Twinning of Cities in Chiapas and Catalonia

[translated by irlandesa]

Roberto Barrios, Chiapas

From the Barcelona Mediterranean to the Lacandona Selva, zapatistas and Catalans formalized, in this Aguascalientes, the twinning of the two municipalities El Trabajo and La Garriga, in a fiesta which was characterized by both as the beginning of the “globalization of solidarity.”  This would extend even beyond the meeting of two cultures, distant but with similar histories, which are resisting the loss of their customs, which are struggling to maintain their languages and which are seeking to consolidate their autonomy.

With two traditional human towers from Catalunya – formed with the arms of zapatistas and of Catalans from four municipalities and from the Catalan Fund of Cooperation for Development – which supported the flags of Catalunya and of the EZLN, the “twin” relationship was formalized between these two municipalities which are seeking to share their culture, experiences, development aid and their histories in search of justice, liberty and autonomy.

The events, which were held over three days in the zapatista Aguascalientes of Roberto Barrios – one of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation’s five cultural centers – were festive in nature, with a great display of cultural creativity:  dances from the two regions (the Tigre, the Listones, the Bastones), popular dances (the Cebada), theatrical productions (El doctor y el curandero, El maiz triste), music and poetry.

Men, women, children and old ones from the zapatista Autonomous Municipalities of El Trabajo, Vicente Guerrero, Francisco Villa and San José La Montaña intermingled with Catalans from the municipalities of La Garriga, Reus, Pineda del Mar and Sant Cloni, participating in the Vall de Rama (ancient music from Catalunya which is part of the popular festivals), moving to the Cebada Dance and participating in erecting the circle (base) for the human towers which reach up to five meters in height.

The River Grows When the Streams Are Joined

“A great river is being formed now, with many people coming together like streams to lend us their solidarity and help,” was how Domingo put it, a zapatista who believes that the presence of the Catalans “brings joy to the heart and makes sadness go away.”  And he was not wrong.

A cloud of incense smoke bathed the faces of the most ancient ones of the municipality of El Trabajo.  Dressed in their festive robes, the old ones, “the most wise,” expressed their appreciation for the presence of some 40 Catalans in zapatista lands.  The old ones’ presence was an endorsement of the twinning of the men from the Mediterranean with the indigenous from the Selva Lacandona.

Four years have gone by since the first Catalan arrived in the Aguascalientes of Roberto Barrios.  During that time, the Catalan schools of Els Pinetons and Manuel Blancafort (both in the municipality of La Garriga) were twinned with the schools of Nuevo Sembrador de Santo Domingo (of the Autonomous Municipality of El Trabajo) and Mariano Matamoros of Guanal (in the general Emiliano Zapata Autonomous Municipality).  Soon the Compañero Pedro Santa Cruz School will be doing the same with the Pompeu Fabra School of the Reus Municipality.

The fiesta for the twinning of the two municipalities began in late July in La Garriga, where events were held on a continual basis – tombolas, fiestas, cultural and political events – for the purpose of securing economic help for schools and for financing technical training in various trades and in administration and management.

The mayor of La Garriga, Alfredo Vilar, along with the group of 40 Catalans, had a novel experience for three days.  There was surprise after surprise.  First, being received by the traditional authorities, the expressions of friendship and respect for the word:  “You gave your word, and you kept it,” artist Pere Folch recalls the zapatistas telling them.

On the second day, both authorities carried out the gift exchange in a ceremony in which hundreds of persons with scarves covering their faces appeared.  Three wicker baskets held the products of the countryside – maize and beans primarily – which the zapatistas presented to the Catalans.  

The visitors presented poems written by Catalan children for the zapatistas, a photo album of the area, a guitar, articles from the region and a wooden figure of the Virgin of Catalunya (La Moreneta).

But what evoked the admiration of the grownups, the laughter of the children and the curiosity of the women, was the largest gift that any solidarity movement has ever given a zapatista Autonomous Municipality: a spectacular and enormous red bird, more than three meters high, which a theatre group donated to the EZLN municipality.  No one knows how they managed to bring it on the plane, the fact is that it traveled from the Barcelona airport to the one in Villahermosa, Tabasco.

Micaela is from the community of León Brindis.  She was the most popular woman among the Catalan community gathered together in Roberto Barrios.  Her tortillas, made “of real maize,” delighted the palates of the visitors.  Her chicken, seasoned “a la zapatista,” left everyone amazed.

But no one will ever forget the smile of Manuelito, the restless and intelligent zapatista child who, with no previous training and the skill of a Catalan mountain climber, managed to reach the top of a four meter high human tower, in order to raise his arm to the heavens, sealing the twinning of the zapatista municipality of El Trabajo with the Catalan La Garriga.

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