EZLN: A Story to Try to Understand


November 17, 2016.

To the national and international Sixth:

To those who sympathize with and support the struggle of originary peoples:

To those who are anticapitalists:

Compañeras, compañeros, compañeroas:

Brothers and sisters:

We wrote this extensive text together, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, spokesperson and current head of the EZLN, and I, consulting on certain details with some of the Comandantas and Comandantes of the Zapatista delegation who attended the first phase of the Fifth Congress of the National Indigenous Congress.

Although now, as on other occasions, the task of actually writing it down falls to me, it is Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés who reads, adds or subtracts, approves or rejects not just this text, but all those published as authentic writings by the EZLN. Not infrequently through these writings, I will use the first person singular pronoun. The reason for this will be understood later on. Although the primary audience of the following lines is the Sixth, we have decided to extend it to those who, without being with us or one of us, have identical concerns and similar work. Here goes:



0___laconsultava-copiaSome years ago, the creativity and ingenuity of some collective of the Sixth produced a phrase which, with the passage of time, was attributed to Zapatismo. As you know, we are against copyright, but we don’t usually claim words or actions that are not ours. However, although not of our authorship, the statement does in part reflect our feelings as Zapatistas.

Put forward by the Sixth, which was attacked with crude blackmail and threats (as is the case once again) for their skepticism toward the “power” of the institutional electoral ballot boxes, the phrase reaches further and defines what is lacking and limited in one form of struggle, the electoral one:

Our dreams don’t fit in your ballot boxes,” it was and is said.

As Zapatistas, we subscribed to this statement then…and now. It has the virtue of saying a lot in few words (now a forgotten art). But, from this side of the ski mask, from who we are, we add: “and neither do our nightmares.”

Sure, we could have said “and neither do our dead,” but it turns out that, in these fateful times, pain has extended even further. It is no longer just natural death that is responsible for separating us from those we miss today. In our case, for example, this includes Insurgent Infantry Sublieutenant Hernán Omar (one of our own since before the uprising, snatched from our side and that of his compañera and son by cancer; we send them a special embrace on this first birthday without him). Now this separation is increasingly caused by murder, disappearances, prisons, and kidnappings.

If you are poor, you’re vulnerable; if you are a woman, you’re even more vulnerable. It is as if the system wasn’t satisfied with attacking you for what you are, and gave itself the macabre task of eliminating you altogether. That is, you aren’t just the object of sexual assault and violence. What has happened in this system that makes “natural” and even “logical” (“yes, they were asking for it,” society says) not only rape, but also kidnapping, disappearance, and murder of women? Yes, women. The democratization of gender-based hatred equalizes ages, races, colours, heights, weights, creeds, ideologies, and activism or its absence. All differences, except that of class, are diluted in one major flaw: being a woman.

Sure, go ahead and add more possibilities according to your difference: colour, stature, weight, indigenous, afro-descendent, little girl, little boy, elder, young person, gay, lesbian, transgender, your particular way of being, whatever it might be. Yes, this is a system now devoted not just to segregating and disregarding differences, but determined to eliminate them completely. And not just to exterminate them, but to do so with all of the cruelty that modernity is capable of. Death keeps killing, but now more sadistically.

So, what we want to say is that we’re not just missing the dead, but also the disappeared [l@s desaparecid@s] (and with the @ symbol we include not just the masculine and feminine, but also all those who transcend the false gender dichotomy), the kidnapped [l@s secuestr@das], the imprisoned [l@s encarcelad@s].

How many of the missing from Ayotzinapa fit in how many ballot boxes? In which political party project can they be found? Which institutional logo incorporates those who we’re missing?

And what if we’re not even sure that they died? What if it’s not just their absence which hurts, but also the added uncertainty and anguish? (Has he eaten? Is he cold? Is he sick? Has he slept enough? Is anyone comforting him? Does he know I’m still looking for him, that I’ll always be looking for him?)?

The women who have been assaulted, disappeared, murdered across the entire ideological spectrum—in the aspiration for what office, position, or government do they fit?

How many ballots are equal to the children murdered by the PAN [National Action Party] in the ABC Daycare?

Those across the vast expanse of the geographies and calendars of Mexico below who have been exterminated by the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] and its poorly-concealed replicas—whom should they vote for?

In which vote count do those persecuted by the PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution], accused of the crime of being young people, fit?

