Chiapas and the Zapatista National Liberation Army
Summary and Keywords
The 1994 Zapatista uprising in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas was the culmination of centuries of repression and exploitation of the country’s indigenous minority at the hands of its Spanish and mestizo leaders and the landed elite. The Liberal Reform initiated in 1854, followed by the “modernizing” policies of President Porfirio Díaz (1877–1880; 1884–1911), and then the revolution that ousted him, would strengthen and institutionalize a new set of institutional frameworks, discourses, and practices that lasted through the 20th century. The Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN) emerged from a history of complex and volatile relationships between indigenous peoples of the impoverished state and its economic and political elite, relationships that began a process of redefinition in the 1950s. Zapatismo is one of the expressions of indigenous and working-class struggles in this social and historical context. It can be distinguished from other rural and indigenous movements by its repudiation of the strategies of protest and negotiation within an institutional framework, its adoption of armed struggle, and its rejection of the conventional objectives of land and commercial agricultural production in favor of territorial autonomy and de facto self-government.
On January 1, 1994, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN) took up arms in the state of Chiapas and occupied for several days the municipal centers of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Chanal, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Huixtán, and Oxchuc. The EZLN had been growing as a clandestine guerrilla group for more than ten years, and its initial objective was to transform Mexico into a socialist republic. Thousands of Tzotzils, Tzeltals, Ch’ols, and Tojolabals joined its “support bases.”
The Zapatista presence is concentrated in the regions of Chiapas with predominantly indigenous populations: Los Altos (the Central Highlands), El Norte (the North), and the Selva Lacandona (the Lacandon Jungle or Rainforest), which encompass the valleys of Ocosingo, Altamirano, and Las Margaritas.1 The EZLN’s civil and political organization is structured around Boards of Good Government (Juntas de Buen Gobierno, JBG), known until 2003 as “Aguascalientes,” and are headquartered in the same regions: in Oventic (San Andrés Larráinzar), Roberto Barrios (Palenque), La Garrucha (Ocosingo), Morelia (Altamirano), and La Realidad (Las Margaritas).
In its first public statement, in 1994, the EZLN demanded “work, land, shelter, food, health, education, independence, democracy, justice, and peace.” Battles between the rebels and the army lasted eleven days and resulted in 100 to 120 deaths, including insurgents, soldiers, and civilians. Responding to pressure from national and international mobilizations calling for a ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict, the Mexican government and the Zapatista command agreed to renew peace talks, in which neither side had shown much interest. The events leading up to the 20th-century crisis in Chiapas, and the processes of agrarian, religious, and political organization in which the indigenous communities took part, laid the groundwork for the creation of the EZLN and are key to understanding its development, organization, and current situation.
Along with “dignity,” one of the central demands of the EZLN in 1994 was land. In part, the Zapatistas justified their armed struggle as a response to the monopolization of land by the large haciendas, or fincas, some of which had been formed during the Porfiriato (1876–1911) and survived the Revolution unscathed. In some areas of Chiapas, social and agrarian structures would be defined by the opposition between ladino (mestizo) finqueros and landless indigenous peasants, which in the final quarter of the 20th century erupted into violent conflict.
The Reform and the Porfiriato
The underpinnings of this conflict, however, are complex. Following Mexican independence (1821), this pattern of large landholdings continued in Chiapas for four decades after the decline of similar arrangements in the rest of the colonial world. The major landowners were religious orders, particularly the Dominicans, followed by indigenous communities and small landholders. In the rest of Mexico, the Reform Laws and the War of Reform (1855–1861), as well as the French intervention and the establishment and fall of the Second Mexican Empire (1862–1867), helped establish the basis for economic modernization—but not in Chiapas.
In accordance with prevailing liberal ideals, the nationalization of Church property and the partitioning of communal indigenous lands were measures that, along with many other fiscal and commercial policies, aimed to promote a modern commercial agricultural model of smallholders. In practice, however, in Chiapas these measures led to a new constellation of land ownership in the second half of the 19th century, consisting of a majority of small- and medium-sized landowners, both mestizo and indigenous, and a handful of large and influential ones. Even the policies of land demarcation (1881–1915) did not fundamentally affect this agrarian structure. In general, property belonging to indigenous communities was respected, while demarcated lands came from government holdings; the latter were then sold, largely to medium-sized landowners, for commercial agriculture and for coffee and fruit for export (for example, in Soconusco and Mariscal). It was in Palenque and Chilón (in the North and Selva regions) that enormous latifundios were acquired by lumber and rubber companies. These disappeared at the end of the 1910s, however, and ownership returned to the state.2
Economic, political, and social relationships were formed during the Porfiriato that would define Chiapas almost until the final quarter of the 20th century. These relationships created a dynamic of commercial and export-based agriculture and livestock breeding: the Central Valley, Comitán, and Ocosingo produced corn, grains, and livestock; Soconusco was home to coffee, rubber, and tropical fruit plantations, and the jungle region of the North saw the establishment of sawmills and plantations producing rubber, coffee, tropical fruit, and cacao, which transformed the regional centers of Simojovel and Salto de Agua—with their control over local administration and their role as commercial intermediaries for the export of various products to Tabasco, Mexico State, the United States, and Europe—into ladino centers of power.
The new economy required seasonal farm workers, and the Ch’ol people in the North and the Tzotzil and Tzeltal people from Los Altos assumed this role in a system based on debt servitude. The enganche, or “hook,” was a system of advance payment to indigenous people in exchange for agricultural labor in Soconusco, the Central Valley, and the North. Indigenous people’s need for credit, “obligatory loans” from local indigenous governments, and various types of taxes all required them to enter the cash economy. One sanction applied by the indigenous governments (in collusion with ladino intermediaries) on those unable to pay debts or taxes was that of “hooking” debtors—that is, compulsory labor on the fincas. If debtors escaped, the local government, with the help of the army and police, was responsible for tracking them down. The finca owners paid a percentage of the income generated by the debtors to government officials to ensure the smooth operation of this “modernizing” economic and political system.3
These economic developments were accompanied by a greater presence of the national government in Chiapas. Through the early 1890s, cacicazgos, or regional chiefdoms, imposed an order on the local society of Los Altos, Comitán, Tapachula, and Chiapa-Frailesca that benefited their own interests. However, the arrival of Governor Emilio Rabasa (1891–1894) brought an administrative and political transformation that would drive economic modernization and promote the interests of the central government in Chiapas. Rabasa managed to avoid the strongmen of the region in his appointment of judges and political bosses. He was also able to invest in roads and infrastructure, centralize and rationalize tax collection (including the poll tax used to organize the public labor of indigenous people), and promote public education. Finally, he designated Tuxtla Gutiérrez as the new state capital, taking control of public administration from the conservative highland elite of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The “liberal” elite of Tuxtla was thus able to govern for the next two decades, using state power to promote their economic interests and those of foreign investors.4
Throughout this transformation, the situation of the indigenous people was subordinated to the economic and political interests of ladinos. Liberals as well as conservatives saw the indigenous as an exploitable economic resource in need of control. This view was justified by presumed racial inferiority that described them as naturally lazy and irresponsible, incapable of civilizing themselves or becoming productive, or making good use of political or property rights. Controlling them through forced labor was said to be necessary to prevent their hindering progress in Chiapas. This discourse reaffirmed the hierarchical distance between ladinos and indigenous people and their corresponding positions of power and subordination.
