten sheets, originals and carbon copies, in the prehistory of reproduction techniques.
They made one version and another with their copies, to protect as much as possible their contingent of kamikazes in writing. The airplane is the bomb:
“‘We don’t sell our lives. We want to liberate our lives and those of your children, their lives and those of your wives, the lives of your brothers, the lives of your uncles, the lives of your papas and your mamas and the lives of millions of poor exploited Mexicans, we want to liberate your lives too so that there won’t be soldiers that repress their peoples because of orders from a few thieves.
“On other occasions, the federal Army troops covered their eyes or ears, under orders from their superiors, to not pay attention to the complaints, messages or imprecations from the indigenous people. Today, an officer tries to collect the airplanes that fell in the front line of combat, before the barricades of sacks and branches where the soldiers aim, with their helmets on. At least now they haven’t put on opera, as they have been doing for days, flavored and distorted, some select fragments of Carmen, La Traviata and William Tell so that nothing is heard.”
In 2021, a new generation of Chiapas Zapatistas attacks the heart of the Old World in their way, with small but eloquent symbolic events. A maritime advance team set foot on Iberian land in Galicia and is already going through France.
The new rebel “crazy idea” turns around the trapped political discussion in Mexico and its alleged extremes, and opens a scenario for the autonomic demands elaborated, and for the current tragedies in Chiapas to acquire international relevance and awaken anesthetized or hidden consciences in the different European countries.
As my relative Doctor Ricardo Loewe says, currently retired in Austria, a participant in Zapatismo during his good 40 years, the announcement and beginning of the tour through Europe “made many small and medium-sized collectives inspired or interested in Zapatismo appear like mushrooms.”
This occurs at a time of political anomie. In social networks, public squares and the communications media, they question rampant capitalism, racism, sexism, war itself, in Zapatista key.
The new sea-air-land operation will give rise to rallies, concerts, forums, marches, assemblies, appearances and debates on a minor but insidious scale, invasive for good dormant consciences and lofty bad consciences. It’s about saving the world, not like in the comics, but based on many transatlantic micro-histories of the world below that bets with more urgency than ever on another world where many worlds fit.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Monday, July 12, 2021
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee