Lessons on Geography and Globalized Calendars
Lessons on Geography and Globalized Calendars
Seminar “The Walls of Capital, the Cracks from the Left
Cideci / Universidad de la Tierra Chiapas
14 April 2017
“Nothing has changed,” so they say.
“In Chiapas, the indigenous are doing the same or worse as before the Zapatista uprising,” the for-profit media repeat every time their foreman tells them to.
Twenty-three years ago, “humanitarian aid” arrived from all over the world. We Zapatista indigenous people understood then that what we were receiving was not charity, but rather support for resistance and rebellion. And instead of consuming it all ourselves or selling it, as the partidistas do, we used that support to build schools, hospitals, and projects for self-organization. Little by little and not without problems, difficulties, and errors, we built the material basis for our freedom.
Yesterday we heard Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés tell us that the indigenous Zapatista communities organized themselves not to ask for help, but rather to support other people in another land, with another language and culture, with another face, with other customs, in order that they might resist. He has described for us the process that was followed to achieve this. Anyone who listened to his words can say, and they would not be wrong, that on that long path from the coffee field to the kilo of packaged coffee, there is one constant: organization.
But let’s return to 1994 -1996.
As women, men, and others [otroas] began to arrive from diverse corners of Mexico and the world, we Zapatista women and men understood that on that calendar, it was not a particular geography which extended its hand and its heart to us.
It wasn’t arrogant Europe sympathizing with the poor little Indians who, uselessly, it had wanted to exterminate centuries earlier.
It was the Europe from below, the rebellious one, the one which, no matter what its size, struggles every day. The one that told us with its support, “don’t give up.”
It wasn’t the turbulent and brutal North which hides Power and government behind the flag of the murky stars and stripes which, simulating humanity, sent us crumbs.
It was the Latino and Anglo community that defends its culture and customs, that resists and struggles, that doesn’t stupify itself with the drug of the “American Dream,” which supported us while murmuring, “don’t sell out.”
It wasn’t the partidista [political party affiliated] Mexico, the one of the nomenclature of all defeats turned into jobs and positions for the leaders while the base is forgotten, that twice tried to cash in on us: first to cash in on the blood of our fallen, and later to call in our debt on the charity they offered.
It was Mexico from below, the one that organizes itself regardless of whether they are many or few, whether or not they appear in the news, whether or not they are interviewed in the for-profit media; the one that carries its dead, its political prisoners, its forcibly disappeared not as a lament but as a commitment. That Mexico was the one that took from what little it had to give to us while its gaze ordered, “don’t give in.”
From Africa, Asia, and Oceania support and hope also arrived, whispering to us, “resist.”
And since those first years, we Zapatista women and men understood that what they gave us was not aid but a commitment, and since that calendar we have done our best to honor it.
Even with everything against us, harassed by the army and the paramilitaries, slandered by the for-profit media, forgotten by those who realized that they couldn’t take advantage of our suffering, even with all that we have insisted on honoring that debt, every day and everywhere, not without mistakes and failures, not without stumbling and falls, not without deaths.
That man, that women, that other [otroa] who struggles in other corners of the planet, can now say that they struggled at our side. And with no qualms, they can leave to us the errors and the problems and justly make our achievements theirs, achievements which, though small, count.
Thanks to all those people who were and are compañeros perhaps without knowing it, we are not the same as 23 years ago.
Two decades ago, each time our compañeras and compañeros spoke, invariably they finished their words by apologizing for their Spanish.
Today, without forgetting their maternal language, our young men and women affectionately correct the intonation and spelling of more than one man, woman, or other with a university degree.
Two decades ago the EZLN was the organization, referent, and leadership of the indigenous communities. Today it they who lead us, and we who obey.
Before we directed and organized them; now our work is to see how we can support their decisions.
Before we were out in front, marking the way towards destiny. Today we are behind our pueblos, often running to catch up with them.
We have moved to the background. Some will see this as a failure.
For us, it’s an honorable account we can give to our dead, like SupPedro, like the compañera Malena, who passed away just a few days ago, and about whom we still cannot speak without pain cramping our hands and wetting our eyes and our words.
That’s how important she was to us, we Zapatista women and men.
We’ve faced these days and this meeting with her death on our shoulders and, though not explicitly, her voice has taken ours.
