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EZLN: MEETING WITH THE ZAPATISTA ARMY

My trip to Mexico was focused on the days with the EZLN, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

In high school, the first approaches to politics and demonstrations began.
I started dreaming about the Lacandon Jungle, wondering how to meet the EZLN.
Their balaclavas and their phrases fascinated me: “we are an army of dreamers so we are invincible” accompanied my studies and the rest of my life.
I crossed the ocean to spend a few days with them. And I did it, starting from the symbolic city of Chiapas: San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

I spent 3 days with them: 2 days in two different Caracol and 1 day in the middle of the forest in a support base.

This is a very long article, writed using the words of the EZLN, extrapolated from what was explained to me and from their communiques and books.
I’d like to give tou the teachings that come from the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

I hope you will read it, with your ways, your times, your geography.

 

EZLN - For everyone everything - nothing for us

 

WHY EZLN

In Chiapas most of the inhabitants are descendants of the Original Peoples: Maya, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, Tojolabal, Zoque, Mam.
And as such, always discriminated and deprived of any collective and individual right.
After 500 years of abuse, on November 17, 1983, a group of people, including natives and mestizos, gave birth to the EZLN.

 

EZLN - greeting

 

Born as a classic revolutionary guerrilla army, in 1986 it was an armed group, heavily indigenous, a pupil who listened carefully and stammered his first words with a new teacher: the indigenous peoples.
The EZLN has learned to listen and speak.
This is how it quickly turned into an organization of thousands of fighters “merged” with indigenous communities. They stopped being “foreigners” and became part of that forgotten corner of the country and the world: the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
There wasn’t the EZLN on one side and the communities on the other, they were simply all Zapatistas.

 

EZLN - support bases - Zapata murals

 

They were still in the learning phase (and they never stop learning), when the President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, had the “brilliant” idea of ​​making reforms that canceled the farmers’ right to land.
NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico, was tremendous.
For the Original Peoples (without differents between the communities and the EZLN) the land is not a commodity, but has cultural, religious and historical connotations.
That’s why soon the ranks of the EZLN grew exponentially, but unfortunately the misery and the death, especially of children under 5 years, also grew.

This happened in all the indigenous communities of Mexico but the difference was that they were already armed and trained for a war.

Death by oblivion was (and is) the worst of deaths and they were faced with a choice, but not between life or death, but between one type of death and another.
The collective decision approved by each of the tens of thousands of Zapatistas originated that spark that was the sunrise of January 1, 1994.
That day thousands of indigenous people covered with balaclavas and armed with rudimentary rifles and machetes claimed what was denied them: a new world made of work, land, roof, food, health, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.

Shouting “stop now!” and “earth and freedom!”, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation came to the world occupying the city offices of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, Oxchuc, Huixtán and Chanal.

They left their homes in 1994 with the certainty that they would be destroyed but that action would have attracted the attention of good people on a crime no less bloody, because in silence and far from the media: the genocide of thousands of Mexican indigenous families.
The surprising and unexpected Zapatista uprising, broadcast by all televisions, brought Chiapas to the fore how the southernmost state of Mexico and still the poorest today.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - Struggling

 

The armed struggle just over ten days, during which the regular army tried to regain control of the occupied areas and the population went down the streets demanding a cease-fire. The President of Messico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, arrived in his final year of government mandate, accepted the dialogue proposal by the EZLN, mediated by the diocese of San Cristóbal and by Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia.

From the beginning, the EZLN has made communication with the rest of Mexico and the world a top priority: thanks to the use of technology (phones, Radio Insurgente and then of course the internet) it has created around itself a solid local, international and internationalist defense. It was made by organizations, groups, collectives and individual people united according to their time, geography and way, without having to count the distance, without importing walls and borders or the fences that place us.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and his communiques have become a point of reference.
For many people he was the “leader” of the EZLN but the reality is totally different.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation spoke through his voice.
And everyone realized it on May 25, 2014 when Subcomandante Marcos died.
It was almost funny to read newspapers from all around the world, unable to go beyond the words “dead Marcos”.
The Zapatistas take the name from their absentees and on the same day Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano was born.
You die to live and you live to not die.
Galeano was the name of an indigenous Zapatista teacher,, attacked, kidnapped, tortured and murdered by paramilitaries on May 2, 2014.
Galeano himself took his name for the fight from Hermenegildo Galeana, Mexican revolutionary of the early 1800s.
In those days the collective management of the EZLN decided to kill the character nicknamed SupMarcos, the spokesman for the Zapatistas, and to entrust that task to the Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, always, like many others, in the Zapatista Army.

