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San Juan Copala: The displaced decide to return to our community

May 24, 2011
Published: May 23, 2011

Caravan of the Color of Blood


Compañeras, compañeros:

Those who are speaking to you, issuing a call for solidarity, are the children, elders, women and men who on January 1, 2007 declared the autonomy of our community, San Juan Copala, which without doubt was the reason behind the fury unleashed by the powerful who badly govern this, our country.

For that act we were attacked in the cruelest way until they succeeded in displacing us and seizing our homes.

More than 22 compañeros were murdered by paramilitary groups financed and advised by the disastrous government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz with the conceit of the federal government.

Because of that, last September 19, the remaining compañeros fled our town, which remained in the hands of those criminal groups.

And the inhabitants of San Juan Copala had to take refuge in some of the other communities of the Autonomous Municipality, in the encampments in Oaxaca and the Federal District and in some of the states in this country in order to save our lives.

Compañeras, compañeros:

It is not easy to live in the conditions in which we, the displaced of Copala, are living in, and because of that we have decided to return to our community, no matter the cost, as we see that as the days pass the governments weave their web of lies and defamation through the media and through their corrupt officials, as happened in recent days when the delegate of the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) and the state secretary of education had the gall to go be photographed with the paramilitaries who now occupy our town and to send the message that it is we who are lying, because Copala is a PARADISE.

For several days we waited for an explanation from the state government regarding the provocative and disrespectful stance of its cabinet secretary, as were we there that would not have happened.

This has made us decide to return to our land and may whatever happen remain in the conscience (that is if they have any) of those government officials.

Because of this we call on all those persons who during these months of pain have walked alongside us; that apart from the solidarity that they may have with us by accompanying us and providing us with supplies, that they stay alert so that in case of any aggression by these paramilitary groups, immediate condemnations are made.

On this march, which we have called THE COLOR OF BLOOD, we will send our greetings to several other struggles in the country, of sisters and brothers who like us walk from below and to the left, as San Juan Copala well knows that it is from the word amongst equals from which the relief for so much pain can come. To those who generously wish to accompany us to take back our land, we add the below path of the route we will take until we arrive at our town.


Itinerary and activities of the March-Caravan The Color of Blood, from the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala

Date Time Place Activity
Sunday 22 12 am March-Caravan leaves from the communities Departure to the city of Oaxaca. Visits to various communities.
Monday 23 2 pm Arrival in the city of Oaxaca MARCH. From outskirts to the city center
Monday 23 5 pm Zócalo of Oaxaca Gathering in the Zócalo
Tuesday 24 7 am Encampment of the Displaced. Zócalo of Oaxaca Departure for Chila de las Flores
Tuesday 24 Noon Chila de las Flores, Oaxaca Visit to the cemetery where the remains of Beatriz Cariño rest.
Tuesday 24 4 pm Zócalo in the city of Puebla Reception by several organizations
Tuesday 24 9 pm Autonomous University of Chapingo Arrival and reception by students, workers, professors of UACH and social organizations. Overnight stay and dinner
Wednesday 25 8-9 am Autonomous University of Chapingo Breakfast
Wednesday 25 9-11 am Autonomous University of Chapingo Press conference together with the UACH union, students, the FPDT and solidarity organizations. Political event.
Wednesday 25 1-5 pm San Salvador Atenco Struggle and Solidarity Encuentro with the MASJC caravan and the FPDT. Lunch.
Wednesday 25 8 pm Encampment of the Broad Front Against the Supervia. Magdalena Contreras Reception, dinner and overnight stay
Thursday 26 9 am – 1 pm Encampment of the Broad Front Against the Supervia. Magdalena Contreras Proposed visit to UPN and/or a solidarity march in the area.
Thursday 26 3 – 8 pm Encampment of the Broad Front Against the Supervia. Magdalena Contreras Struggle and Solidarity Encuentro of the march of the Color of Blood with workers, students and social movements.
Friday 27 10 am – 1pm National Autonomous University of Mexico (Island, on the side of Rectoría) Struggle and Solidarity Encuentro of the march of the Color of Blood with workers, students and social movements. Political-cultural event
Friday 27 4 pm Independence Angel to the Zócalo MARCH OF THE COLOR OF BLOOD AND SOLIDARITY
Friday 27 9 pm Encampment in the Zócalo of Mexico City Departure for San Juan Copala
Saturday 28 8 am San Juan Copala, Oaxaca Entry of the caravan.

