EZLN 20th Anniversary – Communique

November 2003

Saturday 15th Nov 2003
autor(a): Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Resumen / Summary
More bits of mirror and crystal.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN and Rebeldía
Translated by irlandesa

from Chiapas Indymedia

Message sent by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to the opening of the ‘EZLN 20 & 10, Fire and Word’ campaign and to the presentation of the book of the same name, written by Gloria Muñoz Ramírez. Present at the table were: Hermann Bellinghausen, Rosario Ibarra, Juan Bañuelos, Javier Elorriaga, Adriana López Monjardín, Sergio Rodriguez Lascano and the author.

Zapatista Army of National Liberation


November 10, 2003.

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Sup Marcos speaking to you. Welcome, everyone.

We are here in order to begin the celebration of a history and in order to present a book which recounts a good part of that history. Although you might think the opposite, the history which is to be celebrated and recounted is not about the 20 and 10 years of the EZLN. I mean, it’s not only about that. Many people will feel that they have been participants in those 20 and those 10. And I’m not referring just to the thousands of indigenous rebel peoples, but also to the thousands of men, women, children and old ones of Mexico and of the world. The history which we are beginning to celebrate today is also the history of all of those people.

The words which I am now writing and speaking are directed to all those persons who, without having joined the ranks of the EZLN, have shared, lived and struggled with us for an idea: the building of a world where all worlds fit. This could also be expressed by saying that we want a birthday where all the birthday boys and girls fit.

And so we are beginning the fiesta just like birthday parties have been begun in the mountains of the Mexican southeast for the last 20 years, that is, by recounting histories.

According to our calendar, there were, prior to the start of the war, 7 stages in the history of the EZLN.

The first of them was when we selected those persons who would form part of the EZLN. This was around 1982. Practices were organized for one or two months in the selva, during which the performance of those in attendance was evaluated in order to see who could ‘make the cut.’ The second stage is the one which we call the ‘establishment,’ the actual founding of the EZLN.

Today is November 10, 2003.

I ask you to imagine, if you will, that on a day like today, but 20 years ago, in 1983, a group of people were preparing, in some safe house, the tools they would need to be taking to the mountains of the Mexican southeast. Perhaps, twenty years ago, the day went by in checking on the impedimenta, gathering reports on roads, alternative routes, weather; detailing itineraries, orders, devices. Twenty years ago, perhaps at this very hour, they would have been getting into a vehicle and beginning the trip to Chiapas. If we could have been there, perhaps we might have asked those persons what it was they were going to do. And they certainly would have answered: ‘establish the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.’ They had been waiting to say those words for 15 years.

Let us assume, then, that they started their trip on November 10, 1983. A few days later, they reached the end of a dirt road, got their things out, said goodbye to the driver with a ‘hasta luego’ and, after adjusting their knapsacks, began the ascent of one of the sierras, sloping to the west, which cross the Selva Lacandona. After walking for many hours, with some 25 kilos of weight on their backs, they set up their first camp, right in the middle of the sierra. Yes, it might have been cold that day, and even rainy.

On that day, twenty years ago, night had come early under the large trees and, with the aid of lanterns, these men and women were putting up a plastic roof, using a cord as crossbar, hanging up their hammocks, looking for dry firewood and, setting fire to a plastic bag, lighting the bonfire. The commander was writing in his campaign diary, by the light of the bonfire, something like: ‘November 17, 1983. So many meters above sea level. Rainy. We set up camp. All quiet.’ On the upper left hand corner of the page on which he was writing, the name appears which they had given to this first station in a trip which they all know was going to be very long. There hadn’t been any special ceremony, but on that day and at that hour, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation had been formed.

Someone probably proposed a name for that camp, we don’t know. What we do know is that the group was made up of 6 persons. The first 6 insurgents, five men and one women. Of those 6, three were mestizos and three indigenous. The proportion of 50% mestizos and 50% indigenous has not been repeated in the 20 years of the EZLN, nor the proportion of women (less than 20% in those first days). Currently, twenty years after that November 17, the percentage must be around 98.9% indigenous and 1% mestizos. The proportion of women is close to 45%.