The control of the San Cristóbal elite over the indigenous laborers of Los Altos became an obstacle to the economic demands of the producers, owners, and investors from the coast and other regions. The Tuxtla liberals therefore sought to assume direct control with an administrative reform. This strategy allowed the governor to appoint a political boss from the newly created “Chamula party” to a local office.5
The Institutionalization of the Porfirian Order in Post-Revolutionary Chiapas
The predominance of the Tuxtla elites generated resentment among the highlanders, who were becoming increasingly marginalized and benefited little from the new order. Because of the support it received from the central government, liberal control was difficult to challenge. This situation changed with the beginning of the Revolution in 1910.6 The highlanders became Maderistas, formed a “revolutionary army” with Chamula soldiers, and staged an armed revolt against the Tuxtla Porfiristas. With the political changes in the north and center of the country, the Los Altos elite regained their former political influence and unrestrained control over the region’s indigenous laborers.7
The highlanders’ actions, opportunistic and pragmatic, signified nothing more than a change in relationship among the ladino elites. The real revolutionary armed struggle would come at the end of 1914, with the arrival of the Constitutionalist army under the command of General Jesús Agustín Castro. In Chiapas, the revolution was viewed and experienced by the elites as an invasion of revolutionary forces from the country’s north and center that threatened the material and symbolic foundation of their rule over local society. They were right: the publication of the labor law of October 30, 1914, brought an end to the system of servitude that relied on the exploitation of indebted farmers and workers under the enganche system. In addition, the agrarian law that took effect on January 6, 1915, meant the restitution of lands to indigenous communities and the provision of communal lands to rural farmers, and it defined the size of a small property as no more than 50 hectares.
For these reasons, the old Maderistas and their former Porfirista enemies banded together in mid-1915 to begin a counter-revolutionary struggle that would last nearly six years. Their army, known as “Los Mapaches” (“The Raccoons”), was directed by finqueros from Los Altos, Comitán, Ocosingo, Soconusco, and La Concordia and consisted primarily of indigenous agricultural workers, forced to serve their employers in rebellion. Because of their limited numbers and arms, and their detailed knowledge of the region, the Mapaches employed tactics of guerrilla warfare. Their surprise attacks wore down the revolutionary forces, but there was no clear victor. The Constitutionalist government’s offer to respect the rights of landowners and grant empty lands to indigenous communities in exchange for laying down their arms was rejected by the counter-revolutionary leader Tiburcio Fernández Ruiz. His strategic patience would pay off. In April 1920, the declaration at Agua Prieta, Sonora, of Adolfo de la Huerta, Plutarco Elías Calles, and Álvaro Obregón against their former ally, the Constitutionalist president Venustiano Carranza (1917–1920), afforded Fernández the opportunity to declare himself head of the Obregonista army in Chiapas. When Carranza’s government fell and the Sonoran forces took the nation’s capital in May, federal troops abandoned Chiapas. Fernández became governor (1920–1924) and later senator (1924–1932) from Chiapas.8
Although the planter elite regained control of the state and largely reestablished the pre-Revolutionary economic, political, and social order, they could not repeal the labor and agrarian provisions of the 1917 Constitution or the growing number of post-Revolutionary institutions. The counter-revolutionaries who prevailed in the military and in politics were forced to adapt to the new circumstances and to use the institutions and mechanisms of the new order to defend their interests and slow down the transformations that the Revolution had set in motion in Chiapas.
Indigenous Communities and the Revolution
The revolution in Chiapas can be seen as fundamentally a dispute between national and local elites.9 Indigenous and rural participation, however, was varied and complex. In 1911, the Chamulas joined the anti-Rabasista movement at the request of the highland finqueros, forming the Las Casas Brigade, led by the Chamula Jacinto “Pajarito” Pérez. They hoped to abolish the exploitative enganche system, government control over their life and work, and abusive taxes. They also hoped to reclaim their lands and improve their working conditions. They achieved few of their goals because ladinos from Los Altos and the Central Valley, fearing a new “caste war,” unified to fight the “savage” Tzotzil army with a combination of severe tactics, including corporal punishment, incarceration, exile, and executions.10
The Constitutionalist interregnum in Chiapas (1914–1920) marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented political opportunities for indigenous people. The armies on both sides conscripted soldiers from indigenous communities; these were treated relatively well within their respective ranks, but with extreme severity by opposing forces. After their betrayal by the ladinos, in which they received no benefits from the new legislation, the Tzotzils of Chamula trod carefully. Their highland counterparts, however, took advantage of the presence and support of the Revolutionary government. In Chenalhó, los Chorros, Tanaté, Acteal, and El Bosque, they expelled the ladinos from the local government and, in part, from their villages. They liberated the mozos (indentured workers), expropriated the fincas, and formed the communally-owned ejidos.11 The Ch’ols and Tzeltals from Chilón, Simojovel, Huitiupán, and Palenque in the northern part of the state acted similarly.12
As in other parts of Chiapas, the Tzeltals of Ocosingo and the Tojolabals of Comitán were conscripted into the opposing armies. However, in these regions, the indigenous people had no particular cause to rebel against the landowners, as their shared land had generally been respected, and they were aware of their weak position in relation to the finqueros.13 The Chiapanecos in Chiapa de Corzo, in the Central Valley, likewise had no real reason to revolt against the ladinos; despite the division of their lands under the Reform Laws, many had become smallholders, and those who were unable to acquire any of the divided land found work and material safety on small- and medium-sized ladino properties, at the edge of uncultivated lands.14
The Culture of the Finca
The fincas were private plantations formed beginning in the second half of the 19th century, whose area varied from several hundred to thousands of hectares. Depending on their geographic location, their products included coffee, livestock, corn, beans, sugarcane, fruit, and lumber. A part of their production was intended for local consumption, while the rest was sold in regional, national, and international markets. Some hired temporary workers for planting and harvest times. Most of these were indigenous, some working voluntarily for extra money, like those in the Central Valley, but many others worked under the enganche system, as was the case in Los Altos. In the large fincas, there were also a number of permanent agricultural workers who can be subdivided into two groups: the indentured workers (“mozos”), with no land of their own, and tenant farmers (“baldíos”), who had the right to live on and farm a plot of land within the finca, in exchange for at least one day a week of labor for the owner.
