Words at Oventik

Comandanta Esther’s Words in Oventik, August 9, 2003

Brothers and sisters:

Through my voice speaks the voice of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation:

Indigenous Brothers and Sisters of the People of Mexico:

We, the indigenous, wish to speak to you of our right to be Mexicans.

We do not need to change our culture, our clothing, our language, our way of prayer, our way of working and respecting the land, we cannot stop being indigenous in order to be recognized as Mexicans.

They cannot take what we are way from us.

Yes, we are dark-skinned.  They cannot turn us into whites.

Because our grandparents resisted more than 500 years of contempt, humiliation and exploitation.

And we continue to resist.

Now they will never be able to humiliate us or do away with us.

The politicians betrayed the Indian peoples of Mexico.

All the political parties, the PRI, as well as the PAN, as well as the PRD, made an agreement to deny us our rights, because they did not approve the indigenous rights and culture law.

They want to treat us like children and silence us.

They thought they were going to be able to do so, but then they saw that they could not, and that they would never be able to do what they wanted.

Now we ourselves must exercise our rights.

We do not need permission from anyone, especially not from some politicians who only deceive the people and steal money.

That is why, indigenous brothers and sisters of the people of Mexico, we are calling on all of you to enforce the law of the San Andrés Accords.

We have the right to govern and to govern ourselves according to our own thoughts in every municipality and in every state in the Mexican Republic.

No one can prevent us, let alone imprison us, for exercising our rights which we deserve.

Now is the time to put the autonomy of the indigenous peoples into practice and to act on it throughout the entire country of Mexico.  No one needs to ask permission to form their autonomous municipalities.

As we, who are doing so and practicing it, have not asked permission.

Even though the bad government does not recognize it, for us it is our law, and we shall defend ourselves with it.

We are also inviting everyone, indigenous brothers and sisters, to embrace it and to build autonomy and authorities so that the government of the Mexican people shall govern obeying and in order to defend and administer the San Andrés Accords.

In the same way, we are inviting all indigenous Mexican women to organize themselves so that, together, we can exercise autonomy and practice our rights which we deserve as women.

It is no longer the moment to be silent or to humiliate ourselves in front of men, nor to ask them for the favor of respecting us.  Now is the moment for acting on our own and for making men respect our rights.  Because, if we do not do so, no one is going to do it for us.  It is up to us now, men and women, to act and to carry on, in order to build our autonomy and to move it forward.

These are my words.




From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee -  General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Marcos’s words:

To the Zapatista Good Government Juntas:

To the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities:

To National and International Civil Society:

Brothers and sisters:

Please accept my greetings and those of all the officials, insurgents and militia of the armed forces and services of our Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Congratulations on the birth of the Good Government Juntas.  They are a very important advance in our struggle for the recognition of indigenous rights and culture in Mexico and a good way to try and resolve those problems which exist.  And we are congratulating everyone, because this advance has also been made possible by the support of the “civil societies” of Mexico and the entire world.

As you will remember, this July, the councils of 30 rebel zapatista Autonomous Municipalities spoke to the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee – General Command of the EZLN in order to ask it to also act as their spokesperson on a temporary basis.

The purpose was to explain to national and international civil society those changes which had been taking place over the last nine months in rebel lands and which are today a reality.

We can now see that it has been somewhat explained, and we see that the Good Government Juntas have already been formed, and they are working in the first caracoles of Resistance which are being born on rebel lands today.  We are certain that new Caracoles shall be emerging throughout Mexico and the world, because the zapatistas are now painting caracoles in the face of Power.

We believe that the EZLN has now fulfilled its part in these changes.

We have raised the Caracoles, we have built the Good Government Juntas and we have tried to explain a bit of the changes.

And so we are now handing back the ear, the voice and the gaze.  From now on, everything having to do with the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities will be spoken by the authorities and by the Good Government Juntas.  Those issues having to do with Autonomous Municipalities, such as projects, visits, cooperatives, conflicts, etcetera, will also have to be dealt with through them.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation cannot be the voice of he who governs, or the government, even if he who governs, governs obeying and is a good government.

The EZLN speaks for those of below, for the governed, for the zapatista peoples who are their heart and blood, their thought and path.

We shall be ready and waiting to defend them, that is why we are the Zapatista Army, the Votán-Zapata, the guardian and heart of the people.  And so, from here on, I shall no longer be the spokesperson for the rebel zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.  They already have someone who speaks, and speaks well, for them.

In my role as military commander of the zapatista troops, I am informing you that, as of now, the Autonomous Councils will not be able to have recourse to the military forces for government work.  They should, therefore, try very hard to do as all good governments do, that is, to have recourse to reason, and not to force, in order to govern.

Armies should be used in order to defend, not in order to govern.  An army’s work is not to be a police force or a public ministry.  Consequently, as our Comandantes shall be informing you, all those checkpoints and control points shall be withdrawn, which, under autonomous authority, our forces have been maintaining along the roads and highways, as well as the collecting of taxes from individuals.

>From here on, checkpoints and control points will only be established in cases of high alert.

It shall continue to be our work and our duty to protect the communities from attacks by the bad government, by paramilitaries, and by those who wish to do us harm.  That is why we were born, that is why we exist and that is why we are willing to die.

I do not need to tell you that there are many good persons in Mexico and in the world who are looking at you.  There is respect and hope in their gaze.  Respect, because you have moved forward when everyone believed we were defeated, because, despite being persecuted by weapons and lies, you have built a good government.  And hope because, in the face of governments and politicians who only deceive and rob, you can be the good example of governing obeying.

We are asking you to work with good thoughts, so that you may never lose that respect and always nurture that hope.

Lastly, I will say to you that it has been a great honor for me to be your spokesperson.

Those are all my words, and I await my critique or whatever you may have to tell me.

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico,  August of 2003.

[translated by irlandesa]

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