What was that first EZLN camp called? Those first 6 insurgents don’t agree on the subject. As I later learned, the names of the camps were picked without any logic, naturally and without affectations, avoiding apocalyptic or prophetic names. None of them was called, for example, ‘First of January of 1994.’

According to those first 6, one day they sent an insurgent to explore a site in order to see if it was suitable for encampment. The insurgent returned, saying that the place ‘was a dream.’ The compañeros marched in that direction, and, when they arrived, they found a swamp. They then told the compañero: ‘This isn’t a dream, it’s a nightmare.’ Ergo, the camp was then called ‘The Nightmare.’ It must have been in the first months of 1984. The name of that insurgent was Pedro. Later he would be a Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Second Captain, First Captain and Subcomandante. It was while holding that rank, and as head of the zapatista General Staff, ten years later, that he fell in combat on the first of January of 1994, during the capture of Las Margaritas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The third stage, still prior to the uprising, was when we were given over to the tasks of survival, that is, hunting, fishing, gathering fruits and forest plants. At this time, we applied ourselves to knowledge of the terrain, to orientation, hiking and topography. And during that period we were studying military strategies and tactics in the manuals of the North American and Mexican federal armies, as well as the use and care of various firearms, in addition to the so-called ‘martial arts.’ We were also studying Mexican history, and we were, of course, leading a very intense cultural life.

I arrived in the Selva Lacandona during this third stage, in 1984, around August-September of that year, some 9 months after the first group had gotten there. I arrived with two other compañeros: a Chol indigenous compañera and a Tzotzil indigenous compañero. If I remember correctly, the EZLN had 7 support base members when I arrived, and two others who ‘went up and down’ to the city with mail and for supplies. They crossed into the villages by night, disguised as engineers.

The camps at that stage were relatively simple: they had a quartermaster’s area, or kitchen, dormitories, an exercise area, sentry post, the 25 and 50 area and the fields of fire for defense. Perhaps some of you who are listening to me might be asking yourselves what the hell the ’25 and 50 area’ is. Well, it so happened that, in order to meet those needs which are referred to as ‘primary,’ one had to move away a certain distance from the camp. In order to go and urinate, one had to withdraw 25 meters, in order to defecate, 50 meters, in addition to making a hole with the machete and then covering up the ‘product.’ These regulations were, of course, when we were, as they say, a handful of men and women, not more than 10. Later on, we would build latrines in more distant areas, but the terms ’25’ and ’10’ remained.

There was a camp that was called ‘The Stove,’ because that was where we built the first one. Prior to that, the fire had been made level with the ground, and the pots (two: one for beans and the other for the animal which we had hunted or fished) hung from a crossbar tied together with liana. But there were more of us then, and we entered the ‘era of the stove.’ There were 12 fighters in the EZLN at that time.

Some time later, in a camp called ‘Recruits’ (because that’s where our new combatants were trained), we entered the ‘era of the wheel.’ We carved a wooden wheel with a machete, and we made a wheelbarrow to carry rocks for the trenches. It must have been the times, because the wheel was quite square, and we ended up carrying the rocks in the mud.

Another camp was called ‘Baby Doc,’ in honor of the one who terrorized, with the blessings of the United States, Haitian lands. It so happened that we were on the move, with a column of recruits, in order to set up camp near a village. We ran into a pair of jabali, a ton of wild pigs, along the road. The guerrilla column deployed with discipline and skill. The one who was in the front yelled ‘pigs,’ and, fuelled and driven by panic, he climbed a tree with a skill we’ve never seen since. Others ran bravely’but to the opposite side from where the enemy, the wild boar, were. Some took aim, and they realized there were two wild boars. During the enemy retreat – when the pigs left – a piglet, barely the size of a domestic cat, was left abandoned. We adopted him, and we named him ‘Baby Doc,’ because Papa Doc had died at that time, bequeathing the slaughter to his offspring. We encamped there, in order to dress the meat and eat. The piglet became very attached to us, I think because of the smell.

