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po lógicos
Power, Identity and Itobility-
in Mexican Society
by Valentina Napolitano
and- Xochitl Leyva Solano i




Edited by

Valentina Napolitano
Xochitl Leyva Solano

Institute of Latin American Studies

31 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HA
In Memory ofA braham L. Rosen (1914-1996)
Acknowledgements ......................................................................................... i
a man of gentle spirit List of contributors ........................................................................................ iii
INTRODUCTION .........................................................................................1


CHAPTER 1. Neoliberalism and Ungovemability : Caciquismo,

Militarisation and Popular Mobilisation in Zedillo ' s Mexico ...........................
John Gledhill .................................................................................................. 9

CHAPTER 2. Clase Política y Proceso de Criminalización en Chiapas............

Gabriel Ascencio Franco .............................................................................29

CHAPTER 3. The New Zapatista Movement: Political Levels, Actors and

Política) Discourse in Contemporary Mexico ....................................................
Xochitl Leyva Solano ...................................................................................35

CHAPTER4. Performing `Mexicanidad': Popular `Indigenismo' in

Mexico City .......................................................................................................
Susanna Rostas ............................................................................................56



CHAPTER 5. Pertenencia territorial y representaciones del conflicto social....

en la construcción cultural de una region: El Mante, Tamaulipas .....................
Marielle Pepin - Lehalleur ............................................................................71
Institute of Latin American Studies
CHAPTER 6. Rancheros y sociedades rancheras: entre producción territorial
School of Advanced Study
y construción social ...........................................................................................
University of London
Thierry Linck ...............................................................................................86

CHAPTER 7. Sustainable Development in Forest Areas: Balancing

Rights and Opportunities ...................................................................................
Lourdes Arizpe ............................................................................................95

CHAPTER 8. Global Processes and Local Identity: Indians in the Sierra

Madre of Chiapas and the Intemational Organic Market
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Rosalva Aída Hernández Castillo and Ronald Nigh ...............................110
A catalogue record for this book is available
CHAPTER 9 ......................................................................................................
Apuntes Sobre los Mecanismos de Reconstrucción de la Identidad entre los
Migrantes: Los Mixtecos de las Californias ......................................................
© Institute of Latín American Studies
Frangoise Lestage ......................................................................................133
University of London, 1998
CHAPTER 10. Transnational Localities: Communities, Technologies and the
Politics of Membership within the Context of Mexico-US Migration ..............
Robert C . Smith .........................................................................................144
CHAPTER 11. `La ciudad se lo come a uno': reflexiones sobre
identidad, espacio y migración ..........................................................................
Valentina Napolitano .................................................................................170

CHAPTER 12. Santos viajeros e identidad regional en el estado de

Guerrero .............................................................................................................
Daniele Dehouve ........................................................................................182

B ib l io graphy ................................................................................................192

The New Zapatista Movement: Political Levels, Actors and

Political Discourse in Contemporary Mexico

Xochitl Leyva Solano

The objective of this chapter is to describe and analyse some aspects of the
current Mexican political situation : in particular, the nature and formation of the
Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) and the emergence of the
New Zapatista Movement (NMZ), as well as the national impact and
intemational context of their popular demands.

The organisation of this chapter reflects my struggles with theoretical,

methodological and empirical concerns. In fact, it is based on two theoretical
trends: the New Social Movement debate and `the anthropology of modem war'
(Wilson, 1991, p. 56).

Following the interdisciplinary approach of the debate, this contribution

deals with `the three dimensions of change most cornmonly attributed to social
movements in contemporary Latin America: their role in forming or
reconstituting collective identities; their innovative social practices and political
strategies in pursuit of socioeconomic, cultural and political change; and their
actual or potential contributions to alternative visions of development and to the
democratization of political institutions and social relations' (Escobar and
Alvarez, 1992, p. x). But, at the same time, due to the fact that the EZLN is not
only a popular but also an armed movement, Wilson's perspective opens
different paths. He points out that `the anthropological analysis of modem war
has tended to focus on the "objective" economic and political conditions which
give rise to rebellion ...' (Wilson, 1991, p. 55) but the subjective perceptions of
actors who are involved in the process seem to remain underexplored (¡bid., p.

Following Wilson's concern this chapter also explores the implications of

war for indigenous political culture and political organisation. In addition, 1 will
attempt to overcome the dichotomy `old-versus-new' social movements through
an analysis of the EZLN, which shows how a popular movement can transform
or reshape its discourse, strategies and demands depending on the institutional
context and in relation to the Mexican (see Foweraker and Craig, 1990; and
Foweraker, 1995) and the intemational political system.

Map la. Subregions of the Lacandona Rainforesi Map lb. Municipalities of the Contemporary Lacandona Rainforest

. Palenque

1 Cañadas de las Margaritas
2 Cañadas Ocosingo-Altamirano
3 Zona Norte OF
4 Comunidad Lacandona GUATEMALA
5 Reserva Integral de la Biosfera Pacific Ocean
' Montes Azules'
6 Marqués de Comillas STATE OF
CHIAPAS Municipalities
j/ Lacandona rainforest 0 Palenque
1 100 km j . -•-.-.- International boundary Q Ocosingo
State boundary Q Altamirano
Municipal boundary 0 Las Margaritas

