A Zaptista “Seminar” in Chiapas*

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Sign indicating the entrance of Zapatista rebel territory. “You are in Zapatista territory in rebellion. Here the people command and the government obeys”.

Reblogged from Libya 360

While the front pages and TV news reports in Mexico are full of accounts of ghastly levels of corruption and violence that would have boggled the imagination of the most jaded pulp fiction writer, in every corner of the country there are spaces where “you breathe a different air,” as the saying is here.

On the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas, famed colonial center of the southern state of Chiapas, on the wooded campus of the Indigenous Center for Comprehensive Training (Spanish acronym: CIDECI – follow the link to learn more about this remarkable alternative university) over a thousand people from all over Mexico and beyond are attending a weeklong seminar “Critical Thinking Confronting the Capitalist Hydra.” It was conceived and organized by the Zapatistas, the Chiapas-based armed insurgency that has converted itself into one of the most extraordinary experiments in regional autonomy and self-sufficiency in the history of social movements in Latin America. Along with masked members of the Zapatista army, rural peasant farmers, high school and college students, activists, teachers, artists’ collectives, members of various social and political formations like the National Indigenous Congress (Spanish acronym: CNI) are spending the week listening to a wide-ranging number of presenters from Mexico and abroad with expertise in key areas where the “hydra” now dominates: finance, government, agriculture, social welfare, communications, race and gender relations, science and technology.

And, true to the comprehensive vision of human discourse that is modern day zapatismo, they are also hearing from poets, artists, writers, historians, philosophers. The attendees pack the seats of the large auditorium and spill into the corridors and outside into the shaded walkways that surround it, using all the various ways we now have of capturing information, with an avidness and level of impassioned curiosity that would warm the heart of any college professor used to declaiming to a bored and distracted student body.

The analysis so far has been relatively concordant and not surprising: a litany of the human and ecological disaster that capitalism has wrought (not just in Mexico, but of course that is the primary focus here). The Spanish word “despojo,” which has only a much weaker equivalent in English, “dispossession,” recurs in so many presentations that it is clearly seen as one of the most fundamental characteristics of the system. “To be stripped violently of everything that sustains you” would be closer to the real meaning of this word. That is the key experience of capitalism’s innumerable losers: the mass of humans without power or privilege, and the living world.

Read more here: original article

Photo credit: “Zapatista sign” by Paolo Massa (‘phauly’) – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

20 thoughts on “A Zaptista “Seminar” in Chiapas*

  1. Inspiring and I’d like to learn more. I agree there are many problems with Capitalism, particularly it’s ability to be entirely corrupted (though that is true of all -isms). For myself, I do not place blame on the -ism as much as I focus the blame on those in authority positions and/or in control of the -ism and how it interplays with the people living under it.

    To blame capitalism is akin to blaming the gun for the murder of a person. The gun did not load & fire on it’s own accord. Someone had to use the gun as a tool in which to murder. On the same line of thinking, someone had to use the capitalist system as a tool in which to abuse another.

    I have my opinions as to who the people are who use -isms as tools, much like guns, to intimidate and abuse and control all people deemed of lesser worth or value within the specific system (or -ism). I also do not believe any -ism will ever provide opportunity, equality, justice or even basis necessities to all living under a specific -ism (be it Capitalism, Socialism, or any other man-made -ism) if the same evil men and women are the authority in charge of the rules and laws controlling the outcomes within the -ism. (Enter the global elite).

    To blame all things evil (unjust, unfair, wrong, negative, etc.) on Capitalism seems rather insincere, naive, and mundane.

    With bad or evil (greedy, wealthy, powerful, unGodly people) in authority, as is the case every where and has been historically so, relatively speaking, NOTHING of any significance will ever change.

    We (all societies) are continually forced to be ruled by those who would be cutting their own throats by allowing the system to change for the benefit of the individual, the collective, and humanity. Those in authority and control have the least to gain and the most to lose by allowing equality and opportunity for all. This is in no way confined to Capitalism alone.

