|English | Español||October 24, 2017 | Issue #41|
From the Other Morelos, in the Other Campaign, “¡Zapata Vive!”
The True Homage to Revolutionary Hero General Emiliano Zapata Salazar Is in the Streets
By Karla Garza
Photo: D.R. 2006 Nives Gobo
The Willow Gorge, which was closed in by houses as Cuernavaca’s urban sprawl expanded, seemed safe in its hiding place from the neoliberal pillaging that enjoys the National Action Party’s (PAN’s) seal of approval in Morelos. But the safety of the giant fig and willow trees could not last under a government determined to end Cuernavaca’s “eternal spring.”
An already polluted brook runs through the gorge. The roots of the trees, as thick as a person, are exposed. Color-coded and numbered labels mark the trees’ fate. Some will go to the nearest garbage dump. There will be a show of replanting others. “We have given them courses in this, explained to them the treatment and the steps to follow,” says one of the activists, disgusted with a government so inept that it needs to be told how to do its job, “and not even that worked.” The way the government plans to “replant” the trees, she says, will kill them within 15 days.
The plan by the businessmen (those from the construction company and from the company otherwise known as the state government) was to fill the gorge in and build a bridge over it, which would connect the northern and southern part of a four-lane avenue. About a dozen fig trees block their entry into the gorge and are the first target. Although their roots are already damaged, neighbors and environmentalists chained themselves to the trees to stop the destruction of this place that serves as a nearly invisible but indispensable lung for the city.
“We will be here until the ultimate consequences,” says Flora Guerrero, a recognized environmentalist that knows such “ultimate consequences” well when it comes to confronting the repressive forces of the Morelos government. Chained to the first tree by the entrance, she looks toward the “guardians of order” a few hundred feet away while holding a blue flag with an image of the Earth in the center, that planet that is “falling to pieces in our hands.”
If only this were just about the bridge, or manic urban planning from a Department of Public Works that has nothing better to do. But no. The interests here are many. The company responsible of the project is PLARCIAC, the favored construction firm of the administration of governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal. PLARCIAC is owned by Sergio Barrenchea, who, it goes without saying, is a close friend of Cajigal’s. Also at play are substantial contracts, already signed, with Autotransportes Rojo de Morelos and MIDA Transportation (the latter continues to profit despite the work being stopped, as it rents out the backhoes). As if that were not enough, to one side of the planned avenue a shopping mall project is already beginning. That land is the property of Eduardo Fernández Placencia, former secretary of public works for Cuernavaca; the same man responsible for the giant Plaza Galerías shopping mall. In other words, this project is as transparent as water.
“I came to play here as a child; I don’t want to see an avenue full of cars, I want to continue to see the trees and for my own children to see them when I have kids,” says Carlos, who is only 14 years old but is already aware of the responsibility he has to future generations. He assumes this responsibility on the open ground, sitting in the shadow of a tree he is chained to by the waist, “no matter what happens.”
They are few, they seem vulnerable, an easy meal for the menacing government forces standing by a few feet away. So much so, that two ambulances are nearby, ready “for whatever happens.” What a mistake: they never counted on the Other Campaign, already on its way, to burst onto the scene, showing the demonstrators that “they are not alone.”
Photo: D.R. 2006 Nives Gobo
“We had to go where the Other Campaign could show that it does not matter the number, but the heart and the struggle that is being defended, and that’s why we decided to come here.”
At that moment, the professional “ears,” or spies, of the government that tend to invite themselves – sometimes few, sometimes more – to the caravan and the Sixth Commission, alerted their base near the Gorge and ordered a retreat. Improvised and falling over themselves, they nervously got into their vehicles and began to drive away.
“They’re leaving!” yelled the happy members of the Civic Front. Others of us weren’t so sure, so we followed. No, they hadn’t left. They were hiding several blocks away, barricading themselves inside the nearby police academy, where they hoped to outwait the nosy Zapatistas. Make your noise, and then leave, we’ll come back and then you’ll see… But they waited all day, because the caravan not only didn’t leave, it also called other nosy supporters.
As the hours passed, what emerged was a beautiful example of what the Other Campaign is constructing. The adherents that were waiting in Cuautla found out about what was happening and without a doubt they decided: “We’ll go where we are needed.” By noon the encampment welcomed other arrivals, including campesinos from Michoacán belonging to the Emiliano Zapata Union of Communal Farmers (UCEZ in its Spanish initials) and representatives from indigenous communities. At the front was doña Eva Castañeda, widow of Efrén Capiz, both respected role models of campesino and indigenous struggles, who came by to greet the guardians of the Gorge, offering them unconditional support because, as she said, “We, too, dedicate ourselves to defending the land, our Mother Earth.”