Which political party represents the sexual differences, persecuted in public and in private, who are sentenced to a hell on earth and in death as well?

Which logos and slogans of the institutional political parties stain the walls that thousands of migrants—men, women and children—must crawl over only in order to fall into the hands of politicians/criminals/business people responsible for human trafficking?

One could find examples in chronicles, blogs, news reports, press releases, opinion pieces, hashtags, etc., but the certainty always remains that there are many more criminal deeds that get no public mention at all.

Where are the polling place where we denounce the exploitation, repression, displacement and contempt for originary peoples?

In which ballot box should we deposit the pain and rage of the…

Yaqui, Mame,

Kumiai, Huave,

Mayo, Tepehuano,

Cucapá, Matlatzinca,

Tohono O´odham Chichimeca,

Raramuri, Guarijío,

Kikapú, Chuj,

Pame, Jacalteco,

Totonaca, Lacandón,

Popoluca, Comca´ac,

Nahua, Wixárika,

Maya Peninsular, Kanjobal

Binizáa, Chontal

Mixteco, Chocho,

Hñähñü, Tacuate,

Totonaca, Ocuilteco,

Mazateco, Kekchí,

Purépecha, Ixcateco,

Mixe, Motocintleco,

Chinanteco, Quiché,

Mazahua, Kakchiquel,

Me´phaa, Paipai,

Téenek, Pápago,

Rarámuri, Cochimí,

Chontal, Ixil,

Amuzgo, Kiliwa,

Ópata, Aguacateco,

Solteco, Mame,

Chatino, Chol,

Papabuco, Tzotzil,

Triqui, Zoque,

Cora, Tojolabal

Cuicateco, Tzeltal?

Where does all that fit?

When did the dictatorship of terror and its perverse logic obtain legal status to invade everything and readjust the criteria?

I was lucky, says any man or woman assaulted in the street, at home, at work, on public transportation, they didn’t shoot/stab me.

I was lucky, says the woman who has been beaten and raped, they didn’t kidnap me.

I was lucky, says the child subjected to prostitution, they didn’t burn me alive.

I was lucky, says the gay, lesbian, trans, other [loa otroa] whose bones were broken and skin lacerated, they didn’t kill me.

I was lucky, says the labourer, the employee, the worker subjected to more work hours and a lower salary, they didn’t fire me.

I was lucky, says the tortured social leader, they didn’t disappear me.

I was lucky, says the young student murdered and thrown in the street, my family won’t have to look for me.

I was lucky, says the displaced indigenous community, they didn’t exterminate me.

And more:

What poll takes into account the destruction of the Earth? Who do the contaminated waters, the animal species cornered into extinction, the infertile earth, the dirty air, vote for? Where should we deposit the ballot of a dying world?

So it’s true: “our dreams don’t fit in your ballot boxes.”

But neither do our nightmares.

Everyone can be responsible for their own dreams. What remains is to hold accountable those who are responsible for our nightmares. What remains is yet to come…


dsc_0286Yes, the initial and original proposal is ours, from the eezeeelen. We introduced it to the delegates of the Fifth Congress of the National Indigenous Congress [CNI]. This happened October 9, 10, 11 and 13 of the year 2016, at CIDECI-Unitierra in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. On these dates there were delegates from the originary peoples, collectives, organizations, barrios, tribes, and nations from the Amuzgo, Binni-zaá, Chinanteco, Chol, Coca, Náyeri, Cuicateco, Kumiai, Lacandón, Matlazinca, Maya, Mayo, Mazahua, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Nahua, Ñahñu, Ñathô, Popoluca, Purépecha, Rarámuri, Tlapaneco, Tojolabal, Totonaco, Triqui, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Wixárika, Yaqui, Zoque, and Chontal languages. On October 13, 2016, the plenary of this Fifth Congress of the CNI decided to adopt the proposal and submit it to a consultation among its members. On October 14, 2016, in the morning hours, the CNI and EZLN made this decision public in the document called, “Let the Earth Tremble at its Core.”


No, neither the EZLN as an organization nor any of its members will run for a “popularly elected office” in the 2018 elections.

No, the EZLN will not become a political party.

No, the EZLN will not present an indigenous Zapatista woman as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic in the year 2018.

No, the EZLN has not “altered its course” to any degree, nor has it reoriented its struggle to the institutional electoral path.

