Original in Spanish

Reading a Video

Part Three: Three Shoulders

The moon appeared on the shoulder of the night, but for barely a moment. The clouds separated, like curtains being drawn apart, and then the nocturnal body flaunted its tracing of light. Yes, like the mark a tooth leaves on the shoulder when, in the flight of desire, you don't know whether you're falling or rising.

Twenty years ago, after struggling up the first hill in order to go into the mountains of the Mexican southeast, I sat down at a bend in the road. The hour? I don't remember exactly, but it was when the night says it was already-full-of-crickets-I'd better-get-to-sleep, and the sun won't get anyone up. It was the dawn.

While I tried to calm down my breathing and my racing heart, I thought about the advisability of choosing a more serene profession. After all, these mountains had done quite well without me before I'd arrived, and they wouldn't miss me.

I should say that I did not light my pipe. In fact, I didn't even move. And not out of military discipline, but because my entire, at that time splendid, body was hurting. Beginning a custom which I have maintained (with rigid self-discipline) up to the present time, I began cursing my flair for getting myself into problems.

That's what I was doing - the sport of gripe-gripe-gripe - when I saw a gentleman with a sack of maize on his back, going up the hill. They had taken the load away from me half way up the hill so the march wouldn't be held up. But it was life that was weighing me down, not the pack. Anyway, I don't know how long I was sitting there, but after a while the gentleman passed by again, going downhill now, and now without his burden. But the gentleman was still walking hunched over. "Chin!" I thought (which was the only thing I could do without hurting all over), "that's how I'm going to get with time, my manly demeanor is going to be destroyed, and my future as a sex symbol will be like the elections, a fraud."

And, sure enough, in a few months I was already walking like a question mark. But not because of the weight of the pack, but so I wouldn't catch my nose in the branches and the vines.

About a year later I met Old Antonio. I went to his hut one dawn to pick up tostadas and pinole. At that time we weren't showing ourselves to the people, and only a few indigenous knew about us. Old Antonio offered to accompany us to the camp, and so he divided up the load into two sacks, and attached the headband to his. I put the bag in my pack because I don't have anything to do with the headband. We made the trek with the flashlight until we reached the edge of the dirt path, where the trees began. We stopped in front of a stream, waiting for dawn to break.

I don't quite remember how it came up in our talk, but Old Antonio explained to me that the indigenous always walk as if they were hunched over, even if they aren't carrying anything, because they carry the good of the other on their shoulders.

I asked how that was, and Old Antonio told me that the first gods, the ones who gave birth to the world, made the men and women of maize in such a way that they always walked collectively. And he told me that walking collectively also meant thinking about the other, about the compañero. "That is why the indigenous walk bent over," Old Antonio said, "because they are carrying on their shoulders their hearts and the hearts of everyone."

I thought then that two shoulders wouldn't be enough for that weight.

Time passed, and, with it, passed what passed. We did not prepare for battle, and our first defeat was in the face of these indigenous. They and we walked bent over, but we did so because of the weight of pride, and they because they were also carrying us (although we didn't realize it). Then we became them, and they became us. We began to walk together, bent over, but all of us knowing that two shoulders were not enough for that weight. And so we rose up in arms one first day of January in the year of 1994...in order to seek another shoulder which would help us walk, that is, to exist.

The Third Shoulder

As with the origin of the Mexican nation, the contemporary history of the zapatista indigenous communities also has its founding legend: those who inhabit these lands now have three shoulders.

To the two shoulders that the usual human beings have, the zapatistas have added a third: that of the national and international "civil societies."

In one of the subsequent parts of this "odd" video, I will be speaking of the progress that has been achieved for the zapatista communities. Then it will be seen that it is great, greater than even we had dreamed.

But now I want to tell you that this has been possible because "someone" gave us their shoulder.

