To whom it may concern:
It was before dawn when the news arrived. The cold night got colder and the upon daybreak, we discovered something like a hole, as if we were missing something, as if we had lost something very much our own.
The geography from which we fight, the Zapatistas, is extensive. On maps it carries the name “Mexico,” and to get to each of its corners is a task even more extensive.
In the calendar of the Sixth we arrived at one of its strangest corners, because despite what the map and the mileage counter indicated, history, that complex network of calendars and geographies from below, signaled that we had arrived at one of our most pained hearts: Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
Ciudad Juárez. That of the young women workers killed with impunity. Killed for being women, for being young, for being workers… for being. That of the dignified rage of the inhabitants of Lomas de Poleo, resisting attacks, traps, slander, silence.
That of Mamá Corral.
No, I’m not going to tell her story. That is for those who have been with her all this time, and who remain at her side, struggling for the return of the disappeared.
We went to talk to her. It was a private meeting with her and other relatives of the disappeared. That’s what she asked for, that’s what we asked for. It was in the living room of her house. There we piled in some 15 or 20 people.
Doña Concepción García de Corral was the oldest… and the strongest.
As if the calendars she lived through searching for her son, José de Jesús, had not tired her. As if not giving up had allowed her to see further.
The relatives spoke. They said, in so many words, “We want to know the truth.”
Doña Concepción went beyond that: “If God has given me so many years of life it is because José de Jesús is still alive and I am going to find him.”
No, I don’t remember if those were her exact words, but I think that was the meaning.
Then I spoke.
I didn’t say much.
Or I said everything.
I don’t really remember, but I think that I told them what I would want people to tell my relatives if there were such a time, place, and manner: we didn’t go away because we didn’t love you, but rather because we do love you, but in a different way, in another manner.
Don’t give me too much credit, but it was then that I hugged Doña Concepción García de Corral and said in her ear, “Mamá Corral”.
Then I left.
I always leave.
Again the geographies and calendars came to bring us and take us. But it is in them and because of them that we know about her.
I think once we even dedicated a text to her. It should be around out there somewhere.
Maybe she read it. Maybe she smiled. Maybe she understood what we told her: “Here we are and we will not forget.”
So it happens that I was writing some stories because someone was sick and we had to give them something, even if from a distance.
And also because I’ve received a ton of protest letters. Some from supposed medical societies reprimanding me for my declarations against injections, and others from furious mamaces (mothers) because they were left holding the prepared syringe when the victim refused the torture, citing a supposed point in the supposed national program of struggle that supposedly prohibited the production, traffic, and consumption of injections. In sum, they hold me responsible of the most terrible epidemics and endemics.
That’s a lie. I haven’t received any letters of protest. But my ears are buzzing, which, according to my mother, means that someone is talking badly about you.
So, pressured by Lupita and Toñita, I went to work in my laboratory to produce an alternative medicine for injections. That’s when the first of the “Stories to replace Injections” came out.
While I was awaiting the decision of the Comandantas about whether they were going to have a sport and cultural event for March 8, I got the news, before dawn, of the death of Mamá Corral.
It came in a letter signed by the Committee of the Mothers of the Political Disappeared of Chihuahua that ended like this: “Subcomandante Marcos, please receive our acknowledgement and our condolences. Mamá Corral has left, but she’s still here at your side and at ours. Receive a big hug and our blessing.”
It hurt. A lot.
Later I reread those lines and I thought yes, she is at our side and on our side. And so, with the appropriate permissions, I made a few changes and modifications to the first of the “Stories to replace Injections,” and I told it to Mamá Corral, to Helena, and to all of the mamaces who hurt, just like I tell it here:
I. Remedy for a broken heart:
The Story of the Other Little Leaf
Once upon a time there was a little leaf that was at the top of a tree, the highest part of the tree. The little leaf was happy because she had a lot of other little leaves around and they all sang so nicely when the wind moved them. And the little leaf could see very far, the whole valley and even the neighboring mountains.