Another camp during those years was called ‘De la Juventud,’ because that was where the first group of insurgent youth, called ”Rebel Youth of the South,’ was formed. The young insurgents met once a week in order to dance, read, and to participate in sports and contests.

The first time we celebrated the anniversary of the EZLN was on November 17, 1984, 19 years ago. There were 9 of us. I believe it was a camp called ‘Margaret Thatcher,’ because we had hung a hog there, which, I swear, was the clone of the ‘Iron Lady.’

One year later, in 1985, we celebrated in a camp called ‘Watapil,’ because that was the name of a plant whose leaves we used to make a shed for storing food.

I was Second Captain, we were in the ‘Sierra del Almendro,’ and the mother column had stayed in another mountain range. I had 3 insurgents under my command. If I have my math right, there were 4 of us in that camp. We celebrated with tostadas, coffee, pinole with sugar and a cójola we’d killed that morning. There were songs and poems. One of us would sing or recite, and the other three applauded with a level of boredom worthy of a better cause. When it was my turn, I told them – in a solemn speech, without any arguments other than the mosquitoes and solitude which surrounded us – that one day there would be thousands of us, and that our word would go round the world. The other three agreed that the tostada was moldy, that it had most certainly sickened me and that was why I was delirious. I remember that it rained that night.

In what we call the fourth stage, the first contacts were made with the villages in the area. First we would talk with one person, and then he would talk with his family. From the family, it went to the village. From the village, to the region. And so, little by little, our presence turned into an open secret and into a massive conspiracy. During this stage, which ran parallel in time with the third, the EZLN was no longer what we had thought when we had arrived. By then we had already been defeated by the indigenous communities, and, as a consequence of that defeat, the EZLN began to grow exponentially and to become ‘very otherly.’ The wheel continued, dented, until, at last, it was round and able to do what a wheel is supposed to do, to roll.

The fifth stage was that of the EZLN’s explosive growth. Owing to the political and social conditions, we grew beyond the Selva Lacandona, and we reached Los Altos and the North of Chiapas. The sixth was the voting on war and the preparations, including the ‘Battle of Corralchén,’ in May of 1993, when we engaged in the first combat with the federal army.

Two years ago, during the March of Indigenous Dignity, in one of the places we passed through, I saw a kind of fat bottle, like a pot with a narrow neck. It was made of clay, and it was covered with little pieces of mirror. As it reflected the light, each little mirror of the pot-bottle returned a unique image. Everything around it had its singular reflection and, at the same time, the whole resembled a rainbow of images. It was as if many small histories had joined together in order, without losing its distinctive self, to form a larger history. I thought the history of the EZLN might be recounted, looked at and analyzed like that bottle-pot.

Today, November 10, 2003, twenty years after that trip begun by the founders of our organization, a campaign is getting under way, an initiative of Rebeldía magazine, to celebrate the twentieth birthday of the EZLN and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the war against forgetting. And this book called ‘EZLN: 20 & 10, Fire and Word’, by Gloria Muñoz Ramírez, is being presented. If this book could be summed up in an image, nothing would seem better to me than the pot-bottle covered in little pieces of mirror.

In one part of the book, Gloria has gathered statements from some support base compañeros, responsables, committees and insurgents, who talked about their little piece of mirror during the 5 stages prior to the uprising, stages 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It is the first time that compañeros, who have been engaged in the struggle for more than 19 years, have opened their hearts and their memories on those years of silence. And so Gloria has managed to turn those little pieces of mirror into little pieces of crystal, which allow one to have a bit of a look at the first 10 years of the EZLN.

In this way, another history can be seen, one that is very different from the one constructed by the governments of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo. Theirs was built with lies, with police reports altered to their convenience, and with the complicity of intellectuals who, under the cover of supposedly ‘serious’ research, concealed the check and the strokes they received from the Powers in order to pay for their ‘scientific objectivity.’

With the little pieces of mirror and crystal which Gloria has found, the reader will realize that he is looking at just a few parts of an immense jigsaw puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle whose key piece is in the first day of the year of 1994, when Mexico entered the First World via the North American Free Trade Agreement. Prior to that first of January, just before it, was the seventh stage of the EZLN.

