Best And Worst Of Zapatista Conference

Published: Mon 8 Jan 2007 01:01 PM
Best And Worst Of Day One At The Zapatista Intergalactico
By Julie Webb-Pullman
The autonomous Zapatista community of Oventik, in Chiapas Mexico, welcomed a couple of thousand people on 30 December to the Intergalactica, the first international encuentro, or meeting, between the Good Government Juntas and the people of the world. This event was primarily designed for the Zapatistas to explain their system of government to their international supporters, and how they are dealing with themes such as health, education, women's issues, The Other communication, art, and culture, co-operative commerce, and the fight for land and territory.

The event kicked off with an inaugural ceremony, followed by representatives of five Good Government Juntas explaining autonomy and The Other system of government to around 1500 people from 44 countries, most adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, plus a healthy contingent of 500 locals.
Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moises opens the Intergalactica
In a poor rural community that normally numbers about 200, one might expect such a huge influx to decimate their meagre resources, but the following interviews suggest otherwise. I asked people from several countries two questions: What was the best thing about the first day of the encuentro, and what was the worst. The responses not only illustrate that the Zapatistas have more than risen to the challenge of accommodating the hordes, but also that they have truly created a world in which many worlds fit – even when the same thing, such as commercialisation, is given diametrically opposing values by different people!
For example, a Spanish man said although he understood that the Zapatistas need money, he hated the commercialisation of the movement, and seeing people in his country wearing Zapatista teeshirts when they don't know what it means, annoys him. In contrast, a Norwegian said that he thinks “the commercialisation of the revolution or the movement or whatever you want to call it is a good way of protection which makes the pacifistic approach possible.” In his opinion, tourism, for instance, protects the region because the Mexican government can't do anything too bad when there are many foreigners there to see what is going on.
A sample of other excerpts from these brief interviews shows why so many people have come so far to be part of this historic event, as well as their perceived shortcomings of the encuentro on day one.
Best thing (B) Meeting all the lovely people that I found here from all nationalities, also of course the Zapatista people who received us really well, and just the magic of the place, all these people meeting together.
Worst thing (W) Being stuck like a chicken in the back of a truck to come up here – but that was part of it – it was still fun, somehow!! That's the worst I can think of, so it's pretty good!
B How the people here survive such hard lives, and the amazing support they get from all around the world.
W “Marketing” of the revolution.
B How welcoming it was - everything has been prepared for us with so much feeling and love, and everyone shares the same ideas.
W When I bought water here, I found that it was produced by CocaCola and I looked in many places but it was all the same, and it annoys me a lot because I don't want to support multinationals, I don't want to give them my money.
B The form, the encuentro itself, rather than the content – the fact that it's a process of people coming together and an expression of people's power and you can really feel that.
W Some of the subtle forms of racism, not that they're totally bad, but things like people from North America not appreciating things like the language differences and cultural differences, getting annoyed when their needs are not met without understanding how much it took to get it all on in total.
B The way the Zapatistas communicate their message to the world, they're very international-minded.
W I haven't seen any bad things but the name intergalactico is a bit pretentious.
B It is so well-organised and everything is working so well – there were enough buses to bring everyone here – the whole organisation is so good. The inauguration was very impressive for me, it was very open.
W I couldn't get into the afternoon event because the building was too small to hold all the people who wanted to hear them. Tomorrow I want to hear about education as well as health, but they are at the same time.
B The talks by the people from the communities.
W The talks by people from other countries!!
B The opening ceremony, all the colours, the feelings, the people, the strength of the Zapatistas walking a revolutionary path from below – very powerful, very powerful.
W Nothing – no, a man who snored all night!
B The plenary table (about autonomous Good Government) – very interesting.
W The cold!!
B They told many things I have not read in books.
W The title of the table was self-government but everyone from the international society spoke about their own project or something else outside the theme of the table.
B There was nothing good.
W Too many people in a small place.
B There are not words to describe being here in person to experience the Zapatista struggle of all, for all, fighting the common enemy of neoliberalism and capitalism. Many people from many different countries and continents all fighting for the same thing, liberation.
W The cold!
B The magnitude of the Zapatista movement – it is very big, very strong.
W Frankly, there aren't any bad things.
B How hard the women in the communities work, but the fight continues. I hope there will be an encuentro for women only because many women are too shy to speak in front of the men about their experiences.
W People who say that women have nothing here - it really annoys me because they try to compare their own cultures with the culture here, I wish they would learn and understand and not look only for bad things.
B To see other people, to discuss with other people, and to have some connections.
W It was billed as an international encuentro but at the inauguration it was only the Zapatistas giving the speeches. Everybody came here to say something about their own experiences and their own needs. Foreigners came from very far away, I came 17,000 km but I didn't have the occasion to share with other people.
And What the Locals Thought
B The best thing for me is the work of the communities in showing the construction of autonomous alternatives, how to change the system of capitalism - but it is a process without end, and needs a lot of determination.
W We need another international encounter because this one is primarily for the Zapatistas to explain what they are doing, and we need a space where other countries can share their experiences as well. At the international level, there are many examples of very strong processes so we have to create a space for them, to enable us to understand their struggle as well, not just for them to understand ours.
B Meeting all the people from other countries, equality, unity, tolerance and respect, and to feel the consciousness of the people from around the world about things that are important to us Zapatistas, like health, education, the integration of women in our communities.
W There aren't enough spaces for women to talk about their own paths.
B The person, I think from the Good Government Junta of Morelia, who said that even if we can't change the world, the world doesn't have to change us.
W Many people from other countries who support us say they want to help us here - they don't understand they should return to their countries to build alternatives in their own countries.
B The arrival of all of you. It is very important for us, without you all there couldn't be anything. It is an opportunity for you to observe our poverty at the bottom and for us to explain our organisation for the poor. It is good that you have this experience to take back for your work, to know about Chiapas, to know the reality, and we hope that you can use it in the struggle, to bring hope to everyone.
And the last word of the first day went to a young girl from another local community, whose sister works at the Oventik Health Clinic – and who when asked what she liked best about the encuentro, exclaimed excitedly, “EVERYTHING!”

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