By: Magdalena Gómez
A movement is underway that did not begin on October 12 with the decision of the Otomí community of indigenous Otomí residents in Mexico City to take over the central offices of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI, its initials in Spanish) indefinitely. This movement must be analyzed in its different dimensions. Indigenous natives of Santiago Mexquititlán, Amealco municipality, Querétaro, residents in Mexico City for more than 20 years, are heading the takeover. Since then, they have fought for their right to access dignified housing, they have toured government agencies, have done the paperwork, without results. They have lived crowded, without basic services on four abandoned properties on 74 Zacatecas Street and 200 Guanajuato, in the Roma District; 1434 Zaragoza Avenue, by Pantitlán, and Roma 18, in Juárez. This latter one has been abandoned since the 1985 earthquakes, but the 2017 earthquake made it uninhabitable and forced them to camp on the street, Last year, public forces evicted them without fulfilling the promise to legalize their situation..
So far, we have located the local dimension of the problem. However, for four years the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) and the Indigenous Government Council (Concejo Indígena de Gobierno, (CIG) have been linked to the demands of the peoples for their collective rights. That’s why they call their brave decision “Takeover for the dignity of our peoples.” They added: “It’s time to raise your voice and not remain silent. They have oppressed us for 528 years, they have dispossessed us, as if to leave us 528 more years,” indicated Maricela Mejía, a councilor of the CIG, backed up by her compañeras. At first they asserted that the INPI doesn’t represent them, nor did the previous initials, but that now it will be true that this building will be their home. As such, they proceeded to occupy two of its six floors and upholster them with posters of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). In the installations of the INPI the Otomí community, last October 17, held the forum “528 years: our little light of resistance and rebellion is still lit,” with the participation of the CIG spokesperson, María de Jesús Patricio (Marichuy), who supported the action of the Otomí community in the CDMX (Mexico City). She told them: “We’re going to continue because you have a very important tool, which is your voice. We may not have weapons, but our weapon is the voice and we don’t have to keep quiet.” They are part of the national indigenous movement. In their press conferences the Otomís include questioning of the megaprojects in progress, demand that real indigenous consultations be held and state that they oppose the Tren Maya/Maya Train, the Morelos Integral Project, which includes a thermoelectric plant, and the Interoceanic Corridor on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
The peoples and organizations of the CNI and the National Indigenous Network (Red Nacional Indígena, RNI) have added themselves to their demands and expressed support for them, in contrast with other indigenous groupings that suppose it necessary to close ranks with the director of the INPI, allegedly aggrieved by the takeover of its offices.
It’s interesting to observe how the Government of Mexico City, the one directly responsible for the long-standing lack of attention to the Otomí community, has been camouflaged in the INPI, which shows that it represents the federal government of Mexico in its official communiqués. To date, its posture is not known. The CDMX Secretariat of Government and the CDMX Human Rights Commission are referred to as the mediating institution (press release 10/15/20). Surely the Otomí community will be analyzing the proposal to participate in a work group that will cause it doubts, since throughout the years that it has been expressing its demands and carrying out official procedures, they now la invite them to dialogue in order “to know their needs and requests and to advance in attention to them.” Already Nashieli Ramírez, president of Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission, went to the takeover and offered, with respect, mediation in a dialogue, as well as follow-up on compliance with the agreements that are made, and is awaiting their response.
The “ya basta” of the Otomí community has placed a mirror on the “neo-indigenism” underway, for now the evidence that individual support programs or scholarships are not enough, as long as the structural problems of the indigenous peoples with respect to their self-determination and autonomy are not addressed. This movement grows with the national agenda, which adds previous grievances to the current ones in the times of the so-called 4T. It’s unthinkable that the government would propose and the CNI-CIG, much less the EZLN, would accept a “dialogue” that will produce a new version of the unfulfilled San Andrés Accords. It’s a coin toss. To begin with, it’s uncertain whether they will provide housing to Otomí residents in Mexico City.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, October 27, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Isaín Mandujano
Indigenous Tsotsils in Santa Martha community, Chenalhó, asked for 50 million pesos to cede 32.5 hectares of land to their adversaries in Aldama, as well as 200,000 pesos for each one of their dead and 100,000 pesos to repair the damage to the 16 who were injured.
Communal authorities of Manuel Utrilla Santa Martha made public a copy of their official record through the Digna Ochoa Grass Roots Human Rights Committee of Chiapas (“Digna Ochoa Committee”) , wherein they respond to a government proposal to resolve the agrarian conflict that exists between residents of Aldama and Santa Martha, Chenalhó.
The official record was delivered last October 9 to the Secretary General of Government, the Commissioner for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples in the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación) and the Undersecretary for Human Rights and Population in the Interior Ministry. Members of the Manuel Utrilla Santa Martha Communal Wealth (the commons) Assembly responded to the proposal that the el Secretary General of Gobierno, Ismael Brito Mazariegos, sent.
The document signed by all the authorities of the Manuel Utrilla Santa Martha Commons and the 20 municipal rural agents from the communities that group together the communal wealth and represent the 3,336 comuneros put forward a proposal regarding the solution to the conflict over the 59.5 (147 acres) hectares of land in dispute with Aldama.
State authorities mentioned that they would cede 32.5 hectares (80 acres) and retain 27 hectares (67 acres), with an economic contribution of 3 million pesos, plus 100,000 pesos for each of the families who lost a family member as a result of the conflict.
However, the indigenous Tsotsils said that they accept retaining 27.5 hectares and ceding 32.5 to Aldama, but that it’s for the amount of 50 million pesos and that in the process of attention to the solution of the agrarian conflict, the Municipality of Aldama will cease attacks with firearms.
With respect to the offer of 100,000 pesos, as economic support for each family of those who dies due to the agrarian conflict, they asked for 200,000 pesos; without forgetting that there 16 injured, and for them they asked as indemnification the amount of 100,000 pesos for each one.
Additionally, they demanded the immediate freedom of their imprisoned compañeros, Enrique López Pérez and Efraín Ruiz Alvares, as well as cancellation of the arrest warrants in effect against inhabitants of communities in the Santa Martha Sector.
Likewise, they asked for Infrastructure works for the benefit of 20 communities in the Santa Martha Sector, such as the expansion and paving of the highway stretch from Central Santa Martha to Saclum and from Saclum to the municipal seat of Chenalhó and the opening of the road from the town of Yoc Ventana on time.
The Digna Ochoa Committee said that once this document was delivered unfortunately armed attacks and shooting started coming from the Aldama side, the communal authorities acknowledging that there was “crossfire” in accordance with what they have investigated, and that Sunday they were in Saclum to see the situation and that they heard the rain of shots coming from Tabak, Coco and Xuxhen on the Aldama side attacking Saclum community and Pajaltoj on the Santa Martha side.
However, the “Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center, denounced that the attacks are constant from Chenalhó towards the residents of Aldama. And the Permanent Commission of 115 Displaced Comuneros of Aldama denounced that members of the National Guard and the State Police who are in Santa Martha, Chenalhó and in Aldama don’t act efficiently to stop the armed attacks and to protect the population.
Counting Hugo Alfredo Pérez Hernández, 29 people have been injured and six murdered during attacks with high-caliber weapons on the communities of Maya Tsotsil People in Aldama, coming from de civilian armed groups of a paramilitary nature in Santa Martha, Chenalhó, since March 2018, the Frayba said.
They also pointed to the disappearance and subsequent execution of the then municipal president of Aldama Ignacio Pérez Girón , whose body was found on May 05, 2019, at the entrance to Yalebtay, in the municipality of Zinacatán.
The persistent omission and complicity of the Chiapas government and the federal government causes the escalation of violence in the Highlands region and increases the risk to life of the population within 13 communities in the municipality of Aldama, mostly women, children, adolescents and the elderly, the human rights body indicated.
What’s the conflict between Chenalhó and Aldama about?
The Undersecretary of Human Rights, Population and Migration in the Interior Ministry described that the conflict that exists in the Chiapas Highlands is a dispute over 59 hectares (approximately 47 acres) between the “Manuel Utrilla” Commons in Chenalhó and 115 community members in Aldama.
