[News] Letter from the Zapatista Women to Women in Struggle Around the World

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 13 17:31:06 EST 2019


  Letter from the Zapatista Women to Women in Struggle Around the World

February 13, 2019




February 2019

To: Women in struggle everywhere in the world

From: The Zapatista Women

Sister, /compañera/:

We as Zapatista women send you our greetings as the women in struggle 
that we all are.

We have sad news for you today, which is that we are not going to be 
able to hold the Second International Encounter of Women in Struggle 
here in Zapatista territory in March of 2019.

Maybe you already know the reasons why, but if not, we’re going to tell 
you a little about them here.

The new bad governments have said clearly that they are going to carry 
forward the megaprojects of the big capitalists, including their Mayan 
Train, their plan for the Tehuantepec Isthmus, and their massive 
commercial tree farms. They have also said that they’ll allow the mining 
companies to come in, as well as agribusiness. On top of that, their 
agrarian plan is wholly oriented toward destroying us as originary 
peoples by converting our lands into commodities and thus picking up 
what Carlos Salinas de Gortari started but couldn’t finish because we 
stopped him with our uprising.

All of these are projects of destruction, no matter how they try to 
disguise them with lies, no matter how many times they multiply their 30 
million votes. The truth is that they are coming for everything now, 
coming full force against the originary peoples, their communities, 
lands, mountains, rivers, animals, plants, even their rocks. And they 
are not just going to try to destroy us Zapatista women, but all 
indigenous women—and all men for that matter, but here we’re talking as 
and about women.

In their plans our lands will no longer be for us but for the tourists 
and their big hotels and fancy restaurants and all of the businesses 
that make it possible for the tourists to have these luxuries. They want 
to turn our lands into plantations for the production of lumber, fruit, 
and water, and into mines to extract gold, silver, uranium, and all of 
the minerals the capitalists are after. They want to turn us into their 
peons, into servants who sell our dignity for a few coins every month.

Those capitalists and the new bad governments who obey them think that 
what we want is money. They don’t understand that what we want is 
freedom, that even the little that we have achieved has been through our 
struggle, without any attention, without photos and interviews, without 
books or referendum or polls, and without votes, museums, or lies. They 
don’t understand that what they call “progress” is a lie, that they 
can’t even provide safety for all of the women who continue to be 
beaten, raped, and murdered in their worlds, be they progressive or 
reactionary worlds.

How many women have been murdered in those progressive or reactionary 
worlds while you have been reading these words, /compañera/, sister? 
Maybe you already know this but we’ll tell you clearly here that in 
Zapatista territory, not a single woman has been murdered for many 
years. Imagine, and they call us backward, ignorant, and insignificant.

Maybe we don’t know which feminism is the best one, maybe we don’t say 
“/cuerpa/” [a feminization of “/cuerpo,”/ or body] or however it is you 
change words around, maybe we don’t know what “gender equity” is or any 
of those other things with too many letters to count. In any case that 
concept of “gender equity” isn’t even well-formulated because it only 
refers to women and men, and even we, supposedly ignorant and backward, 
know that there are those who are neither men nor women and who we call 
“others” [/otroas/] but who call themselves whatever they feel like. It 
hasn’t been easy for them to earn the right to be what they are without 
having to hide because they are mocked, persecuted, abused, and 
murdered. Why should they be obligated to be men or women, to choose one 
side or the other? If they don’t want to choose then they shouldn’t be 
disrespected in that choice. How are we going to complain that we aren’t 
respected as women if we don’t respect these people? Maybe we think this 
way because we are just talking about what we have seen in other worlds 
and we don’t know a lot about these things. What we do know is that we 
fought for our freedom and now we have to fight to defend it so that the 
painful history that our grandmothers suffered is not relived by our 
daughters and granddaughters.

We have to struggle so that we don’t repeat history and return to a 
world where we only cook food and bear children, only to see them grow 
up into humiliation, disrespect, and death.

We didn’t rise up in arms to return to the same thing.

We haven’t been resisting for 25 years in order to end up serving 
tourists, bosses, and overseers.

We will not stop training ourselves to work in the fields of education, 
health, culture, and media; we will not stop being autonomous 
authorities in order to become hotel and restaurant employees, serving 
strangers for a few pesos. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a few pesos or 
a lot of pesos, what matters is that our dignity has no price.

Because that’s what they want, /compañera/, sister, that we become 
slaves in our own lands, accepting a few handouts in exchange for 
letting them destroy the community.

