WORDS THAT RESONATE

Certain words echo through experiences, and often come to define or express the poignancy of the time.
These words issue from the people, and the veracity of the words is located in the profound nature of their experiences.
Theri voice confronts and challenges the closed discourse of those in power who seek to use word/images to promote their exploitative aganda.

While taking part in my first solidarity project in Nicaragua (1986-7 coffee harvest) I began to hear and recognize the multi-layered meaning of the word "lucha." What it meant "to struggle" in Nicaragua during the Sandinista period was a constructive, defiant process to create a revolutionary society against all odds.
It was not a word without hope.
Sacrifice and pain accompanied every advance.
New schools and literacy campaigns, the distribution of polio vaccines and the promotion of overall health care, housing, womens rights, indigenous rights, etc. were goals paid for with blood and tears.

I was privileged to be present at the 2nd Encuentro of the Indigenous and Popular Movements which took place in Guatemala during the fall of 1991. I had been involved in a number of projects in the U.S. to counter the "celebration of Columbus' 500th anniversary of Discovery," and this meeting (like the which occurred the year before in Ecuador) was central and focused to that challenge.
"Resistencia." was the unifying word for the meeting and a defining term which has come to identify the persistence of indigenous culture in the face of european invasion, attempted conquest, and colonization.
This struggle is clearly not over, merely redefined in the present context as global economic powers continue to exploit the worlds natural resources with impunity, laying waste the land and the people of the land in order to increase the riches of the few.

The Zapatista uprising of January 1, 1994, and the communiques, conferences, and meetings since, has profoundly affected the discourse on "neoliberalism" (which is neither new nor liberal), democracy, and indigenous rights.
When I entered Mexico from Guatemala in February 1994 I went directly to San Cristobal.
The word which stood out against the starkness of prior inaction was "amanecer." This was "an awakening" of the highest order and proportions. Each civic organization, each student group and labor union, each individual, was challenged to awaken out of a dream like state of compliance with the dictates of federal government. The Zapatistas had their particular demands and agenda but they also looked towards the rest of society to take hold of this moment and redefine and act on their individual and collective requirements for a more just system.

In 1995, during the first official dialogues between the Zapatistas and the federal government of Mexico, I began to hear the repetition of the verb "construir."
The awakening was now entering the necessary arena of action - "to construct" - establishing the necessary and critical praxis - to know and to act!