The formation of the EZLN

Before dealing with the central themes of this chapter, it is important lo provide Colonisation of Las Cañadas was initiated by indigenous campesinos five
some background information about the EZLN. The Zapatista uprising began on decades earlier. It was here that in 1983 the armed struggle began to be
1 January 1994 in Chiapas. Zapatismo - as it is popularly known in Mexico -
conceived as a political option for revolutionary change among the Tzeltales,
has been remarkably adept at forming a strategic publicity campaign which has Choles, Tojolabales and Tzotziles who lived in the zone.2 This zone was
given the EZLN a voice at local, national and international leve¡. This has transformed into training camps, military bases, radiocommunications posts and
enabled it lo reach a wide range of groups and individuals throughout the world logistical support communities for the EZLN.
and proclaim its manifesto, summarised in an `eleven-point plan' which outlines
a programme for the Mexican people's struggle for the right lo work, land, The precious hardwood and pine forests located 300 lo 1,200 metres aboye
housing, a proper diet, health, education, autonomy, liberty, democracy, justice sea leve¡ absorbed waves of campesino immigration from different areas. The
and peace (EZLN, 1994, p. 35). sub-region in the north of the jungle remained under state control until the
Tabasco lumber companies and foreign-owned hardwood companies departed in
From the first declaration of war, the Zapatista rebels proclaimed themselves 1949 (De Vos, 1988). From the 1960s campesinos arrived to colonise this
the heirs of the Mexican struggles of the indigenous people and campesinos, northem zone. Another pocket of earlier settlement was Las Cañadas where in
against the 500 years celebration (1492-1992) and imperialism (¡bid, p. 33). the 1940s peones de finca (farm hands) began to arrive from neighbouring areas
Their cry of ` Y a Basta!' ('Enough!') made a deep impression on the national
and ventured into the heart of the jungle, then known as the `Desert of
conscience at a time when Mexico was about lo sign the North American Free Lacandón' (Leyva Solano and Ascencio Franco, 1996).'
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada, and was on the
verge of witnessing the six-yearly `ritual' (Lomnitz-Adler, 1995) of presidential Since then the selváticos have formed small settlements called rancherías
elections which were due lo fall in that year. and ejidos of between 50 and 500 inhabitants who were dispersed throughout the
valleys and creeks of the area. The population of the sub-region is not exactly
There were severa¡ factors which contributed lo the ease with which certain known but it can be affirmed that in 1990 there were more than 30,000 settled
sectors of civil society and almost all the organisations of México Rebelde' inhabitants in more than 200 localities. Many of these communities were
identified with and supporting the political arm of the Zapatista
movement. abandoned after 1 January 1994 when conflict between the Zapatista army and
Among the most important factors were the sharp deterioration in the quality of the Mexican federal army became imminent.
life of the masses; the unwillingness of the ruling party lo change the traditional
mechanisms of political control; the fragmentation of the left and its
electoral Despite the displacements which were brought about by the conflict, the
defeat in 1988, combined with the unanimous rejection of armed struggle as an settlers continue to speak of `within' when referring lo the jungle and Las
option to solve the country's problems. Cañadas, and `outside' when alluding to towns and cities. `Outside', they
comment, there are hospitals, secondary schools, drinking water supplies,
On the other hand, the emergence of the EZLN coincided with the historie electricity, telephones, and cheaper and more varied merchandise, while `within'
transformation of Central American guerrilla warfare (Dunkerley, 1993; Sieder, they only had health volunteers, local radio, primary schools, spring water and
1996, 1997) and, for the first time in the history of contemporary Mexico, a country paths.
political movement of the masses militarised and grew clandestinely
lo reach a
national dimension through the network of social, relations
of the indigenous Until the 1950s the rivers served as the most efficient way of transporting
communities . Its origins are to be found in Las Cañadas, a sub-region of the
timber out of the Lacandona jungle. All roads led to cities, the centres of the
Lacandona jungle (see Map 1). lumber business. Between the 1950s and 1970s, however, all this changed with
air routes which made it possible, providing one had sufficient funds lo pay for
the high cost of the trip, lo fly from the principal towns to the communities.

2 Undoubtedly this only refers to the beginning of the EZLN, which in 1996 declared that it
' I refer to México Rebelde in contrast to México Institucional.
The former includes some had a presence in 38 of the 111 municipalities of Chiapas. It also had sympathisers in the capital
traditional parties of the left and centre - left, cells of clandestine political organisations and `legal' and more than half of the states of Mexico , as well as the USA, Latin America and Europe.
peasant, indigenous and sector organisations together with non-governmental organisations and 3 In fact, 80% of the colonos of Las Cañadas come from fincas, while the remaining 20% are
civil associations . Each regards itself as independent of the state party and govemment agencies.
from ejidos or communal lands situated in the north of Chiapas (Leyva Solano y Ascencio Franco,
The latter comprises al¡ the organisations created and / or coopted by the ruling party. 1996).

