To the relatives of the politically disappeared.
- "I dream in marble cloisters
- where, in divine silence,
- the heroes stand, at rest;
- At night, by the light of the soul,
- I speak with them: by night!
- They are in line: I pass
- among the lines: I kiss
- the hands of stone: the eyes
- of stone open: the beards
- of stone tremble: the stone swords
- are brandished: they weep:
- the sword shudders in the sheath!
- Mute, I kiss their hands."
- Jose' Marti'
April falls with stone hand over the Mexico of below. Sun and shadows abound during the day, and at night the moon negotiates a path mined with stars. This country now walks the path of uncertainty, that ravine, one of whose sides is threatened by oblivion and forgetting. On the other side, memory is made mountain and stone.
The dawn is plucking petals from lost lights when, in any city, in any house, in any room, in front of any typewriter, a mother (the heart of the flower of stone, hope) is writing a letter. Curious, the dawn leans over her shoulder and barely manages to steal a few lines: "and then you will imagine the sorrow that grieves me so..", "...for us, the mothers, who have lived as if with a dagger plunged into our chest for so very long..." The shadow brings the bowl of the pipe to the candle and lights the tobacco and the words which have already taken over the hands and which are, now, writing:
I did not know Jesu's Piedra Ibarra, or Ce'sar Germa'n Yanez Munoz. Not personally. From other photographs I can recognize them now in the poster, in front of me, that shines a "EUREKA!" on the upper part. In the center, a group of men and women are carrying a large banner that reads "PRESENTATION OF THE POLITICALLY DISAPPEARED," and it is filled with photographs of men and women, all young, all Mexicans. Among the images, I lightly mark with a pen that of Jesu's Piedra Ibarra and that of Ce'sar Germa'n Yanez Munoz.
I examine the faces of those holding up the banner: mostly women, and it can be seen from their faces that they are forever mothers. Are? Forever? They are, and they are forever, that is for certain. The poster could be from 25 years ago, from 15, from 5 years ago, from this very day. It tells me nothing other than the firmness of those gazes, their determination, their hope.
The "White Brigade," the paramilitary group with which the government operated the dirty war against the Mexican guerrillas of the 70's and 80's kidnapped Jesu's Piedra Ibarra on April 18, 1975, 25 years ago. Since then, nothing has been learned of him. The Mexican Federal Army detained Ce'sar Germa'n Yanez Munoz in February-March of 1974, 26 years ago. Since then, nothing has been learned of him. Thirty years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, right now in Mexico political opponents are being "disappeared."
I did not know Jesu's Piedra Ibarra or Ce'sar Germa'n Yanez Munoz, nor any of the politically disappeared men and women. Or, yes, I did know them. They had other faces and wore different bodies, but it was their same gaze. I knew them in the streets and in the mountains. I saw them raising their fists, flags, weapons. I saw them saying "NO!," shouting "NO!" until they were left without voice in their throats but still in their hearts. I saw them. I knew them. Then they were confederates, companeros, brothers, they were us. I knew them. I know them. Their feet and arms are other, but their steps are the same, their embraces are the same. I know them. I know us. Those faces are ours. Just take a black tipped pen and paint a ski-mask on the faces of those men and women.
Jesu's Piedra Ibarra, Ce'sar Germa'n Yanez Munoz. I knew their mothers. I knew Rosa, mother of Ce'sar Germa'n, and, some time later, Rosario, mother of Jesu's. I knew Rosa and Rosario, both mothers of fighters, both fighters, both seekers. Some years ago Rosa made as if she had died and went to look for Ce'sar Germa'n under the earth. Rosario continues above, looking for Jesu's. Mamas of stone, Rosa and Rosario look above and beneath the stones. They are looking for a disappeared, two, three, dozens, hundreds...
