Decoding the Zapatista Message On Elections – Why Voting Isn’t Enough

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2015 by floweroftheword


by Courtney Parker

August 24, 2015

The Zapatistas recently responded to circulating false accusations that charge the peaceful revolutionary group with attempting to turn the public against electoral democracy, and even more specifically, against voting. The winding narrative exposes intersecting themes that, while sometimes contextualized in specific terms, can be decoded by stakeholders in every sphere as a deep-cutting critical analysis of modern electoral politics as a whole.

The Zapatista critique is sharply objective in a fashion that only a truly outsider/out-group perspective oriented analysis can achieve. In their critical process, they diplomatically yet unapologetically challenge the assumptions and projections of the ‘institutionalized left’ while simultaneously decoding the oppressive and pervasive nature of the capitalist state. The critique systematically heists the veil from the crass sensationalism and sleight-of-hand seduction motifs that propel modern electoral campaigns.

This false momentum, based on unsustainable levels of manufactured collective effervescence, is further destabilized by the tacit subtext that one can fulfil their political responsibility merely by choosing the right candidate. This quasi-consciousness unavoidably aggregates and assumes itself into the political identity of each candidate as each are forced to pretend that they can deliver more than is humanly, let alone politically, possible. Campaigns are valorised by hype and sound bites, not works and wisdom, while time and resources are continually co-opted from more honourable and productive pursuits. The political cycle becomes the means and the end; a careening race to sustain itself for the mere sake of sustaining itself. It is an existence that becomes almost devoid of larger purpose.

The age old promise that this time things will be different–that this time things will be fair and ethical–remains so central to electoral campaigns because it almost never truly delivers. It’s the optimistic and dichotomous alternative to the manic street preacher promising that this time it really is the end of the world.

A belief popularly espoused in the United States, that the political mainstreaming of third party candidates is the key to reviving this withering democracy, is demonstratively perforated in context as well. The Zapatista narrative illustrates that such fragmentation might even have the unintended consequence of inviting even more chaos into public and private life, creating more divisions and schisms in the process. However, their critique of the multi-party system in Mexico is by no means an endorsement of a two party system.

The recent communiqué is not solely concerned with undermining the efforts of ‘partidistas’ (people who identify with a particular political party or its ideology), nor is it intended to directly challenge anyone’s opinions on representative democracy. By pointing out the trappings and failings of the system, they effectively demonstrate their central point, which is that voting will simply never be enough.

The Zapatista message is that people must organize themselves outside of the institutionalized political process in order to satisfy their roles in the larger socio-political, and even geopolitical, landscapes. It is not enough to rally around the latest hero of the day and then sit idly by and wait for them to deliver – and then when they ultimately fail, to conjure and display seasoned disillusionment until the apparatus grows yet another newly packaged figure head. An oppressive and corrupt system is not likely to generate a savior that can effectively save the world from itself. One can navigate the system as one sees fit, but at the risk of oversimplifying, each must first save themselves in order to save the world.

From the Zapatista view, the world is indeed in need of saving. In the grips of unsustainable capitalism -which they maintain oppresses every individual, from every walk of life – the world is conceived as being in the midst of a rapidly unfolding crisis.


The Zapatistas are not issuing a final indictment of partidista politics, nor are they explicitly proselytizing their socio-political perspective. In fact, their take home point is that one’s ability to vote is simply not the sum total of one’s inherent political power, nor the full extent of one’s political responsibility. Reclaiming political and economic power, and thereby overcoming disenfranchisement from within the institutionalized system, is not going to be achieved simply by voting for your favourite candidate- but by all means vote for them. The guise is that one’s vote is enough. It’s not.

In order to truly change the dynamics of, or achieve a new and lasting outcome within, the quasi-democratic electoral process, “…people have to learn for themselves that no one will solve their problems for them, but that instead we have to solve them ourselves…” If the Zapatistas have one overarching political strategy that they deem worthy of prescribing –be it in their carefully crafted non-paternalistic manner- it is to: organize, and then organize… and then organize some more after that.


BoCa En BoCa #35 August 2015 English

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2015 by floweroftheword

beb35inglogoBoCa En BoCa is an independent newssheet that aims to disseminate what happens in the organized communities in Chiapas. The aim is to generate solidarity among communities, through summaries or extracts of their publications transmitting their words.