For the most part, fincas were not geared to rationalized production for the rapid accumulation of capital and profit. Rather, they aimed to recreate feudal life. The economic position of the fincas revolved around an economy of prestige and political power, through which they defied modernization and change. They constituted a social world that was shared and reproduced by landowners and workers, whose relationships were structured around hierarchies of race, language, gender, age, and skills. This framework of relationships generated asymmetrical interdependencies, not only between the master of the finca and “his indigenous people” but also among the indigenous people themselves. It was a kind of domination that was proprietary, paternalistic, and patriarchal, with assumptions of distinct rights and obligations. The master ordered, punished, protected, and created ties of moral and material dependence among his workers, connections that were reinforced in religious celebrations, in marriages, and in ties of blood and ritual. Indigenous people did not necessarily view the finquero, with his violent and arbitrary tendencies, as exploitative. They considered him a source of authority as well as material and emotional security that allowed them to identify with him and his interests and to express their loyalty. The inequality between the finquero and the workers, between ladinos and the indigenous people, was seen as natural, even after the decline of the finca world.15 This aspect of finca culture explains, in part, the difficulty that indigenous people had in requesting land from the government: doing so was seen by many as an expression of disloyalty toward their master as well as a risky venture beyond the safety of the finca.16
The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary-Institutional Chiapas (1934–1992)
As in other parts of Mexico, in Chiapas the Revolution did not create a clean slate to construct a novus ordo seclorum. Paradoxically, it favored a continuation of the social order that had formed in the last quarter of the 19th century, but by means of an adaptation of the institutionalism and the new social and political relationships following the Revolution. The victorious local elite was recognized as the “intermediary” between the state and the population, provided that they maintained control over the Chiapanecos and reproduced the order of the institutional revolution. They were thus able to enjoy a broad range of authority to promote their economic and political interests. However, they had to accept the reality of mass politics: that is, the corporate organization of local society in pursuit of Revolutionary social, labor, and agrarian projects. They could not prevent the implementation of public education or social security, policies that favored the unionization of rural workers, or the granting of ejidos to farmers. However, they became the agents for national developmental policy by accepting the continuing focus of the Chiapanecan economy on agricultural and livestock production, which coincided, of course, with their own economic interests.
Like their counterparts in other parts of Mexico, successive state governments in Chiapas promoted new construction under the direction of the federal government, including communication and transportation infrastructure, power plants, dams, and ports. The rough terrain of Chiapas and endemic corruption destined the chronically insufficient resources for these “modernizations” only to certain regions. Areas with indigenous populations received fewer benefits, despite the fact that their labor on the fincas (and later on ejidos and ranches) had been an essential part of the Chiapanecan economy.
In spite of its promises of liberty, equality, and social justice, the post-Revolutionary order in Chiapas perpetuated the hierarchical relationships between ladinos and indigenous people that had existed in the past, in which the latter were marginalized, faced discrimination, and seen as an impediment to progress. Even the Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI), which aimed to eliminate such discrimination, spent the first several decades of its existence trying to change indigenous customs and cultural traditions to “Mexicanize” them and make them more amenable to modernization.17
The Crisis of the Finca and the Rural Economic Model
The adaptation of the Chiapas elites to the institutional order of the Revolution allowed them to preserve their dominant position, but it was neither fully guaranteed nor intact. Although they were to some extent able to co-opt the local institutions in charge of agrarian distribution and block the effects on their properties—through schemes that ranged from the corruption of public officials to threats of violence, to the persecution, imprisonment, and assassination of rural leaders, the disappearance of official documents, and the division and sale of their properties to relatives and associates—the operation of these institutions could only be slowed, not stopped.
The finqueros’ continued control over the land and indigenous people was only possible in the ideological and institutional context that followed the Revolution. In this context, finqueros and indigenous people articulated discourses, practices, and organizational structures to fight for their respective interests not only within the contested areas of the agrarian reform, but also in public education, indigenous politics, and, especially since the 1970s, in municipal government.
If the finqueros’ domination in Chiapas was based on their monopoly of the land, their control over the working class, and the exclusion of indigenous people from sources of social and political power, the gradual but inevitable decline of the finca world began with the implementation of agrarian legislation for the distribution of land to small farmers. This process was carried out at different times with varying speed in different regions. It began formally in the late 1920s, but it did not systematically take hold in practice until the mid-1930s, under the rural policy of President Lázaro Cárdenas. Because the vast majority of land in Los Altos was communal, very little agrarian reform took place there. But such reforms would be carried out in San Juan Chamula, Chenalhó, Los Chorros, Tanaté, Acteal, and other places.18 In Comitán and Las Margaritas, agrarian reform of the fincas happened largely during the following decade and ended in the late 1950s.19 In Ocosingo, however, finquero resistance to the process of land redistribution meant that the process of forming ejidos would not begin until the 1960s and later.20 In the north, following a slow start in the 1920s and then during the Cárdenas administration, the agrarian struggle would intensify in the 1970s and continue into the early 1980s.21
The breaking up of the fincas led to the transfer of the baldío tenant farmers to new ejidos. With this move, the second pillar of finquero domination—control over the indigenous communities through compulsory labor—was destroyed. In short, the indigenous communities were given their own land, as well as a relative degree of individual and collective autonomy.
It was perhaps not until the early 1960s, when the decline of the finca world was evident, that Chiapas was truly revolutionized. The timing was sadly ironic, because just at the moment its indigenous people acquired land of their own, the rural agrarian economy experienced a dire national crisis.
In the national development policy promoting domestic industrialization, economic expansion, and increased demand, the Mexican countryside was assigned the role of subsidized food producer for the domestic market. The prices of basic agricultural products were kept low with the objective of reducing the cost of living for city dwellers and maintaining low salaries to promote service work and industrial production. The economic dynamism of these decades, described as the “Mexican miracle,” arose from a number of factors: the existence of a captive market protected from external competition, fiscal and financial policies that favored big business, abundant access to low-cost raw materials, growing public and private investment, low government deficits, and a corporatist political system that ensured the organization of workers and control of their unions to prevent “excessive” wage demands from interfering with public or private investment and production.
