Zapatista Teachings in the Classroom

Miguel Escobar Guerrero Y Sofía Paola Olea Reyes

30 years after the creation of the EZLN and the Zapatista communities: in the classroom, what have we learned from their experience?

Paulo Freire was at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, FFyL- UNAM, on two occasions, in 1984 and 1985, when we were reinventing its educational praxis in our educational processes. With Freire we – the students and I – shared the limits of the university space. At that time we were experiencing a certain hopelessness that forced us to build our practice in another way.

In that search, we arrived in 1994, when we were surprised by the Zapatista native peoples [1] in the mountainous zone of Chiapas, who decided to come out with weapons to tell Mexico and the world that they would no longer remain silent. Their struggle has been against oblivion and to recover their territories and their word became fire. Prepared with precise military tactics and strategies, they put the government in check.

12 days after that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!, Mexican civil society organizations marched to prevent that war and ask for negotiation between the EZLN and the government. They demanded no more deaths or murders. However, in the short term these civil society organizations forgot the Zapatistas.

Currently, this January 1st, 2024, in the Zapatista celebration of their 30 years of struggle of organization and resistance, they continue to say that we left them alone.

Until when?

Meanwhile, in the midst of the storm and catastrophe that we are experiencing and that was announced by the EZLN,[2] they continue to teach us that bad governments became taskmasters, adapting to the orders of their true bosses, the owners of money and the world. War capitalism, the Capitalist Hydra as Zapatismo calls it, continues its march with its four wheels: EXPLOITATION, DISPOSESSION, CONTEMPT and OPPRESSION.

Throughout 30 years of the process of building their autonomy, the EZLN and the Zapatista communities have shared – with their creativity, strength and lucidity that has characterized them – the advances of their autonomy, presenting plays, poetry, music, murals -among other expressions- to narrate their processes in the meetings that they have shared with us.[3]

In silence, throughout these years they dedicated themselves to taking care of their territories and building their autonomy, taking care not to fall into provocations from paramilitaries and the government.

In a recent statement from SubMoisés, they let us know that in the assemblies with the Zapatista communities they decided that their new stage will be THE COMMON AND NON-OWNERSHIP.[4]

What have we been able to do in the FFyL classroom over these 30 years? The Freirian and Zapatista praxis have given us energy, and their example allows students to emerge as subjects in the construction of their autonomy at an individual and collective level, taking into account the situation of misery and abandonment in which most of the indigenous peoples and peasants live.

How to do it? The main task has been the permanent search, with the students, to crack the walls of the classroom and begin their awareness/emancipation. We have achieved this in part with the creation of the Freiriano-Zapatista International Seminars, in which students become subjects, organizers and participants of these Seminars.

Zapatista praxis, in a complementary way with Freirian praxis, has taught us to be sentinels of our processes, developing transformative critical thinking. With each new group of students, in these decades, we have analyzed our practice to transform it.

Throughout this process and from its educational results we were able to identify several contradictions and limitations, between teacher and students, in a Freirian-Zapatista praxis.

With the celebration of the 30 years of the EZLN and the Zapatista communities, a new task awaits us, faced not only with the contradictions of our praxis and the contempt of the current government towards the Zapatistas but, most alarmingly, with the devastation and global catastrophe at all levels: ecological, sociopolitical, educational, family, religious.

As a summary, in the 30 years of Zapatismo in this experience in the university classroom we can affirm that:

  • It doesn´t matter how small the space of our struggle is: let us do what is possible today, to achieve the impossible tomorrow, as Paulo Freire taught us.
  • We must always be sentinels – not new “doctrinaire priests” – of our own praxis.
  • Our fight is FOR LIFE worldwide.
  • Bad governments and bad authorities will always put obstacles in our way, they will never reward us.
  • The path is built with memory, Sub-Moíses tells us. In our research project, READING REALITY IN CLASSROOM THINKING. THE PRACTICE TO TRANSFORM IT[5], historical memory has been a new impulse for DIGNA RABIA to move forward: from the appearance of the EZLN until January 1st, 2024.
  • We must always be up for the fight, regardless of the size of our pitfalls and contradictions.
  • We have to defend the Freirian-Zapatista spaces in the FFyL of the UNAM, built since 1978.
  • We can never abandon the memory of the murders of the social fighters, the defenders of Mother Earth.
  • We can never forget the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa.[6]
  • We are not alone.
  • Never give up until the end of our path.


We have mainly relied on three sources:

Periodismo de abajo

and some columnists in 9.pdf forjando-dignidad-3506 /

Original article at
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.


[2] SubGaleano, “La Tormenta, el Centinela y el Síndrome del Vigía” en, abril 2015.

[3] EZLN y las comunidades zapatistas. “Dieciseisava Parte: Bertold Brecht, las Cumbias y la No-Existencia”. existencia/

[4] SubMoisés, “Vigésima y Última Parte: El Común y la No Propiedad”.


[6] investigaciones-de-ayotzinapa/

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