In the heart of a humid mountain where little by little the fog slides, between pine trees and ocotes, the perimeter of a basketball court is dense with young people with faces covered by black ski masks. It is easy to tell that they are young because they have a curious twinkle in their eyes.
Lunita contemplates, together with her grandmother, her mother and two other women from her family, the staging with dance and ‘performance’ that her friends put on from the Garrucha snail, an area of the Tseltal jungle where she is from. They testify in the front row of a stage with four fronts. It is an art festival called by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and called CompArte por la Humanidad.RELATED
“Caracol” is the name that the Zapatistas currently use to name the territories recovered in the uprising of 1994. There were 38 municipalities of the State of Chiapas transformed into Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (Marez). A caracol is made up of several rebellious municipalities.
First they were called Aguascalientes, run by councils (founded 27 years ago), which in 2003 were formed into the Good Government Juntas, as a form of self-government. They promote their own justice, education, health, food, work, cooperatives, art, media, care of the land and organization of daily life. And they are expanding. In 2019, the EZLN announced the creation of seven new snails, in addition to the five already existing.
This is why this art festival amidst the greenery of the humid wooded landscape is unlike any other. The work presented by the Tseltal Zapatistas is about this history of self-government, in front of a diverse audience: indigenous people from all over Mexico belonging to the National Indigenous Congress, artists, activists, and onlookers. To get to this art festival, which was convened in the Oventic snail, the participants from the Selva area traveled together to the wooded area of Los Altos.
“Another new world is possible”, batons, slogans in changing formations, with performative arrangements throughout the field, with dresses created by themselves that evoke nature, although if you have to represent a farmer or a businessman, too they wear a tie or shirt. “Go ahead, women of the Earth, let’s fight for liberation, united against neoliberalism, united by revolution.” Applause.
As soon as they finish presenting the play, Lunita hurries around the perimeter to greet them. Although the women in her family wear colorful cross-stitch embroidery typical of the Tseltal people, she wears black denim and a green flower-patterned blouse.
“I am an admirer of Che Guevara,” Lunita says without hesitation. He is not more than 12 years old, yet he confesses that he wants to study medicine. It is in the blood. She comes from a family of female healers.
His great-grandmother was a midwife in her village and worked with medicinal plants. Her grandmother healed the whole family with plants and was also a militiaman in the 1994 uprising. Her mother has been a health promoter and has trained more women of the Garrucha snail so that they know both the use of allopathic medicine and the medicinal plant species and the elaboration of remedies.
Lunita has seen her mother participate in a cooperative that makes medicines with plants. The process begins with the collective planting of the Tseltal women, who take care of the medicinal varieties that they know in a garden and study them until they are distributed in autonomous clinics of various snails. Some come to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
Lunita likes to learn. He has studied at the autonomous school and does not rule out studying in the city – he says with a certain tone of challenge – the career of Medicine. All the girls, boys and young people of the Zapatista communities study and have training and training workshops according to their own interests. Proof of this are the works presented today on the basketball court. Although they are also trained in audiovisual documentation, embroidery, agriculture, sports and even naval techniques.
Lunita tells that her grandmother has told her stories of how, before the uprising of the Zapatista army, her children died of illnesses that could have been cured. Also, about how women play a fundamental role in the process of building a justice where there are no femicides, as is currently the case in Zapatista territory, which encompasses four indigenous peoples: Choles, Tseltales, Tojolabales and Tsotsiles.
Lunita, as her mother says affectionately and thus asks to be named, says that she teaches her about caring for the earth, how there are plants that, when planted together, help their mutual growth. He assures that he has also shown him how the Zapatista communities differ from the “partisan” communities – as they are called – that are governed by the laws of the Mexican State, since they are cut down and without sowing.
“Taking care of the land is very important, my mother tells me, because we have seen in other places that there is a lot of pollution, a lot of tree felling, and that is why we have to talk about it: what is it that hurts the earth; For example, cutting down trees affects water and without water we cannot have plants or food. Or the chemicals that are put into it to fertilize, but that kill the plants, “says Lunita.
It is striking that Zapatismo is rarely related to the struggle for the environment and nature or against climate change; But in terms of actions, from the agroecological planting method that the young Zapatista has to the way in which they promote their productive activity, from the cooperatives, this movement is based on caring for the land.
