Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

The Zapatistas are a very complex movement, created 15 years ago when people from the USA after the 1968 massacre (the gov't killed university students) many joined a movement. The Zapatistas are in Oaxaca and Guerrero, but there the movement did not prosper. Yes, there are poor Indians there, but here in Chiapas there are jungles & mountains that are natural protection for the rebels.

The leader is called "Subcommander Marcos" because he's subservient to the people working for him -- a political committee. It's an Indian tradition. The group gives the commands, and the subcommander obeys.

The movement at first tried to involve all Mexicans, especially low status Mexicans and even coletos. The Zapatistas say that the revolution of 1910 is still unfinished. Why didn't the Zapatistas get popular response from the people even when there's serious corruption in the government? 70% of Mexico's people says that it's bad to have corruption. It's very serious, especially in the PRI which has been in power for 70 years. But people say it's also not good for us to have trouble with guerillas.

Many Mexicans know that corruption isn't good. They sympathize with the Zapatistas because the rebels have the same demands as all Mexicans: education & health. But a civil war would be a disaster! Investors don't want to invest. It's better to work inside the system.

When the Zapatistas understood that Plan A didn't work -- getting all of Mexico involved -- they went to Plan B. They asked society, "What do you want?", and Mexicans say "start a political party, don't fight with guns." So the war stopped because of Mexican society.

Mexico sent the army here, and there were demonstrations all throughout Mexico. The Zapatistas are still at large. I ask, would the Zapatistas perhaps bring in this biotech industrial center I want in my book? He says, Zapatistas don't want the Indians' culture to change, so they wouldn't want technology in this way. The Mexican gov't might do it, however, as part of its quest to quiet the rebellion. Technology is a force for cultural change.

Twenty years ago, the Zapatistas didn't exist, and they're becoming less and less popular now. The Zapatistas want construction of schools & hospitals, but the Indians don't want outsiders to come and "invade" their turf. However, as the Indians villages see more of the outside world and have better contact, perhaps they will begin to want hospitals and schools. Sometimes the government comes to build a school, but the Zapatistas say "it's not enough!!" and prevent the building from happening.

The Zapatistas are holding out for a better deal -- a promise of schools ALL over the region. But the Indians who do want hospitals don't understand why the Zapatistas are stopping construction. We want electricity and paved roads. The Zapatistas are holding out for signing the agreements of 'San Andreas Norenza'(?). San Cristobal is not a Zapatista area (but it's the last government stronghold -- any further east, north, or south it's all Zapatista.)

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