A year of the Zapatista government

March 17, 1995

To the men and women who, in different tongues and roads, believe in a more humane future and struggle to achieve it today:

Brothers and sisters:

There exists on this planet called "Earth", and in the continent called "America" a country whose shape appears to have had a big bite taken out of its west side, and which threw out an arm deep into the Pacific Ocean so that the hurricanes don't blow it far away from its history. This country is known by both natives and foreigners by the name of "Mexico". Its history is a long battle between its desire to be itself and the foreign desires to have it exist under another flag. This country is ours.

We, our blood in the voices of our oldest grandparents, we walked this land when it was not yet known by this name. But later in this eternal struggle, between being and not being, between staying and leaving, between yesterday and tomorrow, came into the thinking of our ancestors, now with the blood of two branches, that this piece of land and water and sky and dreams, a land which we had because it had been a gift of our earlier ancestors, would be called "Mexico". Then we became others with more, and then the history of the way that we all got the name and thus we were born was complete. And we were called "Mexicans", and they called us "Mexicans".

Later history continued giving blows and pains. We were born between blood and gunpowder, between blood and gunpowder we were raised. Every so often the powerful from other lands came to rob us of tomorrow. For this reason it was written, in a war song that unites us: "If a foreigner ever dares, to profane with his foot your dream, think, Oh beloved motherland, that heaven gave you a soldier in each son." For this reason we fought yesterday. With flags and different languages the foreigner came to conquer us. He came and he went. We continued to be Mexicans because we weren't happy with any other name nor to walk under any other flag that does not have the eagle devouring a snake, on a white background, and with green and red to the sides. And that's what happened to us.

We, the first inhabitants of these lands, the indigenous, we were left forgotten in a corner, and the rest began to grow and become stronger. We only had our history with which to defend ourselves, and we seized it in order not to die. Later even this part of the history became practically a joke because a single country, the country of money, put itself in the middle of all of the flags. And they said "Globalization" and then we knew that this was how this absurb order was called, an order in which money is the only country which is served and the borders are erased, no out of brotherhood, but because of the impoverishment which fattens the powerful without nationality. The lie became the universal coin, and in our country, a dream, based on the nightmare of the majority, of wealth and prosperity was knitted for the few.

Corrruption and falsehoods were the principal products that our Motherland exported to other countries. Being poor, dressed in the wealth of our scarcities, and because there were so many lies and they were so broad, that we ended up thinking they were the truth. We prepared for the great international forums, and poverty was declared, by the will of the government, as an invention that vanished before the development which the economic statistics shouted. Us? We became even more forgotten, and now our history wasn't enough to keep us from dying just like that, forgotten and humiliated. Because death does not hurt, what hurts is to be forgotten. We discovered then that we did not exist any more, that those who govern had forgotten about us in their euphoria of statistics and rates of growth.

A country that forgets itself is a sad country, a country that forgets its past can not have a future. And so we took up arms and we went into the cities where we were considered animals. We went and we told the powerful, "We are Here!" and to all of the country we shouted, "We are Here!" and to all of the world we yelled, "We are here!". And they saw how things were because, in order for them to see us, we covered our faces; so that they would call us by name, we gave up our names; we bet the present to have a future; and to live ... we died. And then the planes came and the bombs and the bullets and the death and we went back to our mountains and even to there death pursued us, and many people from many parts said, "Talk", and the powerful said "Let's talk", and we said, "Okay, let's talk", and we talked and we told them what we wanted and they did not understand very well, and we repeated that we wanted democracy, liberty and justice, and they made a face like they didn't understand, and they reviewed their macroeconomic plans and all their neo-liberal points, and they could not find these words anywhere, and "we don't understand" they said to us, and they offered us a prettier corner in the history museum, and death with an extended timeline, and a chain of gold in order to tie up our dignity. And we, so that they would understand what we want, began to create in our lands what we wanted. We organized based on the agreement of the majority, and we demonstrated what it was like to live with democracy, with liberty, and with justice, and this is what happened:

For a year the law of the Zapatistas governed the mountains of Southeastern Mexico, and you all were not there to know about it, nor can I tell it, but the Zapatistas are us. In other words, those of us who do not have a face nor a name nor a past, and for the most part we are indigenous, but lately more brothers and sisters of other lands and races have been entering. All of us are Mexicans. When we governed these lands we did the following:

When we governed, we lowered to zero the rate of alcoholism, and the women here became very fierce and they said that drink only served to make the men beat their women and children, and to act barbarically, and therefore they gave the order that no drink was allowed, and that we could not allow drinking to go on, and the people who received the most benefit were the children and women, and the ones most damaged were the businessmen and the government. And, with the support of some of those groups called "Non-Governmental Organizations" both from within the country and foreigners, health campaigns were carried out, and the hope for life for the civilian population was raised, even though the lack of trust in the government reduced the hope for life of us the combatants. And the woman, or in other words the women, began to see that the laws which were imposed on the men were fulfilled, and a third of our combatant force is women and they are very fierce and they are armed, and so they " convinced" us to accept their laws and they also participate in the civilian and military direction of our struggle and we don't say anything, and besides what are we going to say.

