Transcript of speeches given on the 25th anniversary of the Zapatista rebellion.
Words of Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés
December 31, 2018
To our compañeros and compañeras who are Zapatista bases of support:
To our compañeras and compañeros who are Zapatista Autonomous Authorities:
To our compañeras and compañeros who are part of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee [CCRI] and those who are Regional and Local Authorities:
To our compañeras and compañeros who are milicianas and milicianos:
To our compañeras and compañeros who are insurgentas and insurgentes:
I speak in the name of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
I speak in your name, as it is my job to be your voice and your gaze.
Our hour as Zapatista peoples has come, and we see that we are alone.
I want to tell you clearly that this is what we see, compañeras and compañeros who are support bases, milicianos, and milicianas: we are alone, just as we were 25 years ago.
Alone we rose up to awake the people of Mexico and of the world, and today, 25 years later, we see that we are still alone. But we did try to tell them, compañeras and compañeros, you were witness to the many gatherings we held as we tried to wake others, to speak to the poor of Mexico in the city and in the countryside.
Many people did not listen. Some did and are organizing themselves—we hope they continue to organize themselves—but the majority did not listen.
Yet we have done our work and we know the work we still have to do, and thus we can see the current situation with clarity, compañeros and compañeras. With our experience not just from the last 25 years but from over 500 years, we can tell you that we see today is what we saw 25 years ago: it’s as if they don’t see us, as if they don’t hear what we are trying to tell the poor of Mexico. Today, twenty-five years after our uprising, this is still what we see and we repeat it to you now, compañeros and compañeras: we are alone.
What we have achieved we achieved through our own work, our own effort. If we have achieved anything it has been with our own labor, and if we have erred in anything, that has also been our responsibility. But it is our work either way—nobody taught us how to do it, it is our work alone. Some people, men and women, tried to show us what we should do, they wanted to tell us what to do and what not to do, when to speak and when not to. We don’t pay any attention to them. Only those who organize can know, see, and understand. Talk is just talk; you have to actually carry out in practice what you say and what you think, and we don’t have manuals or books that show us how to struggle. No one can teach us how to build what we want to build; it can be done only through our own sacrifice and our own effort, compañeros and compañeras.
Now we are demonstrating once again, and we will honor our word on this, that what one thinks and feels is impossible is indeed possible. It’s easy to say, “we have to make the impossible possible,” people say it all the time. But you have to actually do it in practice and this is what we are trying to show people. What is it that we are showing them? What we have before us: a people who govern themselves, with their own politics, their own ideology, their own culture. They create, improve, correct, imagine, and put it all into practice. This is what we are. Here the bad government does not rule; organized women and men rule. Those who are not organized will continue to rely on despair, because what they believe in is not actually hope.
[From above] they try to lie to us, to deceive us, first of all with that stuff about the virgen morena[i], and there are people who believe that stuff. Only a crazy person says such a thing, someone who doesn’t know how to think, who certainly doesn’t think in terms of the people. We, on the other hand, work from our own experience, our own labor, our own efforts, and we will continue to do so; we will continue to build what we are building here and we will achieve what we are trying to create. Everything we have we have built ourselves. There are some brothers and sisters in solidarity who have helped us, but the great bulk of what we have we created ourselves.
It is not easy to stand up to the political parties, the bad governments, and the current trickster in chief. It is not easy to confront, for 25 years now, the thousands of soldiers, protectors of capitalism, who surround us. They are here even now, we’ve seen them all around here the last few days. It isn’t easy to confront the paramilitaries, or all of the small-time “leaders” who are bought off by politicians and political parties, especially the person and the political party in power today.[ii] But we aren’t afraid of them. Or are we compañeras and compañeros?
[In unison:] “No!”
I didn’t hear you..
[In unison, more loudly:] “NO!”
Other people, from outside [our communities], come and go, but we are always here and here we will stay. Those from the outside come each time as tourists, but as tourists of poverty, of inequality. But injustice isn’t something to be toured. The poor of Mexico are dying and they will continue to so. It’s a shame they listen to that guy in power who is deceiving the people of Mexico.
We aren’t lying, compañeras and compañeros, five years ago already we were telling the people of Mexico and the world that worse things were coming. We tried to tell them this in their own languages, in their own words—the collapse, the hydra, the monster, the wall—we tried to use their words so they would understand, but even so they did not listen. They think that we are lying because they are listening to that trickster in power—I don’t even want to say his name—it’s better just to refer to him as a lying trickster.
