The Zapatistas and Newton's Apple


May of 1999

"The snake
broke the mirror
into a thousand pieces,
and the apple
was the rock."
Frederico Garcia Lorca

Now the moon is a bitten apple. The burning furnace of May in the mountain has torn the clothing from the mother-of-pearl, it has painted it in red, and a black wind from the west gnaws at it, insistently and lewdly.

The moon is saddened, an apple flushed with red, with her petticoats tucked up, a little out of desire, a little because of the heat and a little so that she can hurry along better.

First some clouds, later a rain, come to cover her roseate embarrassment.

Perhaps it is not necessary to mention it, but it is dawn in the mountains of the Mexican southeast. Down below an obscure figure watches over the watch and, through the clouds that are created, his lips are murmuring:

"There are mountains
who want to be
of water.
And stars are invented
above its back.
And there are mountains
who want to have
wings.
And the clouds are invented,
white."
Frederico Garcia Lorca.

A little further away la realidad is stirred and cooled by a sudden wind of men and women of different sizes, of various colors, of all faces, of many names. They say they are coming to find each other, although none of them appear to be lost.

Some of the air that is beginning to exist in la realidad reaches the strange chamber of the obscure shadow and disturbs the watchful watch that magnifies shadows. The figure of shadows breathes deeply or sighs, white clouds are re-invented and, with stars at his back, he remembers, he makes memory...

I. The Gamble

It is Mexico and the year 1999 is going frantically by. May is the new tyrant on the calendar, but November has cut in, clandestinely, dressed in rain and black, to exact sums and subtractions from the already complicated accounts of the collective resistance and hopes.

And, in order to do sums, it is necessary to do encuentros. And between the two of them, the one that disturbed November and the one that is now keeping May awake, there were many others. Small and large, public and discreet, brief and long encuentros between those who had not met each other before, because of the political times that, from above, put in place and impose priorities, agendas, themes and absurdities.

All these meetings, big meetings, little meetings and huge meetings, were, and are, motivated and driven by the Consulta for the Recognition of the Rights of the Indian Peoples and for the End to the War of Extermination, convened initially by the EZLN, and almost immediately appropriated by a much broader and deeper movement.

In the Fifth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, the zapatistas called for a mobilization in order to demand the recognition of the rights of the very first inhabitants of these lands, and to demand a complete halt to the government's war of extermination against the indigenous (whose new phase was inaugurated, with blood and fire, by Ernesto Zedillo on the dawn of the 22nd of December in the community of Acteal).

With the war now decided on, and all real commitment to dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the conflict abandoned, Zedillo's government had buried the San Andres Accords through his failure to keep his word. The zapatistas then turned to either side and proposed another dialogue, one which should, and could, take place between equals, with respect and dignity.

Accustomed to the complicated toss of the coin, the risk that the zapatistas were taking in front of the Powers was not small, with their call to the Consulta.

The powerful of Mexico had been betting that the EZLN would by now have lost its ability to convene, that (given that, for them, it is a mere media phenomena) the zapatistas would have lost presence in the media and, therefore, in the thoughts and the hearts of the people, that the forgetting would have managed once more to recover its realm of comfortable skepticism and cruel cynicism, and that the policies that the politicians of above were making above would have no rival competing for attention and transcendance.

The zapatistas, those perverse gamblers on the impossible, were risking everything on the people who are like them and on the people calling to the people. Gambling that they would still have a place in the hearts, the souls and the minds of many, that the forgetting would have now lost the final battle with memory, and that another way of doing politics was possible and necessary.

Every day, from November until March, the gamble was renewed. The Powers put police and armies on the table, political parties, opinion leaders, television channels and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, officials of varying degrees of gray, money, much money. The zapatistas had nothing to put down that they had not already staked that first dawn of the year of 1994.

But that was before, when the dark-skinned hands of the zapatistas launched the coin of the Consulta, betting (as always) everything they had.

In this May dawn, November has come to demand results, responses.

Eagle or sin? Face or cross? Above or below? Who won and who lost at the gaming table that is Mexico in the first half of 1999?

II. The Table

After a disastrous beginning, foreign capital had managed to momentarily put the national macroeconomy back together. The economic bubble that so excites the Mexican financial rats is inflated by money that is expected to multiply itself, without any importance being attached to the rubble that their profits leave tomorrow.

