- Aviles, Jaime. Marcos y la insurreccion Zapatista, La “revolucion virtual” de un pueblo oprimido. Mexico, D.F.: Editorial Grijalbo, 1998.
In this book, Jaime Aviles provides an overview of the importance the use of the internet has had to the EZLN movement. Aviles explains that one of the key weapons to the Zapatistas has been the ability to mobilize an international network of supporters of their cause. For many years, Aviles explains, the indigenous people of Mexico have suffered many kinds of human rights violations, including massacres, rapes, and other atrocities. All these years, indigenous people were taught to endure such violations under the idea of their biological and cultural inferiority. Anger, resentment and hate have inhabitated their hearts and souls, but feeling powerless to a dominant (ideological) majority of mestizos, they have kept their revolutionary urges suppressed. The arrival of various socialist activists from Mexico City, with their technological expertise and their understanding of the way the system worked, enabled indigenous Maya to appeal to a broader audience for help in fighting their cause of basic human survival.
This book is written in Spanish and is only available in Mexico, yet it is a very valuable source of information to understand the “virtual revolution” which has been key to the success and protection of the Zapatistas movement. Aviles argues that without the support of a cyberg community, it is very likely that the EZLN would have been massacred by the Mexican military (under the direction of the U.S. government firms such as Chase Manhattan). Aviles also explains how Mexico has always had leftist tendencies and crushing the EZLN could ultimately lead to another civil war. He believes that having access to communication is key to the survival and spread of the Zapatista movement and ideology.
- Batalla, Guillermo Bonfil. Mexico Profundo, Reclaiming a Civilization. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
Guillermo Bonfil Batalla’s book provides a missing aspect of Mexican history, the story of its indigenous people, what he calls “una civilizacion negada” (a denied/unvalidated civilization). This illustrates the negation of a civilization which continues to exist despite the genocidal approach towards its destruction. Bonfil Batalla explains that Mexico is not a mestizo country, but rather a country whose majority continues to be rooted in Mesoamerican civilization as the culture and values reflect those practiced by its ancestors for thousands of years. Mexico Profundo includes those who speak an indigenous language, and who are living in extreme poverty today in the various states of the Mexican republic. He states that “their way of life has endured as they have resisted outside forces, appropriated and adopted as their own useful items from outside, and in turn created new and original elements of Mesoamerican civilization” (p.vi). Bonfil Batalla was a distinguished Mexican anthropologist and served as director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) until his tragic death in a car accident in July 1991.
Bonfil Batalla’s Mexico Profundo erupted into the national consciousness in 1994 during the EZLN uprising in Mexico. The strength of Mexico Profundo is most evident in the power and public support of the Zapatista uprising, as well as other forms of civil disobedience present all throughout Mexico. Bonfil Batalla has written extensively on the importance of understanding the indigenous culture and heritage of Mexican people, therefore his book is key to the understanding of the political struggle within Mexican culture.
- Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony or survival, American quest for global dominance. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003.
Hegemony or survival is a fascinating analysis of the imperialism of the U.S. today and the fast spread of unregulated capitalism through the hegemonic practices of the elite that run the world. Chomsky warns us of the eminent threat that hegemony poses to our survival today. He explains that there are basically two major world powers which hold the fate of humanity, one is the U.S. militaristic imperialism, and the other is public opinion. Chomsky provides a lenghty and well-supported/factual overview of the hegemonic practices of the U.S. during the 21st century all around the world. Furthermore, he explores the way that the U.S. has manipulated the goverments of Latin America to protect its interest and keep people subjugated. Wilsonian theories have promoted a paternalistic view of the indigenous people of the Americas which justify and even promote colonization for the development and civilization of the natives in Latin America.
This book provides a factual based context for the resistance of indigenous Maya people through the Zapatista movement. Chomsky discusses what the media in the U.S. omits to keep us ignorant of the real conditions of indigenous people and their context to maintain the power and privilege of the U.S. at the expense of the indigenous people and their land. Many conservatives have dismissed and even advocated attacks towards the Zapatistas claiming they are a threat to U.S. interests as they allegedly promote communism in Mexico. Chomsky’s book provides the evidence of the political exploitation and genocide which has been taking place among indigenous communities in Latin America. One such massacres took place in the town of Acteál in Chiapas Mexico, when 45 people, many children and pregnant women who were peacefully participating in a religious prayer and were killed by “unknown” paramilitary forces.
- Coe, Michael. The Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.
Michael Coe is considered one of the leading experts in Mayan archaeology and ancient culture. He was one of the experts who cracked the Mayan code and has been able not only to decipher ancient Maya culture, but to connect it with modern day Maya indigenous people. Coe explains the cultural perseverance of the Maya as being the result of geographical isolation. The Maya were untouched by the Spaniards as they moved into undesirable territory in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala. Later, the Mestizo population left them alone as they were considered inferior and backwards. However, after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, former Mexican President, Salinas de Gortari, decided to abolish the legislation which granted ownership of land to those campesinos who worked it. This also opened the door for corporations to move in and use the land previously inhabited by Maya indigenous people for crop farming. The Maya would then serve as a source of cheap labor. Coe argues that this has exposed indigenous Maya to western culture, diseases, and exploitation for which the Maya are not able to survive.
In his book, Michael Coe refers to them as the enduring Maya and wonders how a culture which has lasted for thousands of years will respond to the pressures of globalization and hegemony of the west. Coe’s work inspired me to research this fascinating culture which I had been taught was long dead. Many people visit the Mayan ruins in Mexico and are told that the ancient Maya were a very advance civilization, yet fail to recognize the merits of their descendants who carry a wealth of knowlegde about their ancestors and the environment they live in today.
- Collier, George. Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. New York: Food First Books, 1999.
George Collier’s book Basta! provides an in-depth study of Chiapas, Mexico. He explains the legacy of conquest and moves through a historical analysis of the revolution and its agrarian reform. He then focuses on Eastern Chiapas and the building of social movements in this region, both economic and religious responses to the oppression facing indigenous people. In the second part of the book he explores the economic aspects, including the oil and agriculture crisis, energy development, and political issues of controlling resources, production, and labor in Chiapas. He concludes the book with an overview of what he calls “the New Indigenous movement” or new Zapatistmo and the effects of global networking and Neoliberalism in Mexico.
This book takes a more general view at the complex aspect surrounding the Zapatista movement. Collier has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard and is professor emeritus from Stanford University where his focus was in agrarian politics and agrarian change in Chiapas, Mexico in the 1960s. Chomsky states that “Collier’s inquire into the roots of the Zapatista rebellion lucidly reveals their depth and intricacy…illuminating fundamental and ominous tendencies in the global socioeconomic order” Collier’s book is a must in any academic understanding of the situation in Chiapas pertaining to the EZLN.
- MARCOS, Subcomandante. «Our Word is Our Weapon.» Our Word is Our Weapon. De Seven Stories Press. New York, 2002.
This CD contains the readings of many essays and poems written by Subcomandante Marcos. In these texts, Marcos explains who the Zapatistas are and what they are fighting for. He references the conditions of indigenous people through Mexico’s history. Marcos’s poetry appeals to the well-being of humanity as a whole, by promoting the protection of the earth’s resources and the respect and preservation of indigenous people in the world.
I like this CD because it includes the emic perspective of the voice of the Zapatistas, subcommander Marcos. In it, he expresses the values and the demands the Zapatistas make for their struggle to end. I think it is interesting that their demands include what some may consider basic human rights, such as land, freedom and respect for their autonomy. I love his poetic voice and his elegant use of language though when he translates it to English, I feel it loses some of its charisma and power. Marcos thick accent makes it a bit hard to understand what he is saying.
- Marx, Karl. A contribution to the critique of political economy. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1911.
In “A contribution to the critique of political economy” Marx explores the way that in a capitalist society (of free competition) inequalities become inevitable. Most complex societies have more social stratification, tribes and chiefdoms tend to be more egalitarian. After the industrial revolution, and with the birth of capitalism, 100,000 years of human evolutionary history was erased. The industrial revolution came to be seen as the emergency of “true humanity” and civilization and taken as the historical start point. Marx critiques the development of a capitalist system and its ideology justifying human inequality on the basis of a meritocracy. Marx also explains how the idea of land ownership gives rise to major, inevitable inequalities, and a system based on the exploitation of those who don’t own land, by those who monopolize land ownership.
Marx theory resonates with the Maya ideology which forms the basis of Zapatista culture. The Zapatistas advocate for equality and the idea that land belongs to those who work it (agrarian reform). Just like Marx, the Zapatista fight against the unregulated spread of capitalism, and believe that human equality should be granted to all individuals. I think that Marx’s theories are very much aligned with the demands of the Zapatistas and provide a great framework for understanding an alternative to the ideology which dominates the West and Neoliberalistic practices today. I plan to review more of Marx’s work to compare and contrast with the Zapatista as a counterculture.
—. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988.
—. The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964.
- Ramirez, Gloria Muñoz. The Fire and the Word; A hisotry of the Zapatista Movement. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2008.
