For - Mumia Abu-Jamal American Union
From - Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico > Mister Mumia:
I am writing to you in the name of the men, women, children and elderly of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in order to congratulate you on April 24, which is your birthday.
Perhaps you have heard of us. We are Mexican, mostly indigenous, and we took up arms on January 1 of 1994 demanding a voice, face and name for the forgotten of the earth.
Since then, the Mexican government has made war on us and pursues us and harasses us seeking our death, our disappearance and our definitive silence. The reason? These lands are rich with oil, uranium and precious lumber. The government wants them for the great transnational companies. We want them for all the Mexicans. The government sees our lands as a business. We see our history written in these lands. In oder to defend our right (and that of all Mexicans) to live with liberty, democracy, justice and dignity we became an army and undertook a name, voice and face that way.
Perhaps you wonder how we know of you, about your birthday, and why it is that we extend this long bridge which goes from the mountains of the Mexican southeast to the prison of Pennsylvania which has imprisoned you unjustly. Many good people from many parts of the world have spoken of you, through them we have learned how you were ambushed by the North American police in December of 1981, of the lies which they constructed in the procedures against you, and of the death sentence in 1982. We learned about your birthday through the international mobilizations which, under the name of "Millions for Mumia", are being prepared this April 24th.
It is harder to explain this bridge which this letter extends, it is more complicated. I could tell you that, for the powerful of Mexico and the government, to be indigenous, or to look indigenous, is reason for disdain, abhorrence, distrust and hatred. The racism which now floods the palaces of Power in Mexico goes to the extreme of carrying out a war of extermination, genocide, against millions of indigenous. I am sure that you will find similarities with what the Power in the United States does with the so-called "people of color" (African-American, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asians, Northamerican Indians and any other peoples who do not have the insipid color of money.)
We are also "people of color" (the same color of our brothers who have Mexican blood and live and struggle in the American Union). We are of the color "brown", the color of the earth, the color from which we take our history, our strength, our wisdom and our hope. But in order to struggle we add another color to the brown: black. We use black ski-masks to show our faces. Only in this way can we be seen and heard. We chose this color as a result of the counsel of an indigenous Mayan elder who explained to us what the color black meant.
The name of this wise elder was Old Man Antonio. He died in these rebel Zapatista lands in March of 1994, victim of tuberculosis which ate his lungs and his breath. Old Man Antonio used to tell us that from black came the light and from there came the stars which light up the sky around the world. He told us a story which said that a long time ago (in those times when no one measured it), the first gods were given the task of giving birth to the world. In one of their meetings they saw it was necessary that the world have life and movement, and for this light was necessary. Then they thought of making the sun in order that the days move and so there would be day and night and time for struggling and time for making love, walking with the days and nights the world would go. The gods had their meeting and made this agreement in front of a large fire, and they knew it was necessary that one of them be sacrificed by throwing himself into the fire in order to become fire himself and fly into the sky. The gods thought that the work of the sun was the most important, so they chose the most beautiful god so that he would fly into the fire and become the sun. But he was afraid. Then the smallest god, the one who was black, said he was not afraid and he threw himself into the fire and became sun. Then the world had light and movement, and there was time for struggle and time for love, and in the day the bodies worked to make the world and in the night the bodies made love and sparkles filled the darkness.
This is what Old Man Antonio told us and that is why we use a black ski mask. So we are of the color brown and of the color black. But we are also of the color yellow, because the first people who walked these lands were made of corn so they would be true. And we are also red because this is the call of blood which has dignity and we are also blue because we are the sky in which we fly, and green for the mountain which is our house and our strength. And we are white because we are paper so that tomorrow can write its story.
So we are 7 colors because there were 7 first gods who birthed the world.
This is what Old Man Antonio said long ago and now I tell you this story so that you may understand the reason for this bridge of paper and ink which I send to you all the way from the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
And also so that you may understand that with this bridge goes pieces of salutes and hugs for Leonard Peltier (who is in the prison at Leavenworth, Kansas), and for the more than 100 political prisoners in the USA who are the victims of injustice, stupidity and authoritarianism.
And with this letter-bridge walks as well a salute to the Dine (the Navajo), who, in Big Mountain, Arizona, fight against the violations of their traditional Dine religious practices. They struggle against those who prefer the large businesses instead of respect for the religious freedom of Indian peoples, and those who want to destroy sacred grounds and ceremonial sites (as is the case of Peabody Western Coal Company which wants to take lands without reason, history or rights-lands which belong to the Dine and their future generations.)
But there are not only stories of resistance against North American injustice in this letter-bridge. There are the indigenous, from the extreme south of our continent, in Chile, the Mapuche women in the Pewenche Center of Alto Bio-Bio who resist against stupidity. Two indigenous women, Bertha and Nicolasa Quintreman are accused of "mistreating" members of the armed forces of the Chilean government. So there it is. An armed military unit with rifles, sticks, and tear-gas, protected by bulletproof vests, helmets and shields, accuse two indigenous women of "mistreatment". But Bertha is 74 years old and Nicolasa is 60. How is it possible that two elderly people confronted a "heroic" group of heavily-armed military? Because they are Mapuche. The story is the same as that of the brothers and sisters Dine of Arizona, and the same which repeats itself in all America: a company (ENDESA) wants the lands of the Mapuches, and in spite of the law which protects the indigenous, the government is on the side of the companies. The Mapuche students have pointed out that the government and the company made a "study" of military intelligence about the indigenous Mapuche communities and they came to the conclusion that the Mapuche could not think, defend themselves, resist, or construct a better future. The study was wrong apparently.
Now it occurs to me that, perhaps the powerful in North America carried out a "military intelligence" study (this is frankly a contradiction, because those of us who are military are not intelligent, if we were we would not be military) about the case of the Dine in Arizona, about Leonard Peltier, about other political prisoners, about yourself, mister Mumia.
Perhaps they made this study and came to the conclusion that they might be able to violate justice and reason, to assault history and lose the truth. They thought they could do this and no one would say anything. The Dine Indians would stand by and watch the destruction of the most sacred of their history, Leonard Peltier would be alone, and you, Mister Mumia, would be silenced ( and I remember your own words "They not only want my death, they want my silence").
But the studies were wrong. Happy mistake? The Dine resist against those who would kill their memory, Leonard Peltier is accompanied by all those who demand his liberty, and you sir, speak and yell today with all the voices which celebrate your birthday as all birthdays should be celebrated, by struggling.
We have nothing big to give you as a gift for your birthday, it is poor and little, but all of us send you an embrace.
We hope that when you gain your freedom you will come to visit us. Then we will give you a birthday party, even if it isn't April 24th, it will be an unbirthday party.
There will be musicians, dancing and speaking, which are the means by which men and women of all colors understand and know one another, and build bridges over which they walk together, towards history, towards tomorrow.
Vale. We salute you and may justice and truth find their place.
>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
April of 1999
P.S. I read somewhere that you are a father and a grandfather. So I am sending you a gift for your children and grandchildren. It is a little wooden car with Zapatistas dressed in black ski-masks.
Tell your children and grandchildren that it is a gift that we send you, the Zapatistas. Explain to them places that there are people of all colors everywhere, just like you, who want justice, liberty and democracy for people of all colors.