Zapatista Movement

On the 1st day of January of 1994, Chiapas, a state in Mexico that is considered one of its poorest territories has bore the up to now existing ‘Zapatista Army of National Liberation’ (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). It is an armed movement that has been asserting war in opposition to the Mexican state (Herna´ndez, 2001). This revolutionary troupe addresses themselves as Zapatistas in honor of one of its prominent leaders in the Liberation of the South during the Mexican Revolution, Emiliano Zapata. At present this association is directed by their spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos (Herna´ndez, 2001).

The EZLN aims to instigate revolution and declare autonomy to the entire Mexican state, however this objective barely happened. As a result to its relentless failure, they have decided to use their protest on the signing of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) as a means for their mutiny to be recognized globally (El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008). According to them, the approval of NAFTA would only widen the gap between the rich people and the unfortunate ones of Chiapas. The movement moreover demands autonomy in their resources, giving them what they are supposed to get and having them benefit more from these assets. This group also seeks to establish a socialist government which would give high regards to individual rights, freedom and equality by eliminating property privacy and eradicating any oppression under the administration (Herna´ndez, 2001).  And with this, the faction formed by this revolutionist came to be known all over the world. Internet and mainstream media such as communiqués and articles concerning the Zapatistas’ existence began to take its distinction all over the globe (Gonzales 2005). Up to this time, this group had made drastic progress in its preeminence, carrying on what they had started with a descent flow.

I take in position that the Zapatista movement is indeed enduring and the success of it is still yet to be determined. This paper will discuss three arguments in which one will prove the faction’s stability at present.

III.             Literature Review

School of Thought 1: The Zapatista Movement with Sub-Comandante Marcos at its head was successful in achieving their goals.

The EZLN gave birth to pristine fundaments of democracy that once constructed a national movement drastically challenging the global capitalist agenda under the control of Subcommander Marcos (EZLN, 1993). Despite 10 struggling years of preparation for jungle guerrilla warfare and following a 12-day conflict in the onset of year 1994, the Zapatistas were able to revolutionize from an ‘army liberation’ into a ‘civil society’, facilitating mobilization among masses (Harvey, 1998).

Through the years, the Zapatistas were able to maintain a stable path of analysis concerning global capitalism and plans for struggle. Consequently, after a decade of battles and global formation, the Zapatistas in 2005 published the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (EZLN, 1993). The Sixth Declaration as stated by Marcos “announced their desire and intent to organize with other sectors of national and international society, creating a united, explicitly anti-capitalist front of all those ‘below and to the left;’ there would be no more dialogue with those ‘above’, with any political party or state official” (EZLN, 1993).

The EZLN as it is known was the first and only post-modern revolutionary movement that achieved success. With the use of internet and other types of media broadcasts, they were able to create a communication infrastructure as a means to reach wider audiences in mobilizing outward foundation for the movement (Gonzales 2005). Various websites were upheld by their dedicated supporters from other countries such as published news updates, Zapatista communiqués and information on events with reference to solidarity (Gonzales 2005). More importantly, these media helped them to expose periods of repression taking place within the Zapatista community. Moreover, the utilization of these methods has attracted the public to boast their own personal opinions. The Zapatista network has also able to further engage in affective political information to reach indigenous communities, organizations of environmental and human rights as well as activists (Gonzales 2005).

In accordance with the NAFTA which became a means for the Zapatistas to manifest themselves were three people who took hostility with this agreement and made the EZLN an inspiration for their masterpieces. These were the following:

“Bill Weinberg: investigative journalist and editor of the on-line weekly World War 3 Report who reaped awards. His works includes ‘Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico’ and ‘War on the Land: Ecology and Politics in Central America’” (El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008).
“Franc Contreras: A reporter from Mexico City since 1996. He covers Mexico, Central and South America for Public Radio International and daily news broadcast, The World “(El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008).
“Peter Brown: known as Pedro Caf in the Chiapas Highlands. Schools for Chiapas program director; he raised money and built a school for Zapatista children in one of the autonomous communities but was arrested, deported, and banned for life after the deed”(El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008).
School of Thought 2: The Zapatista Movement was unsuccessful in achieving their goals and has since drifted into the shadows.

The Zapatistas had become unsuccessful in achieving their aim to gain autonomy and independence. During the 1994 uprising of the EZLN, they were unable to achieve success with the use of arms and ammunitions. So they had thought of ways in order to effectively execute their objective and that is to use networking, to be able to reach wider range of supporters.