He detailed that in 2009, the Chiapas government signed an agrarian settlement between the two parties, in which it gives possession of the lands to the Aldama community members and an indemnification of 1 million, 300 thousand pesos to Chenalhó.
Nevertheless, in 2014 the conflict re-emerged due to the fact that the Aldama community members did not want to provide water from the Chayomté spring to Santa Martha, so the latter declared the 2009 settlement broken, as well as the 59-hectares solution.
Encinas stated that the conflict has cost the life of 26 people: 5 from Aldama and 20 from Chenalhó, as well as 24 injured: 13 in Aldama and 11 in Chenalhó.
 According to an article by Hermann Bellinghausen, the “Digna Ochoa Committee” was started by several people from the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS) and denounced by those in Aldama as always supportin g and backing up the para,military groups.
 Ignacio Pérez Girón was a member of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI).
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
Let’s go back, to 35 Octobers ago.
Old Antonio watched the bonfire resist the rain. Beneath his dripping straw hat he lights his hand-rolled cigarette with a burning ember. The fire stays alive, hiding occasionally beneath the logs; the wind helps it, its breath reviving the coals, red with rage.
The camp is called “Watapil”[i] and is located in the Sierra Cruz de Plata that rises between the wet arms of the Jataté and Perlas rivers. It’s 1985, and October receives the group with a storm, presaging their future. The tall almond tree (which will become the namesake of that mountain in the insurgent’s vernacular) looks down with compassion at the small, minuscule, insignificant group of men and women at its feet, with their gaunt faces, haggard bodies, bright eyes (perhaps from fever, stubbornness, fear, delirium, hunger or lack of sleep), ragged brown and black clothes, and boots distorted by the knotted vines that are intended to hold their soles in place.
Softly and slowly, his words barely audible over the howl of the storm, Old Antonio speaks as if he were talking to himself:
“The Ruler will return again to impose his harsh word, his ego that kills all reason and his bribe disguised as a handout on the color of the earth.
The day will come when death will wear its cruelest clothes, its steps accompanied by the screeching cogs of the machine that sicken each path it takes with the lie that it brings abundance, even as it sows destruction. Whosoever opposes that noise which terrifies plants and animals will be killed, both in life and in memory: the first with lead, the latter with lies. Night will thus be longer. Pain will be drawn out. Death will be more deadly.
The Aluxo’ob [ii] will alert the Mother Earth: “Death is coming, mother, it’s killing as it comes.”
Mother Earth, the first mother of all, will wake up—shaking awake the parrots, macaws, and toucans—reclaim the blood of her guardians and speak to her people:
“Let some of you go to taunt the invader. Let others of you sound the call to our brethren. May the waters not frighten you; may neither cold nor heat discourage you. Cut paths where there are none, cross the rivers and seas. Traverse mountains, fly through rain and fog. Whether night or day or the small hours of the morning, go and alert all creatures. My names and colors are many, but my heart is one, and my death will be the death of everything. Do not be ashamed of the skin color I have given you, nor of the language I have placed in your mouth, nor of your stature, which keeps you close to me. I will give light to your gaze, warmth to your ears and strength to your feet and arms. Do not fear different colors and customs, or different paths. One is the heart I have passed down to you—one understanding, and one gaze.”
Then, under siege by the Aluxo’ob, the machines of deadly deception will fall apart, their arrogance broken, their greed destroyed. The powerful will bring lackeys from other nations to rebuild the broken death machine. They will examine the innards of the death machine and discover why it is so damaged: “it is full of blood inside.” In an attempt to explain the reason for this terrible wonder, the bosses will announce, “We don’t know why, all we know is that the blood is directly descended from Native blood.”
Then, evil will rain down upon itself in the grand mansions where the Power gets drunk and commits abuses. Unreason will enter into its territory and blood, rather than water, will run through its waterways. Its gardens will wither and the hearts of its workers and servants will turn cold. Power will thus bring in other vassals to use: they will come from other lands, and hate will grow between equals, spurred on by money. They will fight amongst themselves, and death and destruction will emerge between people with shared history and pain.
Those who before worked and lived off of the land will become servants and slaves of the Powerful on the very lands and under the skies of their ancestors. They will see misfortune befall their houses. They will lose their sons and daughters, drowned in the rot of corruption and crime. The practice of the “right of the first night” will return, by which money kills innocence and love. Babies will be ripped from their mothers’ breast, their flesh taken by the great Lords to satisfy their evilness and cruelty. Disputes over money will cause children to raise hands against their parents, and their houses will be cast into mourning. Daughters will be lost in darkness and death, their life and being killed by the Lords and their money. Unknown illnesses will attack those who sold their dignity and that of their loved ones in exchange for a few coins; those who betrayed their people, their blood, and their history; and those who created and spread the lie.
The mother ceiba tree, sustainer of worlds, will scream so loudly that even the most distant deafness will hear her injured cry. Seven distant voices will approach her; seven distant arms will embrace her; and seven different fists will join together with her. The mother ceiba will then lift her skirts and with her thousand feet kick and dislodge the iron railways. The wheeled machines will run off their metal tracks. The waters will overflow the rivers and lakes and the sea itself will howl with fury, and the entrails of the earth and the skies will open in all worlds.
The mother Earth, the first mother of all, will rise up and reclaim her house and her place with fire. Upon the arrogant edifices of Power, trees, plants and animals will grow, and in their hearts Votán Zapata will live again. The jaguar will again walk its ancestral paths, reigning once again where money and its lackeys sought to reign.
The Powerful will die only after seeing their ignorant arrogance crumble without making a sound. With its last breath they will understand that the Ruler is no more, no more than a bad memory in a world that rebelled and resisted death that its orders commanded.
They say the dead of always tell this story, those who will die once again but this time in order to live.
They say to carry this word to the valleys and the mountains, to the canyons and the wide plains. Let the tapacaminos bird [iii] repeat it as a warning on the path of the brotherly hearts; let the rain and the sun sow it in the gaze of those who inhabit these lands; let the wind carry it a long distance that it might nest in the thoughts of compañeros.
Terrible and awesome things are coming to these lands and these skies.
But the jaguar will once again walk its ancestral paths, reigning once again where money and its lackeys sought to reign.
Old Antonio falls silent, and with him, the rain. He sleeps not at all, and dreams everything.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Mexico, October 2020.
From the Notebook of the Cat-Dog: Part II: The Canoes
I should remind you that the divisions between countries are solely for the purpose of classifying contraband and justifying wars. There are clearly at least two things that stand above borders: one is the crime—disguised as modernity—of distributing poverty at a global level; the other is the hope that shame only arises when you mess up a dance step, not every time you look in the mirror. For the former to end and the latter to flourish, it is merely necessary to struggle and be better. Everything else carries on by itself and tends to end up in libraries and museums. There’s no need to conquer the world; it’s enough to make it anew. Cheers then, and keep in mind that for the purposes of love, a bed is just a pretext; for dance, a tune is just decor; and for struggle, nationality is merely circumstantial.
—Don Durito de La Lacandona, 1995
SubMoy was telling Maxo that maybe we should try making the raft out of balsa wood (“cork” as it’s called around here), but the naval engineer [Maxo] argued that, being lighter, it would be even more easily pulled by the current. “But you said there’s no current in the ocean,” SupMoy reminded him. “Well, what if there is!” Maxo retorted. SubMoy told the other CCRI [Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee] members to move on to the next experiment: dugout canoes.
They began carving. Under their axes and machetes, the tree trunks that were originally destined to become firewood began to take on a maritime shape and function. SubMoy had left for a moment so they went to ask SupGaleano if seafaring vessels should have names. “Yeah, of course,” the Sup responded distractedly, as he watched el Monarca check out an old diesel engine.
The canoe-carvers began tracing and painting in names—measured and rational, of course—on the sides of the boats. One read “Chompiras the Swimmer and Puddle-Jumper.”[iv] Another: “The internationalist: One thing is one thing, another thing is no me jodas man.” Another: “On my way love, be right there.” And another: “Well why’d they invite us then, it’s on them [v].” The CCRI members from Jacinto Canek baptized theirs “Jean Robert,”[vi] their way of bringing him along on the journey.
