<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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The Other Campaign in San Quintín Valley, Baja California

A Meeting in the Triqui Neighborhood of Lomas de San Ramón

By Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
The Other Mexico

October 23, 2006

Compañeros, compañeras, good evening. We bring you greetings from the indigenous Zapatista communities. We are from Chiapas, from the mountains of Southeast Mexico. A few moments ago we were listening to how people here in the Valley of San Quintín, Baja California, live and work.

The rest of the country doesn’t know what’s happening here, and this is because the major media come out with all these absurdities that Vicente Fox and other politicians say. They are saying that everything is just fine in Mexico; that the indigenous and the poor folks are happy with the status quo, that they respect the rights of the workers, that everyone is happy and because of this they support Felipe Calderón, who as we all know will become the next president thanks to a crime and a fraud carried out by Vicente Fox.

And what we are doing is collecting the word and carrying it far. We have been told that you get up and go to work at four in the morning and get back home again at five in the afternoon, and sometimes even later. If I am adding this up correctly it comes to thirteen hours. So, why do they pay you for just eight hours?

And they also told us that they pay you eighty, ninety, or one hundred pesos a day. So we calculated what one needs to live on, because we know that people have to pay the light bill, or the rent – if they are renting a house – and you have to buy soap, toothpaste, something to eat, some clothes, some shoes. So, according to our estimate, what a poor person needs to live is 485 pesos a day, more or less. That means that a family here in the San Quintín Valley would have to work three to four times as much as they are working now… but there are only 24 hours in a day. If one had to earn what was necessary to live, one single worker would have to work forty hours a day, without eating or sleeping, just to get by.

So what happens is that the woman or the man – and sometimes the children – also have to go to work. “Right on!” say the bosses. But where is the respect for the rights of the workers? It is well known that if they get sick no one cares; they accuse you of faking it. They say that you’re lying to them, that what you say is untrue and that there’s nothing wrong with you. If you go to the doctor he tells you, “it’s all in your head,” it doesn’t matter if you are dying.

And if you’re a woman and you become pregnant, do you think they are going to pay your light bill? Do you think that they are going to help you raise that baby through the first months? That is what the labor law says they must do, but they don’t respect that here. And besides that, compañeros and compañeras, they still make fun of you for your color, your size, for the language you speak, for the clothes you wear, and for your indigenous culture.

In this country it happened like this: the indigenous were already here before the Spanish came, before the gringos came, the French, the Koreans, the Japanese – and before that idiot Vicente Fox showed up and said that he was the president of Mexico ¬– the indigenous were already living here. So how is it that this man who has done nothing is going to get his pension – so that he can live out his old age – of $3,500,000 pesos [about $350,000 US]? He didn’t do a thing, we all know this well, and now his six years have passed and he is on his way out. The only thing he did was buy expensive towels and clothes for his wife, and make it so his wife’s sons – the Bibriesca brothers – could go around making crooked deals involving land rights here in San Quintín Valley and other parts of the country.

If you wanted to make that kind of money you would have to work every day for ninety years, from Monday to Sunday, without resting a single moment, just to earn what this guy is getting for six years of doing absolutely nothing.

And we all know that if someone has a grievance he wishes to declare, he must go to some bureaucrat who starts off with a bad attitude because he looks badly upon the indigenous. Even if he happens to listen to you, he tells you, “come back later”, or he gives you more papers to fill out, or simply does nothing at all. This is according to what we’ve now heard – and I am not making this up – these are stories they’re telling us right here. It doesn’t matter if you talk to the mayor, or the governor, or with the congressman, or with the senator, everyone knows that they are not going to respect us because we are not moneyed people, we’re not rich people.

And it may be that there isn’t a drainage system or pavement here, but if we go to the rich neighborhoods in Ensenada we will see a lot of these things. And why is this, if the working people are here?

How is it that the person who represents the indigenous of the San Quintín Valley is a landowner who is also the director of the legislative commission in the Baja California State congress? Well, this guy is not going to look out for your rights; he is going to look out for the rights of the landowners.

They also showed us the damage done to the skin of people working with chemicals in the fields, when they’re out there as a common field hand. You think they’re going to have any kind of protection for them? You think they are going to help them if they get sick? They don’t get a thing, compañeros. The workers are out there working all day and, instead of getting better, every day things cost more and more.

One compañero told us, “Here they make the minimum wage of forty-seven pesos per day,” perhaps eighty, ninety, or one hundred if all goes well for you and you work on one of the farms or haciendas, as they call them these days. But it turns out that when you go to buy something you have to pay in dollars, as if we were in the U.S.

We came from Baja California Sur, where we saw big neighborhoods with signs in English, where people who are not from this country live and get treated with respect. And those who built this country – the indigenous, that is – are treated as if they were outsiders or, even worse, they’re treated as if they were animals tearing things up. Yet those who are tearing everything up in this country are these rich folks who are buying off these politicians.

We are not proposing… Look, we just finished up with the electoral process and there was the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD. They say that if you vote for them things are going to change. There are people here who have lived more than thirty years in this valley and the PRI, PAN, and PRD have all passed by while nothing has changed, we know that. So we said – down in Chiapas and in all of the states of the Republic we’re organizing, and also with people on the other side of the Rio Grande in the United States who are working – that we must change this country, and we need to distance ourselves from these politicians, from all of them, because they’re all a bunch of thieves.

And another thing: the land must belong to he who works it. This land you are working on needs to become your property, and not the property of some landowner. You should decide what the prices of your products are. The children need to go to school, and not just elementary school, which we know few even complete, but middle school where only a few make it, and high school, where almost no one goes, and the university… forget it. Even if they make it to the top, they’ll always just be an Indian in the eyes of the people up above, as if it were an embarrassment to be like us, talk like we talk, or have our skin color.

