(The Hour of the Pueblos Has Come.)
Sisters, brothers, and non-binary siblings,
May you all receive a hug… well, several. We wanted to send you a greeting… ok, several, and, taking advantage of the flight of these letters, to ask for your support.
It turns out that, for the Journey for Life Chapter Europe, it has been decided that we must fulfill the legal requirements to be able to arrive, with our ear and our word, to the lands that Marijose will have re-named in a few days. In a few hours (taking as a reference the day and time that I write this letter — dawn of June 11, 2021), that daring challenge called “The Mountain,” will touch European lands in the so-called Azores Islands, in Portugal. There they will stay for a few days and then head to their destination: Vigo, Galicia, Spain. Afterwards, an airborne group will leave.
The so-called “Squadron 421” will have their papers in order. That is to say, they have a double passport: the official Mexican passport and the so-called “Zapatista work passport,” which is issued by the Good Government Councils when a compañera, compañero or compañeroa 1 leaves Zapatista territory to do work for our peoples. Here we say that he or she goes on a “commission.” On another occasion we will speak of this “Zapatista passport,” now we would like to speak to you about the official one.
We have referred before, in writings and talks, to what we call “the calendar and geography”. Well, our geography is called “Mexico.” And, for us, the Zapatista communities, this is not just a word. It is, in the Zapatista sense, a geography. When we say that we are “Mexicans,” we mean that we share histories with other native sister peoples (such as those who are grouped in the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council). Stories, that is to say: pains, joys, anger, grievances, struggles. But not only with the original peoples of this geography, also with individuals, groups, collectives, organizations and movements that coincide with us, the Zapatista peoples, in dreams and, of course, in nightmares.
By this I mean to say that we, the Zapatista communities, are not only not ashamed to say that we are Mexican, we are proud of it. Because this pride is not born from looking to the top and watching its cartoons but from looking, listening and talking to the Mexico below, their lives and their deaths. It is not my intention to give an account, however hasty, of what Mexico lives and fights for. Everyone has their own ways, their own stories, their defeats and victories, their way of looking at and explaining their world, their way of looking at and explaining themselves. But we see that there is something common, a kind of root, or plot, or backbone… there must be a way of saying it in cybernetic language… a matrix? Well, it is with that common root that we identify.
Oh, I know that more than one will be troubled by whether what I say is a “Zapatista” version of nationalism. I am not referring to nationalism. Nationalisms hide, for instance, inequalities and, beware, criminal relationships. In nationalisms the criminal and the victim converge, the Boss and the bossed around. Something as perverse as “I am destroying you but I do it for your sake because we are compatriots.” Something like the malignant meaning given to “the human,” for instance, in pointing out that both men and women are human beings. I will leave aside the fact that it is forgotten that there are those who are neither female nor male and, being nameless, are no longer “a human being.” In this sense of “the human,” the relationship of dominance between men and women is forgotten. I am not going to write a whole reel about patriarchy, its genealogy and its current maddening crime; there are those among you who know more about it and explain it better than I could.
Is it possible to refer to humanity without falling into the trap of hypocritical equality? We think so, and that relates to humanity in the sciences and the arts, but not only. Also to feelings, thoughts and basic proposals: the sense of justice, morals and ethics (which the late comrade Don Luis Villoro 2 a would explain better than I would even try), fraternity and other things that I will not detail (but you feel free to do so). For example, I would add dance —music and songs included–, and the game, but don’t pay too much attention to me.
Anyway, from one detail to the next, differences, distances, disagreements will open up. But, on the other hand, we could find something in common: that is what we call “humanity.”
So, when we say that the Zapatista peoples are “Mexicans” and that we are proud to be so, we refer to that common matrix with the other that struggles in this geography trapped between the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande) and the Suchiate, with the nibble that the eastern sea took from it and the elongated curve that the western sea forged in its waist, and including the solitary arm that borders the so-called “Sea of Cortés.” Add the real history, that of the neighboring geographies and…
Well, enough of that. The thing is that our airborne delegation is in the midst of proceedings around their passports. And I say “proceedings” out of delicacy, because it is like a hell, one that feeds in silence and comes to be seen as “normal.”
Because it turns out that our compañeras, compañeros and compañeroas meet all the requirements that are demanded, make the stipulated payment, travel from their communities to the offices of the erroneously-named “Secretariat of Foreign Affairs” and, with all the pandemic, they make an appointment, wait in line, wait their turn and… then are denied the document.
