How Big is the World?
A New Communiqué from the “Other” Puebla… and a Surprise Visit from Durito
By Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Zapatista Army of National Liberation – Sixth Commission
February 20, 2006
Zapatista Army of National Liberation
February 17, 2006
After a day of preparatory meetings of the other campaign (it was September, it was dawn, there was the rain of a faraway cloud) we went to the champa where kept our things and ran into a citizen who, at first politely, asked me: “Listen, Sup. And what do the Zapatistas propose?” Without stopping at all I replied: “To change the world.” We got to the champa and began to pack in order to leave. The insurgent Erika waited until I was alone, came close and said to me, “Listen, Sup, but the world is very big,” as if she would try to explain to me the senselessness of what I had proposed and that, in reality, I didn’t know what I was saying when I said what I had said. Following the custom of responding to a question with another question. I said:
She kept looking at me and almost tenderly replied: “Very big.”
I insisted: “Yes, but how big?”
She thought for a moment and said: “Much bigger than Chiapas.”
In the middle of this we were advised that it was already time to go. Upon returning to base, after making Pinguino comfortable, Erika came to where I was, carrying a globe of the earth, the kind they use in the primary schools. She put it on the ground and said to me: “Look, Sup, here in this little piece is Chiapas, and aaaaall this is the world,” and while saying it she practically caressed the globe with her brown hands.
“Mmh”, I said, lighting my pipe to buy time.
Erika insisted: “Now do you see it is very big?”
“Yes, but we are not going to change it by ourselves. We are going to change it with many compañeros and compañeras from everywhere.” At that moment they called her for duty. Demonstrating that she had already learned, before leaving she added: “And how many compañeros and compañeras?”
How big is the world?
In the valley of Tehuacan, in the Sierra Negra, in the Sierra Norte, in the zone surrounding the city of Puebla, from the most forgotten corners of the Other Puebla, answers to the question were ventured:
In Altepexi a young woman replied: More than 12 hours of labor every day in the factory, working on days of rest, no loans, nor insurance, nor bonuses, nor distribution of tools; authoritarianism and mistreatment by the boss or the shop manager, being punished and deprived of salary when I get sick, seeing my name on a blacklist so that no factory will hire me; if we build a movement the boss closes and moves the factory elsewhere, the access to transportation is bad and arrives very late to the house where I live and seeing the electric, water, and property tax bills I count and see that I don’t have enough; noticing that there is not even water to drink, that the sewers don’t work and that the street smells. And the next day, poorly slept and malnourished, I return to work. The world is as big as the rage that I feel against all of this.
A young Mixtec indigenous woman: My father left more than 12 years ago for the United States. My mother works sewing soccer balls. They pay her ten pesos (less than a dollar) for each ball, and if one does not look right, they charge her 40 pesos (almost four dollars). Then they don’t pay, not until the man who hires returns to the town. My brother is packing to leave, too. We, the women, are alone in this to provide for the family, the land, the work. So it also becomes our job to bring forward the struggle. The world is as big as the anger that this injustice makes me feel, so big that it makes my blood boil.
In San Miguel Tzinacapan an elderly couple responds almost in unison: The world is the size of our passion for changing it.
An indigenous farmer from the Sierra Negra, a veteran of all the land thefts except for those throughout history: Well, it has to be very big, that’s why we need to make our organization grow.
In Ixtepec, Sierra Norte: The world is the size of the shamelessness of the evil governments and their Antorcha Campesina organization that only harms the farmer and still poisons the earth.
In Huitziltepec, from an autonomous school, a rebel TV station broadcasts a truth: The world is so big that it holds the story of the community and its love and struggle to continue amazing the universe with dignity. A señora, indigenous artisan, of the same level of experience as Comandanta Ramona, added in an off voice: “The world is as big as the injustice that we feel when they pay us miserably for what we do, and the things that we need we only see them passing by, because we can’t afford them.”