Enemies never learned to look at the Moon, the EZLN, instead of the finger pointing to it, the dead Marcos.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - School

 

THE BIRTH OF AGUASCALIENTES

On August 8, 1994, in the session of the Democratic National Convention celebrated in Guadalupe Tepeyac, Commander Tacho, on behalf of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, inaugurated, in front of about 6,000 people from different parts of Mexico and the world, the so-called Aguascalientes.
In fact, it had become necessary to have a place to learn to listen and speak with that plurality called “civil society”.
They built the space and since it was to be the seat of the Democratic National Convention, they called it Aguascalientes, recalling the state that hosted the Convention of the Mexican Revolutionary Forces at the end of 1914, where the various groups led by Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, the brothers Flores Magón and Venustiano Carranza.
However, that place was born because a specific political initiative and many thought that the Aguascalientes would closed at its end.

The Aguascalientes was Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, the pirate ship, the anachronistic paradox, the tender madness of the faceless, the absurdity of a civil movement in dialogue with an armed movement, hope, library, homes, hospital, health services, showers, popular music, common effort for change.

The path to get to the construction of what was the first Aguascalientes was rough and painful. And not for its physical construction (completed in record time and without television spots), but for its conceptual construction.
After the first days of fighting, after preparing for 10 years to make war, they were invaded by an army of journalists and men and women of the most diverse social, cultural and national backgrounds.
Journalists continued to come back intermittently, but what they call “civil society”, to distinguish it from the political class and not to pigeonhole it into social classes, has always been constant.
A lot of years preparing to shoot with a weapon and at the end they have to shoot only words. A warrior doesn’t forget what he learns and they have learned to listen and speak.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - murals

 

DEATH OF THE AGUASCALIENTES AND SAN ANDRÉS AGREEMENTS

Then came the betrayal of February 9, 1995 when the newly installed president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, betrayed the agreements.
Although peace talks were going on, he tried to capture the top of the EZLN, destroyed the Aguascalientes of Guadalupe Tepeyac even building a military base, strengthening the military and paramilitary presence in the areas of influence of the Zapatistas and supporting acts of violence and massacres of civilians.

 

EZLN - support bases - prisoners are missing

 

At the end of 1995 the EZLN responded with the construction of new Aguascalientes, as a symbol of resistance and uprising.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the EZLN and a parliamentary commission made up of deputies and senators from all political parties arrived on February 16, 1996 with the signing in the Chiapanec municipality of San Andrés Larràinzar of four documents known as “San Andrés Agreements“, according to which the government should modify the Constitution, recognizing indigenous peoples and cultures, guaranteeing them autonomy.

It was recognized that:
– indigenous peoples have been subjected to subjugation, inequality and discrimination, which have led to a structural situation of poverty, exploitation and political exclusion;
– the partecipation of indigenous peoples is necessary because they are fundamental actors in the decisions that affect their lives;
– indigenous peoples are new subjects of law, respecting their historical origins, their requests and the pluriculturality of the Mexican State;
– indigenous will be able to decide their form of government and their ways of political, social, economic and cultural organizations;
– the Federal State undertakes to widen the participation and political representation of indigenous people at local and national level, recognize their political, economic, social and cultural rights, ensure their full access to justice, recognize their regulatory internal systems for the solution of conflicts as well as their peculiarities forms of organization.
Therefore a reform of the Federal Constitution and of the juridical order would have guaranteed to the communities the status of subjects of public law, the right of the municipalities with indigenous majority population to freely associate, the indigenous participation in the government activities, the free determination and the autonomy of indigenous peoples.
The territory inhabited by indigenous peoples was considered their natural habitat and therefore had to be safeguarded as a whole with them.
Indigenous peoples were recognized the right to direct exploitation of natural resources and the collective use of uncultivated lands.

But none of this has ever been done.

 

EZLN - support bases - no rain no rainbow

 

REBIRTH OF AGUASCALIENTES: FROM 1 TO 5

But if something characterizes the Zapatistas, it is tenacity (“or stupidity”, more than one will think).
Not even a year had passed since the death of Guadalupe Tepeyac’s Aguascalientes, which in 1996 new Aguascalientes were born in various parts of the rebel territory.

Aguascalientes I (La Realidad),
Aguascalientes II (Oventik),
Aguascalientes III (La Garrucha),
Aguascalientes IV (Morelia),
Aguascalientes V (Roberto Barrios).

These Aguascalientes were what they had to be: spaces for meeting and dialogue with national and international civil society, venues for major initiatives and the place where “civil society” and Zapatistas met daily.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - Zapatista Territory in Rebellion

 

But someone didn’t understand the meaning of the Zapatista struggle.
Some NGOs organized fundraisers (retaining a large part of the money for the “expenses incurred”) or tried to unilaterally impose projects and works that they considered urgent and fundamental, without asking and also deciding ways and times.
There were modern conquerors, disguised as political parties of the progressive left, who threatened them: they asked to vote for them because they had avoided the genocide in the early days of 1994 and for this reason EZLN were indebted, otherwise left parties would have abandoned them, considering Zapatistas guilty of sending the right to the government.

But the Zapatistas didn’t understand.
They rose up to command themselves, not because someone else commanded them.
The Zapatistas continued to listen and speak, imagine, grow, live, die, build schools and hospitals, they don’t need assistance but want to govern themselves without the parasite called “the ruler”.

