To the compañeros and compañeras of the National Indigenous Congress:
To the compañeros and compañeras of the National and International Sixth:
To the compañeros and compañeras of the Indigenous Governing Council:
In particular, to the compañera María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, spokeswoman for the Indigenous Governing Council of Mexico:
To our brothers and sisters who have come to meet us for the first time:
I am speaking to you today in the name of the Zapatista compañero and compañera bases of support, the men, women, boys, girls, and elders present here.
We are meeting one another here in this corner of Mexico and the world not for the pleasure of doing so, but because all of us, women and men, know that this is part of a series of actions necessary in the struggle for us, the workers in the country and the city, to take our rightful place.
I’m going to talk a little bit about the history of women, of our grandparents’ grandmothers, our great-great-grandparents, who were exploited on the plantations. In the time of the plantation owners—or the ranchers as we call them—our grandmothers were exploited and discriminated against. Women were never taken into account. They said that women weren’t good for anything, that they had no value, that they were only good for having children and taking care of the house. Our grandmothers suffered this slavery for a long time; the bosses subjected them to a tremendous amount of hard work. Our grandmothers woke up very early to do their own housework, because they knew that at dawn they had to go work in the boss’s house.
When our grandmothers got sick, the boss would never allow them to rest. Instead, they were forced to work. And when they got to work, to the plantation, the boss mistreated them, humiliated them, and looked down on them for being poor and for being women. And before our grandmothers went to work in the boss’s house they had to leave all of the food ready for their own children and husband to eat, and then when they arrived at the boss’s house they had to get to work washing the clothes, sweeping the house, washing the dishes, and whatever else the boss demanded.
The young women worked with the boss, they were forced to attend to his every demand. When he arrived, they had to take off his shoes, they had to bring him everything he needed to bathe; the young women had no choice and sometimes they were raped. Such was the suffering of our grandmothers. Sometimes they would give our grandmothers the really difficult work – the hardest work was grinding the salt for the livestock, and when it was time for the coffee harvest the women would be given a bag of ground coffee so that they could pick out the husks. Our grandmothers had to work there all day, and on the day of rest when they didn’t have to go to the boss’s big house, they still had to work. They never really rested because they also had to go to the milpa to carry corn and firewood and to work the milpa, because our great-great grandfathers were also always working to pay off their debt. When they rented a piece of land they had to pay it off, monthly, in work for the boss. That left them no time to work their milpas and so our grandmothers had to work very hard.
That’s what happened to our grandmothers, but there were other people as well who were servants, who were always in the boss’s house, who didn’t have a family. The boss would take any orphan children to his big house to work as servants or slaves. And the ones who ended up there were owned by the boss; he exploited them and they didn’t have the freedom to play. They took care of the animals, the pigs, the dogs, the hens; they would carry water and firewood, they would de-kernel the corn. If they were little children who couldn’t manage to de-kernel the corn, the boss’s wife would take them over to the anthills and stick their hand into the ants and when the child cried, no one would defend them; nobody heard them and they suffered that way for many years, compañeros.
And when those children grew into men, their work would change. They worked the men as if they were plough animals: they had to transport goods, the products that the boss purchased in the city. They were very badly treated, compañeros. It makes us sad to hear their stories. They tell us about how when the boss would have a party with his friends, the children who were servants there on the plantation would be left to guard the door to make sure that nobody, not even a dog, came in to the house where the boss was partying with his friends. They wouldn’t get any food all day long. Sometimes the children only had time to drink a little bit of pozol; that’s what the servants’ lives were like.
They would have to go to the city to carry goods back to the plantation, because the bosses stocked the plantation with everything that the people living there needed. And just like a company store, they were obligated to buy everything from him, so their debts went up and up and they could never pay them off – that’s how our grandfathers and grandmothers suffered, as did the abused women who never had the right to object to anything that happened to them.