In addition to the distribution of land to small farmers, the populist state supported the rural economy with various institutions of technical and financial support, as well as policies of investment in agricultural and forestry infrastructure, subsidies for producers, and commercialization with guaranteed prices. From the 1930s until the mid-1960s, the Mexican countryside grew and produced enough to satisfy the economic needs and expectations of the agrarian producers. But then it reached its structural limit. In the second half of the 20th century, rural areas began to lose population, and Mexico became a predominantly urban society. While the country as a whole experienced rapid demographic growth, rural areas were becoming less able to meet the demands of major cities. Suffering from poverty and decapitalization, and increasingly dependent on public resources, their economic contribution to the national economy lost importance relative to industry and services.22
In the 1960s, rather than structurally contain the problems of the countryside, the government continued to distribute land that was progressively less suitable for cultivation, but that symbolically generated a feeling of social justice, at least for a time, among those living in rural areas. The hope was that such land distribution would help to legitimate the political regime. The spectacular development of the petroleum industry in the 1970s encouraged the illusion that the agricultural production deficit could be overcome with subsidies from petroleum revenue. It soon became clear, however, that these policies were costly, inefficient, and counterproductive, as they only put off necessary changes in the rural economic model and did not alleviate the widespread dissatisfaction in the countryside. The problems soon led to the formation of independent rural organizations that condemned the growing inequality between city and countryside.
As a rural, agricultural state, Chiapas was defined in the 1970s by an economy in crisis and a rural population mobilizing to demand land of their own and the expropriation of still-intact private properties, especially in the North and the Lacandon Jungle (Ocosingo in particular), for the expansion of their ejidos, whose lands were insufficient to support the growing population. They made use of institutional channels, public protests, and land invasions, prompting violent responses from landowners and repression by the state government. Although in principle these responses favored their interests, the finqueros eventually gave in to the division of property for agrarian redistribution, although it was frequently directed to people from organizations allied with the government, at the expense of independent ones, as a tactic of cooptation. This practice in turn encouraged new waves of protests.
The Opening of the Agricultural Market
Small farmers took over the central resource in post-Revolutionary Chiapas just when it lost its relative value and the ejido economy was cast aside in favor of a new model of modernization. In the best case, land served as a source of subsistence, but not one that could support social and economic well-being. The majority of the population thus began to dedicate itself, as it does to this day, to seasonal agriculture and the production of corn and coffee on smallholder plots. They had access to few public services and, after the early 1980s, also less access to credit, within a framework of institutional support for the countryside in the process of being dismantled. Coffee production in Los Altos, the North, and the Selva regions had been an important source of monetary income since the 1960s, but the 50 percent drop in international coffee prices in 1989 led to a loss of up to 70 percent of that income for small producers, who were left in debt and without any way to recover.23
The neoliberal policy of opening markets to global competition systematically discouraged the production of traditional staples and promoted private export-based commercial production of bananas, cacao, sugarcane, melons, mangoes, tobacco, flowers, soybeans, peanuts, macadamia nuts, sorghum, meat, and dairy products. Credit, infrastructure, and commercialization all favored this kind of globally competitive agriculture, in which small farmers could no longer survive. Structurally, they were coerced into changing their crops for more profitable ones, but without technical, financial, political, or commercial support from the government. Their exclusion from the market meant that beginning in the mid-1990s, they were forced to choose between subsistence farming or migration to other parts of Mexico or the United States to work at transient, low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Neoliberal technocrats optimistically predicted a future for them in service industries such as tourism, but they were a population with little education and were not provided with training.
A 1992 amendment to Article 27 of the Constitution put an official end to land redistribution; it permitted the sale, rental, or use as collateral of ejido lands and allowed communal owners to form productive partnerships with businesses, signifying a retreat from the government’s historic commitment to social justice and a dark, uncertain future.24
Mexico, until the mid-1960s a country that produced its own food, was transformed in just a few decades into an importer of food. The countryside had lost all importance in a neoliberalized economy. Federal economic programs such as PROCAMPO and social programs such as PRONASOL, meant to support the rural population and mitigate the effects of structural change and poverty, proved to be belated and insufficient. In addition, they were designed with a neopopulist logic to reestablish loyalty to a political regime increasingly under attack, in urban as well as rural areas, by a population expressing its discontent, in social mobilization and at the ballot box, with the economic crisis, unfettered markets, unemployment, deindustrialization, government corruption, violent crime, and, no less importantly, the country’s lack of democracy and political freedoms.
The Zapatista National Liberation Army (1969–2017)
The struggle for land and the formation of the ejidos, beginning in the 1930s, launched a process of education in social and political cooperation for the people of the countryside, one that allowed them to reduce the collective risks in challenging the still-powerful landowners as well as in negotiating with the state’s agrarian bureaucracy, whose purpose was to help the small farmer, but which was slow, inefficient, and corrupt. The distribution of land to establish or expand ejidos required lengthy mobilizations on several different occasions. The former indentured workers and tenant farmers began a long and tortuous process of learning about the reality of an institutional world of which they knew nothing, since their bosses had previously functioned as intermediaries with those institutions, and they were frequently subject to the abuse and fraud of ladinos and government officials. In the North and Selva regions their desire for autonomy was so great that when they ran out of usable land for the expansion or creation of ejidos at the end of the 1950s, many of them, particularly young people, began to colonize the unpopulated Lacandon Jungle. Tojolabals, Tzotzils, and Tzeltals all went there, in addition to mestizos from Chiapas and other parts of the country. They suffered the hardships and difficulties of colonizing an unknown, wild, and dangerous area with no support from the government. They began to create bonds of cooperation with neighbors who found themselves in the same situation, but they also found themselves competing with those neighbors for access to the same resources.25
In their new settlements, these indigenous people learned to lead their lives and govern themselves within the framework of the Agrarian Code, without interference from their former bosses. These laws and the demands of the agrarian bureaucracy provided the ejido landowners with a structure of organization and representation. Although in formal terms the authority was the ejido commissioner, in practice power lay with the ejido assembly. This was a collective space of deliberation and decision-making, not only on agricultural issues, but also on those concerning community life. Because of its function as the true government of the community, participation in the assembly was reserved only for members, and it served as a bastion of intra-community autonomy, in which community members alone discussed and resolved conflicts, family and neighbor disputes, and participation in religious activity, “ejido unions,” government programs, and, beginning in the 1980s, nongovernmental organization (NGO) and Zapatista projects.26
Ejidos were not, however, “communities of consensus,” in which a supposed harmony prevails between individual interests and the common good. Their apparent social, religious, and political unity was a necessary means of facing internal and external challenges with a greater probability of success. The need for consensus building reveals that what characterized these communities was not homogeneity but differences and internal hierarchies, which they used to create distinct sources of identity, prestige, influence, power, and, therefore, of exclusion.27
“The Kingdom of God” and Political Liberation
Although indigenous communities received a certain amount of guidance and support in the process of requesting lands from outsiders, such as teachers and agriculture officials, in reality the settlers themselves were the protagonists of their struggle. For a long time, it was the settlers alone who drove the struggle, with their own skills and resources. Thus, in the first agrarian wave, from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s, the indigenous people of Chiapas dedicated their lives to the tasks of farming and the organization of ejido life, particularly in the North and Selva regions. A new process of collective activity in the indigenous regions took place only at the end of the 1960s with the pastoral efforts of the diocese of San Cristóbal. The young bishop Samuel Ruiz García presided over a diocese that coincided with most of the indigenous population of Chiapas. Influenced by liberation theology, the pastoral ministers of the diocese interpreted the gospel for purposes of spiritual, social, and material liberation. They were thus able to convince the indigenous communities of the necessity to renew their communal life in order to build the “Kingdom of God on Earth.” The new Liberation Catholics learned that as “children of God,” they were entitled to dignity and rights and that their situation of marginalization and discrimination was not natural, but the product of unjust domination. The everyday work of the pastoral ministers—an impressive legion of catechists and young deacons from the communities, trained by diocesan priests in schools (known as “missions”) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Bachajón, and Comitán—allowed them to pull community members out of their isolation and the monotony of daily life by fostering communication among them and shaping an intercommunity and interregional religious identity.