For several days we have wanted to settle a debt of honor with those whom today we miss greatly. We have wanted to make ours the words that we imagine they would say if they were here by our side, as they were all their lives.
But for now we should continue, and make everyone aware that our communities, our peoples, have decided that the moment is right to remind those who have believed in and trusted our flag and our way that we are here, that we are resisting, that we won’t give up, we won’t sell out, we won’t give in.
We want them to know that now they can count on us, the Zapatista communities. That although it might not be much, and that it be from a distance, we support them.
Nor will our support be a handout. For them [ellos, ellas, elloas], for you, it will be a commitment.
Because we hope that you resist until the last. We hope that you don’t give up, that you don’t sell out, that you don’t give in.
We hope that even in the moments where you feel most alone, most defeated, most forgotten, you have in your pain and your anguish at least one certainty: that there is someone who, despite being far away and being the color of the earth, says to you that you are not alone [solos, solas, soloas]. That your pain is not foreign to us. That your struggle, your resistance, your rebellion, is also ours.
We will support you as is our way, that is to say, with organized support.
And you should know and be very clear that this support carries with it our affection, our admiration, and our respect.
The package doesn’t say so, but inside is the work of Zapatista men, women, children, and elders.
Because several years ago we realized that our dreams are not local, nor national: they are international.
We understood that for our efforts, borders get in the way. That our struggle is global. That it always has been, but that those who birthed us didn’t know it and that it wasn’t until indigenous blood took the rudder as well as the motor and marked the course that we discovered that pain, rage, and rebellion don’t have a passport and that they are illegal above, but sisters below.
Today we can call anyone who resists, rebels, and struggles in any part of the planet “compañero,” “compañera,” “compañeroa.”
That is the new geography that didn’t exist in that other calendar.
So, receive our support without shame.
Receive it for what it is: a greeting.
Use it as a pretext to shake up the world, to claw at the walls, to say “no,” to lift up your heart and your gaze.
If it is true that the powerful neither see you nor hear you, know that the Zapatista men and women do see and hear you, and although we aren’t very big, we’ve been rolling for centuries and we know well that tomorrow is born as it should be, that is to say, below and to the left.
On Individuals and Collectives
There are many things we can’t explain. We know that they are that way, but our knowledge is rudimentary and we can’t explain why.
You can already see, for example, that the talking heads say that we don’t know Marxism (I don’t know if that’s a defect or a virtue); that we’re a fantasy prolonged in time for reasons they can’t explain but which are suspiciousist.[i] Since it’s not possible for a group of indigenous people to think, it must be the white man or some dark force that manipulates us and is taking us who knows where.
Our knowledge, they tell us, is nothing more than voluntarism and good luck in the best of cases, or the simple manipulation of some perverse mind in the worst case.
But it’s not that it bothers them if someone leads and orients us. What bothers them is that they aren’t the ones doing it. It makes them uncomfortable that we don’t obey, that the rebelliousness in these lands isn’t a flag but rather by now a way of life.
In sum, it bothers them or makes them uncomfortable that we are Zapatistas.
And the same incapacity they attribute to our struggle, they extend to the field of knowledge.
They’re still seeing us from above. From their ample and luxurious banisters they look out on us with mockery, pity, and disapproval. Then they return to their spacious first-class cabins to get off thinking about their own prosperity and well-being, exciting themselves imagining the pain, desperation, and anguish of the other [loa otroa].
Because they travel in the upper part of the splendid ship, they sail the great floating plantation that travels the contemporary geographies and calendars.
But if they peer out again and direct their gaze below and to the left, they will look at us more closely and with greater concern.
But no, it’s not because we have grown to catch up to them. It’s not that we’re stretching to try to be like them.
No, we are not them. And we don’t want to be.
If they look at us more closely it is because, plain and simple, their magnificent ship is sinking. It’s sinking irretrievably, and the managers [caporales], foremen [mayordomos] and overseers [capataces] know it, and they have their life-boats ready to abandon the ship when the catastrophe is so evident that no one can deny it.
But don’t pay me any mind. They’re the great scholars, the ones who handle the new technological marvels with great skill. They’re the ones who, with the click of a finger, can find justifications for their cynicism, their meanness, and their imbecility which, just because it dresses itself up as intellectual, doesn’t cease to be what it is: conceited and cynical foolishness. They who skillfully sidestep the counter-arguments that are in plain sight, who edit and tamper with words and facts to adjust them to their convenience.
