<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Over Three Thousand People From Five Continents Danced and Partied with the EZLN on its 14th Anniversary

Comandanta Rosalinda: “The reclaimed land was bought with the flesh and blood of compañeros. That blood hasn't disappeared; it sings and cries for joy over the years”


By Raúl Romero
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

January 17, 2008

The streams…when they run downstream…they can’t turn back…just underground.
Old Antonio

LA GARRUCHA, CHIAPAS, January 1, 2008: As the final moments of 2007 wound down, over three thousand attendees of the Third Encuentro of the Zapatistas with the People of the World, named “Comandanta Ramona and the Zapatista women,” came together in the center of the caracol of la Garrucha. Their faces were lost amongst the hundreds of bases of support that have come from different Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ in its Spanish initials) to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the public appearance of the EZLN.


Photos: D.R. 2008 Raúl Romero
Nationality, language, and skin color were not impediments as various people melted together in hugs, wishing each other the best in the new year. Neither was it an impediment that the majority had only known each other for three days; since the beginning of the encuentro “we share a dream of a different world and that has already made us brothers in the struggle,” said one teenager as he hugged another.

Some members of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (CCRI-CG-EZLN) appeared on the stage. Applause and cries of “viva!” got louder. However, many were surprised not to see Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Comandantes Tacho, David, and Zebedeo, the most widely known commanders, are also missing.

Somewhere in the crowd someone said, “The Zapatistas mean business. When they say something they follow through.” A couple weeks earlier, on the final day of the four-day “International Discussion in Memory of Andres Aubry. Planet Earth: Anti-systemic Movements,” Marcos had announced that they would no longer appear at public events as a measure of precaution in the face of the strong threats they’ve received over the past months. This decision has been interpreted by many as a “strategic retreat.”

At ten minutes to midnight, Comandanta Rosalinda took the microphone and kicked off the EZLN’s anniversary festivities. The Mexican national hymn was sung first, making it very clear that this is not a separatist movement and that they claim the tri-colored flag as their own, as well as the “great nation” called Mexico. Next, the same comandanta briefly recounted how the EZLN appeared and how it was betrayed by then-president of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, when on February 9, 1995, “plain-clothed soldiers” violently showed up in some Zapatista communities. “Later, dressed as soldiers, they entered with tanks…they wanted to make us disappear, finish us off, but they didn’t succeed…”

Rosalinda said that the land reclaimed on January 1, 1994, “was bought with the flesh and blood of the compañeros.” She also noted “that blood hasn’t disappeared; it sings and cries for joy over the years.” Now paramilitary organizations want to take these lands from them. But more than harboring feelings of rancor or rivalry towards these groups, who are also indigenous, the Zapatistas show understanding and know they are not the true enemies, they know that these paramilitaries are “indigenous brothers cheated by the bad government who bought off them with handouts of expired food.” Comandanta Rosalinda concluded her remarks by naming each one of the EZLN members who have died since 1983 while attendees responded with “¡presente!” after each name.

Next to speak was Comandante Omar, who said that he felt happy because men could now participate. It should be mentioned that during the four days of the women’s encuentro no man was able to use the microphone.

“After 14 years the party goes on,” said Omar, who also mentioned that for the Zapatistas, it is important to “party with happiness in our hearts, without worrying about the bad government’s threats, the bad government that imprisons us and beats us for defending what is originally and naturally ours.” He also stressed that during those 14 years the Zapatistas have resisted “a shit-ton of provocations” and that the bad government has continued purchasing people’s consciences.

The political parties are no longer an option for change, continued Omar, because as soon as they come to power their promises are forgotten, and “they only change their discourse when they need something from the people.” He also said to those present: “Don’t let them fool you, the parties aren’t going to change if we the people don’t demand that they do.”

Comandante Omar concluded by making a call to all of the participants, inviting them to organize themselves and “struggle against the bad governments. So that one day things might change into a better world.”

Then came the Zapatista hymn. Those who knew it well sang it out loud, while those who just learned it raised their voices when it got to a verse they had memorized already. One girl saluted like the comandantes do from the bandstand. Her compañera questioned her: “You’re not in the militia.” Blushing, she raised her left hand and made a “V” for victory with her fingers.

The hymn ended and the chants started, including some classics that the foreigners like so much.

And then came the dancing. The dancers formed a line that ran the length of the plaza and grew and grew, just like the streams – when they run downstream their flow increases and then they no longer have a way back nor a dam that holds them back.

Originally Published in Spanish on January 11

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America