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(en) Mexico, Chiapas, A Message from Marcos - Reading A Video Part Six: Six Advances

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 7 Sep 2004 12:06:28 +0200 (CEST)

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Since colonial times, the Indian peoples of Mexico have suffered
under conditions of extreme poverty. Despite having been the
social class which contributed the most in the fight for
independence, in the wars of resistance against North American
and French invaders, and in the Mexican Revolution (and, if
you'll allow me, in the current democratization of the country -
even though it's the politicians and media who fight for the
"limelight"), the nation's debts to them have just kept piling up.
If anyone has given their lives and deaths so that this country
which is called Mexico could rise up as a sovereign, free and
independent nation, it has been the indigenous.

No movement has turned around to see how they were after the
victories or defeats. Whoever won, the Indian peoples lost. Those
who offered them improvements ended up enslaving them on the
haciendas. Those who offered them a free patria ended up
leaving them aside. Those who offered them democracy ended
up imposing governments and laws on them. But, as long as
Mexico's destiny has been at stake, the indigenous did not
hesitate, and they contributed the only thing they had: their

It has been almost 200 years since the independence of Mexico.
Two hundred years, and there are indigenous peoples who are
working and dying in conditions similar to those of colonial
times. The lands they had have been stripped from them,
sometimes violently, sometimes through deception. Their color,
language, dress, "way", have all been a cause for shame, for
mockery, for contempt. The name "Indian" has been used as an
insult, as a synonym for idler, for lack of intelligence, for
incompetence, for submission, for servility.

After so much, it would have been odd if they had not risen up in
arms. But they did. And, despite having been the object of
ridicule and contempt by those with white skin, they did not turn
their war into a war against a color. And, despite having been the
object of deceptions and subjected to lies by those who speak
"castilla", they did not direct their war against a culture. And,
despite having always been servants in the houses of those who
have everything, they did not spread destruction. They made a
war, their war. They are making it still. A war against the

This country is lucky. Where others destroy, these indigenous
build. Where others separate, these indigenous join together.
Where others exclude, they include. Where others forget, they
remember. Where others are a burden for everyone, they carry,
among other things, our history. And the EZLN is lucky for
having been enveloped by these peoples. If not...

If someone were to turn around and look at us, they would see
human beings, full of mistakes, defects, weaknesses, stumbles,
in sum, imperfect. And there's the problem, because if they were
supermen and superwomen, fine, then one could understand
what they have done. But since they are just like anyone else,
well then...how can I tell you?...like someone said: "I also have to
do something...because no one is going to do it for me."

And this is what the zapatista peoples are doing. They're not
waiting for the government to give them charity and speeches.
They are working to improve their living conditions, and they are
achieving that. Paradoxically, their conditions, although still a
long way from being ideal, are better than those communities
which are receiving federal "aid". And this can be confirmed live
(videos, even when they are being read, are limited), and it can
be investigated.

I am going to talk to now you about these improvements, which
have been possible because of the "third shoulder". I'll try not to
go on and on (I always intend to do that, and then pages and
pages appear, as if it were raining), but I invite you to learn the
details in the reports from each of the Juntas, and, obviously, by
visiting the Caracoles and the communities and by speaking with
the companeros.
Health and Education

Two of the advances have to do with health and education. The
"oversights" of the different federal governments in these arenas
have made "indigenous" synonymous with bad health and

Thanks to help from the "civil societies", the health of the
communities has begun to make a radical shift. Where there had
been death, there is beginning to be life. Where there had been
ignorance, there is beginning to be knowledge. In sum, where
there had been nothing, there is beginning to be something good.

In Los Altos of Chiapas, for example, the health system is
providing free medical care and, as far as their resources can
reach, medicines are also free. This is possible because of two

One is because of the economic support from civil society that
has allowed medical teams and medicines to be secured.

The other is because, instead of just concentrating on treating
illnesses, the health system is especially aimed at preventative
medicine. The objective is to reduce illnesses and, therefore, the
use of medicines. The free medical service has been maintained,
although with difficulties, throughout the entire year of operation
of the Good Government Junta in Los Altos.

