Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cartoon 8.1: Limonar, Chiapas

We worked for the last week in a small mountain community called Limonar, Chiapas.   Chiapas is the birthplace of the Zapatista movement, which is of Marxist and indigenous Mexican roots and started as an underground peoples organization.  It has developed into a social movement that looks to construct a society in which indigenous people are able to live their lives based on their own principles along side the dominant society.  (That was a super basic definition of the movement based on what I have been able to understand so far)

When I thought about going to the birthplace of the Zapatista movement, I must admit my thoughts and emotions went a little crazy.  Hearing the word Zapatista, a vision comes to my mind of guerilleros with handkerchiefs and big weapons. I knew that that vision was based on the education that popular media has provided me and I knew it was a super small and quite possibly false picture of a huge complex reality.  So I tried to educate myself by reading and talking to folks before arriving to Chiapas.  I learned that people often must choose between the support of the Zapatistas or that of the Mexican government and many communities and even families are split.  I knew that I was not going into a concentrated Zapatista community but when I saw the sign that I had enterred Zapatista territory, my feelings based on that image of an armed guerillero bubbled up somewhere between nervousness and excitement.  I was excited at the chance to interact with people who dedicate their lives to fighting for their principles. And I was nervous as a representative of a Neoliberalistic society with my Puma high tops and factory made clothes.  I wondered if I would be judged or rejected.  Deep inside, I imagined that I would go into the mountains and find all of the people with guns and their faces covered waiting for possible invaders.

What I saw when I arrived to Limonar was people living their lives in a simple mountain community working together to get what they need.  Folks were open and curious.  In the short time that I was there, I caught no wind of the Zapatista movement. I thought, Maybe that's the idea?  That its underground?

I meet a wonderful woman from here and she explained to me that there is a difference between the Zapatista communities and the Zapatista army (EZLN).  The communities publicly declare themselves Zapatistas and carry on their lives as usual working the land, earning however they can but with security support from the EZLN.  She said that supposedly the army is clandestine and lives in the heavily jungled mountain areas and that they are the ones who wear the handkerchiefs. She explained that the handkerchief is a symbol for the invisibility and lack of recognition of indigenous people...


  1. Great narrative. I remember when I went to Chiapas with my family. I was still in high school and the Zapatista movement wasn't that long ago. When you see what the Zapatista movement is trying to do for the people, and you see how poorly they live, you can't help but know that there is at least some good coming from it. They were not a violent movement and only took the measures that seemed necessary to get attention from the world to see the conditions they live in. Cumbia in the mud sounds like the most down-to-earth thing to do in the jungle/mountains of Chiapas!

  2. Thank you Jose! It was a real challenge to try and figure out how to sum up the Zapatista movement in 2 sentences when I feel like I just understand the tip of it.

    Wow! I would love it if you would tell me about your experience in Chiapas. I have lotsa questions! (Was the movement very present when you were there? Did you know about it before you went? What did your family do there? If you had an idea about the movement was it similar to the reality that you found? What interested you most about you time there?)