Welcome to the Ecuador- Peru border


To "Proceso," "El Financiero," "La Jornada," "Tiempo;"
To the national and international press:

11th of March, 1995.

Sirs:

The communique goes out which demonstrates that man is the only animal who takes the risk of falling twice in the same trap. It certainly would be good if they would send a copy of the much-mentioned law to the federal troops. They don't seem to have been informed, because they keep advancing. If we keep withdrawing we're going to hit a sign saying: "Welcome to the Ecuador- Peru border." It's not that we don't enjoy trips to South America, but being between three fires must not be very pleasant. We are well. Here in the forest one can appreciate, in all its rawness, the transformation of man into monkey (anthropologists, abstain).

Go on. Health, and one of those crystals that lets you see the present and the future.

>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Insurgent Subcommander Marcos.
Mexico, March 1995.

P.S. THAT ASKS JUST OUT OF CURIOSITY

the name of the general of the Federal Army who, before retreating from the ejido Prado, ordered the destruction of everything useful in the houses of the indigenous people and the burning of several huts? In Prado they earn, on average, 200 new pesos a month per family; how much does the general earn for such a "brilliant" military action? Will they promote him in rank for "campaign merits"? Did the general know that one of the houses he ordered destroyed was the house of Ton~ita? Will this general have a chat with his children and grandchildren about this "luminous" page in his record of service?

What's the name of the officer who, days after having assaulted and destroyed houses in the ejido Champa San Agustin, came back with candy and had himself photographed when he gave it to the children? What is the name of the officer who, emulating the protagonist of the novel Pantaleon and the Visitors of Mario Vargas Llosa, brought dozens of prostitutes to "attend" to the garrison that occupies Guadalupe Tepeyac? How much do the prostitutes charge? How much does the general earn who's in charge of such a "risky" military operation? How much commission does the Mexican "Pantaleon" get? Are the same prostitutes for the officers and the troops? Does this "service" exist in all the garrisons of the campaign "in defense of the national sovereignty"? If the Mexican Federal Army exists to guarantee the national sovereignty, wouldn't it be better for them to accompany Ortiz to Washington, instead of persecuting Mexican indigenous dignity in Chiapas?

P.S. THAT ARMOR-PLATES ITS HEART AGAIN TO TELL WHAT FOLLOWS...

The 8th of March, the inhabitants of Prado finished coming down from the mountains. Ton~ita's family was part of the last contingent. When they come to what was left of their little house, the scene of all the Prado families is repeated in Ton~ita's family: the men, impotent and enraged, look over the little that is still standing; the women cry and tear their hair, pray, and repeat, "My God, my God," while they pick up the torn clothes, the few, broken pieces of furniture, the food, spilled and with excrement on it, the broken images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the crucified Christs thrown down with "fast food" wrappers from the U.S. Army. This scene is now almost a ceremony among the inhabitants of Prado. They have repeated it 108 times in the last few days, once for each family. 108 times the impotence, the rage, the tears, the cries, the "My God, my God..."

Nevertheless, this time there is something different. There is a little woman who doesn't cry. Ton~ita didn't say anything, she didn't cry, she didn't yell. She passed over the rubbish and went right to a corner of the house, like she was looking for something. There, in a forgotten corner, was the little teacup, broken, thrown away like a ruined hope. That little cup was a gift, someone sent it to her, so that some day, Ton~ita-Alice could drink tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. But this time it isn't a hare that Ton~ita finds in March. It is her house destroyed by orders of he who is said to defend sovereignty and legality. Ton~ita doesn't cry, doesn't shout, doesn't say anything. She picks up the pieces of the little teacup and of the saucer that gave it a base. Ton~ita goes out, passes again among the torn and dirty clothes on the ground, through the corn and beans scattered among the wreckage, between her mother, her aunts, and her sisters who weep, and cry, and repeat "my God, my God." Outside, near a guava tree, Ton~ita sits on the ground and, with mud and a little spit, starts to stick the pieces of the teacup together again. Ton~ita doesn't cry, but there is a cold and hard brilliance in her gaze. Brutally, as the last 500 years have been for indigenous women, Ton~ita leaves girlhood and makes herself a woman. It is the 8th of March of 1995, International Women's Day, and Ton~ita is five years old, going on six. The cold and cutting brilliance in her eyes rescues, from the broken little teacup, sparkles that wound. Anyone would say that it is the sun that sharpens the bitterness sowed by treason in these lands... As if putting a broken heart back together, so Ton~ita reconstructs, with mud and saliva, her broken little teacup. Someone, far off, forgets for the moment that he is a man. The salty drops that fall from his face don't rust his chest of lead...

