Delegate Zero’s Words at Teacapán, Sinaloa
"As soon as we go someplace else, we are going to tell your story, and they are going to say: Why don't we all get together and struggle as one?"
By Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
The Other Mexico
October 12, 2006
Good morning, compañeros and compañeras. My name is Marcos, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. I am going to relate a little history – because as my compañero explained, the media didn’t tell our story correctly – I represent the Indian peoples of Chiapas. Chiapas is down in the other corner of our country, but it is still Mexico, the same as Sinaloa is part of our country.
We are indigenous people of Maya roots. Our peoples speak the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol and Tojolabal languages. In our mountains there are no highways, or hospitals, or schools, or government or anything. Children were dying of hunger, of diarrhea, of fever. And no one kept count of that, compañeros, because as far as the government was concerned they had not even been born. There had been no birth certificate, therefore, when our children died, well, no one even noticed. Where they died, there they were buried.
And that is how things went for a long time. The land, our land, was in the hands of big finqueros – here we call them terratenientes, landowners; good land that had water, that was level. We were thrown out into the hills to plant among the rocks. And we don’t speak Spanish, so when we arrived to ask for help in the cities, we were left outside the door because they didn’t understand what we were saying. Because we were seen as people who were short, dark skinned and we unable to speak Spanish, they would say, “Well these are Indians, let them stay outside. No one is going to be bothered with whatever happens to them.”
And many years passed by, and with them many deaths. These are the ones that the government didn’t count.
Because there were thousands of deaths per year, we organized our compañeros – the same way you organize yourselves – because according to the tradition of the struggle of Indian people, we had resisted the Spanish invasion, the French invasion, and the American invasion. And, as always, they wanted to destroy our culture, our language, and our ways.
We started to organize ourselves because we had to choose if we were going to die like animals – like a dog dies in the street while nobody notices, because that is how we were dying – or rather, if we were going to die fighting so that this country, which is also your country, would take notice of our existence. That we were there and we were like you: Mexicans.
So, we prepared ourselves over many years – don’t think that in the course of one day we declared that we would rise up in arms. We spent ten years hiding in the mountains preparing ourselves, until the day arrived. And we chose a day when the politicians were having drinks and partying. We arrived in the cities – don’t think we just stayed in the mountains – we went into the cities.
And as for our chiefs, don’t let yourselves believe that they are politicians or people with college degrees. The leaders we maintain – because I am a sub-commander – the actual commanders are people like you, only they don’t speak Spanish. They speak the Maya language. And among us we understand the indigenous languages. It is these people who direct the uprising and who have led this struggle for over twelve years, which we continue now, and it will make thirteen years on January 1.
Therefore, this was the truth: we were dying like animals, and we chose to die as free men and women. It turns out that when we attacked the army, a great movement arose in the whole country. A movement of persons like yourselves who said: “NO! No to war! We must look for a way of talking, of getting to know each other.” And this is what we did: we did not continue killing or dying, because it is not about that either. We do not like to kill or to die. We want to live free like anybody else.
Then we began a dialogue with the government. You all know what happens when you have a dialogue with the government: they say, “Of course our word is good, calm down and go on home now. Yet they don’t come through, but we already knew that. We went and talked with the government and signed an accord. This accord says that they’re going to treat us like persons, like human beings, and recognize our right to the land, because before the Spaniards arrived – and the Americans and the politicians, and the PRI and the PAN, and the PRD and everyone else – before that there were the Indian peoples. And they were the owners of the lands and of the seas. There were no monopolies; there were no hotel businesses. There were only fishermen in the sea, in the rivers, in the lakes, and peasants in the field.
So the government said, “Fine, we will fulfill our promise,” and still they didn’t fulfill it. They were going to change the Constitution so that Indian peoples would be respected, because we want to be Mexicans, but at the same time, Indians; that however we dress, that as such we should be respected. Why should we have imposed on us a different way of thinking, or of dressing? If we like to dress as Indians, why should they dress us as meztizos? If our language is Maya, why do they want us to speak Spanish or English? We want respect, and that is what any deserving person is asking, that they be respected, that they not treat us like animals, that they not humiliate us, that they not mock us.
