Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Zapatistas and the Struggle for Survival on Planet Earth
Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon
After visiting Guatemala for two months, we crossed the border
into Chiapas on December 21 – Winter Solstice and the 13th Baktun –
the first day of the New Mayan Era. On that very day, the Zapatistas made
a dramatic reappearance. After four years of silence amid speculation
about the status of their movement, more than 40,000 Zapatistas appeared in
five towns they had occupied by force nineteen years earlier on January 1, 1994
– Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Altamirano, Palenque and San Cristobal de Las
Casas. Inspiring a profound sense of awe, men and women marched silently
together in the rain, wearing ponchos and their trademark ski masks, unarmed,
with young children on their backs.
The Zapatista marchers made no demands, but their solemn presence carried an
unmistakable message: We are still here, we are many, we are organized,
and we are a force that must be taken seriously. Subcomandante Marcos, the
charismatic Zapatista leader, wrote a poem for the occasions that was published
in several newspapers. The newly elected governor of Chiapas, in a timely
gesture of reconciliation, released Zapatista political prisoners on the very
same day. Rumors abounded in the media that peace talks between the
government and the Zapatistas might resume for the first time since they broke
off in1995. Several days later the Zapatistas issued
a communiqué explaining the next steps in their struggle for autonomy.
It was against this backdrop that we were present at the
Zapatista-inspired Universidad de la Tierra (University of the Earth) on the
outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas for the 3rd International
Seminars of Reflection and Analysis, Planet Earth: Anti-Systemic Movements, on
Dec. 30 – Jan. 2.
People from around the world gathered to hear social activists,
academics, feminists, indigenous leaders and a former Black
Panther present inspiring histories and ideas for creating new political,
social, economic, food, and justice systems. We learned how indigenous
peoples are resisting the free-market capitalist system and creating their own,
bottom-up, from the left, autonomous organizations and spaces.
Below are excerpts from three of the speeches that impressed us
Silvia Ribeiro: Indigenous people are threatened by
genetically modified corn
Silvia Ribeiro is a Mapuche journalist and environmental
campaigner in Mexico and the Latin America Director for ETC Group.
Corn has never been just food, not just a crop; it is something
that is born intrinsically. It can’t be grown by itself – it was
just a kind of grass and is an agricultural creation and has produced a variety
of foods - it was never separated from the people We cannot live without
each other, so it has been carried though religious cultural values that make
it enormously strong and important. So everything that has been involved
with the mutual raising of the corn is also part of the people. Corn
allows us to count time and decide what to eat and gives us
addition to discussing the close connection between corn (maize) and the people
who grow it, Silvia talked about related problems:
DuPont and Dow want to plant 2.5 million hectares of genetically modified corn
in Mesoamerica, the center of origin of corn, where 30,000 different varieties
of corn were developed.
whose maize is contaminated by Monsanto seeds are being charged fees, sued, and
made criminals by Monsanto. There are also laws criminalizing the saving
and water are contaminated by the tons of cancer-causing pesticides and
herbicides that are required to grow GMO foods.
(small farmers) are responsible for 70% of the food in the world. The
remaining 30% (corporate agriculture) are putting their rules out for all of
us. We need to support the Network in Defense of Corn to defend
corn, seeds, the corn people, and the world’s food supply.”
For more information on the struggle for the defense of corn, go to the
website of the ETC group.
Gustavo Esteva: Today We Can Only Live in Struggle
Gustavo Esteva is a Mapuche activist and intellectual who works
with the Center for Intercultural Centers and Dialogues in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Losing hope is the same as dying. Recovering hope as a
social force is the fundamental key to the survival of the human race, planet
earth, and popular movements. Hope is not about sitting and waiting for
something to happen, it is about a hope that converts into action; in movement
we can change things.
saying ‘no’ is not enough. This ‘no’ has to be accompanied by the
creation of an alternative. The Zapatistas showed us on December
21st that the time for action is now. Those already in movement must
make concrete their actions; those that are paralyzed must lose their fear and
begin to move.
next action is clear. How do we dismantle the state apparatus of
repression? By making this apparatus irrelevant. Capitalist
production, extraction, exploitation – how do we eliminate these? By
minimizing their need to exist. We are in a structure of domination; how
do we urgently dissolve this structure? By making it unnecessary.
comes first. We must recuperate our food autonomy, and realize its importance
in the construction of another world. We need to decide what we eat, and how we
can organize to define our own food. Each of us needs to ask every day,
what did I do to begin to advance the production of my own food, to define what
if we were in the new world with the perfect society – imagine what you would
do in that society? Paul Goodman said, “once you’ve imagined it,
start doing it today.” It is already being constructed.
need to realize that today we can only live in struggle. How do we continue
resisting? The Tzotziles of Acteal told us – resisting is like the air,
we cannot stop breathing; we cannot stop resisting.
Zapatistas have said, “We are only ordinary men and women, and that is why we
are rebels, nonconformists and dreamers”. This is the time of the
ordinary men and women, the rebels. The Zapatistas are sharing their
construction of autonomy and are willing to defy every system – “Everything
for everyone, Nothing for us”. Zapatismo is no longer theirs, now
it belongs to all of us. To defend Zapatismo is to defend ourselves.
