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(en) Mexico, Media, A Totally New World (Zapatistas) - intreview with Rocker, Roco, of Maldita Vecindad

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Tue, 26 Aug 2003 18:25:45 +0200 (CEST)

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"I love all kinds of cultural or spiritual gatherings that
permit us to generate a more just world, with more dignity,
and with justice and peace. That's what I'm advocating, and
there are many tools that allow us to work with others, with
everyone, building this path. The tools that I like to work
with are music, writing, dance, work in the community, inner
and shared spirituality, and also broadcasting in all kinds
of media: video, radio, and writing, that's what makes me
-- Roco

Publisher's Note: Roco is the vocalist and a percussionist
for the musical group Maldita Vecindad (loosely translated
as "Damn Neighborhood"), known simply among millions of
Mexicans as "Maldita." Since their self-titled premier disk
(1988, BMG Ariola), and following on the massive (700,000
copies sold in Mexico alone) success of their 1991 "El
Circo," Maldita remains as one of the top Mexican music
groups with daily airplay throughout the country.

Roco and his band have toured with Bob Dylan, Sonic Youth,
Leonard Cohen, Sargento Garcia, Ampáro Sánchez of Amparanoia
(your publisher is especially impressed by the latter
collaboration), and have collaborated with Perry Farrell,
among others, but one senses from today's interview
published in Narco News, that he's proudest to have
collaborated with the musicians and peoples of Zapatista
base communities in the Mexican Southeast. He's no mere
"Zapa-tourist," no way: Roco has put in the time and labor
over the past seven years to sit, to listen, to learn, to be
inside and with the communities. His perspective on the
continuing surge of "zapatismo" in Mexico and the world, and
the refinements underway in the construction of authentic
autonomy in Chiapas, is, like him, soft spoken, respectful,
not protagonist, but, rather, in a word, one of big-hearted
and intelligent solidarity.

Indeed, Maldita was one of the musical groups thanked
publicly by Marcos in a February 1999 communiqué addressed
"to the musicians of the world." He told Narco News
Authentic Journalism professor Andrea Daugirdas, while in
Chiapas, that he had studied journalism in his youth, so as
to be able to study everything, everywhere.

Narco News Authentic Journalism scholar Ricardo Sala caught
up with Roco last weekend in the Chiapas highland community
of Oventik (see today's related photo essay from that
historic gathering), where he offered a thoughtful analysis
of "this totally new world" under construction†... from

Narco News: Why did you come to this gathering in Oventik?

Roco: Ever since January 1, 1994, when the Zapatista
uprising began, I think that like every other Mexican this
took us totally by surprise. And something that surprised
from the start when I began to read their words, the
communiqués, and through the communiqués I found a voice
that never in my greatest Jarocho (that is to say, someone
from the state of Veracruz) dreams I had imagined could be
expressed so clearly: This conjunction between a totally
humanist or spiritual vision in search for a more just world
and, on the other hand, a political-social community action
rooted very much in indigenous tradition, and, at the same
time very much in present times. From that moment I worked
with other compas for whom this way of speaking -- the
Zapatista word -- also resonated, including in the band in
which I play -- Maldita Vecindad -- and we began to work
with students from the very first demonstration to stop the
war. And, at the beginning, we began to put on concerts. And
from the concerts, we came in caravans to deliver aid, and
to come and get to know these communities of resistance that
from someplace, here, lost in the jungle could, with their
word, shake up the entire country and also the world.

And, from those caravans I began to come again, continuing
the work, and I could also connect with new friends, with
different projects being generated here. As with the project
we created called "Old Tlacuilos, New Tlacuilos" -- a
graffiti mural project with a Chicano friend named Anuk, of
the "crew" from there named "YUTIAI," and we did this in the
"Aguascalientes" ("Hot Waters," the name of Zapatista
international meeting-places of recent years) in the towns
of Morelia and La Realidad.

I also developed a workshop called "Peace Dance and
Resistance" in homage to the collective that, at this
moment, we were working with: It was a workshop in music in
which, first, I played music from around the world that had
these characteristics: that sang in native tongues, that
took back its cultural tradition with its traditional
instruments, and that mixed with contemporary instruments
and musical forms, and at the same time that spoke of

Thus, I played music from Italy, Brazil, the Basque country
... From Italy, people who sang in Piamontés, in Napolitano,
in their own languages ... all this music spoke of
Zapatismo, thus, I played songs to the compas that they
liked and they taped a cassette. And from there the cassette
was reproduced and distributed in the communities.

And that was one part of the project. The second part was to
record, with a mini-disk, "demo tapes" to provide witness to
the music of the communities. Then I recorded the San José
Marimba that played in the Aguascalientes of La Realidad. I
also recorded the "Freedom Sound" of Guadelupe Tepeyac in
exile, which they also created -- you can already hear the
Cumbia, Ranchera and Norteña music here in the communities,
no? That is what has taken root here in a big way. Then I
also recorded a demo tape for the local musicians. And in
the Aguascalientes of Morelia, apart from the murals that we
made, y also worked with the group named "Grupo Rebelde."

I've told you a little of this because this is the series of
projects that I've been connected with and participated in
since 1996, the first time I was here.

Narco News: How do you define the event, today, on this
occasion? What's it about? Why are we here? To what have we
been invited?

Roco: Well, I think that like everyone else we are here, and
I am here too, to listen directly to the word: accepting the
invitation made in the communiqués that were published last
month: Since I also feel very connected to everyone that is
part of the Zapatista project of the Aguascalientes, well,
I'm also very happy to have been invited to the closure --
to the death, as they say -- of the Aguascalientes, and very
intrigued and curious to be able to come here and listen to
the word about what the Caracoles are about.

