National and International Caravan of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communitie
We came over 300 people from different parts of the world; Mexico, Spain, Italy, Greece, France,Germany,United States,and Switzerland, to know our compaņeros zapatistas, to know their reality, to be in solidarity with them.
We went to the communities of 4 of the 5 caracoles (La Realidad, La Garrucha, Morelia,and Oventik), zones of the Zapatista territory which have been subject to government repression, harrasment, and threats.
In each zone there are different municipalities and communities and a junta, a board of representatives from these municipalities.
These communities are working on various projects to strengthen themselves including; education, health, and agriculture. They are fighting for their autonomy as indigenous people, but in their path of freedom lie obstacles.The government wants the Zapatistas dead.
They've installed military bases around Zapatista territory,their vehicles and tanks patrol on the roads and their helicopters hover above the communities in the sky. They work hand in hand with multinational corporations to rob the Zapatistas of their land, to exploit the natural resources, the water, the forest, and to open it up to tourist development.
Our group of 140 people arrived at Caracol 3 La Garrucha Resistencia Hacia un Nuevo Amanecer (Resistance Making a New Dawn) in the night, piling out of the backs of trucks to a greeting of the party, and we later learned that the Zapatistas would continue to welcome us with a live band and party at each community we went to!
The next day our compaņeros Zapatistas shared with us about the projects in La Garrucha. First the women, promoters of health talked with us.
"There are three main areas of work; midwifery, bonesetting, and medicinal plants."
"The promoters of reproductive health work in birthing , birth control, and womens health. As women we have the right to health, to not be left sick in the house, to not be beaten."
"The problem we have is that alot of our necessities aren't met. We need access to hospitalization for patients, medications for the birthing,materials; sheets, shelves, jars, alcohol to make plant tinctures, plyers, gloves, stethoscopes, and thermometers."
"We use pills from allopathic medicine, but also plants.We don't want to forget the knowledge and culture of our ancestors who cured themselves with plants. Thats why we're organizing ourselves, so we don't lose this knowledge. And you should organize yourselves to take back your culture."
August 2nd we left for the community of Hermenegildo Galeana. On June 4th, there was a military operation in which soldiers entered the cornfields of La Galeana, searching for plants of marijuana and cocaine, with the intention of intimidating the Zapatistas.
We never believed these government lies, but we went to prove with our own eyes that this was untrue.
We walked 2 and 1/2 hours up the mountain paths, and when we saw the small village we heard the music and the chants, "Zapata vive! La lucha sigue!" ("Zapata lives! The struggle continues!) Our footsteps quickened excitedly and we arrived in the village small houses, a river, the bright rainbow colors of the women's dresses, women, men, and children with handkerchiefs tied around half of their face, the other half, smiling eyes. The band played guitar,violin, and bass guitar and sang of revolution. The fed us and we hovered around the fire. The band played on and we danced into the night.
The next day, August 3rd, they took us into their cornfields where they grow and harvest the main foods staples, corn and beans. We also saw squash, chayotes, medicinal plants,oranges, bananas and coffee plants. We gave testimones in Spanish, Italian, English, French, Tzotzil and Purepecha, of what we saw, the beauty of the environment and the hardwork of these people, and what we did not see. Marijuana and cocaine are not growing in La Galeana. Once again the government has lied.
August 4th, we left for San Alejandro.The community welcomed us, the children singing songs an chanting. We walked to the coffee plantation that the people had taken over to live in.
" In 1994, the insurgents came to live in this land, and we brought them food. In 1996 we had to go up into the mountains to live because the army came. When we were up there we felt really sad because we didn't have a space to live in. Now we have a place for ourselves and our children, to make ourselves at home,to work the land."
On August 5th we went to the community of Javier Hernandez. The played music and led us to the retaken coffee plantation. This is what they had to say.
