It is Time for our Hearts to Dance Again

Dear compañer@s, compañeras, y compañeros,

As we bring another trip around the sun to a close, we reflect on the year’s events and the lessons learned, evaluating what we have done well, and that which can always be done better. In this, it is an honor to learn from the reflection and action of the autonomous communities in resistance and rebellion of Chiapas. The Zapatista practice of caminar preguntando, walking while asking, informs our path in solidarity going forward.

This year, the Zapatistas launched their audacious Journey for Life to meet with the resistances of “the Europes of below.” In spite of the pandemic, insidious institutional racism, and continuous onslaught of paramilitary violence in their communities, the Zapatistas persisted, and both maritime and airborne delegations were received with open arms by hundreds of collectives across the pond.

As the Zapatista voyagers made new friends and strengthened old ties, Schools for Chiapas did the same, focusing on our relationships in Chiapas, building capacity, and embarking on collaborations like Mother Seeds in Resistance. Thanks to you, friends, our efforts have continued for the past 28 years, adapting with the evolution of the struggle for autonomy and dignity. This year, to date you have contributed another $85K to direct and in-kind donations to the communities who have taught us all so much.

Slow, but moving forward, says the Zapatista caracol.

Given the pandemic precautions in Zapatista communities, our efforts this year have focused on supporting holistic well-being through capacity-building and collaborations in plant medicines and seed sovereignty. These collaborations, which are long-term works-in-progress, distribute diverse seeds and medicinal plants to communities who are committed to reproducing them, as well as plant medicine manuals, PPE, and supplies to health promoters. Like a caracol, with humility, perseverance, and a rebellious heart these efforts continue to advance, lento pero seguro, slow but sure.

A Zapatista 2021

2021 was many things, and to the Zapatistas, the state of the world presented an urgency, to go out, to find camaraderie, to build strength….we offer a brief summary of the year in Zapatismo:

At the start of 2021, in the face of the global chaos catalyzed by Covid-19, the Zapatista bases of support released A Declaration…FOR LIFE from “one of the bridges of dignity that unite the five continents.” The declaration, signed by thousands of organizations, collectives and individuals around the globe stated that despite all of our differences, we (the signatories) vow to make the pains of the earth our own, to struggle everywhere and at all times against a system (capitalism) that cannot be made kind, or green, or humane. We commit to listen to one another and see that the struggle for humanity is a struggle for diversity, and against homogeneity and hegemony of any kind. Our unique inhabiting of relationships and ecosystems and cultures is the strength that we bring to this common struggle — our struggle is for life.

Marijose addresses the crowd at the port of Vigo in Galicia as Squadron 421 disembarked.

With this declaration, the Zapatistas announced the launch of their Journey for Life, in which delegations of rebel Mayans would, starting with Europe, visit the 5 continents— to listen to the struggles for life around the globe. The Zapatista caracoles began immediately preparing their delegates for the rigorous training, passport and visa paperwork, vaccination protocols and quarantine that such an endeavor would require. The inaugural phase of the journey by maritime delegation Escuadron 421, embarked on the 2nd of May from Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo en route to Port Vigo in Galicia, where Marijose, a non-binary Tojolobal would re-name the continent of Europe Slumil K’Axemk’op, or “Insubordinate Land.” The months of summer would find Escuadron 421 in gatherings large and small, listening, taking notes and sharing until September 13th, when they were relieved by the airborne delegation — 177 Zapatistas now referred to as La Extemporanea, who continue to travel and visit collectives across the continent.

This feat of surreal brilliance, as John Holloway referred to it, takes place in the face of a heightening war of attrition against their communities, in spite of the racist barrage of bureaucratic obstacles, and despite the pandemic that still ravages the populations of the world. No, the Zapatistas insist. Our hearts will dance again. We must break the siege. The conversations between the Zapatista delegations of listening and the word and the collectives of Europe coalesce in resistance to the ongoing war on peoples and the planet — a war that is reaching a boiling point in Chiapas. 

Behind the smokescreen of pandemic panic, criminality and impunity make hay. Taking advantage of economic despair and the confusion that reigns across the networks of misinformation, organized crime syndicates and narcos slip seamlessly into the infrastructures so well-established over decades of corruption. The militarization of Chiapas that began under Ernesto Zedillo has become increasingly normalized under Andrés Manuel Lopez Obradoar, as the Armed Forces are granted the administration of megaprojects like the Mayan Train and “welfare” programs like Sembrando Vida. National Guard forces are deployed to brutalize migrants on the southern border.  In the midst of all of it, Zapatista and other organized indigenous communities find themselves literally in the crosshairs, as Chiapas Governor Rutilio Escandon aids and abets organized crime, and encourages forced displacement across the state. 

Though the conflict dates back decades, the communities of Aldama have been subjected to constant paramilitary violence from the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó since 2018. These forces have left thousands displaced not only from Aldama but also from the communities of Chalchihuitán. In Zapatista Caracol 10, Patria Nueva, the communities of Nuevo San Gregorio, Cuxuljá, Moíses y Gandhi as well as in the Zapatista rebel municipality of Lucio Cabañas have been harassed and threatened by paramilitaries from ORCAO for the past 2 years. The community of Nuevo San Gregorio is in a desperately vulnerable state, unable to plant and harvest their own corn. On November 21, members of ORCAO attacked the middle school in Moisés y Gandhi for the second time, burning three classrooms. Meanwhile San Cristóbal de las Casas, hub of tourism, nightlife and all things groovy has become a playground for gangs like the motonetos, creating a palpable tension in the beautiful and previously vibrant city. As the Zapatistas warned in a communiqué in September, these conflicts and the crises in Pantelhó, Venustiano Carranza, and other regions, are evidence that Chiapas is in fact, on the brink of civil war

From October 31st to November 12 this year, a political charade took place in Glasgow, as it does every year at the UN Climate Change Conference. But out in the streets, indigenous, peasant, youth and working class people called out the hypocrisy and cynicism of an agreement which quite literally condemns the most vulnerable to death, with the rest in tow. Our lives, and life in general depends on the very resistance that the Zapatistas are sowing.

Wake up! Graphic: @TallerAhuehuete

2021 has been a year that many approached with a certain hopefulness that would emerge from the pandemic to a “new normal” infused with a new wisdom. What we realized though, is that the “new normal” means recommitting to the struggle for life, joining in our common quest, in all of its glorious diversity, against the system that is killing the planet…

What the Zapatistas have shown us is that there is no time to feel defeated, or to hide in our homes. Our hearts must dance again, united by our common dream of freedom..and for Life.  We thank you for sharing this journey with us.

The heart of resistance and rebellion. Tulan Kau Caracol XI.