To those who have fallen,
To those who are following,
To those who shall come
There goes my heated letter,
dove forged in fire,
with two folded wings and the address in the middle.
Bird who pursues only nest, air and sky, flesh, hands, your eyes,
and the space of your breath.
"The letters are late and they are not enough to say what one wants."
Jaime Gil de Biedma.
Performing a balancing act with its nocturnal hat, the March hare is indecisive. It still does not know whether to rain, or to be content with letting the sky be stained with black ink. It is now the women's March, from the 8th to the 21st, that of the zapatista women, of the insurgentas.
I have spoken before of the rebel women, the insurgentas, of our being beside them, of their small and large heroisms. Every March 8, we insurgents face them and give them the military salute. A small fiesta usually follows, with the meager resources of our camps in the mountains. The women have been in the mountains of the Mexican southeast from the beginnings of the EZLN. As time passed, more were to join that small delirious group, which the world would later know as the "Zapatista Army of National Liberation."
There are things, small, daily, that form part of the guerrilla life, and which are like small dues that the mountain imposes on those who dare to be part of it. I know each and every one of these difficulties, and I well know that, for the women, they are double. Not because we impose them like that, but rather because of things that come from other parts and other times. If someone were to admire the fact that someone would abandon their history and, as we say, "join up with the guerrillas" - joining the profession of insurgent soldier - they should stop and look at those who make that choice while being women. Their admiration would be double. In addition to confronting a particularly harsh environment, the insurgentas must also confront a cultural code which, beyond the mestizo-indigenous division, determines "spaces" (I mean attitudes, places, duties, work, responsibilities and the multiple etceteras added by a society built on exclusion) which are not for women. If an insurgenta thinks she has too much work with carrying, walking, training, fighting, studying and working along with the men, she is wrong. It could always be worse. And, in our case, what is "worse" is to be in command.
Primarily indigenous, the EZLN carries with it, not just the hope of something better for everyone, but it also drags along the world's troubles and blindness, which we want to leave aside. If, in the indigenous communities and in the cities, women must confront a world where being male is a privilege that excludes those different (women and homosexuals), in the mountain and as troop commanders, they must confront the resistance by the majority of the insurgents to take orders from a woman. If this resistance saw itself substantially diminished during the 1994 combat, this does not mean that it has completely disappeared. The male will invariably think that he can do it better than his commander, if it is a she, a woman. Something similar takes place in the villages, but I am specifically speaking now of the regular troops, of the insurgents and the insurgentas.
Over the last few days, there has been just one merit promotion in the EZLN, that is, a raise in military rank. An insurgenta, Maribel, rose from First Captain to Infantry Major. The now Major Maribel is still small and dark, she is still a woman, the only thing that has changed is that now she commands an entire regiment. To those problems which she confronts in her new status as commander of a zone, must be added those that correspond to her for being a woman. Like her, other companeras, with or without command, in arms and services, rigorously carry on, paying their dues of dedication and sacrifice, the same as all the combatants. But, if the part least exposed now to the glare of outside spotlights is the insurgent troops, the insurgentas add one more shadow to that of the ski-masks they wear: they are women. And, I should say, they also add a superior level of heroism to ours, the men. We might not understand it (in spite of regulations and statutes, of the revolutionary law of women, of talks and statements), but we shall not let it go unrecognized.
And alongside Maribel are other officers in what we call "Health Services," there are the Insurgent Captains Oli-Ale (the woman with the most active years within the EZLN) and Mo'nica, and Insurgent Lieutenant Aurora. There are more, officers and troops, some of whom I have already mentioned, years ago, on an occasion like this one. I shall not name some others because there has already been an occasion to do so. Before them, there was Alicia, from the first group that founded the EZLN in 1983, and the first woman with troop command (and so the first in the mountains; in confronting the problem of, being a woman and commanding men): a little later Luci'a arrived, who is the insurgent author of the words to the Zapatista Hymn (and of many of the songs that are heard today in the nights of the mountains of the Mexican southeast). And still earlier there were Murcia (the first woman in the zapatista guerrilla to fall in combat in 1974), Deni' Prieto S. (fallen in combat in 1974), Soledad (fallen in combat in 1974), Julieta Glockner (fallen in combat in 1975) and Ruth (fallen in combat in 1983, who taught me how to shoot).
Through all of them, and with them, is Lucha, whom we call "the stainless steel insurgenta." More than 30 clandestine years cause Lucha's ski mask to shine among us in a special way. Today, in spite of the cancer that she hardly lets bother her, Lucha continues to be the first among our guerrilla women, the best memory.
This March 8, saluting our current insurgentas, we are saluting all those who preceded them and us, and who, in more than one sense, transcend us.