The modern conquerors have returned to the city, have continued to make marches, shout slogans to which they add tweets, hashtags, likes, trending topics and followers. In their political parties there are the same ones who yesterday were in the reactionary right, at their tables the murderers and the relatives of the murdered sit together, laughing and toasting together for the money received, complaining and crying together for the lost seats.

In the land of city creditors, the master continues to command, with another face, another name, another color.
In Zapatista Land the people command and the government obeys.

 

DEATH OF THE AGUASCALIENTES

On July 2003 arrived their decision to kill the Aguascalientes.
The Zapatista communities, tired of the alms of some “civil society” and the paternalism of some NGOs, on August 8, 2003, the anniversary of the first Aguascalientes, decreed the “dead good death” of the Aguascalientes.

The party (because there are dead that need to be celebrated) was held in Oventik, with all the people who in those ten years supported the rebel communities with plans, camps and caravans of peace, with attentive listening, with the word companion, with what it is but always not with compassion and alms.

BIRTH OF CARACOLES AND GOOD GOVERNMENT BOARD

On August 9, 2003, the Caracoles and Juntas de Buen Gobierno were born, the culmination of important progress in the autonomous process.

In each Caracol, where there are also health clinics, schools, houses, libraries, surveillance and information offices, etc., a new construction is perfectly distinguished, the so-called “House of the Good Government Board”.

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - House of the Good Government Board

 

The “Good Government Board“, (which is so called not because it’s of course “good”, but to differentiate it from the “bad government”) is made up of 1 or 2 delegates from each of the Autonomous Councils of that area.
It represents the organizational effort of the communities, not only to face the problems of autonomy, but also to build a more direct bridge between them and the world.

They must counteract the imbalance in the development of autonomous municipalities and communities, mediate in the conflicts between autonomous Zapatista municipalities and government municipalities, follow the complaints against violations of human rights, ensure that the projects agreed with the communities are carried out in the agreed times and ways, enforce the laws that, in common agreement with the communities, are in force in the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.
They must also manage relations with “civil society”: assisting and guiding visits to communities, carrying out production projects, setting up peace camps, promoting and approving the participation of Zapatista comrades in activities or events that take place outside rebel communities .

In short, to be sure that in the Zapatista Rebel Territory, the Government commands by obeying the decisions of the communities.

The Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities continue to maintain exclusive jurisdiction over justice, health, education, housing, land, work, food, trade, information, culture and local transit.
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee supervises the functioning of the Good Government Board to avoid acts of corruption, intolerance, arbitrariness, injustices and deviations from the Zapatista principle of “commanding by obeying”.

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - House of the Good Government Board

 

Each Good Government Board has its own name, chosen by the respective Autonomous Councils:
The Good Government Board Selva Fronteriza (which includes the area from Marqués de Comillas, the region of Montes Azules and all the municipalities on the border with Guatemala to Tapachula) is called “Hacia la esperanza” (“Towards hope”) and groups the autonomous municipalities: General Emiliano Zapata, San Pedro de Michoacán, Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas and Tierra y Libertad.

The Good Government Board Tzots Choj (which includes the territories in which the governmental municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Chilón, Teopisca and Amatenango del Valle are located) is called “Corazòn del arcoiris de la esperanza” (in the original language “Yot’an te xojobil yu’un te smaliyel”, meaning” Heart of the rainbow of hope “) and groups the autonomous municipalities: 17 de Noviembre, Primero de Enero, Ernesto Che Guevara, Olga Isabel, Lucio Cabañas, Miguel Hidalgo and Vicente Guerrero.

The Good Government Board Selva Tzeltal (which includes part of the territories in which the governmental municipality of Ocosingo is located) is called “El camino del futuro” (in the original language “Te s’belal lixambael”, that is “The path to the future) and brings together the autonomous municipalities: Francisco Gómez, San Manuel, Francisco Villa and Ricardo Flores Magón.

The Good Government Board Zona Norte de Chiapas (which includes part of the territories in which the governmental municipalities of the north of Chiapas, from Palenque to Amatán are located) is called “Nueva semilla que va a producir” (in the tzeltal language “Yach’il ts’unibil te yax bat’p’oluc”, in the chol language “Tsi Jiba Pakabal Micajel Polel”, so “The seed that will go to produce”) and groups the autonomous municipalities: Vicente Guerrero , Del Trabajo, La Montaña, San José en Rebeldía, La Paz, Benito Juárez and Francisco Villa.

La Good Government Board Altos de Chiapas (which includes part of the territories found in the governmental municipalities of Los Altos del Chiapas and extends to Chiapa de Corzo, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Berriozábal Ocozocuautla and Cintalapa “) is calledCorazòn céntrico de los Zapatistas delante del mundo” (in the original language “Ta olol yoon zapatista tas tuk’il sat yelob sjunul balumil”, ” Centric heart of the Zapatistas in front the world”) and groups the autonomous municipalities: San Andrés Sakamchén de los Pobres, San Juan de la Libertad, San Pedro Polhó, Santa Catarina, Magdalena de la Paz, 16 de Febrero and San Juan Apóstol Cancuc.

