The first delegation of Zapatistas, Squad 421, disembarked on June 22 in Vigo, Spain in a symbolic “invasion” and “rediscovery” of Europe. In the next few days 177 more Zapatistas will arrive in Paris, France by plane this time and they will spread in smaller groups all around Europe during the next months.
This is huge, and we need to make sure their landmark visit to our continent is a success. Here’s why:
Who are the Zapatistas?
Some of you might remember their struggle, some of you might be learning about them for the first time. But everyone needs to know that the Zapatistas represent the proof that the alternative does exist, and has been working successfully for more than 27 years, inspiring all of us who believe that a different now and a different tomorrow are possible.
After a period of almost 500 years of extreme oppression, racism and exclusion, and while neoliberalism was showing its teeth all around the world, many indigenous populations in Mexico said “Enough is enough” (sp.: ¡Ya basta!). And they did not just say it. On the 1st of January 1994, the day Mexico signed up to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), an indigenous armed organisation, declared war on the Mexican Government, demanding work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, liberty, democracy, justice and peace.
And they made it. After hard negotiations with the Mexican Government many of the above Zapatistas’ demands were fulfilled.
Today more than 300,000 Zapatistas in 55 municipalities control much of the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico. They are autonomous, having their own system of education, health, justice, government and security. Some have their own currency. Their rules of “good government” include -among others- dedicating several days a week to the community, sharing food, helping to teach the young, uprooting patriarchy and capitalism and protecting the environment.
Why should we support their visit to Europe, and why is it important to you and to all Europeans?
The Zapatista struggle will go down in history as another example of how the oppressed can come together and not only claim their rights, but also, and despite violent moments, restore compassion and humanism in a land where these words had no meaning for centuries. We can learn a lot from the Zapatistas, and as Europeans we are in debt to them.
The “Gira Zapatista por la vida” (the Zapatistas’ tour for life) is an initiative that aims for three things: (1) to carry out dialogues and share experiences about the struggle, (2) that these dialogues and exchanges take place in five continents, and (3) to invite everyone with similar struggles in all parts of the world to participate and make this journey their own.
Among different events and activities organised in more than 20 European countries during the Zapatistas’ visit in the coming months, there are also three major events tentatively scheduled to happen in Paris (end of July), Madrid (August 13) and another one yet to be announced.
Across Europe, several organisations, groups, activists and individuals from the left have gathered to support this journey. And of course DiEM25 is one of these organizations, being inspired by the Zapatistas’ struggle and sharing many common ideas and the belief that another world is possible. DiEM25 members from several different countries around Europe have shown solidarity to the Zapatistas and contribute with any possible means to this initiative. In addition, DiEM25 volunteers in Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany are already on the ground participating and supporting the coordination of the Zapatistas’ visit to their countries. Can you lend a hand as well?
Perhaps you can spare a few euros in solidarity to make our Zapatista brothers and sisters feel at home and accomplish their goals? This will help them cover their modest travel expenses, visa fees, and COVID-19 tests and will be much appreciated.
So, please donate if you can.
Also, you can help support the cause by purchasing on of our specially designed t-shirts, bags and stickers. Created to mark DiEM25's hosting of the Zapatistas. Visit the DiEM25 shop here.