P.S. THAT RISKS "THE MOST VALUABLE THING I HAVE"

(The account in dollars?) I read that now there is a "subcommander Elisa," a "subcommander German," a "subcommander Daniel," a "subcommander Eduardo." So I have decided to make the following resolution: I warn the PGR [Justice Dept.] that if they keep coming out with more "subs," I will go on a total fast. I demand, furthermore, that the PGR declare that there is only one "sub" (Fortunately, says my alter ego when reading these lines), and that they clear me of all blame in the weakness of the dollar against the Japanese yen and the German MARKS (note the narcisistic repetition). (Don't send me to Warman, please!)

P.S. THAT ACKNOWLEDGES RECEIPT OF PROMISES CAUGHT BY A SONNET AND RETURNS WITH...

"When, in disgrace with fortune and mens' eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings".
William Shakespeare, Sonnet XXIX.

P.S. THAT TELLS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED FEBRUARY 17 AND 18 OF 1995, EIGHTH AND NINTH DAYS OF THE WITHDRAWAL.

"We were following the double point of the lunatic arrow."

"Waxing quarter, horns to the East," I remembered, and repeated to myself as we came out into some pastures. We had to wait. Above, a military airplane rained down its purr of death. My alter ego started to sing softly, "and they gave us the ten and eleven, the twelve, the one, the two and the three. And hidden when the dawn came to us, we were soaked by rain..." I make him a threatening sign to shut up. He defends himself: My life is a song by Joaquin Sabina.

It sure must not be a love song - I tell him, forgetting my own prohibition on talking.

Camilo lets me know the plane is gone. We go out in the meadow and keep walking in the middle of a pasture all damp from the rain. I was going ahead looking upward, seeking in its darkness some answer to old questions. You're headed for the bull - I managed to hear Camilo warn me. But now it was too late - when I lowered my gaze after a trip through the Milky Way, I met the eyes of a stud who, I think, was as frightened as I was, because he ran the same as I did, but in the opposite direction. When I got to the fence, I threw my pack over the barbed wire.

I stretched out to drag myself under the fence. I did it with such good luck, that what I thought was mud, was bullshit. Camilo roared with laughter. My alter ego even got hiccups. The two sat down and I made signs for them to shut up.

- Sssshh, the soldiers are going to hear us! - but it's no good, they laugh and laugh. I cut a bunch of star grass to clean, as much as possible, the shit off my shirt and pants. I put on my pack and went on walking. Behind, Camilo and my alter ego followed. Now they weren't laughing. When they got up, they realized it was shit they had sat down in. Attracting cows with such a seductive odor, we finished crossing the wide pasture which had a stream running through it. When we got to the wooded zone I looked at my watch. 02:00. "Southeastern time," Tacho would say. With luck and with no rain, we would arrive at the foot of the mountain before dawn. So it was. We went in by an old trail cutting among big and well-spaced trees that announced the closeness of the forest. The real forest, where only wild animals, the dead, and the guerrillas live. There wasn't much need for a light; the moon still tore itself among the branches, like a white streamer, and the crickets hushed with our step on the dry leaves. We came to the great ceiba tree [a majestic species of tree reknowned in Mayan myth - tr.] that marked the gate of entry, rested a while and, now with the morning light, advanced still for a couple of hours up the mountain.