Our grandparents tell us that one day they finally understood the exploitation and the mistreatment and so they left. They climbed up into the mountains because the boss had hoarded all the good, fertile lands that were down lower; the boss didn’t want the hillside land because it was full of rocks. Our grandparents went to seek refuge in the mountains to escape from the exploitation. Family by family they fled to the mountains; they looked for a place with a water source and they lived there for a long time. Then they realized that they shouldn’t be living apart, with everyone separated. Our grandparents sought each other out wherever they were and they went down the mountain to find a piece of land where they could live as a community. That’s what they did; they got together and they came back and formed a community so that they could work in common.
Our grandparents never stopped working in common, collectively, and they founded their villages; they weren’t ejidos, they were villages, the villages appeared later. But even then our grandmothers were not free, because our grandfathers had taken on the ideas of the boss. The men learned from the boss how to treat women and so the “little boss” appeared in the home; men didn’t respect women, they mistreated women, they hit women, they humiliated them; that’s what happened to us, compañeros and compañeras.
And the fathers, well, when we little girls were born, they didn’t really welcome us in this world because we were girls, but when they had a baby boy they celebrated because it was a boy, because a boy was worth more. They thought that that boys could work but we women were only good for the house. Our grandfathers got it stuck in their head that we were only good for taking care of children. Later when the schools arrived in our communities, our mother wouldn’t send us to study. Why? Because instead she taught us to carry our younger siblings, to wash the clothes, to grind the corn, to make tortillas. They said that if we got married we would have to know how to attend to our husband: that’s what our mothers said.
Years went by like that, but those ideas aren’t true, compañeras. It is because of ideas like those that today many women don’t know how to write; but later we realized that this wasn’t true, thanks to our organization. Our organization gave us our rightful place as women, but we still have a long way to go. That place is the one we have to occupy, it is one that has been denied to us, along with our rights, for many years. That is why now we’re taking our place as women. But taking our place doesn’t mean we are going to look down on the compañeros as if we were better than them. What we want is for everyone to understand that we have to respect each other: let’s respect each other as compañeras and compañeros, that’s what we want. But we also see that that once again the government is trying to fool us, trying to deceive us with economic resources, with politics and cultural programming where they try to fill us with bad ideas, where they want to once again strip us of our lands. And this time they’re not only going to take the good land, they are going to take all of it – absolutely everything, even the mountainsides. That’s what the government is doing, that’s what it wants to take from us again, but we’re not going to allow it, compañeros, compañeras.
We know that in the government’s neoliberal plan, it doesn’t only want to conquer a single country, it wants to conquer the whole world. And if we don’t do something, if we don’t get organized, things will go back to being like it was for our grandparents and we’ll be exploited even worse than they were. And that, compañeros and compañeras, is something we will not allow.
But let’s not think, compañeras, that the Indigenous Governing Council or our spokeswoman are going to save us. We, each of us, has to work to save all of us, compañeras, because if we don’t do anything our spokeswoman will not be able to save us either. She’s not the one who rules: it’s the people who have to give the strength to our spokeswoman, it’s the people who rule and our spokeswoman and our Governing Council have to obey the people. That’s what we want, compañeras. Let’s not be afraid, let’s not be afraid of anyone, let us struggle wherever we are, compañeras: in our neighborhood, in our village, in our workplace. This is what we’re asking of you, compañeras.
I hope you have understood some of what I have said and forgive me, compañeras, here I close this intervention and we’ll continue on to the second part. I hope you find it useful. There is a verse from a song that I’m going to sing–we’re not in the section for cultural acts, but let’s see if I can do it anyway, compañeras. It goes like this, and it’s not important if I sing well or not, it’s the lyrics that matter:
If you don’t struggle now, no one is going to do it for you
You’ve got to rise up, don’t go on like this
They’ll say yes, yes, yes, they’ll say no, no no
Don’t be afraid even if they talk shit about you
We’ve got to organize, with conscience and with courage
Today, we women together, we can build a better world
They’ll say yes, yes, yes, they’ll say no, no no
All of us together we’ll be able to pull it off.
I also want to talk about art, culture and communication.
For us, art, culture and communication are very important, because often they don’t exist amongst the poor. Well, they do exist, but they’re in the hands of the capitalists and they use them for pure profit and their own benefit.
All of you, compañeros and compañeras, who work in the arts should also organize yourselves and take control of your destiny, and learn to make decisions according to how you all see the needs of your arts. No one will come to save you. We have seen so many times that hot air and charlatanry from shit politicians are never the solution. We are witnesses to the fact that they can talk with pretty words, but I want to remind you that those are pure lies and tricks. No one will come to save you if you don’t organize yourselves. And even we Zapatista men and women are not the solution; the true solution is all of you and with time you will see that if you can manage to organize yourselves, you will find reasons to be organized.
You shouldn’t do it just because we’re saying to, or because you like it or you don’t like it, but because that’s what’s required for life in equality.
In the realm of culture, we indigenous people of the world have encountered tremendous disdain for our way of dressing, speaking, celebrating. We don’t want to impose anything; we are simply demanding respect for our culture and we want to continue to live this way. We indigenous people of the world need and deserve respect for our culture.
For example, the Catalán brothers deserve respect of their cultures, the brothers and sisters of Basque country have their cultures and deserve respect; the punks have their culture and deserve respect, and so on with every culture. Let’s respect one another.
To the workers of the media, photographers, and the printed word, workers of the independent media as well as of the corporate media, you all should improve your work in communication by speaking the truth for the people rather than trying to turn that work into a lucrative business.
Plant a culture of speaking the truth for the good of the poor people.
You the workers of the corporate media, we know that you all are directed by your bosses; it’s not your fault that they won’t print what the people want you to print because there’s a boss who prohibits its circulation and they make themselves accomplices of the government that won’t permit you to air the truth.
You should organize yourselves, and let’s remember, compañeros, compañeras, what was once said by General Emiliano Zapata, that the land belongs to those who work it.
We say the same for those who work in the arts: art belongs to those who make it, culture belongs to those who work to create it, and communication belongs to those who do it.
This requires organization so that nobody can boss you around, so that nobody can limit you nor persecute you for using your freedom of expression.
You all are the ones who should change the way you are organized. Leave behind the way you’re organized now, because as things are now we are all repressed and harassed for organizing and for speaking the truth. And organization means everyone who is part of the organization works together, just as we built this infrastructure where we are right now. This infrastructure was made through the efforts of Zapatista bases of support; it was made with the efforts of men, women, young people, our men an women elders, little boys and girls, and all the money spent on it was the fruit of 20 years of different types of collective work.
Today it continues to be more important than ever to organize, because the four wheels of capitalism–exploitation, repression, dispossession and discrimination–are still rolling, and they are being refined even further by the bad men with money to fuck us over, and the government does nothing to help us. On the contrary, it takes the side of the neoliberals, constantly modernizing those four wheels.
That’s not the only way they are screwing us over; undoubtedly they continue studying how to modernize exploitation, how to improve repression, above all they legalized the dispossession of our natural resources because they see us indigenous peoples with disdain. And surely they are imagining how to plunder all the riches that exist in our territories; they’d like to dispossess us however they want. But they won’t be able to.
In the meantime, there is a question in the air, we ask ourselves: Could it be that God wants us to be poor? Or is it our destiny to be so fucked over? It is because of our golden coloring that comes from working day after day under the sun doing hard work and that we are rewarded with poverty? We answer no—it’s because in this world there are those who are like parasites on society, who exploit us, who rob us, who plan ways to keep us so poor.
And those damned men are the ones who plan how to keep us exploited, repressed, dispossessed and discriminated against.
When, brothers and sisters, compañeros and compañeras, have we seen a rich man become rich by working from sunup to sundown? They never work, they pass the time every day by sitting around, but their profit is assured and they keep getting richer; so, why is it that we poor work hard from sunup to sundown but each day we are more fucked?
We indigenous peoples carry those four wheels of capitalism all day and all night: exploitation, repression, dispossession and disdain. We indigenous people have something that makes us proud: it’s that we do know how to resist, just like all the indigenous peoples in the world.
We understand the translation of freedom, justice and democracy, just like they do on other continents. But I think that what we’ll never find a translation for is chingue a su madre Trump.
Thank you very much.