“We Are Here”: Zapatistas Send Silent Message With the Return of the PRI

Imagine close to 50,000 people marching in absolute silence, in five different townships, from two to five hours apart. Not a word, nor even a greeting. Just a raised fist in a sign of strength, determination and unity. Streets overflowing with masked faces and wordlessness. It is a huge demonstration of force–the largest in the entire history of the Zapatista movement–just days before the 19th anniversary of their first public appearance and 30 years since their founding.

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Zapatistas March in Solidarity Against Calderon’s Drug War

A poignantly silent march of the masses, an eloquent speech, a plaza brimming with Zapatistas, and organizations and collectives from The Other Campaign in Chiapas, united in their rejection of Felipe Calderón’s drug war. This, and more, marked the reemergence of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) after more than 5 years without protesting outside of its territory.

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Caracol #5: Roberto Barrios

In the center of the Caracol, two gangs of nine howler monkeys fight over territory. This spectacle attracts the attention of the members of the Good Government Board (GGB), “Nueva semilla que va a producir” (“A New Seed that will Grow”). Also out to watch the show are peace campers from Argentina, Barcelona, and France; the team of indigenous people charged with the autonomous communications project; and a group from the United States that is building the Zapatista secondary school.

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Caracol #4: Morelia

A tree-fringed river cuts through the fourth Zapatista Caracol, in the ejido of Morelia, in Altamirano. It is the Tzotz Choj region (“brave tiger” in Tzeltzal)—a zone of cattle ranchers and paramilitaries, the place where the federal army raped an indigenous woman and tortured and killed three EZLN militants in 1994.

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Caracol #3: La Garrucha

Communication technology has arrived in the Lacandona jungle. The Internet café, Cyber-Pozol, is the only public Internet in the Patiwitz Canyon, or for that matter in all of the territories in resistance. In the café cooperative Smaliyel you can also find Zapatista music, videos, bandanas, handicrafts, sweets, gasoline, and food for sale.

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Caracol #2: Oventic

It’s midsummer and the dawns and sunsets in Oventic are accompanied by a cold mist that shrouds the Caracol of Los Altos, home of the Tzotzil Zapatistas. This is a rebel region, a place of poverty and extreme marginalization, and also the Zapatista territory most visited by people from all over the world. In the first year of autonomous self-government, 4,458 visitors came here from across the globe.

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Caracol #1: La Realidad

The Caracol founded in La Realidad—the first autonomous center built by the Zapatistas—is still celebrating its first anniversary. The rains have flooded the land, mud has washed out the roads, the maize has been harvested, and the indigenous people have doubled their stores of maize seed. Maybe there isn’t less hunger than before, the situation is still difficult in these jungle lands, but a journey through the region today shows something that didn’t exist 10 years ago when we reporters first entered this territory.

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