The Struggle for Peace and for Humanity, is Intercontinental. The Story of the Others

The following is a full translation of “The Struggle for Peace and for Humanity, is Intercontinental. The Story of the Others.”

Originally published on January 20th, 1998.

Zapatista Army of National Liberation

January 1998.

Planet Earth.

Brothers and sisters:

With a little bit of delay, but even here the news arrived to us about your mobilizations in Mexico and the world. According to an account that was passed to us, from December 22nd, 1997 to January 13th, 1998, there were mobilizations in 130 cities in 27 countries on the 5 continents. In particular, on January 12th of this year, many acts of different sizes were realized in our country and in different parts of the planet, with a single cry: an end to the war of extermination, punishment of those responsible for the Acteal killing, and fulfillment of the San Andrés Accords.

If this response letter arrives to you with something of a delay, the same does not occur with our attitude. That same January 12th, in spite of the pain that we received with the news of the murder of our compañera Guadalupe López Méndez, the strong echo of your mobilizations in the capital of Mexico, in different cities in the country, and on the 5 continents, reached us, and it was confirmed to us that we do good in enduring, in resisting, and in avoiding the provocations that today, like yesterday, have the olive-green uniform.

They tell me that in the mobilizations there was a bit of everything, and I am not only referring to the fact that there were men, women, children, and elderly people, but to the fact that there were dances, songs, poetry, marches, graffitis, cries, and much indignation. I also say that there was a bit of everything because there were indigenous people, women, young people, housewives, students, feminists, homosexuals, union-members, peasants, workers, solidarity committees, intellectuals, artists, undocumented people, etcetera which includes everything. People that is, named and unnamed people. People of the kind which say Enough is Enough! and write the history that matters and counts. People who talk to us, people who we listen to, people who we now write to. People like you, like us.

Your cries traveled far, far and strong they were heard, even if they have not reached Power. There above they only listen to the noise of money and to their advisors who, veiled or openly, cry for our extermination.

But we did hear. That is why we are going back to bullfighting and here we are, holding our cape against artillery helicopters, bomber planes, tanks, and hunting dogs (trained, they say, to detect the smell of vanilla tobacco; that is why I am starting now with maple).

Our interlocutor is not the Mexican government. It, as we said, no longer listens. Our interlocutors are you, the thousands and thousands of people who in Mexico and in the world want and seek the end of a system of oppression that is nothing more than a war against humanity.

The thousands and thousands who, opposing themselves to the war in Chiapas, oppose death in Mexico and in the rest of the world; who demand the fulfillment of the San Andrés Agreements because they demand a new inclusive politics directed at the poorest; those who demand demilitarization and demand justice in place of bullets and soldiers.

With respect to you, our hope grows and makes us better because we have known to listen. And, Viejo Antonio used to say, he who knows to listen is made great and gets his walk to continue through time, to travel far, to multiply into many and other steps.

In the climate of the mountains, mounted as we are, one can see very far. Over there, for example, we are able to see that a flag waves as if it were tomorrow. The flag is seen and many are those who sustain it. “It’s democracy,” someone says to me. “It’s freedom,” ventures another. “It’s Justice,” affirms a third. Maybe, I think. Maybe, all three.

Or maybe it is dignity, that stubborn form of living and walking that in you and us turns into an addiction.

Over here things are ever more difficult. It is evident that the new “dialogue coordinator,” Mr. Emilio Rabasa, again fulfills the decoy work that yesterday Esteban Moctezuma B. (aka “Guajardo”) performed in 1995. While he talks of “solution to the conflict” (did you notice that now in the government no one talks of “peaceful solution to the conflict”?), the soldiers fine-tune the details of the operations, complete reports, detail maps and distribution of forces.

On the part of the government we only expect another attack. “The definitive solution,” say the scribes of Power.

On your part we expect the usual: an opportunity for life and struggle to be better.

