Subcomandante Marcos

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Subcomandante Marcos

Subcomandante Marcos (center, wearing brown cap) in Chiapas

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos,[1] or just Subcomandante Marcos, also known as Delegado Cero in matters concerning the Other Campaign, describes himself as the spokesman for the Mexican rebel movement, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). He is also an author, political poet, and outspoken opponent of globalization, capitalism and neo-liberalism. The internationally known guerrillero has been described as a "new"[2] and "postmodern"[3] Che Guevara. He has achieved "pop star"[4] status in Mexico.

The nom de guerre or nickname "Marcos" is the name of a friend and comrade killed at a military road checkpoint.[5] It is not, as presumed, an intentional nominal acrostic of the communities where the EZLN first rose in arms: Las Margaritas, Amatenango del Valle, La Realidad, Comitán, Ocosingo, and San Cristóbal.


[edit] Background

The Mexican government alleges Marcos to be one Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, of Tampico, Tamaulipas. Born in Mexico to Spanish immigrants, Guillén attended high school at Instituto Cultural Tampico, a Jesuit school in Tampico, where he presumably became acquainted with Liberation Theology.[6][7] Guillén later moved to Mexico City where he graduated from the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), then received a master's degree in philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and began work as a professor at the UAM, after which he left. While Marcos has always denied being Rafael Guillén, Guillén's family are unaware of what happened to him and they refuse to say if they think Marcos and Guillén are the same person or not. Guillén's family is deeply involved in Tamaulipas politics. Guillén's sister, Mercedes del Carmen Guillén Vicente, is the Attorney General of the State of Tamaulipas, and a very influential member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the party that governed Mexico for more than 70 years. During the Great March to Mexico City in 2001, Marcos visited the UNAM and during his speech he made clear that he had at least been there before.[8][9][10]

Like many of his generation, Guillén was radicalized by the events of 1968 and became a militant in a Maoist organization known as the National Liberation Forces. However, the encounter with the outlook of the indigenous peasants of Chiapas, the political struggles within the FLN, and out of the failure of the Chiapas uprising, he has embraced an approach to social revolution that has important parallels to the theories of Antonio Gramsci, which were popular in Mexico during his time at the university.

When asked about his first days in Chiapas in the documentary A Place Called Chiapas, Marcos said:

Imagine a person who comes from an urban culture. One of the world’s biggest cities, with a university education, accustomed to city life. It’s like landing on another planet. The language, the surroundings are new. You’re seen as an alien from outer space. Everything tells you: “Leave. This is a mistake. You don’t belong in this place.” And it’s said in a foreign tongue. But they let you know, the people, the way they act; the weather, the way it rains; the sunshine; the earth, the way it turns to mud; the diseases; the insects; homesickness. You’re being told. “You don’t belong here.” If that’s not a nightmare, what is?

Also in this documentary by Nettie Wild, one is allowed to listen to the powerful rhetoric of the Zapatistas. This is conducted in Spanish, not in Mayan languages. With only his eyes and pipe being visible he addresses the film maker: "It is our day, day of the dead". Marcos reveals the Zapatista belief that he is a dead-man and so are the Zapatistas

Much of his writings – articles, poems, speeches and letters – have been compiled into a book: Our Word is Our Weapon. In 2005 he wrote a novel called The Uncomfortable Dead, in conjunction with crime writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

[edit] Political and philosophical writings

From 1992 through 2006, Marcos wrote more than 200 essays and stories and published 21 books in a total of at least 33 editions, amply documenting his political and philosophical views (see Bibliography). The essays and stories are recycled in the books. Marcos tends to prefer indirect expression; his writings are often fables. Some, however, are earthy and direct. In a January 2003, letter to Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (the Basque ETA), titled "I shit on all the revolutionary vanguards of this planet," Marcos says "We teach [children of the EZLN] that there are so many words like colors and that there are so many thoughts because within them is the world where words are born...And we teach them to speak the truth, that is to say, to speak with their hearts."[11]