So, the EZLN won’t be running an indigenous Zapatista woman for president of the Republic?

They won’t participate directly in the elections of 2018?


Why not? Because of their weapons?

No. Those who think that are categorically incorrect: we Zapatistas took up arms to make use of them, not to be enslaved to them.

So then, is it because the institutional electoral political system is corrupt, unfair, fraudulent and illegitimate?

No. Even if it were transparent, equitable, just and legitimate, we Zapatistas would not participate in order to gain and exercise Power through holding political office, position, or institutional appointment.

But, in certain circumstances, for strategic and/or tactical reasons, would you participate directly in order to be able to execute a particular job post?

No. Not even if “the masses” demand it of us; not even if this “historical juncture” needs our “participation”; not for “the Homeland,” “the Nation,” “the People,” “the Proletariat” (ok, that one is already really outdated), or whatever other abstract or concrete concept is hoisted up as a pretence (disguising, or not, some personal, family, group or class ambition); and despite the moment, the convergence of the stars, the prophecies, the stock market, the manual of historical materialism, the Popol Vuh, the polls, the esoteric, “the concrete analysis of concrete reality,” and the convenient etcetera.

Then why?

Because the EZLN does not struggle in order to take Power.


dsc_0298You think they didn’t offer us this and more before? That they haven’t offered us [political] office, perks, positions, embassies, consulates, “all-inclusive” foreign travel, in addition to the budgets that go with them? You think they didn’t offer to convert us into an institutional political party, or incorporate us into one of the already existing ones or the ones that will form in order to “enjoy the privileges of the law” (as they say)?

Did we accept? No.

We weren’t offended; we understand that ambition, or lack of imagination, or short-sightedness, or the lack of knowledge (as well as, of course, not knowing how to read) have led some to the imperative to join an institutional political party, then leave it and move on to another, then leave it and form another, and then onto whatever follows. We understand that the excuse of “changing the system from within” still works for some. For us, it does not.

But, in the case of the Zapatista leadership and troops, our negation isn’t only in the face of institutional Power, but also in the face of the autonomous forms and processes that the communities create and intensify day after day.

For example, no insurgente or insurgenta, whether from the commanding ranks or the troops, and no comandanta or comandante from the CCRI [Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee] can be authorities at the community level, or in the autonomous municipality, or in the different bodies of autonomous organization. They cannot be autonomous advisors, or Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils], or hold commission duties, or any of the responsibilities designated by assembly, created or yet to be created in the construction of our autonomy—that is, our freedom.

Our work, our task as the eezeeelen is to serve our communities, accompany them, support them, not rule them. Support them, yes—sometimes we achieve that. And yes, true, sometimes we get in the way, but then it’s the Zapatista communities who give us a smack (or several, depending), so that we correct ourselves.


All this would not need to be clarified and reaffirmed if there had been a close reading of the text titled “Let the Earth Tremble at its Core,” made public the morning of October 14, 2016.

No, we did not participate in the writing of that declaration. The text was written by the provisional commission named by the CNI assembly and then passed on to us. We didn’t add or take out even a single comma or period.

We made it our own exactly as the delegates of the CNI wrote it. But, as we have seen, functional illiteracy does not respect ideological borders nor political party symbols: expressions, evaluations, and opinions which vacillate between racism and stupidity have emerged from across the political spectrum. Yes, we’ve seen part of the institutional (and marginal) left intelligentsia coincide with that panista [PAN party supporter] defender of “feminism,” “honour,” “honesty,” “inclusion,” “tolerance”: Diego Fernández de Cevallos, who now dedicates himself, along with Antonio Lozano Gracia (the esoteric version of “Law and Order”) to hiding ex?governors on the run.[i] Has anyone forgotten La Calderona[ii] applauding furiously when the aforementioned Fernández de Cevallos, as 1994 presidential candidate, referred to women with the “affectionate” term of “viejerío” and to campesinos as “calzonudos”?[iii] Is La Calderona the symbol of the empowerment for women up above, or simply a front for a dissatisfied psychopath? Is anyone fooled by the fact that she still uses her “maiden” name?

As we will tell you later on, the CNI delegates to the Fifth Congress warned that the deep-seated racism in Mexican society was an obstacle to moving the initiative forward.

