Eduardo Galeano and the Zapatistas
by Oso Sabio
“Indigenous people, it is plain to see, are only a problem for those who deny them the right to be who they are”
– Eduardo Galeano
Always on the side of the marginalised of Latin America and the wider world, recently deceased Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano consistently recounted and echoed their dignified rage. In fact, his social activism and commitment to the unprotected masses of his continent saw him visit the Mexican state of Chiapas to learn more about the Zapatista communities there.
Having exchanged letters with Subcomandante Marcos (now ‘Galeano’), the author would soon write a number of articles about the Zapatista movement, including ‘Una marcha universal’ (published by La Jornada on March 10, 2001), in which he spoke about how Emiliano Zapata had once again appeared in Mexico City, almost a hundred years after his most famous visit. “This second time”, he said, the deceased rebel had come “from La Realidad to change reality”, travelling from the Lacandona Jungle to deepen the process of change in the whole of Mexico (something the Zapatistas had been doing ever since emerging in the public arena at the start of 1994).
Thanks to the Zapatistas and the “creative energy they [had] released”, Galeano asserted, “not even what was is as it was” in the past. The movement’s indigenous solution to the ‘indigenous problem’, he described, had been to unmask the reality (which had been hidden for five centuries) precisely by donning masks themselves. In other words, it had started to ‘return hope’ to those who had long been ‘condemned to a perpetual process of waiting’ for change.
For Galeano, the Chiapan revolutionaries were standing up to those who had been denying their families the ‘right to be who they were’ for centuries. For too long, societal elites had rejected the concept of pluralism and the right to Mexican citizens to truly exercise their freedom (unless of course they were to accept in silence the “mutilations imposed by the racist tradition” of the Bad Government, which had sought to cripple the souls and ‘cut the legs’ of the People). The Zapatistas, like others before them and after them, refused to accept the government measures designed to destroy all cultures and communities that got in the way of the interests and desires of Mexico’s economic and political elites.
Eduardo Galeano also sought to repel the unending offensive on the people of Latin America, though he chose to do so through his literary works rather than on the ground. And, as perhaps the best-known chronicler of the invisiblised and silenced citizens of the continent, his voice will be sorely missed. Just like the fight of so many other revolutionaries throughout history, however, his was not (and will not have been) in vain. Those who have been inspired and informed by Galeano’s works, for example, have long taken on the fight for justice, freedom, and democratic rule as their own, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. In other words, the aforementioned struggle will never end with the death of revolutionary figures like Galeano. On the contrary, it will always be nourished by their example, which serves as an eternal incentive to keep resisting and creating.
Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from an article published on page three of the 14/04/15 edition of La Jornada.