ICEM Support Mexican Glass Workers’ ILO Complaint

May 24, 2011
ICEM Support Mexican Glass Workers’ ILO Complaint
23 May 2011 ICEM InBrief

The ICEM has decided to support the case of the Mexican union, Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Empresa Industria Vidriera del Potosí S.A. de C.V. (SUTEIVP) in a complaint about violations of trade union rights at the International Labour Organization (ILO).

SUTEIVP represents workers employed by Industria Vidriera del Potosi S.A., (part of Grupo Modelo) a manufacturer of glass bottles used by Mexico’s famous Corona beer.

In early 2008, the company summarily dismissed nearly 1,000 workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement, including the executive committee of SUTEIVP. The company then entered into “negotiations” with a “union” that they invited in to create a sub-standard agreement and to act as a shield to keep out the real union. Such practices are common in Mexico, and are known as employer protection contracts. The yellow union and its corrupt leadership are generally invisible – often unknown to the workers – until a real union attempts to organize the workforce.

SUTEIVP attempted to file a complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, using Mexico’s OECD National Contact Point. In 2010, the Mexican NCP dismissed their case for “insufficient evidence”.

Manfred Warda, ICEM’s General Secretary, will highlight the SUTEIVP situation in a speech to the upcoming International Labour Conference. The case will then be reviewed by ILO’s Freedom of Association committee.

This ICEM release is also available on the ICEM Web-site (

The Zapatista March and the Drug War in Mexico

May 24, 2011
The Zapatista March and the Drug War in Mexico
Written by Emma Volonté, Translation by Alex Cachinero-Gorman
Friday, 20 May 2011
On the morning of May 7, CIDECI-University de la Tierra of San Cristóbal de Las Casa (Chiapas) was filled with people. The palpable excitement in the air settled to a lull as they began to organize themselves in an orderly fashion: in the front, the EZLN Command and support base, faces covered with balaclavas or paliacates [traditional Mexican scarves]. In the back, communities taking part in the Other Campaign, collectives, human rights organizations, internationalists. Without any slogans or chants, they have been marching in silence towards the center of the city: their banners and placarads alone crying out, “No more blood on Mexican soil”, “Stop Calderón’s war”, “We’ve had it”.

Heeding the call to silence that poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, still grieving for his murdered son, dubbed a ‘March for Peace with Justice and Dignity’, this is the first step in the birth of a national movement against Calderón’s drug war and government impunity. Many have answered Sicilia’s call. Among them is the EZLN, which summoned Zapatistas and the Other Campaign to mobilize in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, resulting in more than 15,000 people assembling in silence, meant to express the impossibility of describing such profound pain. “We have to name the victims of the War on Narco-trafficking, to dignify them”, said Sicilia—and indeed, those names moved in procession among the colorful, low houses of this colonial Chiapan city, written on crosses carried by members of the Sociedad Civil Las Abejas de Acteal. The Sociedad Civil Las Abejas de Acteal has fallen victim to the kind of impunity that rules Mexico: paramilitary forces jailed for the murder of 45 congregants gathered in prayer in Acteal (1997) are now progressively being released.

The long march arrived at the Plaza de la Catedral—the very same one occupied by Zapatistas on January 1st, 1994. This time, 30 EZLN commanders awaited the crowd. Comandante David read a message from Subcomandante Marcos: “We are gathered here for the families of the dead, injured, mutilated, disappeared, kidnapped, and jailed having committed no crime. Because their only fault was to be born, or to live, in a country mismanaged by legal and illegal groups thirsty for war, death, and destruction. The government tells them that it will continue with its plan—the main objective of which is death, impunity. To fear in people’s every word, to see in every critique, every doubt, question, every call, the intent to overthrow this order is something quite appropriate to dictatorships and tyrants. Knowing how to listen with humility and attention what the people say is the virtue of a good government. We are here today to tell those good people who walk in silence, quite simply, that they are not alone”.

