Revolutionary Worker #769, August 21, 1994
Following the New Year's uprising in Chiapas, correspondent Michael Slate traveled to Mexico to explore the roots of the new insurgency and the situation of the campesinos. In this new series, Slate shares his findings with the RW:
It is 30 miles from Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital city of Chiapas, to San Cristóbal de las Casas, but the old second class bus takes more than two hours to climb the winding and narrow mountain roads. It rolls past the Nestle's factory on the edge of town and wheezes on out to the breathtaking beauty of the Sumidero Canyon. For the campesinos on the bus, the natural beauty of the canyon takes second place to keeping an eye on the Mexican army troops holed up behind a sandbag wall at the army roadblock. The troops are supposedly there to guard the hydroelectric dam on the river, but they keep their eyes riveted on the bus and other highway traffic, their M-16s always ready.
Heading further up into Los Altos, the highland areas around San Cristóbal, the scenery changes dramatically. The road is like a snake, curling its way between miles of sheer rock. Every now and then brief valleys appear between the canyon walls. Crisp pine forests shoot up out of the rocks in every direction. Closer to the top of the mountain, shelters are hammered into crags and ravines or lined up alongside the road. Half-finished cinderblock houses scattered along the road give way to adobe brick and stick and mud thatch roof huts, grouped together in settlements of indigenous people. Indigenous women carrying huge loads of supplies or stacks of firewood hanging from a strap around their forehead run along the side of the road with their children. Homemade memorials to people killed in accidents on the road seem to pop up like mile markers.
Just outside San Cristóbal the bus stops at a second roadblock. Soldiers come on board to do a spot check of IDs and question anyone they feel is suspicious. Out on the roadside, small groups of indigenous men and women stand waiting to explain who they are and where they are going. Indigenous men "assume the position" that is so familiar to oppressed people all over the world--hands against the car, legs spread--while scowling soldiers frisk them and other soldiers train their guns on the campesinos and campesinas.
As we wait anxiously to get through the roadblock, I try to imagine what it must have been like in this area a short time earlier. On December 31, 1993, a couple of thousand indigenous men and women used the cover of night and some of these same roads to come out of the pine forests in the mountains and the jungle settlements in the lowlands as they launched the most significant peasant uprising in Mexico in the last half of the 20th century.
In a matter of days at least four cities and a number of other smaller villages and settlements were captured by the armed campesinos grouped together in the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the EZLN, known as the Zapatistas. Banks and government offices were sacked--land deeds, mortgage documents and loan documents were destroyed. In some cities the campesinos burned down the government offices, while in others they hammered them apart with sledge hammers and axes. Local and state prisons were attacked and the prisoners--mainly indigenous peasants--were freed. The largest army base in Chiapas, Rancho Nuevo, was attacked shortly after the rebellion began and small battles continued there for more than a week. Out in the countryside, the rebel peasants established perimeters around the areas where they had the strongest influence and refused to allow the army and police into these areas. Large finca owners and cattle ranchers fled the areas controlled by the EZLN, abandoning their land and animals.
The Mexican government gave a fast and furious answer to the campesinos' cry for "Liberty and Land." Twelve thousand Mexican army troops--one-fifth of the entire Mexican army--were dispatched to Chiapas. Rural villages were bombed, hundreds of peasants were killed by the army and the police and sometimes buried in mass graves. More than a hundred were arrested and many were tortured. In the wake of the rebellion large portions of Chiapas became military zones directly occupied and ruled by the guns of the Mexican army.
The main actions of the New Year's rebellion lasted about four days although the periodic confrontation with the Mexican Army and the police lasted somewhat longer. Within a couple of weeks the Zapatistas had pretty much withdrawn back into their territory and set up a defensive line against the government forces. By the middle of February the EZLN was engaged in dialogue with the government. The armed uprising was put on hold while the Zapatistas explored the possibility of peacefully resolving matters with the government.
As our bus pulled into San Cristóbal these peace talks had just begun. They were being held in a cathedral on the zócalo--the main square in the center of the city.
The city was like an armed camp. Hundreds of Mexican army soldiers were camped and drilling at an athletic field at one entrance to the city. Dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers were parked at this camp, waiting for action. Huge troop trucks were lined up next to the long rows of military green tents and in between the trenches and foxholes that had been dug alongside the road.
