On April 26 and 27, the Encounter 25 Years of Zapatismo, Across Time & Space took place at California State University Los Angeles. The encounter brought together activists, scholars, militants, and members of organizations and collectives in the US who have been struggling for autonomy, justice and dignity in the country, many of them inspired by the Zapatista uprising. Also present were councilmembers of the Indigenous Governing Council and, via the internet, the intellectuals Raúl Zibechi and Gustavo Esteva and other Mexican activists and journalists, who analyzed the current situation experienced in that country and the organization of resistance and rebellion.
Since the Zapatista uprising on January 1, 1994, and especially after the Chican@-Zapatista Encounter in August 1997, zapatismo has inspired a large number of collectives and organizations in the US, especially of Chicanos, migrants, and people of color in general, who have adopted Zapatista forms of struggle to resist state violence, racism and repression against people of color, the prison industrial complex, gentrification and the systematic displacement of those from below, labor exploitation, deportations, raids, and much more. Thus, during these 25 years there have emerged artistic groups (see for example our documentary on the Chicano-Zapatista musical movement, Rhythms of Zapata), autonomous experiences of food sovereignty, community spaces, independent media collectives, groups of scholars proposing other epistemologies, self-defense organizations, exchanges and youth delegations to Chiapas, women’s groups, etc.
This encounter was therefore an opportunity to exchange experiences and connect struggles, while reflecting on the changes in Zapatismo in these 25 years, the civilizational crisis we face, and the situation for the peoples under the current Mexican administration.
Of fundamental importance was the participation of the councilmembers Betina Cruz Velázquez and Fortino Domínguez Rueda, of the National Indigenous Congress / Indigenous Governing Council (CNI-CIG). From his perspective as a member of the Zoque people, Fortino led us on a voyage through the history of the CNI up to the creation of the CIG and its relevance for indigenous peoples in Mexico and the world, in the context of the destruction caused by the current phase of capitalism. Betina Cruz in turn undertook a decisive and carefully documented analysis of this destruction, now led by the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his so-called “fourth transformation.”
This was complemented by the analyses by Raúl Zibechi and Gustavo Esteva, who discussed the relevance of zapatismo for Latin American social movements (or societies in movement, as Zibechi proposes) and, again, the threat that the current Mexican government represents for indigenous peoples and for the construction of Zapatista autonomy. Also via the internet, from Mexico, the activists María Laura Orozco and Evangelina Ceja and the journalist Arturo de Dios analyzed the use of forced disappearance as a tool of the state, based on specific cases. And a member of the Radio Zapatista collective explained what the Zapatistas understand by the “storm” and the civilizational crisis underway.
From the standpoint of education, the influence of the Zapatista uprising on universities in the US was discussed, as well as the contributions of Zapatista education toward a decolonial and deschooling thought in that country. The topics of borders, identities, nations, and states oriented several roundtables, as well as patriarchy, feminism, and queer subversion. Former members of the now extinct organization Estación Libre shared the experience of their efforts to connect the struggles of people of color in the US and the ideas and practices of zapatismo. Food justice was present in the discussion of various autonomous experiences in food sovereignty in California, such as the South Central Farm, Zapotepec, and the Oxnard Heirloom Seed Library.
The Encounter also included a film festival, an art exhibit, a poetry recital, an evening of CompArte at the Floricanto Center, and a festive fandango at the Chicano organizational and cultural space Eastside Café.