In the five regions where the Good Government Juntas are
operating, health campaigns are being carried out which promote
the use of latrines and the cleanliness of dwellings. Campaigns
are also being undertaken, although they are just now becoming
widespread, to fight chronic illnesses (such as leshmaniasis or
"chiclero ulcer") and epidemics and in order to detect cancer in
women. In order to achieve this we have, in addition to financial
support for health projects, the solidarity (and in not a few cases,
heroic solidarity) of specialist physicians and nurses who,
stealing time from their rest, come to this land and distribute
knowledge (to midwives, "bonesetters", health promoters and
laboratory workers) and health to all the communities.
The Third Shoulder For Raising Up Life.

Regional and municipal clinics are being built, they are being
equipped and companeros and companeras are being trained to
use them. In the Tojolabal region, the first surgery was done on
the first of August, and a laboratory for processing medicinal
plants is being equipped. There are pharmacies in all the regions,
which are being stocked with money from the projects and

Generally speaking, the Good Government Juntas are seeing to
it, little by little, that each of the Autonomous Municipalities has
a basic community health structure: health promoters, health
campaigns, preventative medicine, micro-clinics, pharmacies,
regional clinics, doctors and specialists.

Regarding education, they are proceeding as they should proceed
in politics, that is, from below to above. Schools are being built in
all the communities (there were more than 50 this year in the
entire region, and they still need more), and those which already
exist are being equipped (there were some 300 this year),
education promoters are being trained (and they are taking
refresher courses), technological and secondary education
centers are being built (where the historic roots of Mexico will
indeed be taught).

Schoolteachers and builders, teaching specialists, men and
women with everyday names and faces, indigenous with and
without ski-masks, are raising schools and knowledge where
before there was nothing but ignorance.

Come. That way you will be able to see in various communities
in the different regions that a clinic has appeared, a pharmacy, a
school, that there's a lot of hubbub because a doctor is going to
examine the women for their illnesses, that "Mariya" already
knows how to write her name and she can tell you that the
ancient Mexicans had a very advanced culture and now she
wants to go to secondary school but who knows if they send her,
that a dentist is in the clinic and he's going to pull and fix teeth,
that there's a party over there because the chalkboards and
note-books and pencils and books have arrived, that Lencho was
going to die but he didn't and
that the school is really happy now, that the eye doctor has
already come, that Andulio is yelling because no one's found his
pencil, that there's a doctor who's a pediatrician and he's
explaining to a compa that his work isn't curing feet, that Uber is
saying "it wasn't me" and no one has asked him if he was the
one who grabbed Andulio's pencil, that there's a neurologist and
he helps if someone's thinking is bad and they feel faint, that the
children are going to be vaccinated, that those trucks are carrying
promoters who are going to a course in the Caracol and who
knows if the course is about health or education because "you'll
see that others will be going by any time, and it wasn't like that
before, no, before the only thing you'd find in the roads was cows
and oxen, don't be offended...listen, you're not from here, right?,
ah, then, don't feel bad, I'll explain right now, listen, back in
1994 all the Indians, or the masses like we say here, rose up, and
the zapatistas and then civil societies and...listen, don't you want
a pozol?, because the explanation is going to take a while..."
Food, Land, Housing

From the urgent to the immediate. The problem of the displaced
(primarily the ones of Polho') is the one which most concerns the
good government in Los Altos of Chiapas. Of the almost 3 and a
half million pesos which Oventik spent, approximately 2.5
million were earmarked for Polho'. But not just for food. A
municipal grocery store and a cooperative for displaced women
were built and put into operation.

The good government sees far and is making progress in a
block-making project ("It's for making blocks for construction,"
they explained to me when I asked if it were for making brains
for members of Fox' cabinet - I already said there were
"head-hunters" for the cabinet).

The block making can produce a chain reaction. In addition to
producing income for the compas (who can't go to their "work"
because of threats from paramilitaries), it will notably reduce the
price of construction materials, and they can go about improving
their houses. That's yet to happen, but Polho''s "block making
machine" has already started.