The EZLN’s participation was a big surprise: Zapatistas have not shown themselves in public like this for five years now. The long media silence was only broken in January of this year, with the communiqué published in response to the death of Don Samuel Ruíz, and the epistolary exchange concerning ethics and politics that Marcos has been having with the Mexican intellectual Luís Villoro. Re-reading these exchanges, one begins to realize that Marcos has had Sicilia on his mind for quite some time. He wrote to Villoro: “As I begin writing these lines, Javier Sicilia’s pain and anger—physically far away but close in ideals for some time—make echoes that reverberate in these mountains of ours. It is to be hoped that his legendary tenacity, which now summons our words and action, manages to express and bring together that anger and pain that is spreading everywhere on Mexican soil”. In his correspondence with Villoro, Marcos also mentioned the Chiapan governor Juan Sabines Guerrero who, he says, “persecutes and represses those who do not chime in with the false chorus of praise for his lies made into government policy, which persecutes defenders of human rights in the Coast and the Highlands of Chiapas and the indigenous people of San Sebastián Bachajón who refuse to prostitute their land, and which encourages paramilitary groups against indigenous Zapatista communities”.

In later communiqués sent out by the EZLN Command in the context of the march, references to repression in Chiapas (like those on marchers’ posters) have all but disappeared. In any case, it is important to remember what is happening in a State in which militarization, already very advanced, is going to intensify. The announcement of two new military bases on the border with Guatemala and the deployment of the Border Police—an entity whose creation was anticipated by the Migration Law designed to ‘protect’ Central American migrants in Mexico—are two examples. Of course, the real objective of such policing bodies and the army in Chiapas is not to protect citizens from narco-traffickers, but rather the interests of State companies, and to repress any expression of dissent.

In Mitzitón, for example, a stone’s throw away from the Rancho Nuevo military barracks, participants in the Other Campaign resist the construction of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas-Palenque highway, which would rip right through their community. In defense of the project, the government is supporting the Ejército de Dios paramilitary group, which continues to harrass members of the Other Campaign: in 2010, one participant was killed, and this May 7th, while the Zapatista march made its way through the streets of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, paramilitary forces fired on two women tending to sheep. Adherents of the Other Campaign from Bachajón, in the jungle, fight against the same mega-project, which aims to build a great tourist attraction in the waterfalls of Agua Azul. In Bachajón, the people live under the continued threat of OPDDIC [Organization for the Defense of Indigenous Rights 1] paramilitaries: in Feburary, at the entrance to the Agua Azul waterfalls, more than a hundred members of the Other Campaign—five of whom are still in prison—were arrested in a fiersome police operation. As always, in Feburary 19 people were detained on the Chiapas Coast, after a peaceful demonstration for the liberation of political prisoners. Among them were three lawyers for the Human Rights Center – Digna Ochoa. A few days after the march of silence, the father of one of the lawyers and member of the Autonomous Council of the Chiapas Coast, who participated in the Zapatista mobilization, was arrested as well.

The march on May 7th was an important demonstration of power for the EZLN, but the road to ‘Peace with Justice and Dignity’ in Chiapas is still very far.

1. The name is misleading.  “The Organization for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (OPDDIC), considered a paramilitary group for years by the indigenous communities of the Selva Lacandona and recently reactivated, is emerging as principal threat to the coexistence of indigenous communities, with the open support of the PRD government of Juan Sabines Gutie’rrez.” See “En;Jornada,OPPDIC: counterinsurgency group in Chiapas, Feb 13”, See also “OPDDIC Leader Pedro Chulín Offers His ‘Total Support’ to Governor Juan Sabines”,

