A Time of Reconquest: History, the Maya Revival, and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas

By: Thomas Benjamin

We are in the new Time of the Mayas.1

On the afternoon of October 12, 1992, a large protest march of indigenous peoples in the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, reached its objective. In the courtyard of the beautiful baroque temple of Santo Domingo was the monument to the conquistador Diego de Mazariegos, founder of the city. One marcher knocked the statue off its base with a sledge hammer, and the crowd then beat it into fragments. Hundreds of marchers returned to their mountain homes with souvenirs of an unforgettable historical event. After surviving five centuries of systemic violence and exploitation, the natives of the highlands of Chiapas destroyed the premier symbol of their oppression. This event, along with other recent dramatic actions, has led one observer to remark that “they are living in a time of reconquest in Chiapas.”2

     This small episode by people long scorned and exploited in a remote corner of the world provides an interesting perspective on the blurred boundary between thinking about history and making history, between history as knowledge and history as event.3 Those who erected the monument to Mazariegos inherited and cultivated a particular interpretation of the past that was represented in that monument. Theirs is a historical society, interested in their past, sanctioned by the past, and some might say, obsessed with the past. Those who destroyed the monument, in contrast, have long been considered a “people without history.” Their action on October 12, however, suggests otherwise.4

     The concept of a “people without history” has two meanings in this setting: one is historiographical, the other is philosophical. Indians of this region since the Conquest have not produced written chronicles and histories of their own. The history of Chiapas has been written by Mexican, European, and U.S. historians. Indians did not disappear from the pages of history; rather, they were simply not perceived, as Eric Wolf put it, “as participants in the same historical trajectory.”5 In written history—colonial and later national history—Indians after the Conquest ceased to be the protagonists in their own story. Spaniards and later Mexicans portrayed Indians, at best, as passive victims and inert obstacles to progress (that is, “to the course of history”) and, more generally, as irrational and uncivilized. Modern Mexican nationalism today proudly lays claim to the nation’s ancient Indian heritage and proclaims its Indian peoples to be the soul of the nation.6 Yet, until quite recently, Indians have been installed below the surface of Mexican historiography by its makers; like the half-buried Mesoamerican pyramid, they appear to be there, ancient, enduring, but frozen in time.7

 “12 de Octubre de 1992 día de la rasa [Day of the Race].” Marchers reach the monument to conquistador Diego de Mazariegos on October 12, 1992. The photographer wishes to remain anonymous. 

     The modern Maya of Chiapas have been considered a “people without history” in the other meaning of the phrase: they are supposedly a people of myth who lack a historical consciousness.8 Ancient Maya hieroglyphic texts, recently deciphered, reveal the dynastic histories of rulers and thus demonstrate the existence of a written Maya historical tradition.9 But most scholars have reported a cyclical rather than a linear temporal order in the abundant sacred narratives and secular stories that make up the oral tradition of the native peoples of the region. The perspectives reported by anthropologists were not, of course, the timeless primordial cosmologies of the ancient Maya preserved in traditional culture. Narratives were of mythic origins, epic events, and futures foretold. The remote past was telescoped into the present, while events were related in a distorted temporal fashion or presented outside of time altogether. Stories were populated by supernatural beings, anthropomorphic animals, and human actors. Such tales of the past were believed to be true but were not concerned with realistic representation of the past. They belonged within “the timeless paradigm of myth and ritual.”10

     In 1966, Benjamin N. Colby reported, “we have found little in the way of historical knowledge in Zinacantecan stories of myths, least of all any explicit references to the conquest.” Regarding the dominant culture, specifically San Cristóbal, he observed, “in Ladino [non-Spanish] society there is, on the contrary, a very strong historical awareness extending all the way to the time of the conquest.”11 The Indians of Chiapas in the 1960s were undoubtedly a people without history (in both meanings) in the view of the new bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas. “They didn’t have a history,” he stated in a 1994 interview, “because those who are dominated do not have a history, it’s the history of the dominator. How could we lay a foundation for a church where there wasn’t even a historical consciousness.”12

     The modern Maya sense of the past, according to the recent work of scholars of Maya oral tradition and history, is more complicated than many had thought. Gary H. Gossen found in his 1974 study of Chamula, a highland Indian municipality in Chiapas and neighbor of Zinacantán, a “true ancient narrative” that includes “much of what is frequently glossed as myth, legend, and folktale” and a “true recent narrative” that encompasses generational and historical memory extending 120 to 150 years into the past. Narratives of the latter category referred to historical events but were never precisely dated or necessarily placed in chronological order. The past was very much like the present, not “another country,” and focused on and confined to the traditionally closed highland community.13

     The ongoing work of Jan Rus regarding the highland Tzotzil is among the first historical research based largely on “true recent narratives.” His interviews with native informants and careful analysis of published folk tales (and correlation with documentary evidence) demonstrate the considerable historical knowledge in native communities available to someone who has the trust of his informants and, more important, knows how to ask the right questions.14 The rebel leader known only as Subcomandante Marcos, who has lived among Indians in Chiapas since the early 1980s, discovered that native villages each designated a historian, who inherited the memory of the community. These historians, even if young men, he reported, could tell of specific events long past in considerable detail as if they had been there.15 The work of Gossen and Rus, and the observations of Marcos, demonstrate that the dichotomy of peoples of history and peoples of myth is facile and false. There is no sharp line separating mythical and historical understanding in Maya culture or in any culture. They coexist and, at times, overlap.16 There is no essentialist or traditional worldview, furthermore, that makes narration of past events impossible.17

     The modern Maya of Chiapas, until recently, have been a people without written history and thus without a useful past that would encourage pan-Mayan organization and action, make them an integral part of the Mexican nation, and empower them in their own eyes and in the eyes of society. The dominant culture made it so and found it to be agreeable for a very long time. “For so many years,” Eugenio Maurer writes, “the idea was hammered in that Tseltal culture was worthless, idolatrous and superstitious.”18 The so-called bilingual and bicultural government-supported indigenous schools from the 1950s to the present “treated indigenous laws, methods of social organization, lifestyles, and art forms as if they did not exist, or were not worthy of study or emulation.”19 Indigenous school teachers in Oxchuc taught history “but not their own local history as Maya people.”20 In time, this absence of teaching and writing indigenous history was understood by natives themselves as problematic. A 1974 indigenous congress in Chiapas recognized the necessity of studying and teaching the history and customs of Indians in order to create a new indigenous identity for themselves and within Mexican society. “The Indian peoples need to know their own history,” Guillermo Bonfil Batalla wrote in 1980. “This is imperative given their present struggles because their demands are based precisely on the affirmation of their historical legitimacy as peoples.”21