And they aren’t even interested in correcting us. They only want to console themselves in their lowness, in their loneliness. They claim to be individuals, unique and unrepeatable, but they are nothing more than one among millions of flies swarming over shit.
Those who believe they know and don’t. Those who want to win but lose.
Because they think that they are safe from the collapse, that the pain will always be someone else’s. Do they really think that misfortune will knock on their doors first and ask permission before entering their lives?
Do they think there will be an announcement beforehand, that there will be a cell phone app that will alert them that tragedy approaches?
Do they expect that the alarm will sound and that they’ll be able to leave work, leave home, exit their cars in an orderly fashion to meet in a designated spot?
Do they expect that, in their miserable worlds, all of a sudden signage will appear indicating the “meeting point in case of apocalypse?”
In their villages, neighborhoods, cities, countries, worlds, do they have a door with an illuminated sign that reads “EMERGENCY EXIT”?
Do they imagine it will be like in TV shows and movies about disasters, where everything is normal until it all goes to hell in an instant?
It could be. They’re the ones who know, the ones who pass judgements and issue sentences.
But, according to us Zapatistas, the Powerful themselves are building the nightmare little by little. More often than not, they present the nightmare as a benefit, an advance; other times they present it as progress, development, civilization.
But you can already see that we are indigenous, which, according to them, means ignorant, manipulated by religion or necessity, or both.
For them, we have neither the capacity nor the intelligence to distinguish one thing from another.
For them, we’re not capable of elaborating even the most minimal theorization.
But, for example, more than twenty years ago we pointed to the collapse that neoliberal globalization would suffer. Now the talking heads discover that, in effect, globalization is shattering, and they write painstaking essays to demonstrate what can be confirmed by turning off the television or the computer, or leaving one’s phone alone for a few seconds, and let’s not even mention going out to the street; it’s enough to poke your head out the window to confirm what’s happening. They cite and re-cite amongst themselves, congratulating each other and exchanging theoretical fawning and foreplay (ok, the carnal kind too, but to each their own).
If there was theoretical justice, it would be recognized that the smallest of the small were the first to sight the ongoing catastrophe and point to it.
They didn’t say if it was good or bad, they didn’t abound and redound in footnoted citations, nor did they accompany their asseverations with references to strange names with many academic titles.
I say this because a few days ago I was telling you all that among SupMarcos’ papers, I found that text which supposedly explains the reasons and motives that caused a beetle by the given name of Nebuchadnezzar to choose a nom de guerre and a profession that were one and the same, to abandon his home and his family, and armed with a cacaté shell as a helmet, a plastic pill bottle lid as a shield, an unfolded paper clip as a lance, and a branch as a sword (which he called, of course, Excalibur), to choose an impossible love, to assign a tortoise with the paradoxical name of Pegasus to be his steed, to choose as a squire a warrior with a prominent nose, and set off to travel the paths of the world.
But I wasn’t looking for that text. Because in recent days I have read and heard studies and analysis saying that it seems, it’s probable, it could be, it’s a guess, that neoliberal globalization is not the panacea promised and, in reality, it’s causing more harm than good.
So I went looking in that trunk because I thought I had read that somewhere before.
And, well, I found it, and now I’ll read it to you. It’s dated April 1996 and it’s a presentation written by a beetle. It’s titled: “PROMISING ELEMENTS FOR AN INITIAL ANALYSIS AS A FIRST STEP TOWARDS AN ORIGINAL APPROACH TO THE PRIMOGENITARY, FUNDAMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS OF THE SUPRAHISTORIC AND SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC-EXPIALIDOCIOUS BASIS OF NEOLIBERALISM AT THE DECISIVE CONJUNCTURE OF APRIL 6, 1994, AT 01:30 HOURS ON THE DOT, SOUTHEASTERN TIME, WITH A MOON TENDING TO SHRINK LIKE THE WALLET OF A WORKER DURING THE RISE OF PRIVATIZATIONS, MONETARY ADJUSTMENTS, AND OTHER ECONOMIC MEASURES SO EFFECTIVE THEY PROVOKE ENCOUNTERS LIKE THAT OF LA REALIDAD” (first of 17,987 parts).
