By Subcomandante Marcos
The Other Mexico
June 3, 2006
There is a discussion going on about what is myth and what is history.
I don’t know a lot about that, but I imagine that there are entire bookshelves, post-graduate studies, colloquiums, round tables, dedicated to the theme. Maybe this is even – I’m not sure – discussed in one of those classes given here or in other higher institutions with majors of so-called “humanities.”
And since we are talking about “humanity” and its irrationality, I ask myself if in humanities studies there are courses in “dignity” and if so who gives them and who gives tests in them.
Mmh… Or maybe that subject is given and tested collectively, in many places, and not just in a classroom.
And I ask myself also if dignity doesn’t go hand in hand with indignation, that feeling that is difficult to anchor with a definition but has to do with that rage that is felt in the gut when facing an injustice.
Maybe this capacity for indignation is one of the qualities of a human being. Ergo, a major in “humanities” ought to have courses in “dignity” and “indignation.”
What’s more, one shouldn’t be able to graduate as a human being if he doesn’t pass these courses.
Excuse me, please, if I have strayed a little, or a lot, from the theme.
It’s just because they didn’t give me a theme to talk about, but, rather because they just said to me, “come to the ENAH (National School of Anthropology and History) because we’re going to have a festival so that Mariana Selvas and Doc and Magdalena and all the prisoners know that they are not alone and that we will keep fighting for them.”
That’s what they said to me. And I thought: “Will I go?” And I answered: “Yes, I’m going.”
And since they didn’t give me a theme to talk about, I think I can talk about what is the Other Campaign, what defines it, paints it and forms it.
Or, for example, I could explain why I am in Mexico City, or more concretely at the ENAH at a cultural festival for freedom for the prisoners of Atenco, and not at meetings of adherents in Chihuahua, Sonora or Sinaloa. Or, better, in Chiapas.
And don’t believe it, I’m not very wise about Mexico City, but it seems that the ENAH is a little out of the way of where Doc and Mariana and Magdalena are. So I thought that I would have to raise my voice so that it travels very far.
And I am in this, which is to say, thinking about voices and distances, when I hear a voice below and to my left that says:
“That’s what it’s about, raising one’s voice.”
I feel a shiver up and down my beautiful spine and I say to myself, “that little voice, that little voice…”
And then I instinctively put my hand into the left pocket of my pants because that’s where I keep the tobacco and thinking, “don’t get stage fright, Marky.”
Where was I? Oh, yes, on the matter of them not giving me a theme for this talk at the ENAH.
What’s more, now I remember that I would like to file a complaint about something. Because it turns out that at the National Assembly of Adherents of the Other Campaign on the 29th someone passed me a piece of paper that said:
“Sup: Tell them if you’re going to the ENAH for the festival on June 2. If you’re going, well, we’ll invite you. And if you’re not going, well, we won’t invite you.”
I don’t know what you think, but it seems that me whomever wrote that message ought to be consulting for any of the major candidates for the presidency of Mexico.
Anyway, the fact is that they didn’t give me a theme to talk about and I was worried because maybe you’re thinking that I am going to sing one of those songs that later Panchito Varona will put to music and someone like Joaquín Sabina will sing and the girls will follow them around and the police will follow me around. There really is no justice.
So, that’s what I’m doing, counting how many police are following me (surely to ask me for an autograph) when I hear again that little voice that now is saying:
First I think it is the voice of my conscience, and since that’s a given I don’t notice, lighting my pipe, and the voice says to me: “Marky, don’t worry yourself. He stayed in the jungle, supporting Lieutenant Colonel Moises in the Intergalactic Commission. It must be your imagination. It’s practically impossible that he has come all the way here…”
“I, the eternal winner of the elections of the hearts of the good humored feminine, the wet dream of Halle Berry, the impossible love of Angelina Jolie, the hushed confession of… of… well, I’ll leave the space blank so that a woman, a unique one, adds her name and her heart in my readiness. Ahem, ahem, hem, here I am…”
“Durito!” I say with evident pain.
“What Durito? Don Durito of the Lacandon! The terror of the global political class! The party pooper of the neoliberal bashes! He of the august figure that causes furor in the (anti) social pages of the alternative press! The winner of all the polls that have not been taken and never will be! The provocateur of blushes, sweats and red cheeks in ladies of the five continents! The coolest passerby in the festivals of below and to the left!”
As he is finishing his speech, Durito does a few dance steps while he hums the dark-punk-libertarian-ska and scratch-yourself-ta-dum version of “The Mother in Law,” in the cumbia version that occupies first place in the Sunday ratings of “Radio Insurgente, the voice of the EZLN, the voice of those without voice, broadcasting from the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.”
I applaud discreetly and ask, question, insist:
“You’re not with Moy?”