The Return of the Zapatistas? They Never Left

May 22, 2011
The Return of the Zapatistas? They Never Left
Written by Michael McCaughan/San Cristobal de las Casas
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Mexico is caught in the grip of an escalating drug war which has cost 40,000 lives in the past five years and has no end in sight. By comparison, the Zapatista uprising in January 1994, with less than 200 casualties, prompted peace rallies, a speedy ceasefire, and a national dialogue. The body count varies from day to day, 29, 41 or 33, numbers and methods varying as decapitation and mutilation compete with asphyxiation and the traditional bullet in the head. This endless war of unimaginable cruelty has numbed most Mexicans who observe from afar and hope the river of blood doesn’t arrive at their doorstep.Once in a while, however, a single incident can trigger a powerful reaction. The death of Juan Francisco Sicilia, one of seven people gunned down in march, sparked a national mobilisation and a new movement aimed at shifting government policy away from perpetual warfare and toward an integrated political solution to the conflict. Javier Sicilia, poet and father of Juan Francisco, launched ‘The March for Peace with Justice and Dignity’ this month, a three-day event which culminated in a rally in Mexico City. The idea was simple: a silent march and a single slogan, ‘Estamos hasta la madre – no mas sangre‘ (‘We’ve had it up to here, no more bloodshed’). This idea captured the popular imagination and on Sunday, May 8, hundreds of thousands of people marched all over Mexico demanding a radical change to government policy.

In Chiapas, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) answered the call and issued a communique in which they announced their plan to march into San Cristobal de las Casas, the town where the Zapatistas first appeared in January 1994. It has been five years since the Zapatistas last mobilised in this manner and for many people the movement has become a fading memory, a noble insurrection which inspired millions but ultimately fizzled out; victims of a sterile and bitter debate over the pitfalls and possibilities of electoral politics.