Although one of the metaphors that is repeatedly used by the
compas is the caracol, precisely: In fact, the amphitheater
at the National Democratic Convention was in the shape of a
caracol, of a spiral. And I very much liked how they said
that the caracol is a spiraling path into the heart, and to
the outside, of words. It seems to me to be a lesson that
they keep giving the compas here, in the sense that since
they have the impressive capacity for self-criticism, of
reflecting upon themselves and what they are doing, and how
they have this ability to see themselves and to be
transformed, and continue transforming.

This seems, to me, to be a very important step in the
transformation of the entire struggle that has been waged,
and also a very important step for the matter of what, since
1994, has been lived in the autonomous regions, with
Autonomy. In fact they've done it, but from this moment with
the Good Government Councils that are established in all the
caracoles they've practically made it a fact. Already they
are, in fact, being autonomous, as they have been but now
with authorities, and this is a highly radical proposal in
the world in which we live, where the State controls all
manners of organization. It's a way of saying, "thank you,
but we have our own way of living," as they have been doing
all along. And these Good Government Councils not only raise
the question of authority -- that, here, the idea of
authority has been radically transformed from what we've
understood because it is all based upon assemblies, it is
communitarian authority -- but they also imply that they
have an autonomous education project, as we've been able to
see, an autonomous health project, and including projects of
autonomous art and cultures. And now, well, there is the
matter of autonomous authorities.

Thus, what I believe is that this is a very important step
that is felt as a precedent once and for all at the global
level. In contrast with other movements of communities that
struggle for autonomy in which first they fight for autonomy
-- against the authorities, let's say -- and afterwards
autonomy is understood as a separation from the country.
Here, it's really interesting how there has not been an
external fight for autonomy, but, rather, that they've been
autonomous from the beginning!

>From the time when the uprising was decided they succeeded
with their own autonomy and consensus in the communities.
And later, the other thing that seems very important to me
is: That they can be autonomous but at no moment do they
propose separating from the country and its people -- from
the State, of course, they've drawn a line, but with the
country they continue communicating with everyone else and
they are part of us. They're simply seeing us as human
beings and how we can live another way. We can collectively
decide the way in which we want to live and to be able to
have our authorities or organizations that surge directly
from the people. This is another of the questions for which
it seems very important to be here. And to continue
constructing bridges! In fact, from throughout the country
they continue inviting Civil Society and everyone to come
here, to continue establishing this bridge so it can be
crossed from one side or the other.

Narco News: What do you suggest to the people who are
geographically distant from zapatismo because they live in
Mexico City, or in the United States, or in other parts far
from Chiapas? What do you suggest that we do in response to
zapatismo? Should we take it as an example as you are saying
to create our own models of life? Or should we come to
visit? Or should we simply be on call? What lessons do we
have to learn here?

Roco: Oof, who knows? I say what my heart orders me to say.
In general, as you can see here, there are people from all
over the world and all over Mexico. The Zapatista word has
that resonance. I would say that this is an example because
in the entire world there is a discussion or polemic about
autonomy. We can see this in the case of the Basque country,
and in the cases of the autonomies of the indigenous
communities throughout Latin America, with what happens in
the United States with the Indian reservations. It is a
question that keeps appearing in our times, this matter of
autonomy. The question of what about culture is the
strongest connection for communities, and how the States
impose, at times, one vision -- what they now call a
universal philosophy, they try to break and shatter the
traditions, no? And that includes language: every language
is poetry. It is music. In the moment that they destroy a
language they are killing one vision of the world. That's
why language and culture go hand in hand in defense of
autonomies, as can be seen in the Basque country, and with
the Catalans, as can be seen with the Piamontés, or the
Napolitanos in Italy, or with the different indigenous
languages in our country and all of Latin America.

That's why I say it's an example: Because in various parts
of the world there are different ways that the situation has
been confronted and I think that the way it has been done
here in Chiapas is an incredibly peaceful, creative, manner,
that doesn't seek to take power to change things, but,
rather, where people are changing their own daily lives. And
from here the dignity is so strong that it brings an
impeccability, as their anthem says, to be impeccable in the
sense of totally committing to the manner in which they want
to live. Then, to do it themselves, their word has an
uncontainable force because it really is a union between
word and deed -- theory and praxis go together in complete
union. That's why they have a resonance on the global level.

What I can say to the people of all the world who hear this
or read it on the Internet is that in this world that we
live, if the entire world in a given moment in its heart
feels that this world can be better, if in a given moment in
their hearts they see that it is already impossible to
accept so much injustice, death and hunger, if in a given
moment in their hearts they wonder how it is possible that
countries are like they are today, powerful countries,
coming to destroy others and they destroy them only to loot
their natural resources? What is happening right now, if
they are moved in their hearts and they look toward here,
toward Chiapas, toward the Zapatista word, because here are
human beings with the absolute power of dignity with a well
developed heart -- not with the other powers, because the
other powers are false ones: weapons and the power of money
are false powers -- the true power is in this: The
community, the children, the people, and the well developed
heart to construct, day to day, a new world, like this one.

This is a totally new world, where all the colors exist, all
languages, all nationalities, including the grand diversity
of indigenous who are here -- Tojolabales, Tzeltales,
Choles, Tzotziles -- there is a lot of diversity, all living
together in impressive diversity but with a unity of heart
that continues constructing a more just world.

And they do it, not from outside, not to conquer anyone, but
here, on the small scale, in daily life, first with one's
self, later with those one loves, later with your community,
and now, hopefully, we'll continue doing it throughout the

The Narco News Interview from Chiapas with Mexican Rocker,
Roco, of Maldita Vecindad
By Ricardo Sala
Dan Clore

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