/Compañera/, sister:

When you came to these mountains for the 2018 gathering, we saw that you 
looked at us with respect, maybe even admiration. Not everyone showed 
that respect—we know that some only came to criticize us and look down 
on us. But that doesn’t matter—the world is big and full of different 
kinds of thinking and there are those who understand that not all of us 
can do the same thing and those who don’t. We can respect that 
difference, /compañera/, sister, because that’s not what the gathering 
was for, to see who would give us good reviews or bad reviews. It was to 
meet and understand each other as women who struggle.

Likewise, we do not want you to look at us now with pity or shame, as if 
we were servants taking orders delivered more or less politely or 
harshly, or as if we were vendors with whom to haggle over the price of 
artisanship or fruit and vegetables or whatever. Haggling is what 
capitalist women do, though of course when they go to the mall they 
don’t haggle over the price; they pay whatever the capitalist asks in 
full and what’s more, they do so happily.

No /compañera/, sister. We’re going to fight with all our strength and 
everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are 
conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women. That is what we 
have decided and that is what we intend to do.

It seems that these new bad governments think that since we’re women, 
we’re going to promptly lower our gaze and obey the boss and his new 
overseers. They think what we’re looking for is a good boss and a good 
wage. That’s not what we’re looking for. What we want is freedom, a 
freedom nobody can give us because we have to win it ourselves through 
struggle, with our own blood.

Do you think that when the new bad government’s forces—its 
paramilitaries, its national guard—come for us we are going to receive 
them with respect, gratitude, and happiness? Hell no. We will meet them 
with our struggle and then we’ll see if they learn that Zapatista women 
don’t give in, give up, or sell out.

Last year during the women’s gathering we made a great effort to assure 
that you, /compañera/ and sister, were happy and safe and joyful. We 
have, nevertheless, a sizable pile of complaints that you left with us: 
that the boards [that you slept on] were hard, that you didn’t like the 
food, that meals were expensive, that this or that should or shouldn’t 
have been this way or that way. But later we’ll tell you more about our 
work in preparing the gathering and about the criticisms we received.

What we want to tell you now is that even with all the complaints and 
criticisms, you were safe here: there were no bad men or even good men 
looking at you or judging you. It was all women here, you can attest to 

Well now it’s not safe anymore, because capitalism is coming for us, for 
everything, and at any price. This assault is now possible because those 
in power feel that many people support them and will applaud them no 
matter what barbarities they carry out. What they’re going to do is 
attack us and then check the polls to see if their ratings are still up, 
again and again until we have been annihilated.

Even as we write this letter, the paramilitary attacks have begun. They 
are the same groups as always—first they were associated with the PRI, 
then the PAN, then the PRD, then the PVEM, and now with MORENA.

So we are writing to tell you, /compañera/, sister, that we are not 
going to hold a women’s gathering here, but you should do so in your 
lands, according to your times and ways. And although we won’t attend, 
we will be thinking about you.

/Compañera/, sister:

Don’t stop struggling. Even if the bad capitalists and their new bad 
governments get their way and annihilate us, you must keep struggling in 
your world. That’s what we agreed in the gathering: that we would all 
struggle so that no woman in any corner of the world would be scared to 
be a woman.

/Compañera/, sister: your corner of the world is your corner in which to 
struggle, just like our struggle is here in Zapatista territory.

The new bad governments think that they will defeat us easily, that 
there are very few of us and that nobody from any other world supports 
us. But that’s not the case, /compañera/, sister, because even if there 
is only one of us left, she’s going to fight to defend our freedom.

We aren’t scared, /compañera/, sister.

If we weren’t scared 25 years ago when nobody even knew we existed, we 
certainly aren’t going to be scared now that you have seen us—however 
you saw us, good or bad, but you saw us.

/Compañera/, hermana:

Take care of that little light that we gave you. Don’t let it go out.

Even if our light here is extinguished by our blood, even if other 
lights go out in other places, take care of yours because even when 
times are difficult, we have to keep being what we are, and what we are 
is women who struggle.

That’s all we wanted to say, /compañera/, sister. In summary, we’re not 
going to hold a women’s gathering here; we’re not going to participate. 
If you hold a gathering in your world and anyone asks you where the 
Zapatistas are, and why didn’t they come, tell them the truth: tell them 
that the Zapatista women are fighting in their corner of the world for 
their freedom.

That’s all, /compañeras/, sisters, take care of yourselves. Maybe we 
won’t see each other again.

Maybe they’ll tell you not to bother thinking about the Zapatistas 
anymore because they no longer exist. Maybe they’ll tell you that there 
aren’t any more Zapatistas.

But just when you think that they’re right, that we’ve been defeated, 
you’ll see that we still see you and that one of us, without you even 
realizing it, has come close to you and whispered in your ear, only for 
you to hear: “/Where is that little light that we gave you?/”

 From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

The Zapatista Women

February 2019

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