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(en) Mexico, The True Homage to Revolutionary Hero General Emiliano Zapata Salazar Is in the Streets

Date Fri, 14 Apr 2006 08:37:52 +0300


CUERNAVACA, MORELOS; APRIL 10, 2006: While some kept
quiet or sung hymns in his memory, Zapata, alive and kicking,
walked today among those who have never taken him for dead.
The Other Campaign, in Morelos during the 87th memorial of
General Emiliano Zapata's death, is giving the “Caudillo of
the South” the honors due to him: no, they're not taking flowers
to his grave; they're fighting, as he taught them to, another
battle for land. They are moving to the encampment in defense
of the Willow Gorge to lend a hand to those who, occupying the site
and chaining themselves to the trees, were threatened with forcible removal.

In the morning, members of the Civic Front for the Defense of the
Casino de la Selva (the struggle that brought them together five years
ago) feared the worst. Stationed in front of them, nearly 50 members
of the state police, mounted police and elite “grenadier”
forces — in addition to vehicles from the Department of Urban
Development and Public Works, the Public Ministry and cameras
from the state government — awaited the moment of
confrontation. From nine o'clock in the morning on, they were
ready to act the moment that the court order blocking the
construction ran out, at 11 o'clock, two hours later.

The Willow Gorge, which was closed in by houses as
Cuernavaca's urban sprawl expanded, seemed safe in its hiding
place from the neoliberal pillaging that enjoys the National Action
Party's (PAN's) seal of approval in Morelos. But the safety
of the giant fig and willow trees could not last under a government
determined to end Cuernavaca's “eternal spring.”

An already polluted brook runs through the gorge. The roots of the
trees, as thick as a person, are exposed. Color-coded and numbered
labels mark the trees' fate. Some will go to the nearest garbage
dump. There will be a show of replanting others. “We have given
them courses in this, explained to them the treatment and the steps
to follow,” says one of the activists, disgusted with a government
so inept that it needs to be told how to do its job, “and not even
that worked.” The way the government plans to
“replant” the trees, she says, will kill them within 15 days.

The plan by the businessmen (those from the construction company
and from the company otherwise known as the state government)
was to fill the gorge in and build a bridge over it, which would
connect the northern and southern part of a four-lane avenue. About
a dozen fig trees block their entry into the gorge and are the first
target. Although their roots are already damaged, neighbors and
environmentalists chained themselves to the trees to stop the
destruction of this place that serves as a nearly invisible but
indispensable lung for the city.

“We will be here until the ultimate consequences,” says
Flora Guerrero, a recognized environmentalist that knows such
“ultimate consequences” well when it comes to confronting
the repressive forces of the Morelos government. Chained to the first
tree by the entrance, she looks toward the “guardians of
order” a few hundred feet away while holding a blue flag with an
image of the Earth in the center, that planet that is “falling to
pieces in our hands.”

If only this were just about the bridge, or manic urban planning from
a Department of Public Works that has nothing better to do. But no.
The interests here are many. The company responsible of the project
is PLARCIAC, the favored construction firm of the administration of
governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal. PLARCIAC is owned by Sergio
Barrenchea, who, it goes without saying, is a close friend of
Cajigal's. Also at play are substantial contracts, already signed,
with Autotransportes Rojo de Morelos and MIDA Transportation
(the latter continues to profit despite the work being stopped, as it
rents out the backhoes). As if that were not enough, to one side of
the planned avenue a shopping mall project is already beginning.
That land is the property of Eduardo Fernández Placencia, former
secretary of public works for Cuernavaca; the same man responsible
for the giant Plaza Galerías shopping mall. In other words, this
project is as transparent as water.

“I came to play here as a child; I don't want to see an avenue
full of cars, I want to continue to see the trees and for my own
children to see them when I have kids,” says Carlos, who is only
14 years old but is already aware of the responsibility he has to future
generations. He assumes this responsibility on the open ground,
sitting in the shadow of a tree he is chained to by the waist, “no
matter what happens.”

They are few, they seem vulnerable, an easy meal for the menacing
government forces standing by a few feet away. So much so, that
two ambulances are nearby, ready “for whatever happens.”
What a mistake: they never counted on the Other Campaign, already
on its way, to burst onto the scene, showing the demonstrators that
“they are not alone.”

Later on, Subcomandante Marcos recalled: “In the morning
when we were about to depart for Tetelcingo and then to Cuautla,
we got the information about the compañeros who were about to
be evicted…. Immediately, we communicated with the Other
Campaign, with the compañeros and compañeras who have
shared our fortune, receiving blows, threats, attacks and have
remained firm in their work to make our word grow and reach far. I
explained to them what was going on and asked if they would be
willing to come and confront, along with these compañeros and
compañeras, the state police of Morelos. Immediately, they said
yes.

“We had to go where the Other Campaign could show that it
does not matter the number, but the heart and the struggle that is
being defended, and that's why we decided to come here.”

At that moment, the professional “ears,” or spies, of the
government that tend to invite themselves – sometimes few,
sometimes more – to the caravan and the Sixth Commission,
alerted their base near the Gorge and ordered a retreat. Improvised
and falling over themselves, they nervously got into their vehicles
and began to drive away.

“They're leaving!” yelled the happy members of the
Civic Front. Others of us weren't so sure, so we followed. No,
they hadn't left. They were hiding several blocks away,
barricading themselves inside the nearby police academy, where they
hoped to outwait the nosy Zapatistas. Make your noise, and then
leave, we'll come back and then you'll see… But they
waited all day, because the caravan not only didn't leave, it also
called other nosy supporters.