    The “haves” continually and increasing have more, those in the middle increasing have less and the “have-nots” still have nothing except more disapproval, blame, and disgust from the majority in the middle (because those in the middle believe their lives are being sacrificed for the “have-nots” instead of understanding that the “have-nots” still essentially have nothing and the “haves” have fleeced everyone else so the “haves” can have even more). The elitist system is the BIGGEST con game ever perpetrated on humanity. Hate your neighbor, worship your master.

    Too sum my little rant up, I found this article extremely inspiring. To collectively (and if you know me at all, you know I despise the ideology of the collective because it is so abused (again by the elites in power)) to collectively establish a sustainable life (sustainable is another word that’s manipulated by the elite) that benefits all and removes the elite and their government enforcers from abusing and manipulating the system, they individually, respectably, humanely, and quite intelligently established a way of life that allows everyone working towards the same goals to florish.

    Their loyal focus on improvement through trial and error is also to be admired. I pray with all of my heart and soul that these people remain safe and prosperous. The odds are against them. The unGodly powers that be are vengeful and vindictive. They will stop at nothing to annihilate anything or anyone they deem as a real threat to their monopoly of control.

    Only with God can we all be equal. Mankind would never allow such a possibility.


    • With our current system of monopoly capitalism, I think it’s inevitable that rich people get richer and poor people get poorer. We’ve gone through a century of trying to make capitalism kinder and gentler through regulation – and it’s mainly the endless maze of regulations that’s led to our current bloated government bureaucracy.

      I think there are a number of other economic models that could be tried. The first one I want to see is one that ends the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air – this is where most of the wealth consolidation occurs. Workers cooperatives – where workers provide the capital to run the business – are also a good model in my view. A British group called Fiesta has investigated other models which have been tried in different places – equity partnerships, savings pools, liquidity networks, land value taxes. They write about them in a book they published several years ago called fleeing Vesuvius.

      I think finding a good balance between individual and collective welfare is extremely difficult in this day and age. Because we’re constantly bombarded with psychological messaging that we must constantly consume to be competent individuals, I think we’ve lost touch with who we are as individuals, ie which of our needs are real and which are a phoney facade inspired by the public relations industry.


  2. The thing about revolution….
    There’s no guarantees. You could end up with a whole lot worse. I suppose it depends on just how bad things are for those begging for revolution.

    The risk is well worth it for some. Not so much for others. And….. The system is rigged to make the odds of successful revolution minuscule.


    • I think this was probably the main reason the Zapatistas shifted from armed struggle – their initial focus when they first organized against NAFTA in 1994 – to a program of education, consciousness raising and building parallel infrastructure for Mexican indigenous peoples who up till now have been totally left out of Mexicans political and economic system.


    • Wow, very concerning about the all the children in Chiapas made ill by vaccinations. I seriously doubt if the Zapatistas take their babies for vaccination – they’re highly skeptical of all governmental authority. So I would suspect most of the babies affected aren’t part of the Zapatista movement.

      Also there’s one serious inaccuracy in the Natural News article:

      “The IMSS confirmed the deadly reactions occurred after children received injections of vaccines for tuberculosis, rotavirus and hepatitis B — the same viral strains targeted by vaccines routinely administered to children in the United States.”

      Children are not vaccinated against TB in the US – and TB isn’t caused by a virus. It’s caused by a one celled organism called mycobacterium tuberculosis.


  3. “To blame capitalism is akin to blaming the gun for the murder of a person” The Gun, Capitalism and the Bomb is indiscriminate, if you make to many of them it will kill us all.


  4. The Pre-K class I teach is in an urban school district with a majority Hispanic student population. I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t trust the U.S. govt./big pharmacy collusion either. The thought of any harm, especially intentional harm being down to these little loves is more than I can bare.

    The school has a full compliance vaccination program that comes to the school to vaccinate every child. What can I possibly say or do to encourage our parents to research the history of vaccinations before giving their babies over to strangers to be stuck with who knows what?


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