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Boca en Boca No 35 – August 2015


29/06- Communiqué from the teachers denouncing government repression in Chiapas.

29/06- MOCRI-CNPA-MN denounce the arbitrary detention with violence of 3 women in La Trinitaria by members of FDROC, because of a land dispute. They were released the same evening.

07/07- A year after the Southern Border Programme was announced, La 72 reported increased deportations from Mexico to Central America and an increase in crimes committed against migrants (mainly by the INM and Federal Police).

08/07- La Casa de la Mujer IximAntsetic A.C., Salud y Desarrollo Comunitario A.C. and Xi’nich demanded the fulfilment of the creation of a shelter for relatives of sick and pregnant women in Palenque. "The projects and works are not a favour, it just means they’re doing their duty".

08/07- The wetlands of María Eugenia in San Cristóbal de las Casas are declared a sacred area.

09/07- "The water management we want for Tuxtla is an integrated management; this means maintaining the water cycle, and all that is involved in getting water to our homes," shared the Chiapans in Defence of Water during the forum "Defence of water, for everyone.”

14/07- The Centre for Women’s Rights in Chiapas expressed its concern at the state of violence in the municipality of Tila due to conflicts between political party supporters which generated a state of terror among the families in the communities.

17/07- The FNLS denounce extortion and the kidnapping of compañero Diego Rodríguez López in Altamirano by political party supporters.

17/07- Alexander, Salvadoran migrant and taxi driver, unjustly imprisoned in el Amate, denounces fabrication of crime, torture and extortion.

19/07- Several communities and the Regional Autonomous Council of the Coastal Zone of Chiapas signed the first declaration against megaprojects in the municipality of Pijijiapan, declaring their territories free from mining and mini hydroelectric schemes.

20/07- The Community Committee of San Miguel Chiamalapa, Oaxaca, was created in order to "defend our ancestral territory."

21/07- Ejidatarios of Chicoasen denounce the impunity and corruption they are experiencing in the face of injustice, that the CFE intends to violate their land rights and dispossess them of their land without paying them the appropriate amount for the creation of the Chicoasen II dam.

22/07- The Abejas of Acteal House of Memory and Hope marked the completion of a month since the unpunished murder of compañero Manuel López Pérez, ambushed in Pantelhó.

27/07- the EZLN announced the start of the second level of the Zapatista Little School.


02/07- After 3 years and 7 months of displacement, families from Banavil, Tenejapa still have no adequate resolution of the situation.

11/07- Judge recognizes there are reasons to consider that there were acts of torture by local police against the prisoners of San Sebastián Bachajón.

21/07- Esteban Gomez Jimenez from San Sebastián Bachajón, unjustly imprisoned in El Amate, calls for solidarity after two years in prison.

28/07- Families from the village of Primero de Agosto remain in inhumane conditions and threatened by paramilitaries from CIOAC-H.


A choice between criminals

On 07/07 ejidatarios of Tila shared that "on 20/06 violence was unleashed by the Green and the PRI political parties blockading the crossroads, using trucks from the Town Hall and recruiting young people to put on masks and thus sow social intimidation." On 06/07 "a candidate from the PRI carrying out his campaign in the town was attacked with firearms, an hour later the mobilization began of 8 cars full of masked men armed with sticks, stones and firearms." "Their elections always end up with mutual killings because it is a choice between criminals," they observed. Then they recalled the different strategies of the municipalities against their ejido since 1943. "Our indigenous Chol people settled on our ejido land have experienced 72 years of them coming to attack our land and territory, and it is not a legal space for the political parties to come to fight each other." They declared that "the Assembly has raised minutes of meetings with the government and the Congress for the transfer of the municipal headquarters out of our ejido; the place where it is legally appropriate for their government to command and to exercise its law of the official municipality, we do not want it here."