And the government said, again: “Fine, we will fulfill our promise,” and yet again, they did not. Don’t believe that it was just the PRI government, because they teamed up with the PAN and the PRD as well.
Among the three of them, they cast us aside. As if our people didn’t die fighting, as if we hadn’t risen up.
So, what we did was ask, what do we need politicians for, if we can govern ourselves? So we organized our own communities, compañeros and compañeras, and we elected our own authorities; not college graduates, but the peasants themselves. And things changed in small ways. If someone starts getting corrupt, starts to make money at this, we get rid of them immediately.
The federal government does not rule in our lands, the people rule instead. And the governments we install must obey. Look, I’m not going to lie, I hope that you can go there some time, because where there were no schools, there are now; we built them ourselves with no help from the government. Since we had become known, people from other countries helped us, and people from Mexico helped us. And Marcos did not keep this money, nor did the Zapatista leadership keep this money. The people used it to build schools and hospitals.
The land was in the hands of the plantations, we took it away from them – as Zapata said – and we divided it among the peasants. And the teachers are not government teachers. They are the same people as us, the youth who learn to teach. And it is they who are teaching the children. Because before the women were treated like cattle: they were sold. Or, that is, if someone wanted to marry a girl, he didn’t go and talk to the girl, instead he paid her daddy, and that is how he took the girl. But no more. These things are changing, because the Zapatista women organized themselves and demanded their rights. As one compañera said, everything we have, the government gave us none of it: we had to build it ourselves.
So, we see this as the Indian peoples we are, and we began to build a national movement to claim our rights. We have gone out several times to tour the country. And we met many young people and we saw them persecuted as we are persecuted. They are mocked because they have piercings and tattoos, because they dress in black, because they dye their hair, or for their hairstyles. Just for this. For this, people think that they are delinquents. If there is a robbery in Cerámica y Novedades Gali, right away the police look for the young person and they say: this is who stole the stuff. But they don’t notice that those who are stealing in the ceramic shop is the government; the government is taking the taxes so as to enrich the mayor, the governor, and the president of Mexico.
Here, as we all know, in Mexico the thief goes around in a suit and tie. He perfumes and bathes himself well and lives in a big house. And the poor folks are in the street, or in the jail, having committed no other crime than that of being poor, or being short, or fat, or whatever else you want to call them.
And we also see how women are persecuted just for being women. Because “how are you”, and “how fine you are, mamacita“, or “give it up”, and all of that, as if they were some object, as if they were cattle. Or they scorn them and say “you’re too old, what good are you to me?” And we see that the peasants who are not even Indians have their lands taken away, too.
And we see that the fishermen are also being marginalized because the big hotels are taking over. What they do is screw the fisherman out of all the shrimp and fish, of the commercial fishing, as they call it, and it makes them poorer and poorer until they finally say, we can do nothing. And because of PROCEDE and PROCECOM [government programs to administer the privatization of communal lands in the 1990s], they sell the land. And in place of this ceramic shop, where there were once stores, your house, and all that, everyone has to go work in other cities or in the United States.
Right now we have 23 states in the republic. And there is not a single state that does not have families cut in two, because their relatives are in the US. And those who worked the land and made it produce, and had something on their table to eat, which no one gave them – they had gotten it with their work – now they have nothing, because it was more expensive to plant and sell than to go to the US. Peasant farmers who were working the whole day planting corn, wheat, alfalfa, sorghum, beans, and vegetables say, “This isn’t working out, Subcomandante. It isn’t working out. I have invested into the land with work and money, so that it yields for me. But when I go and sell my products in the city, the pay does not help me. I better do something else.” And the land? “Well, I just have to sell it.”
