Subcomandante Marcos’ “Good Nose”

By Eugenia Gutiérrez
(Translation: Erika Del Carmen Fuchs)

What does war smell like? How much pain does its odour cause? Half a year has passed since close to fifty humanists from various countries met in the University of the Land in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. They responded to a call of the Sixth Commission of the EZLN, the magazine Contrahistorias and the CIDECI and they participated in a colloquium in memory of a great man: Andrés Aubry. When the colloquium was at the point of ending Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos spoke to say: “Those of us who have been at war know how to recognize the paths through which it is prepared and nears us. The signals of war in the horizon are clear. War, like fear, also has an odour. And now we begin to breathe its fetid odour in our lands” (December 16, 2007).

By then, the Juntas de Buen Gobierno (“Councils of Good Governance”) (JBG) of the five Caracoles (“centres of local government/social/political activity) had been denouncing for months a rash of aggressions against communities where thousands of men and women from the Zapatista Grassroots Support live. The JBG had already informed us with clarity that the Federal, State and local governments had intensified their battle to displace/evict Zapatistas from the territories that they had recuperated in 1994, during those days in which so many died fighting. The denunciations of the JBG were continuous, close to forty in only 2007. However, this warning made from the peace of a colloquium turned out to be very disturbing. It was not a progressive intellectual warning us of what war is that spoke. It was a warrior that knows war who spoke. It was not an invitation for contemplating war wounds. He reached the depths and he sounded crude and profound, like when someone places you above a wound so that you can see it such as it is: open and bloody.

During 2007 there were three large gathering of the Zapatistas peoples with the peoples of Mexico and the world. Thousands of people of different countries could hear in the Caracoles the history of Zapatismo told by those who have written it. We know from them that now, with autonomy and despite the constant military pressure, the communities in resistance of Chiapas have health projects that prioritize human dignity and that in various places they have built general and specialized medical clinics, some conditioned to carry out surgeries or to transport patients in ambulances. We also know that the Zapatista youth have access to autonomous education projects that range from basic levels to high school, including the Cultural Centres of Autonomous Zapatista Technological Education (CCETAZ), or that the young women and youth will study sciences and humanities when they start up their university, which they have already planned. We know because they told us and because we saw it-that the consumption of alcohol is not permitted, in response to one of the women’s demands; that the Zapatista communities, without receiving a cent from any government, have transportation, grain storage warehouses, fair trade practices, bread, cattle, embroideries, and chicken cooperatives, workshops in herbal and traditional medicine, a sensibility that recognizes what is lacking, enthusiasm to achieve it what is lacking, community radios, nurseries, vaccination and illness prevention campaigns, justice systems that seek to be just, autonomous cafeterias, communications offices, libraries.

And, we know unequivocally that in Zapatista communities drugs are not being planted.

A few days ago, close to two-hundred elements of the Federal Army and the State Police of Chiapas burst into communities of the La Garrucha Caracol, called “Resistance towards a New Dawn.” According to the denunciation made by the JBG “The Path towards the Future,” on Wednesday, June 8, 2008, there was a convoy made up of “2 big cars of soldiers and 3 small cars of soldiers and 2 cars of public security officers, 2 cars of municipal police and a tank and a car of the PGR” which sometime afterwards was joined by another convoy coming from Patihuitz. The inhabitants of the Caracol rejected them. The military took photos and video of them. They decided to surround the Caracol and went down the path that leads to the cornfields in order to head to the community of Hermenegildo Galeana. According to the JBG, the military had their faces painted for combat and they were guided by a municipal police officer from Ocosingo named Feliciano Román Ruiz. Halfway down the path they came across the civil population, men, women and children that rejected them with yelling. The soldiers responded: “We came here because we know that there is marijuana and whatever it takes.” So the Zapatista people recurred to stones, slingshots, slings, machetes and all that they could find to reject them. When not able to pass, the military responded: “This time we will not pass, but we will return in 15 days and then we will pass whatever it takes.” Then they moved to the community of San Alejandro. On the way the soldiers “left the field of corn trampled on, that which is the only food for the people to live on.” The community of San Alejandro also rejected them with whatever they could and the convoy opted to retire.