I remember that on the night of December 30, 1993, I found myself on the Ocosingo-San Cristóbal de las Casas highway. On that day, I had been at the positions we were maintaining around Ocosingo. I had checked by radio on the situation of our troops who were concentrating along various points next to the highway, throughout the cañadas of Patiwitz, from Monte Líbano and Las Tazas. These troops belonged to the Third Infantry Regiment. There were 1500 combatants. The third regiment’s mission was to take Ocosingo. But prior to that they were, ‘in passing,’ going to take over the fincas in the area and get their hands on the armaments that belonged to the finqueros’ white guards. They reported to me that a federal army helicopter was circling the town of San Miguel, undoubtedly alerted by the enormous number of vehicles that were concentrating in that town. Starting at the dawn of the 29th, none of the vehicles entering the cañada left: all of them were ‘borrowed’ in order to mobilize the troops of the Third Regiment. The Third Regiment was made up, in its entirety, of Tzeltal indigenous.

In passing, I had checked the positions of Battalion #8 (which formed part of the Fifth Regiment), that was in charge of taking the municipal seat of Altamirano in a first movement. Afterwards, on the march, it would take Chanal, Oxchuc and Huixtán and then participate in the attack on the Rancho Nuevo barracks, outside San Cristóbal. The Eighth was a reinforced battalion. It would have some 600 combatants for the taking of Altamirano, some of whom were to remain in the seized plaza. It would incorporate more compañeros in its advance, reaching Rancho Nuevo with some 500 troops. The Eighth Battalion was composed in the great majority by Tzeltals.

While still on the highway, I made a stop at one of the highest areas, making radio contact with Battalion 24 (also part of the Fifth Regiment), whose mission was the seizure of the municipal seat of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and the joint attack (in conjunction with Battalion 8) of the Rancho Nuevo military barracks. The Twenty-fourth was also a reinforced battalion. Its troops numbered almost 1000 combatants, all from the region of Los Altos and all Tzotzil indigenous.

Upon reaching San Cristóbal, I skirted the city and headed for the position where the headquarters of the General Command of the EZLN was to be. From there, I communicated by radio with the head of the First Regiment, Subcomandante Insurgente Pedro, Chief of the zapatista General Staff and second in command of the EZLN. His mission was to take the municipal seat of Las Margaritas and to advance and to attack the military barracks in Comitán. 1200 combatants strong, the First Regiment was mostly made up of Tojolabales.

In addition, there was a battalion in the so-called ‘Second Strategic reserve,’ made up of Chol indigenous, in the depths of our launch bases, and 3 battalions were at the ready in the Tzeltal, Tojolabal and Chol regions, in the ‘First Strategic Reserve.’

Yes, the EZLN came to public light with more than 4500 combatants in the first lines of fire, the Twenty-first Zapatista Infantry Division, and some 2000 combatants remained in reserve.

On the dawn of December 31, 1993, I confirmed the attack, the date and the hour. In sum: the EZLN would simultaneously attack 4 municipal seats and another 4 ‘in passing.’ It would overpower the police and military troops in those plazas, and afterwards it would march to attack two large federal army barracks. The date: December 31, 1993. The time: midnight.

The morning of the 31st was spent vacating the urban positions which were being maintained in some places. Around 2 PM the different regiments confirmed to the Comandancia General by radio that they were ready. The countdown was begun at 5 PM: That hour was dubbed ‘Minus 7.’ From that point on, all communication was cut with the regiment. The next radio contact was planned for ‘Plus 7,’ 7 AM on January 1, 1994’with those who were still alive.