 

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - Emiliano Zapata

 

Among the first provisions of the Good Government Board, there are the following:
Donations and support from national and international civil society to someone in particular or to a specific community or autonomous municipality will no longer be allowed.
The Good Government Board will decide, after evaluating the situation of the communities, where it is most necessary to direct that help.
The Good Government Board imposes the so-called “fraternal tax” on all projects, which is 10% of the total amount of it.
So if a community, municipality or collective receives financial support for a project, it will have to hand over 10% to the Good Government Board to assign it to another community that doesn’t receive support.
That’s to at least slightly balance the economic development of communities in resistance. Certainly, they will not accept discards, alms or the imposition of plans.
Only people, communities, cooperatives and production and marketing companies registered with the Good Government Board will be recognized as Zapatistas.
People who are not zapatistas or who are even anti-Zapatistas are not treated as zapatistas. Surpluses or credit transfers for the marketing of products from Zapatista cooperatives and companies will be delivered to the Good Government Board so that support can be given to comrades and companions who are unable to market their products or receive any kind of support.
It may happen that dishonest people deceive national or international civil society by presenting themselves in the cities as alleged “zapatistas” sent on “secret or special missions” to ask for money for the sick, projects, travel or other such things.
Just get in touch with one of the Good Government Board (in the area from which the “trickster” says he comes) and in a few minutes it will be clarified if he is or is not a Zapatista.

So now “civil societies” know who they have to agree with for projects, peace camps, visits, donations etc.
Human rights defenders know to whom they should forward the complaints they receive and from whom they should expect a response.
The Army, police and government paramilitaries know who to attack (taking into account that they would attack and find the whole EZLN).
Honest media know where to go for interviews or reportage in communities.
And the Power of Money knows who else to fear.

 

ESCUELITA ZAPATISTA

The Zapatistas learned on their own to create and manage their autonomy.
A demonstration of this was the Escuelita Zapatista, in which more than 1,700 “students” participated on 2013 (plus all those who participated remotely by videoconference and then later when the books become available).

In those days, the student’s family was an indigenous Zapatista family.
The teachers of the school were the Zapatista bases of support, who explained their thinking, action in freedom according to Zapatismo, successes, mistakes, problems, solutions, progress, projects to finish (because there is always something missing to do).

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - high school

 

The student didn’t miss anything with his family: ate, worked, rested, sang, danced and was never alone.

All costs were covered by the Zapatistas.

The rules, few and clear, were explained before participation: respect life in the Zapatista communities and their internal rules.
It’s forbidden to produce, trade, exchange and consume any type of drug and alcohol.
It’s forbidden to hold and use any type of weapon, whether fire or “white”.
Anyone who asks to join the EZLN or anything military will be expelled because the school does not recruit nor promote armed struggle, but rather organization and autonomy for freedom.
Propaganda of any kind, political and religious, is prohibited.
No age limit to attend school, no gender discrimination, sexual preference, race, creed, nationality.

In the morning we shared coffee, corn and beans produced independently. Then the daily activities in the community began: cleaning the coffee plantation, harvesting corn, cutting wood, making tortillas and beans.
And during these activities the Zapatista communities and comrades from all over the world listened and spoke, taught and learned. Everyone participated.
We all came out better.

“SAMIR FLORES LIVES” CAMPAIGN

Repression, persecution and death of indigenous people by government, paramilitaries, caciques, foreign companies and criminals have never stopped.
Dozens of militant companions have been murdered and, among them, a brother highly respected by the Zapatista peoples: Samir Flores Soberanes.
In honor of the sisters and brothers who died, persecuted, disappeared or in prison, the Zapatista campaign called “Samir Flores Lives” culminates in August 2019.
After years of silent work, assaults, deaths, lies, defamations, military patrols, counterinsurgency campaigns disguised as social programs, oblivion and contempt have grown, become even stronger and have broken the encirclement.
New Caracoles and further Autonomous Zapatista Rebel Municipalities was born in new areas of the Mexican southeast.
Although slowly, as their name, the original 5 Caracoles reproduced after 15 years of political and organizational work and the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (Marez) and their Good Government Board also had to give birth and raise children.
Now there will be 12 Caracoles with their Good Government Board.
This exponential growth is basically due to two things:
One, and the most important, is the organizational political work and the example of Zapatista women, men, young people, children and support bases.
Most of this youth, mainly women, take on assignments and imbue them with their creativity, ingenuity and intelligence.

 

EZLN - For everyone everything - nothing for us

 

The other is government policy which destroys the community and nature. Traditionally party-affiliated communities have been affected by the contempt, racism and voracity of the current government, and have moved on to open or hidden rebellion. Those who thought, with their againstinsurgency policy of almsgiving, of dividing Zapatism and buying loyalty from non-Zapatistas, instead gave the arguments that failed to convince these brothers and sisters on the need to defend land and nature.
They continue with the “indigenous conception” that the original peoples aspire to sell their dignity and stop being what they are, and that the indigenous is a museum item, multicolored craftsmanship so that the powerful hide the gray of his hearts.
Hence his concern that his walls-trains (that of the Isthmus and incorrectly called the “Mayan train“) incorporate the ruins of a civilization into the landscape, for the enjoyment of the tourist.