The scene of the talks--in fact the entire zócalo itself including all of the government buildings and churches--was completely surrounded by hundreds of grim-faced soldiers, standing there clubs drawn and facing out against the people. Whenever the troops changed shifts the huge army troop trucks roared through the narrow cobblestone streets of the old colonial city. At other times, columns of soldiers ran double time and in step through the barrios around the zócalo.
The whole scene naturally provoked many questions about the strategy of the EZLN and where things were headed--like a drama whose opening act is prematurely interrupted. The New Year's rebellion had accomplished some very positive things. Yet it was clear as we traveled through the area that so much more remained to be done.
Talking with people from different walks of life--especially the peasants on remote mountainsides and hidden valleys--you could sense the potential for a great storm to take shape in the Mexican countryside--the kind of New Democratic Revolution and protracted people's war that is necessary to solve the problems of the people in countries like Mexico. When such a storm will break out and what part the Zapatistas will ultimately play remains to be seen. But a number of things stood out: the desire of the peasants to end their oppression and a matter-of-fact acceptance that this would take some serious armed struggle.
The massive show of armed might by the government had done little to dampen the enthusiasm of the indigenous peasants for the uprising, and their contempt for the Mexican army was tangible.
In the first days of the dialogue when the army surrounded the zócalo they left a thin little strip of sidewalk between their lines and the walls of the buildings. In normal times this strip of space is occupied every day by dozens of indigenous women and children selling newspapers, gum, fruit, candy and crafts. As I walked along the sidewalk I found myself caught between the vendors and the line of soldiers as a huge crowd of people pressed together outside an appliance store to listen to a news broadcast.
When the broadcast ended, the scene was quiet and tense. Then, out of nowhere, a young woman--a street vendor maybe 14 years old--jumped up with two homemade dolls in her hands. She thrust the dolls out in the soldier's face and shouted out to all those around her "Zapatistas!" The dolls were clearly dressed in the uniform of the peasant rebels all the way down to the ski mask. A stick made to look like a crude gun was strapped across their backs. The young woman held up one doll with a long, black woolen skirt wrapped around its legs and shouted "Ramona!"--the name of one of the women leading the Zapatistas. As she held up the other doll she shouted, "Marcos!"--the well known spokesperson for the EZLN. And as she did, a proud grin took over her face. In an instant, vendors up and down the sidewalk joined in her laugh.
In recent years the campesinos and the countryside have been increasingly brushed aside--a forgotten and invisible side of Mexican society and political life. But the Chiapas rebellion brought some reality into focus. The rebellion punctured the talk of a "new prosperity" for Mexico--calling attention to how the NAFTA treaty will mean even more oppression for the peasants of Mexico. And it put a spotlight on the corrupt dictatorship of the government, the cattle ranchers, landowners, capitalists, and their brutal enforcers.
In San Cristóbal everyone was anxious to tell their stories of the rebellion. A university professor told me how they watched the Zapatistas march into the city and then how they gathered up their children the next day to take them down to talk with the peasant rebels because they knew "history was being made." A shopkeeper told what he had heard about the assault on the Rancho Nuevo military base and smiled broadly as he described the burning down of the local city jail. One anthropologist was tickled that the rebels had captured tried and convicted Absalón Castellanos, the murdering ex-governor of the state, and although the peasants eventually released Castellanos in exchange for Zapatista prisoners, she really enjoyed the idea that the indigenous campesinos sentenced Castellanos to a lifetime of labor in the jungle and forced him to eat pozole--a corn-based gruel that is a staple in many peasant diets. A young artist told me how when the rebellion first broke out she thought about sending her children away to relatives in another city so that she could carry out whatever tasks the rebels asked of her.
Even more widespread was the anger about the government assaults against the Zapatistas and against the indigenous communities. A young social worker told about the cold-blooded killing of indigenous people on highways around the city. And she was especially angry when she spoke of the bombings of little-known Tzotzil Indian villages in the hills around the city. People bitterly talked about hearing explosions and looking out the window of their homes as explosions lit up the night over the distant hills--while government spokespeople denied that there was any bombing going on.
One of the areas bombed was a settlement known as El Corralito and the neighboring town of San Antonio de los Baños. I was told that these two towns were not only bombed but had been invaded by the military in early January as government soldiers pursued the indigenous rebels up into the hills and punished the peasant communities sympathetic to the Zapatistas. I also learned that these two towns had recently been the scene of military maneuvers.
