Voices from the Zapatista Plenary Session in Chablekal, Yucatán
The Other Campaign’s First Day of Meetings in the State
By Rafael Gómez Chi
Por Esto! Daily
January 19, 2006
Carmelo Aké’s voice trembled, but his spirit did not break. Standing before Subcomandante Marcos he clenched both his teeth and the microphone, and his words took strength: “We don’t want any more of this, I hope they realize that we are not animals, we are indigenous, we also have the blood of Christ.”
Carmelo came to Chablekal from Sotuta, the land of 16th century indigenous rebel leader Nachi Cocom, to ask all those participating in the Other Campaign to unite “against the marginalization caused by the bad governments.”
“I live and work in the fields, selling coal in order to give a life to my children, but it is miserable life created by the tyrants, and we want no more of that,” he said, with a lump in his throat.
“Delegate Zero” watched him, attentively. He had taken notes on what Carmelo and other speakers said, and when this indigenous man thanked the Campaign for the opportunity it had given him to speak, he was one of the first to be applauded at the beginning of the meetings that will be held for three days in the town of Chablekal and the main plaza of the city of Mérida.
The Other Campaign arrived early in the morning to Chablekal. Subcomandante Marcos arrived at 4:15 a.m. in a caravan of 20 vehicles that had followed him from Quintana Roo. He crossed into the state of Yucatán by the toll highway, followed by a throng of reporters from Mérida, as well others who called themselves “alternative” and “independent” journalists but carried laptops, cellular phones and minidisc recorders.
This community was suddenly filled with plainclothes police officers, agents of the Secretaría de Gobernación (Mexico’s Department of the Interior) trying to pass as natives, and it was even learned that members of the president’s General Staff were discreetly watching from a distance.
Chablekal is in the northern part of the Mérida municipality (county). Close by is the Dzibilchaltúm archeological site, but also an elite Catholic university run by the Legion of Christ, as well as the La Ceiba Golf Club, where part of the Yucatán jet set lives in pure capitalist style.
The site for the meeting with “Delegate Zero” was a property called “Uay ja,” which means “haunted water” in the Mayan language. It is owned by the human rights group Indignación, whose members include priest Raúl Lugo Rodríguez, Martha Capetillo Campos, Cristina Muñoz Menéndez, and Nancy Walker Olvera. It is located two blocks to the north of Chablekal, a community whose usual peace and calm were broken when its center was filled with cars and people who sympathize with the Zapatista movement. These include elected city councilman Pedro Regalado Uc Beh.
With access to the site controlled (which did not prevent a vendor of kibis, a traditional Yucatán snack, from getting through while claiming to be a “supporter”), the caravan members stood on one side and supporters and reporters on the other. There were also sales of communist books and CD of “revolutionary music.”
The first part of the meeting began at 9:40 with many diverse speeches. Some were people who simply introduced themselves, but others included denunciations of the oppression that homosexuals, students, unemployed professionals, indigenous people, battered women, and exploited workers are all subject to.
And so, Juan Carlos Avila, Jorge Gómez Guzmán and César Sánchez took the floor, as did housewives such as Rosario Frías Domínguez, who are unable to survive on their family income. Or Lázaro Tut Chi, who asked why the meeting was not held in a place like Sotuna or Yaxcabá, where “the feelings of the Mayan people” could be perceived more clearly.
Guillermo Berra hoped that we might free ourselves from the fear and false democracy that Mexico is living through. Carlos Méndez Benavides detailed the ordeals of those with HIV-AIDS, ignored by the ruling PAN party’s “government of change” that promised everything would be different but ended up forgetting them.
Randy Soberanis and Charly Azueta expounded on their points of view and demands, Mauricio Vallado introduced himself and Alfredo Barrera Rubio, former director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, criticized the “government of change” for attacking the country’s cultural patrimony with a law that favors the privatization of historic sites and hurts the National School of Anthropology, History, and Fine Arts.
Barrera said that the pre-Hispanic Mayan Indian is much idealized, appearing in museums across Europe, but that today the Maya are discriminated against and not even allowed to know the places and things left behind by their ancestors. For this reason, he demanded that people join in the struggle.
The first part of the discussions ended just after noon. There was recess during which Subcomandante Marcos met for a few moments in private with students from a Chablekal elementary school, ate lunch, and returned to the forum around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He made no speeches. At 4:28 he did speak out, against the political parties, and especially the PRD. During this part of the afternoon the Yucateca actress Ofelia Medina participated briefly, and spoke of the need to point the discussion toward gender equality, because woman are the ones who suffer most from discrimination in various aspects.
After that, the discussion continued around the six points of the Sixth Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle, although the majority of the speeches were redundant and in many cases departed from the topics at hand, focusing on specific situations.
Finally, priest Raúl Lugo Rodríguez, who was moderating the discussion, informed the crowd that the meeting today at 9 a.m. would be private, and that the media, as well as the general public, will only be able to attend after 4 p.m.
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