The Zapatistas marked 23 years Sunday of their iconic uprising against the Mexican state that has inspired social movements around the globe as a leading example of autonomous organizing and Indigenous resistance.
The Zapatista National Liberation Army, known as the EZLN, commemorated the anniversary with a private ceremony in Oventic, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The event was closed to the press and people outside the Zapatista community.
The celebration also marked the 20th anniversary National Indigenous Congress, an initiative the Zapatistas first launched as a rallying cry in the early years after the movement emerged to bring together Indigenous peoples from Mexico and other countries to advance their struggles through solidarity.
On Sunday, the EZLN also indicated that the movement will announce its presidential candidate for the 2018 elections — which it has already indicated will be an Indigenous woman — in May after a process of community consultation. According to representatives, the consultation process was extended beyond the original timeline due to security concerns in some communities, La Jornada newspaper reported.
The decision to put forward a candidate for the next election marks a break with more than two decades of Zapatista strategy of rejecting the Mexican state and electoral politics.
In a recent statement, Zapatista Subcomandante Galeano, formerly known as Subcomandante Marcos, reflected on the EZLN commitment to “fight to build freedom,” saying it was a mission that the community agreed to work toward collectively with the participation of all.
“We agreed that, if it wasn’t possible to do it in this world, then we would make another world, a bigger, better one where all the possible worlds fit,” he wrote. “The ones that already exist and the ones that we haven’t yet imagined.”
The EZLN declared war against the Mexican state on January 1, 1994, launching the Indigenous movement in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas into the international spotlight as an example for autonomous social movements around the globe.
The movement has seen victories, but also considerable challenges, including intense repression and criminalization of the struggle at the hands of the state, private landowners, and paramilitary forces.
But despite the hurdles, over two decades after the masked Indigenous army emerged from Chiapas’ Lacandon jungle and announced its resistance to the Mexico and to the world, the EZLN struggle continues as an ongoing road to self-determination and new alternatives to global capitalism.