The uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico calls us to look inside the struggle of the Zapatistas and the networks woven against the violence of the racist, patriarchal capitalist system.
The Zapatista movement in Mexico
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation has a pre-colonial structure, communal and collective. People from the Zapatista mountains became feminists, anti-patriarchs and anti-capitalists because of their origins. One of the most powerful results today is that the Zapatista community is the only one that does not count femicides or disappeared in a country of ten femicides per day. This is one of the results of their autonomous organization of the state. They announced it at the opening ceremony of the Second International Meeting of Women Who Fight, at the end of December. The ceremonies had the same form of assemblies since its beginning. In the book “Women of Corn” by Guiomar Rovira, Maribel recounts how the women before March 1994 met on March 8:
“When we held women’s meetings […] the representatives of the compañeras each passed to say their thoughts about the fight, why they were fighting, and they also evaluated the collective work, at the regional or local level “.Maribel from “Women of Corn”, by Guiomar Rivera
In these assemblies, they asked how they were all feeling, and they thought collectively what to do. Something similar happened in the recent meeting where the insurgents and militiamen of the EZLN summoned more than 4,000 women from 50 countries. They were the first to rise, as reported by Subcommander Marcos in the same book.
“That is the truth: The first EZLN uprising was in March 1993 and was led by Zapatista women. There were no casualties, and they won.”Subcommander Marcos from “Women of Corn” by Guiomar Rivera
Feminism in Mexico
Although they were not the protagonists of the uprising on January 1, 1994, they opened the door to feminism in Mexico and closed this decade with the international example of calling all women to dialogue in a collective. Giving rise to all differences, the various struggles and languages. They offered their space, they made delicious food. We had the chance to be in the care of the Zapatista militiamen to address, during the three days that the meeting lasted, violence against women.
“You see, comrade and sister, they say that this or that profession is the most dangerous. They argue if it is more dangerous to be a journalist, or to be a repressive force, or to be a judge, or to be bad rulers. But you and me, we know that the most dangerous thing in the world now is being a woman.”Comandanta Amanda, Zapatista, during the opening ceremony
My experience with the Zapatista women
After a long trip to reach the mountains in Chiapas, I arrived at the camp with a group of friends. At the entrance there was a yellow sign that prohibited men from entering. It was very impressive to arrive at a camp where there were only women. Approximately 200 Zapatista militiawomen, dressed in military-style suits, wearing balaclavas and green caps, with long braids and pigtails sticking out of the backs of the caps, formed a spiral in perfect order.
They carried arches. Many of them had them decorated with coloured ribbons to show to which militia they belonged to, and how well organized they were. At the same moment that they showed us their bows, they started to play a Blue Angels song, without lyrics –and it is one of the most popular lyrics in Mexico– that all the militiawomen danced to with the same pace and order as their show with their bows. They showed that they were not only together in community to fight, but they were also together in celebration and dance.
During this show, they invited Comandanta Ramona of Caracol Morelia to speak into the open microphone and denounce different types of violence. They invited everyone to come up with ideas to combat such violence for the second day, while the third day would have been devoted to the arts, music and celebration.
A community of women
They took the floor to talk about femicides, disappearances, rapes, and abuses of territories. At night they improvised some circles with music and songs. On the second day, they put together various gatherings to propose ideas, and presented various feminist collectives. There was an embroidery workshop, and there was a self-defence workshop. A rap singer made feminist rhymes. A filmmaker called other feminists to be part of a documentary. They made various requests to set aside the beauty standards of the much-failed patriarchal system.
Some collectives were born, such as the one of a nurse who took the floor to organize a collective of feminist nurses who, among other tasks, could provide abortions. A public school teacher proposed creating a network of teachers who teach with a gender perspective. They arranged long conversations to accompany each other’s locations from the phones. And the interventions were interspersed with announcements of a child looking for her mother or someone shouting about a two-hundred-dollar bill they had found.
Between two introductions, a woman picked up the microphone and said, “Colleagues, did any of you lose a violet toothbrush?” And a girl, sitting next to me, said: “We are in the safest place in the world, right?”
A safe place
We had the feeling of being in a safe place. You could see everyone’s willingness to listen, to hug someone they just met, to cry with someone they just met. To share pain, laughter, tangerines or anything else. And to learn from others. The girl sitting next to me was right, perhaps we were in the safest place in the world. A community in which their women organize themselves in collectives. Women who take the floor to say that here “there are no femicides, there is no disappeared”, is undoubtedly a dream. It is, in fact, the Latin American dream. And the Zapatista women with their example say that this dream is possible.
They will discuss everything that they exposed at the meeting so that on March 8, as has been their custom, they present their ideas to propose actions in the community. Like this phrase from Comandanta Amada, which seems to me the shortest summary of the meeting and an invitation to be more in the next meeting.
“Because we are women who suffer. But we are also women who think and organize. And above all, we are women who fight.”Comandanta Amanda, Zapatista