Will the real Subcomandante Marcos please step forward?

Que el verdadero Subcomandante Marcos por favor dar un paso adelante?

Subcomandante Marcos, which became this enigmatic figure’s nom de guerre, was not a masked marauder, a charlatan, a magician, a glory-hunter or someone interested in charades; but he was a visionary who played a leadership role in the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional - EZLN) and created a new genre of resistance movements not cited in the chronicles of history. A Mestizo by birth, he was wise enough to build unabashed indigenous leadership, aware that anything other than that would be perceived as questionable by the outside world.

Marcos used a cutting-edge weapon created by technological whiz kids and took his case to the citizens of the world. What could be more powerful than playing to the sentiments of liberals and the ideals of urban revolutionaries around the world than a secret formula called social media, with its inherent power of imagery and ability to transform consciousness? Recollect that on the fateful day of January 1st 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, he announced that the EZLN would no longer recognize the legitimacy of the Mexican government. This was followed by a ragtag militia of Mayans from Chiapas taking over 5 major towns very aware that they could not defeat the power of the Mexican Government. As they retreated into the Lacondon Jungle, Marcos changed his tactics to nonviolence, knowing that war is ultimately destruction to humankind.

Marcos understood the importance of political power as one of the fundamental elements needed to protect people as they traverse forward. “Without political power, powerless people can only receive what others hand down. Without political power, progress is an illusion—an illusion that is fed when convenient and starved when it becomes threatening. Those with power decide what is best for those without power. Without political power, there is no choice or change—only concession.” Concession is a form of surrender, something that power brokers see as the first step in complete annihilation.

In a second of presto-digitalization, a snap of the finger, the waving of a wand, he has taken off his persona as a rural revolutionary, baffling the producers of the modern day hero/villain dichotomy, film, and media and revealed the true character of what it means to be a Zapatista. He has removed his mask before film makers turn it into a mockery and pinpoint him as the hero.

Did he win? Absolutely! His principled revolutionary act by using social media to unveil the mockery of the Mexican government revealed the massacre at Acteatl. It was here where 45 indigenas on December 22, 1997, were attending a Roman Catholic prayer meeting, which included children and pregnant women of the pacifist group Las Abejas ("The Bees"), small village of Acteal in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the Mexican state of Chiapas and were gunned down. Observers argue that the massacre was carried out on by the paramilitary group Mascara Roja, or Red Mask. The Zapatistas were simply creating space breaking the chains of bondage, wittingly forming a new voice that sought out democracy for rural communities and in fields where voices had been squelched.

Subcomandante Marcos remains an enigma who is struggling against global capitalism. His victories include the building of 32 autonomous, self-governing municipalities from Juntas de Buen Gobierno whose councils oversee community programs that feed the poor, teach the children and collect taxes. The Zapatista vision was not about bloodshed, the overturning of a government, but perhaps, making government more responsive in order to create a more civil society.

Marcos does not seek pardon for the sins of the EZLN. In his mind, they have committed no sin; it is the government that should seek out forgiveness from the people. As he stated, “Should we ask pardon from those who deny us the right and capacity to govern ourselves? From those who don’t respect our customs and our culture and who ask for identification papers and obedience to a law whose existence and moral basis we don’t accept? From those who oppress us, torture us, assassinate us, disappear us from the grave crime of wanting a piece of land, not too big and not too small, but just a simple piece of land on which we can grow something to fill our stomachs? Who should we ask for pardon, and who can grant it?”

Marcos didn’t militarily topple over a government, assassinate anyone or imprison his enemies; he outfoxed them. And now he is going to retire his military garb and join the common people in continuing to serve and struggle with his people. He is not leaving the battlefield with a high rank or stars and stripes pinned on his uniform; he does not have a gigantic ego or a need to be written about in history. He is a man who understands the needs of a people who have been oppressed for centuries. His philosophy of shared leadership is now fait accompli. It is the Mayans who are the heroes and heroines, as they suffered for the last 2 decades reinforcing the adage that a philosophy created by la gente cannot be defeated.

Will the real Subcomandante Marcos please step forward?

Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist.

©6/16/2014 Ramón Del Castillo

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