Compañeros and compañeras, that person in power is going to destroy the people of Mexico, but first he will destroy the originary peoples—he is coming for us and especially for those of us who make up the Zapatista Army for National Liberation. Why? Because we are here telling him that we are not afraid of him. Or are we, compañeros and compañeras?
[Loudly in unison:] “No!”
We will stand up to what comes because we will not allow his project of destruction to be implemented here. We are not afraid of his “National Guard”, which is just the army under another name—he renamed it so as not to have to admit it’s the same army as always.
We will defend what we have built here, what we are able to show to the people of Mexico and the world as something we, women and men, built ourselves. We are not going to let anyone come destroy it, or are we?
[Loudly in unison:] “No!”
That trickster in power now, what is his game? That he pretends to be with the people of Mexico, trying to deceive the originary peoples by kneeling upon the earth to ask permission for his projects. He thinks all the originary peoples are going to believe that charade. Here we say no, on the contrary, we don’t buy it.
What do I mean by on the contrary? He is pretending to take up our customs and ways—asking permission of the mother earth to act—but he is asking permission of the mother earth to destroy the originary peoples! That is what his charade is about, and some of our brothers and sisters of the originary peoples have been fooled. We don’t buy it. If the mother earth spoke she’d say “fuck off.” Mother earth doesn’t speak, but if she did, she’d say clearly, “No! Go fuck yourself.”
We know mother earth, we have lived in harmony with her for five hundred and twenty-some years. Those who have not known nor felt the sweat of living and working with the mother earth do not know her, like those idiot senators and representatives who think they know everything. They do not know poverty, they do not know what it is to sweat over the earth. We do. That is why they do not know how to make laws for our peoples, for the originary peoples. We do, because we know what it is to suffer and we know what kind of law we need and want; they do not.
Take for example, compañeros and compañeras, those deceitful tricksters in all three branches of power in Mexico—the judicial, executive, and legislative powers—and look at what they do, especially the party that currently holds the majority in the national congress [MORENA] and who names indigenous people representatives so they can sit beside Ricardo Monreal[iii], for example. It’s just like before when they put a Tojolabal man in the national congress right there beside Diego Fernández de Cevallos[iv], who owns a whole bunch of ranches. They sit that Tojolobal indigenous man next to him and you think that Tojolabal man is going to say we have to redistribute the lands that belong to the ranch owners? That’s what they want to show us, that with a salary and sitting comfortably in a restaurant or hotel, that all of the senators, representatives, cabinet secretaries, council members, etc., will continue to abandon their people. That is what they want, for us as Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, Tojolabal, and all the other languages spoken here in Mexico to be the ones who lie and cheat our own peoples. That is what they are showing us, that is their job, that is what their bosses have mandated. For us they are not government, they are mere overseers for the real boss.
Now we see that they are coming for us, the originary peoples. We see clearly that the referendum they are carrying out is a way to manipulate the people; they are using the vote to get permission to come attack the originary peoples. That’s what that referendum is about, but the people have still not awoken to the truth, and thus today we will not be able to attend fully to the 25th anniversary. We are tired. We talk and talk but for them it just goes in one ear and out the other, what we say does not truly enter into their thought.
This is what the new government is doing right now, consulting the voters as to if they can come attack us, as originary peoples and especially as the Zapatista Army for National Liberation with that bullshit “Mayan Train,” which they have the nerve to name after our ancestors. We will not accept it. They can put any name on it, it has nothing to do with the Maya. If it was up to us we’d say they should name it after their mother.
Over these 25 years, compañeros and compañeras, bases of support, men and women, milicianas and milicianos, we have seen around the world that there are those who say they struggle, some who say they are progressive, others who say they are leftists, others who say they are revolutionaries. But they don’t have any idea what a revolutionary is, because a revolution is to turn things around. Like we say here, we have to prepare our young people, young men and women, because we ourselves will one day turn around and return [to the earth], and that is why we have to leave the next generation ready. Those on the outside have no idea what they are talking about, it’s such a pity that with all their education and degrees and diplomas they don’t know what a revolution is. And on top of that there are even some out there who say we’re electoralists.
They don’t have the slightest idea how to revolutionize an idea, thinking itself. They think that we lie like they lie. We told the Mexican people that we would dialogue with them and we honored that pledge, and if one day we say we are going to defend ourselves against even the most minimal provocation, then that means we are going to defend ourselves. We’re also not going to let anyone come seek cover here or cloak themselves in this territory of resistance and rebellion to start stupid shit. We won’t permit it.