The “Kingdom of God” cannot be reduced to religious observance. It also required fighting the “structural sin” of social injustice. This idea allowed Liberation Catholics to create contacts and alliances with social activists on the Left in the northern regions of Mexico. Their greatest contribution was in helping to form mass organizations that focused primarily on using agricultural production and commercialization to improve their standard of living, and secondarily on political organizing in indigenous communities to ensure their independence from the corporatism of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). They sought to ensure that the members of the ejido unions actively participated in the tasks of organizing, deliberating, decision-making, and monitoring their representatives to prevent the emergence of caciques, the communities’ traditional political bosses. Maoists in the Selva and Communists in the North believed that the revolution could only come from the masses and be carried out by the masses themselves. As with the diocese’s work in the religious sphere, the leftists’ work in the political sphere reinforced intercommunity and interregional ties, and encouraged the formation of a common political consciousness and identity.
In these agricultural, religious, and political processes, youth participation was noteworthy, as young people took on leadership roles and replaced “traditional authorities” and the “elderly” in response to the new circumstances. These young people were bilingual, more educated than their peers, exceptionally politicized, and they had diverse, wide-ranging relationships with community figures. With these new resources at their disposal, they could lead the challenge to the traditional social order and the creation of a new one in their mobilized communities.
It is important to stress how the need to adapt to a new environment and the problems it brought meant a transformation in the relationships of these communities with the non-indigenous world at all levels of their social existence. A community life that revolved primarily around the production of food, the household, ceremonial cycles, and work outside the community became more complex with closer ties to markets, churches, the government, and social and political organizations. New opportunities were created for the reproduction and signification of community and individual life, as well as new challenges that were reflected in the loss of power and influence of mestizos in favor of these new indigenous figures. At the same time, the transformation revealed the stratified heterogeneity and the religious and political plurality of these social groups.28
The Origins of the Zapatista Project
Although the EZLN was founded on November 17, 1983, by a handful of guerrillas, its origins go back to the National Liberation Forces (FLN), formed in August 1969 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, by a group of eight students and professionals. In the context of wars of decolonization in Latin America and the Third World, the FLN sought to emulate the foquista strategies of Fidel Castro’s guerrilla army to initiate a revolutionary process that would lead to a socialist people’s republic. Like various other social actors, especially among students, after the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre members of the FLN came to believe that the corrupt and authoritarian PRI regime could not be reformed through institutional and civil channels and that the only viable path would be through armed struggle against the bourgeoisie and its repressive state.
The government tracked down the FLN and nearly wiped it out in 1974. Several of its members survived, and years later they recruited new members and founded the EZLN in Chiapas as the military organization leading the revolutionary struggle. They abandoned their former foquista model and formed what would be known as the “support bases,” which would sustain what they saw as a new strategy of prolonged popular war for national liberation. They made first contact with the local population near the end of the 1970s in Sabanilla, Huitiupán, and Ocosingo, all of which at the time were caught up in conflicts over land in which government repression had been particularly violent.29
The EZLN’s political, ideological, and military work of recruitment and organization coincided with Mexico’s economic, financial, and political crisis, a final cycle of colonization in the Selva, an active and violent agrarian struggle in the North, conflicts with the indigenous caciques in Los Altos, and tensions and differences within the independent farmers’ organizations over agricultural and financing projects.30
The ejido unions’ political mobilization and efforts to develop production and commercialization were relatively successful. But the economic crisis of the 1980s, political differences between government advisors, indigenous leaders, and pastoral ministers and a decline in coffee prices led many members to conclude that the costs of participation were greater than its benefits and that, although it had contributed to the welfare of their communities, they had reached the limits of what could be expected. They doubted that their organizations had the ability to change market conditions or compel the government to address the needs of the rural population. Many members became convinced that the only way to solve their longstanding problems and achieve their dream of liberation was to take up arms.
It was in this way that the guerrilla army was able to recruit from a population rich in the experience of struggle and organization of the religious, agricultural, political, and economic life of their communities. Their ties within and between communities and regions and their collective indigenous identity were forged over decades of shared consciousness of grievances, interests, and goals, a shared understanding that the opposition were the mestizo landowners and the government in the Selva and the North and the indigenous caciques in Los Altos, and a collective need for more land for future generations.31
In the early 1990s, the period of greatest growth of the Zapatistas, their support bases reached an estimated 40,000 members, backing a guerrilla army of approximately 3,000 combatants. Except perhaps the Partido de los Pobres, the rural guerrilla army led by Lucio Cabañas in the mountains of Guerrero between 1967 and 1972, no other insurgent group had managed to integrate itself so effectively into the population it claimed to represent or recruit and organize so many people. They were almost always small groups creating centers of guerrilla activity, and they operated clandestinely, even among farmers and the working class.32
Civil and Military Organization
What was original about the EZLN was their reorganization, from the time of their arrival in Chiapas as the FLN, of existing organizational, practical, and discursive elements from the history of indigenous and popular struggles, and their repurposing of those elements for the political and military purposes of the revolutionary enterprise.33
The Zapatistas used the organization and mechanisms of decision-making within the ejidos to begin to win the backing and consensus of their support bases, that is, the Zapatista civilian population. They added a new ejido authority, a leader whose job it was to coordinate education and health promotion and different work collectives, to manage goods and services for the local population, and generate resources for the movements and insurgents encamped in the mountains. These collectives and promotion activities had been created many years before by pastoral ministers and Maoist activists.