The obstacles of the supreme government and its ignorant, foolish and racist bureaucracy are outrageous.
Because you might think that it is only bureaucracy, that you have the bad luck to run into someone who thinks he has power because he is behind a window, a desk, an office. But no, it is also something else, and it could be synthesized as follows: racism.
The reasons? Well, there is a fundamental one and, of course, its derivatives: there is an atmosphere of poorly-concealed hysteria in the government. In keeping with their commitment to the U.S. government to stop the flow of migrants from Central America –for the federal, state and municipal governments– anything that is not blond, light-eyed and comes from further south than Puebla, is Central American. For the schizophrenic government authorities, the first thing any Central American does is: get their birth certificate, their INE3 credential or their photo ID (which is an official document because it is issued by the municipality), and of origin in the official head office, their baptismal certificate, the birth certificates of their parents or older siblings, copies of their INE’s, certificates of autonomous municipality and Good Government Board, witnesses with official ID, and so on. With all of this fulfilled, their request for the document that every Mexican has the right to leave and enter national territory is rejected.
Yes, all those papers are presented, but the problem is that, in the eyes of the bureaucracy of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the color of the skin, the way of speaking, the way of dressing and the place of origin is what counts. “South of the Taxqueña subway4 The station at the souther terminus of the Mexico City subway system, everything is Central America.”
So much blah, blah, blah about rights and recognition of our roots, and so on —including hypocritical pardons asked of the land to be destroyed— but the native, or indigenous, populations continue to be treated as foreigners in their own land. And worse in Mexico City, which is supposedly “progressive.” There, a woman, a bureaucrat of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, rejected the INE credential with a derogatory “that one is not good for anything, only for voting”, and demanded from the compañera, over 40 years old, inhabitant of the Lacandon Jungle, her high school certificate, to prove that she was not Guatemalan. The compañera alleged: “but I live off the land, I am a peasant, I don’t have a high school education.” The bureaucrat, haughty and arrogant: “Well, you don’t study because you don’t want to”. ” But I come from Chiapas,” insisted the compañera. “I don’t care. Ok, next,” replies the bureaucrat.
Does government bureaucracy get off on mistreating indigenous people? Is arrogance their aphrodisiac? “I already came, dear, today I bounced a fucking Indian and I’m really in the mood,” they will say, squinting their eyes coquettishly.
To prove if it was racism and not just bureaucracy, we sent a “white-passing and bearded” compañero to get his passport. They gave it to him the same day and without asking for anything beyond his birth certificate, his photo ID and proof of payment, which are the legal requirements.
And not only that: the Secretary of Foreign Affairs retains the payment made by all the compas who have been denied passports under pretexts and requirements that are not even on their website. Austerity must be really tough if they have to deprive the indigenous people of their money.
A compa (over 60 years of age) was questioned, “Might it be that you want to go to the United States to work?” The compa replied, “No, that’s where we’ll go later, another time. Right now we have to go to Europe.” The official, like the Federal Electoral Tribunal, washed his hands of it and sent him to another window. There he was told: “That is very far away and the trip is expensive, you couldn’t have the necessary money because you are an indigenous person. You have to bring your credit card statement. Next.” They said to a compañera: “Let’s have it, sing the hymn.” And the compañera started with “ya se mira el horizonte…” Rejected. She said to me regretfully: “I think it is because I sang it with a cumbia rhythm and not as a corrido ranchero. But cumbia is more cheerful. The corridos rancheros are all about killing women. If your name is “Martina” or “Rosita,” that’s enough.”