During the 1980s the so-called `Frontier Highway' was built on the Mexican- campesino expectations.4
Guatemalan border, with the aim of strengthening the national border against the
incursions of Guatemalan guerrillas and refugees who were fleeing from One can concur with Wilson's argument about the Guatemalan indigenous
repression. In the 1990s the Ocosingo-San Quintín road was finally completed rebellion (Wilson, 1995, p. 38) that the Zapatista uprising cannot be explained
after 20 years of construction work. Today, this is the principal route along by purely economic and structural factors, and that beyond these there are other
which the federal Mexican army travels to inspect and control the conflict zone cultural and political reasons which help to explain why more than half the
(see Map 2). indigenous population of the zone took up arms to demand `justice, liberty and
democracy' from the government.
From the 1940s to the 1960s the campesinos of the area cultivated crops such
as maize and beans and raised pigs for their own consumption. During the
eighties and nineties coffee production and calf-rearing linked the ares lo the Religion and Politics
capital of the region and with other centres of calf-rearing. Towards the mid-
1990s a small group of campesinos began lo market organic coffee in Europe, In the context of influences, the role of the pastoral work carried out under the
Japan and the USA. The profits from such activities gave the colonos a degree of auspices of the bishop of San Cristóbal, Samuel Ruiz, should be mentioned.
economic solvency, but despite this `new wealth' many still continue to walk for Bishop Samuel Ruiz and his pastoral team promoted the development of a
two or three days to reach the trucks lo go to town. In spite of these roads and collective consciousness among the indigenous population, which constituted a
trade networks, the EZLN is still found to be `within', and the colonos' challenge to the status quo and to the finqueril political structure (see below).
conditions of life still leave a great deal of room for improvement.
Jesuits, Dominicans, Marists and Diocesans formed a pastoral team under the
It would be fair to say that the agricultura) crisis which has plagued the
guidance of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who since the 1970s had expounded the need
Mexican countryside for the last two decades and which is particularly deep- systematically lo understand the reality of the indigenous campesinos and to
seated in marginal zones such as the Lacandona area was an important factor adapt the liturgy lo indigenous culture in order to raise an awareness of the
which encouraged the rebellion. It would, however, be wrong to think that all socio-economic plight of the indigenous population. Since then the Catholic
the indigenous campesinos of the region have converted to the Zapatista cause.
Church has been a counter-weight against the oligarchic family which controlled
Nevertheless, it is certainly not beside the point to speak of an indirect the state assembley and ruled Chiapas.' Recently, new power groups have
relationship between marginalisation and rebellion, since the peasantry in `Las emerged (Ascencio, 1997) but the dichotomic political structure has not
Cañadas' were marginalised from the state development policies and condemned disappeared. On the contrary, since 1994 the alliance between the local Catholic
to supply maize, beans, coffee and cattle to towns and cities. During the early missions and popular movements has been stronger and acts against a political
years, this situation and the difficulties in getting access to land were the main group which can be called finqueril.6
reasons for joining the clandestine movement.
The theology of incarnation and enculturation was the foundation used lo
However, it should be mentioned that unlike in other regions of the country, build an autonomous church. The process of awakening consciousness
in Las Cañadas the campesinos were beneficiaries of agrarian reform and now contributed to focus attention on the sacred scriptures and lo promote the search
possess arable land, largely owing to the fact that the zone was used as an escape for a cohesive force binding together all the communities . The notion of
valve to avoid having to touch land belonging to the large private landowners, or `exodus' was used as an element lo legitimate the colonisation process. The
the highly productive areas of Chiapas and other regions. Nevertheless, this does campesinos perceived themselves as individuals with an `exodus status', similar
not mean that gaining access to land has been easy. In many cases disputes have
still not been resolved; others have been concluded in a very slow and
bureaucratic manner. 4 Taking into account that this Salinista policy was part of a neoliberal state programme, there
is a correlation between neoliberalism and the Zapatista uprising. Some researchers (Gledhill, 1996,
1995; Harvey, 1994; Collier and Lowery Quaratiello, 1994; Laurell, 1995; Fox, 1994; Alonso,
The main problems have been a lack of technological development and 1994; González-Casanova, 1995) affirm that the armed movement was a reaction to the neoliberal
accelerated demographic growth. Together these factors have given rise to a policies of Salinas which caused exclusion and an increase in poverty.
structural land shortage which - combined with the agricultura ) crisis - caused a 5 This role is not new in the history of Chiapas . In colonial times Dominican priests were the
weight against the Ciudad Real settlers (Lenkersdorf, 1995, pp. 82-5).
deep frustration of expectations in some of the indigenous campesinos of Las
6 Nowadays this political group is made up offrnquero descendants , agricultural businessmen,
Cañadas and found its ultimate expression in taking up arms as an alternative traders, professionals, university students, housewives and poor urban squatters . AII of them share
form of struggle. At this level, it can be argued that the Salinista agrarian reform, the frnqueril ideology which consists of a hatred of indigenous people. This hatred can be expressed
which declared the end of land distribution, sharpened the frustration of in a violent way or in a compassionate and paternal attitude which hides ethnic and social

to that of the biblical Jews . This notion opened the perspective of a future in a
`promised land'. This was the prophetic vision of a new life which would be
better than the one lived on the finca. This prophetic vision made the building of gap 2. Roads and Archaeologica [ Sites in the Lacandona Rainforest
` the Kingdom of God on earth ' seem possible.

On the other hand , the ideological work of the non-aligned left played an
i mportant organisational role in the formal political sphere . Palenque
There were two
different political trends : one identified with a Maoist ideology and the other a
clandestine movement identified with socialism and revolutionary armed I1
struggle . The local communities of Las Cañadas were visited by students and
crucero 1 ,\
militants who survived the governmental repression in 1968 and wanted to Piña¡ 1

establish links with the `working masses' as a means to build popular power (l Metzaboc
Monte ^ \^ Nahá \
( similar processes are discussed in Ramírez , 1986 and in Foweraker , 1993). Ocosingo Libano
1i El Real Sib,1 L,\ _ `\
+ b G •1.Domingo •\.
7- - _ - Cintalapa
A group of militants arrived in 1976, followed by another group in 1978 and
finally one in 1983. The latter was to become the seed of the movement known La Trinidad (^•: •:•:•: •: •. i

today as the EZLN. These militants had their own ideological slogan: `a society 11 Altamirano \
ti= rr .''... \ L
in which the difference between exploited and exploiters will disappear San Migue l N \ \\ / • \ .-'.'....
'. In the -
J \`l Agua Escondía
context of the political environment of the 1970s , their ideology was inspired by
the Cuban revolution, Guevarism , the Sandinista Front, the Salvadorean
guerrillas , the Cultural Revolution in China and the beginning in Mexico of the
campesino and urban popular movements.

Since the 1970s the indigenous campesinos in Las Cañadas have organised
themselves to ask the government to accept their claims. These claims included
access to land, support for agricultura) production and adequate resources to
guarantee regional development.
! Headtown Less than 1000 Archaeologica) Sites
Different associations were formed within this process and were recognised inhabitants
Asphalted road
as legal by the Mexican government: associations of ejidos, rural-farming RIBMA
Less well-surfaced
associations, rural mutual benefit associations, cooperatives, and so on. Since roads and paths Q PALENQUE
Z. Pico de Oro
1975, the economic resources available to the communities were channelled by
1 1 11111 Railway N. Francisco León
the colonos through these associations. Moreover, these associations have been Q TONINA
El Censo
the basis for organising life at community, sub-regional and regional levels and More than 2000 cQ YAXCHILAN
inhabitants Las Tazas
their links with the outside world. Since 1983, this organisational structure has Francisco 1. Madero dQ BONAMPAK
O Palestina
supported the clandestine work of indigenous leaders and community factions. Q Benemérito de las Américas Chiapas
Q Frontera Corozal El Edén
During the early 1980s, the `legal' sub-regional organisation was popularly O Rio Chancala
known as Unión de Uniones. At the end of the decade, it comprised 6,000
families distributed in 117 ejidos and 24 rancherías. At that time, most of the
ejidos and the rancherías had started clandestine training. The decision was
made in communal assemblies and in severa) communities it caused factional
struggles, but these were not evident until January 1994. Then the regional
organisation Unión de Uniones was split up and the regional structure reshaped.

Maoist ideology, liberation theology and socialist tendencies shaped the evolved into tour different organisations. These shared the same political culture
campesino indigenous mentality and although these tendencies developed in but Nave different political horizons and strategies:
parallel, each one had its own dynamic and particular nature. It can be affirmed
that in general they encouraged communal life through the creation of social a) The official ARJC which is considered lo be an arm of the
rules at local and regional levels. In other words, these political tendencies ruling state party and the government because it receives
sought a radical political change and shared the same utopian idea: `... to fight official finance to rehabilitate the conflict zone, and because
here and now for an equal society ... (Parroquia, n. d.; Línea de Masas, 1976, the new deputy of the electoral district is a peasant leader from
1979). In spite of their common goal the protagonista of these tendencies had this organisation. This post was formerly occupied by a
different ideas about the implementation of this aim. For instance, the left- wealthy cattle rancher.
wingers argued that the political process had lo be `led', while the Catholic b) The independent ARIC which identifies itself with the centre-
priests claimed that it was enough just lo `accompany' Indian political struggles. left Partido de la Revolución Democratica (PRD) and seeks the
Moreover, the pastoral team considered it vital lo reinforce Indian culture. By restoration of community at local and regional level. This
contrast, left-wing militants wanted to emphasise working-class identity. organisation joined broad convergent fronts such as the State
However, both political agents perceived and called the colonos `the poor' and Assembly of the Chiapaneco People (AEDPCh) and the
`the exploited people'. Through this discourse Las Cañadas dwellers were National Democratic Convention (CND).
resocialised and re-situated in the world (Barabas, 1993, p. 5). In the local and
c) La Unión de Ejidos de la Selva which grew in strength as a
regional context this process allowed Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Choles and
producer organisation. Since the early 1990s, it has been
Tojolabales to gain a voice lo fight against caciques, finqueros and new power
exporting organic coffee lo Europe, the USA and Japan.
d) The EZLN, head of the national pro-democratic movement. It is
The `sense of community' was the social foundation of the legal and ¡Ilegal i mportant lo note that it was not until the arrival of the
Zapatista movement that the inhabitants of Las Cañadas used
political movement in Las Cañadas. It originated among the ejidal communities
their ethnicity as a political instrument lo make their demands
as a result of a process of a common history of colonisation, of speaking Mayan
heard at national level.
dialects and of sharing social relationships (neighbourhood, compadrazgo,
kinship). Likewise, they shared collective work, political meetings, a similar
forro of land struggle, the same religious beliefs, antagonism towards the cattle- The EZLN is not the same as the NMZ
rearing finquero-caxlán and the clandestine and legal work at different levels of
the campesino organisations. There is a debate between political scientists and historians about the
interpretation of contemporary Mexico: on the one hand, Foweraker (1993)
We refer to the `sense of community' as the process of creating a collective considers that the 1968 student movement was a watershed in contemporary
voice to express one's identity. Through this collective forro of organisation, Mexican history, while Knight (1990) insists that the popular movements after
control was exercised over the natural resources and the men and women who 1968 were not radically new, but rather historically continuous with previous
lived in this territory. Authority in the organisation emerged from a process of movements. The unresolved dilemma is whether the old class politics has given
consensus and legitimisation. At community level the `community sense' was way to new politics which are more pragmatic and multi-classist or popular.
called el comon and at sub-regional level it was called la organización. The Beyond the polemics, the EZLN has undoubtedly inaugurated another phase in
scope of both was extended to all aspects of private and public life. the popular history, opening new paths for civic struggle within the framework
of what some call the process of 'dernocratic transition'. To a certain extent, the
To allow the functioning of el comon and la organización it was necessary lo EZLN brings the cycle of 1968 lo a close, and reflects the course taken by
create two kinds of power structure: `the council-authority' and `the general Mexican political life during the 26 years lo 1994, both through legal and
authorities'. These two structures were responsible for overseeing the adequate institutional channels (political parties, elections etc.) as well as through
development of life at the community and regional level and for their clandestine socio-political networks.'
relationship with the outside world.
Any analysis of Zapatismo should take three elements into consideration:
In Las Cañadas the `sense of community' engendered rights and obligations, firstly, it must distinguish between the Zapatista Army for National Liberation
ties of mutual support and loyalty. However, after 1 January 1994 this
ideological base and its consequent political practices changed. The political
' The relationship between democratic processes and popular movements has been particularly
unity of Las Cañadas fragmented into four political groups which by 1996 had
emphasised by Foweraker and Craig (1990) and Foweraker (1995).