We told them it wasn’t just racism, but that in the Mexican political class, there is also a deep disrespect. For that class, originary peoples aren’t even a hindrance anymore, just an old piece of furniture that should be tossed to the past adorned with quotes from the Popol Vuh, multi-coloured embroideries and second-hand dolls. Politics above sees through indigenous people, as if they were the forgotten glass beads of some conquistador, or the anachronistic remains of a past trapped in “magisterial” codices, books, and conferences. For institutional politics, originary peoples do not exist, and when they “reappear” (as they say above), then it’s the dirty manoeuvring of some perverse and all-powerful mind. After 524 years, they only conceive of indigenous people as incompetent, stupid, and ignorant. If the originary peoples do something, it’s because they’re being manipulated; if they think something, it’s because someone is misleading them. For the politicians above, across the political spectrum, there will always be a “foreign enemy” behind indigenous peoples.

The world of institutional politics is not only incredibly closed-off and compact—no. It is also where “popularity” reigns over rationality, beastliness over intelligence, and shamelessness over a minimum of decency.

The fact that the paid media tamper with information in order to convert it into a commodity is common knowledge. In any case, reporters have to eat somehow, and it’s understandable that for them, the “news report” that the EZLN will run a Zapatista woman in the elections will sell more than telling the truth—that it’s the CNI who will decide whether or not to participate with one of their own delegates, and in that case, she can count on the support of Zapatismo.

We understand that the lack of information is also a commodity. Reporters and editors earned their daily bread, okay (yes, you’re welcome colleagues, no, no need to thank us, no really, I’ll pass).

But for those who claim to be educated and thinking people who supposedly know how to read and write and who have access to a minimum of information, teach in centres of higher education, have emeritus status, collect their grants and salaries without fail, and travel around selling “knowledge”—for them not to read what the document “Let the earth tremble at its core” clearly states, and then go say and write all kinds of foolishness, well that…how do I put this gently?…that makes them shameless charlatans.

It’s as if the 140 characters and the sealed glass house of the media have become a wall that negates reality, that expels it and declares it illegal. Whatever doesn’t fit in a tweet doesn’t exist, they confer and agree among themselves. And the paid media know it: “no one will read a 6-page document closely, so we’ll write a summary of whatever and the ‘opinion leaders’ on social media will accept it as truth.” Thus follows a whole string of nonsense which hastens a hysterical purging which may provoke the collapse of the immense kingdom of the blue bird.

Imagine the contempt these people hold for the originary peoples whose existence they do not even recognize. Despite the fact that the text clearly states “an indigenous woman delegate of the CNI,” the magic of stupidity erases “of the CNI” and replaces it with “of the EZLN.”

And then? Well, next comes a cascade of positioning, commentaries, opinions, critiques, condemnations, likes and dislikes, thumbs up and down, and more than a few raised middle fingers.

When someone who did take the trouble to read the original text timidly indicates that the possible candidate would be from the CNI and not the EZLN and that, ergo, it’s not the EZLN who will participate in the elections, everybody comes down on them: “nah, it’s all a crude manipulation by the sockhead.[iv]

Then there were those who demanded, almost immediately, that we first “liberate” Chiapas (yes, that’s what they wrote). Of course, since in Chiapas one can find the territories of the Yaqui, Kumiai, Rarámuri, Nahua, Zapoteco, Mixteco, Chinanteco, Totonaco, Popoluca, Peninsular Maya, Wixaritari, just to name a few. When they were mocked they tried to correct their error and at least consulted google as to who the hell were these other indigenous people “manipulated by the sockhead,” realizing then that these people don’t live in Chiapas (which, by the way, would imply that the manipulative abilities of the deceased one exceed the boundaries of the “mountains of the Mexican southeast”).

After consulting with compa lawyers, I asked Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, and [the answer was] no. On our behalf there would be no lawsuits taken to the CONAPRED (National Commission to Prevent Discrimination) for violation of the first article of the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico and the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination, nor against the tribunals for disclosing “inexact or false” information which causes “a grievance, whether political, economic, of honour, private life and/or image.”

No, we do not know whether the National Indigenous Congress (which has in its ranks more than a few specialists in jurisprudence) will conduct any suits in that respect.