One immediate failure encountered by the Zapatistas was when the government hesitated to sign the San Andres accord which emphasizes “the need for a new legislative framework to regulate the relations between indigenous peoples and the state; the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples as expressed through territorial autonomy within the national state; and the recognition of indigenous customary law” (Vogt, 1969). The proposal as settled to this result must be presented mutually to the national Congress by the participants, namely the federal government and EZLN. In the process the Zapatistas had lost hope and the government even had appeared unwilling to take approve of the said agreement. Several revisions of the accord was made during the course of its assent and efforts by the COCOPA, a political party of the Commission of the National Congress had failed to put the pieces back to its form and even peace dialogues have broken off (Vogt, 1969). The government’s rejection of the agreement which it had earlier signed surprised many. They asserted that autonomy and recognition of such amendments which includes the conventional law of the indigenous people were intolerable and will only bring threat to national sovereignty (Vogt, 1969).

In the last decades and up to this present time, the Zapatistas were under a most terrible assault against them. Numerous evictions were officially made by the state and federal agencies and security forces in the regions of Chiapas which includes the community in the Montes Azules (El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008). Inhabitants were forced to leave the zone as they were airlifted by helicopters. Men and women were put in dungeons and some pregnant women with children were stocked in warehouses without neither food nor water. Authorities from a community in Chiapas Highland called as San Andres Larrainzar, had been receiving death threats from the PRI which was the state Institutional Revolutionary Party (El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008). Paramilitary forces wounded and gunned several Zapatista communities in the region. They recalled a similar incident happened ten years ago wherein 45 people particularly women and children were massacred while praying in their chapel (Harvey, 1998).

School of Thought 3: The Zapatista Movement is ongoing, with victories and defeats; the result of the movement is yet to be determined.

The Good Government Councils of the five districts of the territories of the Zapatistas attended the ‘First Encounter Between Zapatista Peoples’ and the ‘Peoples of the World’ last December of 2006 to report certain progress in the organization of self-rule and direct democracy; community-based organization and implementing justice; and employment of autonomous institutions in health, education, and agricultural and artisan production (El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008). The following facts aim to evidently show what these communities have facilitated for the past years in their sense of self-governance:

a)      Territory

An estimated 500,000-700,000 hectares of lands, used to be in the possession and control of the ‘latifundistas’ (large landowners, like plantation owners) were took for recovery when the 1994 uprising and procuring of the seven seats of municipal took place (Herna´ndez, 2001). Only a small part of this land was owned by the Zapatistas and for the indigenous communities in Zapatista territory, this mere fraction of land was rehabilitated into communally-worked plots(El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008). The abuelos (grandparents/inhabitants from previous generations) described life back then as peons, in near slave-like state experiences under the control of the latifundistas. According to them the recuperation made would greatly benefit them(El Kilombo Intergaláctico, 2008). The attainment of this land as a result gave them freedom to control their own lives without the intrusion of these oppressors. Also this incident became a means for them to build a new society where there is autonomy in the systems of education, health, commerce and justice (Vogt, 1969).

b)      Good Government

The autonomous governing body of the Zapatistas is recognized as the ‘Good Government Council’ (JBG by its Spanish acronym) which represents each of the five regions of the Zapatista territory (EZLN, 1993).  It is a sort of revolving independent government that serves as a local justice system, a body to represent interaction with other regions and projects outside the district, a provider of financial and moral accountability for the allocation of funds and the management of communal projects, and a delegated body to fulfill the mandate of the community assemblies they have selected and accounted to (Harvey, 1998). Each zone governs its own and manages them in accordance to the preferences of their region. Moreover, community members take turns in governing with each community member managing over the funds from collections for projects and labor(Vogt, 1969). The justice system is one of the most interesting facets of having an autonomous government. With this, the issues, conflicts and crimes are debated and reconciled among the members of the region and forms of punishment will also be determined by them. Issues on land disputes such as defending the lands restored from the 1994 uprising were also one of the concerns of the JBG justice system (Harvey, 1998).

c)      Education

The trained inhabitants that are working in the education and health systems are addressed as ‘promoters’ preferably than teachers or medics to establish a good relationship with the people they teach and take care of (Harvey, 1998). According to them they empathize with the patient’s pain and they as well learn with their students not the other way alone as they become their partners in the process of learning positioning each person in the same level of authority (Harvey, 1998).

 

Earlier existing schools that were maintained over by the teachers from the SEP (Secretary of Public Education) had become rude, unresponsive and biased among the indigenous children of the community who mostly do not speak Spanish (Harvey, 1998). The autonomous method that is being used at present is more appropriate that children are able to understand better the traditions and problems their own communities are experiencing making them aware of those (Herna´ndez, 2001). Education for them must be treated not only as a collection of technical lessons to be memorized, but also as an integration of the experiences and learning life has made each individual live through. Thus most schools in the community spends half of their class in their rooms and the other half outside doing productive activities such as garden planting, various task or having interaction with the elders of the region (Herna´ndez, 2001).

d)      Health

Systems of health care differ widely but possess same functions such as prevention of diseases or knowledge on curing and aiding oneself. Caring according to them not only borders on the prevention and the awareness on how to cure illnesses but also it is about knowing how to have concern on the thing around us like nature per se (EZLN, 1993). This realization of such makes us not only physically well but ethically well also making every citizen know how nature produces a good-living environment for us and they in turn must learn to preserve them (Vogt, 1969).