"Our look at the Hydra"

The EZLN announced the launch of the book “Critical Thinking against the Capitalist Hydra.” They presented a passage from "A World War" by SupGaleano. "The first thing that got our attention was the protests and disagreement on social media. Then came the articles that managed to get a place on the pages of the paid independent media. So a team of Tercios Compas [Zapatista
Media] were sent to confirm or dismiss the reports. If you pick up your camera and photograph a series of “onsite” images of one of the principal cities of the south-eastern Mexican state of Chiapas, you will see the disorder, abandonment, and chaos that reign there. But if, over time, you zoom out to a broader view, you will begin to notice a particular logic and order to this chaos. Now, if you combine a panoramic view over time and space, you will have a fairly accurate image of reality. Not of the image represented there, but rather the genealogy of that image. That is, you will see the before, during, and after of that image."

“Has the nation-state, that is, the state as we know it, remained untouched in the system’s war? In order to know the answer, we need to reconstruct the genealogy of the nation-state and compare our conclusion to the current reality. Then we can ask: what were the foundations of the state, and which of these have been maintained, which have been disappeared, and which have mutated? What were its functions, its place, its sphere of influence, its areas of interest?”

Harassment of the HRC in Tonalá

The Digna Ochoa Human Rights Centre A.C. in Tonalá denounced "acts of harassment by members of the State Special (Ministerial) Police from the Procuraduría General de Justicia of the State of Chiapas, who presented themselves at the offices of this agency" on 01/07.

"In Mexico the work of defending human rights still remains a high risk for civil human rights defenders. So we express our concern that the wave of harassment, threats and intimidation still continues to increase against defenders of HR. It is important to say that the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders recognizes the work of defenders, as well as the responsibility of states to protect, and promote the protection of human rights defenders."


Violent dispossession of the Xochicuautla community, Edomex

On 07/07 the indigenous community of San Francisco Xochicuautla and the Indigenous Peoples’ Front in Defence of Mother Earth denounced in a communiqué that "staff of the construction company Autovan SA de CV, a subsidiary of Teya and the Higa Group, have arrived in the indigenous community and begun work again with heavy machinery accompanied by overflights of helicopters and hundreds of riot police, almost all of them located on the outskirts of the community awaiting orders." They also denounced that the police were "trying to intimidate and wanting to arrest the indigenous from our community. We are being regularly informed of continuing aggression towards children, women and men, they are knocking down houses and cutting the water supply pipeline." Then they reported that the Interior Ministry of the State of Mexico had agreed to "hold an information table on 06/07, with a commission of authorities and representatives of the indigenous community of Xochicuautla, where they stated that representatives of the state government and most of the agencies involved in the Toluca Naucalpan Highway Project would be present;" but only "two representatives of the General Directorate of Government attended," "which we felt to be disrespectful, because the community members who attended did so in a timely manner, respectfully, without threatening, without offending them, respecting their physical integrity, something which they did NOT do to us." They also warned that "the representative of the Autovan company, a subsidiary of Teya Eng., said that the work would continue."

Ejidatarios from San Sebastián Bachajón sent a communiqué to the people of Xochicuautla “We want to say to the community of San Francisco Xochicuautla that you are not alone, compañerxs, because we are following your struggle.”

Authorities kill and wound in the Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, Michoacán

On 19/07 the team of support and solidarity with the indigenous community of Santa María Ostula announced that "the indigenous community of Santa María Ostula, municipality of Aquila, Michoacan, has been attacked severely by federal, state and municipal forces in a joint operation deployed by the Michoacán Coordination Group. As a result of the aggression one minor was killed and several comuneros were seriously injured" and several others were also arrested. "They tried to pass as comuneros and provoke the community to confront the Army, radios used by the community for communication to protect their communal land were stolen. Also stolen was the seal of the Vigilance Committee." Faced with this attack and in order to not have any more members detained "several roadblocks were established in each area" but "federal and state forces used their vehicles to ram the roadblocks of the community police and burned several trucks and trailers which were there, they also used tear gas." "They shot indiscriminately at members of the community," which resulted in the death of a 12 year old boy, and the wounding of a 6 year old girl and three other people. They stated that "the headquarters of the municipality of Aquila was surrounded by members of the federal forces preventing the Aquila self-defence group, which is in solidarity with the community of Santa Maria Ostula, from coming out to aid them against the attacks they were experiencing." The communiqué recalled that this operation is contrary to the agreements "signed between the community and government, where the commitment to respect the community police was established." Finally they added "none of the heads of organized crime operating in the region have been arrested."