We believe that we have been fortunate. From its beginnings, our movement has had the support and kindness of hundreds of thousands of persons on the five continents. This kindness and this support has not been withdrawn, even in the face of personal limitations, of distances, of differences of culture and language, borders and passports, of differences in political concepts, of the obstacles put up by the federal and state governments, the military checkpoints, harassment and attacks, of the threats and attacks by paramilitary groups, of our mistrust, our lack of understanding of the other, of our clumsiness.

No, in spite of all of that (and of many other things which everyone knows) the "civil societies" of Mexico and the world have worked because of, for and with us.

And they have done so not out of charity, nor out of pity, nor out of political fashion, nor out of a desire for publicity, but because they have, in one way or another, embraced a cause which is still, for us, great: the building of a world where all worlds fit, a world, that is, which carries the hearts of everyone.

In one year, persons and organizations from at least 43 countries, including ours, which is Mexico, from the most unexpected corners of Mexico and of the world, from the small islands which remain in spite of the neoliberal hurricane, came to visit the caracoles and to speak with the Good Government Juntas (whether about projects, donations, explanations, or simply to learn about the process of building autonomy).

Men and women, as individuals and with organizations, from Spain, Germany, the Basque Country, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Scotland, the United States, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Australia, Argentina, France, Canada, Poland, Sweden, Holland, Norway, Brazil, Guatemala, Turkey, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru, Greece, Portugal, Japan, Northern Africa (that's what the report said, I don't know which exact country), Nicaragua, England, Uruguay, Bolivia, Austria, New Zealand, Israel, Iran, the Czech Republic and from all the states in the Mexican Republic. All of them have put their shoulders next to the communities' two shoulders in order to begin to radically change the living conditions of the zapatista indigenous.

And so in one year there have come to the caracoles and to the Good Government Juntas (JBGs) - (sometimes with economic projects, sometimes with donations, sometimes to listen attentively and respectfully, sometimes with the brotherly word, sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with scientific zeal, and sometimes with the desire to solve problems through respectful dialogue and agreements between equals) - thousands of persons as individuals, as social organizations, as non-governmental organizations, as humanitarian aid organizations, as human rights defense organizations, as cooperatives, as municipal officials from other states in Mexico and from other parts of the world, as diplomatic corps from other nations, as scientific investigators, as artists, as musicians, as housewives and "househusbands," as sex workers, as market tenants, as street sellers, as football players, as students, as teachers, as doctors, as nurses, as businesspersons, as contractors, as state officials, and as many other things.

In Oventic alone, the caracol reported that in one year they had dealt with 2921 persons from other countries and with 1537 from Mexico, without counting the zapatista support base compañeros and compañeras who go to the juntas to deal with various problems.

The third shoulder of the zapatista struggle has many colors, it speaks many languages, sees with many looks, and walks with many others.

We are speaking to them, and we want, in addition to thanking them, to give them...

The Accounts

Good, the hour of the accounts. I beg for your tolerance, because it has fallen to me to review the accounts of all the juntas, in order to draw up a kind of report, and each one has their "way" of deciding what to put in the plus column and what to put in the minus column. Anyway, it hasn't been easy, but the details can be consulted in each caracol as of this September 16.

Collectively, the five Good Government Juntas which are functioning in zapatista territory reported income of almost 12 and a half million pesos, expenditures of close to 10 million and a balance of about 2 and a half million.

In each case there are considerable differences in the accounts managed by the JBGs. This is because some of the juntas report all the money they know about, that is, they include in the accounting what they receive directly and what the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ) receive with the approval of the Good Government Juntas. Other juntas report only what they manage directly, without including what the MAREZ receive.

There are also considerable differences in the JBGs' income. In some cases this is due to the fact that there are juntas (like the one in Los Altos and the Border Selva one) which cover a very large territory. In other cases, it is because their seats are more well known to "civil societies" (Oventic and La Realidad), and in others because the differences in organizational development throughout the regions are still quite marked.