     During the 1970s and 1980s, an Indian revitalization movement emerged not only in Chiapas but throughout Mexico and the Americas.22 In Chiapas as elsewhere, this movement has been characterized by efforts to encourage cultural vitality as well as promote political, agrarian, and labor activism and organization-building encompassing different ethnic communities.23 The writing of history is part of the Maya revival, and this essay examines the origins of this cultural innovation. An indigenous historiography in native languages by native historians has appeared in print for the first time. This new historiography rejects the long dominant historical perspective that denied indigenous resistance to domination and exploitation as well as Mexico’s multiethnic and multicultural nature. This new historiography presents the Maya as protagonists, not passive victims in the past, promotes a pan-Maya identity in the present, and places the Maya in the national story that is Mexican history. By becoming their own historians, the Maya demonstrate that they are a people, and that they are Mexicans, with the right and ability of self-representation and self-determination. History is one of the new initiatives taken, Bonfil Batalla recognized, “to recover and modernize Indian cultures.”24

     A year and a few months after the fall of the conquistador statue in San Cristóbal, an indigenous uprising in Chiapas startled Mexico and the world. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, whose members numbered perhaps 2,000 soldiers with a popular base of many thousands, seized San Cristóbal, Ocosingo, Altamirano, and Las Margaritas on New Year’s Day 1994. The guerrilla army quickly retreated into the remote valleys and forests of eastern Chiapas as the Mexican army poured more than 12,000 troops into the state. The political, social, and economic roots of the Zapatista rebellion have begun to be investigated. The influence of radical activists and an activated clergy among poor peasant farmers is being examined.25 This essay considers one aspect of the Maya revival and the Zapatista rebellion that has not received scholarly attention: how the Maya are becoming their own historians.

San Cristóbal de las Casas in colonial times was a small Spanish island within a vast Indian sea. The proportions have not changed.26 The highlands of Chiapas are dotted with thousands of small native hamlets and towns, which are home to several hundreds of thousands of predominantly Mayan peoples. They are poor peasant farmers, campesinos, whose toil and taxes have for centuries afforded the Ladinos (non-Indians or mestizos) of San Cristóbal a comfortable living.27 They have been a conquered people since the lieutenants of Hernán Cortés arrived in the 1520s and distributed the labor and tribute of their towns as spoils of war. “Into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts,” wrote San Cristóbal’s namesake, the first bishop of Chiapas, Bartolomé de las Casas, “there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days.”28

     The more than one million indígenas in Chiapas are not an undifferentiated mass of “Indians.”29 In the highlands, they are organized geographically into numerous municipalities located in different mountain valleys, which structure government and identity. The people of Chamula, Zinacantán, Tenejapa, and the other municipalities generally work, pray, and celebrate together and dress alike. Their traditional intense localism is reinforced by politics and language as well as geography. Native political bosses and their state government collaborators have long promoted community autonomy in the name of “timeless tradition” and thus the political fragmentation of the indigenous highlands. Language differences also divide the native peoples of Chiapas. Tzotzil Maya is spoken in the western highland municipalities, while Tzeltal Maya is spoken in the eastern ones and further east into the lowlands. Zoque, the only non-Maya language in Chiapas, is spoken in the northwest region of the state, while Chol Maya is heard in the northeast near Tabasco, and Tojolabal Maya in the southeast toward the border of Guatemala. Within their communities, Indians are divided by land and wealth (those who have it and those who do not), by religion (traditionalist Catholics, liberation theology Catholics, and evangelical Protestants), and, of course, by politics (the “ins” against the “outs”). The exodus from the highlands to the Selva Lacandona (the last sizable portion of tropical forest in Mexico) in recent decades is breaking down these political and linguistic divisions.30

     Not all kaxlanes (as Spaniards were and Mexicans are called by the original residents) were rapacious and cruel.31 Bishop Las Casas attempted to protect natives from his countrymen. He defined and defended their human rights and publicized Spanish violations and abuses. No name is more closely associated with the Spanish struggle for justice and compassion for the native peoples of the Americas. San Cristóbal’s appropriation of his name in 1848 lent honor to the city that was largely undeserved. The city has raised two monuments to the “Defender of the Indians” and remembers him on the proper anniversaries.32 It has only been since 1960, however, that the spirit of Las Casas has been honored in the city in modern times by anything other than words. It was that year that Samuel Ruiz García was consecrated bishop of San Cristóbal. For more than thirty years, Tatik Samuel (as he is called by his indigenous parishioners, “Dear Father Samuel”) has worked to defend the culture and human rights of native peoples. “In this diocese,” he declared in a 1994 interview, “we serve the poor, who make up 80 percent of the population. We have to be on the side of those who are suffering the most.”33 It is, in fact, Bishop Samuel who began the chain of events described in this essay.

 Father Bartolomé de las Casas. A fragment of the mural in Sna Jolobil, in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Photograph by Sharon Lee House, July 1994. 

     The five hundredth birthday of Bartolomé de las Casas was celebrated in 1974. The national government of President Luis Echeverría and the state government of Chiapas wished to celebrate the occasion and thus publicly affirm their solidarity with Mexico’s Indians and the people’s cause in history.34 The Indian agencies of the state and national governments had in mind a colorful gathering in San Cristóbal of politicians, academics, and Indian artisans and musicians who would promote tourism and confine questions of human rights to tedious discussions of history. And the events of mid-October at first appeared to fit that bill. A new monument to Las Casas located at the entrance to the city was erected and dedicated. An international panel of jurists discussed Las Casas and human rights. “Lascasian” historians from various American countries north, central, and south considered the honoree’s place in history. Marimba bands from the Chiapas highlands gave the events a true festive atmosphere.35

     The affair also included an Indigenous Congress, which was sponsored by Bishop Ruiz at the request of the governor. The gathering had been carefully organized from the grass roots months in advance by the bishop’s pastoral team. On Columbus Day (in Mexico, it is celebrated as Día de la Raza or Day of the Mestizo Race), approximately 1,200 delegates representing more than 300 native communities met in San Cristóbal. The delegates were Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Tojolabales, and Choles, uniting for the first time spokesmen from the four most important linguistic indigenous populations in Chiapas. Many had previous ties to the church as catechists and translators. They came to discuss in their own languages four themes of vital importance: land, commerce, education, and health. The goal of the congress was to provide a forum for the critical concerns of the indigenous people of Chiapas. As it would be remembered, the Indians found their voice.36