(EZLN) and the New Zapatista Movement (NMZ). Secondly, it has to take into it is subordinated to the highest organ of the political structure: the
account the convergente of a diversity of political actors within the NMZ. And, Revolutionary Insurgent Clandestine Committee-General Cornmand (CCRI-
thirdly, it -must consider that, up to a point, the NMZ is an `imagined CG), which was created just before the EZLN appeared publicly and is formed
community' (Anderson, 1993). The movement's members will never all know by indigenous representatives of different ethnic groups (EZLN, 1995).
one another, but they constitute an `imagined community' in the sense that they
share certain symbolic references, general political goals and, of course, the
Figure 2. The New Zapatista Movement (NMZ): Tire Political Network
feeling of belonging to the collective colloquially called Zapatismo.

While the EZLN is a mass politico-military organisation which was formed

by left-wing militants and indigenous people from Chiapas and severa¡ other
parts of the country, the NMZ is a much broader political movement which was
brought about by the convergente of old and new social and political
organisations as well as by citizens and a few leaders or representatives of
international agencies and institutions. We cal¡ it `new' because it is a political
movement which synthesises and re-elaborates past and present experiences of People invited by EZLN to
popular struggle. participate in the dialogue

Figure 1. Political Structure of the EZLN



CCRI/Regional Committees Militia Source: EZLN, 1994; Ce-Acatl, 1996a; Trabajo de Campo, 1987, 1990-94.
CCRI/Local Committees Insurgents
lb From Figure 2 it can be seen that in 1996 the EZLN was the core (leve¡ `A')
of the NMZ. This `new' movement encompassed various forms of political
participation at different levels; in other words, it articulated individuals and

L SUPPORT UNITS organisations which created networks through which information was conveyed,
points of view were exchanged and joint actions were planned. Thus, a feeling
Gunsmith of belonging to a collectivity emerged gradually through congresses, assemblies
Operation Base and demonstrations in which general postulates such as the fight for `democracy,
Training Camps liberty and justice' and against the ruling party and neoliberalism were shared.
Shoe Factories
Figure 2 also shows that leve¡ `B' represents the central unit of strategic
Source : Ce-A cat!, 1996a; Fieldwork , 1994; EZLN, 1994 Zapatista alliances which have played a prominent role in the advancement of
the EZLN's aims . Prominent among the most relevant allies are the non-
According to the Zapatista discourse, the EZLN has both a political and a governmental organisations (NGOs), the diocese of San Cristóbal , the CONAI
military structure which are complementary (see Figure 1). The political and all the popular organisations which have come about as a result of the events
structure is based on community, regional and general assemblies which work of 1 January 1994: AEDPCH, ESPAZ, `Chihuahua para todos', `Caravana de
for the common goal of reaching political accords. This is a traditional method Caravanas ', Conpaz, Movimiento Civil Zapatista (MCZ), CND, CNI, CNM, FNI
of building consensus and legitimisation amongst some indigenous peasant and so on (see Appendix ). These organisations generally voice their
organisations. On the other hand, although the military structure is hierarchical, preoccupations through committees, conventions, councils, fora and broad
alliance groups. Moreover, there have been cases where, within a single political
group, diverse actions have been encouraged over a period of time, creating the consisted of creating appropriate spaces for meetings and for the discussíon of
impression of a growing popular force. This was the case of the preparatory relevant national matters. The intention behind this strategy was to create an
committees for the CND which later on triggered the committees for `popular alternative national project and to avoid falling into a dialogue exclusively with
consultation' and `pro-dialogue and negotiation'. the government and political parties (EZLN, 1995).

