Marcos Calls For a Uniting of Scattered Struggles in Order to Change the Country
In the Mexican State of Campeche, the People Tell Their “Stories of Pain and Rebellion”
By Hermann Bellinghausen
January 26, 2006
Candelaria, Campeche, January 24: “The hour has arrived and we are willing,” said Matea López Sánchez in the Chol language, during the reception of Subcomandante Marcos by Other Campaign adherents and sympathizers. “We have struggled much,” cried out this man from the El Pañelo ejido, a communal farmland of 700 residents. “For a long time, we wanted to have a dialog with the comrades of the EZLN on our current lands,” he said.
Maclovio, from the same village, spoke of the deceptions of the “alternate PROCAMPO” program [an expansion of the PROCAMPO agricultural subsidies program] that President Fox promoted but which never arrived. “This tour by the Other Campaign has let us realize many things. Where did that money end up? Who collected it in our place?”
Subcomandante Marcos would later reply that the money was not lost. “They held on to it for the elections. Now you’ll see how it gets to you, in order to convince you to vote for some political party.”
Upon arriving in Candalaria, in southern Campeche state near the Guatemalan border, “Delegate Zero” toured the streets of the 8000-person town – where he concluded his tour of the state – on foot. Families and children came out of their houses and schools to “see Marcos,” who walked surrounded by members of the Campeche branch of the Other Campaign, sympathizers, and journalists. He smoked his pipe, the characteristic smell of his tobacco in the air.
During the welcome ceremony in a hall with more than two hundred people from Candelaria and a dozen surrounding towns, Bernarda Bautista of the Pedro Baranda ejido spoke to Marcos of “the debts that swallow up the peasant farmer, who is always running around to make sure the rich have lower electric bills,” she said. She denounced Fox’s “People’s Insurance” policy as “a joke.”
“The doors to the hospitals are locked from the inside. There is no medicine. The doctors are never there, or else they’re drunks. The fields are dead. The men immigrate and never come back, or they come back dead. That’s why we want poor people to unite with other poor people,” she added, before telling Marcos: “We are happy that you are here.”
In these lands, which were once used to grow the sapodilla trees used for chewing gum, then used for logging, then collectivized into ejido farmlands, and today export laborers to again being looted by loggers, the Zapatista delegate listened to these and other experiences. He then made the recommendation: “You have your organizations, your cooperatives. Don’t leave them. Keep fighting, because you are not doing it alone. That is what the Other Campaign says, that you unite with other compañeros and also with us.”
That night, in Candelaria’s main square, Marcos said: “We know well that in Campeche there are people that have come from all the different states to make a living, to work. And here, like in any part of the country, they have been met with contempt, exploitation and humiliation. But you have told us your stories of pain and rebellion.”
Delegate Zero spoke of the people’s “war without weapons” to win their rights, which is going to tour the country and join with the central states, the Gulf states, the Pacific states, and the northern states, in an earthquake that can already be felt.” He called out for the scattered struggles that still have not “found success, to join up in one place and from there begin to walk and to transform the country into one that is really run by the people, without leaders who sell out or end up in high public office forgetting about the people.”
That morning he had said that “political parties that participate in elections” could not participate in the Other Campaign. This followed shouts from a speaker from the Convergencia party, who had called out, according to Marcos, to “struggle for a president, and who said that he supported Evo Morales, who is now president of Bolivia, and Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. What he didn’t say,” continued the subcomandante, “is that his leader is (national Convergencia leader) Dante Delgado Rannauro. And those from that political party keep doing what Delgado Rannauro did.”
Marcos recounted that former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari placed Delgado Rannauro in charge of “the Chiapas problem” after the Zapatista uprising. Then, when the rebels began occupying the farms of big landowners, “Dante paid other peasant farmers to invade the lands where our comrades were, in order for there to be a fight between the campesinos. And they continue to do that here in Campeche.”
