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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Encuentro Zapatista con los pueblos del mundo

Yesterday we traveled to the Caracol of Oventic for the Zapatista meeting with the peoples of the world. For me it was an anticlimactic culmination of my time in Mexico. Attending the planning meetings for the next Zapatista intergalactica was my main purpose for coming to Mexico this summer, and we were only there for a couple hours for which will be a week-long series of discussions and meetings. The Encuentro had started the day before, but our leaders thought it would start slow and late so we went to Acteal instead (I’ll write more about that later). We were supposed to go to Magdalena de la Paz today for their annual feast day, but we stopped there yesterday morning on the way out to Oventic so we would not have to make a separate trip today, which meant even less time at the Encuentro. It appears that all that will happen today is a caravan from Oventic to Morelia where the meetings will continue, and as I am leaving early tomorrow morning there is little purpose in going on that ride. So, the delegation ends a day earlier than planned and I am left in San Cristóbal with little to do but be a tourist–which was not at all the purpose of this trip.

We arrived in time for the fifth plenary on women, which turned out to be rather flat and predictable. Guillermo coordinated the table, Comandanta Lorenza gave the welcome, and Lora read a statement that she had written with María Luisa and Verónica on the issues that women faced in Zapatista communities. Women, she read, were mistreated, ignored, forgotten. The Bad Government treated women as if they served no purpose except to have kids and take care of animals. But that is not true–they are capable. At first there were few women in charge of community responsibilities, and there is need for more formation and training so that women can do more work. Women will continue working with health care, education, in the community, security, and with natural resources. But women cannot travel alone for fear that they will be raped. Men look at us in a negative light when we work, but we cannot give up.

The audience, largely made up of young white anarchist activists from Europe and the United States, was then given 15 minutes to ask questions. Most of the questions were hardly probing, and received short trite answers. Are there programs for domestic violence? Elsewhere, but not here. How are men who abuse women punished? By autonomous municipal authorities. In Zapatista communities there is always justice. How do you prevent domestic violence? Women have to understand their rights, and men need to respect women; thru education. They said that the comandancia has declared that women have full rights to participate in the Zapatista organization. Some men try to help out, but very few of them make tortillas.

After a two-hour lunch break we then moved on to the sixth plenary on collective work. Comandanta Florencia lead the table, and Paulina read a statement prepared by her, Daniela, and Juan Manuel. The presentation began with a discussion of coffee and a lack of agricultural land. They often have to sell artisan crafts cheaply. So the women formed a cooperative to work together in search of solutions. They do not receive any support from the Bad Government. They have problem accessing national and international markets, and can’t sell everything in their coop stores so they have to sell the rest in private shops at a low price. Only the rich and government are free to export the richness of the country. Furthermore, the Bad Government looks for ways to divide people and block us. People who are not Zapatistas use our name to sell stuff and make money off of us. We take advantage of participating in the Zapatista struggle to avoid what we have suffered for years, and we still lack a lot for Indigenous women to be complete. Juan Manuel then added some additional comments about attempts to organize coffee cooperatives to sell their produce at a better price rather than through coyotes. This was then followed by more stupid questions and trite answers.

As the hot afternoon sun beat down on us, the seventh plenary addressed the issue of the organization of communities. We moved straight into the eighth plenary on autonomy as rain clouds built up in the west and moved over Oventic. Under a cold rain, we heard about Indigenous forms of government that were completely different from western models. Zapatistas declared their rights of autonomy and free determination. We need to capture power from corrupt political parties and the rich in order to solve our own problems, rather than letting them divide and conquer Indigenous peoples.

By this time, it was raining harder so they moved the talk into the auditorium, and Tomás gave us a ride back into town.

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