Now, in the middle of these hours of uncertainty and anguish, we are more than sure that we will succeed, that the Indian peoples will be recognized and included respecting their difference, that democracy, freedom, and justice will be for all. Maybe then we shall not have the best of possible worlds, but we will indeed have the opportunity to construct it.

Over here stories and images arrive of the Zócalo in Mexico City on January 12th, 1998. Some and others speak to us of the rage and indignation of all those demanding justice, of the incredulity in the face of the Department of Justice’s versions of the Acteal massacre, of Mr. Zedillo’s discredit. It was, undoubtedly, one of the largest and most moving marches in the history of our country. Your motive was great: peace with justice and dignity. And great also were the anger and inconformity of all, great the desire to not remain passive in the face of unjust death.

With respect to the mobilizations in 27 other countries of the world, the Mexican government and that criminal organization called the PRI, are quite annoyed with the “internationalization” of the conflict that those protests entail. It appears to be that, what they derogatorily call “a netwar,” has caused headaches in embassies and consulates. You take, protests in plazas and streets, and thousands of letters demanding justice and peace, they keep the Mexican government awake and, unexplainably, cause it sudden bouts of “nationalism” and rejection of all “foreign interference” which is not, of course, that of great financial capital. The mobilizations that, demanding peace, democracy, freedom, and justice, occur on the 5 continents are for the government of Mexico nothing more than “isolated and small intervention attempts in the internal affairs of the country.” Because for the government of Mexico, the extermination of indigenous people that it carries out is an “internal affair.” Will they think the same after the condemnation of the European Parliament?

But we are in agreement with you in that the struggle for peace and for humanity, is intercontinental. Because, as that great and misunderstood internationalist that was Viejo Antonio used to say: Life without others that are different is vain and is condemned to immobility. What does this have to do with the intercontinental struggle for humanity and against neoliberalism? Well, to explain it to you right I have to tell you…

During the pre-dawn morning again, beneath the threatening plane the sea tries to read a book of poetry with the scant help of a candle stub. I scrawl a letter for someone who I do not know in person, who perhaps speaks another language, has another culture, probably is from another country, of another color and, it is certain, has another history. The plane goes by and I stop, a short while to listen and a long while to give myself time to resolve the problem of writing a letter to other different ones. In that moment, through the highland fog and unwarned by the sea, Viejo Antonio arrives at my side and, giving me some pats on the back, lights his cigarette and…


“The oldest of the old who inhabited these lands told that the greatest gods, those who birthed the world, did not all think alike. In other words they did not have the same thought, but rather each one had their own thought and among them they respected each other and listened. The oldest of the old say that it was like that per se, because if it had not been like that, the world never would have been born because in sheer fighting the first gods would have passed the time, because their thought that they felt was different. The oldest of the old say that that is why the world came out with many colors and forms, as many as there were thoughts in the greatest gods, the very first ones. Seven were the greatest gods, and seven the thoughts that each one had, and seven times seven are the forms and colors with which they dressed the world. Viejo Antonio tells me that he asked the oldest of the old what the first gods did to come to agreement and talk to each other if it is that their thoughts that they felt were so different. The oldest old ones responded to him, Viejo Antonio tells me, that there was an assembly of the seven gods together with each one’s seven different thoughts, and that in that assembly they worked out the agreement.