" This land is 6,500 hectares,and is owned by just one person...The boss of the plantation paid us 5 pesos a day, and sometimes didn't even pay us. He paid us every 15 days of work, and then came to see if the work was well done but if it didn't meet his standards, he didn't pay us... No one could come through here without asking permission. The compaņeros wanted to kick out the plantation owner but he hired gunmen to scare them and the gunmen shot at them.... When we saw that people were organizing we said, we're gonna join in the movement, what happens happens!"
" The plantation owner mistreated us. We only had a little space to live in, and the rest of the land was property of the owner. He even took away our animals. He didn't allow us to wash or bath in the river. After alot of begging he let us use part of the river."
In these coffee plantations people were treated less than human, denied access to drink water from the rivers, forced to make tortillas for the owner's pigs when they barely had food for themselves, and beaten.
"We haven't taken anything from anyone, they've taken everything from us. This land belongs to us because we're the ones who work it."
The Other Zones, a report back from the communities.
"We ( 20 people) visited La Realidad. The health and education promoters spoke with us about their autonomy. We went to the community of Santa Rosa and saw the clinic, and the school where there are 22 education promoters. The progress of the Zapatistas is incredible!...In 1995 the soldiers stationed themselves at the side of the communities water source and denied them access to it. The soldiers stayed there for 2 years. The people had to walk 1-3 hours to get water."
"59 of us went to various communities in Morelia..We're working on spreading information about the struggle in the communities, learning from the compaņeros in these communities,our critique of ourselves, and how to continue in solidarity with our compaņeros Zapatistas."
The ex political prisoner Delia ( 1 of the 3 political prisoners of Amate released on July 24th) spoke with people from the community about the situation of the other 8 political prisoners of Amate ( prison in Chiapas) who continue behind bars. People of the community sent them a letter of support and solidarity.
"Our heart is with you, We hope you get out of jail soon. From the revolutionary lands, you are not alone, we are with you."
"46 of us went to Oventik. We went to the community of Venustiano Carranza in the municipality of Cruzton. The people of this community had the title to the property of the land, but a group invaded protected by the government, and they tried to take the land. They contaminated the people's water supply with agricultural fertilizers, and the people became sick from the water....
In May 2007, they retook their land and so the government threatened to put them in jail, issuing 11 orders of apprehension for defending their land.
On April 27th, the police entered with the orders of apprehension. They denied the people of access to their cornfield and now it is overgrown with weeds.
On July 18th, the people returned to their land an the police arrested of of them a member of the Other Youth. And so the people started a guard duty to protect themselves. They sleep with the tension that the church bell will ring, the signal that the police are coming...There are also Canadian mining companies who want to mine for gold in their land... We shared alot with them,learning.. he Italians cooked pasta every night. We have a piece of Cruzton in our hearts and we hold on to it."
They also went to community of Huitepec. "In the past few years the government has tried to take the land away from us, to sell and privatize the natural resources. They already sold to Coca Cola. They want to install a botelling factory, to build a highway, to unearth the Mayan ruins,and develop tourist projects. Foreigners have built their vacation homes.
In these 300 hectares live many indigenous communities, 400 year old ancient trees, drinking water for these communities and a neighbourhood in San Cristobal, and 2 Zapatista support bases..
In March 2007, the Zapatistas created the Civil Camp for the Peace to defend this land, with the guard duty changing every week. In the first few months, people paid by the PRI political party came to run the Zapatistas out of the support bases. And some PRI supporters sold their land to the government. There is still one group that receives money from the government and continues bothering the camp."
On August 7th, 8th and 9th, the majority of us returned to La Garrucha for the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Caracoles and the Good Government Juntas. Many Zapatistas travelled from their communities to participate in the festivities. Children and youth from the Zapatista School presented poetry, songs, and a theatre piece. A band played all three days and nights, and we danced in the sun and rain.
Some of us have stayed in the caracoles; some of us have left to other lands from Mexico to Europe. We continue thinking, feeling, processing what our Zapatista brothers and sisters have shared with us. Their struggle, their strength, the inspiration they have given us. We were welcomed and treated with hospitality and our hearts have been opened, our eyes opened wider.
Compaņeros Zapatistas, No estan solos! Your not alone!
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