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(en) A Diez de Abril volunteer comes home

From Mark Connolly <mark.connolly@pmail.net>
Date Wed, 1 Mar 2000 12:27:21 +0000
Cc chiapas-i@eco.utexas.edu

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Here is the latest report from the Irish
Mexico Group on our camp in Diez de Abril, 
Chiapas.  See the URL at the end for
backgrounds details and earlier
reports from Diez.

A DIEZ DE ABRIL volunteer comes home


One of the shorter novels by Gabriel Garci'a 
Ma'rquez bears the title "Cro'nica de una Muerte 
Anunciada". My last days in Diez de Abril during 
January 2000 bore an uncanny similarity to the 
story that unfolds in the pages of that book. It 
seemed as if everything had already been 
announced, pre-determined by some power external 
to the characters who acted out the sorry, 
rather pathetic drama. Much of that last week 
was spent shaking people's hands, saying goodbye 
to friends I would not see again for some time. 
Constantly repeating the same phrases about 
helping from Ireland, about not forgetting this 
little community where I had spent most of my 
14-month stay in Mexico. Promising that I would 
return again. The people nodded confidently. "Te 
hallaste aqui' " they said - you settled in 
here. Of course I would return.

They were right of course. Diez de Abril had 
changed my outlook on life irrevocably, rather 
as if they had effected some kind of emotional 
hijack on me. More than the possiblity of my 
coming back to the community, what was really in 
doubt was my ability to actually leave it. I 
possessed a dishevelled Irish passport and a 
crumpled airline ticket that would physically 
transport me to a cold, distant island on the 
western edge of Europe, and yet it was doubtful 
whether that would really suffice.

As usual, life in the community during those 
final days proved far from predictable. I had 
planned to head to San Cristobal on January 
25th, to attend a mass given by Samuel Ruiz on 
the 40th anniversary of his becoming bishop of 
the diocese. Rumour had it that a lot of people 
planned to travel down from the communities, so 
it was certainly going to be a colourful, lively 
event. Samuel is due to retire soon, and his 
auxiliary bishop Raul Vera had been told he was 
being sent away to the diocese of Coahuila in 
the north. The Vatican had failed the people 
once again.

The extreme tension which prevailed in the 
communities during those days meant that we had 
seen very little of the local authorities since 
before Christmas. Many of them were friends of 
mine and I particularly wanted to spend time 
with them before leaving. So it seemed like a 
pleasant surprise when a couple of them rolled 
up just a few hours before I planned to leave.

They were both grim-faced. The army was in El 
Nantse, a rickety collection of wooden huts just 
four or five miles down the road. It was a 
divided community, with some 20 odd families in 
the PRI and the rest in the "organisation". 
Trucks occasionally stopped there to buy petrol 
from the shop, but otherwise no one ever gave it 
a second thought. Until today. President Zedillo 
had obviously decided to snub his nose at the 
Zapatistas by making an appearance in the 
conflict zone, bringing Governor Albores Guillen 
and a handful of journalists from the official 
media with him. The woods were swarming with 
commandos from the Air Force, and the approach 
to the town was being held by hundreds of armed 
police agents.

After some deliberation the locals had obviously 
decided there wasn't much to be gained by taking 
a potshot at the Prez, but they were worried 
about the fate of the EZLN supporters in the 
community. So they had decided to ask the peace 
campers to take a run down and check things out. 
Dodging the police and army would not be a 

As we made our way along the valley, we heard 
the noise of the departing helicopters overhead. 
After about an hour we emerged in one of the 
houses in El Nantse, slightly out of breath but 
curious to know what had occurred. It transpired 
that none of the people had been harmed, 
although they had been kept virtual prisoners in 
their houses for about 18 hours prior to 
Zedillo's arrival. One woman had been prevented 
from using the latrine behind her house - this 
being a clearly subversive acitivity. More than 
anything, the people were outraged that a 
poverty-stricken community with extremely tense 
relations between the two factions should have 
been so cynically used for a cheap publicity 

A passing truck gave us a lift back to Diez, and 
I ventured out the following morning. Some days 
later my plane touched down in Dublin airport. I 
was back where I had come from over a year ago, 
in a grey sluggish world where life revolves 
around sliced pans and instant coffee, and where 
it seems like most of us have forgotten how to 
fight. A depressing prospect perhaps, but when 
you carry an indigenous community around in your 
heart there is only one possible response.

To resist. 

******************        ********************
            Irish Mexico Group
The IMG should be contacted at lasc@iol.ie
              Zapatista Index
       Our peace camp at Diez de Abril

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