The Story of The Nonconformist Little Stone

July 24, 2007 — Read by Subcomandante Marcos and five children— Katy, Giovanni, Marcelo, Carlitos, and Pablo—in the caracol of Morelia, Chiapas



(In the other calendar: April in July)


This story will be narrated with special effects by the “Everything for everyone, cookies for us” Collective, composed of Katy, Giovanni, Marcelo, Carlitos, Pablo, and myself… that is, El Sup. The stories and legends of the zapatistas point toward a future that has its roots in the past and reveal their first lights in the present. Perhaps that’s why our time and our calendar are somewhat mixed up, and we speak of things that took place centuries ago as if they had happened yesterday or, better yet, as if they were still to happen, and of distant places as if they were very near, just right around the hill. That’s why our stories don’t start with the traditional “Once upon a time…” and instead they start with “There will be a time….”


We want to dedicate this story to zapatista children from autonomous schools and to all children in Mexico and the world, because this is the month of April, when we celebrate children’s day.


(A girl, Katy, interrupts and starts arguing with El Sup: “It’s not April, it’s July.”


“No way,” responds El Sup, “July means Julio, and Julio is a compañero that supports us driving for the Sixth Commission.”


“No, July is a month, and we’re in the month of July.”


“No, we’re in the month of April and it’s children’s month.”


“No, it’s the month of July.”


“It’s April.”


“It’s July.”






“It’s April, otherwise what good is it to be a subcomandante?”)


Well, after this brief argument about calendars, we’ve agreed that we’re in the month of April and we’re ready to go on with our story:


“There will be a time… when a little stone, a very tiny stone… like this (El Sup uses his hand to show the size). Don’t you go thinking that I’m making a graphic reference to the size of my means of production, circulation, and consumption; I’m talking about the size of the little stone.


Well, this little stone was a rebellious stone, like many of the small, medium and large women that are listening to us or reading us. Let’s say that it was a nonconformist little stone, because it kept nonconforming all the time. For example, this day that is yet to come, the little stone was laying on the ground, watching the clouds and the birds flying along the sun’s path, and the stars and the shadows that dress up the moon. There’s the little stone, thinking nothing at all. But all of a sudden—boom!, there’s the nonconformance, and she starts whining and complaining: “Why did I have to be a stone when I could be a cloud, even if it was just a little one. If I was a cloud I could go anywhere I wanted and I could travel all the way to the place where Mrs. South Korea lives, or Mrs. India, or Mrs. Thailand, or Indonesia, wherever their homes are. If I’d been born a little cloud I would be able to see all that, but no, I was born a little stone and here I am… but I don’t agree with that.  I’ve thought it over and I’ve made up my mind to nonconform.”


And so the little stone decided to make a lot of noise to make it known that it was nonconforming, because if you nonconform and don’t do anything about it, no one will know what’s going on and everyone will just go by without seeing you, or worse yet, a woman with her daughter will walk by and see you and say, “Hey, look, a little stone that’s very happy to be a little stone. You should learn from it, and instead of wanting to run off with a poor zapatista who doesn’t even have a job or a salary, you should fall in love with a member of the PAN or the PRI or the PRD, it doesn’t matter which, cause they all make a lot of money.”


So the little stone thought it made no sense to nonconform if no one knew about it, and it decided to make a sign that said “I’m nonconforming.” And it also thought that the letters of the sign should be of many colors and in many sizes. So it said, “I need a lot of crayons and a ruler so the letters come out straight… and a piece of cardboard and some scissors, and a pencil… Shoot! And I also need to learn how to read and write, because I know what it’s like to feel nonconformance, but I don’t know how to write the word.”


There’s the little stone trying to figure out how to show its nonconformance. It spent a lot of time thinking and it finally said, “Dammit… nonconforming takes a lot of work. All right, first I need some hands and feet.”


The little stone concentrated very hard and repeated to herself, “hand, hand, hand,” but no hands appeared. Then she tried harder and started to push… mmhh… mmhh… and pop!… instead of a hand a little fart came out… ffrrrttt! How she blushed, the little stone, but then she saw that no one noticed and stopped worrying about it and kept on pushing… mmhh… mmhh… and when she started turning blue and purple, pop!, a little hand appeared on the left side. The little stone was very tired but she tried again and concentrated to get a right hand. And she pushed and pushed and after a few little farts… pop!, a little leg appeared also on her left side.


“Shht!” thought the little stone, “now I really got it from below and to the left.” And she kept on pushing to get a right hand and a right leg, but now it really seemed like she had parasites in her belly because the only thing that came out was a lot of little farts. The little stone was nearly fainting and she thought it was okay, that with a left hand and a left leg she could do a lot and do it well enough to nonconform. With great difficulty the little stone sat down and held her little left hand to her chin as if she was thinking very seriously. And it came to her that she had to learn the letters of the alphabet to write “nonconformance,” and the numbers… and geography, because just imagine that instead of reaching South Korea she reached Washington D.C., and when she was giving her speech she said: “Dear stone compañeras of South Korea, through my voice speak zapatista stones…” Boom! Right there and then the Border Patrol, the FBI, the CIA, and the Marines would fall on her and arrest her and they would realize that she was an undocumented and landless stone… and missing a right hand and a right leg.


