Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

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

I go to meet Alfonso. San Cristobal is at the top of a hill. This is the highest point in Chiapas and has the coldest weather. Alfonso is quite a character. He wants to talk about the Zapatistas, and nothing else. OK, tell me about the Zapatistas. He says there've been economic problems in Chiapas since it was part of Guatemala in the 16th century.

Alfonso has a dark fungal-like growth on his neck. Looks like cancer to me. A dark blotch the size and shape of a wad of gum. A BLACK wad.

Chiapas has natural gas, and possibly uranium, although apparently that's unproven. Alfonso gives me this weird National Enquirer story. "I never read this anywhere, but this is what I think is true." He says the US took notice of Chiapas because of its natural resources, and the Zapatistas wanted a revolution so that the US would not take over Chiapas. Hmm... pretty crazy.

Zapatistas are all mestizzos, not Indians. (I think the idea is that the Zapatistas are a high-falutin' intellectual bunch, and only mestizzos have the needed schooling?) They're just using the Indians to place pressure on the government. He thinks the Mexican government wants to keep the Indians ignorant, so they remain servants.

Alfonso has wireframe glasses, a brown wool cap plonked across his head, a bushy mustache which is going grey. His disheveled hair peeks out from under his cap. He's wearing a t-shirt but there's a vest over it -- a drab & ugly one, a simple peasant cloth. He's light-skinned, as though he's more Spanish. Alfonso looks like a lowlife, but he's very friendly.

I ask, What do the Zapatistas actually do? He has no idea. "Nobody knows." What kinds of illegal activities are happening in San Cristobal? -- Italian criminals, not mafia but smuggling drugs from Colombia to the USA -- PRI is nasty -- drugs passing through Mexico. They cross the border.

Marijuana grows all over Mexico. But that's a soft drug. The authorities are interested really in cocaine from Peru or Colombia, which comes through the small countries into Guatemala. There are guards at the border of Guatemala, but very few. There's a lot of corruption to help drugs across the border. "Just keep your silence."

In 1994, a lot of small planes were flying around the jungle and dropping packets of cocaine. The Zapatistas would pick up the packets and sell the cocaine all around San Cristobal. "grapas" = grams, i.e. small plastic bags with a gram of cocaine. During the 1994 rebellion, the Zapatistas were selling cocaine for money to get food & weapons. In San Cristobal cocaine was very available, and very pure.

All around Chiapas there are road blocks. The guards stopping you say "We're sorry, it's our job, we have to look, so please excuse us." It takes 30 minutes to search the car. People put these grapas in their corn or bean bags, and walk over the mountains instead of going by car. There are no soldiers barring the way there.

They bring them to San Cristobal and then by car or by DHL (or Fedex or other mail delivery service). Also, if a relative goes to Mexico City, he or she might bring. For example, a lady with three children brings in smelly baby dirty "Pampers" diapers. When the guard questions her, she says, "I'm poor, I need to wash my pampers. I can't just throw them out. That's why I save them." The guards don't want to search through it.

The Bishop stopped that activity. He said stop the drugs in 1994.

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