These bridges which are little unarmed paper boats

Zapatista Army of National Liberation
Mexico, October 12, 1998.

To national civil society and to the members of the working meeting for the preparation of the encounter between the EZLN and the signatories, those who signed on and those who are neither signatories nor have signed on, but who wish to meet with us.


Brothers and sisters:

Greetings, bows, handshakes, hugs, respectful inclinations of the head.

From here, along with the pretense of aid to those affected by the rains, can now be added the grotesque operetta of some local elections which, despite the gifts and threats, did not manage to convoke even a fourth of the possible voters. So, mending the stage curtains and worn-out sets, the federal and state governments are not now counting on having their lies believed, but only that they do not cause scandals or indignation. They are counting on exhaustion, and that the pyrotechnics of an early presidential succession will distract you and us from the forgetting, from the postponements, from the legal victories of usury (ah, the state of law!! So far from justice and so close to crime!!), from the arbitrary acts and from the natural and the neoliberal catastrophes. We are waiting and we are preparing.

And, speaking of preparations, a few days ago we received a document with the main proposals and ideas which were made at your meeting on the...the..I do not know what day, but it's been some days since you met. Here we are sending you a response as to the place and date of the meeting. While we are meeting, we will continue to use these letters which some call "communiques," and which are no more than bridges to solve distances and differences, and so we go.

And things are not easy. Here you have, for example, these sheets of paper with ink (or this screen with the Internet with little lights, because we do not want to forget that we are in the age of the information highways). You read the letters and, with a little luck, you are able to understand what they are saying. And it seems easy to you, there the letters are now, arranged in a way which may or may not please, but understandable and, in any case, the work is yours, because the letters have to be arranged and made into what some call words, and manage to have meaning. But do not believe it, gathering all those letters was quite difficult, getting them to remain quiet required seven-tailed whips, threats of all kinds, supplication, pleas and promises. Then the nightmare began, trying over and over to put the jigsaw puzzle together so that it would approximate, even moderately, the other jigsaw puzzle which we have in our head. Then, and only then, science and technological development came to our aid, and we opted then for the very efficient and effective mechanism of making a little paper boat, painting a little flag with a fierce skull supported by crossbones, putting inside it a little rubber monkey which the sea gave me, and which did not know (the little monkey) that its future would be that of being a sailor in such a fragile craft.

And then we continue to wait for the rain, which is not fussy or considerate these days, and here comes a little stream with twigs and mud and then the little stream becomes clear and it takes the little paper boat towards the West and down the mountain, and hours later (believe me it does not fail) the little paper boat appears unarmed now in the middle of your newspaper or on your computer screen and up top it reads: "Zapatista Army of National Liberation," and a little further down it says: "To civil society and etcetera," and you know these letters are directed to you and you start to read and you make your best effort to put the puzzle together and we-others are sad here not for putting the puzzle together, but because the little paper boat is unarmed and it is a shame, look how pretty, with what gallantry it dodged little branches, little rocks and not so "little" toads, and then we cure the sadness by making more little paper boats and Pedrito says horses would be better and I that seahorses would be better and soon I have a flotilla with all of them and their aircraft carriers and Pedrito plays with the horses, and meanwhile my stupendous flotilla is brought back to reality by the rains, or the mud, and it is for that I am writing to you, because hope is also a little paper boat, a 'no' which becomes a yes. And then I remember I read Benedetti the other day, who is a man who looks to the heavens, and he saw a fleeting star and he made many wishes which are one single wish and, for example, he asked the just "to take up all their no's in order to establish the one great affirmation," and I already know that Benedetti says he is from Uruguay, but I do not believe it, he only says that to disturb dictatorships and to bother, in those customs and borders places - with which those from above fragment the dream of those from below - and below, as ever, no's are dreaming, and that is what I am saying, if we meet together and join all the no's which, like the just, are the great majority in this country, then perhaps we can try to put together the puzzle of the morning, and we will find, with so many well-accompanied no's, that is, with justice and dignity, there will come a yes, which is not many yes's, but is worth as much as the no's which stop it, and now I remember that Old Antonio said that dialogue is like putting a puzzle together and perhaps Old Antonio did not say it, but he should have said it, and all the better then are these bridges which are little unarmed paper boats, or, because we say many no's and you say many no's and at the best you and we suspect that your no's and our no's are the same no's, I say, no?

And so here we are lookingatandreadingeachother (which comes from the verb "mirolear," the action of jointly looking, in reciprocity, mutually). Bring your somewhat organized no's (because neither are we speaking of "no-ing" - the action of sharing no's - without thinking), we will carry ours in little paper boats, so if no one comes to meet with us we will be able to put them in the little streams which, most certainly, will not be lacking.

Vale. Salud and may the looks and the words be joined tomorrow.
>From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
Subcomandante insurgente Marcos.
October of 1998.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SPANISH IN MEXICO *********************************************** TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY irlandesa FOR THE FZLN AND NUEVO AMANECER PRESS ************************************************************ ___________________________________________________ NUEVO AMANECER PRESS- N.A.P.To know about us visit: *When reproducing NAP's translations; please give credit* e-mails: and

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