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Mexico's Aging Rebels

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://clpmag.org/article.php?article=Mexicos-Aging-Rebels_00204 Mexico s Aging
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2010
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      http://clpmag.org/article.php?article=Mexicos-Aging-Rebels_00204
      Mexico's Aging Rebels The first generation of Zapatistas looks back
      By Grant Fuller and Myles Estey
      October 8, 2010

      JUAN DIEGO, Mexico — In 1994, the Zapatista rebels put their
      balaclava-clad faces on the world map. Indigenous peasants from Chiapas
      disenchanted with the injustice of life in Mexico's poorest state, they
      fought for equality, peace and dignity.

      With the elusive Subcomandante Marcos as their reluctant leader, the
      movement advanced slowly over the years. The Zapatistas have seen many
      successes and improvements, tempered by constant challenges and setbacks.

      A generation has passed since the armed beginning of the movement.
      Zapatistas who were once rebels in their prime have grown older and are
      starting to look back at how far they've come.

      In the Zapatista village of Juan Diego, a 66-year-old farmer named Adan
      (the majority of Zapatistas refuse to give their full names, and request
      to be photographed with covered faces) said the armed struggle against
      Mexico's capitalist system was worth the cost. "They're still screwing
      us over because we're poor," Adan said. "But it's not as bad as it was
      before because we've made progress and now we have a place to work."

      The Zapatista Army of National Liberation recovered more than 600,000
      acres of land from landowners who would hire indigenous peoples to work
      their fields for next to nothing. Zapatista campesinos now occupy these
      territories and work the land for themselves.

      Even elders like Adan still contribute to the village's communal way of
      life. Wearing bright blue pants and a cowboy hat, Adan rides a horse
      along a dirt track every day to care for his livestock and cornfield.

      "I'm getting up there in age," he admitted. "But I'm happy because we're
      here, living in this place, this village. The landowners used to not
      even let us step over here onto their land. But it's all different now.
      We have what we didn't before: the land."

      Of all the Zapatistas' demands for justice and equality, land rights was
      always the most important. Although the Zapatistas now control scattered
      plots of land, their territory is under constant threat from outside forces.

      The Mexican military patrols regularly, and maintains a number of bases.
      Pro-government paramilitary groups with alleged ties to political
      parties continue to apply pressure, especially in certain communities. A
      variety of factors, including the attention-suck of the drug war, fading
      international support, the leadership's unexplained retreat from the
      public eye and long-dormant negotiations with the federal government,
      have left many skeptical of the Zapatistas' influence today.

      Juan Pedro Viquiera, author of "The Indigenous of Chiapas and the
      Zapatista Rebellion," believes that as the movement's original leaders
      fade away, Zapatismo will go with them. In fact, he said the Zapatistas'
      disappearing act has already begun.

      "Since 2006, they've been practically undetectable as far as statistics
      are concerned," Viquiera said. "You can't distinguish Zapatista zones on
      a map, and entirely Zapatista communities don't really exist. What's
      left are a few Zapatistas within some communities."

      But in the hilltop former ranch house that now serves as Juan Diego's
      autonomous school, Zapatistas, young and old, say they're alive and
      well. Fifty-eight-year-old Pascal, an exuberant jokester with a passion
      for the cause, said their focus is now on passing along the principles
      of their struggle to the next generation to ensure community improvement
      continues.

      "My parents and grandparents believed the land is for the campesinos who
      work it, and they taught us that," he said. "Now we have to teach our
      children so that we're not exploited again. But we're happy with the
      fight, and God-willing, I'll keep it up until we've made a new world for
      my kids." This knowledge transfer has become an important focal point
      for the first generation of Zapatistas.

      Gustavo Esteva, activist and founder of Universidad de la Tierra, said
      Zapatistas are actually well on their way to creating their "otro
      mundo," as they call it in Spanish. In the autonomous schools, Zapatista
      history is one of four subjects kids now study, ensuring that the torch
      is passed from the first generation.

      "You can go and see and talk with the young people in the communties,"
      Esteva said. "Half of the population in Zapatista communities is under
      20 years old, and that means that all their lives have been in the
      Zapatista spirit, in the Zapatista world."

      Armando, 87, is nearly deaf, but he still works in his cornfield,
      immensely proud of what the Zapatista movement has achieved. He said he
      and the rest of these aging rebels won't quit, despite the odds against
      them.

      "I'll keep working until God says otherwise," Armando said. "We still
      have to fight for our food, you know. But I'm good now. My parcel of
      land might be small, but it's mine."

      This story was produced for GlobalPost.

      --
      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
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      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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