In the neighborhood of Granja: It must not be very big, because it seems that we poor kids don’t fit. They only yell at us, persecute and beat us. And this is only because we are looking for ways to make money for our food.
In Coronango: Although the world is big, it is dying because of the neoliberal pollution of the earth, the water, the air. It is breaking apart because as our grandparents said, when the community is broken, the world breaks, too.
In San Matías Cocoyotla: It is as big as the shamelessness of the government, which is only destroying what we do as workers. Listen, we need to organize to defend ourselves from the government that is supposed to serve us. It’s already obvious that it is shameless.
In Puebla, but in the Other Puebla: The world isn’t so big because the rich don’t have enough of what they already have and now they want to take away the little that we, the poor, have.
Again, the Other Puebla, a young woman: It is very big so we can’t change it being just a few. We have to unite, all of us, to be able to, because if not, well, it can’t be done, and one gets tired.
A young artist: It is big, but it is rotten. They extort us for being youths. In this world, being young is a crime.
A settler and farmer: Big though it may be, it remains small for the wealthy, because they are invading communal lands, ejidos and popular neighborhoods. It already doesn’t fit their shopping malls and luxuries and they invade our lands. I believe that those who don’t fit are us, those from below.
A worker: The world is as big as the cynicism of the leaders of the phony unions. And they still say they are there to defend us, the workers. And there, above, the join together with shit: Whether the boss, the authorities or the phony union boss, even if he is said to be new. There ought to be one of those sanitation programs or a garbage dump to put them all there. Or no, better not, because they would surely contaminate everything. And later if we put them in jail, the criminals will riot because not even they want to live next to these bullies.
It is dawn in this Other Puebla that has not failed to amaze us with each step upon its soil. We have barely finished eating and I am thinking about what I am going to say on this occasion. Soon, from below the door, a little suitcase appears, that almost immediately gets stuck in the crack. Almost like a murmur one can here the wheezes of someone who is pushing it from the other side. Finally, the little suitcase passes inside and behind it, clumsily, there appears something that looks extraordinarily like a beetle. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m in Puebla – that is, the Other Puebla – and not in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, I could almost swear it was Durito. Since that is a disturbing thought, I turn my attention back to the notebook were the question that began this surprise exam is written. I keep trying to write, but I can’t think of anything that is worthwhile. I’m doing this, that is to say, being a blockhead, when I feel that I have something on my shoulder. I am about to brush it off when I hear:
“Have you got any tobacco?”
“That little voice… that little voice…” I think.
“What little voice? It’s obvious that you are jealous of my manly and seductive voice,” Durito protests.
Now I have no doubt, so with more resignation than enthusiasm I say:
“No Durito! I am the greatest undoer of evil, the relief for the unappreciated, the solace of the unprotected, the hope of the weak, the impossible dream of the females, the favorite poster of the children, the unconfessable envy of the males, the…”
“Stop! Stop! You sound like a candidate in an election campaign,” I tell Durito, trying to interrupt him. It’s clearly useless, because he continues:
“…the bravest of the race that has embraced knight-errantry: don Durito of Lacandona, Inc. And authorized by the good government councils.”
Saying this, Durito shows, over his shell, a sticker that reads: “Authorized by the good government council of the Charlie Parker Autonomous Rebel Zapatista Municipality (Marez, in its Spanish initials).”
“Charlie Parker? I didn’t know that we had a Marez by this name, at least not when I left,” I say, troubled.
“Right, since I founded it shortly before leaving from there and coming to your aid,” says Durito.
“How strange. I asked them to send me tobacco, not a beetle,” I respond-protest.
“I am not a beetle. I am a knight errant that has come to get you out of the tight spot that you’ve gotten yourself into.”
“Me? A tight spot?”
“Yes. Don’t turn yourself into the ‘precious hero’ of (Puebla governor) Mario Marín when he was faced with the audio recordings that show his true moral character. Are you in a tight spot or not?”
“Well, tight spot, what is called a tight spot, well… yes, I am in a tight spot.”
“You see? How could you not want for I, the greatest of the knights errant, to come and save you?”
