The following is a partial translation of “Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds, a Storm, and a Prophecy,” from which the story “Viejo Antonio Dreams” is taken. The introduction and Chapter Five are fully translated, and the in-text synopses of Chapters One through Four are also translated.
In the text, Marcos makes reference to the governor of Chiapas using the term “the viceroy,” as well as to the Chiapanecan cattle ranchers, using the term “the feudal lords.”
Originally published on January 27th, 1994
CHIAPAS: THE SOUTHEAST IN TWO WINDS, A STORM, AND A PROPHECY
Very dear sirs:
Now that Chiapas has burst into national consciousness, many and various authors dust off their little Larousse Illustrated, their Mexico Unknown, their floppy disks of statistics from the Ingei or the Fonhapo, or even classic texts that go as far back as Bartolomé de las Casas. With the urge to quench this thirst of knowledge about the Chiapanecan situation, we send you a writing that our compañero Sc. I. Marcos realized in mid-1993 to seek to awaken the consciousness of several compañeros who were then approaching our struggle.
We hope that his material wins a place in one of the sections or supplements that make up your prestigious newspaper. The rights of the author belong to the insurgents, who will feel honored upon seeing something of their history circulate at the national level. Maybe in this way other compañeros will feel compelled to write about their states and localities hoping that other prophecies the same as the Chiapanecan one shall also go on being fulfilled.
Press and Propaganda Department, EZLN
Lacandon Jungle, Mexico, January 1994
That from Above
Which tells how the supreme government was moved by the indigenous poverty of Chiapas and was kind enough to provide the entity with hotels, prisons, barracks, and a military airport. And tells also how the beast feeds on the blood of this people and other unhappy and unfortunate happenings.
Which tells of the actions of the governor apprentice to the viceroy, of his heroic combat against the progressive clergy, and of adventures with the feudal lords of cattle, coffee, and commerce. And which tells also of other equally fantastic actions.
Which tells how the viceroy had a brilliant idea and put it in practice and which tells also how the empire ordered the death of socialism and, enthusiastically, put itself to the task of spreading the order, to the delight of the powerful, distress of the tepid, and indifference of the rest. It tells also how Zapata has not died, they say. And other disconcerting events.
That from Below
Which tells how dignity and rebellion were made family in the southeast and of how the ghosts of Jacinto Pérez and raccoons roam the mountains of Chiapas. It tells also of the patience that runs out and other happenings of ignored presence but probable consequence.
Which tells how indigenous dignity was put in march to make itself heard and its voice only lasted a little while, and tells also how voices from before are repeated today, and of how the Indians will walk again but with firm steps, and together with other dispossessed steps, take what belongs to them and the music of death that plays now only for those who have nothing, will play for others. And tells also of other amazing events that happen and, they say, are to happen.
The Xi’Nich (ant) indigenous march, realized by peasants from Palenque, Ocosingo, and Salto de Agua, comes to demonstrate the absurdity of the system. These indigenous people had to walk 1,106 kilometers to make themselves heard, made it to the national capital where the central power got them an interview with the viceroy. They arrived to Mexico City when capitalism was painting a shocking tragedy over the skies of Jalisco. They arrived to the capital of former New Spain, today Mexico, in the 500th year after the foreign nightmare was imposed in the night of this land. They arrived and were heard by all the honest and noble people that there are, who still do exist, and they were also heard by the voices that oppress today southeast, north, center, and west of the homeland. They returned another 1,106 kilometers pockets full of promises. Once again nothing was left…
In the municipal seat of Simojovel, the peasants of the CIOAC were attacked by people paid by ranchers of the town. The peasants from Simojovel have decided to stop being silent and respond to the threats fulfilled by the ranchers. Peasant hands surround the municipal seat, nothing and no one enters or leaves without their consent. The federal army withdrawals, the police retreat, and the feudal lords of the state cry murder for a return to order and respect. Negotiation committees come and go. The conflict is apparently resolved, the causes endure, and with the same appearance, everything returns to calm.