One of Marcos's most widely known books, La Historia de los Colores, is a story written for children. Based on a Mayan creation myth, it teaches tolerance and respect for diversity.[12] The book was to have been published in English translation with support from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, but in 1999 the Endowment abruptly cancelled its grant after questions to its chairman, William J. Ivey, from a newspaper reporter.[13][14] The Lannan Foundation stepped in with support after the NEA withdrew.[15]

Although Marcos's political philosophy has sometimes been characterized as "Marxist," his broadly populist writings concentrate on unjust treatment of people by both business and the State, giving Zapatista ideology a strong anarchist tinge. In a well known 1992 essay, Marcos begins each of his five "chapters" in a characteristic style of complaint:[16]

"This chapter tells how the supreme government was affected by the poverty of the Indigenous peoples of Chiapas and endowed the area with hotels, prisons, barracks, and a military airport. It also tells how the beast feeds on the blood of the people, as well as other miserable and unfortunate happenings...A handful of businesses, one of which is the Mexican State, takes all the wealth out of Chiapas and in exchange leave behind their mortal and pestilent mark."

"This chapter tells the story of the Governor, an apprentice to the viceroy, and his heroic fight against the progressive clergy and his adventures with the feudal cattle, coffee and business lords."

"This chapter tells how the viceroy had a brilliant idea and put this idea into practice. It also tells how the Empire decreed the death of socialism, and then put itself to the task of carrying out this decree to the great joy of the powerful, the distress of the weak and the indifference of the majority."

"This chapter tells how dignity and defiance joined hands in the Southeast, and how Jacinto Pe'rez's phantoms run through the Chiapaneco highlands. It also tells of a patience that has run out and of other happenings which have been ignored but have major consequences."

"This chapter tells how the dignity of the Indigenous people tried to make itself heard, but its voice only lasted a little while. It also tells how voices that spoke before are speaking again today and that the Indians are walking forward once again but this time with firm footsteps."

The elliptical, ironic and romantic style of Marcos's writings may be a way of keeping a distance from the painful circumstances that he reports and protests. In any event, his huge output of words has a purpose, as stated in a 2002 book title, Our Word is Our Weapon.[17][18]

[edit] The Other Campaign

In a widely noted article by Marcos, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) announced "La Otra Campaña" / "The Other Campaign" in June 2005, at the start of campaigns for the Mexican elections of 2006.[19] The EZLN does not intend to run or promote candidates. Instead it calls for a new constitution prohibiting privatization of public resources and providing autonomy for an estimated 57 indigenous populations. More than 900 organizations have joined The Other Campaign.[20] The Other Campaign also announced what could be a temporary reorganization of the EZLN, closing the caracoles / councils, urging international supporters to leave those areas, closing the EZLN information center in San Cristóbal de Las Casas and working in a "clandestine and nomadic manner."[21]

On January 1, 2006, Marcos began a tour of all 31 Mexican states. In an interview several years before, Marcos explained his attitude toward the Mexican government:[22]

"The State Party System is corrupt, it is involved in drug trafficking, it has a wake of deceit, of lies, and of loss of legitimacy with the Mexican nation."

He travelled on a black motorbike in remembrance of Che Guevara's 1952 journey through South America, immortalized in the slain revolutionary's personal memoir entitled The Motorcycle Diaries.[23] During the tour, he also has changed his name to "Delegado Cero" / "Delegate Zero." He appeared on Mexican national television on Tuesday, May 9, 2006. Commenting on a riot that began after police tried to evict flower sellers from their stalls in the town of Texcoco, widely reported in Mexico,[24] Marcos said, "The state police have always been distinguished by their brutality...Enter the state police, and things get out of hand. Enter the federal government, and things get out of hand, and one creates this atmosphere of repression."[25]

Marcos and other EZLN spokespersons reject as models what they view as neoliberal regimes in South America, including the governments in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Bolivia as of 2006, claiming that these governments did not and will not deliver meaningful changes. As potential leadership for Mexico, they say, in particular, that a government headed by Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador would resemble that of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari and would refuse to abandon policies imposed by the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the United States. The "Town Meeting" style of The Other Campaign, scheduled for January through July 2006, has had some effect on López Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City and presidential candidate, who campaigned in Chiapas during December, 2005.[26] Marcos never endorsed López Obrador and rebuked the entire electoral system.