 

EZLN - support bases - land defense

 

During these years the EZLN has learned to look, listen and speak with each other without falseness, without condemning, without labels, has dreamed for all the world and not for a small area or community, they have thought and researched ways and times, have challenged the contempt of the powerful who consider them ignorant and dumb, using intelligence, knowledge and imagination.

From all this 11 new Autonomous Resistance Centers and Zapatista Rebellion (CRAREZ) are born, which are added to the original 5:

1. New Caracol “Colectivo el corazón de semillas rebeldes, memoria del Compañero Galeano”.
His Good Government Board is called “Pasos de la historia, por la vida de la humanidad”.
Its headquarters is La Unión, a recovered land, next to the San Quintín ejido, where there is the garrison of the bad government army, the official municipality of Ocosingo.

2. New Municipio Autonomo “Esperanza de la Humanidad”.
Its headquarter is in the ejido Santa María, official municipality of Chicomuselo.

3. New Municipio Autonomo “Ernesto Che Guevara”.
Its headquarters is El Belén, official municipality of Motozintla.

4. New Caracol “Espiral digno tejiendo los colores de la humanidad en memoria de [email protected] caídos”.
His Good Government Board is called “Semilla que florece con la conciencia de [email protected] que luchan por siempre”.
Its headquarters is in Tulan Ka’u, recovered land, official municipality of Amatenango del Valle.

5. New Caracol “Floreciendo la semilla rebelde”.
His Good Government Board is called “Nuevo amanecer en resistencia y rebeldía por la vida y la humanidad”.
Its headquarters is in Poblado Patria Nueva, recovered land, official municipality of Ocosingo.

6. New Municipio Autonomo “Sembrando conciencia para cosechar revoluciones por la vida”.
Its headquarters is in Tulan Ka’u, recovered land, official municipality of Amatenango del Valle.

7. New Caracol “En Honor a la memoria del Compañero Manuel”.
His Good Government Board is called “El pensamiento rebelde de los pueblos originarios”.
Its headquarters is in Dolores Hidalgo, recovered land, official municipality of Ocosingo.

8. New Caracol “Resistencia y Rebeldía un Nuevo Horizonte”.
His Good Government Board is called “La luz que resplandece al mundo”.
Its headquarters is in Poblado Nuevo Jerusalén, recovered land, official municipality of Ocosingo.

9. New Caracol “Raíz de las Resistencias y Rebeldías por la humanidad”.
His Good Government Board is called “Corazón de nuestras vidas para el nuevo futuro”.
Its headquarters is in the ejido Jolj’a, official municipality of Tila.

10. New Municipio Autónomo “21 de Diciembre”.
Its headquarters is in Ranchería K’anal Hulub, official municipality of Chilón.

11. New Caracol “Jacinto Canek”.
His Good Government Board is called “Flor de nuestra palabra y luz de nuestros pueblos que refleja para todos”.
Its headquarters is in the Comunidad CIDECI-Unitierra, official municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

 

MY TRIP TO ZAPATISTA TERRITORY

CARACOL OVENTIK

My first meeting with the EZLN took place in Oventik.
I took a collective in San Cristóbal and after about 2 hours full of emotion and tension, I arrived at the entrance of the Caracol.
On one side of the road a sign reminds you to be in the Zapatista Territory, on the other side there is the real entrance.

 

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - Rebel Zapatista Territory

 

A bar blocks access and one of the guardians with a balaclava immediately comes to me.
I communicate my name and ask if I could enter.
He talks to a comrade who go to a wooden house a few hundred meters away.
After a few minutes he come back with 3 other people, all covered but unarmed on sight.
They ask me who I am, where I come from, why I came … and write my answers.
I’m a little nervous, alone in the forest, really I don’t know what to expect.
After this interview they ask me for my passport and tell me to wait.

 

EZLN - Good Government Board

I wait 10 minutes and one of them comes back to asks my job and where I work.
At the time, my company didn’t have a website and I thought these were useless answers, but obviously I answer every request, hoping that there are no problems.
After writing all, comrade back to the wooden house.
I wait for an answer and the seconds seem hours. I feel a little anxiety and worry.
And here EZLN give me their first great teaching.
I ask the guardian if there is any problem, how long I have to wait to enter.
His answer shocks me: “Indigenous People waited 500 years before their rights were recognized. Could you wait 5 minutes?
“Sure, sorry” is the only I have to answer.

Shortly after comrade returns, he gives me my passport and tells me to follow him.
The 3 people belonging to the Good Government Board would like to speak to me.