Compañeros and compañeras, we have not deceived the people of Mexico, but we also have to tell them that they are still letting themselves be fooled. We don’t know why, and it causes us great sadness and anger. What good is it to study, to know history if we are not going to see our own reality for what it is? What good is study if one can’t see even that. What we have built we have built without formal study, and here it is, alive in practice. That’s what we are showing you, and will continue to show you. What they will do over there, who knows.
What we are telling you now is that the guy in power now is uttering absurdities, just look at what he says—that he’s going to govern for both rich and poor. Only a crazy person, someone sick in the head could say such a thing, because his mind is not working, his brain isn’t functioning. We’ve heard that before, from that bullshit landowner Absalón Castellanos Domínguez[v], who is finally now in hell, and who said he would govern for the rich and the poor. We’re not going to be convinced to give up fighting against exploitation because that lunatic says he’s going to govern for both rich and poor. He doesn’t even know what he’s saying, he doesn’t understand what he’s saying. And he doesn’t even have to understand because he’s just saying what his boss orders him to say. He is obeying, he is taking orders to say what he is told to say so that the citizens keep believing in those in power.
It’s very simple: you can’t support the exploiter and the exploited; you have to choose one or the other. You’re either with the exploiter or with the exploited, but not both. That’s how we see it, that’s how we understand it and that’s how we govern.
What a shame that he calls all this stuff he is doing the fourth [transformation][vi], because it’s not the fourth anything. How do these people of the “fourth” think they follow the third [transformation], which was carried out in practice, confronting reality. This guy says he’s going to pardon all the criminals, “pardon,” he says. From where we stand, that means he’s not going to do anything to the bad government, to our compañero Galeano’s murderers for example. That’s what he’s telling us with that statement. It will be the same for all the other murders, so then what’s the point of him being in power?
There are so many things we could name that he has said that are not true. So are we going to be afraid of this bad government, compañeros, compañeras?
[In unison:] “No!”
Of course not, because we are filled with rage due to all the lies that he’s telling the people of Mexico, and we feel pity for those who speak Spanish well and yet don’t understand that all the things he is saying are lies. It’s hard for us to understand too, not because of the Spanish but because it’s hard to believe he’s saying this amidst the poverty, inequality, and injustice around us. You don’t have to learn Spanish to understand that, you have to learn to see and feel it.
What he’s doing is mocking all of us, especially the originary peoples, humiliating us, but not just us. It’s also a mockery of all those who speak Spanish perfectly well but don’t study the stinking politics of this bad government.
Compañeros y compañeras, we’re not going to give in to this, or are we?
[Loudly, in unison:] “No!”
Am I speaking loudly enough for those in the back? Compañeros, compañeras, we’re not going to give in, or are we?
[More loudly, in unison:] “NO!”
Nobody is going to come fight for us, the exploited peoples of the countryside and the city, nobody. No man, no woman, no group is going to come fight for us. What we need are women and men who organize themselves, organize themselves more and still more, a whole people who organizes itself to liberate itself. Or you think that the pope is going to come do it?
[In unison:] “NO!”
Or that Trump is going to come?
[In unison:] “NO!”
Well much less are we going to believe this guy who says he’s the fourth [transformation]. Or do we believe him?
[In unison:] “NO!”
It’s the same damn thing, compañeros and compañeras, I’m not lying to you. During his campaign he said: “In my party,” (the one that’s in power now, MORENA), “I’m not going to allow any manipulative parasites.” That’s what he said: but manipulative parasites are exactly the people that he’s let into the party since then! They are the very same as always: they’re all politicians from the PAN, from the PRI, from the Partido Verde [Green Party of Mexico] and the PT [Worker’s Party]. That’s the big lie. But it seems that there are thirty million people in this country who must not understand Spanish or else how could we explain that they believe his lies?
He says he’s going to fight corruption. Ha! Meanwhile his Cabinet Secretary[vii] is the first person he should investigate. She worked… well, you all know where she came from, I don’t have to tell you. We know where his Cabinet Secretary came from and she herself says, “I’m not getting involved in that fight against corruption,” and the same guy who says he’s going to fight corruption has nothing to say about that.