[edit] Mascot

Subcomandante Marcos travels with an animal mascot, a deformed rooster he calls "el pingüino" ('the penguin'). According to a New York Times article of January 6, 2006, Marcos uses the animal as a symbol of the various disenfranchised people he champions.[27]

[edit] See also

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Books by Marcos

. (1994). Mexico: A Storm and a Prophecy. Westfield, NJ: Open Magazine Pamphlet Series. 

. (1994). Voice of Fire. Berkeley, CA: New Earth Press.  Subtitled Communiques And Interviews From The Zapatista National Liberation Army. With Ben Clarke and Clifton Ross, Editors. Republished 1997, San Francisco: Freedom Voices.

. (1994). Ya basta! Les Insurgés Zapatistes Racontent un An de Révolte au Chiapas. Paris: Éditions Dagorno. 

. (1996). Ya basta! Vers l'Internationale Zapatiste. Paris: Éditions Dagorno. 

. (1996). Chiapas: Le Sud-est en Deux Vents. Montréal: Éditions Mille et Une Nuits.  Subtitled Un Orage et Une Prophétie in Coffret, Dix Textes Contre. French translation of "Chiapas: el Sureste en dos vientos, una tormenta y una profecía" and other essays.

Subcomandante Marcos, et al. (1996). Shadows of Tender Fury. New York: Monthly Review Press.  With John Ross, Editor. Subtitled The Letters and Communiques of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. English translation of unpublished works.

. (1996). La Historia de los Colores. Guadalajara, Mexico: Colectivo Callejero.  Illustrated by Domitila Dominguez. Republished 1999 and 2003, El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.

Christopher Day, Mariana Mora and Subcomandante Marcos (1998). EZLN Communiques: Memory from Below. Oakland, CA: Regent Press. 

. (1999). La Historia de los Colores / The Story of Colors. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.  Illustrated by Domitila Dominguez. Bilingual edition. Republished 2001, London: Latin America Bureau, and 2003, El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.

. (1999). Desde las Montañas del Sureste Mexicano. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés Editores. 

. (2000). Detras de Nosotros Estamos Ustedes. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés Editores. 

. (2001). El Correo de la Selva. Buenos Aires: Retorica Ediciones. 

. (2001). Contes Maya. Paris: Éditions L'Esprit Frappeur. 

Subcomandante Marcos, Elena Poniatowska and Simon Ortiz (2001). Questions and Swords. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.  Illustrated by Domitila Dominguez and Antonio Ramirez. Subtitled Folktales of the Zapatista Revolution.

Noam Chomsky, James Petras and Insurgente Marcos Subcomandante (2001). Afghanistan. Buenos Aires: Editorial 21. 

Lauro Zavala, Carlos Monsivais and Subcomandante Marcos, Ed. (2001). Relatos Mexicanos Posmodernos. Madrid: Alfaguara, Santillana Ediciones Generales.  Republished 2002, Miami, FL: Santillana USA Publishing.

. (2002). Nuestra Arma es Nuestra Palabra. Toronto: Siete Cuentos Editorial.  With Juana Ponce de Leon, Editor.

. (2002). Our Word is Our Weapon. Toronto: Seven Stories Press.  With Juana Ponce de Leon, Editor. English translation of Nuestra Arma es Nuestra Palabra.

Atilio Boron, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Insurgente Marcos Subcomandante (2002). Mundo Global Guerra Global?. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Continente. 

Sous-commandant Marcos, et al. (2002). Depuis les Montagnes du Sud-est du Mexique. Trois-Rivières, Québec: Écrits des Forges.  French translation of Desde las Montañas del Sureste Mexicano. Republished 2003, Pantin, France: Le Temps des Cerises.

