The Mountain and the Night Sky of the Lacandon

By Luis Hernández Navarro
Image from Taller Ahuehuete

Since the beginning of calendar of the insurrection, the image of the boat has been a central part of the metaphors in the Zapatista narrative. It is a curious irony that a political-military force territorially nestled in the jungles and mountains of Chiapas, hundreds of kilometers from the sea, resorts to the boat as a symbol of its emancipatory project.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the ship La Montaña and the Zapatista delegation have lifted anchors in Isla Mujeres to cross the Atlantic to the port of Vigo. The night sky of the Lacandon Jungle has always been a kind of sea so large that neither its beginning nor its end can be seen, and in which the dreams of all kinds of utopias sail freely, propelled by the air. What is new now are not the fantasies of an aquatic landing on the old continent but the fact that, more than 26 years after they were announced, they have become reality.

In a postscript alerting NATO, dated January 30, 1996, the late Subcomandante Marcos affirms that Durito, that beetle that the guards later mistook for a dwarf rhinoceros, and whom several witnesses claim to have seen in the boarding of “La Montaña”, was determined to disembark and begin the conquest of Europe. However, the Sup declined to be part of the enterprise because the boat he is preparing looks too much like a sardine can, he fears that they want to take him as an oarsman, and most dampness makes him dizzy.

La Montaña, the vessel in which the EZLN’s Squadron 421 travels, is not a sardine can like Durito’s, but it has its years under its belt. She was built in the A. Vujik & Zonene shipyard in Holland in 1903 as a fishing vessel. It is not a large ship. Her dimensions are 27 x 6.55 x 2.8 meters. Over the years she has been repaired and improved. Her first engine, a two-cylinder engine, was made in 1931 in Finland. In 1963 it was replaced by another 280 horsepower engine, manufactured in 1955. That is the one she is still using to this day. In 2011, the ship was rebuilt in Hamburg. Since 2005, she has sailed the seas of Panama, Colombia and Jamaica.

Ships, as vehicles of transit to another world, are central pieces of the Chiapas rebels’ project. In the postscript to the essay Neoliberalism: History as Comic Strip, dated April 6, 1996, presented at the American Continental Meeting for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, Subcomandante Marcos writes: “old Antonio discovered that all those who got on the boat are the same ones who had been excluded, always, from all the boats.

“And that’s why they got on – Antonio told Subcomandante Marcos – because those men and women, and young people, some prisoners, most of them indigenous, ‘no longer want to obey orders, but to participate, to be captains and sailors’ and to make that ship advance towards a greater future, with seriousness and joy, men finding one another.”

The First Intercontinental Meeting for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism, also known as the Intergalactic, held in August 1996 in the mountains of southeastern Mexico, was a key moment in the forging of a network of planetary resistances against neoliberalism. Echoes of that meeting were experienced from the protests against the World Trade Organization in 1999 in Seattle, and throughout the cycle of alter-globalization struggles in Quebec, Prague, Sydney and Genoa. The attack on the Twin Towers in Washington in September 2001 derailed this wave of nonconformity and forced the mobilizations to focus on demands against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Convened by the EZLN, the Intergalactic was attended by more than 3,000 delegates, half of them foreigners from 42 countries, committed to building a new world. Representatives of a broad left-wing political spectrum were present: from the infrared to the ultraviolet. Debates of the highest level and theoretical relevance alternated with somniferous meetings to diagnose the nature of savage capitalism and anticipate ways of resistance and rupture.

Inspired by the Zapatista gesture, libertarian yearnings found in the Intergalactic the social and political subjects who could embody them. A broad and loose planetary anti-capitalist movement was founded there. “We dream – concluded the act among many other points – of a world where society does not conform to patriarchal structures; of a world without militarism; a world without discrimination by sex, race, creed, sexual orientation; a world where women, of any race, of any creed and of any class, enjoy pleasure at all levels. A world without violence, a world where being a woman is a pleasure, and not an excessive burden of work”.

In their maritime crossing to Europe, the Zapatistas are going to meet with the history that they initiated in this encounter, and which goes back a long time. They are going to talk with those who have always been left out, who have no place on other ships and do not want to follow orders, but rather to be sailors and captains, with those who they have had, for almost three decades, a relationship of solidarity, mutual support and learning. They are not going to meet with officials and governments. In a moment of planetary urgency, beyond what happens at national borders or electoral junctures, they are going to coexist with their peers, with the Europe from below, to continue dreaming together, those utopias that sail in the enormous night sky of the Lacandon jungle.

This article was published in La Jornada on May 4th, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/05/04/opinion/016a2pol. This English interpretation by Chiapas Support Committee, reposted by Schools for Chiapas.