In order to improve everyone's nutrition, throughout the five
regions there have been put into operation cooperatives for pig
production ("No, they don't produce politicians," they clarified
before I could pose the standard question), for hens, sheep ("No,
they aren't PAN deputies voting for Lo'pez Obrador's ouster,"
they told me, and I'm damned if I'm going to ask anything else),
chickens and cattle (cows, mules and the odd ox - without
offending anyone), for vegetables and for fruit trees.

They inform me from La Garrucha that "agro-ecological
promoters have been trained in our Autonomous Municipalities
so that they can have experience in taking care of the
environment, how to care for animals, how to vaccinate them
and how to make the recovered lands produce better, and that's
why we've made advances in each municipality."

They are carrying out projects for shoemaking workshops, as
well as for rice de-husking, mechanics ("We've already repaired
the tractor, now we just need gasoline"), one called "sustainable
technology, health at home, energy saving and training" in La
Realidad region. In addition to distributing water tanks, builds
energy saving wood stoves. In several areas there are
blacksmithing workshops, potable water projects, textile
workshops and beehive production.

And so, on various flanks and with the help of the "civil
societies", the land, housing and food are improving.

With words from the selva: "Up to this point we have improved
the food a bit thanks to the lands which were recovered from the
great fincas, because we're harvesting more maize and beans
there, and the agro-ecological projects. Thanks to our
organization, we've been able to greatly reduce alcoholism,
which has allowed us to use the little money we have for food.
We've also been able to improve our houses, though not much,
but now we have better roofs, cleaner houses, with larger spaces
for planting fruit trees, vegetables, flowers and to have animals
outside the house."

Linked with these three things is commercialization.

The "coyotes" have been displaced with regional stores (in the
region of La Realidad, one is called "Everything for Everyone" -
which sounds, to me, like an invitation for looting - another is
called "El Caracolito", another "Don Durito"; in the Morelia
region, they are called "warehouse centers", and there you can
get coffee, brown sugar, crafts, embroidery, clay pots, ceramic
dishes, candles, baskets, furniture - all produced by the
communities and at low prices - in Roberto Barrios there are 3
regional warehouses). Included in the project is the acquisition of
transportation for moving goods. In this way the number of
cooperative stores and diners are increasing.

The primary advances made in zapatista autonomy, during the
period of the Good Government Juntas, have had to do with
improvement of living conditions, yes, but not just that...
Governing and Governing Oneself

Perhaps the most important advance which we see is that we are
learning to build, not without failures and stumbling blocks, a
good government:

"We've learned how to resolve our problems, how to make
agreements with other organizations and authorities, and also
with our communities, during this time, we've learned a lot about
governing in each municipality, and we've learned that that way
it's not easy for the bad government to corrupt us, because we've
learned our form of government through rotation, with the
experience of everyone and being guided by vigilance.

"This has been a great learning experience throughout the
year that it's not easy to buy us off with a soft drink.

"Another thing we've learned is to deal with people from other
cultures and other countries...

"We've learned through work, resolving problems, at first we
were nervous, before each municipality organized themselves
how they wanted, now the municipalities have learned to work
together, fairly, we've also learned to talk with other people who
aren't from our organization. Now we know that they aren't our
enemies, what happens is that they're being deceived, but we see
that little by little they're starting to learn and making agreements
with us..."

"Each municipal authority takes to his municipality what he's
learned in the junta, some of us have learned how to make acts
of agreement, to draw up projects, to operate equipment like
computers, the Internet, photo copiers, telephones and other
equipment which we're learning to operate..."

"We appreciate the fact that politically we have advantages,
we've learned to do the work through sacrifice. It's changed from
before, we've made mistakes, but that's how we're learning, little
by little.

"The advantages we see: all of us were governments, we didn't
have any leaders, it was a collective government, so all of us were
taught what each person knows, the projects are fairly
distributed, social organizations came to our office when their
problems weren't being solved..."

"Inside the Good Government Junta we don't need translators,
we have different languages and so anyone can come, whether
Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal and Spanish, we can understand each
other in our own language..."

These are the advances we have seen and felt in one year of the
Good Government Juntas.

But what if I'm just lying, what if I'm just talking abut this so you
think we've improved.

That's why I'm telling you to come, to walk the villages and then
they will add the audio and image to this video...

(To be continued...)

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, August of 2004. 20 and 10.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

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