. (2003). Bayang Tak Berwajah: Dokumen Perlawanan Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Zapatista 1994-2001. Yogyakarta: Insist Press.  Ronny Agustinus, Translator and Editor. Indonesian translation of Marcos' essays and stories (1994-2001).

. (2004). Don Durito de la Forêt Lacandone. Lyon: Éditions de la Mauvaise Graine. 

. (2004). Kata Adalah Senjata: Kumpulan Tulisan Terpilih 2001-2004. Yogyakarta: Resist Book.  Ronny Agustinus, Translator and Editor. Indonesian translation of Marcos' essays and stories (2001-2004).

. (2005). Botschaften aus dem lakandonischen Urwald. Hamburg: Edition Nautilus.  German version of Don Durito de la Forêt Lacandone.

Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo, II (2005). Muertos Incómodos. Miami, FL: Planeta Publishing.  Subtitled Falta lo que Falta.

Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo, II (2005). Unbequeme Tote. Berlin Assoziation A.  German translation of Muertos Incómodos.

Paco Ignacio Taibo, II, and Sous-commandant Marcos (2006). Des Morts qui Dérangent. Paris: Éditions Rivages.  French translation of Muertos Incómodos.

Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo, II (2005). "Morti Scomodi". Padova: Società Cooperativa Carta.  Italian translation of Muertos Incómodos. Full text online.

Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo, II (2006). The Uncomfortable Dead. New York: Akashic Books.  Subtitled What's Missing is Missing. English translation of Muertos Incómodos. (Scheduled release September, 2006.)

. (2006). Conversations with Durito. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.  Subtitled Stories of the Zapatistas and Neoliberalism. Expanded version of Don Durito de la Forêt Lacandone published in French and Botschaften aus dem lakandonischen Urwald published in German.

. (2006). The Other Campaign. San Francisco: City Lights Books.  Subtitled The Zapatista Call for Change from Below. Bilingual edition.

. (2007). Speed of Dreams: Selected Writings 2001-2006. San Francisco: City Lights Books. 

[edit] Books about Marcos and Chiapas Zapatistas

  • Anurudda Pradeep (අනුරුද්ධ ප්‍රදීප්) (2006). සැපටිස්ටා : Zapatista. 
  • Nick Henck (2007). Subcommander Marcos: the man and the mask. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 
  • Mihalis Mentinis (2006). ZAPATISTAS: The Chiapas Revolt and What It Means for Radical Politics. London: Pluto Press.
  • John Ross (1995). Rebellion from the Roots: Indian Uprising in Chiapas. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. 
  • George Allen Collier and Elizabeth Lowery Quaratiello (1995). Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. Oakland, CA: Food First Books. 
  • Bertrand de la Grange and Maité Rico (1997). Marcos: La Genial Impostura. Madrid: Alfaguara, Santillana Ediciones Generales. 
  • Yvon Le Bot (1997). Le Rêve Zapatiste. Paris, Éditions du Seuil. 
  • Maria del Carmen Legorreta Díaz (1998). Religión, Política y Guerrilla en Las Cañadas de la Selva Lacandona. Mexico City: Editorial Cal y Arena. 
  • John Womack, Jr. (1999). Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader. New York: The New Press. 
  • Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (1999). Marcos: el Señor de los Espejos. Madrid: Aguilar. 
  • Ignacio Ramonet (2001). Marcos. La dignité rebelle. Paris: Galilée.  Subtitled Conversations avec le Sous-commandant Marcos.
  • Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (2001). Marcos Herr der Spiegel. Berlin: Verlag Klaus Wagenbach.  German translation of Marcos: el Señor de los Espejos.
  • Alma Guillermoprieto (2001). Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America. New York: Knopf Publishing Group. 
  • Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (2003). Marcos, le Maître des Miroirs. Montréal: Éditions Mille et Une Nuits.  French translation of Marcos: el Señor de los Espejos.
  • Gloria Muñoz Ramírez (2004). EZLN: 20 et 10, Le Feu et la Parole. Paris: Éditions Nautilus. 