Pretty soon, they were no longer dozens. But it did not stop raining over the camp of solidarity. The camp quickly became a celebration reveling in the fresh air exhaled by the Gorge.
The residents of the neighborhood, both surprised and happy with the support, offered whatever help they could to the unexpected campers, who knew they would be there “as long as it takes.” A huge meal was prepared and all sitting on the grass enjoyed the food.
Right on time to quench the dry throats came a well-stocked truck sent by the compañeros of the Pascual Cooperative (who run the popular, worker-owned Boing fruit juice company), handing out assorted drinks for everyone; the struggle now tasted of fruit.
Bringing up the rear were contingents from the Party of Communists and the Communist Youth, members of adherent-collectives of the Other Campaign in Morelos, and the alternative press, which, despite the unusual presence of the national commercial media, is always a crushing majority.
By the afternoon there are groups sitting in the grass reach as far as the eye can see from the entrance of the Gorge. A few streets away the “university caravan” made its entrance, and the participants parked their bus. Dozens of students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) poured out with contagious exuberance. “Let’s see, let’s see, who is boss around here: the organized Other Campaign or the government-sons-of-bitches.” From then on, the tone picked up. The insults for Estrada Cajigal were rhythmic, creative and varied. Let’s see if they hear them from their porno helicopter (which had been circling already for a while).
The rebel racket was at its apogee. And yet, there was more. From far away chants could be heard accompanied by a familiar sound: clanking machetes. Excitement. Heads turned down the street. Campesinos staring back. More than 200 members of the People’s Front in Defense of Land (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra), “los de Atenco,” of course. Immediately the cause becomes theirs and the willows must have shook hearing them chant “barranca, te queremos, por eso te defendemos” (“the Gorge, we love you, and that’s why we defend you”). If the willows did not shake, then certainly their guardians did, no longer able to contain their happiness.
The Sixth Commission waited. Delegate Zero later revealed: “A few hours ago, when we were being cooked there like tamales inside the van, a reporter came by and asked us what we were waiting for, and I told him: ‘We’re waiting for the Seventh Cavalry.’ A moment later the students and professors of the UNAM arrived. But these aren’t just any professors and any students, they were the ones that fought and continue to fight, and it is thanks to them that the National Autonomous University of Mexico remains public and free.
“As soon as the sound of the machetes from the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra was heard, we were complete, and we knew that the Seventh Cavalry had arrived.”
Now complete, their secret weapon – their word – delivered from a box atop a van emerged from the sound system provided by the Pascual Cooperative.
“The words that come from my heart will never be enough to thank you for saving us today from the talons of the state police. You literally saved our lives,” said Flora Guerrero, on the verge of tears.
Greeting the crowd next were the representatives of the UNAM students, convinced as ever that Zapata was not to be found in the hypocritical honors bestowed by congressmen, but “right here among all of us.” Representatives of the Autonomous University of Chapingo, also fighting for free education, said the same.
The campesinos of Atenco were the next to uplift the defenders of the Gorge, telling them not to give up just because they might be few: “Because we may be thirty bastards, but those thirty bastards will give that prick-of-a-government a damn good fight!”
Luis Alfonso Vargas, on behalf of the caravan said humbly: “We feel very honored to have served for something today. I hope that tomorrow we can serve this movement that we are building so that we can change this country and kick out these sellouts out of the government of Mexico.”
The assembled multitude began opening a path among the crowd, and a wheelchair strolled out. It was veteran jaramillista Félix Serdán and his wife, and they got on the stage amid raucous applause and cheers. Don Félix warmly accepted the praise and respect of the crowd, and joined in singing the corrido de Jaramillo. He pled that they continue their fight, reminding the crowd: “We are in a permanent fight against the a government that is clumsy and selfish.” But we are also, he said, “in a moment in which Mexico must wake up.” Despite his visibly trembling hands, from his still formidable chest rumbled out the words, “Viva Zapata, viva Jaramillo, viva (Pancho) Villa and long live the fighting people of Mexico.” Delegate Zero dedicated his speech to Don Félix, an honorary rebel major of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Night falls. At the entrance of the Gorge, no one is chained to the trees any longer – it’s no longer necessary: like they’d pass their machines through the thousands that have joined this cause.
The lesson is learned. Summarizing that lesson are the chants that don’t stop. They offer support for those who are part of the Other Campaign, wherever they are, whatever their fight and no matter how small it may seem: “You are not alone” and “Not one step back.” To the powerful and the businessmen: “if you want war, we’ll give it to you, but we won’t sell our land.” To the government of Morelos, the warning: “We’ll kick out Cajigal from the Gorge, from the Gorge we’ll kick him out.” And to Zapata, the most living and faithful homage for a tenth of April.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism