Zapatista rebels losing wide support of worldwide left
Mexico revolutionary 'bad guys' becoming more reclusive and shut off from the world
This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the Zapatistas. Capturing six towns, Mayan peasants sporting ski masks commanded world attention. The movement's spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, sporting a ski mask while smoking a pipe, captured the world's imagination. Very little of that fervor exists today. The group has lost much worldwide support, and has grown ever more reclusive.
Revolutionary souvenirs of the Zapatistas, sold in the the more populated outposts are ironic for a movement that rejects capitalism.
The rebel control centers have been dubbed "caracoles," or snails. It's an appropriate name as the movement has essentially crawled to a standstill to withdraw into a shell.
There is a reason for the isolation and apathy. One man, who asked to remain unidentified, says the Zapatistas decided to forge ahead unattended after being betrayed so many times before.
The indigenous Chiapas are among Mexico's most underprivileged people. The Chiapas never benefited from the 1910 revolution's promise for agrarian reform. In addition, the Zapatistas were stymied when the government failed to deliver on a 1996 accord for greater autonomy and rights intended to pacify them.
The Zapatistas seized land, as much as 750,000 acres and created their own schools and clinics, rejecting state subsidies.
The Zapatistas last public appearance was last year, when 40,000 militants marched through various towns in masks and silence.
Spokesman Marcos has not been seen in public from his haven in the Lacandon jungle. His last media appearance was in 2006, when he zoomed out of the hills on a black motorcycle for a march across the nation. He intended to forge contact with other social movements. The six-month tour yielded very few tangible results.
The only contact most outsiders can obtain is through communiques on the Zapatista Web site. In a what appears to be a telling statement about the current status of the movement, revolutionary souvenirs are sold in the more populated outposts.
The blatant marketing, ironic for a movement that rejects capitalism, many say, does not reflect the deep social changes that have occurred in the 38 autonomous municipalities.
Some point to positive social changes that have been made. "Girls are encouraged to be schooled and assume a more prominent role in society," Victor Hugo Lopez, director of the Human Rights Center Fray Bartoleme de las Casas says.
Clinics are also closer to where many indigenous peasants live and treatment is delivered in local languages, rather than Spanish as in most of the country.
Each community now has a school that delivers lessons in indigenous languages, which was rare before. The curriculum presents the Zapatista view of history, with a heavy emphasis on colonial exploitation.
Analysts say that the Zapatistas could move in a fresh direction yet again, but plans remain secretive for now.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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