Corralito and San Antonio were very difficult to find. Many had heard of them but few knew exactly where they were. It took a long time and lot of questions down at the market and on the colectivo taxi lines before someone could finally tell us how to reach the general area the towns were in. After a short microbus ride that ended at the foot of a small mountain just beyond the city, we were told to keep heading straight up until we couldn't go any further.
After two hours we finally reached the top of the mountain and the end of that part of the path. We walked a little while longer on a rocky but flat footpath that ran along the crest of the mountain. When we reached the end of this path we were standing over a valley stuffed in between the mountain we were standing on and an equally large one on the other side. From our standpoint we could make out a few fields, a big church or school-type building and a handful of other shelters--some made of cinderblocks and others made of adobe bricks, sticks and mud.
When we reached the town there was an overpowering silence. A couple of women with some very young children were washing cloths in the yard of the official-looking building. They disappeared before we could talk with them. Every other building in the area was empty. Farm implements lay scattered in the dusty yards. There were no animals anywhere except for one lone horse who let out a loud whinny and ran out across the road as we approached one of the buildings.
On the way out of town we met a young woman headed towards Corralito to get some water. She had a worn-out old burro and two young children to help her carry the water back to her home. She told us that after the bombing and the army raids all of the people in Corralito and many of the people in San Antonio Los Banos had left. The young woman said that many people had just gone off into the forest and the mountains. But she also told us that we might be able to find some people at one of the refugee centers that had been set up in San Cristóbal.
Two days later I visited one of these centers. The man who greeted us as we entered the center explained the situation. "People say the Zapatistas were in all these hills around here. The army went after them. The helicopters came in first with machine guns. They strafed. Then airplanes came in with rockets and bombs. Then the army went up--kicked in doors, stole things, stole six to nine thousand dollars of goods from the cooperative store. Civilians were taken, thrown in jail in Tuxtla and tortured. People have to be very careful. Speak out and the next day you are gone."
Later I ran into a man from Corralito on the basketball court. When I arrived he was deep into a basketball game with a dozen or so friends. At first he did not want to speak. And when he found out that I was from the U.S. he got openly hostile and outright refused to talk. He wanted to know why he should speak with me. He talked about the Mexican army using U.S. helicopters to strafe his village. He said that he had a run-in with the Mexican army during the attack on this town and that one of the soldiers told him that the U.S. was on the side of the Mexican army and would definitely support the army when it killed the indigenous campesinos. I struggled to explain to the man that his views about the U.S. were true, but that I was someone who did not support the U.S. government or the Mexican government. Only when he was satisfied that I supported the people of Chiapas who rose up in rebellion did he agree to tell his story and he introduced me to two people standing on the sidelines. They told me their story of Corralito and San Antonio.
The older of the two went first. "It started on the 4th of January. It was a Tuesday and about 6 p.m. they started the bombing. Some of us were working here in the city and we saw it. We didn't know who it was up there in the mountains but we saw that it was something. We were here in the city and we saw that they were bombing. And we thought when we got home there wouldn't be anything left alive. But fortunately nobody in the family died. That's all I saw.
"It's calm up there now. There's no one there now. But in January, around January 6th it was very very difficult. When we got home there was nobody left. The army was there at night. But at least the bombing didn't hit us. We were lucky in that respect. On Tuesday the army didn't do anything to us. But on the 6th something happened to us, they threatened us and said they were going to kill us. They threatened me. They said, `Well, it would be better just to kill you right now.' They were going to hang me from a branch. But it turned out that wasn't my fate. They didn't do it and they let me go.
"They found a compañera at home, and they threw out everything she had--corn, beans. They broke all of their eggs. The soldiers just threw it all out. They broke our dishes, trays, everything we have to eat with, they just threw it all out. They broke up our house, and threw out a lot of corn, a lot of beans. They let some animals loose. They didn't find very many people. They only found a few of us up there."
We were walking down a rural road in an area about 30 km from San Cristóbal. The day was crisp and the sky was huge and blue. We were looking for a couple of land seizure sites on the outskirts of the main town in the area. As we walked, one of the old microbuses running between San Cristóbal and this area jammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road. A young indigenous man carrying a large plastic container of oil he had purchased in San Cristóbal jumped off the bus and began walking into the woods. We caught up with him just as the path into the woods turned a bend and the highway disappeared.
