After years of silence, secluded in their base communities in Mexico’s impoverished south, indigenous Zapatista rebels have re-emerged with a series of public statements in recent weeks, attempting to reignite passions for their demands of “land, liberty, work and peace”.
In December, 40,000 Zapatista supporters marched through villages in Chiapas, re-asserting their presence. In January and February, Subcomandate Marcos - the Zapatistas’ pipe-smoking, non-indigenous spokesman and an international media darling - issued a series of communiques slamming the government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which assumed power in December.
“Our pains won’t be lessened by opening ourselves up to those that hurt all over the world,” Marcos wrote in late January, rallying supporters. “We will resist. We will struggle. Maybe we’ll die. But one, ten, one hundred times, we’ll always win.”
The group first made international headlines on January 1, 1994, when they captured six towns in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state and one of the country’s poorest regions.
The Rand Corporation, a research group with links to the US military, said Chiapas is “characterised by tremendous age-old gaps between the wealthy and impoverished - kept wide by privileged landowners who ran feudal fiefdoms with private armies”.
For nearly two decades, the Zapatistas have attempted to build a system of autonomous governance, emphasising indigenous dignity and collective agriculture. Indigenous members of the group could not be reached by Al Jazeera for comment, due in part to a lack of easy phone access.
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