 

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - Good Government Board

 

They tell me their history, explain the why and how of the Zapatista struggle.
I’m talking and listening to the EZLN and the EZLN is talking and listening to me.
Then one of the comrades accompanies me around the Caracol, makes me take some photos and I’m obviously careful not to shoot the children with their faces uncovered.
I come back to San Cristóbal de las Casas with a lot of teachings and my heart full of emotions.

CARACOL MORELIA

I had the second meeting with EZLN in the Caracol of Morelia, one day that celebrated the 10 years of the Caracoles and just before the start of the Escuelita Zapatista.
Preparations were now over and some “students” were starting to arrive.
The number of Zapatistas present was also very high but the Good Government Board was too busy to receive me.

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - Welcome

However, I experienced wonderful moments and other teachings, such as from children who played basket. Non-Zapatista eyes must get used to what they see.
If we grew up with “who wins, go on”, in the Zapatista Territories the team that wins seems to us to be the one that loses. Because they stop to play.
Those who lost will continue to play instead. Because they have yet to learn.
But however there are’t challenge, rivalry, malice, protagonism, competition. There are only play, fun, desire to learn, to improve, to help each other.

SUPPORT BASES – ZAPATISTA ESCUELITA

The other experience was still different.
I would have liked to participate in the Zapatista Escuelita but unfortunately I didn’t have enough days to stay.
However, I lived a day in the middle of the forest with a support base, Zapatista comrades who don’t live in the Caracol but in perhaps more dangerous lands, because to be controlled and defended.
Eating and sleeping with them among the river, waterfalls and forest, I understood their essence even more.

 

EZLN - support bases - cocoa plant

 

We shared coffee, corn, tortillas, beans, meat, chicken broth.
I have known the plantations of coffee, cocoa (this photo) and eaten the sugar cane.
And in the night, sitting around a table, we talked.

And to my question “you are the EZLN, do you know what you represent for millions of people around the world?” the answer comes after a few minutes, after confronting each other and deciding the words together, as always: “we know that many people think about us, because they come here to talk to us, to listen to us, to be with us.
Yes, we are the EZLN but above all we are farmers, we come from the land and continue the struggle of Emiliano Zapata for land and freedom.
To show us, we cover our faces.
To be named, we deny our name.
We bet our present to have a future, and to live, we die.
We are Zapatistas, mostly indigenous of Mayan ancestry.
We don’t sell ourself, we don’t give up and we don’t limp.
We are rebellion and resistance.
We are one of the many clubs that will break the walls, one of the many winds that will sweep the earth, and one of the many seeds from which other worlds will be born.
We are the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.”

 

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS: SYMBOL OF CHIAPAS

On January 1, 1994, the streets of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, symbolic city of Chiapas and the ancient capital of the southernmost state of Mexico,were invaded by the EZLN and that revolutionary air is still felt everywhere.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation showed up to the world that day and if you like a direct contact with them you have to come to San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

Since decades, also for this reason, the city has become a base for travelers from all over the world, who share their cultures with the descendants of the Original Peoples of Chiapas: Maya, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol.
Here, besides Spanish, millennial languages ​​are still spoken.

Life goes slowly in the cobbled streets of San Cristóbal and slowly you have to know it.

In my travels I like to discover cities using a paper map , often taken in hostel.
When I go back to my room, I highlight the streets where I walked to go to others streets and see as much as possible.
I use some landmarks, places that I consider strategic for various reasons.
In San Cristóbal I have identified two of them: the Cathedral and the market..

 

Catedral and Plaza 31 de marzo

This area has become my base in San Cristóbal.
When I arrived here, I realized I was really in Chiapas.
The cathedral is colonial-style, very different from the classic Catholic churches I’m used to see.
Unfortunately, it is not currently possible to access it because the restoration of the damage caused by the 2016 earthquake continues.
And unfortunately it is not new: started in 1528, it was finished only in 1815 due to various natural disasters.
In 1816 and 1847 it suffered other damages with consequent restorations.

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

 

Mexico - San Cristóbal de Las Casas - Cathedral

 

The Cathedral Square is often full of local inhabitants, travelers, stalls and indigenous people of the city and neighboring villages, dressed in their traditional clothes.

Children play, but more often they wander the city trying to sell bracelets or other handicrafts.
And precisely in this context I experienced one of those episodes that teach that traveling opens the mind, give the true values ​​of life, helps to grow and be better..

 

Mexico - San Cristóbal de Las Casas

One hot Chiapanec afternoon, I was sitting having lunch on one of those tables in the shade, watching life slowly pass in front of me.
One of the many children who fill the streets of San Cristóbal approaches me to sell me a bracelet made by him.
I smile and tell him that if he wants I can offer lunch. He doesn’t wait I repeat it, he sits down and orders a sandwich and a coke.
After a while another child arrives and he sees one of his contemporary, at that moment luckier. He looks at him with healthy boyish envy and seems to savor that sandwich and refresh himself with coke.
I also invite him to sit down with us but he refuses because his mother is sitting on a bench nearby and doesn’t want to betray her.
I tell him that if you want, I’m glad that she comes.
The boy runs to her and they go back to the table together. Hunger probably made her put aside all hesitation.
I order steaks for everyone, as big as they may have never eaten in their life.
Se tries, but doesn’t know how to use cutlery.
I immediately avoid getting embarrassed and we eat all four with our hands, with humility, with respect.
The children also speak Spanish, the lady only indigenous language.
We speak, children translate. And where words stop, we understand each other with looks and smiles.
Then everyone goes their own way.
With full stomachs and fuller hearts.