The third leve) ('C') included political actors who existed even before the To conclude, the articulation of all these political levels, the creation and re-
armed conflict and continue to have their own political life, independent from creation of socio-political networks and the convergence of actors make it
the EZLN; however, nowadays they are part of the alliance of forces that possible to speak of the existence of the NMZ beyond the EZLN itself.
support the dialogue between the EZLN and the government (see Figure 2 and
Appendix). This is a second level of strategic alliances where certain individuals
NMZ: National Impacts and International Context
and political organisations identify themselves as `sympathisers' with the
Zapatista movement unlike others who are openly militants.
Foweraker (1993), Craig (1990) as well as Foweraker and Craig (1990) defined
`institutionalism' as a basic characteristic of Mexican popular movements.
The political identification of al¡ these actors (from leve¡ `A' to `C') enabled
the meeting of the CND to be organised in 1994, and later some of them were Considering that the EZLN is negotiating peace with the government, it can be
invited by the EZLN to participate in the dialogue and negotiation talks with the included in that classification. But its international dimension also places it
government. For example, at the second round of talks, which dealt with the within a global struggle, from which it strengthens local struggles and at the
same time influences and is influenced by the global political system. This fact
theme `Democracy and Justice', 122 individuals participated by invitation,
will doubtless require a reconsideration of the interpretations of the Mexican
among them 44 academics, 46 representatives of civil and religious
popular movements which generally acted at local and regional level or
organisations, 16 trade union representatives, 5 political parties and 11 social
and religious leaders (such as priests and party presidents, as well as a renowned depended totally on international allies (such as the former Mexican Communist
footballer (Ce-Acatl, 1996). The level of participation was varied, from those
who wrote a paper and faxed it to the convenors to those who carne up with a
Having placed the EZLN and the NMZ within both a national and an
collective document stating clear proposals and actions to be implemented. In
international frarnework, the first agreement on `Rights and Indigenous Culture'
the end, it was the body of advisors to the EZLN, the Zapatista delegates, the
signed between the EZLN and the government in 1996 can be analysed from
CONAI and sub-comandante Marcos who were in charge of synthesising those
two perspectives : first, as part of the struggle for socio-economic and indigenous
ideas and presenting a general proposal as comprehensive as possible.
rights and , second , as another stage of Mexican indigenismo.