A few hours later, the CNI and CCRI-CG of the EZLN issued a joint communiqué in solidarity to denounce the government’s complicity with organized crime "to escalate the war of conquest".

Ts´omanotiksok jun kaltsiltik (United in one heart)

From the pronouncement that was given at the end of the first great Pilgrimage for Peace, for Life and Against Violence and Dispossession, from the ejido Ignacio Zaragoza, municipality of Las Margaritas, to Comitán de Domínguez, which took place on 28 and 29/07, convened by the catechists and deacons of the Tojolabal Mission for the parish of St. Margaret of Antioch and the Mission of Guadalupe; the brothers declared:

"We express our dissent, uniting our strengths, building hope and praying to God to help us take care of our patrimony." They walked "to organize, unite and transform our consciousness, confront the violence that we experience in our communities and the problems that come with the structural reforms: such as problems with education, health, labour, energy, taxes, and politics, among others."

"We demand an end to all the violence that we experience every day, such as drug trafficking, corruption and impunity, threats and displacement by organizations which are controlled by the government with their political parties which divide and confront within the communities.”

"We thank the Pueblo Creyente from Simojovel for having joined our pilgrimage and offer them our solidarity in the courageous struggle they have undertaken […] We are inspired by the long journey of the Civil Society Las Abejas of Acteal […] we share the pain of people who have been displaced by an armed group, like the people of the village of Primero de Agosto, who have now spent five months of living under plastic … like the struggle of the Banavil families who have been displaced since 11/12/2011 […] We welcome also the Movement in Defence of Life and Territory, who oppose the construction of the superhighway from San Cristobal to Palenque and who are an example of organization and resistance to megaprojects. "

"We invite all the individuals and peoples of our region, to reflect on the reality we live, to continue to make our voices heard, so that this gathering of peoples is only the beginning of our transformation of awareness, that all we join together with all our differences," they concluded.

Court’s Decision to Lift Ban on Planting GM Corn Is an Attack on Native Corn – Agro-Ecology Supporters

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2015 by floweroftheword


Angélica Enciso L.

La Jornada, 25th August, 2015

In a statement, members of the network of agro-ecology supporters in 11 Chiapas municipalities working with the Union of Scientists Committed to Society (UCCS) pointed out that the court decision to lift the preventative measure that for the last two years has halted the process of authorizing planting permits for GM corn is an attack on the capacity of campesinos to manage their native corn in their local territories and in the country.

[Further,] they warned that Monsanto, Pioneer and Dupont already own 95 percent of [Mexico's] native seeds, including corn, listed in the National Catalogue of Plant Varieties.

In face of this, they said, seeking the preservation of native corn is not an "emotional" whim, public misinformation or "invalid" evidence as stated by: "Monsanto employees or the one in charge of Science in the Office of the President (Francisco Bolívar). For us corn is identity, knowledge, territory, culture, history, health and the possibility of food self-sufficiency."

In a statement, they pointed out that in overturning the precautionary measure, Judge Francisco Peñaloza, presiding over the Twelfth District Court for Civil Matters of the First Circuit, left out arguments presented by the UCCS that expose the health risks associated with industrialized and GM food.

Although the judge lifted the injunction, planting of GM corn cannot take place because [as soon as Judge Peñaloza's ruling was announced,] the Corn Collective that had filed the original class action lawsuit against GM corn in 2013, immediately filed an appeal, which still has to be resolved in court.

Network members added that there is great interest among the transnational corporations driving the planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Mexico, because Monsanto expects GMOs to represent between 75 and 80 percent of its sales.

They pointed out that the judge did not consider that it is not possible to control the GMOs affecting native corn. [The judge's ruling] violates "the right of present and future generations to access native Mexican biodiversity. We declare that we know the way in which Monsanto and the transnationals grouped together in Agro-bio together with the Mexican government manipulate and weave their strategies of misinformation."

They added that cultivation of GM corn "has nothing to do climate change or hunger or supposed humanitarian aid: what they want is to steal our corn."