We were looking for direction to the land seizures. The young man explained that he was new to the area himself. In fact, he said that he was just now trying to build himself a shelter and get some land ready for planting in a brand new settlement, deeper in the woods. The other people in this new town had come from other small towns throughout the hills. Many of them had been driven out of their towns as a result of religious and political persecutions. He said that he had come from Corralito because he needed land of his own to farm and there was none in Corralito. The land situation in this new settlement was only slightly better as each peasant had a lot about 20 by 30 meters. And would be only a temporary remedy as each succeeding generation would--like generations of campesinos before them--end up dividing up the land plots among themselves until there is no more to divide.
Within a few minutes we sat down on an old log while he talked about what had happened in Corralito. "I was born in the ranchería El Corralito. People aren't there anymore because it was rough--that was when there was the confrontation. It's that the 31st Military Zone is very close by. And so when the problem began, a group of the Zapatista Army went to the community to hide out in the rocks there. And what happened is that part of the Mexican army went up there to attack the Zapatistas. So since the Zapatistas were already there hiding, when the military arrived, they started shooting at each other. This was about 2:30 in the afternoon when the shooting started on the ground. And an hour later the airplanes started bombing. And then the airplanes didn't stop until it began to get dark. The shooting on the ground went on all night. They bombed the houses and the hills, everything. They even killed some animals in the fields. There are some houses that burned up from the bombing.
"Some people were arrested. Among them was my uncle. He was arrested and he was inside his house! There were two people inside and they were arrested. He was taken away and they wanted information from him. They were threatening him and beating him. First they took him to the Palacio [city hall] in San Cristóbal. He was there for four days without being given anything to eat or drink. And then they took him to Tuxtla Gutierrez. There they were asking him questions and trying to get information. But then they let him go. Some people from Human Rights came and got him out.
"In Corralito there have been incidents. For years now they have been mistreating the peasants. There was a time when things were very rough and the army came in. I don't know exactly when it was, but two soldiers were killed around the ranchería San Isidro. Two soldiers were killed because they were mistreating the peasants. But then the government treated people even worse. They tortured 10 people, and people abandoned their houses, they don't live in their houses any more, because the army has surrounded them. They couldn't go to work, they couldn't do anything.
"The judiciales [federal judicial police] come in and arrest people. There was also a time, I heard, when six judiciales came in right here. They were looking for people who were working cutting wood. They wanted to take them off to jail. But they couldn't do it because people here were getting together to defend themselves. And those six judiciales were themselves arrested by the people in the community. The people had them here for about a month, until they let them go when the government signed a paper allowing the peasants to work a little. That's what happened. Practically everyone thinks that the government is acting very badly. Practically everyone says that the governments are oppressors--oppressing the people.
"I don't really understand why, but there's people that do understand why life is so hard and they have begun to struggle to get their land so that they can work it. This is related to the conflict that began this year. People began to struggle, to look for a way to work and to eat. We don't really know if that struggle is going to be resolved or not. We don't know how it is going to turn out. I think it was just."
Dispossession, outright theft and all the workings of imperialist domination have produced an aching land hunger among many generations of campesinos. In Mexico, the land issue presents itself in a variety of forms--from serf-like conditions among indigenous campesinos on the edge of the Lacandón jungle and share-cropping in the "tierra caliente"--hot lands--to the ejido system of land tenure practiced throughout Mexico. This is the system of communal lands worked by the peasants where the state is the landlord and dominates the peasants through the agricultural banks, control of seed and fertilizer, and its political bosses caciques and guns. Now, with the passage of the NAFTA treaty and a new article in the constitution passed by the Salinas government, the best ejido lands will be taken away from the peasants and turned over to international agribusiness, the big Mexican capitalists, landlords and political bosses.
On our way up to Corralito we met a young indigenous campesino whose story began to paint a picture of peasant life in Chiapas and the place of land in it. We had stopped to rest about midway up the mountain. As we sat there a young man carrying a load of soap, salt and oil hanging from a strap wrapped around his head also sat down to rest. We exchanged greetings and he said he was headed up the mountain to his home. He was 25 and had been born in Corralito. He said his family grew corn and beans but that his land was only a small patch left to him by his father--only about 40 meters square. There was no water in his town, just an "hoyo," a large hole in the ground like a well. When it rains the people in the town try to gather the water up and store it for future use. There is no doctor in the town and the local school only runs up to the sixth grade when the children quit to work in the milpa--the family cornfield.
