<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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Mireya: “We'll continue to resist; the Blood Spilled by Our Dead Will Not Be Betrayed”

The Zapatista Women’s Conference Ended on January 1, the 14th Anniversary of the Armed Uprising

By Juan Trujillo and Raúl Romero
Reporting from the mountains of Chiapas

January 21, 2008

La Garrucha, Chiapas, México. 28th and 29th December – The phrase, “We’ll continue to resist; the blood spilled by our dead will not be betrayed,” echoes a cry in honor of the women and men who died fighting in the armed uprising of 1994, at the start of the “Comandanta Ramona and the Women Zapatistas” meeting late last month in the Resistencia Hacia Un Nuevo Amanecer (Resistance Toward a New Dawn) Zapatista caracol. The meeting, whose principal objective had been to dignify the history of the legendary comandanta’s fight, was held a meeting space of this community with speeches about the advances in women’s struggles in the five caracoles.

Photos D.R. 2008 Raúl Romero
The inauguration took place on the night of December 28 in the presence of supporters from more than 30 countries from five continents. Comandante Susana spoke of her special relationship with Ramona. Jessica, representing Zapatista support base, saluted military commanders while commenting that the “womens fight” is also a fight for “a different and better world.” Addressing the EZLN, Comandanta Delia explained that the political prisoners of Atenco and Oaxaca were also not forgotten.

At the entrance to this caracol there is a sign which informs the men that they cannot participate as “speakers or translators,” but they can “clean the toilets, make dinner and look after the children.” This is how the feminine influence takes form in this Tzeltal jungle valley, with the constant flow of women supporters and activists from around the world.

On the morning of December 29 activities centered around the rebel insurrection of January 1, 1994 including the time leading up to it and after. Generations of women Zapatistas were present as emphasis was put on the participation of women, mothers and daughters.

Abuelita (grandmother) Avelina (all the women Zapatistas here use pseudonyms) said “when grandmothers, when our mothers, when we ourselves work under bosses, we suffer a lot. That’s why we’re now fighting to be free.”

The history of the indigenous in Mexico has been one of exploitation and humiliation, and it has been worst of all for the women. “The bosses abused maids, raped them, had families with them, had as many women as they wanted. That was the boss,” explained the grandmother.

Nevertheless, “that is why we women left everything behind one day, we abandoned the boss’s fields,” and that’s how the rebellion started for them, on the first of January.

As soon as abuelita Avelina finishes speaking, you hear the cry of “We’re not all here, we’re missing our prisoners!” The women of San Salvador Atenco with the Peoples Front for Defense of the Land (FPDT) also bang their machetes. Among them is Trinidad Ramírez, wife of Ignacio del Valle.

Durring Elisa’s emphatic speech, she said that fear was the main reason that they the women their husbands get away with all kinds of abuses. “When they were drunk they would hit us and then rape us. Our fathers were the same,” Elisa said. “They chose who we married. Most times exchanging us for a piece of land, or worse, handing us over to the bosses in exchange for alcohol.”

The rich variety of the participants who listened to the speeches merged with the diverse (mostly female) population filling the auditorium of this caracol. The international organisation Vía Campesina – whose members here wear green scarves around their necks, the color of the organization – have accompanied the EZLN on all their international conferences over the past few months.

Mireya: “We’ll never forget the blood we’ve spilled”

The “married youth” (in Zapatista language she might be too young to exercise political or military command) Mireya, explained how the reality lived by previous generations has changed radically since the rise of the EZLN “in 1994 when we rose up in arms. In that moment it became clear why we were fighting and it became clear that we women have the same rights.” She added that indigenous women were looked down on and couldn’t even choose whom to marry. But it’s different now: they choose their partner, they know their rights and they are even part of the Good Government Councils.

“We are positioning ourselves on land recovered in 1994, land that was bought with the blood of our fallen comrades. But now the PRI (Institutional Revolution Party in its Spanish initials) and the Organization For Defense of Campesino and Indigenous Rights (OPDDIC in its Spanish initials, a local paramilitary organization) want us to give up what we have gained.”

She also said that bad governments use many methods to confuse and divide communities, like their social programs, along with other programs that seek to buy “other indigenous brothers,” who fall into the trap because they are in need. She finished her speech affirming that as women Zapatistas “we won’t go for Government Rural Help and Assistance Program (PROCAMPO in its Spanish initials) or bad government projects, because we’re never going to forget nor betray the blood we’ve spilled.” Finally, Mireya remembered all those who fought, armed, that January 1 and assured that “we’ll continue to resist, the blood they spilled will not be betrayed.”

For her part, the single, young woman Adriana (a Zapatista girl who is also a mother), said that she lives a different reality than that which her mother and grandmother lived. She explained that while still a girl she had to live through hard situations. “Before, our fathers didn’t let us go out because they said we knew nothing. They sold us like an animal in exchange for drinks. However, we recognize that today is a different reality and everything changed with the participation of the EZLN in 1994.” She added that “our fathers came to realize that we have rights and we can participate in several positions at work, in education and in health. Now our fathers give us freedom to work for the town.”

The child Zapatista Marina, from San Rafael – in Zapatista Rebellious Autonomous municipality Francisco Gómez – turned 9 years old on the previous January 4 and studies in the Zapatista autonomous school in her town. She told of being glad to have the right “to dance, to sing, and to enjoy herself.” Finally, Marina recounted that in her school there aren’t enough work materials and they can’t ask the Council of Good Government because there are more urgent needs, and that “we Zapatistas don’t want charity or crumbs from the bad government because that would betray the struggle.” Although she is just a child, she knows well that they are in resistance and is conscious of the limitations and complications that this brings with it. “We are used to it,” she said.

Originally published in Spansih January 5

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