The presentation is quite concise. In fact, it’s composed of a single phrase that goes like this:
“The problem with globalization in neoliberalism is that the globos [balloons] pop.”
Oh, I understand that in a “serious” publication in the academy or in the limited universe of the for-profit media, you cannot cite “Sir Durito of the Lacandón, op. cit. 1996” in your footnote. Because later you would have to clarify, at the end of the publication, that the author referenced is a beetle who believes himself to be a knight errant and whose trail was lost in La Realidad on May 25, 2014.
But I was saying that there are many things we can’t explain, but which are the way they are.
For example, individuality and the collective.
Collectively is better than individually. I can’t explain to you why scientifically, and you have every right to accuse me of being esoteric, or something equally horrible.
What we’ve seen on our limited and archaic horizon is that the collective can bring to the forefront the best of each individuality.
It’s not that the collective makes you better and individuality makes you worse, no. Each person is who he or she is, a complex handful of virtues and defects (whatever each of those might mean), but in particular situations the virtues or the defects will shine.
Try it, even if it’s just once. Nothing bad will to happen to you. In any case, if you’re as marvelous as you think you are, then it will reinforce your belief that the world doesn’t deserve you. But perhaps you’ll find inside yourselves skills and abilities you didn’t know you had. Try it, and in the end if you don’t like it you can always go back to your twitter account, your facebook wall, and from there continue dictating to the whole world what it should be and do.
But that’s not why I’m recommending to you now that you work and struggle collectively. The issue is that the storm is coming. What you can see now isn’t even remotely the most decisive moment. The worst is yet to come. And the individualities, as brilliant and capable as they may be, will not be able to survive except with others [otros, otras, otroas].
We have seen how collective work has not only made it possible for the originary peoples to survive several terminal storms, but also to advance when they are in community, and to disappear when each person only has their own individual well-being in mind.
As far as the Zapatista indigenous communities are concerned, collective work was not organized by the EZLN, nor by Christianity; neither Christ nor Marx had anything to do with the fact that, in moments of danger, faced with external threats, and for parties, music, and dance, the community in territories of the originary peoples becomes a single collective.
In sum, it’s up to you.
But, in any case, I’d recommend that you make the most of what the National Indigenous Congress is going to do starting in May of this year. We truly hope that the CNI will obey its own mandate and will not fall into the trap of seeking votes and official positions, but rather will carry a brotherly ear to those below who are lonely and in pain, and alleviate that pain with the call to organization.
The path of these compañeras and compañeros is going to make visible neighborhoods, communities, tribes, nations, originary peoples. Approach them, the indigenous. Abandon, if you can, the anthropological lens which sees them as strange and anachronistic creatures. Set aside pity and the position of the evangelizing minister who offers them salvation, help, knowledge. Approach them as a sister, a brother, another [hermana, hermano, hermanoa].
Because, when the time arrives in which nobody knows where to go, those originary peoples, the ones who today are condescended to and humiliated, will know where to put their gaze and their step, they will know the ‘how’ and the ‘when’. They will know, in sum, how to answer the most important and urgent question in these times: “What’s next?”
Now, to conclude, a few brief signposts. A few hints, we could say.
.- When Trump talks about recuperating the US borders, he talks about the Mexican one, but the plantation owner’s gaze points towards Mapuche territory. The struggle of the originary peoples can not and should not limit itself to Mexico; it must lift its gaze, ear, and word to include the entire continent, from Alaska to the Tierra de Fuego.
.- When, in the voice of Subcomandate Insurgente Moisés, we say that the whole world is turning into a plantation and the national governments are turning into overseers who simulate power and independence when the boss is away, we are not only signaling a paradigm with consequences for theory. We are also signaling a problem that has consequences for struggle. And we don’t mean only the “big” struggles, those of the political parties and social movements, but rather all struggles. Zapatismo, as liberatory thought, does not recognize the Bravo and Suchiate rivers as the limits of its aspirations of freedom. Our “everything for everyone” does not recognize borders. The struggle against Capital is worldwide.
.- Among the options, our position is and has been clear: there is no good overseer. But we understand that some differentiate, usually as a sort of comforting therapy, between the bad ones and the worse ones. Okay well, those who do little are satisfied with little, little or nothing.