Of course, this also had its downside because, for example, since there were a lot of little leaves together, well, the gossip would fly. “Did you see so-and-so all stuck together with so-and-so,” they would say. And this would create a ruckus because the rumor would circulate and then somebody else would answer, “well look who’s talking, you who is always up there close to so-and-so from over there.” So, the little leaves fought a lot among themselves, as they are known to do.
It also would happen that, when it rained, the little leaves at the top were the first to get wet and they couldn’t say that thing about “how nice it is to see the rain and not get wet.”
But this had its compensations, because when the sun came out, those at the top were the first leaves to dry off.
So there the little leaf from this story was, swinging in the rains and the suns, when a strong wind came and threw her off the branch where she had been living. And the little leaf began to fly, turning somersaults, up and down with the air currents.
“¡Sweeeet!” said the little leaf, that was somewhat of a skater.
“¡Yesssssssss!” she yelled when she could do a double loop very close to the roof of a hut. Later a gust of wind drew her close to a cloud painted with many colors that said: “Freedom and Return of the Disappeared.”
And another read: “The good thing about skating the clouds is that the police can’t get up here.”
And the little leaf went from here to there like that.
But then the wind took its song somewhere else and the law of gravity applied itself in all its rigor and the little leaf, not really wanting to, fell all the way to the ground.
“¡Órales!” said the little leaf, “now what am I going to do?”
The little leaf wanted to return to the highest part of the tree. That’s where her friends were, even if they were gossipy. And even though she was the first to get wet in the rain, she was also the first to warm up in the sun, and she really could see far. And even if the wind knocked her off again, she could try the new pirouettes that had occurred to her, and she was even thinking about skating a cloud that had letters in many colors and funny sizes demanding freedom and justice.
The little leaf tried walking, but since she had always been hanging onto a branch in the tree, well she couldn’t really get the hang of walking.
Just then a little ant passed by. The little leaf recognized it, because it was a little ant that had come one time to the top of the tree and she had even given it a bite of her leaf.
“Hi!” said the little leaf to the little ant.
“And you, who are you? Do I know you?” responded the little ant, who, for a change, was in a bad mood.
The little leaf introduced herself: My name is Little Leaf and I live in the highest part of the tree, but I fell and now I want to go home but I don’t know how to do it, can you help me?
The little ant just looked at her awhile, then looked at the tree, then looked at the little leaf again. The little ant spent awhile just looking.
Finally the little ant said, “Well no, here you’re out of luck, because I would have to carry you and I’d have to climb alllllll the way up the tree without the birds eating me, or the anteater. And then, even if we get to the highest part of the tree, well then the problem is how we’re going to stick you back on the branch where you belong.
The little leaf stayed there looking at the little ant awhile, and then looked at the tree. She was there awhile just looking, that is, she was picking up the manners of the little ant.
Finally the little leaf said, “It won’t be a problem, because we can go buy glue in the copy shop or I can just hang on really tight to the branch where I belong.”
The little ant listened to the little leaf and stayed there looking at her awhile and…. well, now we’re not going to say she spent awhile looking because the story is going to get really long that way.
So the little ant said, “Alright then, I’ll take you, but first I have to go see my comadre (close friend) to ask for corn because I ran out. You want to come with me or you want to wait for me here?
The little leaf thought that, when the little ant found her comadre, they were going to take awhile just looking at each other and then the story was going to end without her having solved her problem, so she answered, “I’ll go with you! And that way we can by glue in the copy shop on the way.”
So the little ant carried the little leaf up the hill and started to walk in the direction of her comadre’s house.
On the way, the little leaf was looking at lots of things that she had never seen before, or that she had but from the top of the tree where she lived.
They passed by the little noncomformist stone on one side, the one that wanted to be a cloud, and they thought it looked quite large. While she was watching the little nonconformist stone do exercises to lose weight, the little leaf thought, “from above things look really different.”
“Or they aren’t seen at all,” said the little ant, who in addition to being hot-tempered could also hear the thoughts of other beings.
“Yeah, or they aren’t seen at all,” the little leaf thought.
They kept walking.
Well, the little ant walked that is, because the little leaf just went along looking at the same world that she had seen from above but, seen from below, it was another world.
And the little leaf looked and looked.
For example, she saw the bad and the bad guys, dressed as government functionaries, as businessmen, as airplanes bombing little children, as police beating and killing young people and disappearing social activists, as men raping women, as those who persecute those who practice other loves, as racists, as radio and television broadcasters, as journalists, as political analysts, as commissars of thought.
But she also saw a beetle with a helmet on, smoking a pipe and writing in an ultra-mini-micro-computer.
And she saw Lupita and Toñita playing with some giraffes that somebody gave them in the Festival of Dignified Rage. And she saw the Sup when he told the little girls that those weren’t giraffes, they were a couple of cows that had stretched their necks out because somebody wanted to make stew out of them, but the cows refused and resisted because they were rebellious cows and their necks stayed stretched out because of their resistance, but they weren’t giraffes. And she saw Toñita and Lupita scolding the Sup and they showed him a book of animals so he would see that these were indeed giraffes and not cows with their necks stretched out. And she saw that the Sup responded that that wasn’t true, that the same people who wanted to make stew out of the cows had written that book, so that it wouldn’t get out what they had tried to do. And she saw the little girls bringing syringes because they said the Sup was sick and that’s why he said so many dumb things, and they were going to cure him. And she saw the Sup running away. She didn’t see if they caught up with him or not.
And she saw the dark side of the moon, when Shadow, the warrior, carried her by in a sling.
And she saw Elias Contreras, Commission of Investigation for the EZLN, take some flowers to the tomb of Magdalena.
And she saw Old Antonio rolling a cigarette.
And she saw indigenous men and women, who had never gone to school, explaining the world to a researcher with a doctorate in the social sciences.
And she saw Zapatista troops building a shed to house Insurgent Radio.
And she saw Moy talking to the Autonomous Agrarian Commissions about a land problem.
And she saw a couple touching each other, their skin completely naked, and she saw that it didn’t matter if the couple was a woman and a man, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, or an other and an other.
And she saw that someone had scratched on a wall, “A wall without graffiti is like a cone without ice cream,” and she saw that the wall had become a flag.
And she saw that nobody was prepared to confront Polifemo.
And she saw the calendars and geographies walk to meet each other.
All these things and more the little leaf saw, but that is for other stories.
Finally they arrived where the little ant’s comadre lived, and, as was expected, the comadre wasn’t there because they took so long and she had to go appear in another story, so they went to the copy shop to buy glue.
The little leaf, with everything she had seen, had forgotten that she was going to buy glue. So she said to the copy shop attendant, “I want a notebook and some fun colored pencils.”
The attendant responded, “How can colored pencils be fun? Colored pencils are colored pencils.”
From there followed a long discussion about whether inanimate objects can have feelings, a discussion that we won’t go into here because if we do the story will go in another direction.
Anyway, it turns out that the little leaf gets her colored pencils, her notebook, and her glue (because the little ant reminded her why they had gone to the copy shop).
A little while later, the little ant and the little leaf arrived at the foot of the tree.
They had already started climbing when, boom! It felt like an earthquake.
Everything began to crack and break.
As if a jigsaw puzzle had been taken apart and the pieces mixed up.
The radio, the television, and the newspapers from above didn’t say anything about it because they had also come apart, so what could be found out was due to alternative media having published it.
It turns out that the Zapatistas had won the war against oblivion and the whole world was turning to look and ending up backward.
Now the sun didn’t come up in the east, but in the west.
And what had been above ended up below and what had been below, above.
And it turns out that, to get to the branch where the little leaf lived, now they had to go down instead of up to get to the top of the tree.
“Sonofa…” said the little leaf and the little ant, and they started to argue with each other.
The little leaf blamed the little ant because it had taken so much time looking and during that time the Zapatistas had won and turned the world upside down.
“So that the world is right side up,” that’s what the Zapatistas said, and, as is usually the case, nobody understood them.
Vale. Cheers and patient rage, Mamá Corral, patient rage.
Mexico, January 2009