I think for barely an instant and respond:
“Okay, well, the truth is that I don’t.”
“Let’s go. Don’t hide your great pleasure, the grand joy and the overflowing enthusiasm in your heart upon seeing me again.”
“I would prefer to hide it,” I say, resigned.
“Well, well, enough partying and fireworks of welcome. Who is the evildoer that I must defeat with the arm that I have below and to the left? Where those so-and-sos Kamel Nacif, Succar Kuri and the other people of such low ilk?”
“There is no evildoer nor anything to do with the race of shameless ones. You have to answer a question.”
“Come here,” Durito demands.
“How big is the world?” I ask.
“Well, there is a short version and a long version of the answer. Which would you like?”
I look at my watch. It is three a.m. and both my eyelids and my cap are drooping over my eyes, so I say without hesitation:
“The short version.”
“How can you ask for the short version!? I have just arrived following your tracks through eight states of the Mexican Republic to give you the short version? No way, nothing, nada, none, negative, rejected, no.”
“Okay,” I say, resigned, “then give me the long version.”
“That’s my dear traveling big-nose guy! Write this down…”
I pick up the pencil and the notebook. Durito dictates:
“If you look at it from above, the world is small and of the green color of the dollar. It fits perfectly in the index of prices and costs of a stock exchange, in the profit margin of a multinational corporation, in an election poll of a country that has suffered the kidnapping of its dignity, in a cosmopolitan calculator that adds capital and subtracts lives, mountains, rivers, seas, springs, histories, entire civilizations, in the tiny cerebrum of George W. Bush, in the shortsighted view of a savage capitalism badly dressed in neoliberal clothing. Seen from above, the world is very small because it dispenses with persons and, in their place, puts a bank account number, without any other activity but the deposits.
“But if one looks from below, the world widens so much that one look doesn’t see it all, and, rather, many looks are necessary to do it. Seen from below, the world has worlds, almost all of them painted with the pain of looting, misery, despair, death. The world below grows toward the sides, above all toward the left side, and has many colors, almost as many as there are people and stories. And it grows toward behind, toward the history that the world below made; and it grows, yes, toward the struggles that illuminate it, although the light from above may go out, and it makes a sound although the silence from above may crush it. And it grows toward the front sensing that in each heart that walks it, the tomorrow that those that are above are those that will give it birth. Seen from below, the world is so big that it fits many worlds, and still there is space leftover, for example, for a prison.
“Or it could be that, in sum, seen from above, the world shrinks and doesn’t fit anything more in it than that which is unreasonable. And seen from below, the world is so spacious that there is a place for joy, music, song, dance, dignified work, justice, the opinion and thoughts of everyone, and it doesn’t how different they are as long as they are below.”
I barely finished writing it down. I read the response to Durito and asked him:
“And what is the short version?”
“The short version is the following: The world is as big as the heart that first hurts and later fights together with everyone from below and to the left.”
Durito is going. I continue writing while in the sky the moon retreats with the smooth caress of the night…
I would like to venture an answer. Imagining that to her, with my hands, I let loose her hair and her desire, that I breath into her ear, and while my lips rise and fall on her hills, understanding that the world is as big as the thirst that I have for her womb.
Or, putting it more decently, trying to say that the world is as big as the mad raving to make it “other,” like the ear that is needed to fit all the voices from below, like this other collective love for running against the current uniting rebellions below, where over there, above, they separate lonelinesses.
The world is as big as the spiny plant of indignation that we grow, knowing that from her is born the flower of tomorrow. And in that tomorrow, the Iberoamerican University will be a public university, free and laic, and in its halls and classrooms will be workers, farmers, indigenous and the others that today are on the outside.
That is all. Your responses should be sent in on February 30 in triplicate: One for your conscience, another for the Other Campaign, and the other with the headline that says clearly: Warning – for those who, there, above, think naively that they are eternal.
From the Other Puebla,
Sixth Commission of the EZLN
Mexico, February 2006
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