But they should try to understand that those who risk everything, want everything. And for us Zapatistas, freedom is everything.
We don’t want to choose between a cruel boss and a nice boss: plain and simply, we do not want bosses.
Well, that’s it.
Many thanks [Muchas gracias, literally “many graces”]. I mean, besides those that adorn me.[ii]
FROM THE CAT-DOG’S NOTEBOOK
I.- Images of the global plantation.
They’ve called John McCain and John Kelly to a meeting. The first is a Senator and the second is Secretary of Homeland Security, both in the United States government. The boss reproaches them for having stated publicly that it would be a problem if a leftist candidate became president of Mexico, which several pre-candidates have taken advantage of to promote themselves.
McCain and Kelly exchange confused glances and protest: “But we were talking about what those fucking indian beaner brownies intend to do, they say they can govern not just Mexico but the whole world with their “fucking council” [English in the original]. They are actually a problem, I don’t know why that other guy thought we were alluding to him; he knows as well as we do that he doesn’t represent any threat at all except to himself[iii].
The boss, that is to say the plantation owner, that is to say the capitalist, listened to them and nodded approvingly. He dismissed them and then called Donald Trump and his mom (who appears here only for the purpose of insults) as well as the principal political leaders to give them instructions.
Hours later, in a solemn session of the United States Congress, Trump decorated Senator McCain and General Kelly with the medal of capitalist merit, the highest honor that the boss can give to managers, foremen, and overseers.
The session was proceeding without incident when there began to be a lot of ruckus in the press room, where the correspondents assigned to the White House were getting supremely bored. Suddenly, everyone crowded around one of the monitors.
It turns out that one of their colleagues, more bored than Trump’s hairpiece, started channel-surfing on the web and had arrived at the Zapatista Intergalactic Television System (abbreviated “SIZATI” in Spanish).
The same ceremony was displayed on the screen, but with a camera that captured everything from behind where Trump was standing.
In the image you could see that Trump had a paper stuck onto one of his buttcheeks that said “Kick me”, and another one on the other cheek that read “Fuck me”, and one more, on his left shoulder, on which was printed “We want everything for everyone [todoas]” and was signed by “The fucking National Indigenous Congress.”
The correspondents went nuts and frantically called their editors; the biggest television channels in the world suspended their regularly scheduled programming to link to the SIZATI. Across the whole planet, screens were filled with Mr. Trump’s buttcheeks.
The consequences were not slow in coming: the honorable, discreet and demure Kardashian family suffered a heart attack because their reality show lost 100% of its audience; the whole world didn’t see the culminating scene of “The Walking Dead” where Daryl confesses his love for Rick and, when Rick and “Arrows” kiss passionately, boom! Michone cuts off both of their heads and, sheathing her katana and looking at the camera, says: “I’d be better off going to the fucking Lacandón Jungle to find my true love, fucking SupGaleano. Rosita better not steal him from me!”; nor did they watch the final episode of the Game of Thrones series in which Daenerys kisses Tyrion, demonstrating that the fucking little guy wins when it counts and that, in effect, John Snow didn’t know anything[iv].
From the podium of Congress, Trump observed the agitation among the correspondents and thought to himself that finally the fucking press had understood his greatness, that is, that of Trump himself.
Hours later, the Seventh Fleet of the fucking US Marines and the fucking 101st Airborne Division monitored the seas and skies of the world, waiting for NATO’s intelligence services to detect the fucking SIZATI’s location in order to launch three thousand Tomahawk missiles containing three thousand nuclear warheads, as well as the mother of all bombs[v].
The information arrives to the boss’s bunker: “The fuckin’ bastards are fuckin’ everywhere!” which, in Spanish, can be translated as “we don’t have any fucking idea where those guys are.”
The weapons industry was already working full steam ahead to supply a new order of missiles, so it was necessary to use up the ones already made: if not, the plantation owner’s fucking society was going to get mad. The boss scrawled a new order. The fucking gringo Secretary of Defense looked worriedly at the boss. The big boss looked back at him with a face that said “do it, or else,” and the soldier went running to transmit the new fucking order.
The three thousand fucking Tomahawks had a new target: the fucking White House (Trump’s—don’t worry, fucking Peña Nieto[vi]).
“Fire!” ordered the fucking boss, “We’ll find another fucking overseer soon enough.”