Another canoe a little further away read, “Why cry when saltwater abounds?” Which was followed by: “This boat was built by the Maritime Commission of the Zapatista Autonomous Municipality in Rebellion [MAREZ] going under the name of ‘We get criticized for giving the MAREZ and Caracoles really long names but we don’t give a shit,’ headed by the Good Government Council named, ‘Neither do we.’ Perishable cargo. Expiration date: depends. Our boats don’t sink, they expire, which is different. Canoe manufacturing contracts and musicians available at the Centers of Autonomous Zapatista Rebellion and Resistance [CRAREZ] (marimba and sound system not included—because what if they sink and stop working—but we’ll sing with gusto… maybe). This canoe’s value is calculable only in terms of resistance. To be continued on the side of the next canoe…” (You had to walk all the way around the canoe and even peer in to read the inside walls to see the whole “name.” Yes, your assumption is correct, it would take so long for an enemy submarine to transmit the whole name that by the time it finished, the vessel it was going to sink would have reached European shores.
As they carved the logs into canoes, word got around of what was going on. Beloved Amado told Pablito who told Pedrito who informed Defensa Zapatista who discussed with Esperanza who whispered: “don’t tell anybody” to Calamidad who then told her mom who announced it to the whole group of women.
When SupGaleano heard the women were coming, he shrugged his shoulders and handed the half-inch ratchet wrench to el Monarca as he spit out pieces from the mouthpiece of his pipe.
After a bit Jacobo arrived asking, “Hey Sup, is SubMoy going to be long?”
“No idea,” SupGaleano responded, looking, disconsolate, upon his broken pipe.
Jacobo continued, “Do you know how many people are going to make the journey?”
“Not yet,” the Sup answered, “Europe from below hasn’t told us yet how many people they can accommodate. Why?”
“Well… you better come see for yourself,” Jacobo replied.
SupGaleano broke another pipe when he saw the Zapatista “fleet.” Six canoes with eccentric and extravagant names lined the riverbank, loaded down with plants and flowerpots.
“What’s all this?” the Sup asked, just as a formality.
A very resigned Rubén answered, “that’s the women’s luggage.”
“Their luggage?” The Sup inquired.
“Yeah, they came and loaded all those plants and just said, ‘you’re going to need these.’ Later a little girl came, I don’t know her name, but she was asking if the trip was going to take a long time, like if it would be long before we got to where we’re going. I asked her why, if her mom was going or what. She said it wasn’t that, but that she wanted to send along a little tree and if the trip was going to take awhile, well by the time we got there the tree would be big and we could take a break for pozol [vii] in its shade if the sun was strong.”
“But they’re all the same,” argued the Sup (referring to the plants of course).
“No, they’re not,” Alejandra, a CCRI member replied, “This one is a prairie sage, it’s for stomachaches; this one is thyme; that one is spearmint; over here we have chamomile, oregano, parsley, cilantro, laurel, epazote, aloe vera; this one is for diarrhea, this one for burns, that one for insomnia, that one for toothache, this one here is for cramps, this one is known as “cure-all,” that one over there is for nausea, and also here we have hoja santa, black nightshade, wild onion, rue, geranium, carnation, tulips, roses, mañanitas, and so on.”
Jacobo felt obligated to clarify, “As soon as we finished one canoe we turned around and they had it full of plants already. The second we finished the next one, same thing. We’ve finished six so far, which is why I’m asking if we should keep going, because they’re just going to fill them up.”
“But if they want to send all that along, where will the compañeros sit?” the Sup tried to reason with a compañera, one of the women’s coordinators who was carrying two potted plants in her arms and a baby on her back.
“Compañeros? There are men going?” she answered.
“Whatever, either way, women aren’t going to fit either,” argued the Sup, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
“Oh,” she replied, “we’re not going in the boat. We’re going by plane so we won’t get nauseous. Well, maybe a little, but less.”
“Who said you all are going on a plane?” the Sup asked.
“We did,” she answered.
“These decisions you are telling me about, where are they coming from?”
“Well, Esperanza came to our women’s meeting and told us that all of us would die wretchedly if we travel with the damned men. So we discussed it as an assembly and determined that we weren’t scared and are quite decided that the men can die wretchedly without us.”
We did the math and calculated that we can rent the plane that Calderón bought for Peña Nieto and that the bad governments in power now doesn’t know what to do with. They say it costs 500 pesos per person. We’ve got 111 compañeras signed up already, though I don’t think that’s counting the milicianas’ soccer teams. But let’s say there were just 111 of us, that would be 55,500 pesos, but women and infants pay half price, making it 27,750. From that you’d have to take off taxes and speaker’s fees, so let’s say some 10,000 pesos for all of us. That’s if the dollar isn’t devalued in the meantime, if so, then even less. But we don’t want to be quibbling over the money, so we’re going to throw in my compadre’s ox, which acts like a you-know-what, but what can you do, that’s what all machos are like.
SupGaleano remained silent for once, trying to remember where the hell he left his emergency pipe. But when he saw the women begin to carry out chickens, roosters, chicks, pigs, ducks, and turkeys, he urged el Monarca: “Quick, call SubMoy and tell him to come now, it’s urgent.”
The procession of women, plants, and animals stretched past the pasture. They were followed by Defensa Zapatista’s gang: headed up by Pablito (now acting on the premise of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em) with his horse, followed by beloved Amado with his bicycle with the flat tire, followed by the cat-dog herding along some cattle. Defensa and Esperanza were measuring the canoes to see if soccer goals would fit. The one-eyed horse had a bag of plastic bottles hanging from its snout. Calamidad followed holding a piglet squealing in terror that she’d throw it in the river just so she could rescue it… and for good reason.
At the end of the procession was someone who looked extraordinarily like a beetle, with an eye-patch over his right eye, a piece of twisted wire on one leg in a version of a pirate’s hook and something mimicking a peg leg on the other, really just a splinter of wood from where the canoe-carving was going on. This strange being, wielding a little piece of tin as a face mask, recited with admirable oratory:
“The breeze fair aft, all sails on high,
Ten guns on each side mounted seen, She does not cut the sea, but fly, A swiftly sailing brigantine; A pirate bark, the “Dreaded” named, For her surpassing boldness famed, On every sea well-known and shore, From side to side their boundaries o’er.”[viii]
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, head of the expedition in the making, returned to find SupGaleano smiling inexplicably. The Sup had just found another pipe, unbroken, in his pants pocket.
I give my word.
[i] “Watapil” was the name given to one of the early jungle encampments (circa 1985) of the small group of insurgents that would later become the EZLN. See https://www.alterinter.org/?The-Fire-and-the-Word
[ii] In Mayan folklore, the Alux are small, mythical beings primarily inhabiting the jungle and other natural areas, something like elves in English folklore. Aluxo’ob is the plural in Mayan.
[iii] Pájaro tapacaminos is a nocturnal bird in Mexico with a loud, distinctive call that can be heard up to 1km away.
[iv] Chompiras is the name of a renowned three-ton truck in Zapatista territory, used for many solidarity efforts.
[v] “Pa’ qué me invitan” (Why’d you invite me then?) is a meme that originated with a viral cell-phone video of an extremely inebriated man being dragged out of a party who complains to the hosts that if they know he always gets hammered, well then what did they invite him for? See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fn1TgATT6hs
[vi] Jean Robert was a philosopher and architect based in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, who long supported the Zapatista movement. He recently passed on October 1, 2020.
[vii] Pozol is ground corn mixed with water, commonly consumed in the Chiapas countryside as a midday meal.
[viii] José de Espronceda’s “Song of the Pirate,” translation from James Kennedy, published in Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated from the Spanish by English and North American Poets, ed. Thomas Walsh. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1920.