Nonetheless, in approximate figures (and rounded off, because the compas report right down to the centavo), here is some of the data which has been reported by each of the juntas in one year of operation:

JBG Annual Income Annual Expenditures
R. Barrios 1,600,000 pesos 1,000,000 pesos
Morelia 1,050,000 pesos 900,000 pesos
La Garrucha 600,000 pesos 300,000 pesos
Oventic 4,500,000 pesos 3,500,000 pesos
Realidad 5,000,000 pesos 4,000,000 pesos

What is done with this money? Well, the part will be coming which gets to that part. For now, let me just say that none of it was for anyone's individual benefit.

The personal needs of the autonomous authorities who rotate in to lead the Good Government Juntas are supported, for the days they are serving in the caracoles, through contributions from the villages or with support from the EZLN. The average daily expenses (without counting transportation from his community to the caracol and his return) for a member of La Garrucha junta, for example, is less than eight pesos (other places it goes a bit higher). In the case of Oventic, it's zero pesetas, because the authorities carry their own tostadas, their beans and their coffee, if they have it (if not, then it's zacate tea).

Compare this, in Mexico for example, with what the director of the IMSS earns (who charges for dismantling the achievements of the workers of that institute), or for example with what a few towels cost in our country's presidential residence, or for example with what's paid for some mattresses in the home of a Fox government official abroad, or with what a deputy or senator earns.

Obviously our authorities do not use bodyguards, nor do they pay advisors, nor do they buy new cars, nor do they eat in luxury restaurants, nor do they put their relatives on the payroll.

Or, to put it another way, governing does not have to be onerous.

The Shoulder of the Birthday Celebrant

Any mention of the "third shoulder" would not be complete without mentioning those who - even though silence might have suggested losing the way, internal fights, disappearance or the rumor that has become fashionable these days - have remained attentive and willing to try and understand what is being fought for here (and the means and times with which they fight).

Listening to what the other says and, above all, to what he does not say, is only possible among those who share the path and, by times, the burden.

And I am referring to those who, while certainly having more important things to do, find the time and the attentiveness necessary for listening and seeing those who are not generally heard or seen (or only when there are "important" events).

Those of whom I am speaking will be celebrating, just as I am, 20 years this September. I mentioned them only in passing in the first part, because to us they are not just a media. You'll know then that I am speaking and thinking about those who direct and work at the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

Like many men and women who support the struggle of the Indian peoples (and therefore the zapatistas), the "jornaleros" do not look at or listen to the zapatista peoples because it is fashionable or out of media considerations. Their path goes beyond that of just journalistic work. It has to do with what some call an "ethic of commitment," and it is in keeping with the desire for a real and just change, and not with the desire for economic and/or political gains. I do not want to be unfair, by saying that the "jornaleros" have been generous. On the contrary, I would say that they have been conscientious, and there are few, very few, people about whom one can say that and who have been so for 20 years.

I know that I'm getting ahead of myself, but it's almost certain that on that day, the birthday day, La Jornada will come out full of display ads congratulating them on their twentieth anniversary, and it will be hard to find room for the congratulations which we, the smallest of their brothers, are sending them.

That is why we are acting ahead of time, and, on this, your "non-birthday", we are sending all of you an embrace, just one, but one of those which can only be given between brothers, and which says things which cannot be said. My personal best wishes as well, in hopes of being able to give them personally (hopefully not post mortem) to each and every one of the jornaleras.

And, since "the early bird is worth a bird in the hand" (Isn't that how it goes? Pardon, the office incoherence is contagious), we ask for the same at the moment of cutting the cake which, no matter how large it may be, we know will never be the size of the heart which you carry.

In sum, a very happy birthday (don't have too many pints, because then things will happen which need honest listening and seeing).

And, to everyone, "civil societies", congratulations on the birthday of the caracoles and the Good Government Juntas. And thanks for the third shoulder.

Vale. Salud and, if the piñata has Bush's face, I'll ask for a go at it.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, August of 2004. 20 and 10.

P.S. My birthday will be light to moderate. There will be bitter pozol, and not because I like it, but because then the compas get to act dumb.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa