Road to Resistance: Zapatistas Fight for a World Where Many Fit
Zapatistas rally in memory of Jose Luis "Galeano," a Zapatista killed by paramilitaries in La Realidad community in May 2014. | Photo: teleSUR / Road to Resistance
The Zapatistas have inspired many social movements around the world with their peaceful resistance rooted in economic, political, and cultural autonomy.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation declared war against the Mexican state on January 1, 1994, launching the Indigenous movement in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas into the international spotlight as an example for autonomous social movements around the world.
But the road to resistance for the Zapatistas has been long and ongoing, and the struggle did not begin when the EZLN went public in conjunction with the launch of the North American Free Trade agreement in 1994. Nor has it ended over 22 years later.
“When we erupted and interrupted in 1994, it was not the beginning of war for us as Zapatistas,” said Subcomandante Marcos (now Galeano.) “With its death and destruction, its dispossession and humiliation, we had been enduring for centuries the war from above.” “It’s a movement for everyone,” said the late Juan Vazquez Guzman, who was murdered on 24th April, 2013, “we defend our land, our natural resources, our mother earth.”
The revolutionary army of masked Indigenous militants, originally led by Subcomandante Marcos, took up the struggle against neoliberal globalization and capitalism, fighting for the rights of Indigenous people in Mexico and sovereign control over resources, especially land.
Zapatistas declare that the movement fights for justice and dignity for everyone by defending land, resources, and Mother Earth against the greed and domination of corporations.
“We are defending our natural resource,” Vazquez Guzman continued. “We do not want our land, our resources, to fall into the hands of private corporations.”
Since the initial armed uprising, the Zapatistas have become an iconic movement known for peaceful resistance, dialogue, and radical internal development and structures rooted in economic, political, and cultural autonomy. The movement has seen victories in Chiapas and inspired social movements around the world with important lessons in resistance.
The movement has seen also considerable challenges, including intense repression and criminalization of the struggle at the hands of the state, private landowners, and paramilitary forces. Vazquez Guzman was murdered after authorities failed to respond to a warning that he had received threats. He’s not the only Zapatista supporter to have suffered attacks and even death.
But despite the hurdles, over two decades after the masked Indigenous army emerged from Chiapas’ Lacandon jungle and announced its resistance to the Mexico and to the world, the EZLN struggle continues as an ongoing road to self-determination and new alternatives to global capitalism.
Minor edits and corrections have been made to this article.
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