     That voice was brutally honest. For three days, Indian delegates described the unhappy reality of Chiapas. Their greatest complaint was the insufficiency of good land. That was the primary cause of their hunger, misery, and exploitation. The agrarian reform process was decades in arrears due to corruption and illegal noncompliance. Ranchers employed gunmen to ensure that poor people did not cultivate part of their pasture lands. Land-poor Indian communities and ejidos (land-grant communities) still provided cheap, often child, labor to commercial plantations. Business in the highlands was controlled by Ladino and Indian caciques (bosses) who, allied with government agencies, bought their produce for little and sold them goods for a lot. Education and health care hardly existed, as high rates of illiteracy and infant mortality demonstrated. Where schools and clinics had been built, they were rarely staffed by teachers, nurses, and doctors or provided with books and medicines. Chronic alcoholism made every problem worse.37

     Never before had Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Tojolabales, and Choles spoken with one another like this, listened to others with similar problems, or viewed themselves as one people (not unlike their possible role model, the Israelites of the Exodus, a people enslaved but promised liberation by their Moses). It was a revelation. Giving voice to one’s problems is a requisite to solving them.38 “Where, then,” asked one delegate, “where is the liberty Brother Bartolomé left us? Well, compañeros, Brother Bartolomé is no longer alive. We have made this Congress in his name, he is dead and we can’t expect another. Who will defend us against injustice and give us liberty? I don’t believe the Ladinos will defend us. The government, perhaps will or perhaps will not. Therefore, who will defend us? I believe that all of us organized together can have liberty and can work better. All of us together can be Bartolomé.”39

     The congress tried to make itself a permanent institutional force in Chiapas. A president, secretary-general, and four regional coordinators were elected and met periodically until March 1977. The leaders and participants of the congress became missionaries of inter-community and inter-ethnic activism and organization when they returned to their communities. They became the founders of new producer, transport, and consumer cooperatives to help campesinos lower their costs and increase their earnings. They brought in specialists to teach individuals in many communities how to treat simple medical problems and prevent more serious maladies. They formed alternative bilingual schools. They encouraged the translation of political, agricultural, and historical texts into Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, and Chol and the writing of their own stories and histories in their own languages.40

     Congress participants from the new Tzeltal communities in the Lacandón frontier also organized confederations of ejidos. The object was to come together in the bureaucratic and political struggle to reactivate land reform. “Improving Our Lives Through Our Collective Force,” “Quiptic ta Lecubtesel” in Tzeltal, formed originally by eighteen ejidos in the San Quintín region, was legally constituted in December 1975. “Tierra y Libertad” (Land and Liberty) and “Lucha Campesina” (Peasant Struggle) in the Las Margaritas region were organized soon thereafter. In 1980, an alliance of 180 ejido communities, the Union of Community Unions, was forged under Quiptic’s leadership. During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, campesino organizations sprouted in all regions of Chiapas. There was, as one observer described it, “an explosion of peoples’ organizations.”41 The hope expressed by one Tzotzil speaker at the congress in 1974 was becoming reality: “the force of the communities will become the new Bartolomé.”42

     The veterans of the Indigenous Congress of 1974 with the assistance of a politicized clergy and transplanted political activists from other parts of Mexico began to radicalize politics in Chiapas at the grass roots. This was not what the government had in mind, of course, when it asked the bishop to sponsor an indigenous congress. In an effort to control or at least divide the emerging indigenous movement in Chiapas and throughout Mexico, the government’s National Peasant Federation (Confederación Nacional Campesina, CNC) organized its own Congress of Indigenous People, held in Pátzcuaro Michoacán, in 1975. From its sessions emerged the National Council of Indian Peoples, which was designed to coopt growing native radicalism.43 In Chiapas, in the Tzeltal region, the like-minded Cooperative Society of Coffee Growers was formed to win pro-government supporters. Since the CNC had vast government resources to grant, and had influence with the agrarian reform bureaucracy, it gained support and produced a schism within the Union of Community Unions.44

     There were also new divisions within communities. The Indigenous Congress of 1974 emboldened a faction of dissidents in Chamula to oppose the corrupt alliance between indigenous municipal leaders (who also controlled land allocations and the liquor concession) and state and national authorities.45 The dissidents, branded as “evangelical Protestants” and thus pariahs, were deprived of their lands and burned out of their homes. They had nowhere to settle but the impoverished peripheral neighborhoods of San Cristóbal, the cinturones de miseria or belts of misery. This happened in many highland communities as the years passed, and some tens of thousands of dispossessed Indians created squatter settlements around the city. For the first time, highland Indians began to live and work in San Cristóbal in large numbers as Indians rather than as assimilated mestizos. State authorities turned a blind eye to these dispossessions, declaring that indigenous communities were autonomous and had a right to defend their culture, customs, and traditions.46

     “The Indian Congress,” writes historian John Womack, Jr., “stunned conservative San Cristóbal.”47 Its multiple effects reverberated throughout Chiapas and the highlands. The prospect of indigenous revitalization had never been viewed kindly by this city, not in 1712 during the Great Tzeltal Rebellion nor during the so-called “Caste War” of 1869.48 It was not welcomed during the “Revolution of the Indians” in the 1930s—land, labor, and educational reforms that were imposed by the national government and partially reversed after 1946 by conservative municipal and state governments whose goal was to “subdue” the natives.49 In short, writes photographer Antonio Turok, “the memory of past rebellions has kept the mestizos terrified of losing dominance.”50 In the 1970s, once again the Indian “hordes” were at the gates of the city. The threat—in the form of diminishing deference, increasing residence in the city, and, most serious of all, growing Indian solidarity across community boundaries—was palpable.51 Some spoke of the “Indianization” of San Cristóbal and a more widespread “uprising” throughout Chiapas. The citizens of San Cristóbal feared they were losing control of the highlands and their city.52

Four years after the Indigenous Congress, the municipal government of San Cristóbal de las Casas organized an impressive commemoration of the founding of the city on its 450th anniversary. Municipal President José Jiménez Paniagua, a descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent families in San Cristóbal, directed the affair and obtained the participation of the mayor of Ciudad Real, San Cristóbal’s sister city in Spain. The celebration began on October 12, 1977, and concluded in April the following year.