 

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

 

San Cristóbal for me are cobbled streets full of people, the perfume of chiapanec coffee, the cultures that coexist and that also merge in food, the colorful houses like traditional clothes, the hot morning sun and the cold that become pungent at night because here, however, we are at 7.200 ft above sea level.

 

Mexico - San Cristobal de las Casas

 

Iglesia del Cerrito (o San Cristobalito)

On the Cerro San Cristóbal hill, there is the Iglesia del Cerrito.
Reachable by a particular zigzag staircase, it allows you to see the city landscape.

 

Mexico - San Cristóbal de Las Casas - Iglesia del Cerrito

 

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

 

On the other side there is the Cerro de Guadalupe, with the church crowded especially on December 12, the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

 

Templo de Santo Domingo

Built in the 17th century in the Chiapanec Baroque style, the temple and ex convent of Santo Domingo surprises and impresses with its pink facade.

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas-Templo-de-Santo-Domingo

 

Near there is the city market, a meeting point for colectivos.
Cars, minivans or more or less equipped camion (as in the photo below), connect San Cristóbal with neighboring cities and towns. They are the perfect transport way for small-medium range travel.
Depending on the destination, they will leave when the vehicle is full or will pick up people on the way.
The price changes depending on the distance but will always be cheap and convenient.

 

Mexico - San Cristobal de las Casas

 

At the market you can find everything at very cheap prices, from food to clothes or crafts to take home.
You could negotiate the price but you always have to think if few pesos saved change your life..
Those few extra pesos can instead help someone to feed their family.

Because Chiapas is wonderful, but it’s also the poorest Mexican State.

 

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

TRIP TO BARENTSBURG

THE USSR TO THE SVALBARD ISLANDS

Barentsburg (in Russian language Баренцбург) in winter is reachable by snowmobile, in summer is the first stop of the Hurtigruten expeditions but you could visit it also with a daily tour from Longyearbyen.
This is the only mining settlement dating back to the Soviet period still operating on the Svalbard Islands and has an important geopolitical value.

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TOUR TO PYRAMIDEN FROM LONGYEARBYEN

FINDING THE URSS AND POLAR BEARS

After the polar expedition with Hurtigruten to overcome the 80th parallel north, I chose a full day tour from Longyearbyen to Pyramiden and the Nordenskiöldbree Glacier, the last chance to see animals, absent in the previous days.
And incredibly it was the perfect choice.

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TRIP TO DERRY/LONDONDERRY:

TELL ME THE NAME OF YOUR CITY AND I’LL KNOW ABOUT YOU

To understand this part of Ireland it is necessary not to stop in Belfast.
Visit Derry is essential to understand the historical, ideological and cultural divisions that separate the inhabitants

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LOW-COST TRIP TO IRELAND

RYANAIR: PLANES FOR NOMADS TRAVELERS

It’s now impossible to pay flights € 0,01 but I will continue to defend the irish Ryanair, which has revolutionized the way of travel, allowing millions of people to get on a plane with a few euros.
I still have the idea that it is just a connection between two city.

It doesn’t matter in which seat I have to sit, it doesn’t matter if there are more sales announcements on the plane than on ebay, it doesn’t matter if I have to challenge the physics to prepare the backpack, it doesn’t matter if I have to fill my pockets with what doesn’t fit in hand luggage, it doesn’t matter if the sweatshirt doesn’t fit and I have to tie it to my waist …

I only care, for example, to reach Belfast and return to Cagliari for only € 30,00.

 

Belfast-irish-flag

 

HOW TO GET

George Best Belfast City Airport, dedicated in 2006 to one of its most famous citizens, is located adjacent to the port, just 5 km from the city center. Its flights mainly connect the island to the United Kingdom, with some seasonal flights to Barcelona, Amsterdam or Brussels.

Belfast International Airport has connections with all of Europe, Cuba and United States.
To reach the Europa Buscentre central station it takes about 40 minutes with the Express Bus 300.
Tickets can be bought in the information desk inside the airport (excellent service, with maps and information on everything the Irish island offers, free and multilanguage) or directly on board (but it could be the exact amount, driver does not always have the rest).
The cost is £ 8 one way, £ 11 including return.
No prohibition for those who want to spend the night into the airport. But the place is not very friendly: uncomfortable chairs, lights on and staff skeaking all night while cleaning.

MOVING IN IRELAND

Experience and safety are always required to drive a car. Here obviously drive in anglosaxon way and I prefer not to risk a frontal car crash.

