Subject: ZAPATISTA DREAMS - Column Written 5/19/97 by Mumia Abu-Jamal
Over 500 years after European conquest of the Americas, the native, indigenous peoples (that is, their few surviving descendants) still live on the margins of society, and are the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick, the people most dispossessed of so-called 'New World' populations.
Many of us forget that so-called 'Indians', not Africans, were the first slaves of the Americas, pressed into service by Admiral Cristobal Colon (known to the Americans as Christopher Columbus) and crew to dig for gold, and if felt they were unproductive, their hands were chopped off. This Columbian injustice was the opening which brought genocide to untold millions of natives, and transformed an ancient, 'Indian' world into a 'New', white one. Thus, every country in this hemisphere, Canada, United States, Mexico, rests upon the shattered bones of native genocide, and may be seen as New Europe (Canada=New Britain and New France; US=New England, New France; Mexico=New Spain) for the mass importation of Europeans, the decimation of natives, and the forced captivity and enslavement of Africans.
In the southernmost "kneecap" of Mexico, in Chiapas State, an indigenous revolutionary movement is growing, energized by the Mayan and 'Indian' poor, who are injecting a remarkable vitality into the revolutionary tradition. In July - August 1996, the Zapatistas convened the First International Meeting for Humanity and Against Neolibertarianism (called The Encuentro, or The Encounter) in Chiapas. In their opening remarks one finds the emergence of something deeply moving in its vision and poignant in its poetic power. Please share it with us:
Let us introduce ourselves.
We are the Zapatista National Liberation Army. For ten years we lived in these mountains, preparing to fight a war.
In these mountains we built an army.
Below, in the cities and plantations, we did not exist.
Our lives were worthless than those of machines or animals. We were like stones, like weeds in the road.
We were silenced.
We were faceless.
We were nameless.
We had no future.
We did not exist.
To the powers that be, known internationally by the term "Neoliberalism," we did not count, we did not produce, we did not buy, we did not sell. We were a cipher in the accounts of big capital. Then we went to the mountains [of southeastern Mexico] to find ourselves and see if we could ease the pain of being forgotten stones and weeds. Here, in the mountains of southeastern Mexico, our dead live on.
Our dead, who live in the mountains, know may things. They speak to us of their death, and we hear them. Coffins speak and tell us another story that comes from yesterday and points toward tomorrow.
The mountains spoke to us, the Macehualob, the common and ordinary people.
We are simple people, as the powerful tell us.
Every day and the next night, the powerful want us to dance the X-tol [a "conquest dance" reenacting the struggle between the Christian and Moor, with the latter representing the conquered indigenous folk] and repeat their brutal conquest. The Kaz-Dzul,[half-foreigner, or Mestizo, Ladino] the false man, rules our lands and has giant war machines, like the Boob, [forest demon] half-puma and half-horse, that spread pain and death among us. The trickster government sends us the Aluxob,[a small forest spirit, a trickster] the liars who fool our people and make them forgetful.
This is why we became soldiers.
This is why we remain soldiers:
Because we want no more death and trickery for our people, because we want no more forgetting.
The mountains told us to take up arms so we would have a voice,
It told us to cover our faces so we would have a face.
It told us to forget our names so we could be named.
It told us to protect our past so we would have a future.
This is who we are. The Zapatista National Liberation Army. The voice that arms itself to be heard, the face that hides itself to be seen, the name that hides itself to be named, the red star that calls out to humanity around the world to be heard,, to be seen, to be named. The tomorrow that is harvested in the past. [fr. Dark Night field notes, #8, P O Box 3629, Chicago, IL 60690-3629, for reprints of Zapatista documents; p. 34.]
Named after the 'Indian' Revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919), whose forces fought against the Spanish dictator, Porfirio Diaz, under the slogan, "Libertad Y Tierra" (Liberty and Land), the Zapatistas draw their strength, their imagery, and their vision from the most oppressed segments of Mexican life, the indigenous, the conquered ones who have sustained themselves in the face of over 500 years of conquest.
That they exist is something of a miracle, and they bring something to life's table that is wonderful.
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