     The commemoration focused on the year 1528 and the man of the year, Captain Diego de Mazariegos. Planners emphasized that it was not a celebration of the conquest of Chiapas, which had occurred earlier, in 1524, by an expedition headed by Luis Marín. Mazariegos was dispatched three years later to suppress an Indian rebellion and definitively settle the province. He entered the region in March 1528 and established a Spanish town, Villa Real de Chiapa de los Españoles, in the lowlands on the banks of the Grijalva River, near the largest Indian town, the Chiapanec capital of Socton Nandalumi. Less than a month later, he transferred the new Spanish settlement to the colder and healthier highlands in a valley called Hueyzacatlán (in Nahuhtl) and Jovel by the local native people. The site was ideal: it was more centrally located in the province, the climate was temperate, there was plenty of land for pasture and farming, and—according to Mazariegos—it was not already occupied by natives. This was the official story of the kinder and gentler conquistador and the peaceful founding of Villa Real, soon to be Ciudad Real, and today known as San Cristóbal.53

     This story has a long and distinguished pedigree. It arose hundreds of years earlier to counter the legend of Bishop Las Casas’s curse on Ciudad Real for its exploitation of Indians. In 1619, the Dominican friar Antonio de Remesal produced the first chronicle of the founding of Chiapas.54 He argued that Ciudad Real’s blackened reputation as the enemy of one of the great humanitarians of history was undeserved. Yes, there were some Spaniards who exploited Indians and criticized Las Casas, but the city itself should not be condemned. Indeed, Remesal noted, Ciudad Real’s name was forever linked not simply to one hero but to two. The “Protector of the Indians” was preceded by the peaceful conqueror, Diego de Mazariegos—a chivalrous gentleman in an age of rapacious soldiers of fortune. He was, according to the chronicler, “the patron and protector of the naturales” and “very humane in his good treatment of the Indians.” Thereafter, local historiography faithfully followed Remesal’s lead. Mariano Robles Domínguez de Mazariegos in his 1813 history of the province praised Captain Mazariegos for “achieving the pacification [of Chiapas] without recourse to force.” Vicente Pineda, writing in 1888, repeated the story of peaceful conquest, while Manuel B. Trens in 1957 praised Mazariegos for founding a town “without prejudice to the naturales.” Mazariegos, Francisco Santiago Cruz wrote in 1974, “made a considerable effort to pacify the Indians by love.”55

     Modern scholars agree that Captain Mazariegos achieved the definitive conquest and domination of the province in the months following the founding of Villa Real.56 The historical record of the events of the late 1520s and early 1530s is incomplete and contradictory, but there are scattered references to Indian resistance to the Spanish expedition in 1528, the deportation of Indian slaves as spoils of war, and a battle wound received by Mazariegos himself. The royal certificate granting city status and a coat of arms to what was Ciudad Real in 1535 referred to the “great sacrifices” the conquerors made to subdue the province. It is unclear whether the captain was present at the battle of Sumidero in 1532, when, according to legend, Chiapaneca rebels in an act of heroic defiance threw themselves into the steep Sumidero Canyon rather than accept Spanish conquest and slavery.57

     The conquest of Chiapas was unquestionably violent and tragic for the indigenous peoples of the province. Three terrible maladies struck the natives in the decades immediately following: disease, slavery, and tribute. A measles epidemic swept through the towns of the Chiapanecas as early as 1529. Within fifty years, periodic pandemics of pneumonia, smallpox, and bubonic plague reduced the total indigenous population by two-thirds.58 Indian slavery became endemic in Chiapas after the conquest. The first town council of Villa Real in 1528 enacted a regulation that stated, “regarding those Indians who refuse to give provisions to the Spaniards, war shall be declared, and those who are taken prisoner shall become slaves.” The conquerors-turned-encomenderos (tribute collectors) built sugar plantations in the lowlands and faced a labor shortage due to the effects of disease. When Bishop Las Casas arrived in the province in 1545, he reported that “the great number of slaves they made is incredible.” The encomenderos also had the right to collect tribute from their subject towns. When one royal investigator arrived in Ciudad Real in 1548, he found that free Indians suffered under such onerous tributes that their condition was little better than slavery.59

     The brief tenure of Bishop Las Casas in Chiapas (1545–1547) was marked by constant conflict with the local encomenderos and settlers of Ciudad Real. Las Casas and his Dominican friars settled in Indian villages, worked to enforce the 1542 royal decree abolishing Indian slavery (with little success) and encouraged natives to resist demands for excessive tribute and labor. The encomenderos, in turn, characterized Las Casas as that “antichrist of a bishop,” blamed the clerics for the labor shortage and poor royal revenues, and demanded a free hand in their control and treatment of the natives. Las Casas left Chiapas to pursue his cause at the royal court, and in time the local clergy became an indistinguishable part of the provincial elite also subsisting on native tribute and labor.60

     The subsequent development of Ciudad Real/San Cristóbal was the story of government and a few primary families extracting wealth from the surrounding indigenous population by various and sometimes very imaginative means. In the seventeenth century, the instrument of choice was the repartimiento de mercancías, a system of forced sales by which Indian communities were compelled to trade foodstuffs, raw cotton, tobacco, and cacao beans for expensive finished goods. In 1712, this abuse pushed natives to the edge of starvation and sparked the Tzeltal uprising, one of the bloodiest Indian rebellions in colonial Mesoamerica.61 In the nineteenth century, Cristobalense elites substantially expanded their haciendas and expropriated native land holdings. This turned Indians into renters, sharecroppers, debt peons, and migrant laborers and—periodically—desperate, messianic rebels. In the 1870s, Chiapas was characterized by the Mexico City press as the “slave state” of Mexico. A reform-minded Chiapas state governor in 1896 criticized the oligarchy of San Cristóbal for “squeezing the juice out of [Indians], maintaining them in servitude for a peso a month, sucking their blood like voracious vampires in all kinds of little contracts.” Even after the Mexican Revolution, little had changed. The national Department of Indigenous Affairs reported in 1936 that “conditions of virtual slavery exist in Chiapas.”62 A visitor in 1942 was told that the city “lives from the labor of the Indians, principally that of the Chamulas.”63