I shall tell you something about the name "insurgentas." The anecdote could have taken place at any time and in any place in that neglected dailiness of the life of the mountains. I found myself leading a military training. Between exercise and tactical exercise, the guerrilla column was trotting to the rhythm of more or less obvious chants: I would, for example, shout "Who lives?" and the troops would respond in unison "The Patria!" That is how it was done and how it is done. One of the chants of combat march is when the commander asks "What are we?" and everyone responds "Insurgents!" On that day that I am now recounting to you, half the column was made up of women, and, when I shouted "What are we?" the response was a disorderly clamor. I thought they were tired and I gave the order to halt. Deployed in what is called a "firing line," the troops remained in position, at attention and in silence. I put myself in front of them and again shouted "What are we?" and then I could clearly hear that, while the males were responding "Insurgents!" the women were overcoming the men's voices, and they were imposing their shout of "Insurgentas!" I remained silent. I gave the men the order to "fall out." Then, facing just the women, I repeated "What are we?" They responded, without any interference now, strongly and firmly, "Insurgentas!" I kept looking at them, disconcerted, and I noted a slight smile on their faces. I went back to the "What are we?" and they repeated "Insurgentas!" I lit my pipe and smoked slowly, not looking at anything. I called them all to formation and told them, in so many words, "Today we learned that we are going to win. Are there any questions?" Silence. In a strong voice I ordered "Attention! Insurgents!"ÖI turned around to look at the compa~eras, and I added: "And Insurgentas! Fall out! Now!" The sound of the boots was, indeed, uniform. Thank goodness, I muttered to myself. Everyone went to the quartermasters'. I remained smoking, seeing how the afternoon, feminine as it is, was covered in sea and lilacs, in insurgentas.
The zapatista insurgentasÖNow, this time, I want to speak more about one of them. Concerning this woman I could say that she is one more of us, but for me she is not one more, she is unique. The Sea is not a literary character, she is a woman, she is a zapatista. She was the architect of last year's national and international consulta (and an important part of each and every one of the peace initiatives during these 6 years), and, as frequently happens with the zapatistas, her anonymity is double for the fact of her being a woman. Now, given that it is March 8, I wish to make it clear that, although most of the time the public figure belongs to me, many initiatives belong, in their design and realization, to other compa~eros and compa~eras. In the case of the consulta, it was a zapatista woman: The Sea. As soon as March 21 was over, she picked up her pack and joined the unit.
One must also remember that the mobilization of women (in Mexico and in the world) in that consulta formed the backbone, in the contact office (national and international), in the brigades, in the actions: women (of all sizes, origins, status, colors, ages) were the majority. And so, in order to salute the women who are fighting and, above all, those who are fighting and who are not seen, in several senses, the insurgentas appear in these lines. In order to celebrate them I have asked for the accompaniment of an old indigenous wise man: Old Antonio, and also of the most intrepid and gallant knight these worlds have ever seen: Durito, alias Nebuchadnezzar, alias Don Durito of the Lacandona, alias Black Shield, alias Sherlock Holmes, alias Durito Heavy Metal, alias whatever occurs to him). Sale pues, best wishes to the rebel women, to those without face, to the insurgentasÖ
Down below, March is once again repeating its three first letters in the eyes which, wheat in the light, it reads. Fito Pae'z accompanies me to give a gift of dress and love, and I went ahead, on the little tape player, with "everything you tell me is too much." I take advantage of a gust of wind, and I reach Don Durito, who is painstakingly sawing and nailing I know not what on his sardine can. I already know that I have said before that it is a pirate ship. Durito has, in fact, turned around to look at me with eyes like sharpened daggers when I have written "sardine can," but I have done so only so that the reader might remember that Durito is now Black Shield (Escudo Negro), the famous pirate who shall inherit a truly difficult trust from the dead Barbarroja [Redbeard]. The vessel on which Durito, excuse me, I meant Black Shield, arrived here is called "learn from the mistakes of others," for reasons still unknown to me. Durito has proposed to me that I accompany him in the search for a treasure. I have already recounted all of this in a previous letter, and so I shall not go on about it. The fact is, in this March of the sea, I have come to where Durito is working in order to see what he is doing and in order to ask for guidance and advice.
Durito is giving the last blows to what I surmise to be a topmast with velacho, when I clear my throat in order to let my presence be known. Durito says:
_ Good, there it is. Now, with you in the bow, no adversary shall be capable of opposing us.
I smile melancholically and look at the vessel with indifference. Durito scolds me: - It is not just any "ship." It is a galley, a classic vessel, destined for the war in the 16th century. The galley can be propelled by sails or by the oars used by the so-called "galley slaves."
