Votan-Zapata or Five Hundred Years of History
Brothers and sisters:
The Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee – General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army speaks to you to give you its words.
At This Moment, many thousands of men, women, children, and elders — all indigenous Mexicans — find themselves gathered in hundreds of ejidos,* ranches, localities, and communities in Mexico’s countryside. Our hands also reach into the concrete hearts of the cities. We are brought together with all those people before the tricolored flag where the eagle devours the serpent, ** united by our common misery, by the collective oblivion into which we were cast 501 years ago, by the useless death we endure, by our being faceless, with our name ripped from us, by our having bet our lives and deaths for someone else’s future. We are united by one common hope before that flag: to change, once and for all, the ground and sky that today oppress it. To do this, we, the ones without a face and name who call ourselves the “professionals of hope,” the most mortal of all, the “trangressors of injustice,” we who are the mountain, we of the nocturnal walk who have no voice inside the palaces, we the foreigners in our own land, the ones completely dead, history’s dispossessed, the ones without a homeland and a tomorrow, the ones with a tender fury, the ones of the unmuffled truth, the ones of the long night of scorn, the true men and women…the smallest of people…the most dignified…the last…the best. We must open again the door to the brother heart so that it can receive our word.
We must speak the truth, we must put the heart in our hands. Brothers and sisters, we want you to know who is behind us, who guides us, who walks in our shoes, who rules our heart, who rides our words, who lives in our deaths.
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know the truth. And it is like this:
From the first hour in this long night of our death, our most distant grandfathers say there was someone who gathered up our pain and our oblivion. There was a man who, walking his word from afar to our mountains, came and spoke with the tongue of the true men and women. His walk was and was not from these lands. From the mouths of our dead, from the mouths of the most knowing of our ancient ancestors, his word walked from him to our heart. There was and is, brothers and sisters, he who — being and not being seed from these lands — arrived to the mountain, dying in order to live again, who lived with his heart dying from his walk, a foreigner when he first arrived to the mountain with its nocturnal roof. He was and is a man. His tender word halts and walks in our pain. He is and is not in these lands: Votan Zapata, guardian and heart of the people.***
Votan Zapata, light that came from afar, and was born here from our land. Votan Zapata, named again forever a man of our people. Votan Zapata, a timid fire who lived our death 501 years. Votan Zapata, the name that changes, the man without a face, the tender light that watches over us. Death was always with us, and with death hope died. Death arrived with Votan Zapata. The name without a name, Votan Zapata looked in Miguel, walked in Jose Maria, was Vicente, was named in Benito, flew in a bird, rode in Emiliano, shouted in Francisco, visited Pedro. **** We lived dying, named without a name in our own lands. Votan Zapata arrived in our lands. Speaking, his word fell in our mouth. He arrived and is here. Votan Zapata, guardian and heart of the people.
He is and is not everything in us…He is walking…Votan Zapata, guardian and heart of the people. Keeper of the night…Master of the mountain…us…Votan, guardian and heart of the people. He is one and all. Being, he is here. Votan Zapata, guardian and heart of the people.
That is the truth, brothers and sisters. You should know it, he will not die again in our life, in our death he lives already and forever. Votan, guardian and heart of the people. Without a name he is named, the faceless face, all and no one, one and all, alive in death. Votan, guardian and heart of the people. Tapacamino bird, ***** always before us, walking behind us. Votan, guardian and heart of the people.
He took a name in our being nameless, he took a face in our being faceless, he is sky in the mountain. Votan, guardian and heart of the people. And in our nameless and faceless path, he took a name in us: the Zapatista National Liberation Army.
With this new name we name the nameless. With this flag covering our face, we have a new face, all of us. With this name we name the unnameable. Votan Zapata, guardian and heart of the people
The Zapatista National Liberation Army. Arming a tender fury. A nameless name. An unjust peace made war. A death that is born. An anguish made hope. A pain that smiles. A silent shout. A personal present for a foreign future. Everything for everyone, nothing for us. We, the nameless, the always dead. We, the Zapatista National Liberation Army. We, the red-and-black flag beneath the tricolored eagle. We, the red star, at last in our skies, never alone, but one more star, yes, the smallest one. We, only a gaze and a voice. We, the Zapatista National Liberation Army. We, Votan, guardian and heart of the people.
It is the truth, brothers and sisters. We come from there. We are going there. Being here we arrive. Dying death we live. Votan Zapata, father and mother, brothers and sisters, son and daughter, old and young, we are living…
Receive our truth in your dancing heart. Zapata lives, also and for always in these lands.
HEALTH TO YOU, MEXICAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS!
HEALTH TO YOU, CAMPESINOS OF THIS HOMELAND!
HEALTH TO YOU, THE INDIGENOUS OF ALL THE LANDS!
HEALTH TO YOU, ZAPATISTA FIGHTERS!
ZAPATA, IN BEING ARRIVES!
IN DEATH HE LIVES!
* The autonomous indigenous lands guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution of 1917.
** The Mexican flag’s imagery illustrates evil, represented by the serpent, being defeated by the Mexican state, represented by the eagle.
*** For the Mayan Tzeltales, Votan represents the third day in the Tzeltal calender, and corresponds to “the heart of the people.” He is also the first man sent by God to distribute land among the indigenous. Zapata refers to Emiliano Zapata, who helped ensure that the indigenous territories be autonomous, and beyond the reach of the Mexican government.
**** Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Maria Morelos, Vicente Guerrerro, Benito Juarez, Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa, and Pedro Paramo are the revolutionary heroes in Mexico, “inhabited” by the spirit of Votan Zapata.
***** Tapacamino bird, “the bird that hides the path.”