Zapatista Prospects in a Changed Environment
1994, from the depths of the jungle an ill-equipped army of indigenous farmers storms the state capital of Chiapas, Mexico demanding reform and a shift from neo-liberalist policy. 2002, fast-forward nearly nine years to present and the struggle of this rag-tag guerilla army continues, only the global and national environment has changed. With dramatic internal and external shifts, the hope of a resolution favoring these rebels representing the impoverished communities of southern Mexico has faded.
As Mexico tested the perilous waters of neo-liberalism, a group of revolutionary farm workers, calling themselves Zapatistas, after the legendary leader of the Mexican Revolution, prepared themselves to strike out against the injustices of the Mexican government. On New Years Day 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement was to be announced, they took control of the state capital of Chiapas sending a stark cry across the nation against forces of globalization. Their message resonated throughout the world, finding broad national and foreign support. The Zapatistas, under the leadership of the masked Subcomandante Marcos, positioned themselves so as to unveil the hidden side of Mexico to the world and force Mexico to face its harsh reality. Mexican leaders had worked diligently to create a guise of modernity, a picturesque vision of Mexico ready to be displayed on the world scene. As these leaders struggled to shed Mexico’s third world status, attempting to hide the impoverished, neglected, and largely indigenous populations from public view, they further suppressed those in need of the most attention. The Zapatistas’ reality check for Mexico sent ripples throughout the nation, weighing heavily on the nation’s conscience. Their eyes were opened to the truth that indigenous peoples are not merely Mexico’s ancestors, a part of the past, but their compatriots, their “paisanos,” and represent ten percent of the current population.(Boudreaux)
The Zapatistas were able to utilize their growing worldwide popularity to enter into negotiations with the Mexican government. After only a few months, they were able to put down their weapons. In 1996 they were able to negotiate a cease-fire agreement with then President Ernesto Zedillo. The agreement included a negotiated proposal for certain protections for indigenous communities. However, the proposal titled, the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, failed to be implemented as legislation. The revolutionary group endured the constant lip-service of the leadership and held firmly to its demands for the implementation of an indigenous rights law. The government made no moves to introduce legislation and the two groups remained at a prolonged deadlock in negotiations. Hope for the end to this stalemate and the successful implementation of the San Andres Accords was greatly bolstered by a dramatic change in the Mexican...