Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

The Zapatistas really needed money at the very beginning, because they were fighting "with broomsticks". The Mexican government has American weapons. The Zapatistas have to buy Russian weapons (I think he says: from Cuba?) The war was just eight days: Jan 1 to Jan 8th. There were just two big battles. One big one at the military base.

The Zapatistas came first to San Cristobal on Dec 31, 1993: New Year's Eve. Everybody was drinking & partying. There were lots of masked people in town. They took over the "Palace de Municipal" = County Palace. Then they went to the police station, and took the weapons of the police and put the police in the jail with no shoes or clothing. Then the Zapatistas waited one night for the soldiers to come to town.

Marcos gave a speech, saying "Citizens of San Cristobal, don't be afraid of us. We are Indian supporters who want only good. If you want to support us, with blankets, food, boots, money, we would appreciate it. The soldiers did not come to town, so Marcos decided to provoke them. The Zapatistas shot the installations to provoke a counterfire, but the soldiers has no orders to fight back. They were instead hiding in a special shelter.

The next day, Jan 3rd, they fought around the Rancho Nuevo base. Some 1500 or 2000 Zapatistas died. There were lots of press photos: "oh, poor Indians! They are fighting with only wooden sticks, and they get killed!" Lots of human rights groups come here & there are fears of genocide. Then the Mexican army comes into the jungle to finish off the Zapatistas. But the Zapatistas climb trees and shoot from the trees and win.

Alfonso says he saw Military cars carrying black plastic bags for dead soldiers. That means a defeat of the Army. Then more than 12,000 soldiers arrived. "Everywhere you saw green."

There are no roads in the jungle called "Ecologia preserve". There still exist jaguars and eagles there. The Zapatistas went to hide there. Could a tourist survive in the jungle? No.

Since 1994, the Mexican government has made roads looking for the Zapatistas. The jungle is not any more fully a jungle. The rich people need lots and lots of land to raise cattle. But the Indians need land for growing food.

The dark blue police are state police, in charge of supervising the roads. They carry AR15 machine guns. I know because when I ask my guide, he called one of them over and asked him! Yikes!

Here's a historical story from the 1930s. There was a man named Horatio Trujilo, a mestizo man. Horatio collected Indians to work in coffee farms. He makes money by taking 50% of one month's salary (I think). If the people resist, they don't want to pay, then he kills those people. Poison in drinks, by guns or machete: cutting off their heads.

He charges a lot of money. He lies to the Indians about how much he's going to charge them. The Indians are like slaves. They are not allowed to leave the farm or quit. There's very very low payment. There were many people like Horatio in the 1930s, but this does not happen today.

OK, so what's a modern story of bad people? He says the really bad ones are the ones here in town. The county president. He's bad because he's on the side of the Mexican government.

Also banditos. There was a group of soldiers a year ago who put on Zapatista uniforms, then they stopped tourist buses between San Cristobal and Palenque, and raped tourist women, and took everything: camera, money, passports. It happened several times 2-3 years ago. (I wonder if this was really the Zapatistas or not.) Then the Federal Road Police make "patrols". That stopped it. These are the 6am convoys I've heard about.

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