And the lands that used to produce corn, beans, vegetables – food that we ourselves ate – are now used for a big hotel, a commercial center. And the people who used to live there, who were noble people, they are gone. There is a house, a hill, a desert of cement, as we put it.
So, as we say, let us leave the armed struggle and let us join with people who want to struggle.
Because we do not come here to invite you to rise up in arms, nor to put on ski masks, because, of course, it is too hot here for that – nor that we cross the border. What we ask of you is that you get organized here, that you struggle here, but that you no longer struggle alone.
Here come some compañeros who have recorders and cameras. What they are doing here is taking your voices. What the compañeras and the compañeros said, this will be made know in Mérida, in Quintana Roo, in Chiapas, and in other parts of the world. They have a method of sending this out to people just like us, who are those beneath, who might know the struggle of these people, of the fishermen, of the peasant farmers, of the people in the shanty towns, of the young, of the women of Escuinapan and of all this region. And probably it will not come out in the big newspapers, nor in the big television news programs, but in these small news reports, these small groups where they pass the story among themselves. They come to know that you are struggling and that you are being run off of your land.
As thus I have come to tell you the story of the peasant farmers and the fishermen of Yucatan – they are doing the same thing as you. In Quintana Roo, in Isla Mujeres, it turns out that the fishermen are accused – they themselves – of destroying nature. And they are thrown in jail. And you want to know why? Because they take shrimp and fish from them. If they have fifty kilos, the boss takes forty, because they are breaking the rules, and the other ten they have to give to the police. They worked all day and they wind up with nothing. And little by little they become impoverished.
Just now a compañero told us that here the permits belong to the large shipbuilding companies, the fishing companies, all for the “private initiative” as they put it. The private initiative is a group of thieves who have the law on their side. And the people who are working here, who might hope of taking home to their table some fish, shrimp, or whatever, say: “Okay, well, maybe we are struggling, but we will not lack in food, anyway.” But now, to work in this system is a crime. If you all go and fish, which you have done all your lives, along with your fathers and grandfathers, and all the way back before the Conquest, now it is a crime.
And the only one who is not breaking the law is the big ship, which gets huge loads of shrimp. It is he who is the only one who doesn’t get thrown in jail, but instead the law helps him. They subsidize him, as they say, and they forgive him of his taxes. And what do they want? They want you all out of here. They think these beautiful beaches, this climate, all of this, should be for a hotel. And they don’t want to see you around here anymore. And you know what they are going to say? Because this already happened in Yucatán, in Quintana Roo and in Chiapas, “This is good for you, because there is going to be a big hotel here, and you will have work,” as waiters, as doormen and bellhops, as baggage handlers, as shoeshine boys, those taking care of gardens and parking cars.
So you all say, fine, fishing doesn’t work anymore, because you have to buy gas for your little boats, because you then we have to pay taxes, then you have to decide where to take it, how to refrigerate it, and how to get it somewhere else so it can be sold; and then there is little that remains for us to eat.
Fine, so it is better to just sell my little piece of land and then the hotel will come, and I’ll go there for work as a construction worker, or a bellhop, or a waiter or a maid. Lies. These big hotels come with their own staff. They are not going to give you any jobs. You all are only going to see how none of these streets have pavement or drainage, except theirs. But you all will not be there. Instead, there will be an American, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, or someone from some other country, living on your land. And not even the money is going to stay here. The money that the tourist is paying will go to some other country. Here, there will only be poverty. There won’t even be any people.
Recently the electoral process took place. You all heard the racket over the how if is it is the PAN, we get Calderon, if the PRD its Lopez Obrador, and if it’s the PRI it’s going to be Madrazo.
But you know as well as we do, it doesn’t matter who we get. Whatever, they only approach us when there are elections and after that they disappear.