What happened afterwards, if you don’t know, can be found in this book. And if you already know it, you can remember it. In it, the pot-bottle turns into a huge tapestry, fortunately sketched in its broad lines by Gloria, full of those little pieces of mirror and crystal which are composed of the different moments of the EZLN over the last 10 years, the period from January 1, 1994 to August 1, 2003. I’m sure many of you will find the mirror and crystal that belongs to you. I wrote the following in the Introduction, thinking abut just that:

‘a woman, a journalist by profession, ended up leaping, not without difficulties, the complicated and thick wall of zapatista skepticism, and she stayed and lived in the indigenous rebel communities. From that time on, she shared with the compañeros the dream and the sleepless nights, the joys and the sorrows, the food and its absence, the persecutions and the respites, the deaths and the lives. Little by little, the compañeros and compañeras came to accept her and to make her part of their daily lives. I am not going to recount her history. Among other things, because she has preferred to recount the history of a movement, the zapatista one, and not hers.

This person’s name is Gloria Muñoz Ramírez. During the period from 1994 to 1996, she worked for the Mexican newspaper ‘Punto,’ for the German news agency DPA, for the North American newspaper ‘La Opinión’ and for the Mexican daily, ‘La Jornada.’ In 1995, on the morning of February 9 and along with Hermann Bellinghausen, she carried out what might have been the last interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. In 1997, she left her work, her family, her friends (in addition to things that only she knows), and she came to live in the zapatista communities. She did not publish anything during those 7 years, but she continued to write, and she did not abandon her journalistic keenness. She wasn’t a journalist anymore, of course, or she wasn’t just a journalist any longer. Gloria was learning a new way of looking, the one that is far from the glare produced by the spotlights, from the pandemonium of the bandstands, from the pushing and shoving behind the news, from the fight for the exclusive. The way of looking which is learned in the mountains of the Mexican southeast. With patience worthy of an embroiderer, she was compiling fragments of the inside and outside reality of zapatismo during those, now 10, years of the EZLN’s public life.

We didn’t know it. It wasn’t until the announcement of the birth of the Caracoles and the creation of the Good Government Juntas, when we received a letter from her, presenting that embroidery of words, dates and memories, and putting it at the disposal of the EZLN.

We read the book, well, it wasn’t a book then, but rather a vast and multicolored tapestry, whose vision helped considerably in portraying the complicated silhouette of zapatismo from 1994 to 2003, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation’s 10 years of public life. And so we liked it. We do not know of any other material that has been published with such attention to detail and which is so complete.

We responded to Gloria just like we respond, that is, with a ‘Hmm, and?’. Gloria wrote again, and she talked about the double anniversary (20 years of the EZLN and 10 years since the beginning of the war against the forgetting), about the stage that was starting with the creation of the Caracoles and the Good Government Juntas, something about a plan for celebrations by ‘Rebeldía’ magazine, and I don’t remember how many other things. Among so much chatter, one thing was clear: Gloria was proposing to publish the book so that young people of today could learn more about zapatismo.

‘Young people of today?’ I wondered, and I asked Major Moisés: ‘Aren’t we the young people of today?’ ‘We are,’ Major Moises answered me, without stopping saddling up his horse, while I kept on oiling my wheelchair and cursing the fact that Viagra hadn’t been included in the field kit’

Where was I? Oh, yes, the book that wasn’t a book yet. Gloria wasn’t waiting for us to say yes or who knows, or, in the purest zapatista style, not to respond. On the contrary, Gloria attached to the tapestry, or the rough draft of the book that wasn’t a book, a request to complete the material with interviews.

I went to the committee, and I stretched out the tapestry (the rough draft of the book) on the muddy September ground.

They saw. I mean the compañeros saw themselves. Aside from being a tapestry, it was a mirror. They didn’t say anything, but I understood that there would be more people, many more people, who might also see and see themselves.

We responded to Gloria ‘carry on.’

That was in August or September of this year (2003), I don’t remember, but it was after the fiesta of the Caracoles. I do remember that it was raining a lot, that I was going up a hill, repeating Sisyphus’ curse with each step, and that Monarca was determined that we were going to finish a remix of ‘La del Moño Colorado’ on Radio Insurgente, ‘The Voice of Those Without Voice.’ When I turned around to tell Monarca that he was going to have to go over my head in order to do that, I slipped for the umpteenth time, but then I went and fell on a pile of sharp rocks, and I cut my leg. While I was recounting my injuries, Monarca, just like that, went over my head. That afternoon we broadcast a version of ‘La del Moño Colorado’ on Radio Insurgente, ‘The Voice of Those Without Voice’ which, judging by the calls we received to the radio, was a resounding success. I sighed, what else could it have been?