The rise in international oil prices (as firm and lasting as an OPEC agreement could be) means a strategic monetary reserve for the Mexican government that will not be used - no! - to solve the most pressing problems of the national economy. The fate of that money will be other: the presidential elections of 2000. Meanwhile, the budget cuts continue and grow deeper, and, along with them, unemployment and price increases.

If someone asks why a federal budget, designed when crude oil prices were low, is not adjusted "upwards," with prices on the rise, he will not receive a response. The most urgent thing now is to build up the "petty cash" that will be the main "political platform" of the future PRI candidate for the presidency of the Republic.

Those rapacious and migratory birds, that are the international financial capital, have come to nest in Mexican lands. But it will only be for a moment. The overvaluation of the Mexican peso and the lowering of interest rates are good food for those parasites, but they can only lead to their advantage if the bubble bursts. The profit comes from the 'crack,' not from stability. And so the bubble in which Zedillo and his cabinet are getting themselves drunk is being inflated for the clear purpose of exploiting it.

In the Mexican Stock Exchange, the rats are celebrating, and, drunk with the apparent prosperity, they are forgetting the most basic: the location of the festivities is a rat hole, multi-coloured and wrought of fine crystal, but, at the end of the day, a rat hole.

But, in order for there to be funds left over from the economic bubble, so that the political bubble of the Mexican political system can be inflated, their lungs must collapse. Determined to make 1999 'their' year, the Mexican political class has not managed to do anything more than to turn it into the year of their most grotesque nakedness.

But, attention! The rotten apple of Power is in dispute.

Leading all the absurdities, with no one else having the stature necessary to contend for the stupidity title, is Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon. For more than four years he has been trying unsuccessfully to deceive us all with the story that he governs this country, and now he is insisting on something even more incredible: he will not designate the PRI candidate for the presidency in the year 2000.

Far beneath the new king of grey humor, the political parties are fighting for second place.

The PRI, reaffirming their vocation as a criminal gang (we cannot even say "of organized crime," because they are so disorganized), where the new 'capo' is more and more convinced that he should repeat the dose of blood of 1994 in order to control the more and more frequent rebellions of the gang members.

The PAN, trapped between the pragmatism that duplicates powers (the party's leadership versus the party's legislators), and expressing their indignation over the lack of fulfilment of what had been agreed...while they sign a new agreement.

The PRD, with the affectation of one who calls himself the victim of a conspiracy, forgetting that the most painful and definitive blows have come to them...from their own side.

The political class counts on the valiant collaboration of a good number of the media in this decadent strip-tease of intentions. One and another repeats to us: this is the year of the poltical class, this is the most important, this is the only important thing, this is the only thing, this is, this.

But while the gamblers are taking off their clothes according to whether they win or lose, forgetting now that it is not the country's path that is being determined, but only the color of the flag that will festoon the catastrophe in its final moments, others have arrived to make them uncomfortable (with their presence and the stakes they set), driving the placid little game of old Mexican politics crazy.

Some of these others are wearing electricians' helmets, they are wearing electricians' uniforms, they are speaking like electricians and they are even wearing a little insignia that says "Mexican Electricians Union," and so one might assume that these others are electrical workers. But these others, instead of checking out the multi-coloured lights that decorate the political catwalk, have placed an emphatic NO on the betting table. "NO what?" ask those who, facing the table, are taking off the last of their clothes. "NO to privatization of the electricity industry," say these others who are electricity workers, and who, by saying so, are also saying: "NO to the selling off of national sovereignty," "NO to the lie." And I do not know if they know it, but I believe they do know it, that by saying this NO, these others are saying YES to the morning.

The confusion provoked at the table by the NO of the others who are electricians is still strong, when some others appear and plant another NO just like that. These other others are dressed like university students, they are talking like university students and more than one is wearing a little insignia with a two-headed eagle and the slogan "The spirit will speak through my race," and so one might assume that these other others are university students. But these other others, instead of asking to be allowed in to the political parties who are gathered at the table, put their NO forward onto the shaky tower of bets. "NO what?" ask those who are at the table, with their flesh exposed. "NO to the General Payment Regulations," say these other others who are university students, and who, by saying so, are also saying "NO to the privatization of the UNAM." And I do not know if they know it, but I believe they do know it, that by saying this NO, these other others are saying YES to the morning.

