Sunday, January 28, 2007


MEXICO, Chiapas, San Andrés Larrainzar, Zapatista

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, one of the poorest states of Mexico. Members of the EZLN are mostly indigenous, but are supported by a large international network.

The group takes its name from the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata; they see themselves as his heirs, and heirs to five hundred years of indigenous resistance against imperialism.

On January 1, 1994, the Zapatistas launched their legendary insurrection in Chiapas as NAFTA came into effect. They called NAFTA a "death sentence" for Mexico's Indians. As changes to the Constitution accompanied the adoption of NAFTA, legally privatizing communal peasant lands -- robbing the residents of lands that were fought for in the Revolution of 1910 to 1919.

Ever since, Zapatismo has played an enormous role in awakening society. The needs of indigenous Mexicans were brought into the national political discussion for the first time; the Zapatistas effectively use radio and Internet communiqués to broadcast their worldview and effect change. On both sides of the border this movement has challenged Mexico’s widespread economic suffering and racial divides, and has reenergized the Chicano movement in the United States.

The struggle on the ground remains extreme; the Mayan Indians face a dire human rights situation and the world media pays little note. Chiapas is pervaded by roadblock after roadblock of heavily armed military troops searching vehicles and harassing travelers of all nationalities. The Mexican government has resorted to using dirty-war tactics to gain control over the state, the Indians face not only harassment but terror. Arbitrary detentions are common. There are more than 100 political prisoners in Chiapas and 20,000 displaced by paramilitary groups.

After twelve years, my heart is with them.

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