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Zapatista caravan to Mexico City

Imc Uk | 31.03.2001 22:00 | Zapatista | World

Zapatista caravan to Mexico City

On February 24th, 23 EZLN commanders, one subcommander, and hundreds of supporters from all over the world embarked on a journey through a large number of Mexican states to the capital Mexico City, to bring the seven year-long Zapatista struggle to the centre of Mexican political power. Their demands were: implementation of the San Andres accords of indigenous rights, release of all political prisoners, and closure of seven military bases in Chiapas.

During this caravan, they held rallies and public meetings in many Mexican towns, took part in an indigenous congress in Nurio, spoke in front of 200.000 people on the central square of Mexico City and later in front of the Congress. Most importantly, they mobilised civil society both in Mexico and abroad for indigenous rights, against neoliberalism, and for an "inclusive, tolerant and plural tomorrow - which is, incidentally, the only tomorrow possible" (Subcommandante Marcos).

On this page, you will find a detailed account of the various stages of the caravan and of the events during the EZLN's stay in Mexico City, reflections on the caravan, and some background on the Zapatistas.

Also, read a comprehensive update on the situation in Chiapas (May 2001) since the last round of negotiations between the EZLN and Fox's government broke down on April 29.

The final stage: Mexico City

After two weeks of holding public meetings in several places around the capital and putting pressure on President Fox and the Congress, the Zapatista delegation was finally invited to speak in front of the Mexican Congress. On Wednesday 28th March, the EZLN commanders and representatives of the great majority of the Indian peoples of Mexico met the Congress of the Union in the San Lázaro Legislative Palace. Comandanta Esther, Comandante David, Comandante Zebedeo, Comandante Tacho and representatives of the Indigenous National Congress spoke in front of the Mexican legislators to promote the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture. Afterwards, The EZLN held a rally in front ofCongress Palace and announced their return to Chiapas.

A week earlier, the EZLN had announced that they would leave on Friday 23 March in response to the government's unwillingness to meet their demands. President Vicente Fox had responded to that with a promise of imminent release of prisoners and of dismantling of three army bases in Chiapas.

The EZLN had then postponed its departure from Mexico City in order to speak in Congress. Read Analysis on Fox's last gasp effort to stall Zapatista Delegation's return to the Lacandon jungle.

Meanwhile in Chiapas, the federal army proceeded in dismantling its fifth military base, Rio Euseba. When the Zapatista delegation arrived back in Chiapas, the sixth and seventh base were also abandoned by the military, fulfilling one of the Zapatista's three central demands. However, there have also been reports of renewed military harrasment in the area.

After several weeks of negotiations between the General Command of the EZLN and the Federal Government, the EZLN finally decided to break the dialogue with the Mexican legislators because "the reforms accorded by the Mexican parliament do not respect the San Andres accords".

On the 29 of April, the EZLN announced with two communiques their decision and stated that "we are going to continue with our resistance and rebellion until such a time when the rights and culture of indigenous peoples are constitutionally recognised in Mexico".

Reflections on the March

"Today war is a bit further away than it was, and peace, justice and dignity a bit nearer", Subcommandante Marcos affirmed in front of thousands of zapatista indigenous people in the heights of the mountains of Chiapas on April 1st. He pointed out that one of the main achievements of the Zapatista March has been that of bringing the issue of indigenous rights to the centre of national consciousness and making it one of the main debates in the whole of Mexico.

- Marcos on culture, chess, clocks and boots
- The Caravan of Dignity (Part 1)
- The Caravan of Dignity (Part 2)
- Solve the Seven-Part Zapatista Riddle... (Narconews)
- Picture gallery (IMC Chiapas)
- Video documentary (Big Noise Films, Paper Tiger, Chiapas Media Project)

Caravan stages

From February 25 to March 11 a delegation of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) and hundreds of supporters from all over the world marched from Chiapas to Mexico City, to bring the seven year long Zapatista struggle to the centre of Mexican political power.

The map below shows the entire route of the Caravan. For information on the various legs and daily first hand reports click on the locations on the map, or scroll down.

Saturday, February 24: The Zapatista Delegations left from La Realidad, La Garrucha, Oventik and Moises Gandhi where Civil Society met them. A communique (in Spanish) by the EZLN's Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee was read by the Zapatista delegation. This marked the starting point of the Caravan journey that moved towards San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

Read more:
- Report from EZLN caravan in San Cristobal, Chiapas
- First hand report from Oventic
- Arrival in San Cristobal
- Picture of Zapatistas leaving Oventic
- Picture of Zapatistas as they arrive in San Cristobal

Sunday, February 25: The Zapatista Delegation left San Cristóbal, Chiapas, and was moving through the State of Oaxaca via Tapanatepec and La Ventosa. It stopped to salute a concentration of indigenous allies at the border of Oaxaca, before taking part in the central event of the day - a rally in Juchitán. The citizens of Juchitán were the first to rebel against Mexico's ruling party in 1982. Read first hand account.

