Monthly Archives: August 2008

Seventh Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising

New Years Day, 2009 will mark the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Zapatista uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas. They rose up against neoliberalism and imperialism and for indigenous autonomy and dignity, not just for the Mayan Indians of Chiapas, but for the Indigenous and excluded of all Mexico, all of the Americas and the whole world. In the fifteen years since the uprising began we have seen developments such as the March of Indigenous Dignity/March of Those Who are the Colour of the Earth, the Other Campaign, Intercontinental Indigenous Encounter (which has been repeated three times), the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and the rise of other resistance groups in Mexico such as the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca. With all that said, I wish to present to you a communique delivered by the EZLN on the seventh anniversary of their uprising in 2001.

Through my voice speaks the voice of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation;

Indigenous Mexican brothers and sisters;
Brothers and sisters of Mexico and the World;

In this, the seventh year of the war against forgetting, we repeat what we are.

We, we are wind. Not the breast that inspires us.
We, we are word. Not the lips which speak to us.
We, we are steps. Not the foot that walks us.
We, we are beat. Not the heart that drives us.
We, we are bridge. Not the lands which are joined.
We, we are path. Not the point of arrival or of departure.
We, we are place. Not the one who occupies it.
We do not exist. We only are.
We are seven times. We, seven times.
We, the mirror repeated.
We, the reflection.
We, the hand that is only opening the window.
We, the world called to the door of the morning.

Brothers and Sisters:

Seven have been the reflections which the ancient mirror has plucked in the second century and the twentieth hundred which have ended.

In the first, we were wind from below, unexpectedly awoken. From very far back in time, memory was made breath of fire. Fierce was the look and hard was the path, we returned, then, as the dead of always, but this time in order to wrest a place in life. With us, the mountain thus knelt down on the land and blew our history through the streets where the tyrant dwells.

With the second reflection, we were lips for the word and ears for the heart of the other. The fire remained quiet and the heart learned to conjugate by broadening ours. Shield and blade thus made, the word resisted in that way, and betrayal was rendered futile.

With the spark of the third reflection, we made agreement with the one who governs so that we who are color and blood of the earth might have a dignified place with everyone. The one who governed did not honor his word. We, however, became bridge for other worlds. Thus we learned that dignity is not the exclusive property of any nation, and that goodness has many faces and speaks many tongues.

It was in the fourth reflection that those who govern and sustain us took the first step. One thousand one hundred and eleven times our gaze looked upon the solitude finally defeated. Nonetheless, the stupidity that governs with blood wanted to block so much gazing. “Acteal” it is called where they will still never close their eyes.

The fifth reflection was growing resistance, making it school and lesson which gave direction. There, alongside the one who says he governs, war, destruction, lie and intolerance. Here, quiet dignity, rebel silence, self-governance.

The sixth reflection traveled much, five times a thousand, to all the lands of those we call brothers. We asked of them, we listened to them. We held our word so that it would become fruitful and, in its time, it might find its time.

The seventh finally came, and with it, the one that was already tottering fell. The other came, with many faces and without face, with name and unnamed, and, completely anonymous, not the last, but indeed a ladder. The one who never imagined that anything would be possible without his tutelage, found himself alone and fell, to the regret of no one.

With the seventh reflection completed, the most old of the first ones spoke to us through the mouths of our most recent dead. They spoke to us and they told us that the seventh was the moment to return to the earth which is growing upwards. Where the gentleman with much talking and little listening has his palace. Where dwells reason which can guide the good law. Where the other different is our equal. Where struggle is the bread and salt of every day.

How can this government display itself in front of the eyes of the world as long as this absurd and cruel situation continues? How can they speak of “change”, of “democracy”, of “justice”, if they are maintaining their troops as an occupation army? The Federal Army should leave Guadalupe Tepeyac, not because it is one of the requisites for the renewal of dialogue, but because no one can speak of peace while the warlike actions begun by the previous government continue.

Still remaining are the military barracks of Roberto Barrios, La Garrucha, Cuxulja’, Jolnachoj and the Euseba River. In Roberto Barrios the army does not only have a barracks. It is also maintaining a checkpoint day and night which inhibits the movement of the indigenous in the area, thus contradicting Senor Fox’s statements and the government propaganda which speak of the checkpoints having been suspended. The only purpose of the military position of Roberto Barrios – as well as those of La Garrucha, Cuxulja’, Jolnachoj and the Euseba River – is to threaten the Zapatista cultural centers which are close to those locations. They have no tactical military, strategic, propaganda, social or economic value. Their only purpose is to intimidate. And that, as has been seen, has been a failure.

Still remaining is the release of all the imprisoned Zapatistas. In Chiapas, Tabasco and Quere’taro there are persons who have committed no crime other than that of sympathizing with our cause. There can be no dialogue if we Zapatistas are criminals in the eyes of government justice. Their release is fundamental for dialogue.

