Zapatista family. Block print by Alfredo López Casanova.

The San Andrés Sakamch’en de los Pobres Accords, signed on February 16th, 1996 by the federal government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), seem to be a matter forgotten by the Mexican State, political society and the so-called national and international civil society, if the latter still exist. For those of us who directly intensely lived such an interesting process of our recent history, from the same basement in which we observe and suffer the national reality, we daily confirm that, beyond mere rhetorical discourse, the Mexican State does not observe or monitor in the slightest that the conditions are guaranteed to materialize the object and meaning of the “first” San Andrés Agreements, namely, those referred to in the agenda as “Indigenous Rights and Culture.” In this sense, in the spirit of influencing a dialogue and exchange given 30 years of the EZLN uprising, with all respect, in a personal capacity and assuming all the risks that this implies, my word and thought are pledged.

The main contradictory element in the definition of the subject of law in San Andrés remains in force: for the Mexican State we continue to be “entities of public interest” and not “subjects of public law.” The materialization of this sense of things is seen in the expectation from which the INPI becomes an instrument of the State to “guarantee” the observance, not compliance, of the various constitutional precepts and what is established in international agreements that, supposedly, allow us to talk about recognition of the rights of our people by the Mexican State. Nothing could be more false almost 30 years after San Andrés; it would be too utopian and childish to think that any agency or institution should guarantee the recognition, but not the exercise, of the rights to autonomy and self-determination of our peoples. It could be stated that, decades later, the actors and the context have changed and, indeed, many are no longer found and they did not leave a testimony or political testament for the times to come.

Among the most important legacies of San Andrés is the same historical experience that made possible, as it rarely does in this country, a process of dialogue and national agreement, between peoples in the first instance, between peoples and the EZLN in a second instance, and in the debate and tight and diminished agreement and consensus with the federal government, that is, the minimum San Andrés Agreements that were finally signed. Today, such a scenario seems impossible from the autonomous contours of our towns that would allow arriving at a strategy of national articulation and resistance against the neoliberal model of privatization of lands, mountains and waters of our communities, which is advancing at galloping speed through promoters of different levels of this government, starting with the Executive. Without exaggeration we can see in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, but also in large areas of the south and southeast of the country, how in the midst of the devastation of ecosystems, underlined by a degree of violence by cartels that did not exist in the 90s, the agents of the State—read Army, Navy and National Guard—are transmuted into businessmen and laborers to concretize the hemispheric model of security, communication and control that, evidently, favors the interests of the United States above all. It seems that analysts and academics have a hard time appreciating how the agents of this government are using the Salinas reforms of ’92 in agrarian matters to promote the sale, income and/or association of national and foreign private banking capital, converting communities agrarian lands and ejidos into supposed partners of the benefits of neoliberal development, but under the current regime, as the current governor of the state of Oaxaca, Salomón Jara, now intends with an absurd tax law. In the same state, since August 2020, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation itself committed the absurdity of issuing a ruling of unconstitutionality against the Organic Law of the Autonomous Communal University of Oaxaca, when this University is the result of the aspirations of an important sector of the Oaxacan indigenous movement –which has been interacting for decades in the definition of indigenous education programs at various levels based on communality, the way of life of our people, as the foundation of knowledge in a historical emancipatory project of higher education– of course alternative to the conventional models of frustrated and contradictory “developmental” aspirations.