In the village of Betania, in the outskirts of San Cristóbal de las Casas, the indigenous are detained and extorted, regularly by judicial agents, for cutting firewood for their homes. The court fulfills its duty to care for the environment, say the agents. The indigenous decide to stop being silent and kidnap three judicial agents. Not satisfied with that, they take the Panamerican highway and cut communication to the east from San Cristóbal. At the Ocosingo-Comitán crossroads, the peasants have the judicial agents tied up and demand to speak with the viceroy before unblocking the highway. Commerce is waterlogged, tourism is devastated. The noble ranching bourgeoisie tears out its hair. Negotiation committees come and go. The conflict is apparently resolved, the causes endure, and with the same appearance everything returns to calm.
In Marqués de Comillas, municipality of Ocosingo, the peasants cut wood to survive. The court detains them and seizes the wood for the benefit of their commander. The indigenous decide to stop being silent and take the vehicles and take the agents prisoner, the government sends police and they are taken prisoner in the same way. The indigenous keep the trucks, the wood, and the prisoners. They let the latter go. There is no response. They march to Palenque to demand a solution and the army represses them and kidnaps their leaders. They remain in possession of the trucks. Negotiation committees come and go. The government lets the leaders go, the peasants let the trucks go. The conflict is apparently resolved, the causes endure, and with the same appearance everything returns to calm.
In the municipal seat of Ocosingo, from different points of the city’s fortresses, march one thousand indigenous peasants from the ANCIEZ. Three marches converge in front of the Municipal Palace. The mayor does not know what it’s all about and he takes flight, on the floor of his office a calendar is strewn indicating the date: April 10th, 1992. Outside the indigenous peasants of Ocosingo, Oxchuc, Huixtlán, Chilón, Yajalón, Sabanilla, Salto de Agua, Palenque, Altamirano, Margaritas, San Cristóbal, San Andrés, and Cancuc, dance in front of a gigantic image of Zapata painted by one of them, recite poems, sing, and say their word. Only they listen. The ranchers, merchants, and judicial agents are enclosed in their homes and stores, the federal garrison appears deserted. The peasants shout that Zapata lives that the struggle continues. One of them reads a letter directed at Carlos Salinas de Gortari where they accuse him of having done away with the Zapatista achievements in agrarian matters, selling the country with the Free Trade Agreement and bringing Mexico back to the times of Porfirismo, they declare bluntly that they do not recognize the Salinista reforms to Article 27 of the Constitution. At two in the afternoon, the protest dissolves, in apparent order, the causes endure, and with the same appearance everything returns to calm.
Abasolo, the ejido of the municipality of Ocosingo. For years the peasants took lands that belong to them by legal right and real right. Three leaders from their community have been taken prisoner and tortured by the government. The indigenous decide to stop being silent and take the San Cristóbal Ocosingo highway. Negotiation committees come and go. The leaders are freed. The conflict is apparently resolved, the causes endure, and with the same appearance everything returns to calm.
Antonio dreams of the land which he works belonging to him, dreams that his sweat is paid with justice and truth, dreams that there is schooling to cure ignorance and medicine to scare off death, dreams that his house is lit and his table filled, dreams that his land is free and that it is because of his people governing and governing themselves, dreams that he is at peace with himself and with the world. He dreams that he must struggle to have that dream, dreams that there must be death for there to be life. Antonio dreams and wakes up… Now he knows what to do and sees his wife squatting stoke the hearth, hears his son cry, looks at the sun greeting the east, and sharpens his machete while smiling.
A wind rises and shifts everything about, he gets up and walks to meet up with others. Something has told him that his wish is the wish of many and he goes to look for them.
The viceroy dreams of his land being shaken by a terrible wind that lifts everything up, dreams of what he stole being taken from him, dreams that his house is destroyed and that the kingdom which he governed collapses. He dreams and does not sleep. The viceroy goes where the feudal lords are and they tell him that they dream the same. The viceroy does not rest, he goes off with his doctors and among all they decide that it is Indian witchcraft and among all they decide that only with blood can one be freed from that spell, and the viceroy orders to kill and imprison and builds more prisons and barracks and the dream continues to keep him awake.
In this country everyone dreams. It is now time to wake up…
…that which is here
Will be born of the collision of these two winds, its time has already come, the oven of history is already stoked. The wind from above rules now, the wind from below is coming, the storm is coming…so it will be…
…that which is here
When the storm dies down, when the rain and fire again leave the earth in peace, the world will no longer be the world, but something better.
Lacandon Jungle, August 1992
English translation copyright © 2014 by Henry Gales. All rights reserved.