<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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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
Bem Vindos em Português!

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Delegate Zero Speaks in Mazatlán, Sinaloa

"Where before we only grew up and died, now we grow up learning. Now we grow up with pride of being an Indian; we are not embarrassed by our color, or our culture or our language."

By Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
The Other Mexico

October 13, 2006

Good afternoon, good evening, Mazatlán. I would like to tell you a few things before explaining why we are here. Perhaps someone might think that I am wearing this ski mask because I like to wear it in the heat in Mazatlán or Sinaloa. No, we don’t like it. I’m going to tell you a story: a story about your country, because your country arose on the shoulders and on the backs of the Indians. And, in the opposite corner of Mexico, there is a state called Chiapas where there are mountains and where these groups of Indians live: Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Choles, Tojolabales.

I am not talking about Europe, or Central America, but about Mexico. And in our communities the children were dying of diarrhea, fever, and stomach ache. And there was not even a pill available to treat them, or to even alleviate the pain before they died. And we didn’t count them, because the government didn’t even prepare a birth certificate for these boys and girls. To for the rest of the country, and to the rest of the world, they died as if they had never been born.

For many years we carried the dead. I am not talking about just a few, but thousands: thousands of boys and girls under the age of five. And no one noticed because we only spoke Indian languages, Mayan languages. And we arrived in the cities to sell our coffee, where the intermediary, or the “coyote”, and the government mocked us and paid less than the deserved price for what we worked on all day long. Probably many of you here, peasant farmers, know what we are talking about. All day working only to find that the payment wasn’t enough to buy anything – not even enough to drop dead.

And that is how it went for our people, our men and women. After days of walking down the road – because there are no highways there – to get to a hospital only so that the nurse or the doctor from Social Security could make fun of them because they talk funny, because they talk in a language that was spoken here a very long time before Spanish ever was; because they spoke Maya, because they were brown, because they were short, because they were fat, because they dressed differently. They left them outside the hospitals and the clinics so they that they could die in the street like dogs.

So our people got together. The old people, the chiefs, said that we had to decide if we were going to die just like animals, or if we were going to die fighting. And we decided that were going to die fighting. And on the first of January we rose up in arms against the government. And we were not just a hundred, or two hundred, but more than five thousand Zapatistas, men and women, and we took seven municipal capitals in the state of Chiapas. And then we began to confront the government and the government forces: the army and the police with their helicopters, their tanks, and their machineguns, and we with our small arms.

So we had to choose if we were going to die fighting like that, or if we were going to die like animals without even being noticed; without anyone here in Mazatlan knowing that Mexicans were dying as if they were dogs in the street. We did this to protect our people, who are people just like you. Don’t think that we are college educated, or big politicians, or engineers, or doctors. We are country people, and to protect our people, we decided we needed to cover our faces so that these other people could not recognize us; people with the PRI, the PAN, or the government. We arrived in the cities with our faces covered in order to protect our people. We, who we directing the attack, also covered our faces because we had to set the example.

And ever since that time it has become a symbol because you, and all the country and the world, turned to look at us, the Indians, when we covered our faces. When we uncovered our faces, no one saw us. They passed us in the street, and they didn’t know we existed. How strange that when we covered our faces that they turned around and looked at us, because we were dying in the streets, because our blood was there. Not like when we died like animals in the mountains and no one noticed.

And ever since then these ski masks, the covering of our faces, has become our symbol. Just like young “punks”, anarchists, libertarians, communists, socialists, homosexuals, lesbians, women, whoever has a way of saying: this is who I am. And we cover our faces in order to say: this is who I am. To say to the governors here, and those who govern this state and this country, that it is a shame that someone has to cover his face in order to be noticed, so that they see him, so that they name him.

Additionally, we picked the color black for our mask to symbolize the dark skin color of those of us “below.” We didn’t put on a light colored mask or a white one. We put on black, which is the color of the soil. And thus, we are saying: we are Zapatistas; we are Indians. And this country turned and looked at us because we fought for our rights.

When we began to fight, a lot of people organized to ask that there not be a war. We listened, and then asked, what shall we do? “Talk to the government, have a dialogue, arrive at an agreement.” We did. We spent years trying to talk to them and finally we arrived at an accord. And when it was finally signed, neither the PRI, or the PAN, nor the PRD let is pass. In Mexican lands, to be an Indian still means to be a second-class citizen; someone to receive alms in the streets, to sell on the sidewalks, to make handicrafts, or so that the governor or the mayor can take some photos. But not so they can have rights over the land, or the water, or to have an education or health.

And then there were no schools, nor hospitals, nor roads or anything else. The great expanse of land was property of the landholders, the planters. We were kept in the mountains, among the rocks, planting our little corn and coffee. And then we made this agreement with the government, but they didn’t fulfill it. We can’t say that is was just one political party; it was the three biggest political parties who betrayed us. And now they are saying that we didn’t help those who persecute us, those who mock us, those who attack us with arms. It’s the same with the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD.

We said: we can’t struggle alone for our rights. If we are just Indians, no one is going to pay any attention. Only as Zapatistas are we going to be able to demand our rights. So we began to march and we saw the young people, who were also persecuted and despised as much as we are. Because the same way they mocked us for the way we dressed and talked, they also mock the young, and persecute them for the way that they dress and talk, and for the music they listen to.