The trail was lost at times, but, despite the years gone by, I remembered the general direction. "To the east, 'til you hit a wall," we said 11? years ago. We rested beside a little creek that surely wouldn't last in the dry season. We slept a while. I was woken by a cry from my alter ego. I took the safety off my weapon, aiming it where I heard the groan. Yes, it was my alter ego, grabbing his foot and complaining. I came near. He had tried to take off his sock without thinking and had pulled off a piece of skin.

You fool - I said to him - You have to soak it first.

It was the ninth day with our boots on. The fabric and the skin, with the dampness and the mud, become one, and to take off the sock is like skinning yourself. The disadvantages of sleeping with your boots on. I showed him how to do it. We stuck our feet in the water, and little by little, pulled back the fabric. The feet smelled like dead dogs and the skin was a deformed and off-white mass.

- You scared me. When I saw you grabbing your foot, I thought a snake had bitten you - I reproached him.

My alter ego didn't pay me any mind, he kept on soaking his feet and closed his eyes. As if he were calling it. Camilo began to hit the ground with a stake.

- What now? - I asked him.

- Snake - said Camilo while he threw stones, sticks, boots and everything he found at hand. At last a blow with a stick on the head.

We approached fearfully.

- Mococh - says Camilo.

- Nauyaca - I say.

Limping, my alter ego approaches. He puts on a knowing look when he says: It's the famous Bac Ne' or Four Noses.

-Its bite is fatal and its venom very poisonous - he adds, imitating the tone of a merolico [?] in a town fair. We skin her. Skinning the snake is like taking off her shirt. The belly is opened like a long zipper, the guts are emptied and the skin comes off in one piece. The meat is left, white and cartilaginous. It's pierced with a thin stick and put on the fire. It tastes like grilled fish, like macabil, that we caught in the "Sin Nombre" [nameless] river, 11? years ago. We ate that and a little pinole [toasted corn flour drink] with sugar that we had been given. After a little rest, we wiped out our tracks and continued the march. Just like 11? years ago, the forest welcomed us as it should: raining. The rain in the forest is like no other. It starts to rain but the trees act as a big umbrella, only a few drops escape from among the branches and leaves. Afterwards, the green roof begins to drip, and then, really, to get wet. Like a big showerhead, it keeps dripping, raining within, though above it has stopped raining. With the rain in the forest it's like war: one knows when it starts, but not when it ends.

On the way, I was recognizing old friends: the huapac' with its modest coat of green moss, the capricious and hard rectitude of the cante; the hormiguillo, the mahogany, the cedar, the sharp and poisonous defense of the chapaya, the fan of the watapil, the disproportionate gigantism of the leaves of the pij', that seem like green elephants' ears, the vertical rise to the sky of the bayalte', the hard heart of the canolte', the threat of the cheche'm or "mala mujer" [evil woman] that, as its name indicates, causes a very high fever, delirium, and much pain. Trees and more trees. Nothing but brown and green filling the eyes, the hands, the steps, the soul again...

Like 11? years ago, when I arrived here the first time. And then I was climbing this damned hill and thinking that each step I took was the last one, and saying to myself, "one more step and I die," and I took a step and then another and I didn't die and I kept walking and felt that the load weighed 100 kilos, and it was a lie since I knew that I was carrying only 15 kilos and "it's just that you're very new," said the compas that went to get me and laughed with complicity, and I kept repeating to myself that now for real the next step would be the last and cursed the hour in which it ocurred to me to become a guerrilla, as well as I had been doing as an organic intellectual, and the revolution has many tasks and all are important, and why did I have to get into this, and for sure the next rest I'll tell them here and no farther, and it would be better for me to help them there in the city, and I kept walking and kept falling and the next rest came and I didn't say a thing, in part for shame and in part because I couldn't even speak, gulping air like a fish in a puddle that's too small for him, and I said to myself, all right, at the next rest I'll tell them, really, and the same thing happened and so I got through the 10 hours of that first day of walking in the jungle, and now getting on towards evening, they said: we're going to stay here, and I let myself fall right there, and I said to myself "I made it here" and I repeated "I made it" and we put up the hammocks and then they made a fire and then they made rice with sugar and we ate and ate and they asked me how the hill had seemed and how I felt and whether I was tired and I only repeated "I made it" and they looked at eachother and said he's only been here one day and he's already gone crazy.