Read more:
- a gallery of images from the first two days of the caravan.
- the Communique about the threats to the EZLN's Caravan
- Irish anarchist reports from San Cristobel on Zapatista march

Monday, February 26: Passing through Tehuantepec and Villa de Mitla, the Caravan was travelling to the state capital of Oaxaca, Oaxaca. During the night at Oaxaca, the buses of the Italian supporters miraculously disappeared. A sabotage action by anti-Zapatista groups was thought to be the most likely cause for this incident. Read more:
Article in La Jornada on the Oaxaca rally
- The Caravan in Oaxaca (video)

Meanwhile in Cancun, protests and actions took place against a meeting by the World Economic Forum:
[report 1 | report 2 | picture 1 | picture2]

Tuesday, February 27: The Caravan, including the Italians who managed to hire other buses, passed through Tehuacán (Puebla) and Orizaba (Veracrúz) where they were greeted by a crowd of 50 thousands. The caravan ended the day in the state capital of Puebla (Puebla) where 15.000 people attended a rally in the Central Square.

Read more:
Words of the EZLN in Puebla
- Zapatistas in Puebla (Video)
- EZLN mass reception in Puebla (pic)

Another day of protest against the WEF in Cancun heavily repressed by police:
- Update of the events in Cancun
- Blockade in Cancun (pic)
- White overalls in Cancun (pic)
- police arrest injured protester (pic)

Wednesday, February 28: This morning the delegation left Puebla (Puebla) in direction to the state of Hidalgo. The first stop of the Caravan was in Tlaxcala (Tlaxcala). Then passed through several towns and cities of the state of Hidalgo: Emiliano Zapata, Cuidad Sahagún, Actopan, Francisco I. Madero, Ixmiquilpan and Tepatepec.
During the reception event in the state's capital Pachuca Subcomandante Marcos formally announced the beginning of contacts between the EZLN and the federal legislators.

Read more:
EZLN Confirms Contact With Legislators
- Carlos Santana says NO to Televisa-Azteca "Peace Concert"
- Televisa's truck gets a Zapatista graffiti (pic)
- Marcos giving a speech in the rain (pic)
- EZLN Delegation in Ixmilquilpan (pic)

Thursday, March 1: The Caravan reached the state of Quéretaro where there are Zapatista political prisoners incarcerated. The local governor, Ignacio Loyola Vera (well known for his strong opposition to any form of negotiation with the EZLN), left the state capital of Querétaro (Quéretaro) in sign of protest.
The day began with a tragic road accident in which one of the buses of the caravan ran over two police officers of the escort, killing one. Because of the delay caused by the accident the caravan was unable to get to Nurio (Michoacán) where the Third Indigenous National Congress is due to begin on March 2nd.

Read more:
EZLN communique regarding road accident
- People protects EZLN commanders after their bus has crashed (pic)
- EZLN in Querétaro (article from La Jornada)
- Caravan welcomed in Queretaro (pic)

Friday, March 2: The Zapatista delegation arrived in city of Nurio (Michoacán) to participate in the Third Indigenous National Congress. More than 1000 delegates have attended the first session of the 3 days event that brings together representatives of indigenous communities from all over Mexico.
Mayan representatives have expressed their doubts about Vicente Fox's "good will". They accused the Federal Government of only having interest in gaining publicity, and not being fully committed to a "just and dignified peace". They also reiterated that the main demands of the indigenous peoples of Mexico are still the same as the resolutions of previous Indigenous Congresses: the withdrawal of military bases and the dismantling of paramilitaries not only from Chiapas, but from all the indigenous communities.

The General Command of the EZLN has confirmed that it is still waiting for reports on yesterday's crash in order to determine if it was indeed and accident or an attack. It also laments the death of the military official that was 'escorting' the caravan. Read more:
Indigenous National Congress Info Page (english)
- Image of Nurio,site of the Indigenous National Congress (pic)

Saturday, March 3: More work at the CNI Congress. After several hours of speeches and ceremonies, including the intonation of the Zapatista hymn, the hundreds of indigenous delegates split up into four working groups, where they will discuss proposals and work to forge consensus regarding the Cocopa indigenous rights bill soon to be debated in the Mexican Congress. Read report.

