"We have nothing to lose, absolutely nothing, no decent roof over our heads, no land, no work, poor health, no food, no education, no right to freely and democratically choose our leaders, no independence from foreign interests, and no justice for ourselves or our children. But we say enough is enough! We are the descendants of those who truly built this nation, we are the millions of dispossessed, and we call upon all of our brethren to join our crusade, the only option to avoid dying of starvation!"
- Zapatistas (EZLN) Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas, 1993
On New Years Eve 1993, the Chiapas Mayan Highlanders said “enough is enough!”: no longer willing to tolerate 500 years of foreign and domestic conquest over our land, people, community, and way of life. Theirs is an ongoing story of self-determination in the face of neoliberalism, modernity, and the modern nation-state. As Howard Zinn writes, "The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas was certainly one of the most dramatic and important instances in our time of a genuine grassroots movement against oppression.”
In progressive international circles, the Zapatistas are a household name, their continuous call to resistance and creation of five caracols—self governed autonomous municipalities not under control of the Mexican state since the 1994 uprising—serve as a most contemporary model of resistance in the face of globalization. They beg us to consider: Will we too demand to live differently, not governed by the pace of modernity or the philosophy of capital? Will we not fight for a world centered around relationships, mutuality, collective governance instead of capital, industry, production, and corrupt “democracy”? Subcomandante Marcos has said it best, “We want a world where other worlds are possible.”
From December 31, 2012, to January 9, 2013, we, two CIIS faculty, Charlotte Saenz and Sonya Shah, will travel with a group of graduate and undergraduate students to Chiapas, Mexico, to explore, on the ground, the way in which contemporary Zapatismo (the emergent philosophy of the Zapatistas) is lived. This trip is not a tourist trip but a learning journey. Meaning we are students of life, engaging other worlds by understanding the unique history and context of the Zapatistas, walking with (as opposed to in front of) another world in order to learn from it and participate in our intertwined liberation. We will hopefully walk into “another world” with respect, humility, collectivity, and the ability to hold multiple world views above individualism, judgment, and a singular world view.
In our morning sessions, students will visit several autonomous centers of integral learning and healing, community arts, popular theater, women's crafts cooperatives, and local NGOs doing human rights observation, ecological monitoring, accompaniment, and research in and around San Cristobol de las Casas, living and working with the principles of Zapatismo. A visit to a Zapatista Caracol might also be possible, but depends on the current political situation.
In the afternoon, we will spend time for deeper reflection and study, trace the development of the different ideas, symbols, methodologies, and communications that have brought worldwide attention to this other ways of seeing, being, and doing that can help us out of our numerous global crises and work more effectively towards our intertwined liberation. In addition, we will consider how to take back what we've learned. What lessons can Zapastismo teach us that we can apply in our own back yard? What worlds are possible in our own locale? What are we willing to do to create those worlds?
We will be based out of the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, also known as Jovel, meaning “place in the clouds” in Tzotzil, one of the main Mayan languages spoken in the area. Founded in 1528, and former capital of the state of Chiapas until 1892, it is named both after Columbus and in honor of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas. San Cristóbal is nestled in the highlands at an altitude of 2,200 meters. We will make a trip or two to nearby, outlying villages and possibly also to nearby autonomous communities (conditions permitting).
Knowledge of Spanish is not a requirement, as a translator will be present. If you are a current or incoming undergraduate or graduate CIIS student, we invite you to join us on this life-changing learning journey.