     During the postwar era, the national government implemented extensive land reform in the indigenous highlands and built roads and schools to integrate and assimilate Indians into Mexican society. The government and ruling party also created and installed an Indian political oligarchy in each municipality, known collectively as caciques, which still control access to land, commerce, and liquor. Caciques, in collaboration with the ruling party, closed their communities to outside “interference” and thus facilitated government control over the majority albeit divided Indian population of the highlands. Native communities remained extremely poor. Commercial Ladino farmers and planters throughout the state took advantage of cheap Indian labor to clear their fields, plant their crops, and pick their coffee. Indians still complained that “in Chiapas the finqueros treat Indians worse than their animals.”64 San Cristóbal, which for a century had been losing control of Indian labor and production, was left a poor but proud backwater city. The coletos—as residents of San Cristóbal call themselves—still managed to exploit the surrounding population in marginal ways and emphasize their superiority in petty ways, such as requiring Indians to cross their arms and bow submissively, as well as walk in the cobblestone streets, reserving the sidewalks for Ladinos.65

     This was the San Cristóbal de las Casas that faced the challenges of the 1970s with such trepidation. Having lost its real power and authority long before and facing an assertive agrarian movement and a wave of Indian migrants, the city was left with little more than symbolic means to vent its frustrations, combat its fears, and express its superiority. The commemorative events of 1978, and particularly the raising of a monument to Mazariegos, were therefore significant. “In San Cristóbal,” writes one student of the city, “Ciudad Real was reviving.”66

     On March 27, San Cristóbal welcomed the mayor of Ciudad Real, Spain—the hometown of Diego de Mazariegos—as the guest of honor during the “Day of Cristobalense Spanishness.” A military parade with 3,000 soldiers followed speeches that praised the “civilizing labor” of Spanish colonization and the idealism of the founder Mazariegos, “a man of la Mancha.” During the following days, the city sponsored sports events, a beauty contest, dances and musical performances, bullfights, the inauguration of public works, a fireworks display, ceremonies at both monuments to Las Casas, a round-table discussion of current social problems in Chiapas, an award ceremony, official receptions, speeches and more speeches. The governor of Chiapas participated in several of the events, and the president of Mexico arrived for the closing ceremonies on April 4.67

     The highlight of the commemoration was the unveiling of the “Monument to the Founder of the City Diego de Mazariegos” on March 31. The monument itself was a slightly larger than life-size bronze statue of an armed and armored sixteenth-century soldier standing on a concrete base. This was unmistakably the classic image of a conquistador. Although invited representatives of highland native communities were present at the ceremony and the governor’s speech praised the peaceful coexistence of the two races, the symbolism of the monument was clearly insolent in modern Mexico. The people of San Cristóbal understood this. One month before the unveiling, the former mayor of the city, Leopoldo Velasco Robles, commented, “it is rather audacious to erect a monument to a conquistador since he as well as his colleagues did not practice the most humanitarian methods to enlighten the native.”68 Unknown vandals understood it as well, apparently, when they stole the conqueror’s sword one day after the ceremony and a second time a week later, after the city replaced it. President José López Portillo, a talented politician in tune with the requirements of populist nationalism, also understood the symbolism and steered clear of the Mazariegos monument during his visit to the city. The president instead made a pilgrimage to the newer monument to Las Casas, where he laid a floral wreath and praised San Cristóbal’s association “with one of the men who redeemed the dignity of humanity in the sixteenth century.”69

 Governor Salomón González Blanco unveils the monument to Diego de Mazariegos, March 31, 1978. From Memoria 450 Aniversario: 1528–1978 (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1978). 

     Mainstream Mexican culture has long repudiated the deeds of its Spanish conquerors and consigned those antiheroes to historical oblivion. One of the oldest and most important commemorative monuments in Mexico City is the 1887 statue of the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtémoc, who was defeated, tortured, and executed by the conquistador Hernán Cortés. As for Cortés, writes Enrique Krauze, “no street, no statue, no city dares to call itself by his damnable name.”70 It was in this context that San Cristóbal glorified its founder. “It constitutes the only monument in honor of a conquistador to be found in all of the republic.”71

In the spring of 1992, a group of about 400 Indians from Chiapas arrived in Nezahualcoyotl, one of the world’s largest slums, on the outskirts of Mexico City. For six weeks, they had walked from Chiapas on a protest march they called xi’nich in Chol and “Hormiga que Marcha” (March of the Ants) in Spanish. Their protest was spurred by the violent eviction of members of the Committee of Defense of Indigenous Liberty from the Mayan ruins and popular tourist site of Palenque located in northern Chiapas. Their march sought to draw national attention to local government corruption and native land claims.72 As they entered Nezahualcoyotl, the marchers were greeted by supporters who gave them flowers and a meal. In the crowd was a man holding a sign that read “Welcome to History.”73

     The road to History for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas has been laden with conflict and struggle.74 The “explosion of peoples’ organizations” in the 1970s and 1980s was based primarily on agrarian demands. Agrarian mobilization, however, led to an indigenous revitalization movement more broadly based.75 New organizations concerned with issues of racism, language, credit, human rights, health care, autonomy, and women’s rights appeared. Local indigenous groups found recognition and support in the Plan de Ayala National Coordinating Body (1979). Representatives of more than 280 popular organizations met in San Cristóbal in January and February in 1994 to form the State Council of Indigenous and Peasant Organizations of Chiapas.76

     The movement, like many other indigenous organizations, developed its greatest strength in the new communities of the Selva Lacandona.77 Since the 1950s, more than 60,000 immigrants, most from the indigenous highlands, settled in the lowland valleys and forest, carved small farms out of the bush, and created multi-ethnic and multi-lingual communities—3,000 of them.78 Being new and unplanned, these communities were largely free from government control, politically cooperative, and remarkably democratic; they also, however, came under attack from local Ladino ranchers and landowners who had set their sights on the same land. Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal, and other Indians made new homes together for the first time. They had to learn each other’s languages, they modified their customs to get along, and abandoned some of the ways of their fathers.79 In short, they began to identify themselves as “poor campesinos,” “indigenous people” and Maya rather than Chamulans, Tenejapans, and Cancuceros. “One has to wonder,” noted an indigenous scholar, “what has happened to their world view, their self-image.”80

     In the new frontier, the colonists were sought out by left-wing political activists, liberation theology priests and catequists, and Protestant missionaries. There was a “systematic and intense” incursion into the region by leftist students from Mexican universities. Mexican Communist Party activists and militants of the Mao-inspired Proletarian Line movement from northern Mexico came to Chiapas in the 1970s.81 Thousands of lay catechists encouraged settlers “to speak out, to think about the world. Without a doubt,” remarks a local priest, “this has contributed to the indigenous people gaining greater awareness.”82 The colonists listened to programs in Tzotzil and Tzeltal on the radio. In the new communities and ejidos, classes were given in the Bible, agriculture, politics, and revisionist Mexican history. Images of Emiliano Zapata, Che Guevara, and Karl Marx began to replace those of saints in some ejido offices and community halls.83