So sure enough the politicians and hacks show up and say, vote for me, vote for me, and I promise you I will fix this and that. And since one has nothing, one says: fine, maybe he is like gum and sticks, I will vote for this person. And off he goes and never appears again, unless he shows up on the news for stealing some money. When he turns up in the paper it is because he turned out to be a child molester, or because he has fled the country or to go to see Escuinapa or to Mazatlán where he has a big house. And you say: this guy was a poor devil, where did he get all that money? Through politics.
And then you’ll go back to your table, to your street, to your boat, and things will remain the same. You say: Okay, what changed? The PRI was here and nothing happened, the PAN was here and nothing happened, the PRD was here and nothing happened.
So, then, we said, “Are we really going to be here now, waiting so that another might come, and another, and another, to see if for once something good turns up?” The people of the town tell us, were are not asking for a good politician to show up, just give us one who doesn’t steal so much. Even though he doesn’t do what we want, at least he leaves us alone. But they put in more taxes and other things like a bar or something else, when what was needed were schools, hospitals, and the other things.
So, we said, “Instead of struggling over who is going to be our candidate – wondering what will happen if Marcos is president, to see if he is going to be the one to give us something – we have to take for ourselves what is ours in the first place.” What is happening is that everyone sees things from his own perspective. So most likely, if they struggle alone they will, quite probably, get jacked around. But if we get together throughout the entire country and struggle together, then we are greater. Besides, we are not asking for anything special. We’re just asking for respect. We, the Indians, are asking for respect, the young are asking for respect along with women, elderly people, and workers. Respect for what we are: fishermen, peasant farmers, shantytown dwellers, or whatever each might be.
Nobody knows this sea better than you. You know when, how and what one might fish and eat. To the rich who will come and put up a hotel, this does not matter one bit. What matters to him is that it looks pretty, and that the weather is nice, and how much he can charge for a room, and that’s it. And this whole ocean that produced food for you and for us, it will be lost, because this food went to other people. Don’t think that they are satisfied with this, because now they are going to destroy everything. You know that the ocean is like the land. If you change one thing, everything starts to change. They are going to put stuff in there and fish are going to start dying. And when this happens, everything will be dirty and destroyed. Then these people will take their hotel and go somewhere else. And everything that was so beautiful before will no longer exist. It will be as if a war took place, as if it all has fallen.
So we of “The Other Campaign”, are not just Zapatistas, but also those from organizations, many organizations, groups, and collectives in every country – excuse me, in every state – I wish it was this way in every country. And what we are doing is forming agreements and showing respect. It is not a matter of who is going to be the boss, or that Marcos, or a Zapatista, is going to arrive and begin to give orders that everyone must obey. No, we are going to show respect. If you are going to organize as women, as fishermen, as students, as teachers, or in Escuinapa in the county sea, or in all of Sinaloa, we are going to respect that.
What we are going to do when they attack you, or they jack you around or do something mean to you, is respond everywhere, everywhere we will help. Just now, for example, when we came here, we were told that there is the problem with the Escalera Náutica, where no one can fish for shrimp except for the big property owners. We’re told of the problems of the schools, of the persecution of young people and of the shantytowns in Escuinapa, but these were problems already here before. And who is going to come here and look around? Here, no one looks, except for politicians so that they can take the land and put in hotels. And now, with this, other parts of the country are beginning to learn what is happening here, through people like you. Here, when something happens, you organize. You organize to take the authorities to court, those who supposedly are protecting the environment while they are the ones who are actually destroying it for “ecocide”. And as soon as we go someplace else, we are going to tell your story. If what is happening here is happening to other fishermen, and with compañeros that we have in Quintana Roo, in Chiapas, on the coast of Chiapas, in Yucatan, in Michoacan, they are going to say: they are just like us. And then watch what they are going to say: Why don’t we all get together and struggle as one?
Because here, in this part of Sinaloa, you are struggling so that the right to fish, so that the cooperatives, and so that the small private operators, are respected. In the whole country they demand that this be respected. There needs to be some form of aid for this because it is not a matter of just letting people fish. Since they are aiding people in the hotel businesses, there also needs to be the same for the fishing cooperatives, because that is where the food comes from. If there is more fishing production, it benefits you and it benefits the people because everything is cheaper. But for those people this doesn’t matter.
