“Our Struggle Is for the Land”

Against the Current, No. 49, March/April 1994

an interview with Luis, a Zapatista

ATC interviewed Luis, a Zapatista who came to the United States to publicize the current situation in Chiapas.

LET ME EXPLAIN that I am a Zapatista soldier. I am not a commanding officer. I came here to explain to the American people, to unionists and others, as an indigenous man so that you could hear the voice of the indigenous. The media, even the bigger sources, have only obtained their information from the government. They never speak of, or to, the indigenous. I came to let the American people know why we are in this movement. That we believe in liberty and justice.

The EZLN is fighting so that indigenous people can have land. That their rights be respected as they no longer have these rights, not even those stated in the Mexican Constitution. Our struggle is for the land itself. We don’t own any land while the caciques (bosses), police, and large landowners can own more than 1,000 hectares.

The EZLN is lighting for land. The armed struggle is our only solution. If we didn’t take up arms, we would have starved to death. It was our last recourse. More than 450 indigenous soldiers have died. Many are disappeared, or massacred and put into a common grave.

The Army is not respectful of its own cease fire. They only want to massacre and disappear people. We won’t be able to engage them in dialogue. Our strategy is to no longer accept the government’s scraps. With our armed struggle and international pressure on Salinas, we will win our land. Salinas is only trying to lengthen the process by offering the cease fire and amnesty for all But the real problem is not dealt with. We want land.

There is a tremendous awareness among the indigenous people. If the army will leave, Zapatistas will appear, even from under every rock The people will speak, “I have no land. I want you to give it to me.” Now they are terrorized. They only want peace and for no one to kill them. We began a movement for land and we will not rest until it is ours.

I left January 4, getting rides when I could to denounce all that was happening. Then they starting the bombing, to clean the area of guerrillas. They massacred women, children too. Someone had to leave to denounce this, and I did.

I want to go all the way to Washington, even China, to let people know the indigenous are being massacred.

Even with support in Mexico, the Mexican government is running this in a very demagogic way. Instead of government people, it should be indigenous people that are sent in to negotiate Otherwise, there will be no negotiation.

I, Luis, would like to be on this indigenous dialogue committee after the terrible killing of 500 people. The Mexican government will only create a reconciliation committee that will freeze everything, international opinion will forget, and the massacre will be left to as a historical happening.

As a Zapatista soldier, I want them to stop the massacre. The army is picking up any 15-40 year old indigenous male and accusing them of being a Zapatista. There has not been a total cease fire.

We took on San Cristobal on January I because Salinas always likes to put on a “show” in January; to put up a good front We knew that choosing January 1, and with the implementation of NAFTA, our struggle would have the resonance that it is now having.

We also understand and know the extreme conditions of poverty under which we live and that our labor would only be worth $2-3 dollars per day under NAFTA.

We want to let the world know that they should not stop supporting us. The Chiapanecos that are fighting are very noble. They are the forgotten of the most humble social class. We need all kinds of support: moral, political, legal, every kind. The PRI government gives us nothing.

Ask too that Luis be accepted as a member of the indigenous without land committee. Write letters to Camacho Soils (negotiator) that they give me a place as an indigenous representative. Otherwise it will be the same situation all over again. We need to intervene in the negotiations. And let the world know that these martyrs got their lands.

March/April 1994, ATC 49