     The more politically and culturally conservative indigenous communities in the highlands also experienced considerable change. Political conflict produced tens of thousands of refugees, as dissidents (often labeled as “evangelistas”) opposed to local political bosses were expelled from their homes. Often, those who were expelled became Protestants if they were not before. Protestantism did find adherents in the highlands, as individuals and communities, unhappy with alcohol-centered rituals or attracted by personal and community reform, left “the traditional religion and accepted Christ the Lord.”84 Economic pressures and opportunities, increased inequality among neighbors, new roads and more trucks, and a variety of government programs helped produce what anthropologist Frank Cancian has called “the decline of community.”85

     The indigenous peoples of the Selva Lacandona and the highlands have been subject to ever increasing efforts at “conscientización” —consciousness raising. Christian Base Communities encourage members to “ver, analyzar, y actuar” (see, think, act) and apply the New Testament to their lives.86 Pastoral agents “have collaborated in the concientización of the poor,” writes Father Joel Padrón, a diocesan priest in Simojovel.87 Indigenous catechists taught not only the Bible but “courses in native languages on the history of Mexico and Chiapas, political economy, and Mexican commerce.”88 Traveling theater groups such as Lo’il Maxil, a Tzeltal-language group, provided entertainment and education. “For the first time in 500 years,” writes Petrona de la Cruz, “we are told about the origin of our history and our ancient religion, we are shown how our dynasties were founded and how our ancestors lived in the classic period of the Maya.”89 Histories, stories, and legends in Mam Maya, produced by local people about the subjects that most interested them, began to be broadcast in 1988 by radio XEVFS, in Margaritas, Chiapas, “The Voice of the Southern Frontier.”90 Writer’s cooperatives such as the Tzeltal-Tzotzil workshop Sna Jtz’ibajom (established in 1982), “Strength of the Mayan Woman,” and the Center of Maya and Zoque Writers of Chiapas teach writing in their own languages and produce bilingual publications of poetry, legends, and history.91 Jlum jk’inaltik, or “Tierra Nuestra” (Our Land), the indigenous bulletin of the highlands of Chiapas, emphasizes “the dramatic history of injustice we have lived.”92

     These efforts are supported by Mexican and foreign scholars and institutions through the Tzotzil Workshop of the Anthropological Advisory Institute for the Maya Region in San Cristóbal, the Regional Center of Multidisciplinary Investigation of the National University, the state university of Chiapas, the Chiapas State Administration for the Strengthening and Promotion of Cultures, the National Alliance of Bilingual Indigenous Professionals, the National Association of Indigenous Language Writers, and the Program of Indian Languages and Literatures of the National Council for Culture and the Arts.93 As Juan Gregorio Regino notes, however, “the process of formation of contemporary indigenous writers does not come out of the universities nor is it a part of an institutional indigenista process, rather it is a product of movements of resistance, self-development, and realization of consciousness.”94

     Critical to indigenous cultural revitalization in Chiapas have been the efforts to overcome the historic divisions of language and community. This process has occurred on its own in the Lacandón, and elsewhere has been actively promoted. In 1984, the first Inter-Ethnic Cultural Encounter was held in San Pedro Chenalhó and obtained the participation of Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Zoque, Mocho, and Cakchikel representatives from thirty-one municipalities. This meeting promoted indigenous music, dancing and other traditional arts and rituals. “At this wonderful fiesta,” it was noted, however, “the Indian did not know if he was the guest or the servant. The caution that he arrived with did not let him act freely . . . but now after so many centuries, he is coming to be the protagonist, the director and the soul of his own celebration.” This meeting led to the formation of the Committee for the Defense and Strengthening of Indigenous Cultures. The committee dedicated itself to the goal (one among many) that “the young people acquire an understanding of the history of their people and do not lose the traditions that exist in their communities.”95

     This concern for history has been and remains a crucial element of the Maya revival. “The principal point,” writes a Yucatec Maya regarding the creation of a new, more just Mexico, “is to study and reconstruct our own history.”96 We’re not going to wait for a foreigner to write our history, Enrique Pérez López writes, “it’s important that we Indians be concerned with our own past, that the sources of esteem come from us.”97 Indian scholars such as Miguel Hernández, a Tzotzil of Larráinzar, and Jacinto Arias, a Tzotzil of Chenalhó and PhD in anthropology from Princeton University, are leading efforts of “historical redemption,” but many others are showing that one need not have a formal education to narrate or write history.98 Many if not most of the new native historians are individuals who have left their ancestral community either voluntarily as migrants to the Lancandón frontier or under force as “expulsados,” those expelled by caciques for political and/or religious reasons. In Chiapas, Indian men and women eagerly become historians when given the opportunity.

     One of the first and still most ambitious efforts was the collective Zinacantecan history of the Mexican Revolution in Chiapas. From 1976 to 1981, the Tzotzil Workshop led by Andrés Aubry assisted young Zinacantecos in recording the collective memory of the elders (“el Relato de los Ancianos”), who provided accounts typically vague regarding chronology and sequence. One of the elders, however, Don Miguel, “has a historical preoccupation: he wants to know what happened.”99 Aubry also provided younger Zinacanteco historians with primary and secondary sources, which they used in conjunction with “the stories of the grandfathers” to reconstruct the history of their community and region from the 1910s to the 1930s. The result was a highly critical Indian commentary on Ladino historiography and the first Zinacanteco history of Zinacantán in the Mexican Revolution. The project, Aubry concluded, “raised the level of the consciousness of the Zinacantecos who participated in the history.”100

     Domingo Gómez Gutiérrez, a Tzeltal from Bachajón, is preparing a book in Tzeltal and Spanish about the Tzeltal Rebellion of 1712 and the “Indian King” Juan López. For many years, this native historian has worked at recovering the various versions of the rebellion that exist in oral tradition in the different highland communities. This eighteenth-century struggle for liberty and justice against the colonial order gave rise to an Indian hero who has never died. “Our grandfathers agree that Juan López lives,” as one informant, Sebastián Guzmán tells it, “that he has not died and is waiting for a time to return.” According to a narration from Chilón, the “Indian King” will come again one day, “come to this land to defend us. Our elderly say that thanks to him Tzeltal Indians at last have respect.”101