Translated by Jane Brundage

“Judge’s Decision to Order Release of Yaqui Leader From Prison Must Be Implemented Now” – Human Rights NGOs

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2015 by floweroftheword


José Antonio Román

La Jornada, 26th August 2015

After learning about a new court decision in favour of Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez, leader of the Yaqui tribe imprisoned since September 2014 for opposing construction of the Independence Aqueduct in the state of Sonora, several human rights and civil society organizations demanded that the Mexican State refrain from carrying out other delaying tactics and order his immediate release.

The day before, the Second Appellate Court for Criminal and Administrative Matters in Sonora rejected the appeal lodged by the Public Ministry against the indirect amparo won by Jiménez Gutiérrez, in which the Second District Court ordered the Judge to release the leader.

Fernando Jiménez, human rights activist and spiritual leader of the Yaqui tribe, and Mario Luna, who at that time was spokesman and traditional authority of the village of Vícam, are currently imprisoned. Jiménez was arrested on September 23, 2014, and Luna was arrested on September 11, 2014, by the Sonora state government, which charged both men with illegal deprivation of liberty and robbery—crimes they did not commit.

The NGO’s declared: "We call on the Second Appellate Court for Criminal and Administrative Matters in the state of Sonora, the Second State District Court Judge and the Tenth Judge in Criminal Matters to notify and implement expeditiously the decisions granting the release of Jiménez Gutiérrez. We call on the Mexican State to prevent any criminalization of Fernando or any other person or traditional authority who defends the human rights of the Yaqui tribe."

Translated by Jane Brundage

Impunity and Provoking the EZLN: Part of a Global Strategy?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2015 by floweroftheword


Magdalena Gómez*

La Jornada, 25th August, 2015

Once again we are given evidence that we live in times of uncompromising impunity. Justifiably outraged, the Zapatista leadership charged that it has no reason to trust the justice handed down by those from above. Unfortunately, it is a justice that includes neither impartiality nor objectivity. In the case of social sectors and movements outside the political and economic elites, it is a justice that systematically avoids the historical truth or manufactures it to suit itself, as in the Ayotzinapa investigation.

In their August 16, 2015, communiqué, Subcomandantes Moisés and Galeano reported that: "Two of the intellectual authors of the murder of the compañero and teacher Galeano have returned, fat and happy, to their homes in the village of La Realidad. They were supposedly being held prisoner for the murder of our teacher and compañero. We already know that they have been declared innocent of this crime by the same people who financed and supported them: the federal and Chiapas state governments.

"On August 12 of this year, the self-proclaimed “judge” Victor Manuel Zepeda López, of the criminal court in Comitán de Domínguez, Chiapas, declared that Mr. Carmelino Rodríguez Jiménez and Mr. Javier López Rodríguez are innocent, despite that fact that they and their accomplices in the CIOAC-Historical know that they are guilty of organizing the crime. They aren’t the only ones responsible, but they are guilty.”

Pedro Faro, director of Frayba, said that both Tojolabal indigenous men were presumably released on the grounds that: "witnesses retracted their testimonies, and that the Public Ministry prosecutor did not authenticate the body" of the teacher at the Zapatista escuelita. Faro asserted that there are also 10 arrest warrants against members of the CIOAC-H -charged with being involved in the events – that 15 months after they were issued have not been carried out (La Jornada, 22/08/2015).

Let’s keep in mind that on May 2, 2014, CIOAC-H members murdered the teacher Galeano, José Luis Solís López, a Zapatista from the community of La Realidad, with firearms and machetes. In those days, the Zapatista leadership pointed that:

1) It was a pre-planned attack, militarily organized and carried out with malice, premeditation and advantage. It is an aggression that took place in a climate created and encouraged from above;

2) The leadership of the CIOAC-Historical, the Green Ecology Party (name by which the PRI governs in Chiapas), the National Action Party [PAN] and the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] are all involved;

3) At the very least, the state government of Chiapas is involved.

Still to be determined, they said, is the extent to which the federal government is involved. As at Acteal, once again decisions taken under counter-insurgent logic are justified under the customary failures of due process.

