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La Jornada, translated Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group | 05.03.2005 23:48 | Globalisation | Social Struggles | Zapatista | World

The 16th February saw 1,500 people gather in the zapatista autonomous municipality of that name, to celebrate the construction of their new Autonomous Council building. Meanwhile at the same time in Scotland, supporters of Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group held an event to show solidarity with their twinned zapatista municipality.

Below is an account by Hermann Bellinghausen (La Jornada)of the inauguration of the 16th February Autonomous Municipality’s Council office in Simojovel, Chiapas, Mexico. Translated by Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group.

The zapatista autonomous municipality “16th February” is twinned with the Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group, Glasgow Zapatista Solidarity and the zapatista solidarity movement in Scotland.

On the same date, 16th February, the Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group held a celebratory event in Edinburgh city centre, including talks by group members describing their visit to “16th February” last year. Over 100 people attended and around 300 pounds was raised for the planned health clinic in “16th February”.

Dieciseis de Febrero (16th February) Chiapas, Mexico, 16 February 2005.
Hermann Bellinhausen (La Jornada)

On the ninth anniversary of the San Andres Accords, (an agreement signed by the EZLN and the Mexican Government which has never been implemented), the 16th February, the Autonomous Municipality in rebellion which took its name from the date the agremeent was signed, officially opened its new Council hall and officially declared their existence in the Simojovel area.

‘This name will never be forgetten. We are keeping it alive and are nurturing it’, said the President of the Autonomous Committee to approximately 1500 people gathered to celebrate the event in the square of the Tzotzil community of Las Limas. Las Limas is situated between the Chiapan highlands and the Northern zone.

‘It was the unanimous decision of all zapatista supporters from the areas of San Marcos and from Tierra y Libertad to form this municipality in 2003 and at a general meeting we elected our authorities who will govern by obeying. Thirty three people were chosen to form the autonomous Council. All of them, from the president to the security people, agreed to carry out their responsibilities. This will be a difficult task which will be carried out with integrity.

The President continued, ‘We voted on our name and chose the name of 16 February, a very important date for indigenous people in Mexico. After that on 28 May 2003 zapatista supporters, local and regional authorities and the indigenous clandestine revolutionary committee of the EZLN met to share out the responsibilities to the autonomous representatives. In August of the same year the good Government Assemblies, (Juntas del Buen Govierno JBG) were formed and this municipality became part of the Oventic JBG’.

The event was graced with the presence and words of members of the Autonomous Council in rebellion from San Andres Sakamch’en de los Pobres, San Juan de la Libertad and Magdalena de la Paz, all part of the Caracol “Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity”.

With economic support from the good government, peasants from these three municipalities in rebellion worked together to build the Autonomous Municipality Council Hall and the library in 16th February.

‘Nobody can stop us. This is another step forward along the path to democracy, freedom and justice,’ said the autonomous president from Magdalena de La Paz. ‘I hope one day that our children will understand the importance of our autonomous governments’.

The president of the autonomous municipality of San Andres said, ‘I urge the authorities of this municipality not to lose heart and to keep carrying out our commitment. We are not here for spare change or money, but for the love of our people. And you zapatista supporters, I also urge you to continue this struggle, keep organising and do not leave your authorities alone in these offices. Only together and by reaching agreement can we move forward.’

Six members of the zapatista militia, uniformed, wearing balaclavas and unarmed, arrived carrying the Mexican flag in order to honor it. Five other members of the militia followed carrying the black and red flag of the EZLN. The education promotor of Las Limas led the national anthem and the Cumbia band, Magicos Locos played the zapatista hymn which was sung by all those present.

The President of this young municipality in rebellion, dressed in white and wearing a palm leaf hat and red bandana, noted that in the two years since the local authorities had formed there had been no permanent meeting place. ‘Meetings took place under a grove of trees, and so we got the idea of building a municipal hall. It has been 11 years of struggle, but the autonomous municipality of 16th February is very new. We have a small library, an area to reforest, two autonomous schools, a group of craftswomen who work with textiles, and male and female artisans who work with amber. In addition we are planning the development of a health microclinic and some other constructive projects which will help us to resist the bad government.

Prisoner Number Seven

For historical reasons, the catholic ceremony conducted by the Priest Joel Padron was significant. The Priest gave his blessing to the new autonomous building before the inauguration. Padron was the parish priest of Simojovel for many years and after the zapatista uprising in 1994, the church hierarchy transferred him to the parish church in the neighbouring town of El Bosque.

He is well known because of his commitment to the indigenous people in the area. In the 80s and 90s he was the target of many threats and accusations from the Mexican government and local landowners. In 1990 he was imprisoned for several months by the local governor Patrocinio Gonzalex Garrido in Cerro Hueco prison.

Given the age of the majority of the indigenous people present at this celebration, it is likely that most were baptised or married by Padron who is nowadays the peace vicar in the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas. He was invited specially by the zapatista supporters because they still remember him well. A mass is not that frequent at zapatista political events, but today a mass was held in tzotzil and castellano and accompanied by the music of a band of two trumpeteers, two trombonists, two saxophonists and two drummers. Padron said that the 16th February was not a name from the past but one of the future’.

After the mass, he held up a copy of his book about the period he spent in jail and gave this copy to the autonomous council with the following dedication, ‘to this autonomous municipality, I congratulate you for deciding to make the San Andres accords a reality for your people and creating a history that no-one will be able to stop. With deep gratitude and adminiration. Joel Padron’

While the party and dancing got going, the autonomous authorities went into the new Municipal Council Hall. The building is made of wood, with a concrete floor and metal roof and it houses the sheriff court, the council office and a meeting room. In this building, the San Andres accords, never recognised by the Mexican government are implemented, and the date of 16th February becomes a name which commemorates the achievement of the people and stands as an accusation to power.

- For info on how you can help the construction of the new autonomous health clinic in "16th February" please contact
- Photos of "16th February" can be seen at

La Jornada, translated Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group
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