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Narco News 2001

March 16, 2001

March of History

By Mike Saltz

Author's Note: A short recount of the EZLN march from someone on the caravan. This represents only the views and thoughts of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of the EZLN, caravan, MSN, and definitely not those of Fox, Bush, or multinationals.

How many of us would have imagined that some of the poorest indigenous people in the world would spark such a strong movement(s) around the world in just a matter of years? How many comrades even saw that the cloudy jungle of the Mexican southeast would force the 72 year old dictatorship of the PRI to come crumbling down in 2000? Surely, the same rotten system remains in the country caught in the grips of the Great Empire that we so enduringly call the United States of America, but the political opening is so great that our brave comrades in the Zapatista Army of National Liberation could so gloriously caravan to the capital of the Republic. The indigenous farmers of southern Mexico--indeed even the workers of the world--have been empowered by this feat. So, the movement didn't end on March 12th. It won't even end this year. It will only end when this parasitical system has been washed away.

Tens of thousands of Zapatista support base community members met the incoming guerrilla commandantes as they entered San Cristobal on February 24th. They swarmed the streets in an all-night party to celebrate their revolution. Cops and troops were noticeably absent from the festival--presumably because no one invited them. And, they dare not come disrupt it--not with the word of the Zapatistas. Wealthy tourists were there and many didn't seem to know quite what to do. Is this another invasion of those jungle people? We can feel relieved to know that their asses were not on the line because the elite of the world were ignored. For 500 years the rights of the poor have been ignored in Mexico--it was time to ignore the rich. As a gringo from North America, I was there to stand back in solidarity with Mexico's poor as they took the stage for once. I had a feeling that they will not ever turn back now.

The morning of the 25th, the caravan of indigenous, other Mexicans, international groups, and various US made helicopters traveled down the long, windy, and dangerous road to Tuxtla--the newer capital of Chiapas. This is a modern city, for sure, with electrical hookups and nice cars. But, we must also remember that Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico--this wasn't Beverly Hills. Thousands of supporters waved their banners, chanted their chants, and screamed out for the triumphant 23 comandantes that came to meet them. Seeing this, I knew that this revolutionary tourist (credit for this term goes to the admirable [i.e. horrible] Ernesto Zedillo) adventure would be like no other. I was about to witness an incredible historical moment that would usher in the next stage. Pushing the realm of possibility and being successful (remind all of those doubters out there about the possibility of this march pre-1994)...we're getting closer.

Our role as North Americans were constantly called to attention in the delegation I was a part of. No doubt, this is a good question to ask. What is our role as residents of the richest empire of the world? Should we step back (because the privileged activists do tend to sell out as soon as the shit hits the fan)? Should we step up? Should we show our faces or hide them? Should we chant back at the pro-EZLN crowd or just wave? Of course, there are no easy answers to this. However, in hindsight, I see a bit of all answers as part of the solution. There was no reason to surrender to the mainstream media's assertion that the caravan was just a bunch of foreigners. No matter what, they were going to find a way to discredit the movement. It was a positive move to show that North Americans supported their cause. We are revolutionaries and ought to show it. But, stepping back--in line behind--the movement in Mexico is important because the poorest must be in the lead. Oh, no, I'm not being authoritarian. I just mean that the ones that have the least to lose tend to be the bravest and most aggressive. We must follow by example. Libertarian socialism takes practice--if they were to use us as examples they'd see us complaining about the lack of showers or comfortable beds (don't get me wrong, these things are nice, I didn't complain when I got these goodies, but it is elitist). Their example reminded me of my weaknesses and reconfirmed my commitment to a revolutionary lifestyle--whatever that means.

There was a tragedy that occurred on the trip and it was potentially explosive. A bus carrying delegates from the Mexico Solidarity Network crashed, killing one police officer and damaging a number of cars. Subcomandante Marcos expressed his regret for this incident and asked the people of Queretaro whether the caravan could stay in their town that night. The governor of that state hasn't been too friendly toward the rebels in the past so this seemed like an ominous situation. A number of people on the caravan stayed in a soccer stadium, including myself, which looked for a time like we'd be kicked out being that it was owned by the government (note-- not owned by the people--by the government). It was a beautiful stadium. I slept out on the cement bleachers and watched the night sky for a time. I woke up one time in the night confused where the hell I was. Lack of sleep will do that to you.