He pauses and continues: - And, speaking of sails [velas], might one know why the sadness is veiling your face?
I make an "it's not important" gesture.
Durito interprets it and says: - Ah! Love sicknessÖHe slowly puts the hammer and saw aside, disembarks and, taking out his little pipe, he sits down next to me.
- I assume, my future run prow, that what has you sad and heavyhearted is nothing other than a she, a female, a woman, in fact. I sigh. Durito continues:
- Look, my dear bathtub sailor, if the one keeping you up is a woman, but a unique one, then the illness is serious, but the remedy possible.
- I confess - It so happens that, yes, it is a woman, a unique one, she who is sea for many more reasons than the "Mariana" which names her. One unlucky day I drifted away from her, and now I cannot find the means or manner of taking refuge in her damp, of having bad storms forgotten, of her forgiving me.
Durito takes a long puff and sententiously declares:
- Your lacks and losses are great and serious, but I can give you some counsel if you promise to follow my directions to the letter.
I said "yes" with an enthusiasm that made Durito jump with surprise. He readjusts his eye patch as best he can and says:
- It is necessary to resort to a spell. In love, the world is, as always, a puzzle, but it so happens that, if a unique one finds a unique one, the pieces make sense and take form, and the puzzle is put off and breaks faces ,arms and legs.
- And hearts ñ I say, rubbing the anguish I am feeling in mine.
- Good, where I'm going is that the spell will only have an effect if she, the Sea in your case, is willing to submit to it, because, otherwise, all will be useless. I mean that the spell will not work if the person on whom the spell is cast is not aware that she is being charmed.
- A strange spell, this ñ I say.
Durito continues without paying me any mind: - Bring her a good memory, one of those which serve for seeing ahead and far away, one that shall make her lift her gaze and take it long and deep. Tell her to look ahead, not to the following day, not to the next week, nor to the coming year. Further ahead, further away. Do not ask her what she sees. Only look at her looking ahead. If you see that her gaze smiles with tenderness, then you will be forgiven, and there shall be wheat and beach and sea and wind, and you will be able to sail once again, and that, and nothing else, is what love is.
Durito picks up his things once again and continues fixing the galley. The destination of the trip is still unknown to me, but Durito remains silent, letting me know that I should go and carry out what he has told me.
I wander about through the dawn a bit more. I seek to find The Sea in bed. I know that you are thinking that I am speaking of just bed, but here bed is any bed or table or ground or chair or air, as long as our shadow is doubled in the other, never one, always two, but so close together. I think that, if The Sea is sleeping, it will be a problem to wake her up with this absurd story of the spell. Then it occurs to me that I should address the issue indirectly, approaching while whistling some tune, commenting on the weatherÖor trying to write a love poem.
But the problem, I sense, is that the poem of love holds a lock, an ultimate secret, which only a few, a very few, almost no one, is able to open, to discover, to free. One is left with the impression that what one feels for someone has already found its perfect, brilliant, complete formulation in someone else's words. And one crumples up the paper (or, in cybernetic times, decrees the file in question "deleted") with the commonplaces in which feeling is made word. I do not know much of love poetry, but I do know it enough that, when my fingers resort to something like that, I sense that it seems more like a strawberry malted than a love sonnet. In short, poetry, and more specifically, love poetry, is for anyone, but not everyone has the key that opens its highest flight. Because of that, when I am able to, I call on the poets, friends and enemies, and, to the ear of The Sea, I bring back the plagiarisms which, barely stammered, appear to be mine. I suspect that she knows, in any case, she does not let me know, and she closes her eyes and lets my fingers stroke her hair and her dreams.
I draw close and I think and I feel and I say to myself such desires to return to the beginning, to start again, to go back to the first stroke of the first letter, the "A" of the long alphabet of the company, to return to the first sketch that the two of us made together and to begin to grow once more, and, once more, to hone the point of hope. There she is. She sleeps. I draw close andÖ
And all of this comes to mind, or to the story, because, in this sea of March, everything seems to smell of desolation, of impasse, of irretrievable fall, of frustration. Because I am sure that it would seem strange to all of you that I would dare, today, to prophesy the return of the flags of all colors, peopling, from below, fields, streets and windows. And I dare to do so because I am looking at this zapatista woman, her tender determination, her dream. I look at her and, through her and, above all, with her, I am promising and promising myself, new airs for those sister flags, banners, volanderos, that disturb and make the rich and poor anxious, although for different reasons the one and the other. I promise, and I promise myself, right in the midst of the most tedious night, another tomorrow, not the best, but better. For this woman who, in the mornings and in front of me, pricks up her ears and puts on her pistol while telling me "there comes the helicopter" as if she were saying "they are knocking at the door." For this zapatista, for this woman, and for many like her who, two and three times behind, carry the weight so that the little good that remains does not fall, and in order, with that material, to begin now to build that which today seems so far away: the morning.