The next day I found out that the trail I'd covered in 10 hours with a 15 kilo load, they did in four hours and with 20 kilos. I didn't say anything. "Let's go," they said. I followed them, and at each step I took I asked myself: "Am I there?" Today, 11? years later, history, tired of going forward, repeats itself. We make it there. Do we? The afternoon was a relief, a light like that wheat which relieved me many early mornings, it bathed the place we had decided to camp. We ate after Camilo ran into some Sac Jol ("old man's face" or "white head"). It turns out that there were seven. I told Camilo not to shoot; maybe they were running deer and I thought that we'd come across them. Nothing, neither "Sac Jol" nor deer. We put up the tarps and the hammocks. After a while, at night now, the martruchas came to bark at us, and afterward, the woyo or night monkey. I couldn't sleep. Everything hurt, even hope...

P.S. SELF-CRITIQUE THAT, SHAMEFULLY, DISGUISES ITSELF AS A STORY FOR WOMEN WHO, AT TIMES, ARE GIRLS, AND FOR GIRLS WHO, AT TIMES, ARE WOMEN. AND, AS HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF ONCE AS COMEDY AND AGAIN AS TRAGEDY, THE STORY IS CALLED...

DURITO II
(Neoliberalism seen from the Lacandon Jungle.)

It was the tenth day, with less pressure now. I went away a little to put up my tarp and move in. I was going along, looking up, searching for a good pair of trees that didn't have a dead hanging branch. So I was surprised when I heard, at my feet, a voice that shouted, "Hey, watch out!" I didn't see anything at first, but I stopped and waited. Almost immediately a little leaf began to move and, from under it, a beetle came out who began to demand: - Why don't you watch where you put your big boots? You were about to crush me! - he yelled.

This demand seemed familiar to me.

- Durito? [little hard guy] - I ventured.

- Nabucodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] to you! Don't be a leveler! - answered the little beetle indignantly.

Now I had no room for doubt.

- Durito! Don't you remember me? Durito, I mean, Nabucodonosor, just kept looking thoughtfully at me. He took our a little pipe from within his wings, filled it with tobacco, lit it, and after a big puff which brought on a cough that wasn't at all healthy, he said: Mmmmh, mmmh.

And then he repeated: - Mmmmh, mmmh.

I knew that this was going to take a while, so I sat down. After several "mmmh, mmh," Nabucodonosor, or Durito, exclaimed: Captain? The same! - I said, satisfied to see myself recognized.

Durito (I believe that after recognizing him, I could call him that again) began a series of movements of his feet and wings that, in the body language of the beetles, is a kind of dance of joy and to me has always seemed like an attack of epilepsy. After repeating several times, with different emphases, "Captain!," Durito finally stopped and fired the question I so feared: - Got any tobacco? - Well, I...- I drew out the answer to give myself time to calculate my reserves.

At that, Camilo arrived and asked me: - Did you call me, Sup? - No, it's nothing... I was singing and.. and don't worry, you can go - I responded nervously.

- Oh, good - said Camilo, and retired.

- Sup? - asked Durito, surprised.

- Yes, - I told him. - Now I'm a subcommander.

- And is that better or worse than Captain? - Durito asked insistently.

- Worse - I told him and myself.

I changed the subject quickly and held the bag of tobacco out to him saying: - Here, I have a little.

To receive the tobacco, Durito performed his dance again, now repeating "thank you!" over and over.

The tobacco euphoria over, we started the complicated ceremony of lighting our pipes. I leaned back on my pack and just looked at Durito.

- You look the same as ever - I told him.

- You, on the other hand, look pretty beat up - he responded.

- It's life - I said, playing it down.

Durito started with his "mmmh, mmh." After a while he said to me: - And what brings you here after so many years? - Well, I was thinking, since I had nothing better to do, I said to myself, why not take a turn around the old places and get a chance to see old friends - I responded.

- Old mountains still get green! - Durito protested indignantly.

After that followed a long while of "mmmh, mmmh" and of his inquisitive looks.