We also do not know if the students, readers, followers and those who pay their salaries and grants will proceed judicially against them for fraud (fraud: deception, giving the appearance of truth to that which is false), according to Article 386 of the Federal Penal Code: “A person who deceives someone or takes advantage of a mistaken belief in order to illegally obtain something or achieve undeserved profit, is committing fraud.”


However, there have been, are, and will be legitimate and rational doubts and questions (the great majority but not all from compas of the Sixth). In this text we will try to answer these doubts and questions to the extent we can. Our words will almost surely not be sufficient. But we will take into account all of the critiques, from across the political and ideological spectrum, made with a minimum of rationality, respect, and accurate information that correspond to us.

Here it is necessary to make one thing clear to everyone: the proposal is no longer in the hands of Zapatismo. As of October 13, 2016, the proposal ceased to be only ours and became a joint one shared by the Fifth Congress of the CNI.

What’s more, as of the day that the CNI consultation began, the acceptance, rejection, and/or modification of the proposal corresponds strictly and exclusively to the originary peoples, collectives, organization, barrios, tribes, and nations organized in the National Indigenous Congress. Not to the EZLN. The result of this consultation and the corresponding decisions, if there are any, will be made known during the second phase of the Fifth Congress, December 29, 30, and 31 of 2016 and January 1 of 2017, in Chiapas, Mexico, or before if the CNI so decides.


Of course, you might be asking why we made this proposal, if we continue to think the way we have said we do since the beginning of our struggle, and that we have once again ratified today. Well, that’s what I’m going to tell you now.

When Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés told me that it was my job to explain this to the Sixth, I asked him how I should do it. “It’s simple,” he answered, “just tell them what happened.” So that’s what I’ll do…


We haven’t been able to determine the exact date. The two of us agree that it was in the years 2013-2014. Although the deceased SupMarcos wasn’t dead yet, his death had already been decided and Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés was already the head of the EZLN and the first sightings of the Hydra began to emerge more clearly.

I don’t know how it is out there, but here ideas don’t arise in any particular moment, nor do they have a precise author. They are born and later they gain shape, sometimes managing to achieve the form of a proposal, later an initiative. Others, the majority, remain as just ideas. It takes months, years, sometimes decades to cross over from idea to proposal. And if this occurs, it is enough for the idea to become concretized in words in order to begin its stumbling path.

The idea also did not come from a formal meeting. If you pressured me, I’d say it began in the wee hours of the morning amid coffee and tobacco. We were analyzing what the various sentinel posts detected, and the profound changes that, although in existence for a while already, were now becoming manifest in the Zapatista communities.

I’d say that Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés initiated the idea. I’m almost sure something so hare-brained and absurd would not have come from me.

But whatever the case, it wasn’t until SubMoy said it out loud that we began to think about it seriously, through the famous Zapatista method of turning the idea over and over until we get to where we want to be, that is, the “day after.”

Let’s begin at the beginning, that is, with the difficulties and obstacles. If these are big enough to qualify as a challenge, then the idea goes to the second phase: what it has going against it. After that, and only after that, we analyze what it has going for it, the pros. That is, we don’t decide whether to take it forward until we know if it’s worthwhile. So first is the question of what, then the cons and the pros of the how, then the where and the when (the calendar and the geography), and at the end of the beginning, the who.

All of this doesn’t come from one person, but rather moves into larger and larger collectives. That is how, through questions, it gets rounded out, first by consulting the “elders” who are comités [CCRI] (we refer here to those of greatest seniority who know our history first hand), then consulting those who have been incorporated into the work of the organizational leadership, then those who are “suplentes” (that is, those who will replace the top ranks), then finally, those who are still training, the “candidat@s” (that is, those who are preparing to start doing this work). I’m talking here about hundreds of heads, of thoughts, of comings and goings of the word, of listening ears; I’m talking about a collective heart that begins to grow, becoming bigger and bigger.

The next step has to do with the answer to the question, “Who will do it?” If this corresponds to the autonomous authorities, then the consultation goes on to them; if it corresponds to the communities, then there is a general consultation, which includes everyone. If it doesn’t correspond to either of these entities, then we have to ask who it does involve, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. If that “who” answers in the affirmative, then we have to consult with everyone to determine if we support this initiative or not.

We were in this process for at least 2-3 years. That is, the idea came and went, never going further. A while later, I was told to feel it out with people close to us. I did so.

Another while later, at the dawn of this year of 2016, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés called me and said: “There’s work at hand, we have to talk about it.”

