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
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
The awakening was now entering the necessary arena of action - "to
construct" - establishing the necessary and critical praxis - to know
and to act!