“The Zapatistas wanted us to hear them, to see them, to share with them their experiences of struggle. Now, we have a mission: that every one of us, in accordance with our ways and places, continue organizing according to our context,” said Mónica from Uruguay. Toño, who is part of the Passe Livre Movement in Brazil, which helped organize the mass protests against the fare hikes earlier this summer, agreed. “Rural movements, urban movements, no matter which. But we have to learn how to be more autonomous, and therefore we will be more free. We will even live alongside the enemy itself, because if you are autonomous and free, then you can live with them,” he said.
The Zapatistas — the people who covered their faces in order to be seen, who once upon a time came down from the mountains accompanied by the Chiapaneca mist to conquer its cities and hearts — uncovered themselves for a while, and revealed the faces of their young, graduates of the Zapatista autonomous education, who undertook the responsibility to guide their 1.700 visitors in the autonomous Zapatista communities of Chiapas. To introduce them to their families, their mountains, their jungles and rivers. To work the land with them; to share their plate, however poor; to translate for them from Chol, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal or Mame into Castilian and vice versa.
“For us, democracy is not about election season and candidates’ campaigns. It’s not about money, and a person telling us how he/she is going to do it when he/she gets elected. Democracy is at any moment, at every level of our life. Even our children are learning democracy. They don’t even know it’s democracy, but they implement it all the time among them. ‘What are we going to play today? Basketball or Football?’ they ask and take a vote. When their teacher sees them tired, he/she asks: ‘Would you guys take a break?’ and he/she takes a vote, or like we call it: they reach an agreement,” said the Zapatista teachers on the last day of the Freedom School.
With so many of their comrades having being murdered by people who are never punished, or else get exonerated and released (like the ones who committed the Acteal massacre), Zapatistas know about corruption in the capitalistic judicial system. They know about comrades being arrested under false charges, tortured, forced to sign false confession statements, judged by corrupted judges and serving lifetime condemns for crimes they did not commit. Criminals like the brother of Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, accused of drug smuggling and unlawful enrichment (more than $120 millions US DOLLARS), has just been exonerated of all his crimes two weeks ago, while rural Zapatista teacher Alberto Patishtán still serves an illegal sentence for crimes he did not commit. So Zapatistas know about justice being bought. That’s why they developed mechanisms to create a judicial system that is not about money.
“On their third day of classes in the Freedom School, Zapatistas “confessed” that they are armed – their weapons are their words, their thoughts and their hearts[...]One of the most powerful ideological attacks comes from the government media and corporate media. “They say there is no poverty, which we all know is not true, because there are children and families living in dumps. They broadcast TV shows that have nothing to do with us, useless TV shows, like TV Novellas and sports shows,” the Zapatista teachers said. They counter these attacks with talks, popular assemblies, and through their community radio.”
We Zapatista women have conquered freedom through our effort ever since we started our organization” they said. “We conquered freedom to reach equality between male comrades and female comrades. Our organization taught us that we are worth it, that we can participate. We can fill positions in the governments at every level – Local, MAREZ (Autonomous Rebellious Zapatista Municipality), and Good Government Boards, we can be sheriffs, health promoters, health coordinators, education and agro-ecological coordinators and so on.”
“Last December, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized, peacefully and in complete silence, to occupy five municipal government office buildings in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. That same day, which coincided with the end of one cycle on the Maya calendar, Zapatistas released a communiqué, asking, “Did you hear it?” It appears that the answer was yes, because this week thousands of people from around the world are descending on Chiapas for the Zapatistas’ first organizing school, called la escuelita de libertad, which means the little school of liberty. ”
“We know that autonomy is a dream, an utopia for some people, but in here it is a reality for us. We are already exercising autonomy, and what we can tell about autonomy is that there is no recipe for it. You should not ask for freedom to the government, you should exercise your freedom. We have seen that it is possible.”
“The dialogue with the government didn’t work but it enriched us, because we met more people and it gave us more ideas. After the “Color of the Earth march” in 2001 we said that with or without a law we were going to build our government the way we wanted.”
Do you know why the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) declared war against the Mexican Government on January 1st, 1994? Because that’s the date NAFTA got into effect without the consensus, the vote, or any possible approval by Mexican people. It got into effect even with the opposition of a vast movement across the country that US corporate media did not inform about to the US people. NAFTA in Mexico was the first “experiment” on how to do these fatal trades under the most unequal possible terms, with no protections for the workers and the environment, no enforcement rules for corporate, no sales taxes for the richest and no expiration dates. When the opposition movement was too big to fall, both the US and Mexican corporate-handled governments invented a “magic” formula to get away with whatever they wanted: “Fast Track”, meaning “in secret”.
It was 10 years ago, on January 1, 2003, when — having exhausted the road of dialogue with the government as well the one of a “big R” Revolution that would overthrow the Mexican state — the Zapatistas of Chiapas decided to “abandon the politics of demands, and with it, all contact with the state.” Instead, they chose to concentrate on building their own autonomous, horizontal forms of self-government within their own territories and with their own means. In other words, to ignore the state as an institution and “act as if they had already won”, comrade ‘Bruce Lee’ of the CCRI in San Cristobal declared during the commemoration of the 1994 uprising that “we don’t have to ask the government’s permission to be autonomous.”