By: Raúl Romero*
Oscar Eyraud Adams, of the Kumiai people, was murdered on September 24, 2020 in Baja California. Jesús Miguel Jerónimo and his son Jesús Miguel Junior, of the P’urhépecha People of Ichán, were murdered on July 23, 2020, in Michoacán. Josué Bernardo Marcial Santos, known as Tío Bad, a rapper and delegate of the Popoluca People to the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI), was found dead on December 16, 2019 in Veracruz. All of them had common elements: they were indigenous, defenders of the territory and they achieved opening dialogues and generating convergences, inside and outside their communities, around struggles against extractive projects and megaprojects of dispossession.
They are not the only ones murdered so far in this six-year term. There are also Samir Flores Soberanes (Nahua), Ignacio Pérez Girón (Tzotzil), Julián Cortés Flores (Mephaa) and twenty more stories.
The murder of territory defenders in Mexico, most of them Native peoples, is a systematic and recurring practice. The offensive is part of the war over territories that neoliberal capitalism has waged all over the world for several years.
At the end of the 1990s, the then spokesperson for the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos, shared the analysis that the Zapatistas have about the issue. Two texts that seem pre-figurative today stand out: “The seven loose pieces of the world jigsaw puzzle” and “What are the fundamental characteristics of the Fourth World War?” In those analyses he characterized neoliberalism as “a new war for the conquest of territories,” a war in which there is a process of “destruction / depopulation and reconstruction / reordering,” a “total war,” in other words, it occurs “at any time, in any place, under any circumstance.” It’s a war against humanity in which “everything human that opposes the logic of the market is an enemy and must be destroyed.”
In that war against humanity, the peoples who inhabit the territories that capital seeks to conquer and reorder are the first enemies. They hinder the process of the financialization of nature and of the construction and integration of new commercial regions.
For those territories to have “value” in the market, they must first be destroyed and de-populated, either with paramilitaries, organized crime groups, or directly with state forces. The elimination also implies destroying worlds of life; in other words, erasing the ways of being of the peoples, above all, breaking their nexus with the land and their being a community. Simultaneously, ocurre the process of reordering and reconstruction of those territories occurs to make them functional to the logic of the market. Wherever there are towns and communities with their own ways of looking at and relating to the world, they begin to build cities that link to other cities, which they euphemistically call development poles or centers. Of course the former members of the peoples, now as consumers of merchandise or as cheap labor, will be able to integrate into capitalist modernity.
Even those who not long ago called themselves left and even revolutionaries, today defend these ecocidal and colonialist projects. They do so by dusting off their manuals: one must promote “development of productive forces,” “industrialize the country,” “proletarianize the indigenous.”
In the new war of conquest, organizations of Native peoples, like the CNI, are a constant target of attacks. The journalist Zósimo Camacho revealed that, with data from the Congress itself, he was able to document at least 117 murders and 11 disappearances of people since the founding of the CNI in 1996 up to June 2019. But the “real number is higher, because generally only those who had political and/or operational responsibilities appear on this tentative list. The list lacks the names of those who were killed and resisted from their milpas, their ceremonies, their daily jobs.
The same thing happens with the EZLN and its bases of support. A significant increase in hostilities against them has been recorded since December 2018. At least three lines of confrontation stand out: 1) the physical war, which includes military incursions, paramilitary attacks and the expansion of organized crime groups that operate with total impunity in Chiapas; 2) the media war, based on the publication of lies, rumors or conspiracy theories in the social networks and communications media, and 3) the political war, directed at coopting, dividing and confronting organizations and communities through individualized and paternalistic social programs that don’t modify the structural conditions.
The indigenous peoples articulated in the CNI and the EZLN are also, in Mexico, the principal resistance in this struggle in defense of life. Those peoples once again launch a call to all humanity: it’s the time for our “common dream,” it’s the time for freedom.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
The Chiapas Support Committee sends its most heartfelt thanks to everyone who expressed their solidarity regarding the paramilitary violence in Chiapas by signing our protest letter to the Mexican Consulate. We also wish to thank those who contributed to our fundraising campaign for Las Abejas. These expressions of solidarity come from around the world and the collective sum of all solidarity actions matter.
On October 13, members of the Chiapas Support Committee went to the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco to deliver the letter demanding a stop to the paramilitary violence in Chiapas. (The letter with signatures is posted below.) A few others joined them and we brought posters. To our great surprise, the deputy consul general, Guillermo Reyes, actually met with us and listened to our concerns (he is the person in the black suit in the pictures below). He didn’t know anything about the violence in Chiapas, but had heard of FRAYBA, which was probably helpful when we mentioned their active denunciations. I looked him up and he has a special focus on humanitarian situations. He promised to convey the letter and the message and get back to us in a week.
Remedios Gómez Arnau, Consul General
Mexican Consulate in San Francisco
532 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Dear Consul General Gómez Arnau,
We write to express our alarm over the growing violence in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico; specifically, in the municipalities of Aldama, Chenalhó and Chalchihuitan, where paramilitaries have violently attacked and forcibly displaced thousands of indigenous people from their homes, fields and communities. We are demanding that the Mexican government stop the paramilitary violence, stop any support being given to the paramilitaries and dismantle them.
According to the internationally respected Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), paramilitary-style civilian armed groups in Chenalhó municipality perpetrate the violence, shooting indiscriminately into the civilian communities where displaced persons are sheltered, often causing them to flee for safety in the mountains, thus leaving them outdoors without shelter and food. In Aldama, for example, bullets fired from Chenalhó injured13-year-old María Luciana Lunes Pérez in the face and shoulder while she was working on her loom inside her home in Koko’, Aldama.
These paramilitary groups also patrol roads and block access to fields so that those displaced cannot grow or harvest their food, creating hunger and the threat of famine in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as preventing the harvesting and sale of cash crops that provide the only income these subsistence farmers have. Meanwhile, deaths and injuries are claimed on both sides.
A troubling photo apparently taken from a video in the local press shows heavily armed men in Chenalhó, dressed in camouflage uniforms, wearing ski masks and sporting high-powered rifles. The video’s release, in which the paramilitaries introduce themselves to society, would seem to assert: “We have impunity!” Further evidence of impunity appeared on social media with the news that 80 residents of Santa Martha (Chenalhó) took weapons and munitions away from a detachment of police in that town and continued to retain the weapons.
Another report from those displaced in Aldama indicated that there have been 30 armed attacks in three days against the people of Aldama, with the gunfire coming from Chenalhó. This shocked readers in Mexico and abroad. These egregious human rights violations must be stopped now to avoid further loss of life and serious bodily injury. Human rights defenders and those displaced are seeking such intervention.
This is a crisis situation that requires the Mexican government’s immediate intervention to dismantle these paramilitaries and repair the damage done to all victims. Mexico’s federal and state governments failed to do this before and after the December 22, 1997 Acteal Massacre in which paramilitaries attacked and murdered 45 women, men and children. Paramilitary violence forcibly displaced thousands in the months before that massacre, as is happening now. Additionally, there is evidence that the current paramilitary group is related to the one involved in that massacre.
The growing paramilitary attacks on Aldama feel eerily reminiscent of the conditions that preceded the Acteal Massacre. And the present reminds us all too painfully of the past. The Mexican government can prevent a greater calamity from taking place by stopping and dismantling the paramilitary violence now.
We, therefore, urge Mexico’s federal and state governments to stop the paramilitary attacks, dismantle the paramilitary group(s) in Chenalhó and begin repairing the damage done to all the victims.