Vale. Salud to all, and, for her, a flower.
>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Mexico, March of 2000.
PS THAT FULFILS THE DUPLICITY - I am attaching here the memory that I gave to the Sea. This is how this Letter 6e. achieves its double wing and takes the flight necessary for the entire letter. Sale y vale:
Story for a Night of Anguish
I tell the Sea that, for some reason that I cannot manage to understand, Old Antonio might have read the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in part. Instead of becoming impassioned with xenophobia, Old Antonio took everything that was good from the entire world, without regard for the land that birthed them. Referring to good persons from other nations, Old Antonio used the term "internationals," and he used the word "foreigners" only for those indifferent to the heart, not caring whether they were of his color, language and race. "Sometimes there are foreigners in the same blood," Old Antonio said, in order to explain to me the absurd stupidity of passports.
But I tell the Sea that the history of nationalities is another history. What I am remembering now concerns the night and its paths.
It was one of those dawns with which March affirms its delirious vocation. A day with a sun like a six-tailed whip was followed by an afternoon of grey storm clouds. For the night, a cold wind was already gathering black clouds above a faded and timid moon.
Old Antonio had passed the morning and afternoon with the same calmness with which he was now lighting his cigarette. A bat flew about us for an instant, most certainly disturbed by the light with which Old Antonio gave life to his cigarette. And, like the tzotz, it appeared suddenly, in the middle of the night.
The History of the Air of the Night.
When the greatest gods, those who birthed the world, the very first, were thinking about how and for what they were going to do what they were going to do, they made an assembly in which each one brought forth his word in order to know it and so that the others would know of it. And so each one of the very first gods were bringing forth a word and they were throwing it into the center of the assembly and there it bounced and it reached other gods who grabbed it and threw it once more, and so the word went like a ball from one side to the other until everyone then understood it and then they made their agreement, the most great gods who were those who birthed all things we call worlds. One of the agreements they found when they brought forth their words was that each path has its traveler and each traveler his path. And then they went about making things complete, or, rather, each with his partner.
That is how the air and the birds were born. Or, rather, that there was not air first and then birds to travel it, nor were birds made first either, and then air, so that they could fly it. They did the same with water and the fish who swim it, the land and animals who walk it, the path and the feet which travel it.
But, speaking of birds, there was one that protested very much about the air. This bird said that it would fly better and more quickly if the air did not oppose it. This bird grumbled very much, because, even though its flight was agile and swift, it always wanted to be more and better, and, if it could not be so, it was, it said, because the air had become an obstacle. The gods became annoyed at how much bad this bird was speaking, who flew in the air and complained of the air.
And so, as punishment, the first gods took away its feathers and the light in its eyes. They sent him naked out into the cold of the night and blindly he would have to fly. Then his flight, once graceful and light, become disordered and clumsy.
But once found ñ and after many blows and setbacks ñ this bird was given the ability to see with its ears. By speaking to things, this bird, or the Tzotz, guides its path and knows the world, which answers him in a language only he knows how to listen to. Without feathers to dress him, blind and with a nervous and hurried flight, the bat rules the night of the mountain and no animal travels the dark air better than he.
>From this bird, the Tzotz, the bat, the true men and women learned to grant great and powerful value to the spoken word, to the sound of thought. They also learned that the night contains many worlds and one must know how to listen to them in order for them to come forth and to flourish. The worlds of the night are born with words. Through sounds, they are made light, and they are so many they do not fit in the land and many end up adapting themselves to the sky. That is why they say that stars are made on the ground.
The most great gods also birthed men and women, not so that one would be the path of the other, but so that they would be, at the same time, the other's path and traveler. They were made different in order to be together. The most great gods made men and women so that they would love each other. That is why the air of the night is the best for flying, for thinking, for speaking and for loving.
Old Antonio ends his history of that March. In this March, here, the sea is sailing a dream where the word and bodies disrobe, they travel the worlds without colliding, and love can take flight without anguish. Up there a star discovers an empty space on the ground and quickly lowers itself, leaving a momentary rent in the window of this dawn. On the little tape player, Mario Benedetti, a Uruguayan of the entire world, is saying "You can go, I am staying."
ANOTHER PS - Did the Sea accept the spell? It is, as I do not know who said, a mystery.
Vale de nuez. Salud and March is, as always, coming in very crazily.
The Sup, waiting as by law, that is, smoking.
Marcos to the insurgentas Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 23:39:39 GMT Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ________________________ Translated by irlandesa