Letter from the Sixth Zapatista Comission to the Collective “Llegó la hora de los pueblos”
(The time of the pueblos has come)
Translated by María, London and South East Zapatista Support Group.
Publicado en Camino al andar.
15 de junio de 2021.
Por El Sup Galeano.
11th of June, 2021.
To the Collective: “Llegó la hora de los pueblos”
Sisters, siblings, and brothers:
May you all receive a hug…well, many. We wanted to send you a greeting… okay, many, and, taking advantage of the flight of these words, we also wanted to request your help.
In turns out, that for the Travesy for Life Europe Chapter, it has been decided that we must comply with the legal requisites in order to arrive, with our ear and our word, to the lands which Marijose will be rebaptising in only a few days. In a couple of hours (considering the day and hour in which I am writing this –dawn of June 11th, 2021–), that delirious challenge called “The Mountain”, will touch European lands in the Portuguese Azores’ Islands. They will remain there for a few days, then later head to the denoted destination: Vigo, Galicia, Spanish State. Afterwards an aero-transported group will depart.
The so-called “Squadron 421” departs with its papers in order. That is to say, they have two passports: the official Mexican one and the so-called “Zapatista work passport”, issued by the Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Good Government Meetings) when a compañera, compañero, or compañerx leaves Zapatista territory to do work for our pueblos. Here we say they’re on “commission”. Some other time we will speak of this “Zapatista passport”, for now we would like to speak only of the official one.
We have in the past referred, in writing and in talks, to that which we call “the calendar and the geography”. Well, our geography is called “Mexico”. And, for us, the Zapatista communities, this is not merely a word. It is, in the Zapatista sense, a geography. When we say that we are “Mexicans” we are pointing towards a shared history and fraternity with other originary pueblos (like those grouped in the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Congress of Government). Histories, that is to say: pains, joys, rages, grievances, struggles. Not only with the originary pueblos of this geography, but also with individuals, groups, collectives, organisations, and movements that coincide with us, the Zapatista pueblos, in dreams, and clearly, in nightmares.
I want to say with this that we, the Zapatista communities, are not embarrassed to say that we are Mexican, instead we are proud. Because that pride is not born by looking up and at its tales, but looking, listening to and speaking with the Mexico below, its lives and its deaths. It is not my intention to recount, hastily, what is lived and fought in that Mexico. Everyone has their wants, their own stories, their defeats and their victories, their way of seeing and explaining the world, their way of seeing and explaining themselves. Yet, we see there is something in common, a type of root, or plot, or vertebral column…there must be a way to say it in cybernetic language…a matriz (womb) or a matrix? Well, it is in that common root that we identify.
Oh, I know that more than one of you will be worried if I call this a “Zapatista” version of nationalism. No, that makes us sluggish sometimes, angry other times, and always worried. I do not mean a type of nationalism. Nationalisms hide, for instance, inequalities and, importantly, criminal relationships. In nationalisms the victim and the criminal converge, the Master and the slave. Something as perverse as “I destroy you but I do so for your good because we are compatriots”. Something like the malign sense given to “that which is human,” for instance when pointing out that men and women are human beings. I will set aside the fact that it is often forgotten that there are those who are neither women nor men who, by being innominated, are no longer “a human being”. In that sense, “that which is human” forgets the relationship of dominance between men and women. I will not write here about the patriarchy, its genealogy and its current crazed crime; between you there are those who know more about it and who can explain it better than I ever could.
Is it possible to refer to humanity without falling into the trap of a hypocritical equality? We think it is, and that is by referring humanity to the sciences and the arts, But not only that. Also to feelings, thoughts and basis proposals: the sense of justice, of morality and ethics (which the late compañero Don Luis Villoro would explain much better than I could ever try), fraternity, and other things I will not examine in detail (but feel free to do so yourselves). For example, I would add dancing –music and songs included–, and playing, but don’t pay much attention to me.
At the end, from one detail to another the differences, distances, and disagreements will begin to open. But, in the inverse sense, a commonality would be found: that which we call “humanity”.
Then, when we say that the Zapatista pueblos are “Mexican” and proud to be so, we refer to that common matrix with all those struggles in this geography trapped between the Río Bravo to the Suchiate, with the bite given to her by the Eastern Sea and the elongated curve that the Western Sea forged in her waist, and including the solitary arm that borders the so-called “Sea of Cortés”. You add the real history, that of the neighboring geographies and…
Well, enough of this. The issue is that our aerotransported delegation is in the process of acquiring their passports. And I say “process” out of delicacy, since it is like a hell, one that feeds on silence and is nonetheless seen as “normal”.