Same in Mexico City: Two Tzeltal-speaking compañeras from the Lacandon Jungle. They walk from their village to where they take a truck to the municipal capital; from there by public transportation to San Cristobal de Las Casas; from there another to Tuxtla Gutierrez; from there another one to Mexico City. They pay the passport fee for 10 years “because it will take time to travel the world”; they go to an office of the SRE; they wait in line with masks on, masked and socially distanced; they enter and present their papers; they have their photograph taken; they wait outside to be called to receive their passport. They are called and told “one letter of your last name is wrong,” and “your brother has another mother’s last name.” The brother’s last name: “that’s just the way fucking men are and my dad was a jerk.” The one with the letter: “the one who wrote the certificate doesn’t know the written difference between the ‘s’ and the ‘z’.” In both cases, the officials: mocking laughter and “you have to go back and bring more proof that you are Mexican.” The women: “but I live all the way to Chiapas.” The SRE: “I won’t give you your passport until you bring that. The compañeras return in reverse, arrive in their town, update and gather more proof that they are Mexican. Another trip to Mexico City. Appointment again, line up with masks, socially distanced. At the window. High official of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs: “now we have to wait until we can prove that they are Mexican.” The compas: “but I brought what they told me.” The SRE: “but we have to verify that the papers are true, so we are going to ask at the Civil Registry of your municipality and your state”. The compañeras: “How long does it take? The SRE: “10 days or a month, we will let you know. The compañeras wait 10 days and nothing. They go back. A month passes and nothing. Another 30 days and nothing. They go back to Mexico City. Same journey. The SRE: “they have not responded, keep waiting”.
And there they are, the two compañeras. They started their procedures in March and it is the month of… June.
If you have time, do this: imagine that you were born with dark skin, that you are of indigenous descent, and that you are from a state in southeastern Mexico. Now look at the requirements to obtain a passport: birth certificate, official photo ID, or professional license, or professional degree, or released military ID, or credential from the National Institute for the Elderly, or medical services credential from a public health institution; and proof of payment.
And even if you have any or all of these requirements, if you are dark-skinned, speak very differently, and dress “like India Maria5” (taken verbatim from an official of the SRE), you will be confronted with something like: “no, you need to bring your grades from kindergarten, primary, secondary, high school –not CCH6, the ones from there are shackles-, diploma, personal improvement course at NXIVM7, and a letter of good conduct from the prefect of discipline8.”
So the support we are requesting of you is that you talk among yourselves to see if something can be done. For example: You could give a course on shame to the bureaucrats of the SRE; you could tell Mr. Marcelo Ebrard9 that we understand that, due to austerity, he has no money for his campaign for 2024, unless he steals the cost of passports from the indigenous people and keeps it without giving them their document, well, how can I say it without being rude… well, it is shameless. Or maybe he wants the funds to buy his “Neo from the Matrix”-style coats? Or that, with the money they are withholding for the denied passports, they take a course on gender, tolerance and inclusion. Or give them some history books so that they understand the place of the original peoples in this geography.
We are Mexicans, we were born here, we lived here, we fought here and we died here. Whatever. If we had landed in the American Union, or in Belize or Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, Costa Rica or Nicaragua, we would still be proud of those geographies… and we would be denouncing their respective governments as bureaucrats, racists and ignorant, which is what we do with the current Mexican government and its “Secretary of Foreign Affairs.”
Anyway, I can’t think of many options, but maybe you can. Check it out and let us know.
In the meantime, we send you (all of you) a big hug that, although from a distance, does not cease to be sincere and fraternal.
From somewhere on Planet Earth.
El Sup Galeano.
P.S. In a few more hours I will send you a text for the sports section of your web page… What?! Don’t you have a sports section? I’m not telling you. Well, “quid pro quo,” give and take, with that text you can launch the aforementioned “sports section” and in return, you lend us a hand in the matter referred to above. Oh, I know, you still owe us. But as a bonus, you could, I don’t know, send a few euros for the chescos (refreshments) in the Europes… or, better yet, accompany us and, as the name suggests, share, in addition to a welcoming space in a detention center for migrants, some words, some ears, some glances, and… do you know how to swim?
This letter was published in Camino al Andar on June 14th 2021. https://www.caminoalandar.org/post/carta-de-la-comisión-sexta-zapatista-al-colectivo-llegó-la-hora-de-los-pueblos It has been re-published with English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas.
- non-binary person
- Luis Villoro Toranzo was a Spanish-Mexican philosopher, whose contributions to critical thought and dedicated membership in the EZLN is much celebrated by the Zapatistas.
- National Electoral Institute.
- The station at the southern terminus of the Mexico City subway system.
- A comical fictional character of an indigenous woman enduring racism, classism and corruption. A media stereotype.
- The College of Sciences and Humanities is one of three systems of the UNAM(National Autonomous University of Mexico) that offers preparatory education.
- An American cult engaged in sex-trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, while claiming to be a multi-level marketing company. Its founder, Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico in March 2018.
- A senior master in Jesuit school or college
- Foreign Secretary of Mexico appointed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He is ostensibly running for the Morena party ticket in 2024.