The young campesino shook his head as he told me that he had six children and that he can only grow enough to feed his family. When he is able to buy some fertilizer and if the weather is good--if there is enough rain--then he can produce enough crop to sell a little bit to give his family the money they need to purchase supplies and medicine. He turned his head to look off into the hills as he softly explained that many years the weather is not good, there is not enough rain and no water so he is lucky to grow enough to just feed his family.
As we spoke, an old woman carrying a load of firewood in a basket hung back from her forehead stumbled down the path toward the city. The old woman's load was bigger that she was. Her bare feet were gnarled from decades of making her way up and down this rocky path. Her back was bent as she struggled to make it past us. The weight on her back was so heavy it was impossible for her to do anything other than exhale a few sounds asking us to clear the path.
Back in Los Angeles, I had heard the Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta explain how U.S. imperialism dominates and twists the economy of Mexico. I had listened to him describe how the chains of imperialism stretch from the financial centers of the United States to the banks and stock exchanges of Mexico City, with their modern telecommunications, to the jungles of Chiapas--creating a situation where the peasants are kept in poverty as a necessary condition for the so-called modernization of the country. I had heard him discuss the three mountains--of imperialism, semi-feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism--that oppress the Mexican people. But there on that hillside, as we stepped aside to make way for the old woman and her load, I had a new appreciation of the problem. And as I continued to talk with campesinos in the area, a very concrete picture emerged as to the necessity for any serious revolutionary movement to decisively confront these "three mountains."
When the old woman disappeared beyond a bend in the path the young campesino continued to speak. He had been speaking about the struggle to make his land produce enough to survive on. But now he went on to explain that it is not enough to just grow enough food to eat. He talked about the need to buy all of the other basic necessities of life and how that means that he and other people in his town have to leave the land every now and then and find different ways to make some money. And this is extremely important in the years when the harvest from the land is not so good.
His main experience was renting land from big landowners in the hot lowland areas. And as he unfolded his story there was a pressing sense of being trapped, of no way out no matter what you did.
"So you go to work. You bring in the harvest and you keep working--harvest the corn, break up the dead stalks, sow the fields, clear and glean the fields. The land we go to rent is far away. In the hot land, near Parral and Revolución, that's where we go to rent. What happens is that the owner of the land gets an `arriendo,' we pay him with corn. No money, he only wants corn. If we plant one `tablón' (one liter of seed), we pay 4 `panedas.' If we plant one `tablón' we'll harvest 40 `lonas' (the same as a costal, a large cloth sack used to transport goods, that holds about 10 to 15 kilos). And so once we've paid that, there's only a little bit left for us to feed ourselves with. We bring it here so we can eat with the family.
"Then for 40 lonas from one hectare, the owner is going to get 10 lonas for the rent. So the corn stays there. We bring some home but just a little. So if you take home 30 lonas, it is good; you have enough to eat all year long. But where we suffer is because we don't have any money. We don't have any money and we have to pay for transportation and cargo. And if we sell the corn, then we don't have anything to eat. So we are suffering."
The man explained that there are some other ways people supplement their farming and try to eke out a survival in the hills. He said that some people go down to find work with the government and other contractors in San Cristóbal. "We go down to work here and the government and the contratistas [contractors] don't pay us very well. Sometimes we earn 15 pesos a day, but other times only 10 [approximately $3 to $5 a day]. So that's why it is no good, people want the situation to be settled so that we get paid a little more. But the government and the contratistas don't pay more. We go to work with them, but only out of necessity. We work as peones, but only in July and August. By April 1st, we can't go down anymore because we have work to do amongst ourselves. We have to plant the milpa because in June the rains will be coming. And we have to clean the corn, maybe four or five times. We're too busy then, we can only go to work for short periods of time."
"People gather firewood. We don't have soap to wash with. There's no more sugar to put in the coffee, there's no more salt. We have to buy it. That's why we collect firewood--to make charcoal [to sell]. You cut down two or three of these little trees. Then you have to bury them underground and we set fire to it inside and it burns. We do this out of necessity. Because if we don't make charcoal, if we don't cut firewood, there won't be any money. There won't be anything to buy soap with, there won't be anything. So we can buy soap, sugar, salt. But the caciques--[political bosses and officials tied in with the ruling PRI party and controlling a lot of the local peasant-based economies in the villages and rural areas]-- don't let you sell here. Sometimes they'll take you away, beat you and put you in jail. That's why people are suffering.
