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Zapatistas: Report Back from Conversations on Autonomy AND Call for Solidarity Rally Thurs
by Ryan Rising
Wednesday May 21st, 2014 9:11 PM
Conversations on Autonomy took place Tuesday night at The Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics in San Francisco. Set out to be a dialogue on the lessons learned from attendees of the Escuelita, or Little School of Freedom according to the Zapatistas, the conversation quickly turned to reflections on the murder of a Zapatista in the autonomous territory of La Realidad on May 2nd and the call for solidarity actions with the Zapatistas who were violently attacked on that day this month. There will be a rally at the Mexican Consulate building Thursday morning, May 22nd, from 10am to noon at 532 Folsom Street.
Zapatistas: Report Back from Conversations on Autonomy AND Call for Solidarity Rally Thursday at Mexican Consulate

Conversations on Autonomy took place Tuesday night at The Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics in San Francisco. Set out to be a dialogue on the lessons learned from attendees of the Escuelita, or Little School of Freedom according to the Zapatistas, the conversation quickly turned to reflections on the murder of a Zapatista in the autonomous territory of La Realidad on May 2nd and the call for solidarity actions with the Zapatistas who were violently attacked on that day this month. There will be a rally at the Mexican Consulate building Thursday morning, May 22nd, from 10am to noon at 532 Folsom Street.

The Zapatista Little School opened up for its 2nd and 3d sessions this past winter in December of 2013 and January of 2014, on either side of celebrations of the 20 years of Zapatista autonomy in Chiapas, the southern most state of Mexico which borders Guatemala. Between the two sessions, approximately 2,000 students of the little school came from throughout Mexico and all around the world to learn from the Zapatistas in their communities - how they build autonomy, how they self govern, and how they create community. There is of course also the issue of how they defend this liberated way of life.

On May 2nd, 2014, the Zapatista Caracol, or snail shell - the center of good governance in La Realidad - the first born and southern most of the 5 Zapatista geographical centers, was attacked violently. In this attack, a autonomous clinic and school was destroyed and 15 people were shot or injured while yet another, Companero Galeano - a teacher of the Little School - was murdered. The attack has been called intra-community confrontation by the mainstream media, while those with a closer eye on the situation in Chiapas say this was a coordinated attack by party-aligned organizations and the Chiapas government.

The communication from Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the long known spokesperson of the Zapatistas to the international community, can be read here:
http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2014/05/10/pain-and-rage/

Since the attack, US solidarity organizations have put out a call for solidarity actions:
http://www.anattackonusall.org

Other mainstream media on the attack can be found here:

http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/2014/reportan-confrontacion-entre-cioac-y-ezln-1007791.html

http://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2014/05/bases-del-ezln-y-transportistas-de-la-cioac-se-confrontan/

Conversations on Autonomy was hosted by the Center for Political Education at 518 Valencia, as well as the Chiapas Support Committee and Yo Soy 132 Bay Area. May 20th was the 2nd of four planned dialogues reflecting on the Little School, and there may be more as the conversation develops.
The first conversation happened on May 11th in the East Bay at Sol Space. It was reportedly a large event with an interesting discussion on autonomy and what autonomy means. These forums are seeking to amplify these discussions, informed by what the Zapatistas are teaching on the ground - what it means for their project and also for areas outside of Chiapas. Here, we are asking how do we learn from this and bring momentum towards organizing in the Bay Area?

In this conversation, the gentrification struggles in San Francisco, immigrant rights work, displacement, food justice, and land access were brought up as relevant issues we are facing here at home. There was also a connection made to the Bulb Autonomous Zone - the current space declared to defend the liberated space known as the Albany Bulb which is under threat right now. People have been living there off-and-on for the last decade and it acts already as a park with people coming by the droves with children and dogs. The city is now removing the autonomous zone that was built and run by and for the people. There is an invitation from the Bulb Autonomous Zone participants and others defending that space to join in the occupation throughout this week.

One woman from the Chiapas Support Committee at the Conversations on Autonomy reported on the recent attack in Chiapas in this way:
"On May 2nd, a Zapatista was murdered in the Caracol of La Realidad. The communique from Subcomandante Marcos says it was a planned and premeditated attack. The mainstream media reports are saying that it is a dispute between various indigenous and political groups.

The people who mounted the attack were indigenous people living in La Realidad who are affiliated with or paid by political parties in Chiapas; including CIOAC-H, the Green Ecological Party of Mexico (claimed to be a front for the PRI - they run together on the same tickets), as well as the PAN.

In this way, the attack involved most all of the political organizations in Chiapas. 15 Zapatistas were wounded to different degrees in addition to the murder. At this point, La Realidad is not 100% Zapatista - it is very divided…"

Chiapas Support Committee works on education projects with the Junta in La Garrucha - building schools, buying school supplies for children, buying educational materials for teachers, providing transportation to the Caracoles for training.

Folks report that the divisions in Chiapas are created by the political parties. The PRI has a history of violence and murder. When the PAN was in power, there were no murders although they were capitalists and neo-liberalists. Since, there have been 3 murders connected to Zapatismo - people who belonged to communities that were adherents to the 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (murders in San Sebastian Bachajon near Agua Azul waterfalls).

People are offered "productive projects" such as a bunch of chickens or cattle - something that makes money for them. An economically poor people, they find these projects important and so they are offered in abundance to keep people away from the Zapatistas and the projects they have created through autonomy. In the last political campaign, political parties went to Zapatistas and sympathetic communities offering money to people to leave the Zapatistas and abandon the Other Campaign (the people that adhered to the 6th Declaration).


There is, however, questioning over whether all of CIOAC-Historical, another organization of landless peasants in Chiapas - are fully collaborating with political parties and the Chiapas government.
Some CIOAC organizations in the highlands of Chiapas may live harmoniously alongside Zapatista communities. There is the possibility that some CIOAC groups live in this way, while others collaborate with political parties or are bought off.

Since the attack at least 2 people, possibly 6, have been arrested and are being held in jail in Chiapas - including the two accused of firing guns that killed the Zapatista (one an Ejido Commisioner and one a Rural Agent-meaning police).

La Realidad is an Ejido, officially recognized by the government, as opposed to recuperated land. Recuperated lands tend to be all Zapatista. In the Ejidos, there are folks who have not all been Zapatista since the beginning or were swayed away from the Zapatistas since the uprising in 1994.


As the conversation approached the lessons learned from the Zapatistas in terms of,
"What does solidarity mean? As a person of privilege, how can I support in that process?
What is our work here? How do we create more cooperatives, collectives…?" the conversation was quickly refocused on the need for action this week and the need to call attention to the situation in Mexico that extends way beyond the Zapatista struggle in Chiapas.

One woman spoke on the disconnection from the land here in the United States and especially in San Francisco. She said her family came here for a better life and now her mother has diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.

It was also brought up that the action on Thursday is for one Zapatista, but a bunch of folks from the anarchist groups are in jail, many have been disappeared or have been killed, including the rising number of murders in Michoacan, where a different part of the story of Mexico is unfolding.

Here, it was brought up that, "What we see in this room is the result of our perspective - To talk about the action on Thursday will be great, but if this meeting is about the situation in Mexico, I would say we have failed because we have failed to gather enough people in this room for a whole perspective."

Galeano, a teacher of the Zapatista Little School, is one in a long history of Mexican teachers to be targeted and killed, along with journalists and anyone who raised their voice.

It was expressed that we need to understand the situation in Mexico as a whole and that,
Thursday, let's demand justice not only for that one person. Let's not just bring the banner of the EZLN, but of the 160,000 people who have been murdered and the people who have been murdered in Mexico and incarcerated crossing the border into the United States.

See more about the action Thursday here:
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/18/18755934.php