Zapatista Delegation to Europe
Six indigenous representatives of the Zapatista movement and the National Indigenous Congress are headed to Europe – by boat! The 421st Squadron, so-named because it includes four women, two men, and one person who does not identify within the binary gender paradigm, arrived in the Azores Islands on June 11th, headed to the northwestern Spanish coast. It promises to be an arduous journey by most standards, though certainly nothing out of the ordinary for a revolutionary movement with a noble 27-year history of resistance (500 years if we trace the roots back to the original Conquista).
In a sense, the Zapatistas are “conquering” Europe, in terms of hearts and minds, during a visit that will likely last several months. During the sendoff ceremony in a small indigenous community in Chiapas, the Zapatistas said, “our traveling delegation received the mandate of the Zapatista people to carry our thoughts far and wide, that is, to share what is in our hearts. Our delegates carry with them a big heart, not just to embrace those on the European continent who are in rebellion and resistance, but also to listen and learn from their histories, geographies, calendars, and ways of being.” For peoples who suffered five centuries of conquest and repression, this act of friendship is truly inspiring.
In the words of the National Indigenous Congress: “… this trip to Europe allows us the possibility of meeting with… brothers and sisters who fight and resist against capitalism and its logic of exploitation, dispossession, discrimination, and destruction of mother earth;… to hear how they organize,.. to learn from their organization,… and to identify what makes us equal in our geographic diversity and cultures. It is about recognizing, greeting, and accompanying each other to build bonds of solidarity with brothers and sisters from other parts of the world.”
The Zapatistas have always challenged power. Since 1994, they dealt with five Mexican presidents and their never-ending counter-insurgent measures and militarization. Despite all of this, they built a political alternative that strives for peace and reconciliation. In Zapatista communities, women are not marginalized, collective health and education serve everyone, and direct democracy is exercised daily. Their methods reflect their social practices – the construction of autonomy in the face of exploitation and destruction of the planet.
Like the rest of the world, the pandemic impacted Zapatista communities. In March of 2020, the Caracoles closed temporarily to the outside world. They confronted the pandemic collectively with simple but effective health measures. As soon as they learned how to protect themselves, they tried to resume life outside their communities. The pandemic provided important lessons for everyone by highlighting the “interconnection of the world.” Now, the “time of the people is here.”
For more than 26 years, the Zapatistas welcomed solidarity and visits from the world. Perhaps speaking about their accomplishments, and about what is left to accomplish, is a way to thank the world for the solidarity that they received.
Continuously forced to code-switch between their native languages and the national ones, and to live in cultures that are subordinate to the dominant hegemony, the Zapatistas learned that all knowledge is valuable and that no one is saved when they are alone. So it is not just a matter of returning a courtesy to visitors, but of finding common ground in different ways of resisting capitalism, to make us all stronger.
This trip is part of the “Declaration for Life,” which multiple groups and individuals from all over the world signed onto in January 2021, with the intention of uniting our struggle for life without abandoning our differences. Together we will build a better world. Together we will defeat capitalism.
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