We cannot assume that it is about a decision taken apart from the political intention to provoke the EZLN; specifically, the Zapatista bases in the emblematic community of La Realidad. It would appear that they aim to inflame a local confrontation with paramilitary support to prevent coordination with other of the country’s resistance movements, such as the Yaqui, Xochicuautla, Ostula and Ayotzinapa and the democratic teachers, among many others that the subcomandantes named in their communiqué.

In Support of Mexico’s Entry into Global Economy

Nor is this scenario removed from the pending announcement of the project that Enrique Peña Nieto will send to Congress as an initiative for authorizing the Executive Branch to establish special economic zones in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero, under the argument of facilitating strategic transnational investment. According to Treasury Secretary: "in these states, the positive effects of the entry into force of the Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], and Mexico’s entry into the global economy are not observed." They add that welfarism and extreme poverty will be overcome. They are going for all the territories; their plan against the indigenous peoples is well underway.

Thus tension in La Realidad is revived in order to:

  • Justify in the events a local siege of the EZLN;
  • Defend the Army at all costs for its involvement in the events at Tlatlaya, Tanhuato, Apatzingán, Ayotzinapa;
  • Keep imprisoned the Yaqui Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez Salgado, Nestora Salgado and Semeí Verdía; and
  • Send 15,000 Federal Police to Oaxaca to contain the protest in the teacher ranks.

All this while the mantle of impunity stretches out not only over the self-exoneration and "excuse me" announced for the [conflict of interest] regarding the so-called White House, but for the incapacity and chain of complicities in El Chapo Guzmán’s escape—neither of which will be evident in the next presidential Report. The coming months will be crucial for stopping this offensive. As the Zapatistas concluded well in their recent seminar Critical Thinking in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra: "Things are bad, and they are going to get worse."

*Magdalena Gómez is a lawyer specializing in Agrarian Law, Indigenous Rights and Law, Political Education and Society.

Translated by Jane Brundage

Free the young indigenous from Bachajón who allege torture during their detention

Posted in Uncategorized on August 25, 2015 by floweroftheword

Free, the young indigenous from Bachajón who allege torture during their detention

Juan Vázquez Guzmán

Juan Vázquez Guzmán

By Aldabi Olvera

Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), were released on Tuesday 18th August from Cereso 12 in Yajalón, Chiapas, in compliance with amparo 1456/2014 in which it is recognized that their rights were violated when they were arrested.

The three young Tseltales from Bachajón (none over 24 years old) were captured in the early morning of September 16, 2014. The same police officers who arrested the youths asserted that the youths attempted to murder them [the police], which was never proved.

In the resolution of the amparo, of which Más de 131 obtained a copy, we read that the agents did not fulfil "their obligation" to put the detainees immediately under ministerial authority, as required by the law, but presented them 9 hours later.

"Especially since the complainants argue that the Municipal Police of Chilon, Chiapas, inflicted acts of torture on them in order to incriminate them" says the text of the resolution issued in the First District Court of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

And it continues:

"It did not pass unnoticed by the undersigned that in the ministerial procedure of September 16, 2014, the investigating prosecutor gave evidence of the injuries to the physical integrity of the accused".

This reporter visited the three indigenous a few days after they were arrested. During a talk that lasted two hours, they gave their testimony in Tseltal. Their faces showed severe bumps and scrapes.

As Más de 131 has documented on several occasions, the Tseltal indigenous adherents to the Sixth fear that, in the area around the waterfalls of Agua Azul, which are adjacent to their territory, a tourist resort complex is being set up which will gradually displace them. Since they began their struggle, the adherents to the Sixth have suffered the murders of two of their spokespeople: Juan Vázquez Guzmán (2012) and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano (2013).

The adherents still have three other prisoners: Esteban Gómez Jiménez, Santiago Moreno Pérez and Emilio Jiménez Gómez.

In the communiqué, the Tseltales also condemn the release of Carmelino Rodríguez Jiménez and Javier López Rodríguez, belonging to the CIOAC-H and imprisoned for the murder of the Zapatista votán José Luis Solís, “Galeano”, in 2014.


“They are poor-poor”

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2015 by floweroftheword

Sylvia Marcos speaking at the seminar, with the Zapatista women, Selena and Sub Galeano. Photo courtesy of Jorge.

