The History of a Zapatista Village

The History of a Zapatista Village

By Subcomandante Marcos

The Zapatistas recovered the lands. Be careful: they did not "take" them, but they "recovered" them. These lands, which were indigenous and were usurped, are now indigenous again.

I'm going to tell you a story. Some parts of it were related to me by the Zapatista comrades, and others I saw and lived. If there are any inaccuracies, let's leave them to the historians for clarification. With its verifiable facts, its legends, its inaccuracies and its gaps, this is part of our struggle, the history of the EZLN.

This place where we are was a farm called Campo Grande. The history of this place is a tight synthesis of the history of the indigenous people of Chiapas. And, in some parts, of all the indigenous people of the Mexican southeast, not just the Zapatistas.

Campo Grande lived up to its name: more than a thousand hectares of good land, flat, with abundant water, roads specially made to take out cattle and precious woods, landing strips so that the owners did not get dusty or muddy while traveling along the roads of dirt roads and could arrive in their planes; thousands of indigenous people to exploit, despise, rape, deceive, imprison, murder. Then, the agrarian reform of the PRI, the institutionalized revolution, took shape in Chiapas like this: good and flat lands for the farmers; the rocky areas and hills for the natives.

The owner of Campo Grande was Segundo Ballinas, known among the inhabitants as a murderer, rapist and exploiter of indigenous people, mainly women, children and girls. Later the farm was divided: a part was called Primor and its owner was Javier Castellanos, one of the founders of the Union of Owners of the Second Valley of Ocosingo, one of those associations with which the farmers disguised their white guards; another part was called Tijuana and its owner was a colonel in the Mexican Army, Gustavo Castellanos, who kept the people in subjection with his personal garrison. And another part was owned by José Luis Solórzano, a member of the PRI and his candidate for different positions, known in the area for his broken promises, his blatant lies, and his arrogant and contemptuous treatment of indigenous people.

Thus, in these lands the Power of Chiapas was synthesized: farmers, army and PRI-Government. For that damned trinity, Chiapas could be a pasture for cattle, a ranch to exercise the right to pernada, even with girls; a shooting range on human targets and one of the most modern laboratories of the PRI's "democracy": here it was not necessary to know the candidates, not even their names or their proposals, nor to know the date of the election or which ones They were the options or have identification. Wow, you didn't even need to go to the polls. In each electoral process, in the head of Ocosingo, in the premises of the associations of owners and ranchers, the day filling ballots was paid with a cake and a soft drink. Of course, this "democracy" had its excesses: in an election before 1994, the PRI obtained more than 100 percent of the vote. Maybe it was too many cakes and sodas.

In an August like this that welcomes us here, but in 1982, the farmers and their white guards violently evicted the inhabitants of the Nueva Estrella town. They shot, beat, and took the indigenous men as prisoners. Some were killed. The women were separated and forced to watch their houses burned. They took everything from them. In time they returned. When someone asked them why they came back after everything they did to them, they responded with this gesture (Marcos opens a hand with his fingers up, implying: "for eggs").

In 1994, on January 1, thousands of indigenous people from this Tzeltal area, along with thousands more from the Tojolabal, Chol, and Tzotzil areas, after ten years of preparation, covered their faces, changed their names, and were collectively named "Army Zapatista de Liberación Nacional "took up arms. The farmers fled, the same did their white guards, and left the weapons on which they sustained their domination.

The Zapatistas recovered the lands. These lands, which were indigenous and were usurped, are now indigenous again. They have therefore been recovered. The lands were divided. Hundreds of indigenous families, who used to huddle together in a two-hectare space, founded, along with other landless indigenous people from other towns in the area, this Zapatista town that welcomes us today. This town is now inhabited, among others, by those who were attacked by farmers in 1982. This Zapatista town is called Dolores Hidalgo and, according to the founders, veterans of the 1994 uprising, the meaning of "Dolores" is that of pain that we have from more than 500 years of resistance, and the name "Hidalgo" is for Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who fought for independence.

Notice they said "500 years of resistance" and not "500 years of domination." That is, despite domination they have never stopped resisting it. And when we talk about domination, that is, when we tell our story, we also talk about resistance. And now I am not talking about our history as EZLN, but about our common history, the one we share with you, with your social organizations and your movements. Our common history, that, where it says "I command and dominate", we and you say "I resist and rebel".

But the Zapatistas who founded Dolores Hidalgo are not just referring to the resistance. They also name her pain. The pain along the way; the pain of fatigue, the pain of those who betrayed along the way, the pain of defeats, the pain of mistakes and, above all, the pain of moving forward despite all the pain.

You will tell us about their history as organizations and as movements, about their pains from their resistance and rebellion. Surely in more than one story we will recognize ourselves. Many others will seem alien to us. But in all of them we will learn from you. And we will tell them what we have told others: that we want to continue learning. We learn with you, and with many more like you, to think well, say well and feel well when we say "partner, partner."

* Text read at the beginning of the Third Preparatory Meeting for The Other Campaign, called by the EZLN with organizations and social movements, held in the Dolores Hidalgo community, the Zapatista rebel autonomous municipality of San Manuel.
August 20, 2005.

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