Read more:
- today's Editorial of the daily newspaper La Nación de Costa Rica, on the importance of the Zapatista March for the rest of Latin America.
- Photo of Comandantes holding the EZLN flag during the opening ceremony of the 3rd Indigenous National Congress.

Sunday, March 4: Last day of the CNI Congress. 3,300 delegates demanded the recognition of indigenous rights and a demilitarisation of the country. During the three days of the Congress, there were also present oround 3000 "observers" mainly consisting of the internationalists following the Zapatista caravan and several hundred journalists - read the first hand account.

Read more:
- Results and resolutions from the Indigenous National Congress
- EZLN speech
- Declaration presented by the Purhepecha People: Regional Autonomy
- indigenous women at the congress (pic)
- Anti-corporate media banner at the congress (pic)
- Purhepecha flag at the congress (pic)

Monday, March 5: The Delegates stopped for a planned event in the state capital of Morelia and then passed through Zitácuaro, Michoacán, and entered the State of Mexico. There was a rally in Toluca and another in the Otomí zone of Temoaya. The delegation "share bread and roof with our brothers and sisters" of the Andrés Molina Enriquez housing project known as "La Pila" in the town of Metepec.

Read more:
EZLN speech in Morelia (Michoacan) (spanish)
- Even souvenir shops support the EZLN (pic)

Tuesday, March 6: The Zapatista Delegation passed through Cuernavaca (Morelos), and then to Tepoztlán (Morelos), where it spent the night. Large crowds welcomed the Zapatistas all along the way. In Toluca (Morelos) Comandante Zebedeo said that "we have seen that this popular movement it is already like the stars in the sky that are continuously multiplying". Hundreds of men, women and children from Mazahuas and Otomies communities also welcomed the caravan in an unprogrammed stop. Comandante David invited them to join the Caravan "to Mexico DF, to the Congress of the Union, so between all of us we may achieve respect and recognition for the indigenous rights and culture".

It is also important to point out that today the Cocopa commission has officially recognised Mr Fernando Yanez as the link between the EZLN and the Federal Government.

Read more:
EZLN words in Cuernavaca
- Awaiting the Zapatistas in Cuernacava
- Full report and pictures on today's leg (spanish)

Wednesday, March 7:The EZLN Delegation left Tepoztlan (Morelos) towards Guerrero, a state with a history of rebellion and social struggle as well as "...the state in which the national drama is synthesized: concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, scandalous social imbalance.." as the EZLN addressed the crowd at the central event in the city of Iguala, Guerrero. At the same event the General Command of the EZLN delivered the third of the seven messages to Mexico City: "This is Mexico. In order to make war one must challenge the government. In order to achieve the peace with justice and dignity, one must also challenge the government. We, thus, are challenging whomever objects. We are challenging them."

The Delegates returned to Cuautla, Morelos. In Cuautla lies in state the tomb of General Emiliano Zapata. In the nearby community of Aninecuilco, Zapata's was born and the ruins of his home still stand. Also nearby, Chinameca, where history says Zapata was assassinated.

Read more:
Words of the EZLN March 7, 2001. In Iguala, Guerrero.
- "On the Road with the Subcomandante (Philadelphia City Paper)

Thursday, March 8: On the International Day of the Rebel Women and the 12th of the march, the EZLN caravan entered the Federal District of Mexico City. The day began in Cuautla (Morelos) with the scheduled event being cancelled after the security teams reported they had found an unidentified man carrying a weapon. In Anenecuilco (Morelos) the EZLN delegation visited the museum built around the ruins of the house where General Emiliano Zapata was born and met Zapata's son and daughter.

Read more:
EZLN statement at the International Day of the Rebel Women
- 12th day, 5th message and an abundance of good words (La Jornada)
- Narco News report from Anenecuilco
- Sunset in Cuautla (pic)

Friday, March 9: The EZLN Delegation has called today for a mobilisation in the whole country demanding that the Congress of the Union ratifies the San Andres Accords. The EZLN's General Command in Rebellion manifested once more that if Vicente Fox's government wants to dialogue with the EZLN, they will have to accept the Zapatista demands first, and that the "dialogue will have to be sincere and definitive, in which, whatever it is finally accorded will have to be respected and put into practice". "The Zapatistas have already proved that we can comply with our word, now it's the Federal Government's turn". In an earlier communicate, the Zapatista delegation announced that "we are thousands on our way to Mexico DF, and we want to call on all Mexican and International civil society to accompany us in the final leg into Mexico DF this Sunday, be it from the streets, from the pavements, from your windows, balconies and roofs, whatever you choose!" The Caravan spent the night in Milpa Alta.

