Philosopher-Historian Luis Villoro was Secret Zapatista Sentinel
CNN Mexico, 3rd May, 2015
Fourteen months after Villoro’s death, Subcomandante Galeano (nee Marcos), political leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), called together EZLN militants and bases of support and members of civil society and historians, to participate in a tribute to Villoro and to Zapatista indigenous teacher Galeano, who also died a year ago.
About 5,000 people—including historian Adolfo Gilly, Villoro’s wife Fernanda Navarro, and their son Juan Villoro—attended the tribute held in Oventic in the highlands of Chiapas. Speaking before those assembled, Subcomandante Galeano said: "We have come here, to this tribute, to deliver to those who shared, and who share, blood and history with him (Villoro Toranzo), to deliver a piece that, we believe, they not only don’t have, but perhaps hadn’t even imagined."
In the predawn hours of a May morning more than a decade ago, the philosopher and specialist in the history of indigenous peoples arrived at the EZLN’s general headquarters to suggest to Subcomandante Marcos—now calling himself Galeano—his intention to join the Zapatista ranks. Villoro, who was a member of the Advisory Council of Science Advisers to the Presidency of the Republic, said: "I want to make myself a Zapatista."
The EZLN leader described the attempts that he made at that time to persuade Villoro, whom he finally enrolled in the EZLN. Pointing to his beret, the philosopher said "This is my balaclava, and my nom de guerre is going to be Luis Villoro Toranzo."
Galeano recalled that next the "new Zapatista comrade Luis Villoro got to his feet and, with admirable poise, stood at attention and saluted the officer."
In the years to come, Galeano relates, the philosopher and historian fully achieved his mission as a sentinel at one of the guard posts on the Zapatista periphery; that is to say, in all of Mexico and in the places where Villoro had access. Galeano explained: "Villoro was aware of what was happening. From the corner of his critical thinking eye, he perceived changes and movements that went unnoticed by the vast majority of the self-styled progressive intelligentsia."
The historian kept this part of his life confidential, and he instructed then-Subcomandante Marcos to give it to his wife and children as a gift at a time Marcos considered appropriate. Villoro instructed the Zapatista leader: "Tell them that I give them this piece of my life as a gift. Tell them that I hid it from them not as a crime is hidden, but as a gift is safeguarded."
Luis Villoro and Philosophy at the Service of Man and Life …
Historian Adolfo Gilly, who was present at the tribute in Oventic, described Luis Villoro as the philosopher and historian who consistently sought the meaning of life and of man free from oppression. Gilly recalled that 40 years ago, Villoro focused his career on the search and explanation of the meaning of the lives of the men and women who struggle for a just existence. This search, Gilly related, brought him to the Zapatista lands, where Villoro worked and where he returns, this time in ashes, on this May 2, for the last time, "to rest under a protective tree in Oventic."
In her tribute, Fernanda Navarro, Villoro’s wife, delivered to the Zapatista women and men of Oventic a blue box containing the ashes of the philosopher and historian. Speaking in front of the hundreds gathered for the tribute, she acknowledged before them that the Zapatistas have claimed the sense of community and of autonomy: "I want you [Luis Villoro] to remain tranquil here, far from the cities that they call civilized. I want him to remain here with all of you with the hope that you have sown showing that there are other ways of doing justice."
Juan Villoro, son of Luis and himself a writer, said that the Zapatistas gave his father a present and a future. He explained how his father came to the Zapatista communities with the intent to educate and assist in building a country that might go beyond the corrupt, unequal and deeply unjust nation, to one where the most weak and fragile might not carry all the burdens: "In his last notes, my father reflected on the Zapatistas roads and the new path he was taking to begin moving toward his death. My father died believing that this road being built by the EZLN shows that Mexico can move toward better conditions."
Translated by Jane Brundage 07/07/2015