Autonomy is a word readers and researchers on the Schools for Chiapas website will come across often. It is a key concept of Zapatismo: One will come across autonomous zones, autonomous municipalities, autonomous communities, autonomous education, autonomous health…even an autonomous ambulance! The Zapatista project is defined by the demand for autonomy and it is important to have a clear understanding of the term.
Older folks, both men and women, accompany the hundreds of youth throughout the celebration. These Zapatista authorities from local municipalities work day and night throughout the celebration. The men cook wonderful food which fuels the sports and cultural work of the students. The women and men serving as local Zapatista government authorities seek advice and direction from the Good Government Board about issues facing their communities.
Along with a few outsiders and many indigenous Zapatistas, I had the opportunity and the honor to attend the burial and contemplate the human issues that always arise when one is confronted with the finality and continuality of death. Throughout that sunny morning and brilliant afternoon, a tumult of emotions and thoughts and impressions flashed across my consciousness and are still percolating beneath the surface. Although I am still sorting out my feeling, I need to share some impressions from that profound experience.
Note: This piece was written in 2001 during an important effort by the Zapatista movement to convince the Mexican government to honor and implement the Peace Accords of San Andres. This peace agreement, although signed by the Mexican government and the Zapatistas, is still not implemented and remains the most important issue for the indigenous peoples of Mexico and of those throughout the Americas.