The Chiapas Support Committee and Friends
Mary Ann Tenuto Sanchez
Charlotte Saenz, Core Faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
Todd Davies, Initiative for Equality
Anya Briy, PhD student in Sociology, Binghamton, NY
Meredith Tax, Writer, New York
Carla Green, Missoula, Montana
Katherine E. Keller, Missoula, Montana
John Wolverton, Missoula, Montana
Hermina Jean Harold
Adam Fix, PhD, Columbus, Ohio
Diana Block, San Francisco, California
Norma J F Harrison, for the Peace and Freedom Party
Julie Harris, El Sobrante USA
Jane Welford, Berkeley, California
Jason Bechtel, San Diego, California
Kristin Walter, Partner, Crew. Partner, Enlight Collaborative
Michael Bass, Activist, Oakland, California
Charlene Woodcock, Berkeley, California
Joanne Shansky, St. Francis, Wisconsin
Targol Mesbah, PhD, Assistant Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies
Joseph E. Bender II
Ingrid Perry-Houts, Oakland, California
Andrew Claycomb, Registered Nurse, Los Angeles, California
Marilyn Naparst, Berkeley, California
Julie Webb-Pullman, Nueva Zelanda
Dra. Linda Quiquivix, California
Roger Knoren, U.S. Engagement and Community Development, Pachamama Alliance
Mark E. Smith
Joe Liesner, Oakland, California
Helen Finkelstein, Berkeley, California
Elise Youssoufian, Artist, singer, poet
Julibeth Saez Negron, DVM
Sexta Grietas del Norte Network
Mariana Rivera, Sacramento, California
Rosa Maria Barajas
José Hernández, Napa, California
Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, New Zealand
Terri Freedman, California resident
Sue Stuart, Director, East Bay Community Space
Annie Heuscher, Missoula, Montana
David Early, Berkeley
Joanna Burgess Integrated Health & Wellness, Berkeley, California
Jose Sánchez, Bonn, Germany
Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas
P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 817-4280
By: Gilberto López y Rivas
The communiqué of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), entitled A mountain on the high seas, released by its spokesperson Subcomandante Moisés last October 5, contains long-range reflections about the national and global reality, as well as the announcement of a forthcoming departure of Zapatista delegations to the five continents, starting with Europe, and planning to arrive in Madrid, the Spanish capital, on August 13, 2021, “500 years after the supposed conquest of what is now Mexico.”  In that world that the Zapatista Mayas observe “sick and fragmented into millions of people, committed to their individual survival, but united under the oppression of a system that goes against the existence of Planet Earth,” with “nature wounded to death, and that, in its agony, warns humanity that the worst is yet to come,” their delegations will go to find, they maintain, “what makes them the same.”
They specifically want to speak with the Spanish people: “not to threaten, reproach, insult or demand. Not to demand that you ask us for forgiveness. Not to serve you or to serve us. We will go to tell the Spanish people two simple things: one, that they did not conquer us, that we continue in resistance and rebellion, and two, that they don’t have to ask us to forgive them for anything. Enough of playing with the distant past to justify, with demagoguery and hypocrisy, the current and ongoing crimes, like the case of brother Samir Flores Soberanes; the genocides hidden behind megaprojects, conceived and carried out to the joy of the powerful –the same one that whips all corners of the planet; the monetary encouragement of impunity for the paramilitaries; the purchase of consciences and dignities for 30 coins.” Given the manipulations of history from the presidential power, the severe criticisms of Zapatismo are expressed about what it considers “outdated nationalism,” which “wants sow racial rancor (…) with the supposed splendor of an empire, the Aztec, which grew at the expense of the blood of their fellow man, and that wants to convince us that, with the fall of that empire, the original peoples of these lands were defeated. Neither the Spanish State nor the Catholic Church has to ask us for forgiveness for anything. We will not echo the phonies who ride on our blood and thus hide the fact that their hands are stained with it.”
They point out that the powerful hide and retreat into the so-called national states and their walls, “and, in that impossible leap back, they revive fascist nationalisms, ridiculous chauvinisms and deafening verbiage” and, at this point, they warn of wars to come: “Those that feed on false, hollow, lying stories and that translate nationalities and races into supremacies that will impose themselves on the path of death and destruction.” And in that darkness and confusion that precedes those wars, Zapatismo denounces: “the attack, siege and persecution of any hint of creativity, intelligence and rationality. Faced with critical thinking, the powerful demand, demand and impose their fanaticism.”
This audacious planetary travel initiative corresponds to its persistent political will to break the sieges that the Mexican State has imposed upon the EZLN on multiple fronts of the counterinsurgency war –military, paramilitary, media, social networks, patronizing programs, delusional defamatory campaigns –, ever since the historic multiplication from 5 to 12 Good Government Juntas, which took place in 2019; the international meetings in their territory of thousands of women from more than 40 countries in 2018 and 2019; the seminar on critical thought versus the capitalist hydra in 2015, in which it called for the formation of the collective intellectual that the struggle of the peoples requires; the Escuelita courses in 2013, in which they shared their autonomous process; the mass marches through municipal capitals in 2012, on the occasion of the “end of the world,” and their tours, now memorable, through the country, like the march of the 1,111 in 1997, or the March of the Color of the Earth in 2001, the Intergalactic Encuentro in 1996, the first meeting against neoliberalism in the world arena, after the implosion of the USSR and the supposed “end of history.” That infusion of an isolated, essentialist, corporate movement, propagated by the intelligence services of the Mexican State and their spokespersons in the paid communications media, and which is now taken up by the staunch defenders of the 4T, has no trace of credibility or support.
Faced with neoliberals and neoconservatives, the EZLN represents the critical conscience of the country, made invisible by both. Nevertheless, its message of resistance, rebellion and life will undoubtedly find receptive ears in that new world that will be constructed from below.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, October 16, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
Tsotsiles: They hunt us at our jobs, on the roads and attack us in our homes
Just last September there were six injured with firearms in Aldama, Chiapas, denounce the residents of Magdalena Aldama who introduce themselves as “the voice of the people” and have given a timely follow-up on the escalation of violence that affects the communities of this Tzotzil municipality. On September 4, Mario Pérez Gutiérrez, 22, and Juan Pérez Gutiérrez, 27, were injured by the fire that that systematically comes from Santa Martha, Chenalhó.
On September 12, Andrés Ruiz Santiz, 61, was injured and on September 13 Raymundo Pérez Santiz, 16, suffered injuries, as did Armando Pérez, 31. On September 30, paramilitary bullets hit Artemio Pérez Pérez in both lungs; he remains hospitalized. The three men were wounded at the attack point of El Volcán and three at T’elemax, Santa Martha, Chenalhó.
So far in October, the Tsotsil campesinos add, “the armed attacks from these paramilitary groups have intensified day and night; they hunt us at our jobs, on the roads, and they attacks us in our own homes and want to kill us casas. As a consequence of this, intermittent displacements have resulted. In other words, they not only dispossess us of our Mother Earth, on which we live and which ancestrally our grandparents have left us and which has been ratified at the Tribunal Unitary Agrarian Court.” Previous and current governments, they add, “have been negotiating our lands.”
Frayba: risk of a massacre like Acteal
For its part, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) warned “about the scenario of a violence of great magnitude and that a massacre like that of Acteal can occur, and, therefore, in fact, difficult or impossible to repair.” According to the Frayba, “the persistent omission and complicity of the Chiapas government and of the federal government causes the escalation of violence in the Highlands region and increases the risk to life of the population in 13 communities in Aldama municipality, mostly women, children, adolescents and elderly people.”
Consequently, it demands that the authorities investigate and punish“ the responsible authorities for the impunity of these events, as well as the intellectual authors.”
Yesterday morning, Magdalena residents expressed: “We denounce once again these paramilitary-style armed groups in Santa Martha Chenalhó that operate freely in that area of the Chiapas Highlands.
“We are an internal forcibly displaced people who have suffered for several years, who now live under armed attack from paramilitary groups in Santa Martha, Chenalhó municipality, where the Chenalhó paramilitaries have always been operating and remain active as of this date.”
The Magdalena indigenous people lament the Mexican government’s inability to bring about resolution,” faced with an agrarian conflict that has been aggravating the continuous armed attacks. “We have suffered and continue suffering. What happened on October 11 at 9:30 am at the T’elemax point in Santa Martha is an example. They attacked the Tabak community and, as a consequence of that, Hugo Alfredo Pérez Hernández was injured by a high-caliber bullet, when he was coming back from San Andrés Larráinzar.”
