World in View: Zapatistas and the Ayotzinapa rebellion

From the January-February 2015 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, and Mexico City—More than three months after the forced disappearance of their 43 sons—students of the Normal Rural School Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero—their fathers and mothers continue their protests of pain and rage. Since Sept. 26, they have demanded an extensive, continuing search for their loved ones, an insistence that they be returned to them alive.

The parents forced President Peña Nieto to finally meet with them after his long silence and avoidance. They demanded an account of what happened, not evasion upon evasion, and transferring of blame. They refused to accept the government’s half-baked theory that their sons were taken by a few rogue police and corrupt local officials, who then turned them over to a narco-gang to be murdered. Instead, the families pointed to both the federal and state governments’ responsibility to solve the murders. Crucially, the families have been the catalysts for hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who participate in marches and protests throughout Mexico.

Three caravans of parents, Ayotzinapa students, and their supporters traveled across the country, demanding the return of their children. In mid-November the parents arrived in Chiapas to share their pain and outrage with the Zapatista Indigenous communities. Zapatista Subcomandante Moisés responded: “Your words, your rage, your rebellion, your resistance have caused many people in Mexico and the world to awaken and begin to ask questions. For this, we thank you….It is terrible and marvelous that the poor and humble families and students who aspire to be schoolteachers have become the best teachers this country has seen in recent years.”

Nov. 5, 2014. Parents of 43 missing students demonstrate in Zocalo in Mexico City. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/125795347@N04/15731087052) photo by Mario Acosta

At the end of December and the beginning of January the parents returned to Chiapas to participate in the First World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism in unity with thousands: members of dozens of Indigenous groups who are part of the National Indigenous Congress, Indigenous Zapatistas and hundreds of supporters from throughout Mexico and from dozens of other countries. This growing unity between the Zapatistas and the parents and students of Ayotzinapa signifies an important development in the continuing resistance and protest in Mexico. At the Festival the Zapatistas focused on Ayotzinapa, linking it to the struggle against capitalism in Mexico and internationally:

“What we know and are reminded of by the Ayotzinapa struggle is that it is only as organized communities that we will find the truth. Not only the truth that has been disappeared in Ayotzinapa, but also all of the truths that have been kidnapped, imprisoned and murdered in every corner of planet Earth. It is upon this missing truth that we can build justice. We Zapatistas believe that trust must no longer be placed in the bad governments that exist all over the world. These bad governments only serve the big capitalists. These bad governments are merely the employees of capital. They are the managers, foremen, and overseers of the great capitalist plantation….

“The Zapatista men and women support you because your struggle is just and true. Because your struggle should be that of all of humanity….There are times when, as history unfolds, it places in front of us something that unites us, no matter the geography in which our dreams take place, no matter the calendar of our struggle. Ayotzinapa has become a point that has united us.”

In January, the protests and the demands for the return of the students alive are continuing.

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