When did they come up with this practice of paying people based on their skin color? People should be paid for the work they do, that’s what counts.

We can’t even say that there is justice, because you all know quite well that the jails in Baja California, and in all of the country, are full of poor people, while the biggest thieves – the politicians – are free. We know, because it comes out right away on the news, that one legislator is a drug addict, that he sells drugs, that he kidnaps children and rapes them; governors, even the President of the Republic steals money for his own family and gives favors to the sons of his wife, that woman named Martha Sahagún. We all know about it, it’s not like it never happened. It’s something we all know because it comes out everywhere in the papers and on television.

But we won’t find these people in jail – which is where they need to be – because in jail we’re going to find poor people who went out trying to sell stuff on a day when it was prohibited, and a policeman came along and kicked her, like when a policeman kicked a little girl in Ensenada. They told us he kicked the little girl in the stomach because he didn’t like her because she was indigenous. This has happened before, during the era of Porfirio Díaz. These long workdays and these salaries are the same that they had back during the time of Díaz, when they revolted in order to overthrow him. And it is the same that has been going on for many years.

We don’t want things to change by way of another politician showing up, all while things remain the same for the indigenous. It doesn’t matter if they talk very nicely and promise lots of things, whatever they do they’ll keep scorning the indigenous. Whatever they do they’ll keep on humiliating us at work, in the field as farm laborers. They are still going to treat our kids with scorn. We cannot have our children inherit the embarrassment that they’re imposing on us. They have made it so that when our children grow up ashamed to be indigenous: Triques, Mixtecos, Zapotecos, whatever a person might be, who had to leave his land to work in Baja California. Not to hang around as a vagrant or to be a criminal; they here to work because there is no work in their land.

So what we want to do is make your voice known, all of you who are in this situation. Because we know that the newspapers are not going to say it, nor the television. The only thing they’re going to say is that we started to tell the story among ourselves, and this is what we’re going to do.

Every place we pass through in this country, when we talk to other compañeros, we are going to tell them what is happening here in San Quintín Valley. Not just to see if it shames this guy Vicente Fox, or the governor of Baja California or the mayor of Ensenada. We are going to do this so that people like you in Oaxaca – who are of your same blood – and other indigenous in other parts of the country, who have agreed to struggle together with you, can hear you so that there may be justice both there and in your lands.

That one who has Triqui, Mixteca, Zapoteca and Diga blood in them can grow up with dignity, and that people respect him for his work and not view him with scorn just because he is indigenous.

So that is what we are proposing. We are not looking to get any political appointment; all we want to say to you is that you should organize yourselves in order to struggle, because you will not be struggling alone. We will support you in Chiapas along with the compañeros in Jalisco, in Michoacán and in all of the places in the country where we might be. If they start to struggle here, the people in Tijuana and Ensenada and Mexicali, who are also in the struggle, are together going to help you. And no longer will we find out about a struggle only when someone dies or when someone is locked up in jail, but rather, you all are speaking in your own voice and letting the struggle be known everywhere from the beginning.

And let the people who live and work in San Quintín Valley command, and not some asshole professional from who knows where – who doesn’t know anything about anything of this place. And this is the very thing that you should decide: to go about changing, because everyone is learning to govern now. Governing now is not for someone who knows a lot of things, but for someone who has no shame, that is what makes a good politician. And as we all know very well, those who are above us are a bunch of shameless characters, all of them, and that is with no exceptions.

Compañeros, if you have lived thirty years, or fifteen, or sixteen or however many you’ve lived here in San Quintín Valley, are we going to wait another? It’s been six years, and now we are going to see what we’ll end up with under this guy, Calderón. Then in six years we are going to see that we are worse off, not equal, but worse. Then we are going to wait and see if another one arrives, and we’re going to get old and we’re going to die, and our children will be waiting to see who follows, to see who will resolve things. We have decided that the hour has now arrived and we have had enough. We are not proposing an armed uprising – as we did – but what we want is to start a struggle for rights, civil and peaceful, in the entire country. But everyone is in agreement: we all help each other, rather than everyone trying to work separately. However, you’re probably thinking that San Quintín is pretty far from Chiapas. But it isn’t, because we came here to listen to you. And we came with these compañeros who are filming and recording so that this will be seen and heard in other parts of the country.

Most likely, your voice couldn’t be directly heard before. But through these media the word will get out about what you told us and not what I had to say. Because this is what Fox does, making up stuff about how everything is just fine in Baja California, that the gringos should come down here to live, that they should come on down and build houses, as if San Quintín didn’t even exist; as if the Triques, the Mixtecos, and the Zapotecos and the indigenous people, and the non-indigenous people working here, were not being exploited the way they are being exploited.

And so, compañeros y compañeras, we didn’t come here to promise you anything but one thing: let’s overthrow the government. The day will come when we do it. And the land will once again belong to he who works it, not like what happened when Salinas changed Article 27 around so that the ejidos and the communal lands no longer belong to the people, but to those who buy them. This is what will happen. And it’s not something that someone from outside is going to bring – not Pancho Villa, nor Zapata, nor Marcos. The people here, each in their place, are going to organize, because we can’t live the way we’re living anymore.

If one is going to die like an animal, one might as well let his fear die instead, so that he fights. But we don’t want an armed struggle. What we want is to organize ourselves and demand our rights and to get rid of the government. We want to put in power someone that we elect, from here, and that he’s not in that position to serve outsiders. Because now, we get one after another, waiting until a good one will supposedly show up. This will last until our children grow up with truth and with honesty, and then they will understand that they must serve the people. And then, to be Triqui, Mixteco, or Zapoteco in San Quintín Valley will not be a painful thing, it will be something of pride and of joy. And that is what we want.

Thank you compañeros. Thank you compañeras.

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