A few hours later the world’s leaders were expressing their condolences for “their brothers, the people of the United States,” and a long line of suspirantes[vii] waited their turn outside the boss’s big house.
Very far away and in the Southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, in the highest branches of a ceiba tree, with a computer connected to the internet via an antenna that SubMoy and “el Monarca” made out of a pot lid, reeds, masking tape, and a USB modem, a little girl and a little boy look worriedly at each other, and she scolded him: “I told you not to click there.” The boy defends himself, “It wasn’t me!” Between them there was a small animal that looks like a cat… or maybe a dog, that wagged its tail happily and smiled with fucking malice.
(fucking fade out)
II. Defensa Zapatista and the Rock in the Road
“Why are fucking men like that?”
The question comes from the door of the hut and Defensa Zapatista, hands on her hips, looks at me severely.
She caught me off guard. I was trying to decipher how 50 North American Tomahawk missiles had provoked only 5 or 6 casualties at the military airbase in Syria. Either those Tomahawks were made in China, or the gringos had told the Russians what they were going to do beforehand so the latter would have time to clear out.
I could have asked Defensa Zapatista her opinion on the issue but it didn’t seem to be the ideal moment. In fact as I am telling you this, this little girl is already inside the hut, standing squarely in front of me. At her side the cat-dog also stares fixedly at me with disapproval.
I was about to respond, “like what?” but the little girl wasn’t waiting for a response, but just making sure I had heard her. She continued:
“Did God make you all that way or do you study to be idiots? Do you train or get coached on being dumbasses? Or do you all start out that way, except that nobody can tell when you’re little and only once you’re grown is it clear that men are idiots and women are smart?”
I was preparing a long discussion regarding gender defense, as they say, but there was a machete too close to the angry little girl and I doubted it would be prudent to even try to move because the cat-dog was growling with hostility at my boots.
I didn’t understand what had provoked the Zapatista fury of the little girl, but she didn’t stop for a breath.
“You think we women don’t know how to use a machete? We do know. And we know how to work the land and when to clear it and when to burn and when to plant. You think we don’t know about animals? I mean other animals, I’m not talking about men.”
When the storm wanes, I ask Defensa Zapatista what happened that got her so pissed off.
Amid threats and gender accusations, the little girl tells me:
Apparently the autonomous commissary came to measure the pasture because they we’re planning to build a stage there for the next CompArte.
Defensa Zapatista wanted the stage to be off to one side, beside the stream. That way, later on, she could receive her trophy there when she had filled up her team and won the championship.
The commissary thought it would be better placed behind the goal where it connects to the main path, and didn’t listen to the arguments of the little girl who, annoyed, decided that the commissary, being a man, was attacking her rights “as the women that we are” and began to subject him to, as we say, a political lesson.
Apparently the situation got pretty serious because the cat-dog felt obliged to intervene and bit the commissary on the ankle. Thus the dog or cat or whatever and the little girl had to go to the school where the education promotora listened scandalized to the “narration of events” explained by the commissary.
The consequence: as a punishment, the little girl and the cat-dog had to go find SupGaleano and listen to his explanation of why art is important to the struggle.
I didn’t see much disposition to learn, we could say, on behalf of the little girl or of the little animal. So I tried to apply my famous pedagogical method of “turning things over” which is based on the philosophical postulate of “there is no problem so big that you can’t turn it over a few times.”
So I told her the following story:
The Rock in the Road
Once there was a community. Every day,very early, the men and women would drink their coffee along with a little bit of beans and then put a ball of pozol[x] and a bottle of water in their bag and go to the collective cornfield. That’s what happened every day, and the path of the indigenous village continued its life of resistance and rebellion.
But one day it rained very hard and a great big rock got dislodged from the mountainside and rolled down to block the path to the cornfield. The whole village went to see it. Yes, it was indeed a very big rock. They tried to move it but it wouldn’t budge.
So they had an assembly right then and there and shared thoughts on what to do.
Some said oh well, we’ll have to look for another place to make a cornfield.
Others say no, that the land was already cleared and all that work would be for nothing if they didn’t plant it.
Others said that the mafia of power had put the rock there as part of a conspiracy against the Indigenous Governing Council of the National Indigenous Congress.
