Narco News 2001
March 22, 2001
the EZLN March to Mexico
By Reber Boult
family emergency bundled my wife, Susana
Salazar, and I off to México on a few hours notice. It
put us with the final few days of the Caravana Zapatista (the
popular press there dubbed it the "Zapatour").
Explaining my sudden departure, I briefly
summarized to a person in northern New Mexico the idea of the
Caravana. The response was an incredulous "You mean demonstrating
against VINN CENTY FAHX?!"
Where to start in the face of such aggressive
ignorance? For a starter, I'll just nitpick it at the linguistic
level. In most parts of this country such misperception of Presidente
Fox' first name is excusable and understandable. Northern New
Mexico has not at any time since the introduction of the Roman
alphabet been one of those places. On the other hand, English
pronunciation of an English surname seems reasonable.
We had a pleasant discussion on the plane
with a young junior corporate executive from México. He
agreed that things are bad in Chiapas. Something to do with lazy
Indians, he opined. He advised us to keep some distance from
the Caravana because otherwise the authorities would jail us
and deport us under Articulo 33. That law prohibits foreigners
from political activity. Last we ever heard of that. He said
Marcos is only interested in Chiapas and is content to let injustice
fester in the rest of México. I, thinking back several
years, said "That's not what he says." He responded
that Marcos' expressions of concern for all of México
only started during the Caravana. I can't help wondering whether
such ignorance is willful or media-induced.
The PRI continues to implode. Its remnants
exude futility as they try to hang on to shards of its former
power. I wonder if the PRI's implosion carries a message for
the U.S. political party that has a heritage of fighting for
the disadvantaged but now grubs for money as it flacks for big
Small businesses abound in México.
They provide the services that in the U.S. are mostly the province
of large chains. I wonder, in light of Presidente Fox' corporate
background (Coca Cola), if he has the U.S. model in mind for
Columnist German Dehesa, writing in Reforma,
called Fox a zero, hiding behind boots, Coca Cola, and ranchers.
Reminds one of another ranching president with boots, baseball
team, and oilmen.
The New York Times says about 10% of Méxicans
are Indians (similar to the percentages of black or Hispanic
people here). But a casual eyeball survey shows about 80 or 90%
of the people to be, as Subcomandante Marcos reprises, "el
color de la tierra."
We joined the Caravana, encamped for the
night, at the fairgrounds in Cuautla, near the tourist mecca
of Cuernavaca and its less discovered neighbor, Tepoztlán.
We hadn't known where the Caravana was; we found out by asking
an Indian woman cooking food for sale on a roadside south of
Tepoztlán had, the night before,
given the Caravana an even more generous reception than its had
other host towns. It offered more food than the hungry caravanistas
could eat. Tepoztlán, like most towns in the area, has
a very limited municipal water supply. A few years ago a consortium
of American and Mexican developers planned a resort there with
one of those water hogs named "golf course." The townspeople
resisted; there is no resort.
through Cuautla was like NASCAR with
busses. Dozens of federal highway patrol cars and 70 motorcycles,
supplemented by local police, ambulances loaded with police,
and pickups loaded with plainclothes police from more insidious
agencies shepherded the Caravana throughout, clearing the route
and sealing it off from other traffic. On an earlier day either
a bus' brakes failed or its driver tried to ram the Comandantes'
bus; it killed a motorcycle policeman.
Our first day included heavily attended
rallies at Emiliano Zapata's grave in Cuautla (he was assassinated
in 1919), in the hot sun in a couple of small towns, and at the
night's encampment in Villa Milpa Alta, a remote suburb of México
City. We followed the route Zapata's army took in 1914 through
the state of Morelos to México City. In every city and
hamlet, including one named Zapata, enthusiastic crowds lined
the streets, shouting encouragement and flashing broad smiles,
peace signs, and a few revolutionary fists. At the rallies people
used periscopes and climbed trees and roofs. We must have seen
20,000 people showing support for the Caravana that day.
The only jibes from tiny number of hecklers
complained of outside agitators. The extreme version was "If
you've never touched Marcos' hand, how can you support him?"
The next day took us to a more remote
suburb, San Pablo, high above the City. A rally was held at the
church, now including a museum, where Zapata's army was quartered
before its assault on the city below. Another encampment and
rally in Milpa Alta, then on to Xochimilco, the final staging
point to enter México City.