As Latin America shifted leftwards in the past decade, electing a range of perceived progressive leaders in what has been referred to as the ‘pink tide’, Mexican citizens have waited their turn, hoping that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) of the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) might fulfill the long awaited dream of leading a decent government.
The Zapatistas publicly rejected AMLO, regarding his electoral platform as a continuation of right wing politics by other means. The PRD leader modified his radical agenda on the campaign trail and sought support from Mexico’s business class. AMLO was once a vocal supporter of the Zapatistas (and still speaks of them with respect), but the breaking point came when the PRD leadership joined the right wing National Action Party (PAN, currently in government) to annul the San Andres Peace Accords (signed in 1996 but never implemented) and approved a diluted version (in 2001) which gutted the original of all its promise. In Chiapas, the situation worsened in recent times when villages affiliated with the PRD attacked Zapatista communities. During the 2006 presidential race, however, many observers viewed the angry exchanges between the PRD and the EZLN as little more than a ‘berrinche barato’ (a childish tantrum) between two macho leaders (Subcomandante Marcos and AMLO) eager to establish themselves as Mexico’s opposition leader.
The return of the Zapatistas to San Cristobal thus acquired a significance far beyond the immediate objective of adding their voice to the popular clamor; it seemed like a reckoning. Could the Zapatistas match the heights of previous years when over 10,000 masked rebels occupied the city, watched by a nervous local elite who pulled the shutters down and held their breath till the indios left?
Over the past five years the Zapatistas have consolidated their autonomous rule across five ‘caracoles’, self-governing councils whose delegates take turns to ‘be the government’, learning the ropes before handing the torch over to another set of delegates from another village. The idea is that many people learn how to ‘be the government’ without giving birth to a professional, bureaucratic political class. In addition the Zapatistas have largely severed ties with visiting NGOs and no longer encourage foreigners to visit their communities. The spectacle of hundreds of outsiders trekking in to jungle communities, keen to learn how to make revolution happen, left a damaging imprint in rebel territory. While visitors came in good faith and for a time at least served as an important buffer against army and paramilitary forces between 1995-99, they also disrupted daily life and generated inequalities as gifts were dispensed and money left behind, fueling jealousy and protagonism.
When the afternoon of May 7 arrived, San Cristobal was drenched in warm sunshine and an air of expectancy filled the main square where TV crews jostled for position in front of an improvised stage. The Zapatistas arrived in a long winding trail of men and women of all ages, each one wearing a ski mask which bore a number representing the caracol or government council from which they came. The square quickly filled to overflowing and word came through that the same number again were leaving the assembly point on the edge of town. By the time the Zapatista comandantes opened the event with the national anthem, the rebels had already won a major victory by organising the biggest march this city has ever seen. An estimated 20,000 rebels were present, bringing with them the fragrant aroma of distant communities, of corn and woodsmoke and that most elusive element, community cohesion, described by one analyst as “the sacred fire of the movement.”
The effort required to get that many rebels to San Cristobal was enormous as each community was in charge of its own transport and food at a time when corn, rice and beans are scarce. In addition, the Zapatistas seem destined to pay a high price for their audacity and this weekend was no exception; a young Zapatista was struck and killed by a vehicle en route to the march while an 8-month-old baby died of suffocation in an overcrowded truck.
The Zapatistas have an ambivalent relationship with the rest of Mexico; Here we are, their silence seems to say, we have territory and self-rule in our small corner of the country, what have you done? The images of Javier Sicilia, a lone individual leading the march of the indignant and the impotent in Mexico City, contrasted sharply with the collective effort that is Zapatismo. The rebels moved as one, arriving and leaving in formation, sharing transport and territory. This sense of cohesion is amplified by the shared ‘means of production’; the milpa (cornfield) which forms the basis for survival across regional and linguistic boundaries. The situation is fragile as the Zapatista communities struggle to make ends meet and withstand the twin pressures of army/paramilitary aggression and state handouts that tempt rebels away from the Zapatista ranks. The 30 comandantes of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee (CCRI) who formed a guard of honor up front on the stage, melted effortlessly into the crowd, their faces unknown, their words attributable to no one in particular.
Meanwhile in Mexico City, at least 70 victims of violence took turns to speak out, including Patricia Duarte whose infant son was burned to death in a creche in Sonora, along with 47 other children. In Mexico today, the term insecurity has a broad meaning which covers the village of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, forced to flee en masse due to state-sponsored violence, and the parents of those who died in the creche, who also await justice. San Juan Copala committed the fatal error of declaring itself an autonomous zone, Zapatista style, but unlike the Chiapan rebels they had no weapons to back up their claims.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivered a televised address in response to the peace march in which he equated the call for an end to state violence with a surrender to the drug cartels. “We have might, right and the law on our side,” said Calderon, adopting a belligerent tone, insisting that the army would remain on the streets and at the centre of his national security strategy.
In a report released on May 10 Amnesty International accused Mexican security forces of torture, disappearances and murder, including charges of passing off innocent victims of army violence as members of drug gangs. Amnesty also criticised Mexico’s justice system for failing to charge a single member of the armed forces with criminal activity, despite dozens of well documented cases.
“We are not trying to overthrow the government,” commented Juan Sicilia, responding to Calderon, “we want to rebuild the social fabric of this nation.” Sicilia added that the Mexican people were paying an intolerable price for an unwinnable war which no one asked for, the course of which is determined by politicians “in upmarket restaurants and offices paid for by us.” By the end of the three-day march Sicilia’s tone had hardened, recognising perhaps that the Calderon administration had no intention of paying him any heed. Sicilia called for civil disobedience should the government ignore their demands.”It takes balls to strike back, to refuse to pay taxes and it will take all of us to surround parliament until our demands are heard,”‘ he said. A decade ago this reporter first noticed Sicilia when he used to finish his weekly column in Proceso magazine with the following tag, regardless of the topic under discussion: ‘In addition I believe that the San Andres (Zapatista) Peace Accords should be implemented.’
Sicilia has launched an important citizen initiative which is gathering momentum and which has no affiliation with Mexico’s discredited political parties. In 2006 the EZLN launched ‘la otra campana,’ the other campaign, an attempt to build a popular movement which would eschew electoral timetables and challenge the state from below. If there is one lesson learned since 1994, however, it is that the Zapatistas cannot carry the burden of hope alone and that the rest of Mexico must do its own share of the heavy lifting. “We know you didn’t understand anything,” joked one Zapatista delegate in San Cristobal, referring to the translation of each speech into several indigenous languages, “but that’s the way it goes, you just had to put up with us. Thank you for your patience.”
The Zapatistas remain the ever patient outsiders in a country torn apart by violence and corruption, quietly building an autonomous alternative, a living example of what a disciplined, long-term struggle can achieve. “You are not alone,” said Comandante David, addressing vicitims of violence throughout Mexico during the rally. The Zapatistas have been alone for too long, derided for lacking ‘common sense’ and refusing to throw their weight behind the lesser of three evils at election time. With just a brief hour in the limelight Javier Sicilia has already come to the conclusion that if Mexico’s political system fails to respond to the current crisis of representation and if a sweeping new security law is approved, the 2012 presidential elections shall be a pointless exercise in which a candidate bound and gagged by institutional corruption will be elected to lead a nation edging dangerously close to a politico-military dictatorship.