     Narrating history is not for men only. “This recollection of what has happened,” women historians of two new communities in the Selva Lacandona say, “is for our children, so they will understand that we left home to look for a place where we could eat a little better.” Their book comes with many drawings, they noted, so that those who do not read can understand it. And “the words of the history are printed in Tzotzil and in Tzeltal, which are our languages, so that everyone will hear us, even those who don’t speak Spanish.”102 The residents of one of these communities, Nuevo San Juan Chamula, at first believed that “only kaxlanes had written history.” They recognized that “there are people who think very poorly of us, saying that we are only Indian campesinos, that we can’t write our words. Although it’s true that we adults don’t know how to read, the young people have gone to school and they help us. We believe that our history doesn’t mean much if it remains guarded in the heart, it’s better if it is written and can go to many places . . . Perhaps if other campesinos understand it, they will wake up and come to make their own history.”103

     The members of “Tierra Tzotzil Community Union” of the El Bosque region told the “history of how we purchased our finca [landed estate].” They wanted “[their] thoughts to be taken into account, [their] words to go out.”104 Those Chamulans who had worked in the German coffee plantations of Soconusco similarly wanted their story known.105 “The point of writing this history,” wrote a local indigenous historian, “is to show my readers today the drastic changes a group of campesinos have lived.”106 Native historians want to tell the stories of their people in their way, and they want their stories to be widely known, by other Indians and by Mexican society. In this manner, an indigenous historiography is appearing in Chiapas. As Alfredo of Sna Jtz’ibajom says, “these little books are a beginning.”107

     These accounts present a Maya-centric history concerned primarily with how the kaxlanes have oppressed the Maya from the time of the Conquest through the present and how the Maya have resisted and persevered. Wars and political conflicts among Ladinos in Chiapas have little meaning and importance except when they affect Indian lives. Historians recount the “age of the grandfathers,” when Indian Pueblos owned the land and the men did not have to work on the fincas. The epoch of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911) in Chiapas is also referred to as the “age of the finca,” since by this time rich Ladinos monopolized most of the land. It is remembered as a terrible time of extreme poverty, physical abuse, and virtual slavery under a system of debt servitude. Liberation then seemed possible because of the actions of local and national revolutionary heroes. The Mexican Revolution (1910–1920) in Chiapas, however, involved struggles among Ladino factions that only vandalized native communities; it is remembered as “the time of hunger.” Native accounts generally distinguish the age before and after the “Revolution of the Indians” (agrarian reform and the formation of the indigenous labor union) of the 1930s. For a time, the ejidos had enough good land, the labor union worked as it should, and life was better. But the revolutionaries left the scene, officials again cheated Indians, and good land passed to the Ladinos. The present is another time of hardship and oppression for the Maya, who confront it through the organization of unions and cooperatives, struggle against corrupt officials and landowners, and migration to the jungle. Their history therefore justifies Maya resentment, reinforces their demands for land, education, and autonomy, and, finally, motivates and inspires their current struggles for justice.108

     Maya-centric history is fusing with revisionist national history to create a new historical syncretism. This is consistent with the Indian desire to be a people with some measure of autonomy as well as be citizens with equal rights.109 Revolutionary Mexican history provides examples and role models: the resistance of Cuauhtémoc against the Spanish conquest, the insurgency of Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos in 1810 for national independence, the wars of Benito Juárez for ideological definition and national self-determination, and particularly the Revolution of 1910 and the struggle of Emiliano Zapata for social justice.110 The struggle of Zapata is held up as an example of campesinos and Indians effectively confronting the ruling elite and the state, making a difference, and changing history for the better. Throughout Mexico in the 1970s and 1980s, peasant and Indian organizations have appropriated that revolutionary name, image, and history.111 “In a country of symbols,” comments Paco Ignacio Taibo, “reality is eminently symbolic.”112 As even President Carlos Salinas stated in his fifth state of the union address in 1993, unknowingly prescient, “in our nation there will always be battles for social justice, so long as the memory and example of Emiliano Zapata remains in Mexicans’ hearts.”113

     The Emiliano Zapata National Independent Peasant Alliance (ANCIEZ), born in the south of Puebla in 1991 to push for agrarian reform, credit, and democracy, immediately took root in the Selva Lacandona, spread to Yajalón in the north and Larráinzar and Huixtán in the highlands, and centered its operations in Altamirano. It was led by Jesús Santis Chus, a Tzeltal from the ejido Morelia and included, like many similar organizations in Chiapas, leftist intellectuals and professionals from other regions of Mexico interested in grass-roots political organizing. In the spring of 1992, ANCIEZ and other agrarian groups organized in Ocosingo the commemoration of the assassination of Zapata and a protest against both the forthcoming North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the reform (essentially the revocation) of Article 27, the constitutional provision for agrarian reform. More than 3,000 Indians appeared on April 10 led by Francisco Gómez, ANCIEZ’s representative in Ocosingo. The march concluded with a public reading of a letter by Gómez to the president. “A few months ago,” he protested, “our most precious historical conquest was extinguished: the right to land.”114

     ANCIEZ was one of seventeen organizations in Chiapas that came together in 1992 to protest the Columbian quincentennial as part of the Common Front of Social Organizations—500 Years of Struggle and Resistance of the Chiapas People. The quincentennial spurred Indian protest throughout the Americas from Minnesota to Managua. An Indigenous Congress in Guatemala City one year earlier proposed a “counter-Quincentennial” and Indian activists carried it out in the Andes and on the Amazon, in Santo Domingo and Mexico City, with peaceful protests and some violent acts on October 12.115 The Mexican Council of 500 Years of Indian, Black and Popular Resistance coordinated marches and protests against the “Western farce” of the quincentennial.116 In the city of Morelia, Michoacán, Indian protesters pulled down the statue of a Spanish viceroy. Thousands of Indians from all parts of Mexico gathered in the great ancient city of Teotihuacán in the valley of Mexico and later attacked the Columbus monument in downtown Mexico City. The council’s slogan, “Never Again a Mexico Without Us,” revealed the nationalist solidarity of Mexico’s indigenous movements.117