They have organic coffee cooperatives, for example, that could comply with all the sowing and harvesting standards set by the certifiers so that they can have the corresponding seal, but they dispense with it. Consumers of the rebel aromatic know the type of planting that the Zapatistas promote in their territory, and they buy it without hesitation.
According to the Mayan historian José Koyoc: “The uprising of 1994 was a very strong challenge for indigenous peoples. The political proposal of Zapatismo continues to permeate many of the movements, whether or not they are indigenous peoples. It is its deepest trace. , to build from anti-capitalism “.
Koyoc has devoted himself to studying indigenous social movements, especially in the southern region of the peninsula, influenced by the ancient Mayan culture. This led him to study the history of biodiversity and its relationship with the ways of being of peoples over time.
“The Zapatistas were one of the first indigenous movements to say:” We defend life and do not commodify the natural assets of the peoples. “It is one of the most powerful political proposals that the EZLN has. This question finds much resonance today “, assures the historian.
A Zapatista maritime delegation called Squadron 421 traveled the Atlantic Ocean on the ship La Montaña to reach the port of Vigo in Spain and take a tour of Europe. When going down, Marijose has the task of renaming Europe with this phrase: “In the name of women, children, men, the elderly and, of course, other Zapatistas, I declare that the name of this land, which its natives now call” Europe “From now on it will be called Slumil K’ajxemk’op, which means” unsubmissive Earth “, or” Earth that does not resign, that does not faint. “And so it will be known by locals and strangers as long as there is someone here who does not surrender, do not sell and do not give up. “
Marijose is one of the seven members of Squad 421. In the presentation sheet made by the EZLN spokesperson, Subcomandante Galeano (formerly Marcos), describes that he has been “a militiaman, health promoter, education promoter, and education trainer. “. The use of “oa” refers to a transgender person. Marijose has also participated with staging at art festivals such as the one in which Lunita is present.
Squad 421 is tasked with finding in Europe what makes us equal and sharing with social movements, networks, collectives or organizations the knowledge they have acquired in these 27 years of existence and 10 more in hiding, prior to the uprising.
In this sense, the 421 squad must share from the recovery of the territory, the construction of the snails from the peoples that make up the EZLN, the struggle of women against triple exclusion, due to being indigenous, poor and women, to the forms in which they have acted to take care of the earth, even though they do not explicitly say that their fight is against climate change.
Lunita and her family are very excited from their community in La Garrucha for the trip of their companions. Lunita’s mother assures that the maritime delegation are Zapatistas who have never left their community, but are now sailing towards Spain. The emotion is seen in their eyes, which is the only thing you see with the ski masks.
It should be noted that the European solidarity networks have been present since the uprising and that the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee, made up of the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, has always addressed internationalist movements in its statements and positions.
“The Zapatistas have proposed to build this entire common house, of which the National Indigenous Congress is a part, in which several of the peoples’ movements take part in the face of the commodification of natural assets,” says Mayan historian José Koyoc. Radical, in an organized way, are the peoples that participate in the CNI network and are in constant dialogue and resonance with the EZLN. The union comes from this first interpellation in 1994, it is a very powerful sounding board, 27 years of fighting together for self-determination “.
This inspiration from Zapatismo is seen in the participation of members of the CNI peoples in their calls, from giving life to an Indigenous Council to launch their spokesperson as a candidate for the Presidency to the CompArte festival and, also, to tour Europe to denounce the megaprojects and remains that they live.
The indigenous movement in Mexico is more alive than ever, and what the EZLN seeks to do in the world is to enliven the movements with which it shares an anti-capitalist struggle.
Lunita’s mother assures that the best way to take care of ancestral Zapatista knowledge is to share it. “Share and look for more experiences that are still hidden out there, to teach the young people of today and for them to reproduce it as well. And thus manage to keep it. I am very interested in training other people to learn knowledge, and that they are reproducing it so that it does not disappear “, he assures with a smile that can be seen even through the ski mask. “I was born a Zapatista and when I was aware, I really saw what we were fighting for,” says Lunita, who returns to the field to witness the works of art.