I used to consider myself more of a revolutionary. Not the up-in-arms, fight-to-the-death kind of revolutionary, but I felt that I shared their basic beliefs, even if not their implementation. I related to the underdog, understanding the injustices in the world and wanting to do something to change it all.
I’m not saying there’s not a little part of me that’s still like that, but I guess now I’m more realistic. Maybe it has to do with travel, or with growing older (and wiser?), or with spending too much time with Jason (he said I could blame him), but I’ve begun to recognize more of the hypocrisy, the lack of organization, and the misrepresentation of different groups and peoples.
Do you think anyone has ever gone up to Fidel Castro and told him that he’s a hypocrite? I’m sure they’d be immediately shot or imprisoned, but would someone have the gall to do such a thing? Did Che? Raul? I’m reading a book right now about Che’s and Fidel’s friendship, how they came to know each other, how they began to rally the people, and, ultimately, it discusses the similarities and differences in how the two men organized themselves, how they thought, and how they saw the future of the Revolution in Cuba. It’s an interesting book that gives more background on these two men, their personalities, their ideologies, etc.
While reading this book, there is a passage that the author quotes a speech that Fidel gave in (I believe) 1956:
I am leaving Cuba because all the doors of peaceful struggle have been closed to me.
Six weeks after being released from prison I am convinced more than ever of the dictatorship’s intention, marked in many ways, to remain in power for twenty years, ruling as now by the use of terror and crime and ignoring the patience of the Cuban people, which has its limits.
As a follower of Martí, I believe the hour has come to take our rights and not beg for them, to fight instead of pleading for them…
Does that phrase not ring of hypocrisy, as it did for me? Does anyone out there not feel that, 50 years after the Revolution, Fidel’s leadership has brinked/is brinking on tyranny and dictatorship?
Anyway, that’s not exactly why I started to write this post…
I had the opportunity to visit a Zapatista “headquarters” located outside of the small town of San Andres, located outside the larger town of San Cristobal de las Casas. It was definitely an experience that I am glad I had, but not something I feel the need to do again.
The visit was fantastic, and Cesar, our guide, really brought energy, interest and perspective to the visit. He picked us up about 9am in his car, and whisked us about an hour outside of town to the community, known as a caracol. Upon arrival we had to turn in our passports to the entrance “guards” who signed us in before we were taken to the “office” (I use these terms very lightly) where the 2 people chosen for that week were waiting to receive guests. We were able to sit and listen to a brief history of the Zapatista movement, the current living situation and how people help out in the community, and were allowed to ask questions. The people were helpful and interesting, but the unfortunate part is that these people change every week/month so that everyone in the caracol participates and meets visitors, meaning that some people give more information than others. Our people weren’t into talking too much, which Cesar explained to us later was because they spoke limited Spanish, as the majority of the people living in the caracol speak Tzotzil as their first language, and only some of them speak fluent Spanish. Luckily, Cesar was there to translate!!
Overall, like I said, the visit was great and definitely eye-opening…However, I asked a few questions that weren’t really answered, and I don’t know if it was because of the language barrier (though these two specific people seemed to understand Spanish on a fairly high level) or because they didn’t understand the question (a common occurrence here in Mexico) or they just didn’t have a good answer. A bit of background: The Zapatistas came to the public eye on January 1, 1994, when they took over a few cities in the Chiapas region, the most famous being San Cristobal de las Casas. They aired their demands over the radio, taking over the government building on the main plaza and being recognized worldwide. From here followed many talks between them and the government, “them” being various indigenous groups coming together in hopes of having their rights recognized by the government centered in Mexico City. This went on for a while, and in the end no treaties or compromises were really reached, and the Zapatistas again faded from the world’s view.
My question was basically this: are the Zapatistas currently planning another public confrontation and are they still fighting for their rights within the governmental structure? Are they planning anything, or are they just sitting and waiting quietly, as they have been for the past 10 years? They said that nothing is planned; they are all just content to live in their communities, make no money, and not keep fighting in a big, public way.
Here’s where I am confused: how do the Zapatistas, still living in their communities run by their own rules and ideals, expect to win their basic rights (equal pay, equal opportunity to land that is theirs that may have been seized by the government over the past 100-200 years, basic education, etc.) if they have stopped making waves within the government/ I’m not saying they need to go back to armed attacks, but they are not even working within the government anymore. They are basically invisible individuals once again, and it seems like all was for naught in 1994. People still sport their tshirts with Subcomandante Marcos smoking his pipe, but what, in actuality, are they doing? To the best of my knowledge, they’re not doing anything other than letting certain tourists visit their caracol, which doesn’t seem to help spread their fight very far.
Thoughts on the matter?