On Jan. 6, just as the Zapatista national tour (dubbed the “Other Campaign” in reference to the presidential campaigns now underway in Mexico) had reached the town of Tonala, in the Pacific coastal zone of Chiapas state, word arrived that Comandante Ramona, a highly respected member of the Zapatista Army’s General Command, had finally succumbed to kidney cancer after a long struggle. Subcomandante Marcos announced from Tonala that the tour would be delayed by two days as the Zapatistas congregated in the highland hamlet of Oventic for Ramona’s funeral. “Comandante Ramona snatched 10 years from death,” Marcos said. “[T]he world lost one of those women who give birth to new worlds.”
Comandante Ramona, a Tzotzil Maya from the Chiapas Highlands, was a key military leader of the Zapatista occupation of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the central city in the Highlands, in the New Years Day 1994 uprising. In March of that year, she was a part of the delegation—along with Marcos, David and other comandantes—at the initial peace dialogue brokered by then-Bishop Samuel Ruiz at San Cristobal’s cathedral. In October 1995, Ramona, already ill, became the first Zapatista to travel outside Chiapas (masked but unarmed) as a condition of the peace dialogue, flying to Mexico City to represent the rebel movement at a National Indigenous Forum attended by representatives of indigenous peoples from across Mexico. While in the city she also underwent a kidney transplant, the organ donated by her brother and the funds for the operation raised by the Zapatista Front, the rebel movement’s civilian wing. She was subsequently forced by poor health to retire from a visible role in the Zapatista movement, but continued to be known as what Marcos called their “most bellicose, most aggressive and most intransigent” leader. She was especially known for championing the rights and leadership of women within the movement. She died on her way to the hospital in San Cristobal from her home near Oventic, following a sudden deterioration of her condition. She was believed to be 47 years old.
Following her funeral, the Zapatista tour will continue Jan. 10 towards Yucatan.
See our last post on the new Zapatista campaign.