Because it turns out that our compañeras, compañeros y compañeroas meet all of the demanded requisites, make the stipulated payment, travel from their communities to the offices of the badly-named “Secretary of Exterior Relations” (SRE) and, despite the pandemic, make an appointment, wait in line and for their turn and…the document is denied to them.
The supreme government’s obstacles and its ignorant, stubborn, and racist bureaucracy are indignant.
Because one could think it is only bureaucracy, you had bad luck crossing someone who thinks they have Power just because they’re behind a little window, a desk, or an office. But no, there is also something else which can be synthesised as: racism.
The reasons? Well, there is a fundamental one and, of course, its derivatives: within the government there exists an environment of badly dissimulated hysteria. In accordance with its compromise to the U.S government, of stopping the flow of Central American migrants, to the federal, statal and municipal governments, anyone who is not blonde and blue eyed, or coming from below Puebla, is Central American. To the schizophrenic government authorities, the first thing any Central American does is: get a birth certificate, a licence from the National Electoral Institute (INE) or any type of official photo ID, as well as their faith of baptism, the birth certificate of their parents or older siblings, copies of their INE licenses, constancies from the autonomous municipality and the Junta de Buen Gobierno, in-person witnesses with official IDs, etc. With all that in hand, their petition to the document that every Mexican has to leave and return national territory is rejected.
Yes, all of those papers are presented, but the problem is that, in the eyes of the Secretary of Extrernal Relation’s bureaucrat, the colour of skin, the manner of speech, the way of dressing, and the place of origin are what matters. “Below the Taxqueña metro station, everything is Central America”.
So much blah, blah, blah about rights and the recognition of our lands, etcetera –included hypocritical apologies lost over destroyed land–, but the original, or indigenous, population, are still treated as foreign in their own land. And worse in Mexico City, which self-identifies as “progressive”. There, a lady, a bureaucrat of the Secretary for External Relations, rejected an INE credential with a despective: “that one does not work for anything, except for voting”, then requested from the compañera, who is over forty years old, inhabitant of the Lacandona jungle, a high-school certificate, to prove she was not from Guatemala. The compañera argued: “but I live from the land, I am a peasant, I have no high-school studies”. The bureaucrat, haughty and arrogant: “well you don’t study because you don’t want to.” “But I have come all the way from Chiapas,” insisted the compañera. “I don’t care. Let’s see, who’s next?” responded the bureaucrat.
Does the government bureaucracy get excited by mistreating indigenous people? Is arrogance its aphrodisiac? “I’m here, darling, today I rejected a f*cking Indian and I’m very turned on,” they will say, squinting flirtatiously.
To prove whether this was racism and not merely bureaucracy, we sent a “white and bearded” compañero to issue his passport. They gave it to him on the same day and without requesting anything beyond his birth certificate, a photo ID and a proof of payment, which are the legal requisites.
And that is not all: The Secretary of External Relations retains the payments done by all the compas who a passport has been denied to with pretexts and requisites that are not even mentioned on their website. Austerity must be very hard if they have to dispossess the indigenous peoples of their money.
One compañero (over sixty years old) was questioned: “Is it not that you want to go to the Unites States to work?” The compa responded: “No, that will be later, in another tour. For now we shall go to Europe.” The civil servant, no Federal Electoral Tribunal, washed his hands and sent him to the next window. There he was told “That is very far and the journey is expensive, you cannot possibly have the necessary money since you are indigenous. You must bring your credit statements. Next.” Another compañera was told: “Let’s see, sing the national anthem.” So she began to sing “The horizon can be seen.” Rejected. She said to me, embarrassed: “I think it's because I sang it with a cumbia rhythm and not like a corrido ranchero. But cumbias are more joyful. Corridos rancheros are all about murdering women. If your name is “Martina” or “Rosita”, you’re done.”
The same thing in Mexico City: Two compañeras, tzeltal speakers, from the Lacandona jungle. They walk from their town until they take a corralled truck to the municipal head; from there they take public transport until San Cristóbal de Las Casas; then another one to Tuxtla Gutiérrez; de and another until Mexico City; they make the payment for a ten-year-passport “because touring the world will take a while”; they present themselves at the SRE; they wait in line wearing face masks, face shields, and respecting social distancing; they go in and present their papers; get their photographs taken; wait outside to be called and handed their passports; they are called and told “there is a wrong letter in your surname” and “your brother has a different surname”; the one with the brother “it’s because this is the way men are and my dad went around”; the one with the letter “it’s because the person who made my certificate does not know the difference between ‘s’ and ‘z’”; in both cases the civil servants: mocking laughs and “you have to go back and bring further proof that you are Mexican”; them “but we live all the way down to Chiapas”; the SRE: “I can’t issue your passport until I have it.” The compañeras return in the inverse way, they arrive back at their town, update and gather further proof of their Mexicaness. New voyage to Mexico City. Once again with an appointment, in line with face masks, face shields and respecting social distancing. Little window. A high bureaucrat of the SRE: “now we must wait until we prove that you are Mexicans.” The compas: “but we brought everything you asked for.” The SRE: “but we have to ensure that the papers are real, so we must go and ask the Civil Registry of your municipality and state.” The compañeras: “How long will it take?” The SRE: “10 days or a month. We’ll let you know.” The compañeras wait for ten days and nothing. They return to Chiapas. A month goes by, and nothing. Another thirty days, still nothing. They go back to Mexico City. Same journey. The SRE: “they have not responded. Keep waiting.”