Viejo Antonio says that the oldest old ones said that that assembly of the first gods, those who birthed the world, was a long time before yesteryear, that it was right in the time in which there was still no time. And they said that in that assembly each one of the first gods said their word and they all said: “My thought that I feel is different from that of the others.” And so the gods stayed quiet because they realized that, when each one said “the others,” they were talking about different “others.” After a while in which they were silent, the first gods realized that they already had a first agreement and it was that there were “others” and that those “others” were different from the one that was. Therefore the first agreement that the very first gods had was to recognize difference and accept the existence of the other. And what solution was left for them if they were all gods per se, all first, and they had to accept each other because there was not one who was more or less than the others, but rather they were different and had to walk like that.
After that first agreement the discussion continued, because one thing is to recognize that there are other different ones and another very different thing is to respect them. Therefore they passed a good while talking and discussing how each one was different from the others, and it did not matter to them that they delayed in this discussion because there was still no time per se. Then everyone was quiet and each one talked of their difference and each other one of the gods who listened realized that, listening and knowing the differences of the other, more and better one knows oneself in what one had of difference. So they all became very happy and got to dancing and took a long while but it did not matter to them because in that time there was still no time. After the dance that they had the gods worked out the agreement that it is good for there to be others who are different and that we must listen to them to know ourselves. And then after this agreement they went to sleep because they were very tired from having danced so much. They were not tired from talking because, per se, they were very good at talking these first gods, those who birthed the world, and who were just now learning to listen.”

I was not aware at what time Viejo Antonio left. The sea now sleeps and of the candle stub only a small deformed wax stain remains. Above the sky begins to dilute its black in the light of tomorrow…
That was the story that Viejo Antonio told me when I was trying to write you this letter. And I believe that that is the most important thing that we have to tell you, we listen to you, we recognize you, we respect you.

It may appear little from a distance, but you will now see that recognizing the other, respecting it and listening to it, produces things as tremendously transcendental as a dance.

Thus, to recognize ourselves, respect ourselves, and listen to ourselves it is that, in response to the display of January 12th, 1998 where we were invited to visit Europe to talk to and listen to the world, we say that, as soon as we stop bullfighting enemies (that is no more than a somewhat complicated form of dance), we will study the possibility of one or several of the compañeros and compañeras traveling to Europe, and to wherever it may be, to recognize, to respect, and to listen.

With regards to the fact that a Civil Society of the World Observation Committee will travel to the mountains of the Mexican southeast in the upcoming days, to observe human rights violations, we tell you that the indigenous communities in rebellion salute the initiative of the Observation Committee and commit to respect its work. We also take advantage of the occasion to salute with respect the work of the independent Mexican organizations, Human Rights defenders, who have not spared neither force nor dedication in attending to the indigenous communities, in spite of the governmental contempt, the degree of harassment, which have been received in not a few cases.

And now that we are talking about actions in Mexico, the Mexico City Zócalo not only dazzled us, it also brought us a certainty and a hope: the certainty that in this country people are infinitely better than those who claim to govern them, and the hope that all those people may conquer what until now has been swindled from them, it is to say, the right to live with democracy, freedom, and justice. The last one will be to live in peace.

Well, that is all for now. Know always that it is an honor to see you grow and make yourselves many. And this is something that also grows us and enlarges us.

Vale. Cheers and, after the promised flower, comes the promised dance (I hope).

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

For the Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena-Comandancia General 
del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, January 1998.

P.S. WHICH INVITES TO KEEP DANCING.- It appears that your protests from the 12th were not enough. Power has walled-off its ears with thick bales of money and arrogance, and continues forward in its war. We must walk more, shout more, move more. Moreover, they say that next January 24th you will again say your ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We wish you good health for this and for what follows.

P.S. WHICH CONFIRMS THE DISREGARD FOR WHAT HAPPENS.- Look how the government shows evidence of what happens: for the secretary of Government Chiapas is, again, a problem of 4 municipalities; and for the Department of Justice the Acteal killing is, now, the product of the perverse vengeance of a diabolic and resentful old man who had the design, the time, and the means to arm 60 paramilitaries with AK-47s and R-15s, he trained them in techniques of command and planned, with tactic precision an operation which, it is certain, he learned from his readings about the war of extermination in Guatemala? Vietnam? Kurdistan?

P.S. WHICH SUPPOSES.- It could be that the Department of Justice is not mocking everyone and that, when it says that one of the motives of the Acteal killing would be personal vengeance, it is referring to Mr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León and to his animosity against the rebel indigenous communities in Chiapas. I say, it is a supposition.

English translation copyright © 2014 by Henry Gales. All rights reserved.

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