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(en) Mexico, Building a Bridge of Struggle across the Border (Marcos Interview)]

Date Sun, 12 Mar 2006 10:40:45 +0200

I conducted this interview with Subcomandante Marcos, at The Center for
the Documentation of Son Jarocho in Veracruz. We talked about the Zapatista's
Other Campaign, change in Latin America, Zapatista women's struggle, and
Latinos in the United States. Marcos is currently on a six-month tour of
Mexico to organize and advance the Zapatista's Other Campaign. This interview
is an excerpt from the forthcoming Open Media book, The Other Campaign, by
Subcomandante Marcos with an introduction by Mexican public intellectual, Luis
Hernández Navarro to be published by City Lights Books,
April 2006. All royalties from the book will benefit
indigenous media projects in Chiapas, Mexico.

Bogado: Why The Other Campaign now -- for 2005 and 2006?

Marcos: Well, because we, as Zapatistas, had to endure a
process of preparation--like the uprising in 1994, where we
prepared for 10 years to realize it--we also had to engage
in a process of preparation for The Other Campaign.

The Other Campaign was actually born in 2001, when Mexico's
three political parties--the PRI, the PAN and the
PRD--denied the COCOPA initiative for Indigenous cultural
rights. So at that point, we evaluated that the path with
the Mexican political class was exhausted--we had to find
another path. The options were: War, going back to fighting;
or staying quiet in silence and waiting to see what would
happen; or doing what we are doing now.

When we decided that we had to prepare for this possibility,
we anticipated that it would be very likely that people who
had supported us up until that point for Indigenous cultural
rights would take back their support at the hour we
distanced ourselves from the political parties, especially
from the so-called "institutional left": the PRD. But at the
same time, we had to prepare ourselves against a surgical
strike, a strike from the military or from the police--under
any pretext, that would attempt to behead the EZLN and leave
it without direction.

For us, the initiative of the Sixth Declaration is of the
same magnitude, or maybe even greater, than our Declaration
of War in 1994. We had to be prepared to lose our entire
leadership. Because, according to our method, at the same
time that we set out to do something, we have to put our
leaders in front to set the example. We had to be ready to
lose not only Marcos, but all of our known leadership, the
ones that will be going out to do the political work: the
Comandantes, like Comandanta Esther, Comandante Tacho,
Comandante David, Comandante Zebedeo, Comandanta Susana . .
. the ailing Comandanta Ramona was also going to come out,
but unfortunately [she died] . . . . All of us who are more
or less publicly known were planning to come out, so we had
to prepare for that, and we had to make plans for the first
exploratory tour, which has fallen on me, which we are doing

Right now we're in Veracruz--Southern Veracruz--and in the
event that something happens, the chain of command will be
clear; nothing of what we've gained so far will be lost, or
we will at least be able to defend it as much as possible.
It could not have been before, and it could not have been
after, because if we were already prepared, there was no
need to wait longer to do it.

We specifically choose the electoral period, so that it
would be clear that we want to do something else, and so
that people could really see and could compare and contrast
our political proposal--which many people have already
joined from other organizations and groups--with politics
from the top. Always, since our birth, we've insisted on
another way of doing politics. Now, we had the chance to do
it without arms, but without stopping being Zapatistas,
that's why we keep the masks on.

Bogado: For people in Latin America, there is often a lot of
hope in politicians like Lula in Brazil, Kirchner in
Argentina, or Chavez in Venezuela. How do you see this
change in the so-called left in Latin America?

Marcos: We always turn to look towards the bottom, not only
in our own country, but in Latin America particularly. When
Evo Morales presented this invitation for his presidential
inauguration, we said that we were not turning our gaze
upwards, neither in Bolivia nor in Latin America, and in
that sense, we don't judge governments, whose judgment
belongs to the people who are there. We look with interest
at the Bolivian indigenous mobilization, and the Ecuadorian
one. In fact, they are mentioned in the Sixth Declaration.

The struggle of the Argentine youth, fundamentally, this
whole piquetero movement, and of the youth in general in
Argentina, with whom we strongly identify with. Also with
the movement to recover memory, of the pain from what was
the long night of terror in Argentina, in Uruguay, in Chile.
And in that sense, we prefer to look at the bottom, exchange
experiences and understand their own assessments of what is

We think, fundamentally, that the future story of Latin
America, not only of Mexico but for all of Latin America,
will be constructed from the bottom--that the rest of what's
happening, in any case, are steps. Maybe false steps, maybe
firm ones, that's yet to be seen. But fundamentally, it will
be the people from the bottom that will be able to take
charge of it, organizing themselves in another way. The old
recipes or the old parameters should serve as a reference,
yes, of what was done, but not as something that should be
re-adopted to do something new.

Bogado: What can men do, for example, to increase the
representation of women anywhere in the world--from families
to cultural centers and beyond?

Marcos: In that respect, well, for us and for all
organizations and movements, we still have a long way to go,
because there is still a really big distance between the
intention of actually being better, and really respecting
the Other--in this case women--and what our realistic
practice is.