Following the intercommunity and interregional organizational models of the liberationist pastoral ministers and the ejido unions, the Zapatistas arranged for the leaders of the communities to gather with their counterparts in a “regional clandestine committee” led by a regional leader and supervised by a regional military official. Here they circulated directives, orders, and policies from the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee (CCRI) and discussed the problems, needs, and tasks in individual communities or in coordination with other Zapatista regions.34
The insurgents were organized in the structure of guerrilla fighters: militia members, rebels, second lieutenants, lieutenants, captains, majors, deputy commanders, and commanders. All of them were grouped into militias, sections, companies, battalions, and regiments. Although the CCRI presented itself publicly as the final Zapatista authority, in reality the military and political power and authority of the movement was located in the General Command.
The open conflict with the declaration of war in January 1994 meant an important adaptation and reorganization of the Zapatista movement. Defeated and contained in arms, the EZLN was forced to modify its strategy and turned to indigenismo.
The revolution was not successful, but it did create conditions that allowed for a wave of sometimes violent land occupations throughout Chiapas in the months that followed. The majority of these occupations were on private property, but not all were large landholdings, and some were even lands belonging to other indigenous communities. The land redistributed per Zapatista household was minimal: between one and three hectares. This process of land distribution from the bottom up was without a doubt the most tangible and immediate success for the Zapatistas, and in the long run it would benefit other groups of invaders even more, thanks to its subsequent legalization.35 For the young rebels this was no trivial matter, as the combination of rapid demographic growth, low agricultural productivity, insufficient land, and the lack of alternative employment rendered their social and economic situation highly precarious.
In these new circumstances, the EZLN combined political negotiation with mobilization for government recognition of their position as a legitimate political force. At the same time, they adapted their struggle for socialism to a new political context the insurgent leadership had not foreseen, one that required new forms of regional political organization in order to establish a real autonomy in the territories supposedly under their control. To this end, they created thirty-eight Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ) at the end of 1994 and five Boards of Good Government (JBG) in August 2003. To date, the general idea behind the creation of these structures has consisted of constructing autonomous territories in which the Zapatistas can define their social, political, economic, and cultural life without intervention from the government. Municipalities as well as the Boards of Good Government have taken on governmental functions such as public education, civil registration, healthcare, justice, traffic regulation, and the development of agricultural and artisanal production and commercialization.
However, to speak of “Zapatista territory” is an exaggeration. Of the geographic areas in which the insurgents maintain a presence, the majority of towns do not belong to the EZLN, others are politically divided, and a decreasing number are completely Zapatista. Even in their military, political, and civil strongholds, such as La Realidad (in Las Margaritas), Roberto Barrios (in Palenque), and Morelia (in Altamirano), the Zapatista population are a shrinking minority. Often it is only the Zapatista majority communities, like the MAREZ and the JBGs, where the Zapatistas exercise control and the people benefit from their services, programs, and projects.36
Were it not for the Zapatista aspiration to be the highest authority in these regions, the majority of the towns would be indifferent to the autonomy of the rebel “good government.” In fact, many state or federal infrastructure projects for roadways and electricity, as well as social and agricultural programs, cannot be carried out in these areas because the EZLN blocks them or demands “taxes” to allow their implementation. This policy has an impact on people who would potentially benefit. However, there are also cases in which problems of “justice” between Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas are addressed and resolved in the JBGs by way of agreements that satisfy all parties.
The material effects of the exaggeration of their influence have been useful for the EZLN. First, the Mexican government has avoided any political or military campaign that would revive the armed conflict. Another effect has been the solidarity, now diminishing, from national and international pro-Zapatista groups, which translates into symbolic, financial, human, technical, and political aid to the support bases. The paradox is that the anti-government discourse and practices have generated a growing rebel dependency on foreign sympathizers and NGOs, in addition to the government seeking a greater presence among non-Zapatista neighbors.
The ceasefire between the guerrillas and the army, and the interruption of dialogue between the Zapatistas and the federal government in September 1996, following the signing of the San Andrés Accords in February of that year, had significant consequences for the configuration of the Zapatista movement. In Los Altos and the North, paramilitary groups appeared and antagonized the support bases. The climax of this counterinsurgency policy was the murder of forty-five non-Zapatista indigenous people in the town of Acteal on December 22, 1997. Dialogue between rebel commanders and the federal government resumed only after the PRI lost the presidency. However, any hope of reaching a definitive solution to the conflict was quickly quashed in 2001, when the insurgents questioned the unilateral approval by the Mexican Congress of the constitutional reform on indigenous rights and culture after lawmakers introduced a number of changes to the content of the 1996 agreement. Since then there has been no official public meeting of the two parties. The rebels have continued to pursue their autonomy, while the federal authorities have implemented social and agricultural policy programs in the non-Zapatista communities, on the condition that the rebels do not impede the presence of government agents in their territory.
In practical terms, the EZLN’s “policy of resistance” has translated into a prohibition on any dealing between its support bases and government authorities at any level; it has thus prevented them from receiving any benefits from public policies or programs. While neighboring villages have made use of such resources, the Zapatistas have been forced to address their precarious economic situation using their own means and the generous but always insufficient contributions from foreign solidarity networks. The autonomous health and education projects, as well as agricultural and commercialization programs, are notable and even exemplary organized efforts, but their results have fallen far short of the needs of the population. In addition, the internal reorganization of the Zapatistas in resistance has required greater cooperation and sacrifice for the support bases to maintain their autonomy, as well as an increasing authoritarianism on the part of commanders and their military and political authorities in order to preserve unity and discipline within the movement. By 2000, the rebel forces were gradually withdrawn from their encampments and their troops returned, though without being disarmed, to community life. The guerrilla troops were therefore no longer a material burden on the support bases.37
The government has a substantial responsibility in this history of conflict, exclusion, and marginalization of contemporary Chiapas. In comparison with its response to other “subversive groups” just twenty years before the uprising, and in light of the bloody civil wars and revolutionary and popular struggles in the rest of Latin America during the same period, it is clear that the federal government played the leading political role in confronting the rebels in Chiapas. The millions invested in public programs of all kinds, particularly in the conflict zones, might have helped development in the long term. But that was not what occurred. The money was used instead to neutralize Zapatista influence, and a great deal of it was lost to corruption. The poverty and extremely low productivity of the ejidos in Mexico were greatly multiplied in indigenous regions. Emigration has been the only option for many young men and women, Zapatistas as well as those from other political leanings, although it has become increasingly difficult in recent years with the closing of the United States border. The non-agricultural labor market in Chiapas offers no alternatives to this population, with its extremely low level of education. The economy is not growing or creating new jobs. Finally, there is the increasing presence of human trafficking in this region of the country.
