“We were born of the night. We live in the night. We will die in her.” So began the only visible text on the Mexican Ministry of Defense’s website for around 30 minutes on January 17th. Carried out as a show of solidarity by the hacker group Anonymous, the act heralds the return of a revolutionary people to the world stage who until only recently were in relative isolation. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) of the Mexican state of Chiapas has seemingly reappeared and is attempting to make an impression.
Although the e-stunt was not their first appearance, it has been the most publicized by the popular, international press to date—largely due to the association with Anonymous. Unperceived by the media at large, the Zapatistas first reemerged late last year to celebrate their rebirth, at the same time that the world fretted over a doomsday prophecy.
On the morning of December 21st, forty thousand members of the rebellion split up into five groups. In black ski masks and red bandanas they marched in complete silence to the designated towns in the mountainous woodlands of Chiapas. There, they ‘occupied’ the towns for the remainder of the day. In quantitative terms, the event is matched only by the rebellion that launched their revolution on January 1st of 1994. In any case, the more recent of these two was a result of principally two motives. One being, to celebrate the end of an era and the beginning of a new one—in accordance with the historical mythology of their forefathers; the other, to commemorate the Acteal Massacre of 1997.
Fifteen years have passed since the murder of the 45 Tzotzil Indians by a paramilitary gang. Today, the massacre of these individuals is linked to their connection with a group known as the ‘Las Abejas,’ who were well-known Zapatista sympathizers. Zapatista today believe that the perpetrators had ties to the ruling government, headed at the time by Ernesto Zedillo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Following the December march, it was announced that a communiqué was to be issued by the spokesperson for the EZLN, subcomandante Marcos.
Did you listen?
It is the sound of your world crumbling.
It is the sound of our world resurging.
There was a subsequent event on December 31st , a gathering to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Zapatista movement. It was back then that the Zapatistas first made their presence known to the world. This is to say, when they publicly declared war on the Mexican state and began their revolution. Within the compound where they hosted their private celebration, a senior commander of the EZLN gave a speech in which he declared that 2013 would be “a new phase.” Stating that, “we are various people united today thanks to what is coming next year; we will try so that there is no more suffering or wars.”
This same focus on renewal is reflected in the communiqués that were uploaded the previous day on the EZLN website; particularly in the announcement made by the governing body that oversees the EZLN, the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command (CCRI-CG). In it the group reiterates numerous times their desire to strengthen or create relationships with external organizations, social movements and communities, both within Mexico and internationally.
For this reason, it is important to underline the importance that the internet plays in their return. The years they secluded themselves in order to focus on developing their own communities, were a period of accelerated development for social media. A tool that the rebels, as the first postmodernist revolutionaries, should have taken advantage of early on (see: Kony campaign, et al.). This is the main reason why the social movements of today appear so relevant: their ranks are replete with a generation internet savvy, middle class, young adults. Not to say that the Zapatistas don’t employ technology, but the method in which they do is at odds with the way in which we have come to expect.
In some sense then it is a new era for the Zapatista; one that they can use to create a relationship with the kids up North whose technological know-how and public attention they could benefit form. Yet one must ask how these North American youths would benefit from such a relationship? Indeed, might the few remaining Occupy or #YoSoy132 protesters even be interested? What good can come from them associating with the autonomous radicals of the South?
– Ralph Muzquiz
(Featured photo: nathangibbs. Creative Commons, Flickr)