A highlight of the trip was the National Indigenous Congress in Nurio. Thousands of indigenous delegates and invitees from the caravan slept out for two days for discussions on the San Andres Accords. The Zapatista commandancia spoke at this and was met with total support. I mean, this movement is supported by over 50% of Mexico. Marcos has better approval ratings than the US dictator, W. Does W. really have any approval rating at all? Anyway, I digress. It was inspiring to once again see the poorest people of the world instituting democratic discussions and decision making--a feat that the elite of the world could never do (they're too busy jumping each other's wives, etc.). We all braved freezing nights and scorching days to take part or observe this congress.

One morning, a few of us on the MSN delegation (no, not Microsoft--the Mexico Solidarity Network...they stole it from us...go to hell, Gates!) acted as security for the comandantes. Okay, so we weren't the Italians who guarded the inner perimeters... and guarded well, I dare say. We guarded the first gate. The security group hung out for a few hours that morning waiting for something to happen when one of our comrades spotted the elusive Sup. Marcos and Comandante Tacho walking down the path toward us. We had to be quick about it and smooth. Hey, they're just like us and hell, we don't get star struck, do we? We said, "good morning" and they responded in kind. But, it was too much for us. We needed a handshake and a picture. No doubt, they had nothing better to do. They were very gracious and let us take a picture with them (I enlarged it as Kinkos--I'll have one copy in every room of my residence...note-remember to put it in frame in my shower).

A group of Christians--somewhat like Mennonites--joined the caravan around this time. I apologize because I forget the name of the denomination, but I was very curious about this. They all wore traditional Puritan-esque clothing, complete with bonnets in the women's hair, but they considered themselves revolutionaries. I thought that was positive even though I am not religious, but I did feel uncomfortable with the missionary feel of them. Kudos to the Christian group anyway.

After the Indigenous National Congress we headed to more communities around DF. The towns all run together in my mind because I was an idiot not to write them down. Oh, no worries, I have them on my EZLN rock tour t-shirt. However, we stayed in Milpa Alta before heading into DF staying at a school with the Ya Basta! Italian group. Many of you may remember this group when they so heroically busted through police lines in Prague. They used inner-tubes to bounce the cops off of them and shields to protect them from the fascist blows. It almost resulted in getting Ya Basta! into the IMF meeting there. Wonderful to see and I had the upmost respect for them. There was some bashing of them in the mainstream media because they allegedly had been drinking and smoking pot on the bus. Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn't but the fact was that the government (which controls the media in Mexico) desperately wanted to divide the movement. Although, some people felt that Ya Basta! may have done some inappropriate things we all understood the role the media was playing in this.

So, as the EZLN started their last leg of the march, following Zapata's trail the realization this march was almost finished began to set in. I entered Mexico City on March 11th, in a state of culture shock as the big city of 23 million people deafened by senses. However, I love DF and I love the Zocalo--a hostel is right behind the cathedral--so I had a good time. I acted in a tourist role one day enjoying the Leon Trotsky museum where he was killed by a Stalin agent. I also watched the Aztec dancers next to the ancient ruins that were uncovered. Damn, that's culture.

On March 12th, the EZLN made their way into Mexico City to speak to the people of the capital. Between 300,000-500,000 people came to meet the guerrillas and the pictures from the air were spectacular. The US can't get 20,000 at a Mumia rally! But, this is a different place with a different context to it. Marcos finally made it that day, the EZLN won and has gained the upperhand. The lies that Vicente Fox (aka George W. Bush?) spouts could not cloud the reality. It was the EZLN's day, for sure.

And, as I look back on this trip, I can see it now. The EZLN won't fall apart if the San Andres Accords are passed in congress. It won't even disappear if the "peace" accords are signed. The EZLN will live on no matter what. Through political movements, through the struggle--their message of nothing for no-one and everything for ourselves will strive. We must remember, even if Marcos is gone tomorrow, the revolution will go on. It is like he said recently (I am paraphrasing, so don't quote me on this)--Marcos is an illusion. When you try to see him through the window of the bus it looks as though there is a shadow, or an illusion. But, if you look close enough, you see the reflection of yourself. That is the true message. It is not the struggle of one man or even of the Maya. It is the struggle of all the people to carry on in our communities, in our country, in our world. Because, if we just step back and watch we'll miss the call. We'll miss the chance to save our species and our Earth. Humans have an enduring need (beyond what we need to survive) for love, freedom, clean water and air...we have a need for each other and for other animals. Let's not mess that up. Take it as you will, but do what you can. There's not much time and we need democracy now. Sometimes I wish the "hasta" in hasta la victoria siempre could be changed to "ahora". Sure, my Spanish isn't too good--I don't know if that would be grammatically correct...but it's necessary nonetheless.

Until the Victory... NOW!