The Dialogues Begin Between the Zapatistas and the Mexican Federal Government
First Mesas: "Derechos y Cultura Indigena" *
17-22 October 1995
In the Communities of San Andres and San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico
[The arrival of the Zapatista delegation to the talks in San Cristobal,
driven from San Andres in Red Cross vans for protection.]
This dialogue came more than one and a half years after the Uprising in
Chiapas in January of 1994- this period was
often referred to as "The Awakening." Now, during this conference,
the prevalent phrase was "to construct."
The counter-point to the military line in San Andres was that created by
the people of the community - the defense of the EZLN .
At this moment, following the presentation by a woman from Ocosingo who
was invited by the government but actually showed a certain level of support
for the struggle of the Zapatista women, one (then all) of the Zapatista
women picked up a microphone and began to speak with strength and tenderness
to the woman from Ocosingo in Tzotzil (the language of both women). This
move to speak, from a member of the official Zapatista delegation, which
up until this point was there "to listen," stunned and excited
everyone. The press rushed into the room as the word quickly passed through
the halls and other meeting areas. This moment became a touchstone for the
many emotional exchanges which followed, where the human heart penetrated
and gave personal meaning to the issues being discussed by the women on
both sides of the table.
The six panels of this Mesa were created to address a number of related
issues, such as:
Participation and Political Representation of the Indigenous
The Situation, Rights and Culture of Indigenous Women
The Promotion and Development of Indigenous Culture
Access to the Methods of Communication
Guarantee of Justice for the Indigenous
Community and Autonomy: Indigenous Rights
The panels consisted of members of CONAI (the highly respected negotiating
group headed by bishop Samuel Ruiz, and most closely associated with the
Zapatistas) and COCOPA (most closely associated with the Mexican federal
government) as "mediators;" official representatives of the EZLN
and representatives of the Mexican federal government; and designated advisors
"asesores" and guests "invitados" selected by the EZLN
and those selected by the federal government. It was the role of the asesores
and the invitados to generate the cross-table dialogue on the issues.
The panel which raised the issue of autonomy most directly was the only
one to take place in San Andres, and it was clearly central to the discussions
occurring at each of the other panels - with autonomy the other rights could
be defined and defended by, and within, each community - without autonomy
there could be no certainty of rights, no lasting justice. Autonomy is directly
linked to "the land" and the control of the land by the Maya is
central to cultural survival. It is this issue of autonomy that the federal
government has attempted to keep out of any serious discussion and negotiation
- it is the major battle ground!
The dissemination of information throughout the
country was critical to the collective show of solidarity with the EZLN,
as it also provided for an ever widening expression of the nature and content
of the struggle for justice throughout the country.
A great resource for information on Chiapas is located at the University
of Texas, Austin.
The archives is maintained by Harry
Cleaver. Here you will find all the communiques of the EZLN, articles
from "la Jornada," along with additional relevant articles from
other news services. This is one of the most complete sites I have been
able to locate.
Additional information can be found at:
All Latin America / U. Texas at Austin
Taken at the Intercontinental - July 1996 - La Realidad
* The "Consulta por la Paz y la Democracia" had concluded on the
29th of September,1995 in "la Realidad," San Pedro Michoacan,
Chiapas. This was a meeting with the civil society and solidarity organizations
which not only discussed a number of issues, but it also indicated the broad-based
level of support within Mexico and throughout the world for the efforts
of the Zapatistas.
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