The Zapatista Revolt Against NeoLiberalism
In the 1630’s Mayans living in the northern part of Guatemala organized in a secretive village-by-village basis and mounted an attack against the Spanish colonial rule. They drove the Colonizers out of the area and it took almost fifty years for the Spanish to reclaim it [i] . Over 350 years later the Mexican government woke up on January 1st 1994 to news of an indigenous guerilla uprising in the southern part of Mexico. Mayans had been secretly organizing, much in the same way as the 1630 revolt, and had formed the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). This new Zapatista movement took its name from Emilio Zapata, a famous champion of indigenous rights. On January first, the day of NAFTA’s implementation, the EZLN rose up and captured the city of San Cristbal de las Casas and several villages in the surrounding area. In the span of eleven days they were able to take hold of more land than many other guerrilla movements, such as the FMLN in El Salvador, had done in years.
However, the Zapatista’s did not act like most other guerilla movements. They were not interested in seizing state power nor did their revolt take on ethnic tones. Instead they claimed to be fighting for freedom, democracy and autonomy. The communities it works for democratically controlled the army itself. The attack occurred because the communities it serves decided it should happen. Soon after the seizure of the villages in Chiapas the Zapatistas decided to stop attacking and instead go into negotiations with the government. On the Zapatistas side open conflict only lasted 12 days [ii] , though the government has broken the peace several times. So the question is why did this revolt occur and what is the movement about? This paper hopes to examine the reasons for the Zapatista revolt. It will examine globalization and neoimperialism, specifically between the United States and Mexico. It will then analyze the Zapatista rebellion as a revolt against the neoliberalist order and examine its effectiveness.
In a general since the Zapatista rebellion has roots in 500 years of imperialism and destruction of indigenous peoples in Mexico. Since the Spanish first arrived to the present day, the situation for the Mexican Indians has been getting worse. However, there is a reason the uprising occurred when it did and that has to do with increasing domination of global corporate capitalism and the neoliberalist system. The Zapatista uprising, on new years day, was set to coincide with the implementation of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Zapatistas declared that NAFTA was the death sentence for the indigenous people of Mexico and cried out “Ya Basta!” or enough is enough [iii] . The “free trade” policies enacted by President Carlos in order to help clear the way for NAFTA had already reduced 40% of the purchasing power of the Mexican poor [iv] . Undoubtedly, without the uprising many of the native people would...