Anyone who crosses the greater Iisthmus at this time will not be able to help but admire and perhaps regret the radical changes that are beginning to occur in the territories of the Ayuuk, Zoque, Binnizá and Ikoots communities, among others. Of that exuberant mountain that Humboldt observed in most of his journey through the Isthmus in the 19th century, and that the “boy” Covarrubias still celebrated, well into the fourth decade of the 20th century, from the windows of the train that he transferred to in Medias Aguas to turn towards Tehuantepec, was deconfigured, devastated by the developmental impetus of the 50s of the 20th century – what Ronald Nigh and Nemesio Rodríguez came to perceive as the “destruction of paradise”, regarding the construction of the Miguel Alemán and Rizo de Oro dams and hydroelectric plants, in the bloody decade of the 70s, while thousands of Mazatec and Chinantec families were displaced from the Papaloapan basin to the then “inhospitable” Uxpanapa Valley. Further east, at the end of the 70s, families from Michoacán and Guerrero came to work in “El Trébol” in the sawmills of the Sánchez Monroy family, with dozens of the first Chima inhabitants who populated the eastern area of the Chimalapas, until promoting in the early 1980s the development of his particular agrarian revolt, where the arrest of Ernesto Castellanos, head of the Chiapas family, was a premature omen of what would happen in the canyons of Ocosingo, Chiapas, twelve years later. The icing on the cake is called the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus, its trains, which were no longer high-velocity trains but the same ‘’chicken trains’’ from 50 years ago, will continue to whistle intermittently with the military but without unions among the towns and the ten “industrial parks” — before “Special Economic Zones”—which will remain a priority task for the next six-year period; this one was not able to build them, in a not easy context of pandemic and drug trafficking, “worse things will be seen”, of paradise and Eden “only the crosses remained.”

If the communes or agrarian communities and ejidos of almost the entire country, but especially in the deep south, were not colored by revolts and stories that paid with blood for Article 27 from the Constituent Assembly of 1917 and its subsequent Agrarian Law, which led to Cardenism and in later decades agrarian communities of communal property and ejidos were consolidated, I would say without reservation that I fully accept the proposal of common and non-property, as an alternative for a new historical horizon of the lands and our struggles for it in our country. However, the historical-epistemic root of indigenous agrarian communality, particularly in Mexico, differs correlatively from the common; in that sense we think that there is no single alternative proposal, retrospectively and prospectively, we continue to be part of the communal pluriverse, for some probably in extinction. I remember that in San Andrés, yesterday as well as today, the Mexican State refused to discuss the issue of land and the multiple conflicts between communities and private latifundia, supposed extensions of “small property” within communal and/or ejidal assets. A complete contradiction that cannot be resolved by simple anti-neoliberal discourse.

For some characters like don Juan, don Efrén or don Maurilio, who have already left us but are here, who came from agrarian and other Indian struggles, with the Purhépechas, the Wixaritari or the Yaquis, San Andrés came to constitute an important achievement of the national indigenous movement. There were chapters that dialogued with a political culture that is almost obsolete today, such as the legislative proportional representation of indigenous peoples and communities, which in that simple area are still in force, since its protagonists have no interest in promoting the recognition of the political rights of the peoples. It is almost a forgotten matter and practically surpassed by autonomous proposals, others that emerge with living examples of de facto autonomies, which are almost always diminished by respective repressive acts of the Mexican State, as has been happening with the cases of Ostula, Cherán, Amilcingo and/or the Good Government Councils themselves. “Do not stop fighting,” said Don Efrén, “for a workers, Indian, campesino and popular government,” concerned about the inclusion of the Indian resistance in other national and urban struggles when they still converged in demonstrations that became traditional every April 10th in Mexico City.

The truth is, the title of this article is just a provocation. San Andrés cannot and will not be forgotten; we will continue to fight so that the official policy for the Indians from the State recognizes all the rights of the peoples and communities in the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States. The turn of the century with a multiform political culture now leads us to question all types of borders, which increasingly relativize the scope of that “Never Again a Mexico without Us”, in whose formulation Don Gustavo and the Oaxacan autonomist movement had a lot to do, to give it a name. The utopianism of autonomy expressed from the multiethnic autonomous regions has been reduced to circumstantial deputations that are lost in the paraphernalia of a partyocracy where quotas and issues of ethnic representation no longer fit.

We Indians in resistance and dialogue are creating our own spheres of autonomy, from the communities and universities, as is now the case of the Communal Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UACO), which neither the CNDH nor the SCJN in their obtuse political and legal rationality manage to understand, not even from their own parameters, and they establish themselves as disapproving judges of a subject of law that in practice is going beyond the constitutional scope for its exercise as a subject of autonomous law. Ministers are far from understanding the historical roots of our struggles, beyond simple rhetoric they are far from understanding the existence of our communal pluriverse.

Gubiña gue’te’ bia’ zedi’di’ bi nanda lu iza zenanda xtiidxa’ Rigoola. 

Original article by Carlos Manzo at
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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