“I’m going to look for Mr. Owl,” thought the little stone, because she had heard that the owl knows many things and has very big eyes and wears eyeglasses because he reads a lot. So there goes the little stone, limping and holding on to whatever she can until she reaches the tree where the owl lives. There she starts calling Mr. Owl: “pst, pst, hey, Mr. Owl, pst, pst.” Mr. Owl looked around and the only thing he saw was a little stone with a left hand and a left leg, so he didn’t pay attention. The little stone got really mad because Mr. Owl was ignoring her, and she shouted, “Mr. Owl, I want to talk to you, if you keep ignoring me I’m going to throw a stone at your head.” Mr. Owl finally looked at her and flew down to the ground and asked her what she wanted, saying that he was very busy. The little stone told him that she wanted him to teach her how to read and write, and how to do the arithmetic that Comandante Zebedeo is always talking about, and about geography, so she could find out where the homes of Mrs. India, Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea were.


Mr. Owl laughed and said, “And how would I know all that!”


The little stone was surprised and said, “Everyone says you know many things, that’s why you have big eyes and wear glasses.”


“It’s a lie,” said Mr. Owl, “I have big eyes and wear glasses because I’m always watching the girls when they go take a bath in the river… Ha! But I do have a lot of books because everyone thinks I know many things and they’re always sending me books. If you want, I can give you a bunch.”


“Ok,” said the little stone, and Mr. Owl filled up a huge backpack, just like the ones the compañeras and compañeros that come from other lands are always carrying, as if they brought their whole country on their backs.


So the little stone limped away dragging her huge backpack until she reached the shade of a tree and there she sat down and pulled out several books and started to look at the letters and the numbers. And she didn’t understand a thing. So then she went to an autonomous zapatista school to see if she could learn with what they call “integral education,” which means that you learn everything and learn it well, and not just one thing and badly. But when she got there no one talked to her, hardly anyone even looked at her, or just a little bit, because some mischievous boys wanted to grab her and throw her with a slingshot. But the zapatista girls defended the little stone and did a critical analysis on the mischievous boys and accompanied the critical analysis with a big stick and eventually the boys calmed down. And the little stone thought that this whole thing about autonomy was pretty good, and that the girls were also nonconforming.


So the little stone started to learn, but since she was a little stone she learned very otherly. For example, she learned a very other sort of geography, because according to her the homes of peasants in India, South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia were closer to Chiapas than the White House or the homes of Mexico‘s bad government.


And the little stone was very happy learning and playing at the autonomous school. But one day the teacher asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up. And everyone had to answer. And a girl said “I want to be an engineer,” and another one said “I want to be a doctor,” and another one said “I want to be a driverette,” and another one said “I want to be a psychologist,” and another one said “I want to be a lawyer,” and another one said “I want to be a subcomandanta” and right there and then a macho laser beam came out of Sup Marcos and buzz… it disintegrated the girl… No, that’s not true, nothing happened to her because El Sup didn’t find out, ’cause otherwise…


Anyway, all the boys and girls spoke until it was the little stone’s turn. The little stone had been thinking what she wanted to be and when the teacher asked her she said very happily and full of enthusiasm: “I want to be a cloud!”


The mischievous boys laughed and started making fun of her. “Ha! She wants to be a cloud and she’s too heavy!” said one of them.


“Yes, she’s too fat!” said another one. And they teased her a lot. But the girls got really mad and brought out the big stick of critical analysis and the mischievous boys finally calmed down.


But the little stone was very sad. “Yes, it’s true,” she said, “I’m very fat and heavy, I’ll never be a cloud.” But the zapatista girls and boys encouraged her and told her not to worry, promising to help her. And one of the girls said, “I have a sister that’s a miliciana[1]  and she can teach you how to exercise so you lose weight.” “Alright,” said the little stone, who started feeling a little better. And the zapatista girls and boys called the miliciana to teach the little stone some exercises. And the miliciana said she would, but that she first had to inform her command.


Her command finally gave her the order and the miliciana said that, since the little stone wanted to be a cloud, she would give her airborne troop training. So the training program started and there was the little stone running up and down, doing sit-ups and push-ups and eating a lot of pozol in order to get really strong. The little stone spent many days exercising but she didn’t lose any weight. The zapatista children saw her nearly fainting and told her, “all right, little stone compañera, you’re not losing any weight, you’re like a rock. We need to think of something better to help you out.” The girls and boys walked away and the little stone ran off to eat a lot of candies, cookies, and chocolates. Then the zapatista children came back and joined her to eat candies, cookies, and chocolates, and so they spent a lot of time. They were all stuffed when they said, “Listen, little stone, we’ve thought it over and we have a plan to make you fly like the clouds.”


The little stone was laying down trying to digest all the junk she ate and she just sighed, “ok.” Then the boys and girls took out a balloon and they filled it up with air and tied it to the little stone’s belly with a string and she started to float, not a lot, but enough a little. They all clapped and the little stone didn’t clap because she only had a left hand, but everyone could see that she was happy.


