Celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of the Zapatistas


Celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

In San Cristóbal they commemorate the birth of the EZLN: November 17, 1983

On this day the latest phase of the Campaign Worldwide Echo in support of the Zapatistas culminates.


Photo: December 31, 2007, the EZLN militants salute the flag on the anniversary of the uprising on 1 January 1994 - Victor Camacho


Hermann Bellinghausen

 La Jornada

Saturday November 17, 2012, p. 17

This Saturday, November 17, marks the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN); it also marks the completion of the new phase of the Campaign Worldwide Echo in support of the Zapatistas, which at this time was joined by groups and social organizations from 24 countries and many localities. During the last week protest actions were held at Mexican consulates and embassies in London, Amsterdam, New York, Bilbao and Florence, among others.

In recent months a group of intellectuals from Latin America has come to support this campaign for the Zapatistas in Chiapas with messages and analysis, and this has unwittingly become a public dialogue about Zapatismo today. The most persistent have been Raul Zibechi, Hugo Blanco, Sylvia Marcos and Gustavo Esteva.

Also this Saturday, the Festival of Remembrance will be held in San Cristobal de las Casas, to commemorate the beginning of the political-military organization of the EZLN, which happened on November 17, 1983 in the Lacandon jungle, a date which, since the public appearance of the EZLN in January 1994, has become memorable in many parts of the world.

The therapist and feminist Sylvia Marcos said for the anniversary: “I try to imagine the profound creative process that those extraordinary beings went through, those who first committed to meet with the struggles for justice already existing in the Chiapas jungle. No, they did not get the chance to “teach them” how to make the revolution. Neither did they teach them how to seize power by force of arms. They managed to put their previous training aside, the strict frameworks of the theories and practices of struggle which they had learned before arriving. Here with the unsubmissive and rebellious Maya, it was necessary to learn other ways.”

As a result of that mutual opening between indigenous and guerrillas, and their subsequent meeting with civil society, “the search for justice became more complex, it became peaceful, expressed through Mayan symbols, and Mayan expressions translated into Spanish” (by Subcomandante Marcos), she adds. The author asks several questions, which she describes as crucial: “Why is there so much fear, on the part of the powers, both governmental and de facto? Why this concentration on aggression, this excess of violence?”

Given the fact that the paramilitaries (in Chiapas) are armed with the consent of the three levels of government, Sylvia Marcos asks: “What is the danger from the proposal, the resistance and the survival of the Zapatistas for the prevailing capitalist order? Is it because they show positively that other forms of life, in justice and dignity, are possible? That the satisfactions of life and the joy of being need not be governed by consumerism and commodification? That we can “live well”, as they say in the Andean communities of South America, with other ways of organization, government and campesino production, in which the best way of living is not the accumulation of material goods, but community solidarity and sharing what there is?”

The Uruguayan writer, journalist and analyst Raul Zibechi trusts that the attacks on the Zapatista communities will not succeed in uprooting the seed, due the strength of the communities which have sustained for decades their project of life, despite repression, death, hunger and isolation.

The thinker Gustavo Esteva in his turn said: “As we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, we must not forget the extraordinary actions of those who created it. It is important, in particular, to highlight a central legacy of Zapatismo: it was from the beginning an intercultural creation which was built through interaction. The Zapatistas have created a community which is always learning and which is continually transformed by linking with others.

At this anniversary celebration, honouring especially the memory of those who lost their lives in this undertaking, we need to emphasize that the Zapatista communities today need our solidarity. At the same time as they are consolidating their achievements, the bad governments are intensifying their actions to undermine their successes, to dismantle their institutions, to block their path. They are increasingly using paramilitary groups which carry out direct attacks, supported by local groups of campesinos, indigenous and non-indigenous, who try to seize the assets of the Zapatista communities and even their land. The repressive actions of the bad governments are passed off as inter-community conflicts,” concludes Esteva.


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