At the rallies the Delegates, being Marcos
and 19 Comandantes and 4 Comandantas, would stand in ranks on
the platform, Marcos the tallest by a head. They were never seen
without their ski masks. Comandantes Javier and David topped
their masks with beribboned straw hats. Marcos' curved-stem pipe
emitted wisps of smoke. Men and women would speak, read EZLN
and indigenous principles, demands, and declarations; they would
lead the crowd in chants and singing the Zapatista Hymn. 2 or
3 Delegates would speak, often from notes in thick spiral notebooks.
Sometimes Emiliano Zapata's son and granddaughter spoke. Usually
when a speaker was being introduced the crowd would be shouting
for Marcos. Often he would oblige, concluding the rally with
a talk in his friendly, conversational, non-oratorical tone.
The crowd went wild.
Earlier the Caravana stopped at the Indigenous
National Congress meeting in Nurío, Michoacán.
After that, Rallies included reading the Congress' demands for
dignity, rights, demilitarization, release of political prisoners,
political social and cultural development, ancestral habitat
cohesion and collective work, enforcement of the San Andrés
Accords, and preservation of the environment, and NEVER AGAIN
A MEXICO WITHOUT US. (The document is translated at
A workshop voted that the Indigenous National Congress should
be represented always in public by a pair of spokespersons: one
woman and one man.
Chants at the rallies and from the sidewalks:
"E-Z-L-N" (pronounced Eh Zeta
Ele Ene, stands for Ejercito [Army]
Zapatista de Liberatión National)
Call: "Zapata Vive [Lives]"
Response: "La Lucha Sigue [The Struggle Continues]"
Call: "Zapata Vive Vive"
Response: "La Lucha Sigue Sigue"
"Los Acuerdos de San Andrés
"Son Ahora y No Después [Now Not Later]"
Banners and bus paint proclaimed "Paz,"
"Sociedad Civil." "EZLN," "Democracia,"
"No Globalismo," "Derechos Indígenas,"
"Somos los Indios del Mundo," "Maiz."
When the Caravana reached México
City's suburbs, headlines proclaimed: "MARCOSMANIA"
Reforma polls showed a little over 50%
support for Zapitistas on most questions.
When the rallies were close to México
City, there were people hawking The Militant.
The progressive mainstream daily newspaper,
La Jornada, sold out immediately wherever caravanistas were gathered.
The issue that contained "Chomsky" in the main top-of-the-front-page
headline and again at the top of an inside page headline was
an especially hot item. La Jornada was not available at the México
City airport the day after the Caravana concluded. They sell
no Méxican newspaper in the Dallas airport.
15 days, 2000 miles, 12 states.
25 busses, more or less. Most chartered
in México (sometimes pulled back by timorous owners),
one each from New York and California. Several busloads of indigenous
people, some in brightly embroidered traditional garb. 2 busloads
of Italians, calling themselves Monos Blancos to announce the
white ghost coveralls they'd don for the final day. A busload
of Spaniards and Basques. Lots of French speaking people.
30-40 cars and vans. 2 vanloads of "New
York Zapatistas," some of whom do medical work in Chiapas.
Cars and vans full of Méxicans, some of their license
plates from Texas, Nevada, and New Mexico. 11 white people from
Oakland in one van. A would-be emigrant to the U.S. who'd been
robbed by the Caravana's police escort.
Probably a little less than 1,000 caravanistas
at any given time.
Hundreds of thousands watched the Caravana
and attended rallies along the way.
A dozen or two press cars, motorcycles,
and helicopters. A couple of big networks, Televisa and Red Monitor,
were particularly obnoxious. The U.S. press was absent. Judging
from the level of awareness here, so was coverage in the U.S.
On the final day, 100,000 gathered in
México City's Zócalo, a huge plaza with the world's
largest Méxican flag in the middle (larger than the world's
largest U.S. flag that's at Tony Abraham's Chevrolet dealership
on Calle Ocho in Miami). 2,000 police officers on duty. A newspaper
tallied "Incidentes: Ninguno." 300 treated for heat
The Zapatistas, the EZLN, burst into the
international consciousness with their armed uprising in Chiapas
on New Years Day 1994, the day NAFTA went into effect. Later
a truce was worked out. The terms came to be known as Los Acuerdos
de San Andrés [San Andrés Accords]. So the Zapatistas
halted their offensive. But the government did little except
lighten its obligation by rewriting the accords. It didn't follow
through on the lightened obligation, either.
Currently the Zapatistas are asking the
government to do 3 things to show good faith as a basis for further
negotiations: 1) release political prisoners; 2) close a few
of the 200-plus Army outposts in Chiapas; 3) implement the weakened
version of Los Acuerdos de San Andrés. A goodly number
of Chiapas' political prisoners have been released, mainly during
the Caravana; release isn't happening in the other important
states, Tabasco and Querétaro. Some Army outposts are
closing, an almost entirely symbolic matter. Los Acuerdos de
San Andrés will require Congressional action.