His tone unsettled me: the last time I heard that tone I ended up dead and reborn in a single day, just a little over two years ago. Nevertheless, I went to the meeting.

It must have been the first of January of this year, 2016, the 22nd anniversary of the uprising. There wasn’t anyone else in the hut of the General Command of the EZLN, which SubMoy has occupied as of over three years ago. The coffee was cold but there was sufficient tobacco. He explained to me in broad strokes, as he tends to do, as if he was thinking out loud. He explained the cons, the pros, and then he waited. I understood that it was my turn. The idea, as I already explained, had already been maturing for a while, so I limited myself to refining the cons and adding question marks to the pros. The “who” was beyond us, and everything that doesn’t have to do directly with us is an enigma. When SubMoy responded to my question of “who” with a laconic “the one with the birthday” (that is, the CNI, which turned 20), the uncertainty lessened: we had known each other for two decades and the National Indigenous Congress was the most solid initiative that had arisen since we emerged into public. The CNI had remained, with ups and downs, faithful to its roots, and although its pain was far from media coverage, it represented the sector most battered by the Hydra. Even so, this only heightened our doubt.

“The truth is,” I told him, “We can’t really know what will happen. This idea is going to unravel various knots and what will result is totally unknown. We don’t know if the National Indigenous Congress will accept, much less if the Sixth will understand. And well, since those above don’t think but rather react from the gut, they’re going to break things that it may be impossible to put back together. It is very risky. Right now, watching and analyzing what is going on out there, I think it’s more likely that it turns out badly then that it turns out well.”

SubMoy set his coffee cup aside and lit a cigarette. “Indeed, that is where you come in. You know well that our style is to prepare for things to turn out badly—remember the uprising and everything that followed. So, if things go badly, then we will need…”

I got ahead of myself and interrupted him: “An alternate plan?”

He laughed heartily and said, “No, we need someone to blame for it turning out badly.”

In broad strokes, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés recalled bits of the film “La Ley de Herodes,” and when I thought that he was going linger on the final speech of Representative Vargas (the history of a mediocre man who becomes a criminal and later a governing official, sound familiar?) he referred instead to the part about “There’s good news and there’s bad news.”

(Superfluous note: “La Ley de Herodes” is a film by Luis Estrada, with Martín Torres as directing assistant; story and screen play by Jaime Sampietro, Fernando León, Vicente Leñero, and Luis Estrada himself; photography by Norman Christianson; music by Santiago Ojeda; makeup by Alfredo Mora and Felipe Salazar. Along with “El Infierno,” also by Luis Estrada, with the great Joaquín Cosío in the cast in the role of “Cochiloco,” these are the only films that have managed to displace those of Jean Claude Van Damme from the top of the movie fan list in the Zapatista communities and encampments).

Later he added: “We have to plan first how to deal with the bad news.”

It didn’t take much to guess that the bad news was the failure of the initiative. And I’m not referring to its lack of success per se, but rather that it could be rejected by the CNI, who, if they accepted it, would become the indisputable protagonist of something that would astonish Mexico and the world.

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés continued with the details.

“Look, the first thing that will worry the CNI is that they will be accused of betraying their word, that they will be stepping into shit, that they will be straying from their path, that they will be giving in. That they will be accused of letting themselves be convinced by the system and wanting money, that is, Power, to rule, to be like everybody else. They will be accused of surrendering, selling out. They will most certainly hear these critiques, but I am sure that they have the clear-headedness and thinking to respond adequately. But the problems is who will listen to them. They will be attacked harshly and won’t be given the opportunity to defend themselves.

But that is where we can help out. If we, that is, you, put yourself forward to receive the critiques and attacks, then the CNI will be able to see not only those who emerge to say something, but also the points in favor or against that they couldn’t make out until the proposal became public. All of this is going to help them decide yes or no.”

He continued on. He created something like a spoken portrait of exactly what has happened over the last 4 weeks. He said who would say what, who would be against and why, what the Ruler would think, who would be confused, who would be hopeful, who would extend their vulture’s wings, and who would support the whole process because they knew exactly what was at stake.