I couldn't take it any longer and confessed to him: - The truth is that we are withdrawing because the government launched an offensive against us...

- You ran! - said Durito.

I tried to explain to him what a strategic withdrawal is, a tactical retreat, and whatever occurred to me in that moment.

- You ran - said Durito, this time with a sigh.

- Well, yes, I ran - and what about it? - I said, annoyed, more with myself than with him.

Durito didn't press. He stayed quiet a good while. Only the smoke of the two pipes formed a bridge. Minutes later he said: - It seems like there's something more that's bothering you, not just the "strategic retreat."

- "Withdrawal," "strategic withdrawal" - I corrected him. Durito waited for me to go on: - The truth is that it bothers me that we weren't prepared. And it was my fault we weren't prepared. I believed the government did want dialogue and so had given the order that the consultations for the delegates should begin. When they attacked us we were discussing the conditions of the dialogue. They surprised us. They surprised me... - I said with shame and anger.

Durito went on smoking, waited for me to finish telling him everything that had happened in the last ten days. When I finished, Durito said: - Wait for me.

And he went under a little leaf. After a while he came out pushing his little desk. After that he went for a chair, sat down, took out some papers, and began to look through them with a worried air.

- Mmmh, mmh - he said with every few pages that he read. After a time he exclaimed: - Here it is!

- Here's what? - I asked, intrigued.

- Don't interrupt me! - Durito said seriously and solemnly. And added: - pay attention. Your problem is the same one many have. You refer to the economic and social doctrine known as "neoliberalism"...

"Just what I needed... now classes in political economy," I thought.

It seems like Durito heard what I was thinking because he chided me: - Ssshh! This isn't just any class! It is the Chair [as in university] par excellence.

That about the "Chair par excellence" seemed exaggerated to me, but I got ready to listen to it. Durito continued after some "mmmh, mmmh"s.

- It is a metatheoretical problem! Yes, you start from the idea that "neoliberalism" is a doctrine. And by "you," I am referring to those who insist on frameworks that are rigid and square like your head. You think that "neoliberalism" is a capitalist doctrine to confront the economic crises that capitalism itself attributes to "populism." Right? Durito didn't let me answer.

- Of course right! Well, it turns out that "neoliberalism" is not a theory to confront or explain the crisis. It is the crisis itself made theory and economic doctrine! That is, "neoliberalism" hasn't the least coherence; it has no plans nor historic perspective. In the end, pure theoretical shit.

- How strange... I've never heard or read that interpretation - I said with surprise.

- Of course! How, if it just occured to me in this moment! - says Durito with pride.

- And what has that got to do with our running away, excuse me, with our withdrawal? - I asked, doubting such a novel theory.

- Ah! Ah! Elementary, my dear Watson Sup! There are no plans, there are no perspectives, only i-m-p-r-o-v-i-s-a-t-i-o-n. The government has no consistency: one day we're rich, another day we're poor, one day they want peace, another day they want war, one day fasting, another day stuffed, and so on. Am I clear? - Durito inquires.

- Almost... - I hesitate, and scratch my head.

- And so? - I ask, seeing that Durito isn't continuing with his dissertation.

- It's going to explode. Boom! Like a balloon blown up too far. It has no future. We're going to win - says Durito as he puts his papers away.

- We? - I ask maliciously.

- Of course, "we"! It's clear that you won't be able to without my help. No, don't try to raise objections. You need a superadvisor. I'm already learning French, for continuity's sake.

I stayed quiet. I don't know what is worse: discovering that we're governed by improvisation, or imagining Durito as a supersecretary in the cabinet of an improbable transition government.

Durito attacks: - I surprised you, eh? Well, don't feel bad. As long as you don't crush me with your big boots I will always be able to clarify for you the road to follow in the course of history, which despite its ups and downs, will raise this country up, because united... because united... Now that I think of it, I haven't written to my old lady - Durito lets out the big laugh.

- I thought you were serious! - I pretend to be annoyed and throw a little branch at him. Durito dodges it and keeps laughing.