Pure lies, all of it. He’s not going to do anything for the people. The bad government thinks it’s going to come and fuck us over with its PROÁRBOL[viii] project, which is the same strategy they’ve been using for years. It’s a new name for the same programs which we already defeated with our resistance and rebellion.
Twenty-five years ago we defeated Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who was known as “the most powerful man,” but we weren’t afraid of him. And back then the Mexican people had never heard of us. Now they’ve known us for the last 25 years, and we’ve always told them the same thing. Today, we’re tired. We’ve tried so hard to make them understand. Only a few have; the majority has not.
But this is what we’ve been able to accomplish, compañeros and compañeras. We’re not asking the brothers and sisters out there to take up arms. Over the past 25 years what we have won we haven’t won with bullets or bombs, but with resistance and rebellion. That’s what has allowed us to succeed and that’s what people have come to see—but it seems they’ve only come to see, not to take this message to other brothers and sisters who haven’t been able to come because they don’t have the money, just like us.
We’re not afraid of capitalism, and we’re not afraid of the old plantation owners or the new ones. Or are we?
[In unison] NO!
In that case, whatever people say, whatever they think, we are going to defend ourselves—whatever might happen, whatever it takes. We’re going to defend ourselves and we will fight if necessary. Isn’t that so, compañeros and compañeras?
[In unison] YES!
Let’s be clear, compañeros and compañeras: here there are no saviors. The only saviors are the men and women who struggle and organize themselves, always together with their peoples.
The change we want is that one day, the people—the world, men and women—to decide how they want to live, and that there not be a group that decides about the lives of millions of human beings.
We express this in just a few words: the people command, and the government obeys. That’s what we must struggle for.
They think we’re still ignorant and backwards, compañeros and compañeras. But we’re here ready and willing to defend ourselves.
Because of that and everything I’ve already said, we are ready for whatever it takes and whatever might happen.
Because of this, we say:
Here we are!
We are the Zapatista Army for National Liberation and we will continue on!
LONG LIVE ZAPATISTA AUTONOMY!
LONG LIVE THE ORIGINARY PEOPLES!
DEATH TO THE BAD GOVERNMENT!
DEATH TO ALL CAPITALISMS!
LONG LIVE THE ZAPATISTA ARMY FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION!
Words of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee:
January 1, 2019
Compañeros and compañeras who are bases of support; compañeros and compañeras who are milicianos; compañeros and compañeras who are insurgentes; compañeros who are commanders of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation:
Brothers and sisters, compañeros and compañeras:
Today, January 1, 2019, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of our armed uprising on January 1, 1994.
Despite all the ideological, political, economic, and military and paramilitary attacks against us, we want to reiterate that we are still here building autonomy for the life of our peoples.
Here in the Zapatista communities where we are governed by the Juntas de Buen Gobierno and the Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Municipalities [MAREZ], there is no place for humiliations, manipulations, tricks, lies and fake referendums.
For this reason we will not allow the implementation of any project here that destroys the life of humanity and kills our mother earth, because behind all that lie the interests of the big Mexican and transnational capitalists.
However much they might try to humiliate us with their repressive apparatus, like the national guard, we will not rest from defending our mother earth. We were born to this earth, we live on this earth and on this earth we will die.
In these lands of rebel men and women, they should know that we will not give up, we will not sell out, and we will not give in, much less will we betray the blood, the life and the death of our compañeros who died in our struggle.
They can consult a billion people—we’re still not going to give in. Even if they get permission from their fucking mothers, they will not break our will.
From 1492 to 2018, there have been 525 years of resistance and rebellion against the worst humiliations by foreigners and Mexicans, but they were never able to exterminate us. Those of us with brown blood, the color of mother earth, are still here and here we will stay.
Even if one billion years go by, we Zapatistas will still be here.
Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee, General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, EZLN.
From the caracol of La Realidad, Mother of the Caracoles, Sea of our Dreams.
Mexico, January 2019.
Words of the Good Government Council “Towards Hope”
January 1, 2019.
Good morning to all of you, compañeros and compañeras.
In the name of my compañeros and compañeras of the Junta de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Council] of the selva fronteriza zone, from our caracol, Mother of the Caracoles, Sea of our Dreams, seat of the Junta de Buen Gobierno:
To all the compañero and compañera bases of support of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation; to the local authorities and the municipal councils:
We welcome you to celebrate with us the 25th anniversary of our armed uprising on January 1, 1994, when we declared ourselves the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Today marks 25 years of our struggle, we who are the most forgotten, marginalized and exploited by the neoliberal capitalist system.