New Era is here. We are already in the New World. It has already
been born. New social relations already exist. We must lose
the mentality of the past, open our eyes and ears, and learn to recognize and
uncover ourselves. The time is now.”
more on the New Era from Gustavo Esteva.
Severino Sharupi – This Is a Time for Rebellion
Severino Sharupi is a Schwan indigenous man and a member of the
Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).
All of our communities are under threat – all. It is very different from
when Marx put out the idea of a revolution; there were not these crises like
climate change and destruction of Mother Earth. If we don’t change,
Mother Earth will shake all of us out – all of us – stop this now or we’ll all
the other hand, when you really threaten power, they will take whatever action
is necessary to stop you. This is very important, as history is teaching
us in Cuba and Mexico and Colombia. I am convinced that every broad
movement internally should have a plan B – a political/military operation like
the Zapatistas – we will not give up our arms.
we peasants rise up, when people of the forest rise up, then people in the city
need to rise up – students, youth, housewives, workers. Prepare ourselves
– within five to ten years we will be ready everywhere for revolution on a global
are not just my words; they come from our thinking in the Southern part of the
Americas. We must resist and we have to move forward rapidly now, not just in
resistance. In the last 25 years we have been in resistance but now we
have less land than before. This is a time for rebellion, time for a step
To learn more about the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities
of Ecuador (CONAIE),go to their website, here.
To check out other speakers from the 3rd International
Seminars of Reflection and Analysis, Planet Earth: Anti-Systemic Movements, on
Dec. 30 – Jan. 2. , go here.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
|View of Lake Atitlan from near the top of San Pedro Volcano|
|San Pedro Volcano from Panahachel|
I went on a hike up the San Pedro Volcano. The lake is at a pretty high elevation, so hiking can be difficult because of a lake of oxygen. 7 students and 2 guides went. It took an hour just to get to the bottom of the volcano at the visitor’s center. Another middle-aged guy, Roger, and I were going really slow. He was slow because of the altitude; me because I’m out of shape. We started from the school at 6:30 am and at 8:30 arrived at the “mirador” – a viewpoint 1 km from the visitor’s center. The entire 2 hours were uphill, but not too steep. Roger and I decided we had gone far enough, so one guide stayed with us and the other took the rest up to the top. After ½ hour, Roger and I were ready to continue up. We came to another pretty good viewpoint and continued, slowly, up the hill. After we had gone about 2 km from the mirador and 1 km from the top, we thought about it and decided we had really finished our hike. We were at that point going up at a very steep angle – kind of like going up steps in a house, sometimes more steeply than that. We were very happy with our progress and within ½ hour the rest of our group came back to our position. We all walked back together although the pace was a little bit fast for me – I got a blister on the way down. No knee pain, fortunately! More pics...
We started our kayak trip at around 8 am but were not really prepared for hiking or for a guide that would walk off and leave us behind. No warning was given about the diving platform, either. Although the kayak trip is fun, Gary injured his sternum when he jumped into the water at 7 meters up. It took at least 5 weeks for the pain to completely subside.
We walked around a bioreserve (which is where the diving platform is). It was beautiful but we should have worn at least tennis shoes instead of sandals. Not only that, but the bioreserve guide seemed to be in a hurry - twice he walked off without Gerry and I and we couldn't find them. Eventually he found us, but we weren't very happy with him.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
We started a month of Spanish classes in Guatemala Monday. We’ll be at the San Pedro Spanish School on Lake Atitlan for the first two weeks and in Huehuetenango for the 2nd two weeks.
Guatemala is so beautiful and cheap! At least, here at Lake Atitlan. For 20 hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons, activities at the school every day (a little more money for weekend excursions like a whole day of kayaking to a nearby community on the lake) and home stay with a Guatemalan family that includes a private room and bath and 3 meals 6 days a week costs only $169 per person! I can’t live that cheaply anywhere in the U.S, let alone get classes on top of it!
|David, mi maestro|
Our Spanish teachers are fantastic! Here's a picture of David.
We have thatched roof pagodas to learn in - each teacher-student gets their own, with a small desk, two chairs and a white-board.
I’m thinking about that kayak trip – it’s only $14 and sounds like a lot of fun! Getting across the lake on a public boat is only about $3 and takes about 35 minutes.
I can see the lake and mountains from my room. Going past are traditionally-dresses people, horses, and the little 3-wheel taxis called "TucTucs".
|View from my window|
Here in the rural areas people still wear their traditional, very colorful, hand-woven and hand-embroidered clothes. When you see a whole group of them, you just go “WOW”!
The mother of my host family was in a “chicken bus” accident a few years ago and one arm is gone above the elbow. She asked me to go to a store with her last night to help carry supplies, and it was my first time carrying a package on my head – I just never thought to try it before! She let go, but I kept a hand on mine so I wouldn’t break anything.
Women wash their clothes the old fashioned way and men fish without a rod or reel. People also bathe right in the lake. Unfortunately, Panajachel has lost its water treatment facility and I don't know if any of the other villages even have/had one, so the lake water is unsafe to drink.
|Local Guatemalan walking past my window|
Gerry and I are staying in separate families right now so that we aren’t tempted to speak English to each other. We haven’t seen much of each other the past couple of days, so tonight is our first “date”. We’re going to have dinner at a local café and then going to a basketball tournament – his teacher told him about it, and it’s a big deal here in San Pedro – a town of no more than 16,000 people.