The appearance of the EZLN accelerated the process of an institutional democratic opening in the country. This unexpected achievement—perhaps not desired by some insurgents—would be expressed, first, in the federal mid-term elections in 1997, when the Congress had no parliamentary majority, and three years later, when the country voted in favor of the change represented by the National Action Party (PAN) presidential candidate, Vicente Fox.38
However, from this moment the EZLN gradually lost relevance as a political force on the national level. In Chiapas, its influence is felt primarily in indigenous regions, but only where it has come together organically. Its last major attempt to nationalize its efforts (both geographically and ethnically) took place in 2005, with the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and the implementation, in January 2006, of The Other Campaign (LOC). The latter went nearly unnoticed in the face of the violent repression in San Salvador Atenco, the presidential elections, the mobilizations of the leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his followers against an alleged electoral fraud, and, finally, the bloody conflict of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca.
The LOC was also working toward building closer ties and creating alliances with other anti-neoliberal, anti-capitalist, and non-partisan leftist groups. In the meetings between the Zapatista LOC delegation and the signatories of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, they began to draft a “program of national struggle.” Under selection criteria imposed by the EZLN, very few groups, organizations, and associations could be considered “supporters.” Even fewer were able to maintain their alliance with the rebels over the years that followed, due to the EZLN’s requirement for unconditional support by allies for any decision it made. Many signatories, enthusiastic at the beginning, were subsequently excluded for not sufficiently assuming the Zapatista rebel spirit. Additionally, the prolonged silence from the Zapatistas in the last fifteen years has alienated them, for all practical purposes, from the broad network of Zapatista collectives that were formed in Europe and North America. The fundamental purpose of many of these groups was based on their solidarity with the EZLN. When communication between them was cut off, many groups split up or became involved in struggles in their own countries or with groups with a more alter-globalist orientation. The EZLN therefore became a symbol that preceded other struggles against neoliberal globalization.
The Zapatista movement today is composed of three broad categories. The first is a segment including the founders of the movement, who acquired prestige and solid positions of local authority in the civil, political, and military spheres. The second category is made up of the indigenous communities who lack viable means to abandon the movement and rebuild their individual and collective lives without the resistance. It includes those who work and live on the lands that were “recovered” in the years following the uprising, whose land could never be legalized and which is controlled and administered by the EZLN. If they renounced the movement, they would lose all of the material support in their lives. They joined the rebellion with the hope of gaining autonomy; however, they increased their dependence on the insurgent organization. Finally, there is the young generation that was born into and grew up with the resistance and therefore knows no other way of life. This group has been brought up in Zapatista schools and is characterized by its unshakable commitment to the EZLN.
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De Vos, Jan. Una tierra para sembrar sueños. Historia reciente de la Selva Lacandona, 1950–2002. Mexico City: FCE-CIESAS, 2002.Find this resource:
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(1.) There are several municipalities with a EZLN presence, although it is weak: Motozintla, Frontera Comalapa, Nicolás Ruiz, and Venustiano Carranza, which has no indigenous population.
(2.) Justus Fenner, La llegada al sur: la controvertida historia de los deslindes de los terrenos baldíos en Chiapas, México, en su contexto nacional e internacional, 1881–1917 (Mexico City: UNAM, and Colmich, 2012).
(3.) Jan Rus, “Revoluciones contenidas: los indígenas y la lucha por Los Altos de Chiapas, 1910–1925,” Mesoamérica 46 (2004): 57–85.
(4.) Robert Wasserstrom, Clase y sociedad en el centro de Chiapas (Mexico City: FCE, 1992); and Thomas Benjamin, El Camino a Leviatán. Chiapas y el Estado mexicano 1891–1947 (Mexico City: CONACULTA, 1990).
(5.) Rus, “Revoluciones.”
(6.) Benjamin, El Camino.
(7.) Rus, “Revoluciones.”
(8.) Benjamin, El Camino.
(9.) Justus Fenner and Miguel Lisbona Guillén, La revolución mexicana en Chiapas: un siglo después. Nuevos aportes, 1910–1940 (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico: UNAM-IIA, PROIMMSE, 2010).
(10.) Jan Rus, “Whose Caste War? Indians, Ladinos, and the Chiapas ‘Caste War’ of 1869,” in Spaniards and Indians in Southeastern Mesoamerica. Essays on the History of Ethnic Relations, eds. Murdo J. MacLeod and Robert Wasserstrom (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 126–168. And Rus “Revoluciones.”
(11.) Rus “Revoluciones.”
(12.) Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Intimate Enemies: Landowners, Power, and Violence in Chiapas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).
(13.) María del Carmen Legorreta Díaz, Desafíos de la emancipación indígena. Organización señorial y modernización en Ocosingo, Chiapas 1930–1994 (Mexico City: UNAM-CEIICH, 2008).
(14.) Rocío Ortíz Herrera, “Campesinos comuneros y finqueros de Chiapa de Corzo ante la Revolución mexicana, 1824–1914,” in Fenner and Lisbona Guillén, La revolución, 87–116.
(15.) Antonio Gómez Hernández and Mario Humberto Ruz, eds., Memoria baldía. Los tojolabales y las fincas. Testimonios (Mexico City: UNAM-UNACH, 1992); Sonia Toledo Tello, Fincas, poder y cultura en Simojovel, Chiapas (San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico: UNAM-UNACH, 2002); and Legorreta, Desafíos.
(16.) Marco Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad armada rebelde y el EZLN. Un estudio histórico y sociológico de los tojolabales en las Cañadas Tojolabales de la Selva Lacandona (1935–2005), 2nd ed., revised and expanded (Mexico City: Colmex, 2016).
(17.) Antonio García de León, Fronteras interiores. Chiapas: Una modernidad particular (Mexico City: Océano, 2002).
(18.) Rus, “Revoluciones.”
(19.) Gemma Van der Haar, Gaining Ground. Land Reform and the Constitution of Community in the Tojolabal Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico (Amsterdam: Thela, 2001); and Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad.
(20.) Legorreta, Desafíos.