It’s not the first time that this has been denounced, they conclude: “The same groups have also attacked the town of Chalchihuitán, and today we ask the government: how many more wounded is it going to take in order to resolve this agrarian conflict? How long must we endure these armed attacks from the paramilitary group in Santa Martha Chenalhó? Now what’s next? What hope do the people of Aldama have?”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, October 13 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
Let’s suppose it is possible to choose where to direct your own gaze. Suppose that you could free yourself, if only for a moment, from the tyranny of social networks that impose not only what you see and talk about, but also how you see and how you talk. Then, suppose that you lift your gaze higher: from the immediate to the local to the regional to the national to the global. Can you see that far? Yes, it’s chaos, confusion and disorder out there. Then let’s suppose you are a human being, not a digital application that quickly scans, classifies, orders, judges and sanctions, and as such, you choose where to look… and how to look. It could be (this is just a hypothetical) that looking and judging aren’t the same thing, such that you don’t just choose where to direct your gaze, you also decide what your inquiry is, shifting the question from “Is this good or bad?” to “What is this?” Of course, the former implies a juicy debate (are there still debates?), which in turn leads to “This is good—or bad—because I say so.” Or perhaps to a discussion about what good and evil are, and from there to arguments and citations with footnotes. Yes, you’re right, that’s better than resorting to “likes” and “thumbs up”, but what I’m proposing is to change the starting point: choose where to direct your gaze.
For example: you decide to direct your gaze to Muslims. You could choose to look, for example, at those who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo attacks, or at those who are currently marching through the streets of France to voice and demand their rights. Since you’ve read this far, it’s likely that you would opt for the “sans papiers[i].” Of course, you also feel obligated to declare that Macron is an imbecile. But, that quick look upwards aside, you again turn to look at the migrants’ protest encampments and marches. You ask how many of them are out there—seems like a lot, or a few, or too many, or just enough. Your interest has moved from their religious identity to their numbers. Then you ask yourself what they want, why they struggle. Here you have to decide whether to turn to the media and social networks to find out… or whether to listen to the migrants directly. Suppose you could talk to them. Would you ask them about their religion, or how many of them are there? Or would you ask them why they left their homeland and decided to come to these distant lands with a different language, culture, laws and customs? Perhaps they will answer you with a single word: war. Or perhaps they will give details of what that word means in their reality. War. You decide to look into it: war where? Or better yet, why war? They overwhelm you with explanations: religious beliefs, territorial disputes, theft of natural resources or simply stupidity. But you aren’t satisfied yet and you ask who benefits from the destruction, the depopulation, the reconstruction and the repopulation. You come across the names of many different corporations. You look into these corporations and discover that they are located in several countries and that they manufacture not just weapons, but also cars, interstellar rockets, microwave ovens, packing and shipping services, banks, social networks, “media content”, clothing, cell phones and computers, underwear, organic food and non-organic food, shipping companies, online sales, trains, heads of state and cabinet members, scientific and non-scientific research centers, hotel and restaurant chains, fast food, airlines, thermoelectric plants, and, of course, “humanitarian” aid foundations. You could say, then, that the responsibility lies with humanity or the whole world.
But you ask yourself whether the world or humanity aren’t also responsible for the march and the migrant encampment, for that resistance. You conclude that, yes, maybe, it’s possible that a whole system is responsible: a system that produces and reproduces the pain as well as those who inflict it and those who endure it.
Now you return your gaze to the march making its way through France. Suppose that there are few, very few people, that there’s just one woman carrying her baby. Do you care about her religious beliefs, her language, her clothing, her culture, her customs? Does it matter that she’s just one woman carrying her baby in her arms? Now forget about the woman for a moment and focus your gaze just on her little one. Does it matter whether it’s a boy, girl, or other? Does the child’s skin color matter? Perhaps you discover then that what matters is its life.
Now go further. After all, you’ve gotten this far, so a few more lines won’t do you any harm. Not much at least.
Suppose that woman speaks to you and you have the privilege of understanding what she says. Do you think she’ll demand that you ask her forgiveness for the color of your skin, for your religious beliefs or lack thereof, for your nationality, your ancestors, your language, your gender, or your customs? Are you in a hurry to apologize to her for being who you are? Do you think she’ll forgive you and then you can go back to your life with that debt fully paid? Or that she won’t forgive you, and you’ll be able to say, “Well, at least I tried, and I am sincerely sorry for being who I am”?
Or are you afraid that she won’t talk to you, that she’ll just look at you silently and you’ll sense that her gaze asks, “And you?”
If you arrive at this reasoning-feeling-anguish-desperation, well then, I’m sorry, there’s no cure for you: you’re a human being.
Thus assured that you’re not a bot, repeat this exercise on the Island of Lesbos, the Rock of Gibraltar, the English Channel, Naples, the Suchiate River and the Río Grande.
Now turn your gaze and look for Palestine, Kurdistan, Euskadi [ii] and Wallmapu [iii]. I know, it’s dizzying… and there are many more places to look. But in these places there are people (whether many or few, too many or just enough) who also struggle for life. And they understand life as inseparably tied to their land, their language, their culture, their customs; what the National Indigenous Congress [CNI] taught us to call “territory,” which isn’t just a piece of land. Wouldn’t you like those people to tell you their stories, their struggle, their dreams? I know, perhaps you’re thinking it would be easier just to check Wikipedia, but isn’t it tempting to hear it from them directly and try to understand?
Return now to what’s between the Suchiate River and the Río Grande. Go to a place called “Morelos.” Then turn your gaze to the municipality of Temoac, and focus on the community of Amilcingo. Do you see that house? That’s the home of a man who was called Samir Flores Soberanes. In front of that door, he was murdered. His crime? Opposing a megaproject that represented the death of the life of the communities to which he belonged. No, I haven’t misspoken: Samir was killed not for defending his individual life, but for defending the life of his communities.
What’s more, Samir was murdered for defending the life of not yet thought of generations. For Samir, as for his compañeras and compañeros, and for the Native peoples that make up the CNI and for us, nosotros, nosotras, nosotroas Zapatistas, the life of a community doesn’t take place only in the present: it is above all what is to come. The life of a community is something that is built today, but built for tomorrow. That is, life in community is something that is passed on to future generations. Do you think that the debt of his death is paid if the intellectual and material authors of the murder ask for forgiveness? Do you think that his family, his organization, the CNI, nosotr@s, will be satisfied by the criminals’ apology? “Forgive me, I put the price on his head for the hit men to take him out; I’ve always been quite the gossip. I’ll try to be better—or not. All right then, I’ve asked for forgiveness, now get rid of your protest encampment so we can finish the thermoelectric plant, or else a lot of money is going to be lost.” Do you think that’s what they’re waiting for, that that’s what we’re waiting for, that that’s why they struggle and why we struggle: for them to apologize? For them to declare: “Oh sorry, yes, we murdered Samir and what’s more, this megaproject is murdering your communities. Our bad. All right, forgive us already. Though if you won’t forgive us it doesn’t matter anyway, the project must go on”?
It turns out that the same people who would ask forgiveness for the thermoelectric plant are behind the badly named “Mayan” Train, the “Trans-isthmus Corridor”, the dams, the open pit mines and the electric power plants. They’re the same people who close borders to stop migration flows triggered by the wars that they themselves encourage. They’re the same ones who pursue the Mapuche people, massacre the Kurds, destroy Palestine, and shoot African Americans; who directly or indirectly exploit workers in every corner of the globe; who cultivate and glorify gender violence and prostitute children; who spy on you to know what you like and sell it to you (and if you don’t like anything, to make you like it); the same ones who destroy nature. They’re the same people who want to make you, us, and everyone else believe that responsibility for these global crimes being carried out lies with particular nations and religions, with resistance to progress, with conservatives, with certain languages, histories, or ways of being, or that everything can be synthesized in one individual (an individuo… or individua – don’t neglect gender equality!).
If you could go to all those corners of our moribund planet, what would you do? Well, we don’t know what you’d do, but we Zapatistas, nosotros, nosotras, nosotroas would go to learn. To dance, too, of course, but I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. If that opportunity existed we would be willing to risk everything for it: not just our individual lives but our collective life. And if that possibility didn’t exist, we would do everything possible to create it, to construct it, as if it were a vessel. Yes, I know it’s crazy—unthinkable even. Who would have thought that the destiny of people resisting a thermoelectric plant in a tiny corner of Mexico could be of interest to Palestinians, to the Mapuche, to the Basque people, to migrants, to African Americans, to a young Swedish environmentalist, to a Kurdish woman warrior, to women struggling in other parts of the planet; to Japan, China, the Koreas, Oceania and Mother Africa?