That’s why we do not come here, or anywhere else, to promise that we are going to solve all your problems. We came to invite you to be our compañeros. That you, too, organize yourselves. That you, too, clearly define and defend your rights and that you make them known together with other places in this country. And that every time you – as young people, as fishermen, as women, as teachers, as students, and shantytown dwellers – have a demand, you support each other. We all help ourselves among the whole. Therefore, you can say: we struggle as fishermen, as dwellers in shantytowns, and as women, and that the EZLN supports us. But also we are supported by all of the organizations, groups and collectives that are a part of “The Other Campaign.” And we believe that this will take place. We have tried our luck for years now with one politician after another after another and another, and nothing ever happens. Why don’t we just try organizing ourselves? Let the people decide themselves what is to be done. And let the money come not to benefit the rich, but so that the people themselves decide what to do with it.
Imagine that you control the budget, not the mayor, but yourselves. And thus the assembly decides: What do we want to do with this money? Because what others say is, I’m going to get this part and just paint a wall here or something and make it look like we are really doing something.
And you say, let’s put in sewer lines, lets pave the streets, lets make some improvements. Let’s guarantee permits for fishing, let’s prohibit big business from fishing our shrimp. Let only the cooperatives and small operators fish the shrimp. This would be a change of pace. And you would be the ones to decide.
This is what we are proposing. We are not going to go and talk to Calderon, or to Fox, or to Lopez Obrador, or to Madrazo, or to whomever winds up in power, because we tried that already and it didn’t work. What worked for us was that we got organized. They are going to probably make up lies about you, because that is they always do when people organize or struggle. They start telling lies about you. They made up lies about us. But now, thanks to the compañeros who came here with us, now there is another way to understand each other, another way of knowing what is happening in this country.
This is what we came here to tell you. We didn’t come to tell you to vote for us, and that we are going to resolve your problems. We came so say that you, yourselves, can solve your problems if you just unite with others who support you. It is possible that it is not going to grow, or even that it is growing. But believe me, we have now seen how in other parts of the country that they have begun evicting. And eviction is when they take something from you without asking you anything at all.
The prohibition starts – as they added on taxes, as they made them fill out lots of paperwork, as they impoverished the fishermen, as they privatized the ejidos and took their fishing areas away – and that is what chokes the cooperatives. They had to sell out, and in their place is now a big hotel. And those who were born there, entire families, grandparents, great-grandparents, all of them, can no longer enter, not even if they pay to do so. Because who can pay to go into one of these big hotels? So they take everything away and now they have nothing. Families who held the tradition of fishing are now working someplace else – a few of them are – as construction workers, or whatever work they can find. They are completely destroyed and disenfranchised. If we want to defend the ocean, if we want to defend the land, if we want to defend our identity as youths, as women, as squatters, as students, we need to organize ourselves. We have already done that, and we had nothing, nothing. Not even a piece of the ocean, not even a piece of the land.
And we organized and we conquered it. In our land, being an Indian is an honor. In the cities, it is an embarrassment.
And if this country recognizes the Indians, recognizes its workers, and its women and the people on the bottom – who are the ones who make it go – then it would be a different country. It would not be seen that a dumbass like Fox is representing Mexico. And we might see in other countries how they would say, Mexico is a country of these fishermen from Sinaloa, or of these Indians from Chiapas, or these young people from Escuinapa – that would be something different. And thus we would have the respect we deserve as a nation.
That’s why I want to invite all of you, compañeros and compañeras, men and women, to take a look, think about it, discuss it, and the you will see that what we are saying is true. Think about what I am saying: this is not all about deciding to choose some outsider to come in here, it is about organizing ourselves, and deciding what we are going to do. Thank you compañeros, thank you compañeras.
Translated from the original Spanish speech.
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