Other ones who are arriving now are fools, inconvenient ones, breakers of the law, and they are also very short and dark. They are dressed like indigenous, they are speaking like indigenous and everything makes one assume that they are indigenous. These other ones, instead of offering up crafts to the gamblers, or instead of asking them what they can offer them, show a red-black NO in their hands. "NO what?" ask those who are at the table, naked now. "NO to the war of extermination," say these other ones who are indigenous, and who, by saying so, are also saying "NO to the forgetting of history," "NO to the lie." And I do not know if they know, but I believe they do know it, that by saying this NO, these other ones are saying YES to the morning.

More others continue to be added and to take their seats at the table. They put down bets and the NO's are multiplied at an alarming rate (for the old politicians), and, with a little basic math one could guess the results, and now it can be seen that the NO's are going to win and a shudder runs through the old gamblers with the flaccid skeletons, and then they pick up their clothes again, scandalized, and exclaim: "Conspiracy!" "Strange hands!" "Politicization!" "Intolerance!"

Up above, far from everything and everyone and newly ambushed, the grey men of Mexican politics renew their fight over the worm-ridden apple of power.

Without old gamblers, the electricians, the university students, the indigenous and the other very others who are joining, decide that it is good to be betting now, and that it is the hour to speak and to speak with, to listen and to listen to, and everyone begins talking and listening to each other, and I do not know if they understand everything, but a terrible troublemaker was seen, and the intelligent "intelligence services" of Labastida are paying attention, and they are running now to inform their superior that there is indeed a "strange force" behind those movements, and the Secretary of Government, with his face rigid from the gravity of the moment ( as well as from the plastic surgery he had in the hope of regaining points in the polls), asks:

"Who is it?"

The useless and foolish "intelligence services" respond with satisfaction:

"History."

III. The Consulta: the Possible Calculations

The zapatista Consulta provided four questions in the national arena and five in the international.

For the government, and for the not small number who were confused (among them, some members of the Cocopa stand out), the questionnaire was discredited. They said the questions were "rigged and cheating," and that the affirmative response was already implicit in the way the questionnaire was drawn up.

The March 21 results demonstrate that it was not so, there were not a few people who responded NO to whether or not the rights of the Indian peoples in Mexico should be recognized, NO to whether or not the San Andres Accords should be carried out, NO to whether the Army should withdraw to its barracks, and NO to leading, obeying. The questions were so open that persons such as Dolores de la Vega, Sergio Sarmiento, Hector Aguilar Camin and Enrique Krauze, to mention just four of the writers of the same intellectual capacity, could have responded NO to the questionnaire. Others, like Ernesto Zedillo, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Francisco Labastida and Mario Villanueva - to mention just four members of the PRI of the same moral caliber - could have done the same thing.

Racism - as the government and media campaigns against the zapatista Consulta and the March 21 results demonstrated - does not just exist in Mexico, it was also made clear that it is not something associated with a low income or cultural level, and that it is, in truth, a doctrine in not a few of the high political and cultural circles.

With those questions the zapatistas demonstrated that they were not only willing to listen to those who understand and think that this country has a different and better future, but also to those who hold that there is nothing better than the present, and that no change presented would be anything but a "trap and rigged."

A part of a great mobilization and movement in itself, the great collective that carried out the National and International Consulta has faces that can be counted:

Brigades in Mexico: 2,358.

Brigadistas in Mexico: 27,859.
Other countries where the Consulta was held: 29.
Brigades in other countries: 265.
Zapatista delegates in Mexico: 4,996.
Total of muncipalities visited in Mexico: 1299.
Population that was made contact with in Mexico: 64,598,409.
Number of political and social organizations contacted in Mexico: 1141.
Persons involved - in Mexico, and without counting Chiapas - in the organization and carrying out of the Consulta: 120,000.
Tables and assemblies: 14,893.
Votes in Mexico: 2,854,737.
Votes in other countries: 58,378.

IV. The Impossible Calculations

But the questions concerning the calculations about the fundamental part of the Consulta will not have answers.

What does it mean that an organization that is besieged, persecuted, harassed and attacked, through military, political, ideological, social and economic means, can prepare 5000 of its members to break the circle and to cover the 32 states of the Mexican Federation?

What political, social and citizen force would be needed to pick up those 5000 transgressors of the law in the mountains of the Mexican southeast and to take them to all the corners of Mexico?

How was it possible to celebrate the most massive exercise of dialogue that the history of this country has known?

What is there in the hearts of those men, women, children and old ones, who defied threats, lies and risks, in order to meet face to face with the zapatistas, to travel with them, to eat with them, to sleep with them, to speak with them, to respond with them, to walk with them?

