January 13, 1994

To Mr. Bill Clinton,

President of the United States of North America:

To the North American Congress:

To the people of the United States of North America:


We direct this letter to you to tell you that the Mexican federal government is using the economic and military support that it receives from the United States of North America to massacre Chiapaneco Indians. We would like to know whether the U.S. Congress and the citizens of the United States of North America approved this military and economic support to combat drug trafficking or to assassinate indigenous people in the Mexican southeast. Troops, planes, helicopters, radar, communications equipment, arms and military gear are presently being used not to chase drug traffickers and the leaders of large drug cartels, but to repress the just struggle of the Mexican people and the Chiapaneco Indians, and to assassinate innocent men, women and children.

We do not receive any help from foreign governments, persons or organizations. We have nothing to do with drug trafficking or national and international terrorism. We organized ourselves from our own desire and life because of our tremendous problems and grievances. We are tried of so many years of abuse, lies and death. It is our right to struggle for a life with dignity. We have at all times obeyed international laws on war respecting the civilian population.

With the support that the U.S. government and people give to the federal government, they are staining their hands with indigenous blood. Our longing is that of all the peoples of the world: true freedom and democracy. And we are prepared to give our lives for this desire. Don’t stain your hands with our blood by making yourselves accomplices of the Mexican government.

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast,


— from ¡Zapatistas!: Documents of the New Mexican Revolution


¡Zapatistas! Documents of the New Mexican Revolution (December 31, 1993 through June 12, 1994)

The Editorial Collective

After the Ross Perot-led anti-NAFTA debacle in Congress subsided, it looked as though the Trilateral forces of global finance (riding high on the post-Cold War buy-up of Eastern Europe) were smugly on their way to consolidating their grip on yet another chunk of the world’s real estate. In this case, Mexico was to be corralled into our big new “free trade zone” and the whole debate in Congress revolved around whether we Americans wanted them in or not. Yet on January 1, 1994—symbolically the day that NAFTA was to go into effect—the corrupt edifice of the Mexican government (which has been controlled for most of this century by the aptly Orwellian-titled Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI) was thrown off its foundations by the coordinated actions of a then-obscure guerrilla army operating in the remote jungle state of Chiapas near the border of Guatemala.
The Zapatista occupation of four Chiapas towns and the sympathetic shock waves which it generated throughout Mexican society have ushered in a whole new post-Marxist revolutionary era. By rejecting NAFTA and the Mexican government’s heavily financed claims to democracy and embracing Mexico’s revolutionary history (naming themselves after and basing their ideas on Emiliano Zapata), the Zapatistas (or EZLN) were able to call into question the entire world’s headlong march into corporate enslavement. What emerges from the collection of manifestoes, communiqués and interviews newly translated from Spanish that make up this book is that the Zapatistas are a very remarkable guerrilla movement, vastly different from our Oliver Stone-generated Salvador conceptions of a Central American revolution.
The EZLN are in fact of a coalition of indigenous Chiapas Indian tribes for whom Spanish is often a rarely used second language. Where the American media has painted Subcomandante Marcos as the swashbuckling mestizo leader of a humble band of ignorant but obedient indios, his writings and interviews, which make up the bulk of ¡Zapatistas!, suggest instead more of a witty and even poetic press liaison. Rather than waging Maoist revolution from a Pol Pot-style intellectual cabal, the Zapatistas see their actions as part of an overall matrix of economics, politics, and culture which will not be won “by the barrel of a gun” alone. As their mysterious ski-masked spokesman Subcomandante Marcos puts it, “we are not Fidel Schwarzennegger.”
The Zapatistas seem to be alert to the realities of the post-Cold War era as well as the grievous mistakes of Marxist guerrillas of the past. Nor are they falling for the bait of Liberation Theology and domination by the “radical wing” of the Catholic Church despite the brutal poverty and enforced lack of education which they have been stoically enduring. The EZLN seems to be run according to an organically autonomous type of collective system which has allowed these Indians to survive the 500 years since the arrival of the conquistadors with their language and culture intact. ¡Zapatistas! closes with the “Second Declaration From the Lacondona Jungle” of June 10, 1994, in which the EZLN rejects the Federal Government’s peace offer after consulting with their constituent villages, leaving one to believe that more history may well be written in this formerly forgotten corner of Mexico. SS

Publisher: Autonomedia
Paperback: 350 pages

Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas

George A. Collier with Elizabeth Lowery Quaratiello

What created the EZLN rebellion in southern Mexico? These writers build a strong case that the changeover from peasant agrarianism to “modern” agribusiness in Chiapas over the past 30 years was the single most compelling force behind the creation of this homegrown guerrilla army and its intriguing cooperativist vision. SC

Publisher: Food First
Paperback: 184 pages

First World Ha Ha Ha!

Edited by Elaine Katzenberger

Superb anthology based around the Chiapas uprising, its context and significance. Includes essays by Marc Cooper on the connections between Chiapas and the L.A. riots; Noam Chomsky on the effects of NAFTA; Ward Churchill on the continuing struggle for the land; Annette James’ “Statement of Support for the Indigenous American Intifada”; an interview with Subcommandante Marcos; various Zapatista communiqués; and much more. AK

Publisher: City Lights
Paperback: 258 pages

Shadows of Tender Fury: The Letters and Communiqués of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Subcomandante Marcos

“Since the 1994 uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas, the spokesman of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a masked rebel who calls himself Subcomandate Marcos, has become a symbol of revolt in the post-Cold War era. Here are the words of Marcos, words that look back to the traditions of Indian resistance, and dormant ideals of the Mexican revolution, and look forward to political strategies, styles and theories that challenge the dominance of capitalism.”

Publisher: Monthly Review
Paperback: 272 pages