After several hours of questions and answers, I said, “But for this I don’t need to be present. A few communiques, maybe an interview would be sufficient. That’s how the media is, they will think that nothing has changed, that they can do the same as always. Those above, well, they are so predictable it’s boring. They’ll come out with their accusations of protagonism, manipulation, division. You’re right about one thing, they’ll definitely concentrate on one person. But, I repeat, none of that requires that I be in attendance. What’s more, they’re so predictable that even if I don’t say anything at all they’ll come out against me.”

“No,” said SubMoy, “you have to present the proposal. Not only because when they see you there they’re going to say it’s all your sleight of hand and the cons we expected will play out just as we expected, but also because the compas of the CNI will understand that it isn’t something that only has to do with the indigenous peoples. It’s bigger, much bigger.”

He lit another cigarette and continued:

“As big, or bigger, than January 1, 1994.”

That was no small claim, given who it was coming from. Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés is not only a war veteran, but came to the EZLN long before the beginning of the war. On January 1, 1994, he was responsible for commanding the regiment that took the plaza of the municipal seat of Las Margaritas, while carrying the already lifeless body of Subcomandante Insurgente Pedro. Years later, he would become responsible for the Zapatista communities. On October 26, 2010, he was promoted to the rank of Subcomandante Insurgente, the highest rank in the EZLN’s military hierarchy. In 2012, “the day of the end of the world,” he was the one who organized and coordinated the silent mobilization of more than 40,000 men, women, children, and elder Zapatistas who, on that date, surprised the world. On February 14, 2013, he became Zapatista spokesperson and chief. Since then, all of our public words and any national or international initiative we make must have his approval.

He was and is right: the task is so, so terrible and marvellous that it could be bigger than that January 1, 1994 that marked us so indelibly.

“Even if the CNI rejects the proposal, just the act of thinking about it, discussing it, the dialogue itself will mean that they are no longer the same, because they will move from the “this is being done to us,” to “we are going to do something,” and this will take them to a new manner of thinking,” Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés continued.

“And they won’t be alone,” he said almost at the end, “in addition to us, they will have at their side the arts and the sciences.”

Before leaving, I asked him why the National Indigenous Congress. Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés got up to accompany me to the door and answered:

“Because they are the only ones who can do what we can’t.”

Later on what happened, happened. The democratic teachers’ organizations reaffirmed their rebellion; the originary peoples continued to suffer attacks, displacements, disrespect; the Hydra continued devouring worlds; and the CompArte exploded in colours, sounds, shapes, and movements that were merely the prelude to what was to come: a terrible and marvellous earthquake.

Still on the eve of the events, I asked Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés if there were any changes. “What we said before, prepare yourself to head out,” he answered me without adding anything else.

We arrived at CIDECI on October 9, when the afternoon was already hanging its stained clothes on the trees and houses. Later, when the night became master of calendar and geography, the CNI delegations began arriving. The road they had to travel to arrive was not a short one.

We had followed closely each and every process of the CNI, their public and private words. The CNI is the only space where the originary peoples can be heard. We knew that soon, to the number of murdered, disappeared, imprisoned, and beaten, would be added the cadavers of entire territories.

“When the territory of an originary people, nation, tribe, or barrio is displaced or destroyed,” our Tata Grande Juan Chávez Alonso used to say, indigenous Purépecha who was master and guide of the CNI and the EZLN, “the originary peoples who have their roots and home in it die with it. And when an originary people dies, a world is extinguished.”

We knew already at that point that in the work sessions and minutes of this Congress there would be fewer worlds. More than a few had arrived to say goodbye, although they did not know it yet.

We have to start, now,” Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés told me, “we have to share the load….”


On October 9, 2016, it was already night-time when we asked to have some initial meetings with those who were arriving. We met in one corner of the CIDECI-Unitierra facilities. The Zapatista delegation sat across from the arriving CNI delegates. Let me tell you a little about the Zapatista delegation: there were 34 people, 17 women and 17 men. Of those, only 7 were “the elders”; the other 27 were comandantas and comandantes who had been children or youth when we rose up on the f January 1, 1994.

We greeted one another with a handshake. Everyone sat down except for Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés and me. He gave me a signal. I started to speak, trying to remember everything that we had previously discussed, explaining what, more or less, would have to be repeated the next day, October 10, in the closed plenary, and then again in the open plenary on October 13:

We think that we must make a decision as the CNI and the EZLN. We have to decide if this Fifth Congress is like other meetings where we speak of our suffering, discuss our resistances, complain, curse the system, declare that we won’t give up, an


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