"Other Campaign" Reaches Chiapas CapitalSan Diego 09 Jan 2006 18:38 GMT
According to Delegate Zero, the Other Campaign is not about joining the EZLN (the Zapatista National Liberation Army) but about working together with all the marginalized sectors of the country that are dissatisfied with the electoral way and are trying to construct a new reality where “everybody has a voice.”
“The Otra Campaña,” said Marcos to the cheerful crowd, “will not give you underwear or sodas, like politicians do. It is about working together to achieve a better reality. You can take those gifts that politicians give you every six years, along with their empty promises, but you know you will never see them again. At least, you can use the underwear and sodas but politicians are good for nothing. We don’t need them.”
Emphasizing the union of workers and peasants, Marcos assured the crowd that if the rich were to leave the country “nothing would happen. The country would not stop running because it is the poor and oppressed people who keep it going.” The EZLN, according to him, has shown that in order to participate in a democracy no high educational degrees are needed. Humble people can also be leaders. And many times, those with “fancy School diplomas are the ones who turn against their own people.”
The EZLN’s effort to join forces with other progressive forces in Mexico is best reflected by their new slogan of “Down and to the Left,” which sums up their desire to help organize a bottom-up movement in the left side of the political spectrum composed by city workers, indigenous groups, peasants, house wives, students, elders, children, etc.
After the public event, the Other Campaign held a community forum at the Union Hall of the local Teacher’s Union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación Sección 7) attended by about 250 persons, who packed up a leaking room, ranging from Indigenous persons, housewives with their children, teachers, peasants, college students, international observers, and journalists.
The EZLN was represented by the Delegate Zero (Subcomandante Marcos), and two other Zapatistas (a woman and a man) wearing their characteristic black ski masks.
For several hours, many attendants freely spoke their minds. Preference was given to local residents from Tuxtla and the state of Chiapas. A representative from the Elder’s Market (Mercado de los Ancianos) talked about the reasons why they were supporting the Other Campaign. He said that in the past, they had faced severe difficulties and had always enjoyed the Zapatista’s support. “But we’ve never asked the Zapatistas to solve our problems. We can’t do that. We have to do it ourselves. Who is going to change things around? The people organized.”
Claudia, a 14 year old local girl, raised a warning against the Earth´s environmental plight. “Do you know that the Earth is agonizing?” she asked the crowd as tears ran down her cheeks. “I want to be a grandmother some day but the Earth is dying and nobody is doing anything to solve it.”
Several people thanked La Otra Campaña for setting up a stage to voice their concerns, and some spoke openly about the necessity to bring about a major social change. A local teacher said that “in the past, they thought that the PRD (a center-left political Party in Mexico) was an option, but we were wrong. All political parties have lied to us. If we want things to change, we need to change ourselves first, our ways of thinking.” He added that “if we do not work with unity and in an organized manner, nothing will change.”
An older peasant claimed that the change had to include even aspects of our daily lives because simple things such as drinking a soda had unwanted consequences, “for every caca cola (shit cola) you drink, an Iraqi person gets killed.”
A middle age woman warned the audience that they shouldn’t focus only on Marcos, “on finding out what did he really smoke on his pipe,” which provoked a wave of laughter around the room. “Instead, we need to use this opportunity to exchange our contact information and keep meeting amongst ourselves.”
Similarly, an international observer from Europe said that people should not base the entire movement on a single person because “what would happen if Marcos were killed or bought out?” For him, people had to organize themselves in a horizontal manner, without unjustified leaders. “Even if Marcos were not here, we need to get together and start working amongst ourselves.”
“What is our future?” asked a worker, “to go around begging or to migrate to the US. It is a national tragedy. I have two sons there but I’m not going to follow them. I’m going to stay here to work to improve the country.”
“Some people here are focusing too much on the government,” revealed a local peasant, “but I think the government is just a tool for the corporate class. That’s really the people we are dealing with.”
“I want to see an independent Chiapas,” announced a High School student,”I’m not Mexican, I’m a Chiapan. Mexico is robbing our resources. We are not only invaded by the yankees but by the country too.” He then talked about how Chiapas supplies most of the energy that Mexico City consumes.
Another local student complained about the education system. “At school, the teachers teach us a bunch of worthless crap. The system is to blame.”
A man announced that there had been an attempt on a local prison to organize a strike in support of the Other Campaign but that it had been suppressed by the prison’s director.
As hours went by, one of the Zapatista representatives feel asleep and a young man from Berkeley, CA asked to set a time limit to people’s participation. His request was greeted with approval by several in the crowd. At that point, the Delegate Zero shook his head in a dissaproving way and stood up. “We came here to listen to everyone even if takes us all night long,” he said as a wave of applause spread through the room. In indigenous regions, community meetings can last through the night.
Initially, the organizers of the community meeting had announced that the press was not going to be let in until the end of the meeting but at the end several journalists managed to gain access. Still, many felt that the event was not organized to grab headlines but to start a one on one dialogue amongst local residents.
Shawn H. a professional photographer with an international agency remained outside the Union Hall. “I don’t understand these guys. The thing that kills me is that I feel they are dizzying me. Don’t they want some headlines?”
He said that he heard that the international press was planning to disrupt the meetings. “That’s a first one for me. I don’t know what to make of all this. Whatever is happening here it is the first time it is happening. People usually look for power or glory, but I don’t get that feeling from these guys.”