They kept discussing the problem and various groups started to emerge: one group said that they had to pray to god to remove the rock; another group said god pul-lease, that they had to use science; and another group said that they had to investigate and uncover the tracks of the chupacabras[xi] Salinas—de Gortari,[xii] not Pliego.[xiii] Because Salinas de Gortari was the bad Salinas and Salinas Pliego was the good one.
So each group set out to do what they thought was necessary. The ones who thought they should pray brought incense and an image of the patron saint of the village, making a small altar and settling in there to pray their hearts out.
Another group went to get their notebooks and tape measure and started measuring and calculating in order to create a lever out of a stick and move the rock that way.
The other group went to get the detective kit, brand “My Happiness,” and with a magnifying glass and microscope checked the rock carefully to see if the chupacabras had left hoof prints.
There the three groups were, each carrying out what they thought was the best method to solve the problem, when a little girl approached. She came from the cornfield.
They all surrounded her and started asking questions.
The praying group asked her if god had send an angel that had flown her over the rock, and they began to shout “It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!” and to sing psalms and praises.
The scientific group asked her how she had resolved the question of the distribution of leverage, strength, and resistance, taking out their notebooks to be ready to take notes.
The third group demanded proof of the participation of the bad chupacabras, while they redacted a document in which the below-signed convoked others to support, with their vote, the current redeemer. The document would be published in the media owned by the good chupacabras.
The little girl was silent and looked at them all strangely.
When they finally stopped talking, she explained that when she had passed by that morning with a little boy, the fucking rock (that’s what she said) was already there, and since they couldn’t get through, she and the little boy had gone to get a machete and made another path around the fucking rock (that’s how she said it). With her hand she gestured to the little path that did in fact go around the obstacle and connect back to the main path on the other side. The little boy beside her was quiet.
Until that moment the three groups had not noticed the little path. They all celebrated and congratulated the little girl because she had solved the problem.
The commissary launched into a speech praising the little girl for understanding the importance of the path to the cornfield and thus making the little detour.
Everyone applauded and asked the little girl to speak.
The girl went to the front of the assembly and explained:
“You think I was thinking about this stuff you’re saying? I just wanted to pick some Chene’k Caribe flowers for my little sister to play with, and Pedrito here wanted to track the badger that tries to steal the corn,” and she showed the assembly the flowers she had picked, while the boy hid behind her.
Everyone was silent and a little embarrassed. Finally the commissary said, “well this calls for a party.”
“Siiiii,” the rest said and went to start the party.
Defensa Zapatista listened attentively to the story.
The cat-dog went over to the corner where my machete was and, wagging his tail, barked and meowed at the little girl. Defensa Zapatista looked at him and, suddenly, stood up and exclaimed, “Of course!” and she went to pick up the machete.
“You’re going to make another path?” I asked her.
“Path Shmath!” she replied, already in the doorway. “I’m going to go look for Pedrito because collectively we’re going to destroy the commissary’s stage. I’ll put Pedrito on guard duty in case the enemy approaches. And I’m going to make another, much prettier stage than that of the commissary and we’re going to use lots of flowers and colors and it’s going to be so happy that all of the musicians and dancers are going to want to go to our stage and not the commissary’s, which in any case is going to be a sad one because it belongs to the fucking men. And I’m going to tell the musicians to play the song for when we win the game and I’m going to convince the dancers to play on my team and that way there will be more of us, even if it takes awhile, there will be more of us.”
Defensa Zapatista left. I stayed in my hut, thinking about what part of my pedagogical method had failed.
So now I’m sitting outside the hut, waiting for someone to come tell me that Defensa Zapatista is doing her punishment at the school, with the cat-dog asleep in her lap as she writes 50 times in her notebook: “I should not pay attention to fucking SupGaleano’s stories.”
Fucking thank you.