Now calmed down, I ask him: - And where did you get those conclusions that neoliberalism is the crisis made economic doctrine? - Ah! From this book that explains the 1988-1994 economic project of Carlos Salinas de Gortari - he answers and shows me a little book with the logo of Solidarity.

- But Salinas isn't president anymore.. it seems - I say with a doubt that shakes me.

- I know that, but look who drew up the plan - says Durito and points out a name. I read: - "Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon" - I say, surprised, and add: - So there isn't any break? - What there is is a cave of thieves - says Durito, implacable.

- And so? - I ask with real interest.

- Nothing, just that the Mexican political system is like that dead tree branch hanging over your head - says Durito and I jump and look up and see that, sure enough, there is a dead branch that is hanging threateningly over my hammock. I change places while Durito keeps talking: - The Mexican political system is just barely attached to reality with pieces of very fragile branches. It will only take one good wind for it to come down. Of course, when it falls, it's going to take other branches with it, and watch out, anyone who's under its shade when it collapses! - And if there isn't a wind? - I ask while I check whether the hammock is well tied.

- There will be... there will be - says Durito and looks thoughtful, as if he were looking at the future.

We were both left thoughtful. We lit our pipes again. The day began to get underway. Durito kept looking at my boots. Fearful, he asked: - and how many are with you? - Two more, so don't worry about being stomped - I said to calm him. Durito practices doubt methodically as a discipline, so he continued with his "mmmh, mmmh," until he let out: - But those coming after you, how many are they? - Ah! Those? Like some sixty...

Durito didn't let me finish: - Sixty! Sixty pairs of big boots on top of my head! 120 Sedena [Defense Dept.] boots trying to crush me! - he yelled hysterically.

- Wait, you didn't let me finish. They aren't sixty - I said.

Durito interrupted again: - Ah! I knew so much disaster wasn't possible. How many are they, then? Laconically, I answered: - Sixty thousand.

- Sixty thousand! - Durito managed to say before choking on the smoke of his pipe.

- Sixty thousand! - he repeated several times, crossing his little hands and feet together with anguish.

- Sixty thousand! - he said to himself desperately.

I tried to console him. I told him that they weren't all coming together, that it was an offensive in stages, that they were coming in from different directions, that they hadn't found us, that we had rubbed out our tracks so that they wouldn't follow us, in short, I told him everything that occurred to me.

After a while, Durito calmed down and started with his "mmmh, mmmh." He took out some little papers that, as I started to realize, looked like maps, and began questioning me about the location of enemy troops. I answered the best I could. With each answer Durito made marks and notes on his little maps. He went on a good while, after the questioning, saying "mmmh, mmmh." After some minutes, and after complicated calculations (I say this as he used all his little hands and feet to do the figuring) he sighed: - What's said: they're using "the anvil and hammer," the "sliding lasso," the "rabbit hunt," and the vertical maneuver. Elementary, it comes from the Rangers manual of the School of the Americas, - he says to himself and to me. And adds: - But we have one chance to come out well from this.

- Ah, yes? And how? - I ask with skepticism.

- With a miracle - says Durito as he puts his papers away and lies back down.

The silence settled down between us and we let the afternoon arrive between the branches and vines. Later, when night finished falling from the trees, and flying, covered the sky, Durito asked me: - Captain... Captain... Psst! Are you asleep? - No. - ...

What is it? - I answered.

Durito asks with pity, as if afraid to hurt me.

- And what do you intend to do? I keep smoking, I look at the silver curls of the moon hung from the branches. I let out a spiral of smoke and I answer him and answer myself: - Win.

P.S THAT TUNES IN TO NOSTALGIA IN THE QUADRANT

On the little radio someone, to a blues rhythm, tears out the one that goes: "All its gonna right with a little help of my friends..." [sic]

P.S. THAT NOW, REALLY, SAYS GOODBYE, WAVING A HEART LIKE A HANDKERCHIEF.

So much rain and not a drop to sate the yearning...

Go on again.
Health, and be careful with that dry branch that hangs over your heads and that pretends, ingenuously, to shelter you with its shade.

The Sup, smoking... and hoping.


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