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ His rank is often abbreviated, leading to the nickname El Sup.
  2. ^ BBC Profile: The Zapatistas' mysterious leader by Nathalie Malinarich, March 11 2001
  3. ^ Zapatistas Launch ‘Other’ Campaign by Ramor Ryan, The Indypendent, January 12 2006 issue
  4. ^ BBC Profile: The Zapatistas' mysterious leader by Nathalie Malinarich, March 11 2001
  5. ^ quoted in "First World, Ha! Ha! Ha! The Zapatista Challenge" Interview: Subcomandante Marcos, by Medea Benjamin. City Lights Books, San Francisco 1994. pg.70.
  6. ^ Gabriel García Márquez y Roberto Pombo (25 Mar 2001). "Habla Marcos". Cambio (Ciudad de México).  A discussion of Marcos's background and views. Marcos says his parents were both schoolteachers and mentions early influences of Cervantes and García Lorca.
  7. ^ Gabriel García Márquez and Subcomandante Marcos (July 2 2001). A Zapatista Reading List. The Nation.  An abbreviated version of the Cambio article, in English.
  8. ^ Alex Khasnabish (2003). "Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos". MCRI Globalization and Autonomy. 
  9. ^ Hector Carreon (Mar 8 2001). "Aztlan Joins Zapatistas on March into Tenochtitlan". La Voz de Aztlan. 
  10. ^ El EZLN (2001). "La Revolución Chiapanequa". Zapata-Chiapas. 
  11. ^ Zapatista National Liberation Army (Jan 9 2003). "To Euskadi Ta Askatasuna". Flag. 
  12. ^ Patrick Markee (May 16 1999). "Hue and Cry". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Bobby Byrd (2003). "The Story Behind The Story of Colors". Cinco Puntos Press. 
  14. ^ Julia Preston (Mar 10 1999). "U.S. Cancels Grant for Children's Book Written by Mexican Guerrilla". New York Times.  This article was retitled "N.E.A. Couldn't Tell a Mexican Rebel's Book by Its Cover" in late editions.
  15. ^ Irvin Molotsky (Mar 11 1999). "Foundation Will Bankroll Rebel Chief's Book N.E.A. Dropped". New York Times. 
  16. ^ Subcomandante Marcos (1992). "Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds". Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional. 
  17. ^ Alma Guillermoprieto (March 2 1995). The Shadow War. New York Review of Books.  This book review recounts problems faced by residents of Chiapas.
  18. ^ Paul Berman (October 18 2001). Landscape Architect. New York Review of Books.  This review of a book by Alma Guillermoprieto considers Marcos's writing style.
  19. ^ Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (20 Jun 2006). "La (Imposible) ¿Geometría? del Poder en México". La Jornada (Ciudad de México). 
  20. ^ John Ross (Nov 5 2005). "La Otra Campaña". CounterPunch (Petrolia, CA). 
  21. ^ Al Giordano (Jun 22 2005). "The Zapatista Communiqués Speak for Themselves". Narcosphere. 
  22. ^ Kerry Appel (Jan 1997). "Interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos". Café Rebelión. 
  23. ^ In Tepic, Nayarit, the Other Campaign Marks 39 Years Since the Death of “Che” Guevara by Simon Fitzgerald, Narco News, October 9 2006
  24. ^ Bertha Rodríguez Santos and Al Giordano (May 3 2006). "The Other Mexico on the Verge of an Explosion from Below". Narco News Bulletin. 
  25. ^ James C. McKinley, Jr. (May 10 2006). "Marcos Back in Public Eye in Mexico". New York Times. 
  26. ^ Andrew Kennis (Jan 3 2006). "Zapatista "Other Campaign" starts series of town-hall like meetings in San Cristobal". Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. 
  27. ^ James C. McKinley, Jr. (Jan 6 2006). "The Zapatista's Return: A Masked Marxist on the Stump". New York Times. 

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