Using public transport is easy and cheap.
There is a day pass to take every public transport and travel throughout Northern Ireland. It’s called iLink Zone4 and costs 17 £.
You have to ask for it specifically, not always at the station benches they offer, preferring to sell the most expensive single tickets.

There are direct connections between Belfast and Derry airports with airporter.co.uk mini buses.
In this case the rates are £ 20 for a single person trip (£ 30 with return), £ 15 and £ 25 if you are traveling with more than 2 people, £ 10 and £ 15 for passengers under 16 years.

 

WHAT TO SEE

Much of Belfast’s history is focused to the war that divides Irish nationalist Catholics and Protestant British unionists from over 800 years.

The streets of the city have seen over 1,500 deaths and hate doesn’t close into a coffin, but from there it comes out with greater power.

Murals represent the history and culture of Ireland and show the clear and visible division between the respective neighborhoods. And the same is true for different colors of sidewalks and light poles (tricolor greenwhiteorange in Irish area, redwhiteblue in English area) and an always tense and wary atmosphere.

There are many walking or taxi tours but I always prefer to walk around in search of something different from the classic visions.

 

Belfast-sky-streaks-aircraft

 

Irish, Catholic, Nationalist, Republican area

The murals fill the streets around Falls Road.

 

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Belfast-irish-murales

 

Belfast-falls-road-

 

Belfast-Bobby-Sands-murales

 

Beyond the images of friends and relatives who lost their lives and supported the IRA, there are independentist links (dedications to the Basque Country e Catalonia), leftists (Palestina, Cuba and those who came from all over the world to support this cause.

 

Belfast-Catalunya-murales

 

Belfast-Palestina-murales

 

Belfast-Fidel-Castro-murales

 

Belfast-Nelson-Mandela-murales

 

Belfast-Ocalan-murales

 

Belfast-soldier-out-murales

 

Belfast-climate change-murales

 

English, Protestant, unionist, loyalist zone

Near the central station, a large mural indicates the arrival in Sandy Row. Here in 1866 the Linfield FC was founded, a team where there are only Protestant players, even if not officially.
A pub with stained glass windows often damaged is the home of Glasgow Rangers Fans, Scottish team supported in the city for its bond with the Protestants.

 

Belfast-sandy-row- king-william-orange-murales

 

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The Unionist population lives mainly in the Shankill Road area. During the war, the “Shankill Butchers” group became very famous.

 

Belfast-welcome-to-the-shankill-road

 

Belfast-shankill-protestant-boys-flute-band

 

Belfast-loyalist-murales

 

On July 12, the “Glorious Twelfth” for Protestants, is still celebrated by invoking the death of Catholics, like that day in 1690 when the Protestant King William III of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II in the Battle of the River Boyne, sanctioning the predominance of English and Scottish Protestant settlers on Irish Catholic nationalists.
The parade is always a symbol of clashes and injuries between the two factions.

The murals here have constant references to the English sovereigns, to friends and relatives killed and in favor of the UDA and UVF paramilitary groups, greater responsible for deaths of Catholics.

 

Belfast-quis-separabit-murales

 

Belfast-uvf-england-murales

 

Belfast-uk-murales

 

Belfast-uym-murales

 

Belfast-resilient-murales

 

Belfast-bayardo-murales

 

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Belfast-genocide-murales

 

Belfast-queen-murales

 

The Peace Wall

If the colors of murals, sidewalks and poles represent the different communities, nothing is clearer than the high partition wall, still indispensable that gates are closed every day from 8pm to 6am, physically separating the two enemies communities.

 

Belfast-the-wall-no-peace

 

Belfast-thewall-no-peace

 

Belfast is really divided into two opposite parts constantly at war. Only the almost constant rain makes you see the colors of a peace far from being reached.

 

Belfast-rainbow-wall-no-peace

 

Titanic

Beyond that, Belfast was the world center specializing in shipbuilding. From the Harland and Wolff Shipyard also came out Titanic. Visiting the museum is therefore not to be missed even if perhaps I came out a little disappointed.

 

Belfast-river

 

Belfast-titanic-museum

 

The museum is inside a structure that reminds me of the Guggenheim in Bilbo/Bilbao.
I thought to find a faithful reconstruction of the ship instead everything is centered on its construction (beautiful the route in the train to understand the working conditions) and on its only journey, started from Belfast and finished undersea.

Outside the museum there is the Nomadic Ship, the Titanic’s younger sister and the last ship of the White Star company.
The cumulative ticket costs £ 18.50 and it is certainly worth entering the empty corridors to imagine yourself in that fatal 15 April 1912.

 

Nearby there is also the SSE Arena Belfast.
The flags in the wind and the scarves around the fans pushed me to see an ice hockey match for the first time, the IIHF final which saw the Belfast Giants defeat on penalties.

CONTINUE THE TRIP

Using the iLink Zone4, you can (and should) spend a few days exploring the city of Derry and The Giant’s Causeway, a place so unusual that many legends surrond it.

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