By Raúl Romero*
“What I don’t like is the label: I am indigenous. Its like saying, I’m going to seek the Presidency of the Republic because I am Catholic and heterosexual. We are Mexicans…,” journalist Carlos Ramos Padilla said to María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, Marichuy, on a television program in January 2018. In those days, Marichuy, the spokeswoman for the Indigenous Governing Council-National Indigenous Congress was a Presidential hopeful, a tool that they utilized first of all to make visible the violence against indigenous peoples.
Some of this violence is that of racism and discrimination, structural and systemic wrongs that remained amply demonstrated by the initiative. The HSBC bank, for example, denied Marichuy the possibility of opening a bank account, despite fulfilling all the requirements. The account, it is worth noting, is one of the requirements that the INE (National Electoral Institute) demanded to be able to register her as a candidate hopeful. Then, the collection of signatures that supported Marichuy had to be carried out with mid-range devices and Internet access — something that millions of individuals to this day have little access to. As if that weren’t enough, the technological devices did not always capture the digital fingerprints of the calloused and injured hands of those that work in the countryside.
On social networks and in the media, racist contempt and patriarchal violence: Yes, I would vote for Marichuy. She looks like she has experience in cleaning Mexico ; Who is Marichuy and why isn’t she making pozole?; Marcos’s candidate.
The violence against Marichuy and what she represented were well enunciated 17 years ago, when in 2001, in the highest tribune of the Congress of the Union — and not without previous denials under also racist and elitist arguments—, Comandanta Esther recalled the many oppressions experienced by a woman, indigenous, poor and in addition Zapatista, as she gave a lecture on political theory and itemized the reasons for Zapatismo and for the indigenous peoples in struggle (https://bit.ly/2SH6xFb).
From its first public years, Zapatismo helped to expose the structural racism of the Mexican state, but also the xenophobic nationalism. On January 6th, 1994 for example, Carlos Salinas de Gortari referred to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) as professionals of violence, nationals and a foreign group that was against Mexico. He wasn’t the only one. Intellectuals and journalists close to Salinas reinforce the idea of the foreigner or mestizo that manipulated the indigenous people, or spread the supposedly separatist and Balkanizing intent of the rebellious Mayan peoples. On these and other counterinsurgent narrative strategies, you can review this terrific text by Luis Hernández Navarro: En torno a los orígenes de la narrativa anti-Zapatista (https://bit.ly/3jzp01v) (Regarding the origins of the anti- Zapatista narrative).
These attempts to delegitimize the struggles of the indigenous people are not a thing of the past. Today even, they reach delusional and dangerous expressions: they [the Zapatistas] are an invention of Salinas, they want to separate from Mexico, the British crown finances them, they have connections with organized crime, affirm journalists and users on social media. All these accusations have one profoundly racist idea in common — that the indian peoples cannot propose and build a better world.
In recent days, the racism, xenophobia and discrimination experienced by indigenous Zapatistas and members of the National Indigenous Congress in their attempts to obtain a passport to be part of the Journey for Life, has been made public. “She dresses like the “India Maria”; It wouldn’t be that you want to go to the United States to work?; Now we just have to wait to prove that you are Mexicans; That is very far away and the trip is expensive; You couldn’t possibly have the money because you’re indigenous, were just some of the things they had to hear from officials at the Secretary of Foreign Relations.
Racism, discrimination, xenophobia, patriarchy and elitism are forms of domination that intermingle with others in the capitalist system of exploitation and make it so that non-hegemonic ways of life are excluded, persecuted, and exterminated. Eradicating this contempt for the other, all others, and all that is different, is an urgent matter to resolve.
For now, denouncing, fighting and confronting the structural and systemic racism that is reproduced from the Mexican state is a good start in continuing to crack the system of domination, exploitation and death. The world where many worlds fit is not only anti-capitalist, it is anti-patriarchal and anti-racist. That is where we are heading.
This piece was published in La Jornada on July 4th, 2021.
English interpretation re-published by Schools for Chiapas.