[i] Sospechosista (suspiciousist), from sospechosismo (suspiciousism), a word which does not exist in Spanish, was popularized in 2004 by Santiago Creel, Secretary of Governance under Vicente Fox, who said “I invite you all to leave behind the culture of suspiciousism,” referring to questions about his having awarded several profitable contracts for new gambling halls to owners of Mexico’s major corporate TV networks immediately prior to resigning from his post to run for president on the PAN party ticket. In Creel’s use, the term attempts to discredit any questioning of the political system by dismissing critics as paranoid, if not conspiracy theorists. SupGaleano employs it ironically here to make fun of the fact that a number of academics/”intellectuals” who cannot explain to themselves the continued existence of the EZLN have actually come to believe that there must be some large and dark conspiracy behind it. http://eldiario.deljuego.com.ar/submenunoticiadeldia/1501-creel-el-sospechista.html
[ii] This is a play on words based on an old-fashioned reply to “Muchas gracias” (“Many thanks”). Gracias can also mean “graces”, as in a person’s virtues or charming qualities. Thus, there exists an old-fashioned exchange:
Speaker 1: Muchas gracias.
Speaker 2: Las que te adornan. OR Las que tú tienes.
When the first speaker says “Many [graces],” the second speaker replies, “[Graces are] those which adorn you” or “[Graces are] those which you have.” In this way, the second speaker effectively says “You’re welcome” with an added compliment to Speaker 1, implying that Speaker 1’s “graces” (positive qualities, virtues, or physical charms) are in themselves enough to make up for the favor performed. This response can either be kind and inoffensive or a vulgar double-entendre implying certain more lascivious “virtues” (in either men or women), depending on the context and intent.
In this case, SupGaleano flips and pre-empts this old-fashioned response when he says: “Many [graces]. I mean, besides those which adorn me.”
[iii] “That other guy” is Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), three-time “leftist” presidential candidate in Mexico. http://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2017/04/08/1156732
[iv] “You know nothing, John Snow” is a recurring line in Game of Thrones.
[v] The “mother of all bombs,” or MOAB, is the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal, dropped for the first time April 13, 2017 ,on a Northeastern province of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, killing upwards of 94 people. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghan-death-toll-94-us-isis-mother-of-all-bombs-donald-trump-taliban-a7684731.html
[vi] In 2014, a scandal broke over revelations that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s wife had purchased a $7 million dollar, all-white mansion known as the “Casa Blanca” or “white house” in one of the most exclusive suburbs of Mexico City. The mansion was connected to a construction conglomerate, Grupo Higa, which had been awarded several lucrative contracts by Peña Nieto’s governments when he was governor of the State of Mexico and as President. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3207018/Mexico-s-Lady-returns-7m-mansion-scandal-government-contracts.html
[vii] In Mexican political life, suspirantes (from suspirar “to sigh”) is a humorous play on aspirantes, “aspirants” or candidates for political office, which refers to the dismally uninspiring, sigh-inducing politicians who run for office each election season, especially when many candidates are vying for the same position. Since suspirante can also mean a grieving or sorrowful person, in this case the author is crossing these two meanings to suggest that the mourners are lined up not just to grieve, but also with aspirations to take Trump’s place.
[viii] “La Calderona” is a nickname given by the EZLN to the wife of ex-president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), Margarita Zavala, a member of the National Action Party (PAN) who announced in June 2015 that she will run for president of Mexico in 2018.
[ix] Aurelio Nuño is the Mexican Secretary of Education under whose direction the brutal repression of teachers opposing Mexico’s so-called “education reform” has been carried out, including the massacre in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, in which 8 people were killed and more than 100 injured. Regarding the addition of “Ramsey” to his name (as in Ramsey Bolton from “Game of Thrones”), see: http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2016/06/24/the-hour-of-the-police-4-from-the-cat-dogs-spoiler-notebook/. He is whispering to himself in this case because of an embarrassing episode widely circulated in Mexico wherein, during a televised appearance, Nuño encouraged children to “ler” and was corrected on stage by a young girl who told him “It’s pronounced read (leer), not red (ler).” The original Spanish text uses “read” and “red” in English.
[x] Ground maize; mixed with water it often serves as a midmorning or midday meal.
[xi] The chupacabras, literally “goat-sucker,” is a mythological and legendary character deemed responsible for the mysterious deaths of livestock. While variations of its activities and appearance circulate in many parts of the Americas, in Mexico it gained particular visibility during the administration of ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) both as rumors of a supposed conspiracy to distract from national problems and policies, and as a nickname (“blood-sucking”) for Salinas himself.
[xii] Ex-president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994).
[xiii] Ricardo Salinas Pliego, chairman of the business conglomerate Grupo Salinas and the head of two major Mexican companies, the retail giant Elektra and the second largest TV station in the country, TV Azteca.