Demanding respect for the right of self-determination for the people of San Sebastian Bachajón

May 22, 2011

Hermann Bellinghausen

La Jornada
Friday May 20, 2011, p. 21

For the release of five Tzeltal peasants in prison of San Sebastian Bachajón in Chiapas, intellectual Noam Chomsky, the American Indian Movement, United States, the Uruguayan writer and researcher Raul Zibechi Sergio Tischler, from Guatemala, pronounced in a “world declaration” supported by 55 national and 33 international organizations.

Demanding “respect the right to self-determination and the exercise of autonomy of the people of San Sebastian, adherent to the Other Campaign”, as stipulated by the Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in independent countries, the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and the San Andrés agreements, all signed by the Mexican government.

The statement calls for “respect the right to use and enjoy of natural resources by native peoples who have been careful in the course of centuries, and the immediate release of Jeronimo Guzman Mendez Alvaro Domingo Pérez, Juan Aguilar Guzman, Domingo Garcia and Mariano Gómez Demeza Silvano. Finally, demands “the immediate withdrawal of military and police forces who have surrounded the area of ​​the San Sebastian ejido, especially the entrances to the Azul Waterfalls, now administered by state and federal governments.”

Also signing the document are Fernanda Espinosa (Ecuador), Val Thien Tlapaltic (Philippines), Nikolitsa Angelepulou (Greece) and Jared Fogel Benjamin Sacks (South Africa) as well as hundreds of people, especially Mexico, USA and Italy, along with Spanish state organizations, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, France, Austria, Slovenia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Belgium and Costa Rica. Abahlali Base also base Mjondolo Movement (Casas de Carton Dwellers) and Students for Justice Rhodes University in South Africa for Global Justice and Kolkata, India.

The statement says: “Today, the Chiapas government has arbitrarily detained under constant harassment and threats five ejidatarios (peasants) from San Sebastian, all innocent of the crimes they are accused. They are victims of the Mexican justice system, which is corrupted and obeys the voice of the interests of domestic and international investment. This system serves to punish and destroy the people, organizations or individuals that do not coincide with the interests of neo-liberal government, that is causing ravages and death to those who bet on a life where human rights are fully respected. ”

In Chiapas, the alleged “development” through eco-tourism and infrastructure as part of Mesoamerica Plan, represents “a crucial dispute against the construction of alternative livelihoods from indigenous peoples, who struggle for recognition of their autonomy” that “on practice are exercising. ”

According to international condemnation, the region of Agua Azul, which is located in San Sebastian, “has become a clear example of state and federal governments applying all the state’s force for the dispossession of indigenous territory.”

Zapatista Mural Art In Chiapas And Scotland

May 21, 2011

Re-Humanising the City”;

The Art of Social Activism

Week 3 (10th May): Community Murals and the role of funding

with June Mcewan (Community Arts practitioner and Fountainbridge Mural project artist)

and Mike Cropley (Edinburgh Chiapas solidarity group)