In this same way they despise women and see them as objects, which they can use for their own pleasure. Or they classify them only for their beauty or for their youth. And as soon as they get a little older, now you are worthless, you are too old. That’s the same way they despise us, and workers, and peasants farmers, and children, and the elderly after a long life of struggling, working, and running around in order to get something to eat, tossing them into the trash bin and giving them a little handout so that they will just up and die as quickly as possible.

And so we said, “Why don’t we unite with all of these people?” Not to rise up in arms with us and not to cover their faces, because we don’t live here so we can’t tell Mazatlan what to do. We didn’t come to Sinaloa to give orders. We are not asking to take charge, because now that the electoral process has passed, all of the candidates for president were here and they offered you everything, and you all know that they are not going to do anything as they promised. A compañero was just talking about all of the corrupt deals that the mayor, who is from the PAN, was in on. If they changed the name and put in the PRI, it would be the same thing. If they put the PRD in, it would still be the same thing.

And look on your table – don’t believe me, even though you’re not going to vote for me and I didn’t come asking for your vote – perhaps I am just lying, let’s agree. So just look at your table there. Look and see that there is less on your table even though you have worked harder and harder. Everyone is running around all over the place; whether they are country folks, whether they hustle in the streets, or whether they work in the businesses putting up with humiliation from the bosses. And see how it is that you are working all day long and the money in your pocketbooks is not growing. Every day more is lost in the market and in the stores. Every time there is less for your children.

The students are saying that all the time the cost of college, which supposedly is public and free, is getting higher and higher, and it turns out that they are charging for one thing and then another. Look at those at the top, and ask yourselves if this person, who is up there as mayor, or as governor, is not richer now than he was when he started. It’s a business. It’s a business. Before, in Sinaloa, the rich were the business people and the drug lords, now it’s the politicians. They are probably the same everywhere.

Besides all that, we are paying for all of this; we are paying this policeman to oppress the young people, to run off the street vendors. Why? So that they can put up a mall and leave those people without work. And then they say, come on over here we got cheap tomatoes, but when they go over there they suddenly raise the price on you because there aren’t any other stores. Everyone is losing something. We didn’t come here to tell you of new redeemer, whether Marcos, López Obrador, Felipe Calderón, Roberto Madrazo, or whatever kind of bullshit they can come up with.

We know this because we did it in our land. We didn’t need any redeemers or anyone to come over and tell us what to do. It is because in our land we give the orders. We put in place autonomous governments, and we have schools where before there was nothing. Where before we only grew up and died, now we grow up learning. Now we grow up with pride of being an Indian; we are not embarrassed by our color, or of our culture, or our language.

Everyone needs to have that pride. Because homosexuals, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, will not regret being what they are if they are those things with dignity. The same with the youth and the woman; it does not matter what you are. Or the worker, because what is happening is that he who doesn’t work has, and he who works has nothing. What is the sense of this?

What we want is to see some changes: that people have work, that each and everyone gets the respect they deserve, according to who they are. We can be human beings. We aren’t selling out so we can be something we are not. If we happen to be little darkies, we have to paint ourselves up to look like white folks. If we are short, we are supposed to wear platform shoes. We can’t live like that anymore.

What is happening with this country is we, who are Indians from Chiapas, we call it the Fatherland – I don’t know what you all call it – and this fatherland is the same thing that unites Sinaloa with Chiapas and with the rest of the country. Because if we don’t do something, here on this flagpole there will be flying the flag of the bars and stormy stars: the American flag. And don’t even think that you are going to be an employee or even the bellhops to these Americans. They are coming in here with everything all filled out. Even the bellhops they are bringing in from other places.

And our history, and the land that your grandfathers fought for, and the city built with the efforts of the people of Mazatlan, where will it wind up? It will end up forgotten, and there we will remain in the shame of having done nothing. We didn’t come here to tell you to vote for any political party or to fly some flag. We aren’t giving out baseball hats, or sandwiches, or cokes, so too bad.

What we are saying is this: see for yourselves that what we are saying is true. Look in your house, in your work, in your school; in the places you go to relax and have fun, where each of you are, and tell me if what is happening is just. If the answer is no, what we say to you is this: organize. Organize and we will all unite our forces in Mazatlan, in Sinaloa, in the entire northwest of the country, not only with the Zapatistas of Chiapas, but also with all of the organizations that in all of the country are organizing. And those who are on the other side of the Rio Grande, to the north of the Rio Grande, because the brothers and sisters who have to go and migrate, they are also organizing from the other side of the border. Because they are angered by having to leave their country, which is Mexico, only because they were impoverished to the point that they had no other choice but to go and find work over there, just to be able to eat.

We came to invite you to this. Each of you, think it over. We are not going to give orders and we are not going to deceive anyone. We respect you and we know that you are thinking, reasoning people. We didn’t come here to manipulate you. Look at your table, look at your homes, look at your job, look at your school, and if it is true what we are saying here, then organize yourselves, because things can’t go on like this. Organize and we will not be fighting alone. Don’t fight everyone on his own, but rather let us unite, so that we can fight for our country, for Mexico. That is what we want here in “The Other” Campaign.

Thank you compañeros, thank you compañeras.

Translated from the original Spanish speech (second speech on page).

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