The clinics are built with a combination of laboratories patterned from Western technologies. They have certain conventional remedies for minor injuries and illnesses such as herbal medicines (Harvey, 1998). Training varies from every community depending on the resources they have. Proper vaccinating, blood analysis, basic health inspections, performing minor surgeries are only some of the methods being taught to specific groups. There is also an ophthalmology center where they treat myopia, conjunctivitis and produce eyeglass lenses (Vogt, 1969). A special education on sex is also emphasized wherein midwives combine the traditional practice and modernized methods to give birth.

With reference to the past services available patients have experience to be nursed but with disdain and prejudice (Herna´ndez, 2001). Treatment are made without consultation, some babies have died of diarrhea and others of malnutrition and incurable diseases (Harvey, 1998). Because of the new approach instigated by the autonomous health systems they were able to decrease if not completely eliminate deaths among infants, properly diagnose and treat basic sickness, generate appropriate practice and awareness, and manage secured transport in crucial cases (EZLN, 1993).

e)      Production

There are various types of artisan collectives, garden projects, coffee cooperatives, bakeries, chicken coops and other projects which collectively provide resources that are self-sustained to minimize labor, production costs less dependence on market or intermediary cuts (Harvey, 1998). Jungle zone warehouse are one of its most distinguished project. These warehouses will greatly benefit its inhabitants by providing communities with enough storage space and accessible market centers wherein they could beat the ‘selling low and buying high’ market, avoiding drastically high transport costs that could diminish profit and also it will help them produce good-quality supplies and food for themselves (EZLN, 1993). This project had been so successful that they were able to use the earnings they have acquired to support other activities by the movement and export them to other places that likened to their own stability (Herna´ndez, 2001).

 

The systems practiced by these Zapatista communities are neither notional nor insignificant. It had made to impart real effects on the development of the region particularly to lives of the inhabitants (Harvey, 1998). As EZLN recently reported, starvation barely exists in the zones of the Zapatista territory, maternal and infant mortality have also dropped. Moreover, justice systems had been so powerful that even the non-Zapatista frequently opted to take their complaints on the JBG rather than bringing them to the official and municipal state courts (Herna´ndez, 2001). Schools are open to all even the non-Zapatistas as well as clinics that will aide anyone regardless of associations.

 

The formation, equipment, and preparing paramilitary troupes in the territory of the Zapatista, Mexican armies’ militarization of the Chiapas, inclusion and division by political parties and coalition forces, initiation of programs that directly overthrow people by struggle or force them to give their land has constantly weakened them over the past 14 years in which they were coerced to be divided into organizations and eliminate their leaders (Herna´ndez, 2001).

But despite all of this, the Zapatistas have never gone back to the dump of open combat, nor have they shriveled into fright or defenselessness in opposition to the assaults and weights of poverty (Vogt, 1969). They have and still persistently, gradually and progressively build autonomy, providing themselves voices and seeking out that of others whom they know are committed with their task of creating a new world. They have learned from their bitter experiences from the past and will now stand from the ground with head up full of dignity (Harvey, 1998).

IV.             Argument/ Analysis

The Zapatista movement throughout the decades has proven how potent and competent they are in terms of self-sufficiency in their community in Chiapas. And I personally believe that the state government must allow the amends that they are trying to put forward because they are indeed deserving of such compensation. Support from the state government is needed by them because they have to go a long way more to achieve the fruits of what they have labored for many years now.

Furthermore, the Zapatistas has impressively established and managed their autonomous indigenous communities and it is constantly operating well despite the absence of change in the Mexican political arena. Zapatista insurrection moreover has become a key motivation and inspiration from people around the world.

We cannot immediately tell whether they had failed or succeed the quest, because they are merely starting to arrive on the peak of their movement’s victory. And sooner maybe, if the needs of this indigenous people have not still been met, they might not be able to carry on and totally drift into the shadows.

V.                Conclusion

Evidently, the Zapatistas has indeed made its way among all the other movements different nations had produced. The EZLN has failed in some ways but are succeeding and yet to succeed in several fashions. Indeed, the Zapatistas have established themselves, from a community of none to a community of united individuals bounded as one, building an entire autonomous society with their own government, rules, way of life that will show the state government how capable they are to gain their full power of independence.