Chapter Ten – Postmodern, Postcolonial Revolution

Notes on the Zapatistas

Zapatista: Peace with Dignity and Respect

For Everybody, Everything For Us, Nothing

January 1, 1994

  • After 10 years of organizing underground, the Zapatistas took over several towns in Chiapas,, including San Cristobal de Las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Huixtán, Oschuc, Rancho Nuevo, Altamirano and Chanal.
  • They liberated prisoners and set fire to police station and army garrisons
  • The insurrection was scheduled for January 1, 1994, the day that the NAFTA (free) trade agreements came into effect
  • Sent emails to almost every progressive activist in the world. Key to avoid heavier repression

January 2-12, 1994

  • The National Army moves in with helicopters and heavy artillery
  • The Zapatistas retreat to the jungle and suffer heavy loses
  • Liberation Theology Bishop, Samuel Ruiz, negotiates a cease fire
  • Zapatistas retain liberated land


  • The army breaks the cease fire and attacks the Zapatista villages
  • Villages were abandoned and people moved into the jungle
  • Military could not seize main leaders
  • EZLN intensifies international campaign and starts organizing Encuentros in the Jungle (PGA)


  • Zapatistas implement 32 autonomous zones within Chiapas, with no government support and some international NGO support
  • Zapatistas write The 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, calling for a broad global coalition, to the left and from the ground up

Chiapas in Context

  • Largest indigenous population in Mexico
  • High rates of congenital malnutrition, and infant and adult mortality
  • High rate of illiteracy
  • Life expectancy in indigenous communities 44 years (vs. National Average of 70)
  • 159 babies die over 1,000 in Chiapas (vs. Mexico: 45/1000)
  • Half of the population malnourished, girls more affected

Autonomist Movements Not Aimed at State Power

  • The state abandoned indigenous people. In return, indigenous people abandoned the state
  • Indigenous people created autonomous communities through self-governance and popular participation
  • Lead by Obeying
  • Slave/master challenged. Perspectivism upheld (long decision-making process with the whole community)

First Postmodern, Postcolonial Revolution

  • Marxism meets the “overperson” (Nietzsche)
  • Indigenous people hold a community-oriented subjectivity (identity)
  • Result of the symbiosis of indigenous cultures and Postcultural Marxist praxis
  • Post-structural Marxism is about “overdetermination” and diversity (adaptation of Marx)
  • A diversity of ways of being in the world

Liberation Theology

  • Bartolomé de Las Casas
  • Liberation Theology

Zapatistas, Solidarity and the Economy: Surplus Value Stays in the Community

Mural on a wall that says Cooperativas Autonomas Zapatistas. The mural consists of members of the EZLN with ski masks in a boat-like structure with unmasked women and children
A mural in a cooperative business and community space owned by the Zapatista community.
  • Co-created the Anti-Corporate Globalization Movement
  • Support of Western Activists against state repression
  • Zapatista workshops outside of capitalist relations of production
  • Support for the solidarity economy projects




Important Concepts

  • Walking Questioning – answers reproduce power domination
  • From the grass up and to the left
  • Alliances with all oppressed by “bad government”

Women’s Revolutionary Law (1994) – Individual/Collective Tensions

6 women of the Zapatistas in full uniforms raise their right fists.
Mujeres Zapatista
  • Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  • Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  • Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  • Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  • Women and their children have the right to healthcare and nutrition.
  • Women have the right to an education.
  • Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  • Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.

Juntas of Good Government: Chiapas Today

  • Members of the government belong to the indigenous communities, campesinos, who toil the land
  • They rotate every two weeks
  • Men and women are part of it
  • Established to diminish the EZLN army’s power and to better distribute and organize international aid
  • They drink Coca-Cola (oh, no!)
  • Still the object of aggressions by government agents and by paramilitary. A teacher was killed when defending a Zapatista school in 2014.
Poster with photograph of members of the Zapatistas marching and text overlaid that says "¡Alto! a las agresiones contra las comunidades zapatistas"
Translation: “Stop the aggression against the Zapatista community”.

Part Eleven Video Lecture


“The Zapatista Uprising (20 Years Later)” by Vice.


Women Revolutionary Law

“EZLN Women Revolutionary Law” by thalisal


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