One further leve) ('D') can be identified. This is made up of political agents
who act in international spheres. First Perspective
Many of them are sympathisers with or
militants of the various pro-Zapatista overseas committees, such as the groups Gledhill (1997) concludes that 48 years after the adoption of the Universal
supporting Zapatismo Declaration of Human Rights, there is a certain agreement that socio-economic
in Barcelona, Berlin, Toulouse or London; the organising
committees for the 1995 Zapatista Consultation (Consulta Zapatista); or the rights are basic and fundamental for the enjoyment of human life, but they seem
organising committees of the Intercontinental Forum in favour of Humanity and increasingly far from being attained. In countries such as the United States and
against Neoliberalism. the United Kingdom, policies of redistribution are left off the agenda altogether,
Others have visited the conflict zone to inspect and
evaluate the local situation; some carne as representatives of international while the levels of poverty increase and salaries remain low or are being
institutions and depressed for growing sectors of labour force. Indeed, the fulfilment of basic
agencies such as Amnesty International, the Latin American
Commission of the European Parliament and the Commission of Latin American rights has thus become a major problem for capitalist societies, and categories
Bishops. These agents cannot be called `sympathisers' or Zapatista militants, but such as `Third' and `First' world are no longer useful. Oxfam, for example, is
their points of view, reports and criticisms contributed to giving shape to the extending its programme to the United Kingdom itself and based its 1995
very essence of the movement and to strengthen its international image. campaign on the demand for basic rights for all the people of the world
(Gledhill, 1997, pp. 1, 6, 20). This discourse coincides almost word for word
The convergence of different political actors was not a secondary matter with what was expressed in the Zapatista `eleven-point plan'.
since the EZLN discourse had always emphasised the necessity of fomenting ties
between the various popular struggles that had taken place in Mexico, in The 1948 Declaration also alluded to cultural rights but, rather than
`isolated nuclei', over the previous five decades. Therefore the EZLN strategy demanding respect for differences or the indemnification of colonised peoples, it
referred only to the right to participate in cultural life and education. Such
declarations were based on Western conceptions of `society' and ` natural law'.
In liberal discourse , the topic of rights was associated with individualism , for approximately two decades we have been witnessing the re-definition of the
property and social justice . Within that framework, the liberal democratic Indian at the heart of our society (Vázquez León, 1992, p. 108). It is clear that in
constitutional model was preoccupied with securing the conditions for an sorne regions, aboye and beyond the newly amplified classificatory criteria of
authentic pluralism (Gledhill, 1997). In Mexico, the struggle for indigenous the state, it is the Indians themselves who wish lo be considered as Indians, in a
rights carried out by independent organisations has taken place within that sort of `Indianness'.9
framework, while there is an unresolved tension between constitutional
individualism and indigenous communalism. An illustrative case is that of the Tarascan highlanders in Michoacán
(Vázquez León, 1992) and the colonists from Las Cañadas in the
In the same chapter, Gledhill points out the danger implied in a Zapatista Lacandona jungle. In both regions ethnicity is used to make political
political discourse based on `indigenous rights'. He proposes that the minimalist claims, but the underlying experience of ethnicity is very different.
state's neoliberal discourse could be seen as a disguise for the expansion of the While on the Tarascan piateau the purépechas are claiming pre-colonial
state's domination and its programmes of deregulation and privatisation, or as a rights and access to land based on communal ownership, the multi-
new and more effective method of achieving social dismemberment through ethnic society of Las Cañadas - the product of recent peasant
capitalist restructuration. Finally, he strongly emphasises that the language of the colonisation - has set up a system of ejidos. Despite the difference in
recognition of differences as non-differences could be converted into a vehicle land tenure the regional identity in both cases is supported and sustained
for subordination through individualisation, normalisation and regulation. by the presence of the Tarascan and Mayan groups. These are
indigenous people who have recovered the honour of belonging to a
Second Perspeclive certain ethnic group and have assumed their cultural differences as a
mechanism of collective identification (Vásquez, 1992, p. 108).
From a different point of view, it can be said that as a result of the Zapatista
movement and the NMZ, `indigenous rights' were included in a broader
In these cases and more generally after the 1970s, ethnic identity has been a
programme of national democratisation. In fact, the demands for autonomy and
fundamental part of the collective strategy of struggle of many indigenous
self-determination only became the driving force of the NMZ when the CND
people organised in various associative forms such as coalitions of ejidos,
was unable to make progress towards a New Constitution and the installation of
a New Congress. ARICs, SPRs, agrarian communities, committees, councils, and so on. As with
any kind of identity, ethnic-political identity is situational and not essential;
being self-perceived and subject to contingency it is heterogeneous and shifting.
From a national and continental perspective, the recent mobilisation of the
That is to say, this is not a question of individualism, rationalism or
NMZ has clearly forced the country to reconsider its multi-ethnic character and
it has managed to put the ethnic question back on the national agenda, with maximisation, but rather of interactive processes of 'resistance-negotiation-
creation' of the indigenous people in their dealings with the government and
emphasis on its political dimension.e Ethnicity is a central question for Mexican
other ethnic and socio-economic groups. This is the way in which the Mexican
anthropology because of its decisive role in the design of numerous post-
Indigenist discourse has been constructing and re-constructing itself, and that of
revolutionary indigenist policies and its responsibility lo contribute to the
the Zapatistas is not outside this debate.
consolidation of the National State. In fact, many anthropological terms and
concepts - such as `ethnic group', `indigenous rights', `indigenous people',
It seems that, following the Mexican approaches of Integrationist
`Indian', `autonomous pluri-ethnic regions' and `autonomous indigenous
indigenismo, Marxism and the Critical Anthropologists,10 the current national
regions' - were present in the list in Table 1, that is to say, in the discussion
discussion continues to make ethnic projects complementary to central cultural
between political organisations, government representatives and academics. As a
result, a new stage has been reached: mestizo Mexico is nowadays declared to be
policy, claiming that this is the way lo reach a pluralistic society by legally
multi-cultural. entrenching differences and ascribing certain inalienable rights to different
ethnic groups, which are currently referred to as `indigenous peoples'. The use
of this term instead of `Indians' should not be seen as an accidental change; it
According to Hernández Castillo (1995, p. 136), this process has been
reflects a collective effort (of organisations, government and academics) to
greatly influenced both by the struggles of the indigenous people in
overcome essentialist, folklorist or integrationist visions in order to achieve a
confrontation with the integrationist state model, and by the inclusion of critical
anthropologists in the Centros Coordinadores Indigenistas (CCI-INI). Moreover,
9 For Vázquez León (1992, pp. 108-9), chis process has to do with a change in the status of
Indians in society. He even suggests that we are witnessing the coining of a new system which
8 During the six years of satinismo (1988-94) this discussion had been rekindled with its resembles the social structure ofcolonialism based on the model ofthe kingdom ofAragón.
10 Some texts which offer panorarnic visions of Indigenism in Mexico are: Villoro (1979), De la
proposals for modifications to Article 4 of the Constitution and the corresponding regulatory law.
Peña (1986), García Mora (1988), Díaz Polanco (1985) and Vázquez León (1992).