Read more:
EZLN words in Milpa Alta
- Cuernavaca, Zapatista Territory (pic)

Saturday, March 10: The Zapatista Delegation headed today towards Xochimilco, also in the Federal District of Mexico City. Early in the morning, a thousand strong contingent proceeding from around 400 indigenous and rural communities of the State of Guerrero, as well as a delegation of Barzonistas from Micoacán, have joined the Zapatista march towards the heart of the Republic's capital. "We will not go until there is Institutional recognition of the rights and culture of all Indigenous peoples of Mexico", Marcos affirmed. (full story in spanish)

Also, The "White Overalls/Monos Blancos" have announced today that they are withdrawing from their role as Caravan security. This decision was made public this morning with a flyer that quickly became the focus of conversation of the awakening travellers. The paper is addressed to the Civil Society of the Caravan. (full story)

Read more: - The Caravan of Dignity (Part 1)

Sunday, March 11: The EZLN Delegation has made its official entrance into Mexico City, greeted and cheered by an impressive crowd of more that 200,00 people. The central rally was held on the Zócalo -- the central plaza and heart of Mexico City in front of the National Palace. Several commandantes, including Marcos, held speeches.
A recent communiqué by the EZLN states that the delegation will remain in Mexico City "until there is a dialogue with Congress." An invitation by Mexican President Vicente Fox to meet in the Presidential Palace was rejected by the commandantes as it would be "a hollow media event".

Read more:
Words of the EZLN in the Zocalo
- Report from Mexico City (Spanish)

Monday, March 12: Subcommandante Marcos spoke at the "Paths of Dignity: Indigenous Rights, Memory and Cultural Heritage" intercultural meeting organised by the ENAH (National School of Anthropology and History) - a meeting also attended by writers like Jose Saramago and Alain Touraine. He reflected on the march:

"We Zpatistas have seen a part of the map of the national tragedy which is not shown on primetime on the radio and television news programs. (...) The zapatistas have also seen part of rebel Mexico, and this seeing themselves and seeing others, is nothing other than dignity. The Mexico of below, especially the indigenous, speak to us of a history of struggle and resistance which comes from afar and which beats in the today of every place. Yes, but it is also a history which looks forward."

Read more: - Marcos on culture, chess, clocks and boots


Background: Masking up to be seen

On January 1 1994, the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) took over several towns in the southernmost Mexican state of Chiapas - timed to coincide with the implementation of the NAFTA 'freetrade' agreement.

Since then, they have been demanding basic human rights and social justice for the indigenous and rural communities of the area. Autonomous communities have meanwhile been set up: which have organised education and health care; collectivized the land; and implemented a grassroots approach to direct democracy decision-making. Outside Chiapas, the Zapatistas are also known for their radical rejection of neoliberal capitalism, as well as for moving away from the traditional strategies of many past guerilla movements in Latin America.

In 1996, the Zapatistas invited people from all over the world to Chiapas for an 'Encuentro against Neoliberalism and for Humanity', followed by a similar gathering in Spain one year later. These meetings inspired many people to participate in the creation of global networks of social movements. They became a starting point for the evolving anti-globalisation movement as well as for many recent global days of action, including June 18, November 30 in Seattle, and Prague September 26.

The previous government under President Ernesto Zedillo consistently refused to implement the San Andres accords of Indigenous rights and instead built up more than 300 military bases in the area, creating a climate of continuous military and paramilitary harassment of the Zapatista communities. The new Mexican government led by Vicente Fox, has remained ambiguous about seeking military "solutions"; but is using media and PR tactics to discredit the Zapatistas. In this historical context, the EZLN had decided to send a delegation to Mexico City and announced its intention in several communiques. 24 Commandantes from the General Command of the EZLN left Chiapas for Mexico City on February 25, in order to bring the agreed legislative proposal which reflects the San Andres Accords to the Mexican Congress. The 'caravan' moved through the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Quere'taro, Michoaca'n, the State of Mexico and Morelos, ending in Mexico City. A delegation of more than 200 Italians and groups from the US, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina and France, amongst others, were accompanying the EZLN commanders.

More information:
- IMC Chiapas
- the official EZLN page
- chiapaslink

Further info:
- the unofficial US Zapatista site
- Irish support group for people going to Chiapas
- First hand account from the municipality of Chenalho, Chiapas.

Also read:
- Marcos on everything you ever wanted to know about the Zapatista March
- Marcos on independent media
- PDF file of a 24 page magazine that includes a 12,000 word essay on the way the Zapatistas organise and a 10,000 word article from Marcos on globalisation. Download here
- Read a personal opinion on 'the influence of Zapatismo to the Uk's radical scene' by a uk activist accompanying the Zapataista Delegation.
- Naomi Klein's article on the Zapatistas in the Guardian, reposted

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