And the two compañeras are still there. They began the process in March and now it’s…June.
If you have some time, do this: imagine you were born with dark skin, that you are of indigenous descent and from a state in the Mexican South East. Now look at the requisites to obtain a passport: birth certificate, official photo ID, or professional certificate, or professional title, or released military card, or credential of the National Institute of Older Adults, or credential of medical services of a public health institution; and proof of payment.
And even when you fulfill any, or all, of these requisites, if your skin is dark, and you speak differently from them, and you dress “like the Indian María” (textual quote from an SRE bureaucrat), you will face something along the lines of: “no, you must bring your grades from kindergarten, primary, secondary, college–not CCH, those are grillos*–diplomas, a getting-over-yourself NXIVM course, and a recommendation letter stating good conduct from the discipline prefect.”
About the INE there is not much to say. But as concerned as it was with the great chief Tatanka (the good Jairo Calixto dixit –oh, oh, yeah, I also read the fifí press–) in simulating he was a decent person, and with the barks of Murayama, they did not even realise that their “offices” in Chiapas closed even before February the 1st, despite their saying that from February the 1st to the 10th one could show up without an appointment. This way we lost the opportunity of sending more delegates on The Mountain. And the INE re-endorsed the racist attitude they had towards Marichuy.
And I believe that, in between so many interviews they have given and give to the media, neo-conservatives and neo-liberals, to defend “their independence” (ha-ha), have not even realised that the INE credential is, also, an official ID and, that by denying it or closing their offices, they are denying that right to any citizen, or whatever it is that “citizenship” means.
The most paradoxical thing of this all, is that, the indigenous peoples denied an INE and a passport, are fighting also for the lives of those bureaucrats who serve “the Mexican Nation” rejecting everything they want to, from their small throne behind a little window, only for the pleasure of saying “no” to those they consider inferior because of their skin colour, their language, their culture, their ways, and whose ancestors were in these lands for much longer before the creoles claimed their independence from the Iberics and revelled them in the oppression over indigenous pueblos.
Hence, the support we are asking for is that you speak amongst yourselves to see if anything can be done. For example: to teach a course on shame to the SRE bureaucrats; to tell Mr. Marcelo Ebrard that we understand that, given the austerity, he has not got much to pay for his 2024 campaign, but that robbing the indigenous people the cost of their passports without giving them their document, well, how can I say this without being rude?…it is a shameless thing to do. Perhaps he wants to buy himself coats in a “Neo from The Matrix” style? Or maybe, with the money retained from the denied passports, they will take a course on gender, tolerance, and inclusion. Or simply gift them some history books so that they understand what the place of originary pueblos is in this geography.
We are Mexicans, it is here that we happened to be born, to live, to struggle, to die. Regardless. If we had fallen in the American Union, or in Belize or Guatemala, or Honduras or El Salvador, Costa Rica or Nicaragua, we would be proud of those geographies… and we would be denounding their respective governments for bureaucrats, racists and ignorants, which is what we are doing with Mexico’s present and its “Secretary of External Relations”.
In the end, I cannot think of many options, but perhaps you can. If you see it, let us know.
In the meantime, we send all of you a great hug which, despite the distance, does not stop being sincere and fraternal.
From somewhere on Planet Earth,
El Sup Galeano.
P.S.- In a few more hours I will send a text for the sports section of your electronic page...What?! You do not have a sports section? No way. Well, “quid pro quo”, giving and giving, with that text you shall inaugurate the damn “sports section” and in return, you help us in the referred issue. Oh, I know, you are still indebted. You could maybe, I don’t know, send a few euros for the chescos while in Europe…or better yet, you could, come with us and, as its name indicates, share, apart from a comfortable space in a migrant detention centre, words, ears, looks, and…can you swim?
Translated by María, London and South East Zapatista Support Group