As the hours passed, what emerged was a beautiful example of what
the Other Campaign is constructing. The adherents that were
waiting in Cuautla found out about what was happening and without
a doubt they decided: “We'll go where we are needed.”
By noon the encampment welcomed other arrivals, including
campesinos from Michoacán belonging to the Emiliano Zapata
Union of Communal Farmers (UCEZ in its Spanish initials) and
representatives from indigenous communities. At the front was
doña Eva Castañeda, widow of Efrén Capiz, both respected
role models of campesino and indigenous struggles, who came by to
greet the guardians of the Gorge, offering them unconditional
support because, as she said, “We, too, dedicate ourselves to
defending the land, our Mother Earth.”

Pretty soon, they were no longer dozens. But it did not stop raining
over the camp of solidarity. The camp quickly became a celebration
reveling in the fresh air exhaled by the Gorge.

The residents of the neighborhood, both surprised and happy with
the support, offered whatever help they could to the unexpected
campers, who knew they would be there “as long as it
takes.” A huge meal was prepared and all sitting on the grass
enjoyed the food.

Right on time to quench the dry throats came a well-stocked truck
sent by the compañeros of the Pascual Cooperative (who run the
popular, worker-owned Boing fruit juice company), handing out
assorted drinks for everyone; the struggle now tasted of fruit.

Bringing up the rear were contingents from the Party of
Communists and the Communist Youth, members of
adherent-collectives of the Other Campaign in Morelos, and the
alternative press, which, despite the unusual presence of the national
commercial media, is always a crushing majority.

By the afternoon there are groups sitting in the grass reach as far as
the eye can see from the entrance of the Gorge. A few streets away
the “university caravan” made its entrance, and the
participants parked their bus. Dozens of students from the National
Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) poured out with
contagious exuberance. “Let's see, let's see, who is
boss around here: the organized Other Campaign or the
government-sons-of-bitches.” From then on, the tone picked up.
The insults for Estrada Cajigal were rhythmic, creative and varied.
Let's see if they hear them from their porno helicopter (which
had been circling already for a while).

The rebel racket was at its apogee. And yet, there was more. From
far away chants could be heard accompanied by a familiar sound:
clanking machetes. Excitement. Heads turned down the street.
Campesinos staring back. More than 200 members of the
People's Front in Defense of Land (Frente de Pueblos en
Defensa de la Tierra), “los de Atenco,” of course.
Immediately the cause becomes theirs and the willows must have
shook hearing them chant “barranca, te queremos, por eso te
defendemos” (“the Gorge, we love you, and that's why
we defend you”). If the willows did not shake, then certainly
their guardians did, no longer able to contain their happiness.

The Sixth Commission waited. Delegate Zero later revealed: “A
few hours ago, when we were being cooked there like tamales inside
the van, a reporter came by and asked us what we were waiting for,
and I told him: ‘We're waiting for the Seventh Cavalry.'
A moment later the students and professors of the UNAM arrived.
But these aren't just any professors and any students, they were
the ones that fought and continue to fight, and it is thanks to them
that the National Autonomous University of Mexico remains public
and free.

“As soon as the sound of the machetes from the Frente de
Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra was heard, we were complete, and
we knew that the Seventh Cavalry had arrived.”

Now complete, their secret weapon – their word – delivered
from a box atop a van emerged from the sound system provided by
the Pascual Cooperative.

“The words that come from my heart will never be enough to
thank you for saving us today from the talons of the state police. You
literally saved our lives,” said Flora Guerrero, on the verge of
tears.

Greeting the crowd next were the representatives of the UNAM
students, convinced as ever that Zapata was not to be found in the
hypocritical honors bestowed by congressmen, but “right here
among all of us.” Representatives of the Autonomous University
of Chapingo, also fighting for free education, said the same.

The campesinos of Atenco were the next to uplift the defenders of
the Gorge, telling them not to give up just because they might be
few: “Because we may be thirty bastards, but those thirty
bastards will give that prick-of-a-government a damn good
fight!”

Luis Alfonso Vargas, on behalf of the caravan said humbly: “We
feel very honored to have served for something today. I hope that
tomorrow we can serve this movement that we are building so that
we can change this country and kick out these sellouts out of the
government of Mexico.”

The assembled multitude began opening a path among the crowd,
and a wheelchair strolled out. It was veteran jaramillista Félix
Serdán and his wife, and they got on the stage amid raucous
applause and cheers. Don Félix warmly accepted the praise and
respect of the crowd, and joined in singing the corrido de Jaramillo.
He pled that they continue their fight, reminding the crowd: “We
are in a permanent fight against the a government that is clumsy and
selfish.” But we are also, he said, “in a moment in which
Mexico must wake up.” Despite his visibly trembling hands,
from his still formidable chest rumbled out the words, “Viva
Zapata, viva Jaramillo, viva (Pancho) Villa and long live the fighting
people of Mexico.” Delegate Zero dedicated his speech to Don
Félix, an honorary rebel major of the Zapatista Army of National
Liberation.

Night falls. At the entrance of the Gorge, no one is chained to the
trees any longer – it's no longer necessary: like they'd
pass their machines through the thousands that have joined this
cause.

The lesson is learned. Summarizing that lesson are the chants that
don't stop. They offer support for those who are part of the
Other Campaign, wherever they are, whatever their fight and no
matter how small it may seem: “You are not alone” and
“Not one step back.” To the powerful and the businessmen:
“if you want war, we'll give it to you, but we won't sell
our land.” To the government of Morelos, the warning:
“We'll kick out Cajigal from the Gorge, from the Gorge
we'll kick him out.” And to Zapata, the most living and
faithful homage for a tenth of April. way, to create different social
relations, is a guiding principal.
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