"If they see you cutting wood for firewood or charcoal, that's it, they'll take you to jail. They'll be sitting down to their nice dinner, and we'll be in jail. That's how it is. There's problems. When you ask for land, the government just sends in its army, its airplanes, all that. The government doesn't respect us. That's the situation. The government, when it sees us, only sees an animal. They kill you. They beat you, they mistreat you. That's how it is with campesinos. They don't respect you."
More than 80 years ago, the Mexican Revolution, led by Emiliano Zapata, rallied millions of peasants and others throughout Mexico around the demands for land and liberty. When the Mexican revolution ended, land reform was supposed to be the centerpiece of the new political regime. In many places, including Chiapas, the local landowners and political bosses straight up refused to implement the land reforms, and, when pressed to implement some, figured out all kinds of schemes to avoid even the pretense of land reform. And when that failed to resolve the matter, brutal death-squad-type groups financed and controlled by the landowners, cattle ranchers and political bosses waged brutal wars against the peasants. Furthermore, the reforms coming out of the revolution--like the ejido system--became the main way that the semi-feudal oppression of the campesinos has been perpetuated throughout the country. Because the Mexican economy is dominated by imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism, the oppression of the peasants by the landlords has not disappeared but has only taken new forms--more and more influenced by the needs and standards of capitalism and imperialism. All of this has kept an angry fire smoldering in the Mexican countryside, a fire that every now and then bursts into intense flames.
It was a hot afternoon as we stood in the zócalo of a small rural town. I was struggling with some local youth over the significance of the rebellion. They were young and only marginally connected to the land through their families. Most of them were working in the town. They were full of illusions about the possibility of the government resolving the land issue and making life better for the peasants. At one point I asked the youth to tell me how they thought the campesinos' need for land could be met and how the peasants' life could be made better. Before any of the youth could answer, a voice spoke up from the sidelines--just loud enough to be heard--"Más guerra!" ("More war!").
I turned to see a man smiling at me and I joined him on the other side of the zócalo for a brief conversation.
"The uprising was good because the government does this stuff all the time. The government never gives us anything. They say they're going to build us highways and things like that, but they don't do it. My feeling is that when the new government came in, the Salinas government, they told people that they were going to give us corn and chickens, but when we got to the market we found that we had to pay for it."
The man explained that he was from an ejido in another part of the area. He spoke sharply about the experiences that led him to believe that only war could help the peasants really change things. "We have about 500-600 hectares of land for about 200 people, so it's about two or three hectares for each person. And it's poor land. It's hills, it's not flat land. You can't use a tractor or anything like that. You just work by hand, with a hoe, bug bombs and so on. The land has been in the family for a long time. We just grow corn and beans, only enough for the family. There's hardly anything left to take to the granaries. It's poor land so there is only enough for four to five people.
"There's a lot of times we go off with a little bread, a piece of pork, some chicken, or sometimes a little beef. We go hungry a lot of the time. If it weren't for the efforts of the heads of the family in raising some little animals we wouldn't have any clothes or anything. It's our own effort."
The man had come to town with a truck full of friends from the ejido. They were getting ready to leave and wanted him to hurry. But before he left he wanted to comment on the idea that the government would or could help the peasants. "They should give us the land! We have to work. How many candidates that want to be president, senator, they come here. But once they sit down and put on their tie, it's like `No Peasants Allowed.' When we go to see the judge they put us down at the bottom of the list. Sometimes what happens in my area is that they say they're gonna do this and they're gonna do that and when it is time for them to leave office, there's nothing but a basketball court that's been put up. That's it! That's really abuse!"
Today the "land question" is the cutting-edge issue for the campesinos--this is the question on everyone's mind. And the fact that the Zapatistas once again raised the cry for land in the rebellion they launched brought them almost instant support among the poor and even some of the slightly better-off peasants throughout the countryside of Chiapas. The peasants have watched the land they work disappear as the same little patch is divided and subdivided again and again for each new generation. They have seen it taken away through legal tricks and through outright murdering terror. They have seen the results of the decades of futile talks and promises from the government. And now they see the regime revamping its own constitution in order to again promote the theft and dispossession of the campesinos' land. They are tired of waiting--a storm is brewing. In the weeks to come this was the theme we kept coming back to--it wired everything together.
TO BE CONTINUED