In this Caracol various chapters of the life of the Other Campaign were written, since it was here that the first plenary meeting was held (September 2005) and where the tour of the Sixth Commission was initiated (January 2006). In addition, here is where the gathering “Comandanta Ramona and the Zapatistas” took place (December 2007). Today this Caracol lives threatened by a military incursion under the accusation that marijuana is on their lands. And it is not distrust that prevails, but memory: when the Aguascalientes(“Zapatista headquarters”) that gave accommodation to the National Democratic Convention in 1994 became emblematic, the government opted for destroying it and establishing on its remains an enormous base of military operations. The nearby community of Guadelupe Tepeyac was severely punished and got to know the pain of exile. The Mexican Federal Army knows how to crush the civil population-they specialize in doing this to the indigenous population.

Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President due to a tantrum, seems to have nailed a red tack on the name of “La Garrucha” in their map of places to repress, a map that now looks very red. Juan Sabines Guerrero, PRD governor of Chiapas, encouraged him and smiled. Son of the person responsible for the massacre of twelve indigenous in Golonchán (June 1980), the current Sabines has governed a Chiapas where not only paramilitaries but also police have not stopped hurting the civil population in pathetically cowardly acts of violence: children tortured when they go to the river for water; parents and children imprisoned; lone campesinos beaten by a group or shot on the outskirts of a road; water cuts; beaten, humiliated women; families who see their cornfields being burnt; families who see their house being burnt; youth persecuted on paths or spied on at the door of their house in order to drive a machete in their cranium; power cuts; people of any age displaced at any moment.

To know how war smells or to imagine how much pain it causes, we could speak with all of them. We could ask them. Perhaps they would respond, “it depends.” Sometimes war smells like the house that they lit on fire and its odour hurts so much-as much as the years that you lived in it and planned to live in it. Other times it smells like blood on your beaten face and its odour hurts you just as much as the kicks of various dozens of men against you alone. It depends. Maybe war smells like the husband that the police robbed from you and it hurts as much as the sentence that, without motive, has been imposed on him by a brutal judge. We would need to talk to them, ask them. Each testimony of state violence of the last two years has been presented with details by the JBG, documented by civil organizations, video-taped by /brigadistas/ in solidarity with the people and even gathered in documentaries. The facts are there, at reach of the feelings of those who want to know them.

While the Subcomandante Marcos stressed in San Cristóbal de las Casas that he could smell war, the community of La Garrucha was ready to receive thousands of women from dozens of countries. Six months later, the community of La Garrucha are ready to receive the Army of Felipe Calderón with all its violence. The couple who had planned to get married on June 20^th , gets married. Well, in reality, they had the celebration, the food and the dance early because the wedding will be later. The women that have already started the new “Comandanta Ramona Clinic” meet in the upper level of this outstanding construction in order to continue taking their course on sexual and reproductive health. The autonomous cafeteria feeds those city eaters without stopping with a gas stove where the /fogon/ (“wood burner”) is history. The girls dress in the thousands of colours of always and the boys do the pranks of usual. The elder woman who lives alone does not stop preparing corn breads. The generous auditorium that housed us does not change its physiognomy while in a corner of the people’s central stage the figure of an enormous guard that looks towards the entrance of the /Caracol/ stands out-she withstands the sun and the rain and she is various
compañeras in one: Emiliana Digna Ramona, the paper-mache gift doll turned over to the Gathering of Women in December of 2007, who danced without stopping.

Everything points to the fact that this community, like any other Zapatista community, waits for the military offensive. And during this wait, the community continues to live. Like the Junta de Buen Gobierno well says in its communiqué of June 4: “We are what you already know brothers and sister of Mexico and of the world.”

Caracol de La Garrucha, June 2008. 06/23/el-olfato-del-subcomandante/
Mujeres y la Sexta DF-Edomex
Abajo y a la Izquierda con Todo el Corazón

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