  • Chiapas murals presentation (Mike Cropley):
    • The state of Chiapas, in South Mexico, has a population of nearly five million people, around a third of whom are indigenous people from that land. There are around 200’000 indigenous people involved in the Zapatista movement there battling for the rights to land and resources and fighting against subjugation.
    • Through creating autonomous communities of resistance, since their 1994 uprising the Zapatistas have been successful in asserting new rights and support for indigenous people there. They are creating their own autonomous schools, health clinics, and justice system, all based on communally owned land. Their own decision-making system involves village assemblies, autonomous councils and, co-ordinating matters at a wider level, including the fair disbursement of international solidarity, five regional “committees of good government” consisting of rotating delegates from the autonomous councils.
    • Within the 1,000 Zapatista “communities in resistance” there are many big public murals, most commonly on public buildings such as schools, health clinics, churches, and the Autonomous Council buildings (all of which are normally built by the communities themselves, sometimes using international donations to buy the materials ). It is very rare that the murals would be on peoples own homes as that is beyond financial possibility there.
    • KIPTIK – A Zapatista solidarity group based in Bristol, UK work with communities in Chiapas to help create these murals. The design usually goes through a proposal and is amended and re-drafted through consensus and then artists are chosen through a community assembly. The mural process is therefore one of collective decision making that strengthens civic activity and identity and is an empowering act that allows people to articulate their own views together.
    • Many of the images are very colourful and full of symbols of identity and local meaning such as maize (they are seen as the “people of the maize”), men and women in traditional dress, or the revolutionary beetle Duritto, who features in many stories by Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos.
    • The images provide ways of communicating messages if reading and writing literacy is of a lower level, and there are generally political messages conveyed on the murals, for example about autonomous education or women’s liberation.
    • In 2006 the Zapatistas initiated “The Other Campaign” to unite with all different oppressed groups from around Mexico, and indeed the world, to move beyond their own liberation to others too. This was the subject of one of the murals shown.
    • Some of the images can be quite utopian, giving visions of the future. Examples of the work of the artist Beatrix Aurora were also shown: she is a Chilean artist, based in Chiapas, whose very colourful paintings portraying the Zapatista communities are reproduced in many postcards and posters sold to raise funds for the movement ( see for example ) Her work was compared to that of Scottish artist Chad McCail, some of whose work features utopian visions of a co-operative sharing society ( see for example )
    • Murals are also painted in support and solidarity of the Zapatistas in other parts of the world, e.g. three murals painted in Scotland by the Mexican muralist Gustavo in collaboration with local people in Edinburgh and Glasgow. One of these involved the Glasgow Solidarity Group and symbolises the twinning of 16th February Zapatista Autonomous Municipality in Chiapas with the solidarity group in Glasgow. Another, entitled Eyes in the Sky, was painted in Royston Wardieburn Community Centre in Edinburgh, and as far as is known can still be seen there (a postcard of this mural was given to the course participants).