On the contrary, shouldn’t we go, for example, to Chablekal, in the Yucatan Peninsula, to the office of Equipo Indignación [Team Indignation] and demand, “Hey! You guys are religious and have white skin: ask our forgiveness!” I’m almost certain they would respond, “No problem, but you’ll wait your turn because right now we’re busy accompanying those who are resisting the Mayan Train and suffering displacement, persecution, prison and death.” And they would add:
“Also, right now we’re dealing with the accusation by the Supreme Leader that we’re financed by the Illuminati as part of an interplanetary conspiracy to stop the 4T.”[iv] What I am sure of is that they would use the verb “accompany” and not “direct,” “manage” or “control.”
Or should we invade Europe with a cry of “Surrender, pale-faces!” and then proceed to destroy the Parthenon, the Louvre, and the Prado, and instead of sculptures and paintings, fill everything with Zapatista embroidery, especially Zapatista face masks—which, can I just say, are both effective and attractive. Instead of pasta, seafood and paella we could impose a diet of elote, cacaté, and yerba mora; instead of soda, wine, and beer we could introduce obligatory pozole[v]; and for whoever is caught out on the street without a ski mask, either a fine or prison time (one or the other, no reason to go overboard). We could also announce, “Listen rockstars, from now on you play marimba! And we only want to hear cumbias, no more reggaeton (tempting, right?). Hey you two, Panchito Varona[vi] and Sabina[vii]—everybody else join the chorus—let’s hear “Cartas Marcadas”[viii], on loop, even if it’s 10pm, 11, 12, 1am, 2am, 3am… we’ll cut it off then because we have to get up early tomorrow! And you over there, fugitive ex-King[ix], leave those elephants alone and get cooking! Squash soup for the whole court! (I know, isn’t my cruelty is exquisite)”?
Now you tell me: do you think the nightmare of those above is that they be forced to apologize? Could it be, rather, that their worst nightmare is to disappear, to cease to matter, for no one to care about them anymore, that they become nothing, that their world collapses without making a sound and without anyone remembering them, erecting statues, museums, chants, or days of remembrance? Could it be that that possible reality is what really causes them panic?
-*- It was one of few occasions when the defunct SupMarcos did not resort to a cinematic comparison to explain something. You all weren’t around to know and I wasn’t around to tell, but the late SupMarcos would explain all of the stages of his short life with reference to a film. Or he’d illustrate any explanation of the national or international situation with the phrase “just like in such-and-such movie.” Of course, oftentimes he’d have to modify the script to address the situation at hand, but since most of us had never seen the film nor did we have internet connections to check Wikipedia on our cellphones, we believed him. But let’s not get off topic. Wait a sec, I think he left it written here somewhere in this pile of papers that fill his old trunk…. Here it is! Okay, here goes:
“To understand our determination and the size of our audacity, imagine that death is a doorway. There are endless speculations about what’s behind the door—heaven, hell, limbo, nothing—and dozens of descriptions of all of those options. Life, then, could be imagined as a path to that door. The door—death that is—would be in that case a point of arrival… or an interruption, an impertinent slash of absence wounding the air of life.
One would arrive at that door, then, via the violence of torture and murder, an unfortunate accident, the painful half-closing of the door in sickness, through fatigue or through desire. That is, while the majority arrive to that door without wanting to or meaning to, it is also possible for it to be a choice.
Among the Native peoples that today are Zapatistas, before, death was a door introduced early, almost as of birth. Children often reached that door before five years of age, crossing over with fever and diarrhea. What we tried to do on January 1, 1994, was push that door into the distance. We did of course have to be ready to go through the door in our effort to achieve that goal, although that wasn’t what we wanted. Since then, our determination has been and continues to be to push that door as far into the distance as possible, to “extend life expectancy” as the experts say. Dignified life, we would add. We try to distance that door to the point that it can be pushed off to the side, very far ahead of us. That’s why we said from the beginning of the uprising that “we would die in order to live.” After all, if we do not hand down life—that is, a path—to the next generations, then what did we live for?
To hand down life.
That is precisely what Samir Flores Soberanes tried to do, and that is what is encapsulated in the struggle of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa del Agua y de la Tierra de Morelos, Puebla y Tlaxcala [People’s Front in Defense of the Water and Land of Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala] and their resistance and rebellion against the thermoelectric plant and the poorly named “Integrated Project for Morelos.” The government’s argument against their demand to cease and remove that death project has been that it will lose a lot of money.
What’s happening in Morelos summarizes the current conflict across the entire world: money versus life. In that confrontation, in that war, no honest person can be neutral: one is on the side of money or one is on the side of life.
We could conclude, then, that the struggle for life isn’t an obsession among originary peoples. It’s more like a vocation… a collective one.
All right then. Cheers and don’t forget that forgiveness and justice are not the same.
From the mountains of the Alps, wondering where to invade first: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Monaco, Liechtenstein? Just kidding… or not.
SupGaleano practicing his most elegant wretching.
Mexico, October of 2020.
From the notebook of the Cat-Dog:
A Mountain on the High Seas. Part I: The Raft
“In the seas of all of the worlds of this world, there were mountains that moved above the water and upon them the obscured faces of women, men, and others.”
“Chronicles of Tomorrow,” Don Durito de La Lacandona, 1990.
After a third failed attempt, Maxo paused thoughtfully for a few seconds before exclaiming, “We need a rope.” “Told you” replied Gabino. The remainders of the raft dispersed and collided in the water, running into each other in accord with the current of the river which, true to its name of “Colorado,” took on the tint of the red clay of its banks.
They called in a miliciano cavalry battalion which arrived to the rhythm of “Cumbia Sobre el Río Suena” [Cumbia by the River] by the great Celso Piña. They tied several ropes together, making two large sections, and sent one team to the other side of the river. Tying their ropes to the raft, both groups could control the direction of the vessel without it breaking up, pulling the pile of logs along a river that was itself quite unaware of the navigation effort.
The illogical act in process had emerged after we had decided upon the invasion … oh pardon me, I meant the visit to the five continents. So the deed had been done. When the idea was voted on and SupGaleano said, “You all are crazy, we don’t have a boat,” Maxo responded, “We’ll build one.” And immediately the proposals started to flow.
As with all things absurd in Zapatista territory, the construction of the “boat” got the attention of Defensa Zapatista’s gang.
On the fourth attempt, as the boat weakened almost immediately, Esperanza declared, with her legendary optimism, “The compañeras are going to die wretchedly.” (She had come across that word in a book and understood it meant something horrible and irreparable, and began to use it indiscriminately: “My mom fixed my hair wretchedly,” “The teacher marked up my homework wretchedly,” and so on).
“The compañeros too!” Pedrito piped up, though not entirely sure gender solidarity was appropriate when the destiny was… wretched.
“Nah,” Defensa replied, “Compañeros are easy to replace, but compañeras… where would we even begin? A real compañera… that’s not just anybody!”
Defensa’s gang was positioned strategically, not to contemplate the ups and downs of the CCRI [Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee] members’ attempts to build the raft, but rather so that Defensa and Esperanza could hold onto both Calamidad’s hands after the little girl had twice already tried to throw herself into the river to rescue the boat. Both times she was intercepted by Pedrito, Pablito, and the beloved Amado. The one-eyed horse and the cat-dog were dumbfounded from the beginning, worrying unnecessarily. As soon as SupGaleano saw the gang arrive, he assigned three militia units to the bank of the river and instructed, with his typical smiling diplomacy, “If that little girl makes it into the water, you’re all dead.”
After some success on the sixth attempt, the CCRI members tried filling the boat with what they called trip “essentials” (a kind of Zapatista survival kit): a bag of tostadas, panela [cane sugar], a gunny sack of coffee, some maize prepared for pozol, a bundle of firewood, and a piece of plastic in case of rain. After thinking a bit they realized something was missing, and without delay the marimba was brought to the banks.
