Letter from Mexico: Chiapas Indigenous join Zapatistas

September 1, 2019

From the September-October 2019 issue of News & Letters

by J.G.F. Héctor

The Zapatistas released a series of communications in mid-August, the last of which, “And We Broke the Siege,” gives an account of what they have been doing for the past three years and poses what can come next.

After stating that the “new Left” administration in Mexico doesn’t represent any fundamental change, since money is its real boss—and that it has brought more repression and ruin to the Native peoples and their land, with all the militarization that comes with that—the Zapatistas announced that they have broken this siege and have expanded their territory. More people—mostly Indigenous from the state of Chiapas—have joined the Zapatista cause, and now there will be seven new units of autonomous government.

The Zapatistas attributed this expansion to:

1) “…the political-organizational labor of the women, men, children and elders who are the Zapatistas’ support base, especially the women and Zapatista female youth. Compañeras of every age mobilized themselves to talk to other sisters with or without organization.”

2) “…the destructive government policy against the community and nature…Whoever thought that its counter-insurgent policy of giving charity would divide Zapatismo and would buy the loyalty of the non-Zapatistas…gave the missing arguments to convince these brothers and sisters of the need to defend land and nature.”


It is the objective reality of capitalism, pushed forward by the current “Left” administration, which created the conditions for rebellion. With the organizational activity of the Zapatistas, sharing with other people how they have been developing their autonomy for the past 30-plus years, such rebellion concretized itself in the creation of new autonomous units of self-government.

The Zapatistas are showing us a methodology of social transformation: A comprehension of both objective and subjective factors, organizational activity, and the subjects from below at its very core as a Self-developing Subject.

Then the Zapatistas reached to other people in rebellion, understanding that, if social uprooting is going to be complete, it requires the participation of all the other oppressed subjectivities.

They called the National Indigenous Congress to a meeting in October to share experiences on the “defense of the territory and of Mother Earth”; they appealed to organizations of activists to keep on with the construction of an “International Network of Resistance and Rebellion”; they called meetings on art, the sciences and critical thought and a gathering with “relatives of murdered, disappeared and incarcerated people”; finally, they indicated that there will be a new Women’s Gathering, and possibly a meeting of LGBTQI+ people.


The Zapatistas are thus calling to all the subjects in rebellion in an effort to unite us all in a single struggle to give birth to a new country, a new human society. For this I pose that, together with the gathering of all the subjects in resistance, we need a philosophical unifying force, a fully developed view of human emancipation that guides us in the task of destroying capitalism and giving birth to a new society. This philosophy is dialectical, that is, articulated in the double rhythm of negating the old and building the new, a ceaseless movement of becoming that is, indeed, the historical form of the millenniums-long striving of humanity for its freedom.

This philosophy is already present, albeit implicitly, in the actions and thoughts of resistance of the subjects from below. Specifically, it is present in the 30-plus years of Zapatista autonomy. Now it has been recreated in their organizational effort of reaching new subjects to become Zapatistas. Can we make this philosophy explicit and turn it into the universal, yet particular, unifying force that would open the way for a new society?

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