Before inviting such people “to get out of here,” he spoke of former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castañeda, “who if he has done anything it has been to attack the people of Cuba and do everything possible to break off relations with them. And if anyone has sold out to the U.S. government it has been Jorge Castañeda, a great friend of Dante Delgado who was nearly Convergencia’s presidential candidate. Ask him about it when you see him.”
Collective Parallel Lives
The Xpujil Indigenous and Popular Regional Assembly, which received Delegate Zero when he arrived in the municipality (county) of Calakmul, was born during the draught of 1993, which devastated the region as the then-governor of Campeche showed indifference and even mocked the victims. The new organization (in great part comprised of Chol, Tzeltal, and Maya peasant farmers), though only completely consolidated in 1995, by 1994 had already developed an inevitable affinity with the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, so far away and yes so close to the indigenous colonizers of Calakmul.
“Despite the bad government’s attempts to annihilate us, we still have an abundance of life,” said Chol secretary of the Regional Council and participant in the Other Campaign Roberto López Pérez yesterday, as he greeted the arrival of Delegate Zero in the Xpujil multifunction hall. The hall is located right next to the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party)-dominated town hall for the municipality of Calakmul, which is officially “historic, ecological, free and sovereign,” and where the business of plundering precious woods continues with impunity. The “ecological” aspect of the municipality only applies to the campesinos, who are prohibited from cutting down the trees. Only the big logging companies can do it, and these cut down countless trees.
Speaking before 1,000 people, the indigenous representative said, “We have suffered through a low-intensity war due to organizations that were born especially to try to destroy us, and who used government resources to divide us. But we are still alive because we bring our roots, culture and customs from our native lands and they have given us the strength to carry on in struggle.”
In a speech that he delivered first in Chol and then in Spanish, López Pérez welcomed Subcomandante Marcos “and all the members of the EZLN and their supporters in Chiapas,” and concluded by proclaiming: “Vivan – long live – those who have given their lives to this struggle.”
Not far from here Calakmul’s tropical jungle, one of the most important in the northern hemisphere, just had a sudden, strong and brief downpour that was refreshing but also a reminder of how scarce and expensive water is. Some pay 1,500 pesos ($140 dollars) for the most limited service one can imagine. Together with electricity costs, the supply of this precious liquid weighs heavily on the family economies of the indigenous.
Next Antonio Molina Méndez spoke for another one of the four organizations that received and spoke with Delegate Zero: the S’Cajel Ti Matye’el Cooperative Society of Agricultural Producers. He spoke in Tzeltal, with Felipe Juárez translating. They told the story of how the cooperative was born a few months after the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, and although it has followed a very different path, it arrived at very similar conclusions.
“We have been here since then, supporting the class struggle.” He called “for the freedom to speak and to unite. We must plant the seed of consciousness; that is the most important thing.”
Ruperto Ko Wo, an old Mayan man, told how he arrived in Chalakmul with his parents in the 1940s, but was without his own land and his “first corn” until 1965. He described the racial, linguistic, and social diversity of a region populated by the will of the federal government in one of the final “internal conquests,” when southern Campeche was opened to immigrants from Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and many other states.
This occurred during the 1960s. Ten years later, the Echeverria regime pushed forward the last great colonization inside the Lacandon Jugle, in the Marqués de Comillas region. And later still would arrive the refugees from the Guatemalan civil war. A member of the Regional Council said that more than 25 languages are spoken in Calakmul.
Ko Wo said: “We are in favor of a policy of alliances that will help alleviate the poverty of our region. People live here who fight for a new constitution and a national dialog” The disparaging “observers” from the PRI town hall (not to mention the “ears” spying both for them and for the army) were unable to hide their nervousness. A military base lies not far away.
The distance from the mountains of Chiapas to the south of Campeche, between which lie the state of Campeche and northern Guatemala, is great. Nevertheless, they have similar existences, of which Plutarch could have written in his Parallel Lives.
Hermann Bellinghausen is a special correspondent for the Mexican daily La Jornada, where this article appeared. Translation by The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign.
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