(21.) Toledo Tello, Fincos; and Bobrow-Strain, Intimate Enemies.
(22.) Arturo Warman, El campo mexicano en el siglo XX (Mexico City: FCE, 2001).
(23.) Niel Harvey, La rebelión de Chiapas. La lucha por la tierra y la democracia (Mexico City: Era, 2000).
(24.) Harvey, La rebelión.
(25.) María del Carmen Legorreta Díaz, Religión, política y guerrilla en las Cañadas de la Selva Lacandona (Mexico City: Cal y Arena, 1998); Jan De Vos, Una tierra para sembrar sueños. Historia reciente de la Selva Lacandona, 1950–2002 (Mexico City: FCE-CIESAS, 2002); and Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad.
(26.) Van der Haar, Gaining Ground; and Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad.
(27.) José Luis Escalona Victoria, Política en el Chiapas rural contemporáneo. Una aproximación etnográfica al poder (México City: UNAM, UAM, UIA, and CIESAS, 2009).
(28.) Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad. With respect to religious affiliations, in addition to Liberationist Catholics, there were also “traditionalists,” particularly concentrated in Los Altos, and evangelical Protestants. The different denominations of evangelicals are a growing religious presence.
(29.) Carlos Tello Díaz, La rebelión de las Cañadas. Origen y ascenso del EZLN (Mexico City: Cal y Arena, 2000); and Adela Cedillo-Cedillo, “Análisis de la fundación del EZLN en Chiapas desde la perspectiva de la acción colectiva insurgente,” LiminaR 10, no. 2 (July–December 2012): 15–34.
(30.) Legorreta Díaz, Religión; De Vos, Historia reciente; and Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad; Toledo Tello, Fincos; and Bobrow-Strain, Intimate Enemies. These conflicts in Los Altos had begun a decade before over questions of religious freedom and tolerance, but beneath their surface they pointed to the democratization of these communities; Jan Rus, “ ‘The Comunidad Revolucionaria Institucional:’ The Subversion of Native Government in Highland Chiapas, 1936–1968,” in Everyday Forms of State Formation. Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico, eds. Gilbert Joseph and Daniel Nugent (Durham, NC: Duke Univerity Press, 1994), 265–300; and Jan Rus, “La lucha contra los caciques indígenas en Los Altos de Chiapas: Disidencia, religión y exilio en Chamula, 1965–1977,” in Anuario de Estudios Indígenas XIII. Antropología del poder (Tuxtla Gutiérrez: IEI-UNACH, 2009), 181–230.
(31.) Marco Estrada Saavedra, “The ‘Armed Community in Rebellion’: Neo-Zapatismo in the Tojolab’al Cañadas, Chiapas (1988–96),” The Journal of Peasant Studies 32, nos. 3 & 4 (July–October 2005): 528–554.
(32.) This was also the case for the armed guerrillas of Rubén Jaramillo in Morelos, Arturo Gámiz in Chihuahua, and Genaro Vásquez in Guerrero. The September 23 Communist League was an urban guerrilla network with a presence in various states in Mexico, though it lacked a real relationship with the industrial proletariat. See Marco Bellingeri, Del agrarismo armado a la guerra de los pobres. Ensayos de la guerrilla rural en el México contemporáneo, 1940–1974 (México City: Ediciones Casa Juan Pablos y Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, 2003); and Laura Castellanos, México armado 1943–1981 (Mexico City: Era, 2011).
(33.) Marco Estrada Saavedra, “Zapatista movement,” in The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements, eds. David Snow, Donatella Della Porta, Bert Klandermans, and Doug McAdam (London: Blackwell Publishing, 2013), 1419–1422; and Estrada Saavedra, La comunidad.
(34.) In the Zapatista towns of Los Altos and the North, the Zapatista nomenclature varies but the purpose is basically the same: instead of “leaders” (“responsables”) they are known as “representatives” (“representantes”) of the community; they do not meet in “regions” (“regiones”) but in “areas” (“zonas”). In the “autonomous” ranches, there are “agents” or “alcaldes,” as well as their “assistants.” Additionally, each settlement has a “council of elders” with who function as “spiritual guides.” This is just one example of regional differences within the Zapatista community. See also Shannan L. Mattiace, Rosalba Aída Hernández, and Jan Rus, eds., Tierra, libertad y autonomía: Impactos regionales del zapatismo en Chiapas (Mexico City: CIESAS and IWGIA, 2002); Marco Estrada Saavedra and Juan Pedro Viqueira, eds., Los indígenas de Chiapas y la rebelión zapatista. Microhistorias políticas (México City: ColMex, 2010); and Bruno Baronett, Mariana Mora Bayo, and Richard Stahler-Sholk, Luchas “muy otras.” Zapatismo y autonomía en las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas (Mexico City: CIESAS, UAM, and UAC, 2011).
(35.) The non-Zapatista beneficiaries of the regularization of occupied land obtained an average of 4.6 hectares between 1994 and 1998; and Daniel Villafuerte Solís, Salvador Meza Díaz, Gabriel Ascencio Franco et al., La tierra en Chiapas. Viejos problemas nuevos (Mexico City: Plaza y Valdés, UNICACH, 1999).
(36.) Marco Estrada Saavedra, “¿Autonomía o hegemonía? Un análisis de la Junta de Buen Gobierno Hacia la Esperanza en las Cañadas Tojolabales de la Selva Lacandona,” El Cotidiano 21, no. 137 (May–June 2006): 52–61.
(37.) Marco Estrada Saavedra “Des communautés divisées: l’expérience zapatiste dans les vallées tojolabales,” Communisme 83/84 (2005): 163–184.
(38.) From its founding to the present, the EZLN has clearly aimed to change Mexican society. However, its approach rejected liberal representative democracy. The country’s political elite saw its armed revolt as a threat. The political opposition took advantage of the situation to pressure the federal government to strengthen agreements regarding the structure of independent electoral institutions that would lead to greater democratization and the sharing of power with other political parties. Because of its Marxist political and ideological origins, this type of democracy was not exactly what the EZLN had hoped for. The EZLN has decided to participate in the presidential elections for the first time in 2018, joining with the National Indigenous Congress in support of an independent candidate, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, a Nahua practitioner of traditional medicine. For more on the EZLN and representative democracy, see Juan Pedro Viqueira and Willibald Sonnleitner Democracia en tierras indígenas: Las elecciones en los Altos de Chiapas, 1991–1998 (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, CIESAS and the Instituto Federal Electoral, 2000); and Willibald Sonnleitner, Elecciones chiapanecas: Del régimen posrevolucionario al desorden democrático (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2012).