Other Chiapas art projects

    • Storytelling and plays (both via the Zapatistas’ own radio stations, and live at Fiestas) are very important forms of communication, history and culture.
    • Fiestas with a range of performances, dance, traditional music (often with a marimba) and dress, as well as plays very often performed, are vital in bringing the community together. There are particular dress and styles for the different areas. These are all organised by the indigenous people themselves and put together through their own resources.
  • Group discussion:
    • The murals are seen as very important in terms of getting across ideas, acting as a visual representation of solidarity and support against oppressive forces, and are made strong and liked by many because they are seen as things that will last over a longtime, like a longlasting legacy and writing of social history.
    • The images are clearly very vibrant and distinct and often easily associated with the Zappatistas. This has been the case since very early and could be one of the reasons they have received such widespread global support and awareness. It may also be a consequence of Subcomandante Marcos’ (spokesperson of Zapatista National Liberation movement from 1994) influence on an awareness of presentation, image and appearance. The images and murals associated with the Zapatistas have almost become a kind of branding.
    • The future of politics is possibly now seen as having moved or shifted like a weathervane from South America as a playground for new ideas and formations to the Middle East.
  • Community Murals (June Mcewan)
    • Previously had created a childrens mural with the local primary school and passers by in the Telfer subway leading to St. Bride’s centre in Dalry. This was done in one week and involved designing it with the pupils as well as getting them and people using the tunnel to add things.
    • There has only been minor graffiti added on the outside mural since, particularly compared to the areas without a mural.
    • The council makes money from fines for graffiti from the wall owners. So certain private organisations try to avoid these fines and cleaning by commissioning murals on blank wall spaces.
  • Fountainbridge Mural Project
    • FountainPark have commissioned an artist (June) to help create a mural on the top part of the Telfer subway.
    • June choose a certain number of groups to try and work with directly. Sometimes these are set beforehand by the council or funder, or sometimes left more open. It depends on funding how many people and groups June can work with. She contacts these groups to offer workshops where she collects stories, ideas, images and drawings that can become part of the mural.
    • In this case some of the gorups included the Fountainbridge Library, Boroughmuir High School, Garvald, the Steiner school.
    • For the workshops there will be a general theme set in advance, and then books, and props and images for help with ideas and inspiration if needed. June is looking for gathering peoples ideas around the theme and doesn’t necessarily need to keep all the copies of the images to start with so people can take them home at the end of the workshop to have a product at the end of it.
    • The initial theme for this was ‘people and patterns’, which in some ways has grown out of the décor and design of the Fountainbridge Library which looks out onto the Telfer subway walkway and onto FountainPark.
    • From these she designs one big image and painting. She trys to keep the images as close to the originals as possible so people can see their own images in the mural, and may be more keen to take part in the painting of it.
    • This will take place in August and anyone can take part. For the painting the groups will be invited back to take part painting it on the wall.
  • Group discussion:
    • The council in Edinburgh have left certain areas as freespaces for graffiti, such as along Potterow. Originally this was cleaned up by the council but eventually they began to turn a blindeye to it and let people use it to paint on to.
    • The prevalence of murals for sectarian issues shows their use and power in maintaining, developing and affirming identity. This is perhaps different here in Edinburgh and is more about nice images and colourful space rather than group identity.
    • Working with the community on the mural also helps to avoid further graffiti.

For more information:

Other things mentioned during the session:

  • Mention of the blog and whether anyone can help edit it?

  • The portfolio scrapbook for documentation of the course was introduced. People encouraged to bring along notes, cutouts, reports, images etc for it.

Aims from the session:

  • Look at ways to get involved with and contribute towards the Fountainpark mural project
  • Consider how any creative action within Tollcross could be taken to help support the Zapatistas in Chiapas.

May 18, 2011

Facebook event page:!/event.php?eid=192748577424053

May 18, 2011

‘What is happening with the Zapatistas in Mexico?’

May 18, 2011

‘What is happening with the Zapatistas in Mexico?”

Speaker from ‘Rebeldía Revista’ Mexico.
Talks by Javier Elorriaga,  Editor of the ‘Other Campaign’ magazine, followed by questions and discussion.

Both events free :

Edinburgh meeting

7pm Monday 23th May
Augustine United Church
41 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh, EH1 1EL

Glasgow meeting
Monday 23rd May
The Free Hetherington
The Glasgow University Occupation
13 University Gardens
Just off University Avenue,
Glasgow University Campus

Javier is a journalist, video maker, historian, political analyst and a member of the editorial team of the influential magazine Rebeldia, which acts as a voice for the Other Campaign and the Zapatistas throughout Mexico.  He was a founder and co-ordinator of the Zapatista Front for National Liberation.  He will speak about what’s happening in Mexico today, especially what’s happening with the Zapatistas.  From their latest massive march through the town of San Cristobal to oppose militarisation and repression in Mexico, to the development of autonomy in the mountains and jungle of Chiapas, Javier will give a first-hand report of the movement which has inspired the anti capitalist movement world-wide.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity – these are Javier’s only dates in Britain on his European tour.

A merchandise stall will be at both events selling Zapatista t-shirts, coffee and crafts.  

The money raised goes to health clinics run by the Zapatistas in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.

Organised by Edinburgh and Glasgow Chiapas Solidarity Groups

Silent March for Peace with Justice and Dignity Mexico City Sunday May 8th

May 16, 2011

Protest against the war on drugs, impunity, corruption, and violence.

From Our Mexico City Correspondent.