Where was the fear of committing themselves, of participating, of being an actor and not a spectator?

What moved tens of thousands of Mexican men and women in national territory and abroad to raise the flag of the Consulta, not only without receiving any money whatsoever, but even having to pay for it out of their own pockets?

How can one count the dignity, the duty, the memory and the commitment of all those men and women workers, campesinos and campesinas, indigenous, students, punks, street gangs, political and social activists, members of non-governmental organizations, artists and intellectuals, homosexuals and lesbians, church base communities, priests, nuns, bishops, retired persons and pensioners, debtors, men, women, children, old ones and young persons?

V. Weights and Balances

On the scales of the bets in Mexico at the end of century, the right pan holds the weight of the Mexican political system. The rotting apple of Power, oozing blood and mud, weighs the scales of history dangerously to one side.

Unexpectedly, the moon of la realidad lets itself fall and rests her weight and path in the left plate of a scales at the point of coming down. Her gesture balances it somewhat, but not enough for the scales to move to where it should be, to the morning.

The unstable equilibrium of the Mexican night, still threatening to fall. It is obvious that there would be another history if another apple were to join with the moon...

VI. Another Apple, Another Politics

"Adam ate the apple
of the virgin Eve.
Newton was a second Adam
of Science.
The first knew
beauty.
The second a Pegasus
weighed down with chains.
And they were not to blame.
The two apples were
rosy
and new,
but bitter according to legend.
Both the embarrassed breasts
of the child innocence!"
Frederico Garcia Lorca

Scientists, political scientists, opinion leaders, chiefs of great and small political sects, all have gathered around Newton's fallen apple. All of them analyze, discuss, corroborate. Hours, days, weeks, months, entire years they take up. Finally they come to the irrefutable conclusion: the apple has fallen because the law of gravity so orders it. It is irremediable, the apple must fall, and, by doing so, it has done nothing other than to subject itself to the law of gravity. The political scientists congratulate each other and then begin great essays in order to show Newton's apple as an example of 'real-politik.' The chiefs of state talk of erecting a multiple monument in all the palaces of Power.

But, among the persons gathered around the future monument to modern politics, there is a strange person. He seems to be a shadow, without face and without name. If they ask him who he is, the shadow would respond "zapatista," but no one asks him anything. Everyone is very busy with their calculations, plans and programs.

But, while the scientists are making complicated calculations concerning velocity, trajectory, much weight, acceleration, wind resistance, impact and similar etceteras, and while the political scientists are re-writing Machiavelli and discussing prices with the modern princes, the zapatista approaches the apple, he looks at it, he smells it, he touches it, he listens to it...

The zapatista understands what the apple is whispering in his ear. He understands the challenge demanded by its cry. The apple says that fate does not order it to fall to the ground, and, since it is a transgressor of the law who is listening to it, it is about breaking the law of gravity.

The apple is an apple, but it is, above all, a lady. The zapatista is without face or name, but he is, above all, a gentleman. And the paper and pencil come out again, and the apple explains and the zapatista feels and agrees.

This apple that Newton has chained to the ground has another destiny. The moon is an apple. The scales of history need two apples in order to be able to look out at the morning clearly.

While managing to to work out the reverse flight of Newton's apple, the zapatista looks at the apple again, smells it, touches it, and, what else, gives it a tender bite.

The political scientists continue repeating and repeating to each other the 'real-politik,' and the etceteras that already fill the magazines and newspapers and the radio and television air time.

The zapatista continues making calculations. To fall upwards, that is the mystery whose solution has been proposed...

VII. The Invitation

Brothers and sisters:

In the name of the men, women, children and old ones of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, we welcome you to La Realidad and we tell you that this is our invitation for this encuentro:

We invite you, together, to discover and to enforce the law that returns Newton's apple to its original vocation, which is evidently none other than, after having given in to the assault of lips, teeth and tongue, to fall upwards and reach the sky, which is where there should be suns, moons, stars, and all the apples bitten into by history...

Vale. Salud and we we are letting the supreme government know that a foreigner has snuck into this meeting, and, transgessing the laws, he has participated in it. His name? Frederico. His last names? Garcia Lorca. He had to be disguised as dead and hidden among the pages of a book, arriving when "...in the slates/the wind, furious, bites."

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Subcomandante insurgente Marcos
Mexico, May of 1999.


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