Marcos has announced the Zapatista supporters will stick around
in México City until this happens (Mayor López
Oprador welcomes them). Fox invited him in to talk about it;
Marcos responded, "Why? For a photo opportunity?"
The triumphant procession from Xochimilco
took 2 1/2 hours on Sunday
March 11, 2001 to traverse the 15 or so miles of cheering spectators.
The rally in the city's heart lasted less than two hours. Subcomandante
Marcos mesmerized the 100,000 listeners:
"We have arrived.
We are here.
We are the National Indigenous
Congress and zapatistas . . .
If the grandstand where
we are is where it is, it is not by accident. It is because,
from the very beginning, the government has been at our backs.
Sometimes with artillery helicopters, sometimes with paramilitaries,
sometimes with bomber planes, sometimes with war tanks, sometimes
with soldiers, sometimes with the police, sometimes with offers
for the buying and selling of consciences, sometimes with offers
for surrender, sometimes with lies, sometimes with strident statements,
sometimes with forgetting, sometimes with expectant silences.
Sometimes, like today, with impotent silences.
That is why the government
never sees us, that is why it does not listen to us. If they
quickened their pace a bit, they might catch up with us. They
could see us then, and listen to us.
They could understand
the long and firm perspective of the one who is persecuted and
who, nonetheless, is not worried, because he knows that it is
the steps that follow which require attention and determination.
Indigenous, worker, campesino,
teacher, student, neighbor, housewife, driver, fisherman, taxi
driver, stevedore, office worker, street vendor, brother, unemployed,
media worker, professional worker, religious person, homosexual,
lesbian, transsexual, artist, intellectual, militant, activist,
sailor, soldier, sportsman, legislator, bureaucrat, man, woman,
child, young person, old one.
The Indian peoples, our
most first, the very first inhabitants, the first talkers, the
Those who, being first,
are the last to appear and to perish
A poetic passage weaves around the names
of México's indigent tribes.
"We are not those
who aspire to make themselves power and then impose the way and
the word. We will not be. We are not those who put a price on
their own, or another's, dignity, and convert the struggle into
a market, where politics is the business of sellers who are fighting,
not about programs, but for clients. We will not be.
We are not those who are
expecting pardon and handouts from the one who feigns to help,
when he is, in reality, buying, and who does not pardon, but
humiliates the one who, by merely existing, is a defiance and
challenge and claim and demand. We will not be.
We are not those who wait,
naively, for justice to come from above, when it only comes from
below, as the liberty that can only be achieved with everyone,
and the democracy which is all the floors and is fought for all
Poetically, he holds the door open for
"We are not the cunning
calculation which falsifies the word and conceals a new fakery
within it. We are not the simulated peace longing for eternal
war. We are not those who say "three," and then "two"
or "four" or "all" or "nothing."
We will not be.
"Ninety years ago
the powerful asked those from below which
Zapata was called:
'With whose permission,
And those from below responded,
and we respond:
And with our permission,
for exactly 90 years, we have been
shouting, and they call us 'rebels.'
And today we are repeating:
we are rebels.
Rebels we shall be.
But we want to be so with
everyone we are.
Without war as house and
Because so speaks the
color of the earth: The struggle has many paths, and it has but
one destiny: to be color with all the colors that clothe the
Now, and it is what they
fear, there is no longer the 'you' and the 'we,' because now
we are all the color we are of the earth.
It is the hour for the
fox and the one he serves to listen and to listen to us.
It is the hour for the
fox and the one who commands him to see us.
Our word speaks one single
Our looking looks at one
The constitutional recognition
of indigenous rights and
A dignified place for
the color of the earth.
It is the hour in which
this country ceases to be a disgrace, clothed only in the color
the speech, Popocatépetl emitted
a wisp of smoke.
Sixteen times it refers to the people
who are the color of the earth.
Around the time the Caravana got under
way, National Public Radio reported that Fox and Marcos both
would live or die politically from it. Marcos now has certainly
demonstrated "Never Again an América Without Us"
Presidente Fox stayed home. Subcomandante
Marcos said "the color of we who are the earth will dance
with all the colors." And I recalled that México's
money and power today is in the hands of those whose color is
lighter than earth.
Reber Boult, a graduate
of Vanderbilt University, practiced law for 35 years in Nashville,
Atlanta and criminal law in Albuquerque. He was on the staff
of the ACLU's Southern Regional office from 1968 to 1971. He
worked with the National Lawyer's Guild Military Law Office in
Japan in 1973 and 1974, helping U.S. Marines resist the war.
He's worked in a small motorcycle shop, a large electronics retailer,
the Institute for Southern Studies, a Federal Public Defender
office and for the U.S. Navy.
With Whose Permission,
Señores? With Ours.