And I'm not only referring to the excuse of "this is how we
were educated and there's nothing we can do . . ." which is
often men's excuse--and of women too, who obey this type of
thinking and argue for it one way or another among other women.

Something else that we've seen in our process is that at the
hour that we [insurgents] arrived in the communities and
they integrated us as part of them, we saw significant,
unplanned changes. The first change is made internally among
the relationship between women. The fact that one group of
indigenous women, whose fundamental horizon was the home,
getting married quite young, having a lot of children, and
dedicating themselves to the home--could now go to the
mountains and learn to use arms, be commanders of military
troops, signified for the communities, and for the
indigenous women in the communities, a very strong
revolution. It is there that they started to propose that
they should participate in the assemblies, and in the
organizing decisions, and started to propose that they
should hold positions of responsibility. It was not like
that before.

But in reality, the pioneers of this transformation of the
indigenous Zapatista woman are a merit of the women
insurgents. To become a guerrilla in the mountainous
conditions is very difficult for men, and for the women, it
is doubly or triply difficult--and I'm not saying that they
are more fragile or anything like that: it's that in
addition to the hostile mountainous conditions, they also
have to be able to put up with the hostile conditions of a
patriarchal system of our own machismo, of our relationships
with one another.

[Another difficulty that the women face] is the repudiation
of their communities which sees it as a bad thing for a
woman to go out and do something else. [After passing their
training] a group of insurgent women are now the ones who
are superior, and when they head back down to the
communities, they now are the ones who show the way, lead,
and explain the struggle. At first this creates a type of
revolt, a rebellion among the women that starts to take over
spaces. Among the first rebellions is one that prohibits the
sale of women into marriage, which used to be an indigenous
custom, and it gives, in fact (even though it's not on paper
yet) the women the right to pick their partner.

We also think that while there is an economic dependence
from women on men, it will be very difficult for anything
else to develop. Because in the end, the women can be very
rebellious, and very capable and all of that, but if she
depends on a man economically, she has few possibilities. So
in that sense, in the communities of the Autonomous
Rebellious Municipalities, and in the Councils of Good
Government, the same women that are already authorities with
responsibilities at the municipal level, or on the Councils
of Good Government, open spaces, projects, and economic
organization for women in such a way that they construct
their economic independence, and that gives more substance
to [the women's] other independence.

Nevertheless, we're still lacking a lot in the area of
domestic violence from men against women. We have gained
some in other areas, for example, girls who were not going
to school are now going to school. They weren't going before
because they were women, and because there weren't any
schools, and now there are schools and they go, regardless
of whether they are men or women. And women are already in
the highest posts of civil authority--because in the
military authority, in the political organizing, we can say
that women need to be included--but in matters of civil
society, we [insurgents] don't hold authority, we only
advise. So in reality, the women in the communities now
reach the civil authority and autonomous municipal posts,
which was unthinkable for a woman to reach before. [They
reach those positions] through their own struggle, not
through the authority of the EZLN.

Bogado: Do you have any message for [people] in the United
States, particularly for Chicanos and Latinos?

Marcos: Well, what we've seen while we've been passing
through as we're getting the word out--we've passed through
Chiapas, through Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco,
and we've started in Veracruz--in all parts we've seen this
pain from the people at the bottom--[people who have] part
of themselves on the other side. They feel it's not a
product of destiny, or of bad luck, nor from a tourist
interest like the Mexican government says. Instead, it is
part of this process of suffering that is imposed on us.
They feel, and we feel it also along with them, that one
part of them is far away and is outside, and that part is
our men and women of Latino descent, or of Mexican descent,
or Mexicans that have to cross the border--that are over there.

That's why, since the beginning, when the Sixth Declaration
was proposed, it was said that the Mexicans that were on the
other side were not part of the Internationals, the
Intercontinental; instead they are part of The Other
Campaign. We want to say to you: now that we're going to be
in Ciudad Juarez first, and then in Tijuana, that you join
us at the border, and let's have a reunion: we have a
reunion planned only with people from the Other side, one in
Juarez, the Other in Tijuana, to hear your struggle.

Like we say, the approach of the Sixth is [to ask]: Who are
we? Where are we? What do we want to do? We know there are a
lot of people that sympathize with the Sixth Declaration and
with The Other Campaign. And we want to insist to them, now
through your media outlet, that this is their place, this
place right next to those of us who are on this side.

That which has provoked pain from the border, which
signifies death, marginalization, apartheid of some kind or
another--we have to construct, and break that border with a
bridge of struggle, of dignity. The Other Campaign can be
that space. No one will speak for them, no one will speak
for the Mexicanos or Mexicanas or the Chicanos on the other
side, instead, they will construct their own space, defend
it, speak for themselves, explain the reasons why they are
there, the difficulties that they face, and what they have
been able to construct as rebelliousness and resistance on
that other side--and that we will see each other there in
Juarez and Tijuana.

Aura Bogado is a news anchor with Free Speech Radio.
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