Yes, there are hundreds of politically disappeared in Mexico. What were these and other men and women guilty of to deserve from their enemies, we are not now saying life and liberty, but neither jail nor grave? At times a photograph is the only material thing remaining of them. But in the mothers' hands of stone, that photograph is made flag. And the flags are made to wave in the heavens. And the heavens is where they are raised by men and women who know that memory is not a date that marks the beginning of an absence, but rather a tree which, planted yesterday, rises up tomorrow.
Of what material can the homage be made to those anonymous heroes who have no other corner than the memory of those who share their blood and their ideals? Of stone, but not of just any stone. Perhaps of the stone of memory that their mothers were and are. Because there are mothers that are stone, stone of refuge, of strength, of home, of wall that sustains the word "JUSTICE" in their hearts.
The mothers of the disappeared are of stone. What can those ladies fear who have confronted so much, who have struggled so much? Not absence, because they have carried that for many years. Not pain, because they live with that each and every day. Not exhaustion, because they have traveled all paths time and again. No, the only thing the ladies fear is the silence with which oblivion, forgetting and amnesia covers itself, staining history.
The ladies have no weapon against that fear other than memory. But where is memory safeguarded when a frenzied cynicism reigns in the world of politics? Where can those little pieces of history take refuge, which now appear to be only photographs, and which were men and women with faces, names, ideals? Why does the left of today seem to be so overwhelmed by the present and to forget its absent ones? How many of those fallen in the long night of the dirty war in Mexico are nothing other than stepping stones in the rise of the left as alternative politics? How many of those that we are owe much to those who are not here?
Is it over? Has the nightmare that was called the "White Brigade" ended now? What is the government body now called that is in charge of disappearing those who are opposed to the system? Mexico: Has it done better with political disappearances since it has been "modern"? Can one speak of justice while political disappearances exist?
Those who are relatives (through blood, through ideas, through both) of the politically disappeared: do they have company today in their anguish, in their pain, in the absences? Where are the hands and shoulders for them? Where is the ear for their rebellion? What dictionary contains their determined search that will banish forever the words "irremediable", "irretrievable", "impossible", "oblivion", "resignation", "conformity", "surrender"? The politically disappeared: where are their executioners?
Those who disappeared them appear at the old and beleaguered house of the current politics in Mexico. They see that no one is turning around, that no eye is even turning to the forgotten chest of those who have fought so that there may no longer be a below to which one's gaze might fall. The executioners congratulate themselves then, they have been successful, they raise their cups and toast with blood the death of memory.
This country is called Mexico, and it is the year 2000. The century and millenium are ending, and the belief continues that silence makes things disappear: if we do not speak of prisoners and the politically disappeared, they will then be erased from our present and from our past.
But it is not so. With silence not only will our history vanish, but, most certainly, the nightmare will be repeated, and other mothers will be made of stone, and they will travel to all corners, above and below, saying, shouting, demanding justice.
The executioners are celebrating their impunity (and their impunity is not just they have no punishment, it is also that the disappeared continue to be disappeared), but also the silence.
Nonetheless, not everyone forgets.
Because, further below, where the roots of the Patria take life from subterranean rivers, the defeat of the executioners is brewing.
The images that memory raises in this heart from below are of stone, and those men and women who, barely touching the strong skin of history, are rising up and speaking, have some part of stone. And there is also a bit of stone in that modest school which, in the midst of the zapatista Realidad, where the name shines like a flag: "Jesu's Piedra Ibarra School."
The shadow crumples the written pages and sets fire to them with the same light with which he relights his pipe. He takes another clean page and, with concise tenderness, writes:
"April 18, 2000.
I do not know about the others, But we do not forget.
With affection, Your zapatista daughters and sons.
PS: Best wishes to all the ladies"
Below, the dawn continues its hot embrace, while the sea arranges the breezes of her hair. Above the moon, partial, reminds us that nothing will be complete if memory is missing. And "memory" is how call justice is called here.
>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, April of 2000.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN _______________________ Translated by irlandesa