International solidarity in the classroom
SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, MEXICO—Over the last few years, the Zapatistas in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas have garnered very little media attention and been infamously secretive. But although they’ve shifted away from their militant stance of the 1990s and their national political campaigning of the early 2000s, the movement itself isn’t dead.
This summer the Zapatistas opened their communities to teach outsiders what it really means to be a Zapatista today—their day-to-day life and acts of resistance, and their struggles in maintaining autonomy.
From August 11 to 17, Zapatistas ran the first Escuelita Zapatista (Little Zapatista School), a week-long educational initiative where participants were immersed in the daily life of the Indigenous rebels. Nearly 2,000 supporters and activists from all over the world attended the school. It’s not clear why the Zapatistas chose to open their communities and inaugurate the school this year exactly, but it did coincide with the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Zapatista Good Governance Council and the five local governance systems called caracoles, created in 2003.
The Zapatista movement in Mexico is one of the 20th century’s most well-known Indigenous resistance movements. In 1994, hundreds of oppressed Indigenous peoples emerged from the hills of Chiapas to take over government buildings and city streets in San Cristóbal de las Casas and other towns in the state. They destroyed land deeds and renewed their struggle for land, autonomy and respect, continuing the movement led by Emiliano Zapata at the turn of the century.
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(Note: The photos on this post aren’t mine, but I know whose they are. Contact me if you want to know too).