notion of an ethnic identity as a `historie process', and as a `social construction'. the EZLN confirms the aboye with its `eleven-point plan' (EZLN, 1994, p. 35).
The NMZ participates, however, in the dynamics of the new social movements,
Stephen (1995) suggests that building an alternative vision of ethnicity is not since it does not have as its exclusive goal the `taking of power'. In its official
a unilinear process. It poses challenges at two leveis: the leve( of hegemonic- discourse, it emphasises that winning state power is not the key to solving the
historical categories of incorporation and the level of structure. With regard to political conflict, and it declares that there are many other areas of power to be
the former, the debate of `Table 1' tried to give an impetus to the notion of conquered (Alonso, 1994, p. 39).
`autonomous multi-ethnic regions' in order to go beyond the notion of ethnic
group and local organisational level. In the end, only things related to self- On the other hand, the Mexican Indigenist policies have provided the
determination and autonomy were redefined by the 1996 Accords. national institutional context in which the EZLN has widened its political
network, changed its strategies and shaped its demands. Although its origins are
Perhaps one of the main obstacles for the coining of new concepts lies at the partly rooted in the Forces for National Liberation (FLN), a clandestine
feet of the ethnic groups themselves: on many occasions, they reproduce the organisation formed in Monterrey in 1969," this foquista strategy, socialist
official Indigenist discourse themselves in order to gain access to governmental ideology and armed tactic was transformed into broad political fronts and a
resources earmarked specifically `only for Indians'. In fact, the terco democratic discourse. In other words, the local struggle of `Las Cañadas'
`indigenous' is currently assumed, for example, by the Mames who live in La became a popular and national movement, the NMZ (Nuevo Movimiento
Sierra (Chiapas) because it gives them access to some services offered by the Zapatista). `New' in this context alludes to a re-creation or reinterpretation of
CCI-INI, such as agricultural advice, medical tare, educational scholarships, political symbols, practices and values which make up a process, it does not
housing and support to economic and cultural projects (Hernández Castillo, refer to a completely different phenomenon.
1995, p. 138).
Finally, as in the nineteenth century, Mexican Indians are taking part in
If we see indigenismo as a trait of national culture, one can understand that national political processes. At that time, as Mallon (1995) points out, they
the local discourse of the Mames is not totally disconnected from the national collaborated in the making of postcolonial Mexico through liberal discourses.
Indigenist discourse. On the contrary, they share certain elements, as Knight These discourses are still important for the EZLN, which is now involved in a
(1990) points out when he speaks of the Mexican political culture at its various process of `democratic transition'. The final result of this process is unknown,
levels. but so far it can be assumed that the Las Cañadas dwellers have been
reincorporated into the nation in a different way alter the Zapatista uprising.
As Gledhill affirms, the Zapatista demands are placed in a broader context of Wilson's analysis confirms that something similar happened in Guatemala,
the `indigenous and human rights struggles' but, at the national level, this stating that `war, whatever the outcome, often accelerates the incorporation of
struggle has a particular story called indigenismo, in which the EZLN must be indigenous groups into the national society. This occurs on a cultural leve( in
understood and analysed. For instante, before 1994 ethnic organisations were that war fosters universal and orthodox religious beliefs, and economically, by
confined to regional and local domains regardless of their political allegiance. displacing huge numbers to the cities and further commoditising rural labour
They did not reach a national level of organisation because this was a political relations' (Wilson, 1991, p. 57).
sphere which the central power tended to keep exclusively for itself (Vázquez
León, 1992, p. 119). After the Zapatista uprising, however, indigenous demands
have found more resonance at the national leve(, and as a result ethnic demands
have been included on the national democratic agenda.

To sum up, ethnicity became a key factor in the political identification of the
NMZ militante . As a consequence , the political struggle took place at two levels:
civil rights and ethnic demands.


Hellman (1989, p. 2) and Knight (1990, p. 83) point out that the new social
movements in Europe are mainly a response to post-industrial conditions, while The FLN was one of the many expressions of young university students and activista who
in Latin America they are the result of material needs. The programmatic base of Participated as advisors, leaders and militants of trade unions , political parties, urban and peasant-
indigenous movements (see Ramírez Sáiz, 1986; Foweraker , 1993).

Appendix Sindicato Unico de Trabajadores Urbanos de la Ruta 100 (SUTAUR 100)

Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (SITUAM)
The New Zapatista Movement
Federación de Sindicatos Universitarios

Leve¡ B (May 1996) Frente Auténtico de los Trabajadores (FAT)

Comités de Consulta Popular del EZLN ( established in 1995) UVyD (popular urban organisation)

Comités Locales y Regionales de la Convención Nacional Democrática (CND) ENOC

Diócesis de San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico Movimiento Navista
DESMI A.C. Movimiento Ciudadano por la Democracia
CHILTAC OCSS (peasant organisation)
Comisión Nacional de Intermediación (CONAI) Movimiento Unificado Nacional de Jubilados y Pensionados

Asamblea Estatal Democrática del Pueblo Chiapaneco (AEDPCH) El Barzón (Unión Nacional de Productores Agropecuarios, Comerciantes Industriales y
Prestadores de Servicios A.C.)
Centros de Derechos Humanos:
• CDH - Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Organización de Ex-Petroleros de Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz
• CDH - Agustín Pro Organización de Ex-Petroleros de Minatitlán, Veracruz
• CDH - Fray Francisco de Vitoria
Xi-Nich (peasant organisation)
• Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
• Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Xalapa Codimuj
Asesores del EZLN Comité de Unidad Teposteca
Espacio Civil por la Paz (ESPAZ) Frente Cívico Familiar de Mérida
Coordinadora Nacional por la Paz (CONPAZ) Cooperativa Refrescos Pascual
`Chihuaha para Todos' Sindicato de Limpieza de Tabasco
Movimiento Civil Zapatista (MCZ) Coordinación de Damnificados de la Explosión de Guadalajara
Comités Civiles de Diálogo y Negociación Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE)
Comités Organizativos del Encuentro Nacional Anti-Neoliberal Asamblea de Barrios del D.F.
Movimiento Cristiano Comprometido con las Luchas Populares Frente Popular Francisco Villa
Consejo Ecuménico de Iglesias Movimiento Proletario Independiente (MPI)
Convención Nacional de Mujeres (CNM) Consejo Guerrerense 500 Años
Convención Nacional Indígena (CNI) Sindicato del Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS)
Conferencia Nacional por la Paz Sindicato de Académicos del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH)
Foro Nacional Indígena Permanente CLETA (artists' organisation)
Frente Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (FZLN) Asociación Mexicana de Corresponsales en el Extranjero
Red de Comunicación Popular
Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME)
Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Tratado de Libre Comercio
Leve¡ C (May 1996) CCI-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Consejo Estatal de Organizaciones Indígenas y Campesinas (CEOIC) Fundación Manuel Buen Día
Alianza Cívica Democrática Cruz Roja Nacional
Sindicato de Trabajadores Técnicos, Manuales y Administrativos del INAH Source: Ce-Acatl, 1996a and b ; EZLN, 1994 and 1995
Taller Libre de Calzado de Tepito