Before that time, nobody bothered to find out whether we indigenous peoples lived or died, but in 1994, we said Enough! We declared ourselves at war with the bad government, taking over five municipal government headquarters in Las Margaritas, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Altamirano and Oxchuc.
Five hundred years ago, our grandfathers and grandmothers were not taken into account by the capitalist system, because for the system we are worth nothing. They were just slaves for the plantation owners: they were worked to the bone, paid nothing and abused like animals with no humanity. Our grandparents suffered all this mistreatment and more.
They were tired of so much abuse and injustice and for this reason they decided to organize themselves to struggle against exploitation.
For this reason 25 years ago our compañeras and compañeros faced off with the Mexican army. Many brave compañeras and compañeros put their lives on the line with no expectation of anything in return.
They gave their lives in order that future generations might live better than they did. We will always remember these brave men and women because they were our teachers.
Today as the Junta de Buen Gobierno, we say that we have conquered our freedom: the freedom to govern ourselves as peoples, to make decisions and develop our own rules as peoples without asking permission from anyone.
We’ve trained health and education promoters, carried out collective work projects, and formed the Autonomous Municipalities and the Juntas de Buen Gobierno. Though it hasn’t been easy for us—we don’t have any books or manuals to guide us—we are now governing ourselves.
We’ve faced many attacks from the bad government, which wants to get rid of us and has created different projects and programs to confuse us in order to do away with our organization—but we are organized and they won’t be able to wipe us out.
Each day we’re working to further our autonomy to face the neoliberal capitalist system.
As peoples in resistance and rebellion we’ve come to understand that there is no other way except to organize ourselves. In every corner of the world and in every organization we have our own ways and customs for how we organize ourselves, but what we have in common is our shared enemy, the neoliberal capitalist system. The global crisis of the system gets worse every day, but those who created it don’t care if they destroy humanity or the universe: for them, everything is a commodity and the only thing that interests them is profit, to get richer and richer.
This system converts countries into plantations where the national governments are just overseers. For us the bad governments are no longer governments of the people, because they are at the service of an even bigger boss.
For this reason, we as the EZLN don’t believe anything they say anymore because they are the same thieving and murderous traitors always. For this reason, we say that here we will continue with our autonomy, resistance and rebellion in our Zapatista territory.
From La Realidad, Chiapas.
Junta de Buen Gobierno “Towards Hope”.
[i] Refers to La Virgen de Guadalupe, the figure of a dark-skinned virgin Mary and Mexico’s patron saint. The text could be referring to news reports that many religious believers prayed to la Virgen de Guadalupe [la virgen Morena, or the “brown virgin”] that Lopez Obrador [whose party’s acronym is MORENA] would honor his promises to assist the poor: https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/metropoli/que-lopez-obrador-cumpla-promesas-piden-la-virgen.
[ii] Refers to Andres Manuel López Obrador and the MORENA party.
[iii] Former prominent PRI senator and party officer as well as long-term associate of Carlos Salinas de Gortari. It should be noted that Ricardo Monreal has also repeatedly been accused of direct involvement with drug cartels. After a long career with the PRI (1975-1998), Monreal later switched parties to the PRD (1998-2008), then to the Labor Party (2008-2012), then to the Citizens Movement Party (2012-2015) and today, at the López Obrador’s request, Monreal has been made senate leader for the MORENA party.
[iv] Former senator for the PAN, notorious for his visceral racism and his large land holdings.
[v] Former PRI governor of Chiapas, federal Mexican army general, and wealthy landowner in the state of Chiapas. He was taken as a prisoner of war by the EZLN in the 1994 uprising, convicted in a popular trial of crimes against the Chiapan indigenous population, and then released with the sentence of “living out his life with the shame of having received the pardon and mercy of the very people who he had for so long robbed, displaced, kidnapped, humiliated, and murdered” [EZLN, January 20, 1994]. He died in March of 2017.
[vi] AMLO has deemed his own governing project the “Fourth Transformation,” supposedly on par with historic events such as Mexican Independence (1810), a period of reform in the mid-19th century, and the Mexican Revolution (1910).
[vii] Olga Sánchez Cordero
[viii] One of Lopez Obrador’s controversial development plans to plant a million hectares of invasive and commercializable trees in the Lacandón Jungle in Southern Mexico.