Sylvia Marcos speaking at the seminar, with the Zapatista women, Selena and Sub Galeano. Photo courtesy of Jorge.

by Sylvia Marcos

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. 10 August 2015.

We are in the Seedbed Seminar convoked by the EZLN few weeks ago. A young Zapatista woman, aged 17, explains how she understands autonomy, freedom and struggle. Her name is Selena. She speaks standing next to Subcomandante Galeano, with a smile that can be discerned through her balaclava and which shows the brightness of her mischievous eyes. We know that she is content and happy, and without a hint of shyness or shame at being in front of an entire auditorium full of intellectuals, university professors, her compañer@s in struggle, we feminists, and next to the Sub.

Selena is, with Eloisa, Lizbeth and other women, one of those young Zapatistas who were born and grew up in autonomous education. She is now sitting at the end of a long row of Zapatista women, her elders, Comandantas Miriam, Rosalinda, Dalia … and another young woman, Lisbeth.

Selena talks to us about her experience as a Zapatista teenager. Woman and girl. What do girls in that age group talk about these days? What are their concerns? Their hopes, their proposals? What do they expect in the immediate future?

Recently, I heard something through the mouth of Malala, the Pakistani girl, Nobel Peace Prize winner, also 17, bombed by the Taliban and rescued from death. While she was recovering in England from the attack on her face and body, she spoke with uneasiness about her meetings with young people her age in that country. Stating that their only concerns were of the type: "Which sandals shall I wear today?", "What colour lipstick suits me best?"

It seems that this banality is the common denominator of the young people of this age. For example, if we go on the Internet, we find portraits of girls from Mayan communities who look all decked out in "dressmaker" clothing, modernized skirts and blouses based on their traditional blouses (huipiles) and petticoats, as Selena ironically observed during the seedbed. Will these be the ambitions of girls aged 17-18, today?

Selena, like all the compañeras, carries a piece of paper with notes written with a ballpoint pen, of the kind that runs in the wash and stains. She squeezes the papers while looking at them sideways, to remember what she has prepared to say tonight.



That took place during the great session specifically devoted to women at the seminar-seedbed convened by the EZLN, and held in CIDECI last May. In this session those of us who were speaking included a Kurdish woman, a Latina immigrant in the United States, the Italian historian Silvia Federici, whose speech was read in her absence; as well as six Zapatistas, there were also we three feminists: Mariana Favela, Margara Millán and Sylvia Marcos. This whole world in a session that lasted 5 hours. As for Selena, she had to talk near the end, just before Sub Galeano.

I feel close to all of them. My notes also come creased, edited and rewritten over. The original is on a computer, but it is very old and sometimes does not do what I ask, it gets stuck and blocks and will no longer process. For example, I typed dicotómico [dichotomous] and it "corrected" me to totémico [totemic]. Yes, she is an old lady … .but I like her because she is not a super tablet, which would force me to un-think, to write fast and to learn so many new clicks that it would reduce the time I have available for reflection.

So we listen to Selena:

"I will be explaining to you, actually I will read it to you… more about the youth, both Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas."…..”We as Zapatista youth are facing a low intensity war that the bad government and the bad capitalists wage against us. They put ideas into our heads about modern life, like cell phones, clothes, and shoes; they put these bad ideas into our heads through TV, through soap operas, soccer games, and commercials, so that we as youth will be distracted and not think about how to organize our struggle.”

It is the covert low intensity war, installed in the intricacies of interpersonal coexistence. Reproduced and magnified by the media, television and novels, advertising and even sports. Selena’s critical mind reveals this hidden war and brings it in to everyday existence, to daily life. In the lucid thinking of this young woman, the battle also has to take place here in the everyday, in what seems innocent, harmless, in what is not necessarily manifested as the brute force or even murder which is frequently suffered in the communities. The low intensity war is not only registered through extreme violence. It is also waged within subjectivity, to imbue the youth with consumptions and values ​​that distract them, alienate them, dominate them mentally and emotionally. Selena discovers this, analyses it, and sees it clearly.