Still remaining is the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture. The so-called Cocopa law is not the result of a Zapatista whim. It was drawn up by senators and deputies from the four principal parties registered as: PRI, PAN, PRD and PT. This law captures the essence of what was agreed to at San Andre’s, at whose table not only the federal government and the EZLN were in dialogue, but also indigenous representatives from all the country’s ethnic groups, scientists, researchers, humanists and law experts.

For dialogue and peace, during this seventh anniversary of the Zapatista uprising, we are calling on all the honest men and women of Mexico and of the world, along with us, to demand that Señor Fox withdraw the Army from Guadalupe Tepeyac, and in that way the indigenous, who have been living in exile for almost six years, may return to their homes;

To demand that the military barracks which are threatening the indigenous Zapatista cultural centers, in La Realidad, La Garrucha, Roberto Barrios, Moise’s Gandhi and Oventik, be withdrawn once and for all;

To achieve the release of all the Zapatista prisoners who are in jails in Quere’taro, Tabasco and Chiapas. Their release will be an act of basic justice for our dead.

And already, many times before this 7, it was written:

“Come and see a wild nopal: and there you will calmly see a soaring eagle. There he eats, there he grooms his feathers.
And with that your heart will be content:
There is the heart of the Co’pil that you were going to wrench out,
There, where the water turns and turns again!
But there, where it was going to fall, you would have seen amongst the
Crags, in that cave between reeds and rushes,
That wild nopal has sprung up from the heart of Co’pil.
And there we shall be:
There we shall await and meet all peoples.”
(Taken from the anonymous Nahuatl poem “Foundation of Mexico” in 1325)

Brothers and sisters:

Today it has been seven years of the war against the forgetting. Today, the one who governs says he wants peace. The one who preceded him said the same, and he did not do so, but rather tried to destroy those who defied him by merely living.

That is why we wish to remind everyone, and the one who is government, today, that there are still many injustices which must be put aright.

As a part of the signals which we are demanding for dialogue, we have demanded the withdrawal and closing of seven military positions. Each of them represent an affront to the desire for peace by the great majority of Mexicans and hundreds of thousands of persons from other countries. The withdrawal of the military barracks at Amador Herna’ndez was a good sign and a first step towards the dialogue table, but six positions still remain.

Guadalupe Tepeyac still remains. On February 10, 1995, the residents of this community were stripped of everything they had by Federal Army troops. Preferring exile to serving the occupation troops, the residents of Guadalupe Tepeyac went to the mountain, and they are living there now. For 2149 days these Tojolabal indigenous have been forced to live and die far from their lands. A result of the Zedillo betrayal, this injustice continues today under Señor Fox’s regime.

For dialogue and peace, on this seventh anniversary of the war against forgetting, we are inviting everyone to accompany us to Mexico City, seat of the federal Legislative Branch, and, for us, together, to convince the deputies and senators of the justice represented by the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture.

Brothers and Sisters:

For many years, those who were the government took, and they helped themselves to it, they tried to destroy the first blood of these lands. Seeing how the most first seed abounded, they grew tired of fighting with us with their most terrible deaths, and then the great gentlemen tried to kill us with forgetting.

But we indigenous resist.

We resist unto death that which killing kills.
We resist unto death that which kills forgetting.
We resist unto death.
We live.
We are here.
So it has been ordered by our most first:
Our heartbeat unfolds in the 7.
It shall make echo
And bridge
And path
And place
And home
So that the first heart of this Patria might live,
So that silence shall never again be accomplice to crime,
So that the word is not lost amidst the noise,
So that solitude may be defeated and there be no borders for hope,
So that everyone’s steps might have dignified path,
So that no one may be without place for sowing memory,
So that all may come and go, and that walls be not jail, but shelter,
So that this country called Mexico may never again forget those whom they are for and with,
So that those who were previously outside and persecuted, might be within, and with everyone, being who they are, but with everyone,
So that never again will a first of January be necessary which awakens and returns memory,
So that the Mexican indigenous might be indigenous and be Mexican.
So it is ordered by our most first. It is 7 now. It is now the time of the most small.
The time of the indigenous of Mexico.
Brothers and Sisters:
We are the Zapatistas.
We do not conquer. We persuade.
We are not served. We serve.
We are not wall. We are bridge.
We do not dictate the steps, we, we are the most small.

Brothers and Sisters:

It has been 7. This year our steps grow wider. Like seven years ago, but with words instead of fire, the hour of the Mexican indigenous is arriving once again. From them, with them and for them, we are today once more lifting the flag of indigenous rights and culture. We shall continue fighting because Mexico shall never again walk in the forgetting. Because the Patria will not again be synonymous with exclusion. Because the morning shall find us alongside all the different ones.