”No, but I came to speak with the International Civil Commission of Human Rights Observation that came to document the kindness exhibited by the Mexican government in San Salvador Atenco. And well, since I was already here, I asked, “What trouble has the one with the big nose and the recurrent stubbornness – he who I gave the honor of naming me as his sidekick – gotten himself into?” And I told myself that I should see for myself, and as I said before, ahem…”
“Man, you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble. You could have sent an email,” I say to Durito as I hide the little bag of tobacco.
“Nah, don’t hide the delight that my presence provokes in you. And don’t tell me anything about caravans, just give me a little tobacco.”
Durito doesn’t await my response. He takes the bag and grabs his pipe and a little knapsack and that’s when I realize that he’s put it behind his back.
“Are you coming or going?” I ask, between despair and hope.
“Coming,” says Durito, throwing the tobacco and my dreams to the ground.
“But don’t get too excited. I only came to correct the lie that you have the most beautiful legs in the Mexican Southeast. It is public and notorious that mine are more beautiful and, what’s more, I have more of them,” Durito says while he models his three pairs of legs that also serve as his arms.
“Speaking of myths,” I say, evidently upset, “do you have anything to say about the ‘State of Law’ that travels with nightsticks and shields of the Mexican police?”
Durito put down his knapsack and opened it as he said:
“He who depends on the legality of the institutions and the penises of the police can’t hope for anything good,” says Durito.
“In Mexico, the State of Law is sexist, macho, and as such, stupid. It’s not possible to speak of legality while there are so many crooks and criminals free (some are even candidates in the upcoming elections). Justice in Mexico is a product and an expensive one. He who can afford it buys it. Haven’t you heard that when a wealthy man breaks the law, all the “legal” proceedings continue, he distances himself from the process, and frequently when guilt is found, the subject escapes? Isn’t it the case that a poor man is first arrested, then beaten, then imprisoned, and then much later they investigate if he’s guilty or not?”
Durito lights his pipe and shuffles around inside his knapsack while adding:
“As for everything else, don’t fall in love with your own writing. I have something better than what you can say,” and without further preamble he delivered me some wrinkled pages.
I am about to ask what it is when Durito says:
“Bah, you don’t have to thank me. I have written it with great pleasure, joy and overrunning enthusiasm. But now I have to go because I’m going to the protest outside the Santiaguito prison,” he says putting his knapsack on his back and losing himself in the cold dawn of the Valley of Mexico.
During another dawn, in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, Elías Contreras of the Commission of Investigation of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and I were conversing around the fire in his kitchen. Some years ago, when he came to Mexico City in the search for the bad and the evil, Elías Contreras visited the National School of Anthropology and History. I don’t know the motive for his visit was and he never told me. Maybe he came to see one of his contacts who passed him information about the complicated labyrinths of bad and evil. Or maybe he went walking and his steps brought him near the pyramid of Cuicuilco. The fact is that Elías Contreras, of the Commission of Investigation of the EZLN, entered this school, stayed a few minutes here, and then left. Maybe, we don’t know, he mingled in the garden with students, workers and teachers. Maybe he came across, without realizing it, a student at ENAH named Mariana Selvas who is currently held prisoner unjustly in the Santiago Prison in the State of Mexico.
Elías Contreras must have also walked around the Isidro Favela neighborhood and the others that exist near the ENAH, and the shopping malls of Perisur, Gran Sur and Cuicuilco.
Elías Contreras told me that walking through the streets of Mexico City was sufficient to understand that justice is for those above and there is something else for those from below. And he didn’t only speak of the arrogant property complex of Carlos Slim next to the pyramid and the modest homes of the neighbors in the nearby neighborhoods.
It was the attitude (“the fashion,” Elías Contreras said) of the police in every part: the submissive and servile look of authority when he was in the lands of he who is really in charge, and the arrogant and voracious look they give when among those from below.
“The police care for what is above and loot and humiliate what is below,” said Elías Contreras, of the Commission of Investigation of the EZLN, and then he fell silent. He then passed me a sole sheet of paper from his notebook.
I remember something of what he wrote here, now, in this dawn.
And farther beyond, in a dawn late in time and space, Old Antonio stayed up all night with me at the banks of a cornfield.
The footprints of a tepezcuintle (an edible rodent of the genus and species Agouti paca, sometimes called paca) and the hunger badly satiated with tortillas and beans brought us to this place about a league from his hut, looking for something to please the stomach on the following day.
The tepes didn’t appear, but Old Antonio, on the way back, told me a story about a world made from below and later dominated from above.
“Not every man nor every woman lowers his and her head and faints,” said Old Antonio, saying, “not everyone resigns and conforms.” And he added something else to what I wrote with bad penmanship and in a hurry in my field diary.
I think that, since they didn’t give me a theme for today’s talk at the ENAH, you will let me read this strange – for how serious it is – text that tries to synthesize what the shining knight don Durito of the Lacandon, Elías Contreras of the Commission of Investigation of the EZLN and Old Antonio, involuntary translator of a culture in resistance, wrote and said on these and other dawns. It is titled:
THE OTHERS THAT WE ARE
History and myth weave together in the dawn. There will be those who certainly question its truthfulness and who try to classify one or another in the indelible criteria of “true” or “false.” But concerning what I tell you now, neither one or the other matters.
The words that name what needs to be done don’t come fast nor just anyplace. They go looking for a place to be born and they wait for the right time to come forward.
There is a place where the dark and the light meet, and they touch for barely an instant. After that each goes along its path, along its waiting. The shadow and light are like that, following and avoiding each other, until they forget what they are and they find themselves anew in each other, remaking time and time again the oxymoron of their desire. That place also has its time, and in that, death and life are postponed. It is love, they say, that rules then.
It is in the dawn, in that space and time, where there are those who are already there and those who have barely arrived. They say that it is the shadow that waits, lying in wait with the look of he who brings restless sleep as a curse, when the light takes off its clothes and its fears, that the body awakens and desire stands up.
Ah, the dawn! There is always waiting (that is, not staying) a complex skin made of tepidness that clothed the cold and blew far from loneliness.
In this narrow border, where there is neither a wall nor an abyss, the word speaks to all the calendars and takes a form that is spoken in many languages.
I say now what this word tells me in this flash of time, with the fog of restless sleep, in the language of the mountain:
There is, in every man, in every woman, an other that is different.
The other is hidden, guarded as it is. It is waiting the wait. Staying, it stays.
At times it is a scratch, imperceptible outside and definitive inside. At others it is an earthquake that breaks a bothered daily life. And at times it is a skin, a caress, or a rough brush that scratches the skin furiously outside and reveals an other skin, that of the other, of the other that we are.
But it is always pain that requires something of this other that we are as it emerges.
The times that we are most that other is when we offer a “NO” that challenges the docility imposed upon us.
And we don’t see each other.
Not if alone we are the other that we are.
Between the runaway competition for corruption and crime that are the fuel of “save yourselves, you who can,” this is one, another, someone who says “no.”
There is, for example, a young woman that leaves behind her passage through the conformism of being what the man wants her to be and puts her fears in a corner to dress and undress with the always new suit of rebellion.
And there is the professional that, against all the prudence imposed from above, risks wellbeing and safety to go get medicine for someone he doesn’t know until he lays moribund, his skull broken by the “State of Law,” synthesized by a tear gas grenade “made in USA.” The other could say, if it wasn’t brain dead, “my name is Alexis Benhumea, I study economy at the National University (UNAM). I was accused and sentenced for the crime of being young.” The professional goes by the name of Guillermo Selvas; they call him “Doc” because he is a doctor and he is a prisoner, accused, among other things, of being a social fighter.
There is a young student that accompanies him, among other things, because there are lessons that are not learned in the classrooms or in books, but, rather, in the streets and fields of the faraway pain that some call “Mexico from below.” A folder with her case file says: “Mariana Selvas, ENAH student. Accused, among other things, of the crime of being a young woman.”
There is an indigenous woman that chose to be what she is but with dignity, that dresses in the colors that once brought shame but now bring joy, and she embraces whomever she knows only through the pain and rebellion they share, anxious to be collective. They are echoes, those who dream anew saying: “My name is Magdalena, I am an indigenous Mazahua, I am accused of the crime of being an indigenous woman.”
There is a man, a farmer, that chooses to raise up the color that the earth contains and with this brown dignity support whomever also fights for that land that paints our blood. The man is silenced and in silence says, “My name is Ignacio Del Valle. I am a farmer from San Salvador Atenco. I am in the maximum security prison because in Mexico being a farmer and being a rebel and being in solidarity also means being a highly dangerous prisoner.”
And there is a woman, it doesn’t matter if she is young, adult, mature or elder, only that she is woman, and who carries what she doesn’t want not as chains, but rather as wings, and because of that she unites her steps with other steps. She has all the names and all the faces that are named and are seen below.
There is a photographer, a reporter, whose camera lies intert because the heart moves him and demands that he not become a product at the instant that the business demands that he sell it, that writes what he sees and hears, and not that which the lenses and microphones of Power impose on him. Because there is someone who crosses the line, to see to it that what is below, what is silenced, is seen.
And there is a man, a woman, a child, an elder, a youth, an other that prefers dignity to humiliation and that works in consequence.
Finding her. Finding him. That is the Other Campaign.
This country, this land, this Homeland, has an other inside of her. Her pain is so in bloom that an attentive ear is enough to realize its existence. The ear makes the word and the I am this, I am here, and it then multiplies.
Giving birth to that other country, that other Mexico. That is the Other Campaign.
And today, fighting for the freedom of Mariana Selvas, of Doc, of Magdalena, of Nacho, of all the prisoners, that is the Other Campaign.
From the Other ENAH,
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, June of 2006