Letter to " Commander in Chief Zapata"


April 10, 1997.

To: General Emiliano Zapata.
Top Commander in Chief of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Over there, where he usually lives.

My General:

With the novelty that we are still here. Don Emiliano, here we are. You probably already know that I am writing to you in the name of all men, women, children, and the elderly of this your Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Here we are, my General, here we remain. Here we are because these governments continue to display a lack memory towards the Indians and because the rich landowners, with different names, keep on stripping the farmers of their land, Like when you called to fight for land and liberty, today the Mexican lands are turned over to the wealthy foreigners. Like it happened then, today, governments make up laws to legitimize the theft of lands. Like then, those who refuse to accept injustices, are persecuted, jailed, killed. But just like then, my General, there are righteous men and women who do not keep silent and fight not to be victimized, they organize to demand land and liberty. That is why I write to you Don Emiliano, so that you know that we are here, that we continue to be here.

You already remember what you wrote to a Gringo president named Woodrow Wilson, because it is good that foreign governments know and understand the struggle of the Mexican people. And then you wrote him that part which said..."And it is that the large landowners, stripping by stripping, today with one pretext, tomorrow with another, have been absorbing all the properties which legitimately belong and have belonged from time immemorial to the Indigenous people, out of whose cultivation they used to get their sustenance and that of their families." And that was in 1914. Now, in 1997, the story hasn't changed.

There are now laws which attack the communal property and the "ejido", which favor the monopolizing of lands, which allow the sale of our riches to the foreigner's monies. And the laws were drafted by the bad Mexican governments, we call them "neoliberal", which rule this country, yours and ours, my General, as if it were an Hacienda in full decadence, a large property which must be advertised for sale with all of its peons, that is to say with all Mexicans, my General, included in the bargain. Yes, you are right Don Emiliano, it is a shame. And we could no longer live nor die with such a shame and then we remembered the word "dignity" and we remembered to live by it and die by it, and so we rose up in arms, and we tell everyone that it is enough, that this is as far as they get, that no more, that we demanded shelter, land, bread, health, education, independence, democracy, liberty and peace, and that we say that everything is included in democracy, liberty, and justice, and that everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves, and many ears and hearts listened to your words, my General, which were spoken through us.

As in your time, Don Emiliano, the governments have tried to deceive us. They talk and talk and no promisses are kept, except for the killings of farmers. They sign and sign papers and nothing materializes, except for the evictions of Indigenous people and their persecution. And they have also betrayed us, my General, and Guajardos and Chinamecas * ( ref. to the town in the state of Morelos where Carranza had Zapata murdered) have not lacked, but it turns out that we don't allow ourselves to get killed that easily. It looks as if we learned something, Don Emiliano, as if we are still learning. So that I don't want to bore you, my General, what would be the sense of it if these are things you already know, since when all is said and done you are us. And you see, the farmers keep on being landless, the Indians keep on being forgotten, the bad governments continue, the rich keep on getting fatter, and, that's for sure, the peasant rebellions continue. And they will continue my General, because without land and liberty there is no peace.

Now the governments are saying that there is no war because the law says there is no war. But there is, my General, that is why we are your army, because before, the war was only from there to here, and now it will also be from here to there. And if they want to kill farmers then governments will have to die. Because just demands are not answered with death, because death will bounce back. If only the demands for democracy, liberty and justice were to be answered with truth, history would dance to a different tune. But not now, my General, now that dance they call history does so to a tune of sheer destruction...

But like in those days, my General, there are now people with great thoughts and a big heart. There is, for instance, a gentleman by the name of Fernando Benitez, who wrote a great work called "The Indians of Mexico" and in that work he explains that modern history, the one written by governments and by the powerful, was made to render the Indigenous population invisible. That's what bad governments usually do, Don Emiliano, you know that. They think that by forgetting or killing a problem they solve it. But this problem we Indians represent we will not let it be forgotten. We have to fight to have a place in this country and in its history, the true one, we have to make ourselves visible, to make them see us, to make them take us into account. And that can only happen with justice.

And yes, my General, just like you, we understood that land and liberty, that memory in other words, can only become true in justice. That is why we rose up in arms, like you taught us, Don Emiliano, for liberty and justice. And we also saw, like you did, that they could only be gotten through democracy. And we understand, like you, that we have to fight against the bad governments to obtain what is ours.

The landless farmers in Mexico are many, Don Emiliano,as many are the forgotten Indians. They are both obstacles for the bad governments and the very wealthy. They both are persecuted by the armies and the police forces, as criminal as those who give them orders. But the landless Indigenous people and farmers, the many that are not many are many also in the rebellion and the struggle. We are like you, my general, exactly like that, rebellious and struggling.

And I was only writing to you, my General, to tell you that here we are, here we remain, and here we will remain even if they persecute us with weapons and lies, even if they want to buy us, even if they want to deceive us, even if they want to forget us. Here we are going to remain because we listened with our innermost being and we made ours those words of yours which say: "Let us keep on fighting and let us vanquish those who have recently become powerful, who help those who take lands away from others, those who make a lot of money for themselves out of the work of those who are like us, those deceivers in the haciendas, that is our honorable duty, if we want to be called men of a good life and truly good inhabitants of the community".

As a final note I only want to tell you Don Emiliano so you get to laugh for a while, that these bad governments we have, still believe they were able to assassinate you that April afternoon in 1919. They don't know you didn't die, that you simply became us and that you thus went on hiding and reappearing in us and in all the landless peasants, in all the forgotten Indians. You see, my General, how short of memory these governments are. They forget the most important thing, what you and us know well, Don Emiliano, that is, that Zapata lives, that the struggle continues.

"Vale" my General Zapata.
Health and plenty of heart, because there are still many accounts left to settle in the Mexican lands.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee
-General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Mexico, April 10, 1997


("La Jornada", 4-12-97)] Translation: Monique J. Lemaitre.

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