We anticipate adding additional questions and answers in the near future, so this page will always be under development. Therefore, we invite your comments, criticisms, and suggestions. You can contact us via email or even better we urge you to join the Teaching and Learning About Chiapas Forum.
Click here to access the Schools for Chiapas "Teaching and Learning About Chiapas Forum".
Click on any question to view its answer.
The Zapatistas began their rebellion with a number of specific list of 11 demands: work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice, and peace.
The First Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle, issued on January 2, 1994, opens with the statement, "We are the product of 500 years of struggle." In addition, on that same date the Zapatistas issued a law about women's rights.
Over the last few years the demands and vision of the movement has deepened and matured. The most complete statement of their current position is available in a document known as The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Click here to read this document.
The Mayan peoples who rose up on Jan. 1, 1994 chose to call themselves "Zapatistas" in honor the Mexican hero Emiliano Zapata. They see their current struggle as a continuation of Zapata's effort for social justice at the beginning of the 20th century.
Caracoles are the civilian government, health, educational, sports, political, and gathering places for the Zapatista movement. There are five caracoles in Chiapas; one caracol for each of the five geographic and ethnic zones of Chiapas.
The Zapatistas have named their civilian centers "Caracoles" which is the Spanish word for a snail shell. One of the distinctive features of the snail shell is that it swirls about and is a living entity where the outside meets the inside. This is a fitting symbol of the Zapatista Civilian Centers... a place where the outside (national and international bases of support) can come to meet and experience the inside (the Zapatista bases of support).
The Zapatista model of developing autonomous services (like autonomous schools, health clinics and agricultural programs) relies on the training and service of promoters. In general, the Zapatistas are opposed to the use of what they see as the more hierarchical label of doctor or teacher and prefer the more egalitarian term of "promoter" (as in Health promoter, Education promoter, Ecological-Agriculture promoter) to describe the role. Consistent with the philosophy behind the use of the term promoter is a belief that everyone has something to contribute to the understanding and teaching of every subject and that learning is enhanced when everyone’s perspective and experiences are valued and shared.
“Promotores”, as they are known here, are individuals identified by their community to assume the “cargo” of being a health, education or agricultural promoter. The notion of “cargo” is an ancient Mayan idea which assigns individuals to provide essentially unpaid service that is for the good of the community. The cargo of being a "Promotor" is an especially demanding one in that it requires nearly full time and life-long service. As a trade off, the community will take on the support of the promoter but, as these communities are typically extremely poor, the level of support is often insufficient to provide anything beyond corn, beans and basic shelter.
First, the masks represent the need for anonymity among the indigenous people fighting for autonomy and against the injustices inflicted on their people for generations. Despite the “peace agreement”, there is still a real danger to these people – the government of Mexico has done little to implement the accord that gives the indigenous communities of Mexico limited autonomy.
The masks are a symbol not only of anonymity, but also egalitarianism. The masks are very symbolic to the Zapatistas. Despite the reality that the Zapatistas took over all the major cities in the highlands of Chiapas on Jan 1, 1994, this was not their first choice – culturally they feel that dialogue, not violence is the best way to find solutions. At that time, they say, they gave up “the word” (or their voices) so that they could be heard and, by wearing masks, they give up their faces in order to be seen.
"With my mask, I'm a Zapatista in a struggle for dignity and justice," replied the masked man to whom this question was posed. "Without my mask, I’m just another damn Indian!”
No. In fact, the Zapatistas were uniformly horrified when New York City was attacked. The Zapatista spokesperson Marcos wrote these words just a few months before 9/11, “The movement in resistance to globalization walks on a knife’s edge. It must widen this edge until it is transformed into an avenue that leads to a new world. On one side there is the recovery by way of globalization. For example the masters of the world say, we will globalize some of the discontents by offering them a piece of the pie. On the other side are Milosevic and other nationalist extremists. The two options are an illusion, traps; just as much the recovery by way of globalization as the way of the radical nationalists. We know that this is a false alternative. What we have to do is widen the edge of the knife to open a space of possibility for the advance of the global progressive movement that impedes that the two extremes which present themselves as the only options before globalization; that one is favor of globalization and all of its brutality. or to favor nationalist or religious fundamentalists and all of their violence.”
-Conversations with subcomandante Marcos
por Ignacio Ramonet, Le Monde Diplomatique Mayo de 2001