The destruction of trees also was prohibited, and laws were made to protect the forests, and the hunting of wild animals was prohibited, even if they were from the government, and the cultivation, consumption and trafficking in drugs were prohibited, and these laws were upheld. The infant death rate went way down, and became very small, just like the children are. And the Zapatista laws were applied uniformily, without regard for social position or income level. And we made all of the major decisions, or the "strategic" ones, of our struggle, by means of a method that they call the "referendum" and the "plebiscite". And we got rid of prostitution and unemployment disappeared as well as begging. The children had sweets and toys. And we made many errors and had many failures. And we also accomplished what no other government in the world, regardless of its political affiliation, is capable of doing honestly, and that is to recognize its errors and to take steps to remedy them.

We were doing this, learning, when the tanks and the helicopters and the planes and the many thousands of soldiers arrived, and they said that they came to defend the national sovereignty, and we told them that that was being violated in the IUESEI and not in Chiapas and the national sovereignty can not be defended by trampling the rebel dignity of the Chiapas indigenous. And they did not listen because the noise of the their war machines made them deaf and they came in the name of the government, and for the government, betrayal is the ladder by which one climbs to power, and for us loyalty is the egalitarian plane that we desire for everyone. And the legality of the government came mounted on bayonets, and our legality was based on consensus and reason, and we wanted to convince, and the government wanted to conquer and we said that no law that had to resort to arms to be fulfilled by a people could be called a law, and it is only an arbitrariness regardless of how much legalist wrappings it is covered with, and he who orders the fulfillment of a law accompanied by the force of weapons is a dictator even if he says that the majority elected him. And we were run out of our lands. And with the war tanks came the law of the government, and the law of the Zapatistas left. And behind the war tanks of the government came again prostitution, drinking, theft, drugs, destruction, death, corruption, sickness, poverty.

And people from the government came and said that they had now restored law in the Chiapas lands, and they came with bullet- proof vests and with war tanks and they were there only a few minutes and they just had enough time to say their statements in front of the chickens and roosters and pigs and dogs and cows and horses and a cat that had gotten lost. And that's how the government did it, and maybe you all know this because it's true that alot of reporters saw this and publicized it. And this is the legality that rules in our lands now. And this is how the government conducted the war for "legality" and for "national sovereignty" against the indigenous people of Chiapas. The government also waged war against the rest of the Mexicans, but instead of tanks and planes, they launched an economic program that is also going to kill them, just more slowly...

And now I remember, that I am writing on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day and when Mexico was fighting, in the last century, against the empire of the bars and crooked stars, there was a group of soldiers from different nationalities who fought on the side of the Mexicans and this group was called the "St. Patrick Battalion", and for this reason the companeros said to me: " Go on, take this opportunity to write to the brothers from other countries and thank them because they stopped the war" and I believe that this is their way of getting to go dance, and so that I don't yell at them because the government plane is wandering around there and that all these companeros want to do is to dance, even with everything and the war they keep dancing and dancing the marimba. And so I am writing you in the name of all of my companeros and companeras, because just as with the "Saint Patrick's Battalion", we now see clearly that there are foreigners who love Mexico more than some natives who are now in the government and tomorrow will be in jail or in physical exile, because their heart now belongs to foreigners, because they love another flag which is not theirs and another thinking which is not of their equals. And we learned that there were marches and songs and movies and other things that were not war in Chiapas, which is the part of Mexico where we live and die. And we learned that these things happened, and that "NO TO WAR!" was said in Spain and in France and in Italy and in Germany and in Russia and in England and in Japon and in Korea and in Canada and in the United States and in Argentina and in Uruguay and in Chile and in Venezuela and in Brazil and in other parts where it wasn't said but it was thought. And so we saw that there are good people in many parts of the world and that these people live closer to Mexico than those who live in "los Pinos", which is how the house where the government lives is called.

Our law made books, medicines, laughs, sweets and toys flourish. Their law, the law of the powerful, came without any argument other than that of force, and destroyed libraries, clinics and hospitals, it brought sadness and a bitter road to our people. And we thought that a legality that destroys knowledge, heath and happiness is a very small legality for such big women and men, and that our law is better, infinitely better, than the law of these misters who, with foreign vocations, say that they govern us.

And we want to say to you, to everyone, thank you. And that if we had a flower we would give it to you and since we don't have enough flowers for each man or for each woman, then a "enough" so that each person can get and save a piece, and when they are old, then they can talk with the children and young people of their country that, "I struggled for Mexico at the end of the 20th century, and from over here I was there with them and I only know that they wanted what all human beings want, for it not to be forgotten that they are human beings and for it to be remembered what democracy, liberty and justice are, and I did not know their faces but I did know their hearts and it was the same as ours." And when Mexico is free (which is not to say happy or perfect, but only free, or in other words, free to choose its road and make its errors and its successes) then a piece of you all, this that is at the top of the chest and that, despite the political implications or precisely because of them, is a little tilted to the left, will also be Mexico, and these six letters will represent dignity and then the flower will be for everyone or it will not exis, and now it occurs to me that with this letter a paper flower could be made and could be put in the lapel or the hair, depending on the person, and you could go dancing with this enchanting adornment. And I'm going to go because the surveillance plane comes again, and I have to put out the candle, but not the hope. This...nor death.

Health and a promised flower: a green stem, a white flower, red leaves, and don't worry about the serpent, this that flaps its wings is an eagle which is in charge of it, you will see...

>From the mountains of Southeastern Mexico.

Subcomandante insurgency Marcos
March 1995

Jornada March 22 pg. 12

(translated by Cindy Arnold, volunteer,
National Commission for Democracy in Mexico)

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