Maxo approached Monarca and SupGaleano who were looking over some designs that I’ll tell you about on another occasion and said, “Hey Sup, you’re going to have to send a letter to the other side and tell them to get a rope and tie it up to make a long piece and throw one end over here so that from both banks we can get the “boat” moving. But they’re going to have to get organized because if each side just throws their rope out whichever way, it’s not going to reach. We’re going to have to be organized and tie the ropes up properly.”
Maxo didn’t wait for SupGaleano to emerge from his confusion and try to explain that there was a big difference between a log raft tied together with reed and a boat that could cross the Atlantic.
Maxo left to go supervise the trial run of the raft loaded with supplies. They were debating who should get on to test it out with people on board, but the river thrashed about with an ominous rumbling, so they opted for making a rag doll and tying it to the middle of the raft. Maxo was acting as the naval engineer because years ago, when a Zapatista delegation went to support the Cucapá encampment, Maxo got into the Gulf of California. He hadn’t explained to anyone that he almost drowned because his ski mask stuck to his nose and mouth and he couldn’t breathe. Like an old sea dog he explained to the others: “[the Gulf] is like a river but without a current, and thicker, by a lot, like Lake Miramar.”
SupGaleano was trying to decipher how to say “rope” in German, Italian, French, English, Greek, Basque, Turkish, Swedish, Catalan, Finnish, etc., when Major Irma approached and said, “tell them they are not alone [solas].” “Or alone [solos]!” Marijose added, who had come to ask the musicians to compose a cumbia version of Swan Lake. “A happy version, one you can dance to, so their hearts are not sad.” The musicians asked what “swans” were. “They’re like ducks but prettier, like they stretched out their necks and got stuck that way. They’re like giraffes but they walk like ducks.” “Can you eat them?” the musicians asked. It was lunchtime and they had only shown up to deliver the marimba. “Oh for pity’s sake, no, swans are for dancing!” The musicians muttered among themselves that a version of “Pollito con papas[x]” might work. “We’ll study up,” they said and went to have their pozol.
Meanwhile, Defensa Zapatista and Esperanza convinced Calamidad that given that SupGaleano was busy, his hut was probably empty and it was very likely that he had a package of honeybuns hidden away in his tobacco tin. Calamidad was doubtful so they had to tell her that they could play popcorn (making corn kernels explode like firecrackers) when they got there. Off they went. The Sup saw them wander off in that direction but he wasn’t worried, the honeybun hideaway was impossible to find, buried as it was under bags of moldy tobacco. He looked at Monarca and gestured to one of the diagrams. “You sure that’s not going to sink? It’s going to be heavy.” Monarca paused and thought a moment and then replied, “Hmm, it could.” He then added seriously, “They should take balloons just in case, so they can float.”
The Sup sighed and said, “What we need more than a boat is some sense.” “And more rope!” added SubMoy who had arrived just as the raft, weighed down with cargo, sank.
While the CCRI members contemplated the remains of the shipwreck from the riverbank and the marimba floated by, bottom up, someone said, “Good thing we didn’t put the sound system on there, that would have been expensive.”
Everybody applauded when the rag doll floated to the surface. Somebody, with some foresight, had put two inflated balloons under her arms.
I give my word.
There are 3 Music Videos attached to the comunicado. You can listen to them here: http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2020/10/09/quinta-parte-la-mirada-y-la-distancia-a-la-puerta/
[i] French for “undocumented.”
[ii] Refers to Basque country.
[iii] Refers to Mapuche territory.
[iv] López Obrador deemed his own governing project the “Fourth Transformation” (4T), supposedly on par with historic events such as Mexican Independence (1810), a period of reform in the mid-19th century, and the Mexican Revolution (1910). On August 28, 2020, López Obrador’s administration declared that opposition to his government’s pet project [the “Mayan Train”] was financed by foreign foundations linked to the US State Department. See: https://www.proceso.com.mx/645590/fundaciones-extranjeras-financian-oposicion-al-tren-maya-acusa-amlo
[v] Elote is fresh corn on the cob, cacaté is a fruit typical in Chiapas, yerba mora is black nightshade, and pozole is a beverage made of ground corn mixed with water, all common in Zapatista territory.
[vi] Renowned Spanish rock music writer and producer.
[vii] Joaquín Sabina, legendary Spanish songwriter and musician.
[viii]“Cartas marcadas” (“Marked Cards”) is a popular song sung by Pedro Infante in the classic 1948 film of the same name. The EZLN has referenced this song many times over the years, including when a protest encampment of Zapatista residents of the community of Amador Hernandez sang the song to soldiers maintaining the Mexican military occupation of the area in 1999. See: https://www.jornada.com.mx/1999/08/19/payan.html
[ix] Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I fled the country earlier this year to avoid court cases relating to corruption charges against him. In 2012 photos came to light showing him hunting elephants in Botswana while Spain was in the midst of an extreme economic crisis.
[x] “Pollito con papas” (Chicken and fries) is a cumbia by Los Vaskez, for which their 1986 album is named.
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
In many corners of “this dying planet” there are those who do not give up. In a written Zoom exercise, to refer to the struggle and death of Samir Flores Soberanes, Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano closes in Morelos the planetary lens of his last communiqué, now that the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) announced that it would travel to the five continents. It proposes an approach to Temoac municipality. “Focus now on the Amilcingo community. Do you see that house? It’s the house of a man who in life bore the name of Samir Flores Soberanes. He was murdered in front of that door. His crime? Opposing a megaproject that represents death for the life of the communities to which he belongs.”
Galeano continues: “Samir was murdered for defending the life of generations that are not even thought of now. Because for Samir, for his compañeras and compañeros, for the Native peoples grouped together in the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) and for is Zapatistas, the life of the community is not something that happens only in the present. It is, above all, what will come. The life of the community is something that is constructed today, but for tomorrow. Life in the community is something that is inherited, then.”
He remembers that the Zapatistas said at the beginning of the Uprising: “to live, we die,” because “if we don’t inherit life, that is to say path, then what do we live for?” That is precisely what worried Samir Flores, he emphasizes.
“And that is what can synthesize the struggle of the Peoples Front in Defense of Water and Land of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala, in their resistance and rebellion against the thermoelectric plant and the so-called ‘Morelos Integral Project’. To their demands to stop and disappear a project of death, the bad government responds by arguing that a lot of money would be lost.”
In Morelos “the current confrontation throughout the world is synthesized: money versus life,” he expresses. “In that confrontation, in that war, no honest person should be neutral: either with money, or with life.” And he maintains: “the struggle for life is not an obsession in Native peoples” but rather “a vocation… and collective.”
In its broad text, the Zapatista commander invites the reader to “free yourself, even for a moment, from the tyranny of the social networks that impose not only what to look at and what to talk about, also how to look and how to speak.” By lifting up one’s view “from the immediate to the local to the regional to the national to the global” you will find, yes, “a chaos, a mess, a disorder.” But we also choose what to look at, Galeano points out. It can be at Kurdistan, Palestine, those without papers in Europe or Wallmapu in Chile.Considering “that march, sit-in, migrant camp, that resistance,” it may be that “a comprehensive system” is responsible. “A system that produces and reproduces pain, those who inflict it and on those who suffer it.” But he considers it useless “to ask for forgiveness” from those responsible.
In the fifth communiqué of six (four are missing because, he said, it goes in reverse), the EZLN expands on the reasons for its announced international tour in 2021. It asks: “Who benefits from the destruction, from the depopulation, from the reconstruction, from the repopulation?” And he comes across “diverse corporations” in several countries, “which manufacture not only weapons, but also cars, interstellar rockets, microwave ovens, parcel services, banks, social networks, ‘media content’, clothing, cell phones and computers, footwear, organic and non-organic foods, shipping companies, online sales, trains, heads of government and cabinets, scientific and non-scientific research centers, hotel and restaurant chains, fast food, airlines, thermoelectric plants and, of course, ‘humanitarian’ aid foundations.”
He mentions some current scenarios: the Isle of Lesbos, the Rock of Gibraltar, the English Channel, Naples, the Suchiate River, the Rio Grand, where there are those who “also struggle for life” and conceive it, “inseparably linked to their land, their language, their culture, their way. What the CNI taught us to call ‘territory’, and that is not just a piece of land.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee