March 6, 2010 “to ask and to walk together”
[ from addair who is listening to Beck (Odelay) ]
A few weeks ago, in San Cristobal de las Casas, we wondered into a shop filled with Zapatista artwork. Levon found an embroidered square that he thought we needed. I thought the work was beautiful but I confess that I cringed at the thought of actually purchasing it. I couldn’t make out the entirety of the embroidered message and hadn’t a clue to the significance of the embroidered snails. I’m all about art for art’s sake but I felt like a doughy devourer of “novel” indigenous struggle buying the thing.
We brought the tapestry to our bilingual friends to help us translate. It reads, “El Caracol significa fortalecer la resistencia de los pueblos para la construccion de su auctonomia, es un intento del EZLN para mostrar nuestras palabras. Espocible construr un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.” Or, roughly translated (I have no bilingual friend to help me at the moment), “The snail symbolizes the strengthening of the resistance of the people for the construction of one’s autonomy, it is an attempt of The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) to construct a world where many worlds can fit.”
Over dinner, with the tapestry as our conversation starter, our more informed friends had a bit of an argument over the use of arms in the Zapatista movement. Hastily, I put the embroidery away, admitting my ignorance and vowing to look into the matter before I hung the work.
The investigation has me reading The Fire and The Word, A History of the Zapatista Movement by Gloria Munoz Ramirez and feeling less silly about our purchase. I’m still no expert and can’t pretend to grasp the entirety of the events leading up to and working in the movement but I feel welcomed by the movement to participate; to weave my story and culture into the struggle and celebration for justice and autonomy.
These are some of my favorite parts of the book:
“finding reflections of your own resistance, threads of connection with other struggles, and even a glimmer of hope”
“without belonging to the EZLN, share, live, and struggle with us for an idea: to build a world in which many worlds fit. To have a birthday that celebrates many birthdays”
“with or without a law we’re going to build our government the way we wanted”
“doing practice first and then developing the theory”
“we are showing the country and the world that to be able to develop a better life, you can do it without the participation of bad government”
“we simply say that the people can plan and decide how their economy and their government should be”
“we create measures without permission from them”
“it takes awareness and courage”
“the people said no to violence and we listened”
“It doesn’t worry us that the government does not listen to the people. It doesn’t worry us because we’ve seen the strength of the people”
“The beginning of the construction of a movement that would be characterized by knowing (and learning) how to listen, to have its say, to ask and to walk together”