Long Live the Mexican Indigenous!
Long Live the Excluded of the Entire World!
Long Live the Zapatista Army of National Liberation!
Long Live our Dead Forever!
Democracy! Liberty! Justice!

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Comandante David and Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

What is Indigenism?

I have at many times referred to myself as an indigenist and I have often gotten asked what exactly I mean by the term indigenism as there seems to be a bit of confusion and misconception around it on the revolutionary left.

Well, in short, indigenism is a theory and practice which places the struggles of indigenous peoples for land and autonomy at the centre of its work. Much of the time it also draws inspiration and insight from the lessons of indigenous peoples, such as (in the Americas) values of communality, solidarity, reciprocity, social justice, equality, complementarity and harmony with nature.

In the Anglo-world, the term was made popular by well known radical scholar Ward Churchill, who claims descent through the Cherokee and Creek Indian nations. He has written a number of works on the topic, including the essay I Am Indigenist and the book From a Native Son: Selected Essays on Indigenism.

However, while it was certainly Churchill who brought the term into wide-spread use in the West, he is not actually the source of the term or school of thought. The earliest uses of the term can be found in the works of Mexican anthropologist and activist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla who used the term indigenismo in his writings on Latin America. The idea began to gain traction and recognition in Mexico during the 1930s, when many people in the country began to look back to traditional Indigenous forms of organization for inspiration, and also began to elevate the struggles of the Indigenous peoples in the country.

A major line of argument in indigenism is that unless the issues of indigenous land and autonomy are resolved, any sort of movement, even ones claiming to be socialist or revolutionary, will remain inherently colonialist. Thus, as with the acceptance of other national liberation struggles, indigenous rights and first nation sovereignty must be central in any program for, or work towards, a society free of all forms of oppression.

With that, I generally go by Batalla’s definition of Indigenism rather than Churchill’s decidedly more “blame everyone in America” definition. Batalla in his work identified six fundamental demands within the Indian movement:

  • Right to ancestral lands including complete control of land and subsoil, the defence of land and recuperation of land lost.
  • Recognition of the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people- all indigenous peoples and organizations reaffirm the right to be distinct in culture, language and institutions, and to increase the value of their own technological, social and ideological practices.
  • Equal political rights in relation to the state.
  • The end of repression and violence, particularly that against the leaders, activists and followers of indigenous political organizations.
  • The end of family planning programmes which have brought widespread sterilization of indigenous women and men.
  • The rejection of tourism and folklore, meaning the end of commercialization of Indian music, dance and other art forms as well as other forms of cultural appropriation. Instead, respect for true indigenous cultural expressions.
These original six demands, as well as many others such as the rejection of capitalism and neoliberalism, have framed many of the Indian liberation struggles in the Americas over the last century, from the American Indian Movement, to the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the work of Hugo Blanco and others in the Andean region of South America, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the current struggles in Canada.

While indigenism has become, in certain circles, a curse word on the left implying that someone seeks a return to an anarcho-primitivist life-style this is not what it means, and I hope this post does much to dispel that myth. The simple fact is that it is not something people on the revolutionary left should be afraid of, indeed it should embraced alongside the struggles against capitalism, racial/national oppression of blacks and latinos, patriarchy and homophobia/heterosexism, only then can a truly emancipatory struggle be waged.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
In the Spirit of Túpac Amaru II

Long Live the World’s Indigenous!
Long Live the Excluded of the Entire World!
Long Live the Anti-Imperialist and Anti-Capitalist Struggle!
Long Live the Tireless Defense of Mother Earth!
Long Live Our Dead Forever!
Democracy! Liberty! Justice!

Mitaku Oyasin – We are All Related

Rowland Keshena

The Nightwatchman – Until the End

No one knows who gave the orders
No one asks about the crime
No one looks behind the curtain
No one questions why
The only time we've got
Is right about now
I cross my heart
I take the vow

I'll never turn
I'll never bend
I'm with you now
Until the end

Tonight's the test
Tonight's the time
I am the punishment
That fits the crime
I'll break the bricks
I'll pick the locks
I don't got nothin'
But I'll give what I got

I'll never turn
I'll never bend
I'm with you now
Until the end

Ten trials whose outcomes
All fixed from the start
Nine judges sitting counting
Their money in the dark
Eight towers of iron
Surround the desert town
On a cold December morning
Seven martyrs knocked them down
Six fathers still waiting
For their six sons to come home
Five mothers who know better
And accept that they're gone
Four years I've been hunted
Still I breathe free
Three times I shot the sheriff
And did not spare the deputy

Two prayers I'm praying
Until we're together
One promise I'm keeping
Tonight and forever

I'll never turn
I'll never bend
I'm with you now
Until the end