Bicentennial XI: Los Zapatistas

June 15, 2010

Bicentennial XI: Los Zapatistas

Today the series on Mexico’s Bicentennial will look at the Zapatista Liberation Army  (EZLN)  who went public on January 1, 1994, the day when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect..

 The EZLN believed NAFTA would widen the gap between the rich and poor in Chiapas. The EZLN called for more democratization of the Mexican government which at the time, was controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). This had been so for nearly 70 years. They also wanted land reformThe EZLN did not want independence from Mexico, but they did want autonomy and they demanded that the natural resources extracted from Chiapas benefit the people of Chiapas.

On the morning of January 1 1994, led by the enigmatic leader Comandante Marcos, an estimated 3,000 armed Zapatistas seized towns and cities in Chiapas, including Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Huixtan, Oxchuc, Rancho Nuevo, Altamirano, and Chanal. The guerrillas were successful the first day, but on the next, the Mexican army forces counter-attacked and fierce fighting broke out in and around the market of Ocosingo. The Zapatista forces suffered heavy casualties and fled from the city into the surrounding jungle.

The EZLN made several Declarations. In the first, issued on January 8, 1994 from the Lacandon Jungle, the Zapatistas presented their Revolutionary Laws. One of the laws was the Women’s Revolutionary Law, which states:

1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.

2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.

  1. 3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  2. 4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and have charge if they are free and democratically elected.
  3. 5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.

6. Women have the right to an education.

7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.

8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.

It may seem that the above mentioned Law has been in place for many years already. In other places, the eight points have been widely accepted but not in Chiapas.  Life is very hard there and women have carried a heavy burden. The EZLN has inspired some changes in thinking and there have been some improvements in the infrastructure that the government provides to the population. But it has not been enough. The human condition in Chiapas and in other impoverished areas of the country continues to be very difficult.   

Sources:  Author’s notes and Wikipedia

Images: Google Images

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