Zapatistas host fiesta on 13th anniversary of Chiapas uprising

From El Universal, Jan. 2 via Chiapas95. We take strong exception to the last paragraph, for reasons which should be clear to our readers.

OVENTIC, Chiapas – Thousands of Zapatista rebels on Monday celebrated the 13th anniversary of their brief uprising against the Mexican government with dance, song and discussions aimed at improving the status of poor Indians in the southern state of Chiapas.

The ceremonies, which attracted hundreds of foreigners from numerous countries, began Sunday night under the stewardship of the ski-masked, pipe-smoking Zapatista leader and spokesman Subcomandante Marcos in the Zapatistas’ base of Oventic, about 735 kilometers (460 miles) southeast of Mexico City.

Participants saluted the Mexican and Zapatista flags, and held a large dance and ate traditional tamales and drank coffee.

The Zapatistas seized the city of San Cristo’bal de las Casas and other Chiapas communities in the name of socialism and Indian rights on Jan. 1, 1994. A cease-fire ended fighting between rebels and government forces after a few days, and the two sides have since maintained an uneasy truce.

Marcos, who has been identified by the government as a professor-turned-guerrilla, has continued to champion a quieter social revolution from the jungles of Chiapas, issuing missives harshly critical of Mexico’s politicians and government policies.

Speaking in the Indian language of Tzotzil, Marcos recalled on Sunday night how the movement was founded with the intention of ending the indian’s [sic] isolation and misery.

The Zapatistas have since formed autonomous governments in at least 38 villages in the highlands of Chiapas, as well as “good government committees” that promote their development.

It was the first time in many years that Marcos attended anniversary celebrations. He was escorted by several ski-masked members of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

A year ago Monday, on the movement’s 12th anniversary, Marcos launched a nationwide tour in an attempt to forge a national leftist movement. But his talks and tour appearances did not draw large crowds, and he has been criticized for straying from his principal cause of fighting for Indian rights after expressing support for violent anti-government protests by unrelated groups.

See our last posts on Mexico and Chiapas, and the Zapatistas.