“Let’s go up to the hill, said the boys and girls, and from there we’ll throw the little stone so she can fly.”


“Wait,” said a girl, “we don’t even know which way to throw her.” And she asked the little stone, “Which way do you want to fly?”


And the little stone said, “I want to go rain in Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe, and all over America, but first I’m going to Asia.”


“Mmmh, now we’re really screwed,” said a boy, “cause we don’t know which way that is.”


“Let’s go ask El Sup,” said a girl.


“I’m not going,” said a boy, “because El Sup doesn’t like children and he cuts off their head with a dull machete so it takes a long time, and he makes sure it’s rusty so it gets infected.” The children started arguing about whether or not that was true.


And they went on until a girl said, “I know, let’s bring some cookies for El Sup, that way he won’t cut off our heads.” “Ok,” said the children, and a group of them went to look for him at the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. There they learned that El Sup was very mad because, he said, a beetle had stolen the tobacco for his pipe.


The boys and girls went up to him very scared, and a 5-year-old girl called La Toñita, who wasn’t afraid, said, “Hey, Sup.”


El Sup answered growling as if he was very mad: “grrrr, grrrr.”


La Toñita said, “We brought you some cookies,” and then El Sup calmed down a bit, though not a lot, but enough. Then they sat down next to him and they all got stuffed with animal cookies.


Then they asked El Sup, “Hey, Sup, where’s the house of Mrs. Asia?”


El Sup shook the crumbles off his shirt and took out his pipe, but he didn’t light it up because, he said, a son-of-a-such-and-such beetle (that’s what he said, cause he has a really foul mouth) had stolen his tobacco. And he said, “Well, you go straight that way, and when you get to the crossroads where there’s a poorwill bird you’ll see a road that goes to the right and another one that goes to the left. Don’t take the one to the right, take the one to the left, and keep following it until you see a sign that says ‘Welcome to Asia,’ and there you are.”


“Ok,” said the boys and girls, and when they were about to leave El Sup told them to take a lot of pozol because it was far away. The boys and girls were very happy when they got to where the little stone was waiting for them, hanging from the balloon, and she was already turning purple because the string was too tight. They loosened it a bit and they told her that they knew which way was the home of Mrs. Asia.


The little stone said, “All right, but there’s a problem. How am I going to make it rain, if I’m a little stone?”


The boys and girls got together again to think about it and came to an agreement, and then they went to get a bucket of water and they tied it to the little stone so it could throw water whenever it wanted to rain. Then everything was ready and they went to the hill. And then they gave so many speeches that it seemed like a meeting of the Other Campaign. And finally the speeches were over. And they thought about it and they painted a sign on the balloon that said “The Other Cloud,” so the rest of the world knew what it was. And the little stone was really nervous and said goodbye to the children and they sort-of wanted to cry, but the little stone told them not to cry because as soon as she ran out of water she would come back for more. All right, said the children, and put it on the edge of the hill. But the little stone didn’t move because it was heavy, not a lot, but enough. So the children started blowing really hard and the balloon started to move, and then the wind blew and it took off flying.


And it went… far away. It crossed the border with the United States and the U.S. Air Force mobilized because, they said, there was an unidentified flying object, and many warplanes surrounded the little flying stone and their commander spoke to the pilots over the radio and asked them what it was and the pilots said it was a stone tied to a balloon carrying a bucket of water and a sign that read “The Other Cloud.” The commander got really mad and asked them what they’d been smoking and whether they were drunk and told them to come back immediately because they were all going to be arrested. The warplanes left and the little stone made ugly signs at them with her left hand.


And wherever the little cloud went, I mean, the little stone, people looked up at the sky and took out their umbrellas and their raincoats because they thought it was going to rain. And when she reached Asia the peasants from those countries were very happy because they got good rains for their cornfields and they started to dance.


And one day the autonomous zapatista school received a letter and all the children got together to read it, and everyone was very curious because the letter had many stamps with very strange signs. The girls and boys opened the letter and it was from the little stone and it read like this:


Dear Compañeras and Compañeros, Zapatista Boys and Girls:

I hope you are in good health and studying hard. After my brief greeting I move on to the following: Look, my little compañeras and compañeros, the water in my bucket is running out and I will soon be back. But I want to make it clear that I no longer want to be a cloud, because I’m dizzy. So I’ve thought it over and now I want to be a tree. See to it. That’s all I have to say.



The Airborne Zapatista Little Stone


And now the zapatista children are trying to figure out what to do to make the little stone become a tree, and I think that now they’re really screwed because God only knows how they’re going to go about it.




Thanks a lot.


For the “Everything for all, cookies for us, even if they’re animal cookies” collective,


Katy (11 years old)


Giovanni (12 years old)


Marcelo (6 years old)


Carlitos (9 years old)


Pablo (7 years old).


El Sup (515 years old)





Translated by Alejandro Reyes for publication in The Speed of Dreams: Selected Writings 2001–2007, by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, Edited by Canek Peña-Vargas and Greg Ruggiero, Introduction by Laura Carlsen, forthcoming from City Lights Books, November 2007 |



[1] A miliciana is a member of a militia.



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