The book which the reader now has in his or her hands is that tapestry-mirror, but disguised as a book. You cannot put it up on the wall or hang it in your boudoir, but you can approach it and seek us and seek yourself. I am certain that you will find us and you will find yourself.

The ‘EZLN: 20 & 10, Fire and Word’ book, written by Gloria Muñoz Ramírez, has been edited through two efforts, that of ‘Rebeldía’ magazine and that of the Mexican newspaper, ‘La Jornada,’ which is run by Carmen Lira. Hmm. Another woman. Editorial design is by Efraín Herrera, and the illustrations are by Antonio Ramírez and Domi. Hmm?more women. The photographs are by Adrian Meland, Ángeles Torrejón, Antonio Turok, Araceli Herrera, Arturo Fuentes, Caros Cisneros, Carlos Ramos Mamahua, Eduardo Verdugo, Eniac Martínez, Francisco Olvera, Frida Hartz, Georges Bartoli, Heriberto Rodríguez, Jesús Ramírez, José Carlo González, José Nuñez, Marco Antonio Cruz, Patricia Aridjis, Pedro Valtierra, Simona Granati, Víctor Mendiola and Yuriria Pantoja. Yuriria Pantoja was in charge of photographic editing, and Priscila Pacheco carried out the editorial care. Hmm?women once again. If the reader notices that women are in the majority, do what I do: scratch your head and say ‘no way.’

It is my understanding (I am writing this at a distance), that the book is in three parts. In one of them, there are interviews with support base compañeros, committees and insurgent soldiers. In the interviews, the compañeros and compañeras talk about the 10 years prior to the uprising. I should tell you that it is not a global image, but snippets of a memory that must still wait to be joined together and presented.

These pieces help a great deal, nonetheless, in understanding what comes next, in the second part. This contains a kind of compass lens of zapatismo’s public activities, from the beginning of the war on the dawn of the first of January of 1994, to the birth of the Caracoles and the creation of the Good Government Juntas. It is, from my point of view, the most complete coverage of what has been the EZLN’s public activity. The reader can find many things in this tour, but one leaps into sight: the principled nature of a movement. In the third part, an interview with me appears. They sent it to me in writing, and I had to respond in front of a little tape player. I’ve always thought that the ‘rewind’ on tape players was ‘record,’ and so I tried to make an assessment of the 10 years, in addition to reflecting on other things. As I was responding, alone, in front of the tape recorder, it was raining outside, and one of the Good Government Juntas was giving the ‘shout of independence.’ It was the dawn of September 16, 2003.

I believe that the three parts tie together quite well. Not just because it was the same pen which created them. Also because they have a way of looking which helps to look, to look at us. I am certain that, like Gloria, many people, by looking at us, will look at themselves. And I am also certain that she, and many others along with her, will find themselves the better.

And that is what this is all about, about being better.

That was in the introduction, because in the prologue to the book I wrote the following:

Ten years ago, on the dawn of the first of January of 1994, we rose up in arms for democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans. In a simultaneous action, we took 7 municipal seats in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, and we declared war on the federal government, on its army and police. Since then the world has known us as the ‘Zapatista Army of National Liberation.’

But we had already been calling ourselves that before. The EZLN was founded on November 17, 1983, 20 years ago, and we began, as the EZLN, walking the mountains of the Mexican southeast, carrying a small flag with a black background and a five-pointed red star with the letters ‘EZLN,’ also in red, under the star. I still carry that flag. It has been often mended and much abused, but it still waves gracefully in the Comandancia General of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Our souls have also been patched up, carrying wounds which we assume have healed, but which open up when we least expect it.

For more than 10 years we prepared for those first minutes of 1994. January of 2004 can be seen there. Soon it will have been 10 years of war. 10 years of preparation and 10 years of war. 20 years.