In this fascinating book, Gloria Munoz Ramirez provides a rich overview of the history as well as the poetic symbolism of the EZLN. Gloria was born in Mexico City and worked as a journalist for many newspapers during the EZLN uprising, including Punto, German news agency DPA, and La Opinion (a U.S. based newspaper. In 1997 she left her family and work to live with the Zapatista communities for seven years, which gave her an insider perspective of the EZLN culture. She currently works for La Jornada a Zapatista sympathizing newspaper in Mexico and also writes for the magazine Rebeldia.
This book provides a general story of the Zapatista movement, from the moment it came out publicly in 1994, to its international impact which continues as of today. Gloria provides rich emic perspectives by incorporating interviews of indigenous Maya who struggle to survive on a daily basis. The story is composed of what Subcomandante Marcos calls “the little pieces of mirrors and crystals that make up the various moments of the Zapatistas, years of open struggle, the reflections of a history that is still being made, one which continues to inform and inspire activists and intellectuals around the globe.” This book will be a great source of information as it provides a rich insider view of the actual Zapatistas, as well as a more up-to-date analysis of the movement and its effects worldwide.
- Ross, John. Rebellion from the roots, Indian Uprising in Chiapa. Tennessee: Common Courage Press, 1995.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the first chapter titled: “?Feliz Año Nuevo, Cabrones!” This is in reference to the EZLN uprising in January 1994. John Ross is a journalist who has been reporting on the popular struggle in Mexico and Latin America for over two decades. He is considered a poet and an activist. His extensive experience and knowledge of the media and representations of liberation movements make this book a compelling read for understanding the impact of the media to the Zapatista movement. Ross explores questions like, what does the EZLN uprising mean for the U.S.? Who really killed presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosion? Who is Marcos? Will Mexico have freedom or a free market? Do elections represent a step toward democracy or the promise of further strife?
This book provides a different view on the Zapatista movement , one which includes the perspective of the media. Ross has extensive experience writing for Mexican newspapers as well as U.S. journals, including the Nation, the Village Voice and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. I think this book provides a general overview of the perception of the Zapatistas around Mexico and in the U.S. with a bit of Mexican “picardia” or cultural twist. Rebellion from the Roots was the American Book Award Winner in 1995.
- Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.
In this book Edward Said explores the various aspects that lead to the imperialistc power of the West over the colonized continents. He explores the effects of the production of an ideology that was based on the power to narrate and reconstruct history and culture in order to promote the superiority of the colonizer. Such ideology promotes the inferiority of some races and provides justification for their inferior condition. Said explores the roles of the novels of the 19th century to strenghten the ideology of the colonizer as superior and “cultured.” He describes the continous hegemonic spread of colonizers in the West who achieved (and in term of the U.S. continue to do so) their power through the exploitation of the natives. Said points out that by 1914 “Europe held a grand total of roughly 85% of the earth as colonoies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and commonwealths” (p.8). When such as small minority has control of such a vast majority of oppressed, the internalization of an ideology is key to its existance.
Said’s work is very important to understanding the struggle and political dimensions that led to the uprising of indigenous people in Mexico and their dedication to the EZLN. Said explains the way that the annals of schools, missions, universities, scholarly societies, hospitals in Latin America established so-called modernizing trends, yet maintained the divide between the native and Westerner (p.223). Such divide however, was broken when University professors, in exile, joined the movement in 2001.
- West, Cornel. «The New Cultural Politics of Difference.» Ferguson, Russell. Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures. New York: The MIT Press, 1990. 19-37.
Cornel West explores the “New Cultural Politics of Difference” in an essay. He states that “the new cultural politics of difference consists of creative response to the precise circumstances of our presen moment” The three bais changellend of the new cultural politics of difference include: intellectual, existential, and political. The intellectual challenge centers in the monopoly and homogenization of history, culture, and society. In this he cites Fanon and his theories on the decolonization of the Third World, as it marked the end of the Age of Europe, but the emergence of the USA as a world power. This historical analysis applies to Mexico, as it too was colonized and controlled by Spain, only to find itself “liberated” from Spanish control but exploited by what Fanon calls “the national bourgeoisie” and now the U.S.
West’s second challenge is the existential challenge, which refers to the cultural capital to thrive independently of the nation or the status quo. I believe that the EZL has the “high-quality skills require to engage in critical practices and the self-confidence, discipline and perseverance necessary for success without an undue reliance on the mainstream for approval and acceptance” (32). The mainstream approval refers to the conservative, capitalist mestizo Mexican population which has openly criticized the subversive aspect of the EZLN. Finally, West poses the question of whether or not a civilization that evolves more and more around market activity, buying and selling commodities, expand the scope of freedom and democracy. The EZLN has been critical of this unregulated abuse of resources, and the inequalities of a market system based on consumption.