She speaks to us about the influences of the consumerist media and the futile and ephemeral fashions that also reach inside the Zapatista zone. The models of shoes with pointy heels and platforms advertised, for example, by the New York singer Lady Gaga. Fashions that penetrate through the porous border of Zapatismo and which, although they arrive somewhat modified by a useless and fleeting consumption, exercise a power and seduction over these young women who, Selena tells us, have to walk in the mud, the moist fertile soil in their communities "to struggle and to organize ourselves."

Selena explains why she rejects these models and also the boots, which, she says, are absolutely unsuitable for their context. How will we walk on these lush and fertile but slippery paths with these contraptions on our feet? "The heel will get into the mud and we’re going to get stuck, and we’re going to have to use our hand to get the shoe out.”

“We Zapatista youth have not often fallen for this….. we buy the kind of clothes the poor wear, which as you can see is how we are dressed right now. Yes, of course we buy boots, but they are work boots, the kind that resist the mud.”

A little later, Selena reflects aloud. She remembers her compas as they return after work outside Zapatista territory and sometimes abroad. She says they are very conceited, as if they think a lot of themselves, and feel superior to those who stayed at home. They think they are rich because now they have their latest model cell phone, their smart phone, or i-phone, their leather boots, their city shoes. Luxury goods make them believe that, after what they have done, they are now more important.

Selena, Sub Galeano and Sylvia Marcos

Selena, Sub Galeano and Sylvia Marcos

Selena looks thoughtful but speaks sharply about those young people who go out of Zapatista territory and then return with these ways of acting, of perceiving themselves, of thinking, of consuming, of behaving. These people, Selena says, "not only continue to be poor, but now are poor-poor." The word is expressive: they behave as if they are rich, but they have lost something and, therefore, are poorer than before.

Selena, with her keen perception, borders on philosophy. There are thinkers who say that destitution arrives destroying poverty and there are philosophers who agree. Conversely, conscious poverty can be a form of power, it can come to present aspects of abundance. This young Zapatista echoes those reflections. Poverty is not a fault or a failure, nor necessarily a condition to be escaped. Poverty and frugality were the ideals of many fighters, thinkers, writers and saints. Not only in the Catholic or Christian tradition, but in many spiritual traditions: Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian. It is also true that the experience of poverty, by the limits it imposes, protects nature from capitalist economic predation and greed. Many revolutionaries have chosen poverty as a path. The reality of so many people dying of hunger in some parts of the world while in other countries food is being wasted and destroyed is an obscene and intolerable fact to which we have, unfortunately, agreed to be anaesthetized.

But within Zapatismo the values ​​go against the infamous capitalist consumption. For this reason this young Zapatista woman has managed to escape the consumerist temptations of her age and gender. Not only does she not yield to these pressures, but she can also see them from the outside. She watches her compas who return, she sees how they act, she assesses them, confronts them and wants to correct them.

"We work in full consciousness," a compañera told us in La Garrucha.

And we keep listening to Selena: "But on the other hand, youth who are not Zapatistas are those who most often fall for the tricks of the bad governments,” she explains to us. “They abandon their families, their community, and they go to work in the United States, or to Playa del Carmen, just to be able to buy a cell phone, a pair of pants, a shirt, or a pair of trendy shoes. They leave because they don’t want to work the earth, because they are lazy,” and she adds, asking herself:

“Why do we say they are poor-poor? Because they are poor like us; but they are also poor thinkers because they leave their communities and when they come back they bring bad ideas with them, other ways of living.” “We Zapatistas are poor, but rich in thinking…..we don’t change our thinking or our way of life.” We have the wealth of our traditions and customs, Selena tells us.

"We are ‘poor-rich.’" Some synonyms surround ​​Selena’s idea: rich can mean: abundant, valuable, lush, excellent. But these, believing they are returning rich, are only poor-poor.

"… To us, as Zapatista youth, it doesn’t matter to us how we are dressed, or what kinds of things we have. What’s important to us is that the work we do is for the good of the community. That is what we Zapatistas want……: that there are no rulers, that there are no exploiters, that we as indigenous people are not exploited.”

This article is dedicated to Movement for Justice in El Barrio, New York

Article originally published in Spanish on

Selena’s Words at the Seminar “Critical Thought against the Capitalist Hydra” on May 6th 2015, can be found in English here:

Selena’s Words in Spanish:

See also:

Originally published in Spanish:


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