But I am not going to speak about the first 10 years, nor about the ones that followed, nor about the 20 added together. I am not even going to speak about years, about dates, about calendars. I am going to talk about a man, an insurgent soldier, a zapatista. I am not going to talk much. I cannot. Not yet. His name was Pedro, and he died fighting. He held the rank of Subcomandante, and he was, at the time that he fell, the chief of the EZLN General Staff and my second in command. I am not going to say that he has not died. He is indeed dead, and I did not want him to be dead. But Pedro, like all of our dead, walks here, and every once in a while he appears and he talks and jokes and gets serious and asks for more coffee and lights his umpteenth cigarette. He’s here now. It is October 26, and it’s his birthday. I say to him: ‘Greetings, birthday boy.’ He lifts his little cup of coffee and says ‘greetings, Sub.’ I don’t know why I called myself ‘Marcos’ if no one calls me that, everyone calls me ‘Sub’ or its equivalent. Pedro calls me ‘Sub.’ We chat with Pedro. I tell him things, and he tells me things. We remember. We laugh. We get serious. Sometimes I tell him off. I scold him for being undisciplined, because I didn’t order him to die and he died. He didn’t obey. And so I tell him off. He just opens his eyes wide and tells me ‘no way.’ Yes, no way. Then I show him a map. He just likes to look at maps. I point out to him how we’ve grown. He smiles.

Josué comes over, says hello tells him, ‘congratulations, compañero Subcomandante Insurgente Pedro.’ Pedro laughs and says, ‘Jesus, man, by the time you finished saying all that, I’ve already had another birthday.’ Pedro looks at him, and Josué looks at me. I silently agree.

Suddenly we’re no longer celebrating the birthday boy. The three of us are going up a hill. During a break, Josué says: ‘It’s coming up on 10 years since the start of the war.’ Pedro doesn’t say anything, he just lights a cigarette. Josué adds: ‘And 20 years since the EZLN was born. There has to be a big dance.’

’20 and 10′ I repeat slowly, and I add: ‘and those yet to come?’

By this time, we had reached the top of the hill. Josué set his knapsack down. I lit my pipe and waved into the distance. Pedro looked at where I was pointing and said, said to himself, said to us: ‘Yes, the horizon can be seen now?’

And yes, that’s just how it is: we have to continue’

What was I saying to you? Ah, yes! We were born 20 years ago, and 10 years ago we rose up in arms for democracy, liberty and justice. We are known by the name of the ‘Zapatista Army of National Liberation,’ and our souls, though full of mends and scars, continue to wave like that old flag which can be seen above, that one with the five-pointed red star on a black background and the letters ‘EZLN.’

We are the zapatistas, the most small, the ones who cover our faces in order to be gazed upon, the dead who die in order to live. And that is all because 10 years ago, a first of January, and 20 years ago, a November 17, in the mountains of the Mexican southeast?

That is where the prologue ends and Gloria Muñoz Ramírez’ words begin, as my words are ending today, and the ‘EZLN: 20 & 10, Fire and Word’ campaign is beginning with the presentation of a book which is by times a pot-bottle covered with mirrors and crystals, which is by times a tapestry, and which is always a history which must not be forgotten because, by forgetting it, we forget our very selves.

Now, yes, it’s official: congratulations to everyone who, during these 20 and 10, have contributed the fire and the word.

Those are all my words. If you were bored, go tomorrow, November 11, to the graphic art exhibition which will be raffled in the Jesús Reyes Heroles Casa de Cultura and to the dance in the Los Angeles Salon on the 14th.

If you’re still bored, then you have the makings of a deputy, to be a senator or a candidate for the Mexican presidency.

Fine, I’m going now because I hear the first chords of ‘Cartas Marcadas,’ and I’m sure they’re going to get me up with the cake and the little bags of candy.

Vale. Salud and may everyone find us and find themselves.

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast and blowing up water balloons just so they won’t say I don’t get it up anymore.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, November of 2003. 20 & 10.

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