The Bittersweet Taste of Reading El Capitán

Pablo Martínez

For weeks now, thousands of media outlets have carried the 20 press releases from Enlace Zapatista by the now Capitán Marcos and Subcomandante Moisés, both of which portray with finesse the keen vision they have of the social realities. I am left with a bittersweet taste when I read Capitán Marcos’ writings, texts that portray the need for transformation in the face of the movement’s external and internal circumstances.

The publications begin with Rubén Darío’s poem Los motivos del lobo where he portrays the lack of empathy we have with nature by not understanding the damage we do to it by not listening to it. They continue with the story of Deni, an indigenous Mayan girl, daughter of indigenous Zapatista insurgents who gave her that name to honor the memory of a companion who died.

The fourth leaflet signed by sub Moisés gives us notice of a series of events to come, from the structural change that is being discussed at the grassroots, to the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Zapatista uprising. It will be only in the ninth release that sub Moisés gives us an overview of the new structure of the autonomous communities.

Sub Moisés explains the disappearance of the Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Municipalities (Marez) and the Good Government Councils (JBG) to give birth to the Local Autonomous Governments (GAL), with a GAL in each community where Zapatista support bases live. The Zapatista GALs, Moisés explains, are the nucleus of all autonomy and will be coordinated by the autonomous agents and commissions and are subject to the assembly of the town, ranchería, community, paraje, barrio, ejido, colonia, or whatever each population is called.

By having the community as their nucleus, the LAGs will have the opportunity to organize themselves regionally, thus creating the Zapatista Autonomous Government Collectives (CGAZ), in which they will discuss and reach agreements on matters of interest to the convening GALs. A significant change of structure, since the command and coordination of autonomy will be transferred from the JBG and Marez, to the GAL.

Surprising news of how the organized Zapatista peoples evolve to respond to the world ruled by rampant capitalism and systemic violence, Sub Moises includes this in his statement, stating that the EZLN will undergo changes in its structure, in order to increase the defense and security of the villages and the land, due to aggressions, attacks, epidemics, invasion of  companies that prey on nature, and military occupations, among others.

The bitter aspect that I see in Capitán Marcos’s statements is the enormous abandonment that continues on the part of three levels of government towards the populations of Chiapas that are sinking into violence. He notes that the specialists in everything and connoisseurs of nothing continue to ignore the military withdrawals, the forced displacements and the advances of organized crime.

In the 14th installment we read about the conversation that the captain and the subcomandante had early one morning in November, that they will call it The Crack as a project, the idea of opening a crack in a world full of problems that Marcos enunciates, from the number of disappeared in Mexico to the number of Palestinians killed by the State of Israel; things that are discussed in assembly to make a decision about what is to come.

The idea of a crack that helps to build a door to a better world, it is here that Capitán Marcos will demonstrate hope through the voice of Sub Moisés, “why do we say that the nightmare that is already here, and that will only get worse, will be followed by an awakening? Well, because there are those who, like us, are determined to look at that possibility. Minimal, it is true. But every day and at all times, everywhere, we fight for that slightest possibility.”

The same capitán speaks of the importance of memory in rage, that word that has been inherited since 1994, and that has been loaded with memories, Marcos will say that this is the nourishment of rage, the root of the tree of dignity and rebellion: “The Zapatista peoples, when they look at the past, look at and speak to their dead. They ask them to question the present – including themselves. And that is how they look to the future.”

It is in this affirmation that the sweet hope gathered by 30 years of struggle and resistance will be recharged, the sweetness of knowing that they are not alone, that we are not alone, that we are many outlaws, and that rage will be an engine for transformation, because they have shown it, and they have given us tools to know that in the world we know something better can exist.

Original text published in La Jornada, December 29th 2023.
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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