     In Chiapas, the Common Front of Social Organizations planned a protest march of thousands through San Cristóbal to mark five centuries of indigenous resistance.118 Although there were events in numerous towns in Chiapas on October 12, more than 10,000 natives from nearly every corner of the state gathered in the city founded by Mazariegos.119 Bishop Ruiz celebrated Mass on the previous evening and in his homily referred to 500 years of suffering and resistance that continued still.120 About half the marchers were ANCIEZ militants armed with bows and arrows and signs denouncing NAFTA, Salinas’s neoliberal policies, and “500 YEARS OF ROBBERY, MURDER, AND DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.” The ANCIEZ contingent was particularly notable for the large number of women in its ranks. The march began at the 1974 monument to Bishop Las Casas and proceeded to the central square, the 31st of March Plaza, named for the date of Mazariego’s founding of the city. Shouts of “Columbus Against the Wall” were heard from the crowd. Some women carried the popular flag of Indian Mexico, a green, white, and red banner with the Virgin of Guadalupe in the center. Pedro Gómez López, president of the Zoque Supreme Council, noted that “this is the best date to appreciate the real events that engaged the lives of the Indians of this continent in the bloody massacre that made them victims.”121

     The marchers continued through town to Santo Domingo Church, where the monument to Mazariegos was located. The monument stood in front of what is today the Chiapas Highlands Museum in the ancient Dominican convent but had been for years the city jail. ANCIEZ militants immediately surrounded the monument and climbed upon it to chants of “abajo, abajo” (down with it!). While city policemen watched, some men pulled at the statue with ropes and others attacked it with a sledgehammer. In about ten minutes, the green figure was on the ground. It was doused with gasoline and set on fire, but the damage was light. Marchers then hoisted the statue on their shoulders and carried it to city hall. There they set upon it with hammers, smashed it to pieces and sold them to onlookers. The march ended with speeches—in Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Tojolabal—declaring that Indian unity was the only way to end five centuries of injustice.122

 Base of the former Mazariegos monument at Santo Domingo Church, San Cristóbal de las Casas. Photograph by Sharon Lee House, July 1994. 

     What did this mean? Coletos blamed Bishop Samuel Ruiz, “the antichrist of San Cristóbal,” and his “communist priests” for fomenting a rebellion. Socorro Zebadúa Celoria, head of San Cristóbal’s national chamber of commerce chapter, complained that the clergy had provoked Indians and led them to believe they would not be held responsible for their actions. City authorities characterized it as vandalism and the work of “professional agitators.” Furthermore, noted Jorge Marío Lescieur Talavera, the municipal president, the march itself included two priests and had been incited by “the political clergy of the diocese of San Cristóbal.” The municipal president added that the monument was an important “tourist attraction,” since “in all of Latin America there existed only two statues of conquistadors, the one of Diego de Mazariegos, in San Cristóbal, and that of Francisco Pizarro, in the capital of Peru.”123 Lescieur Talavera with other “authentic residents” immediately formed the United Front for Citizens’ Defense, which initiated a propaganda campaign to have Bishop Ruiz removed from office and expelled from San Cristóbal and Chiapas.124

     The destruction of the monument was not a spontaneous action of the crowd. ANCIEZ militants, according to other participants of the march, proceeded directly to the monument and destroyed it without hesitation or discussion. It was later learned that some of the leaders of the underground and as yet unknown Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) were present in San Cristóbal on that day, including the soon-to-be famous Subcomandante Marcos, and were prepared to strike back in case of police repression. Many ANCIEZ leaders and followers, furthermore, were at this time, or soon would be, Zapatistas. Subcomandante Marcos subsequently noted that the Zapatista civilian population voted in the fall of 1992: “And the result, by several tens of thousands, was that the war would have to start, in October of 1992, with the quincentenary.”125

     The participants of the march understood the significance of their overwhelming presence and dramatic actions on that day. Interviews conducted after the event reveal that Indian marchers were aware that they were present at a historic occasion and were proud to claim attendance. Those who later agreed to be interviewed demonstrated a solid understanding of the meaning of “the discovery” of October 12, 1492, the conquest by Mazariegos in 1528, and the humanitarianism of Bartolomé de las Casas. Marchers were offended that Mazariegos was a hero to the Ladinos of San Cristóbal.126 One image repeatedly found in the testimony of informants is telling: Mazariegos was an object of Indian wrath because he was a conquistador de indígenas who branded Indian slaves on their foreheads with a burning iron.127

     People who experienced persecution, expulsions, jailing, violence, and worse offenses as a reality of their lives had little difficulty understanding the conquest that their ancestors in the late 1520s suffered. They had little difficulty understanding “the long history of the struggle which the indigenous peoples have been waging for five hundred years.”128 They had great difficulty, however, understanding why anyone would wish to celebrate 1492 or memorialize the conqueror of Chiapas. “The native people of Chiapas refuse to celebrate the 500 years encounter of two worlds,” declared Jacinto Arias Pérez, “rather they consider it a celebration of aggression against the Indian peoples of Mexico.”129 It was in this context and precisely at this time that the Indian communities in the Selva Lacandona began to discuss and debate the necessity of armed rebellion. Local assemblies analyzed the risks of rebellion, and a majority of communities in the region in late 1992 voted for war. In January 1993, the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee of the Zapatista Army was organized and preparations for the uprising were begun.130

One year and two months after the fall of the statue to the conquistador, Indian soldiers seized San Cristóbal for the first time in history. The Zapatista rebellion that began on New Year’s Day in 1994 was a brief war and an extended history lesson. The rebel’s spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, writes Alma Guillermoprieto, “staged a very real, threatening war on the Mexican state based on almost no firepower and a brilliant use of Mexicans’ most resonant images: the Revolution, the peasants’ unending struggle for dignity and recognition, the betrayed Emiliano Zapata.”131 The first paragraph of the Zapatista manifesto, “The Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle,” recounted the history of popular Mexican struggles against Spain, the United States, France, and the dictator Porfirio Díaz.132 The name of the rebels’ official organ, El despertador mexicano—the Mexican Alarm—was a direct reference to the insurgent newspaper of the 1810 revolution for independence.133 “The Zapatista rebels are thus Indians who have believed in Mexico’s public Revolutionary rhetoric,” writes Gary Gossen, “but who now feel utterly betrayed by the nation’s revised priorities.”134

     No history was more important to the Zapatistas than the history of the first and original Zapatistas (and no name more subversive to the government and establishment media).135 On April 10, 1994, the seventy-fifth anniversary of Zapata’s assassination, the Zapatista forces staged an impressive ceremony in rebel territory before local residents and the international media. Three or four hundred Zapatista soldiers paraded before the movement’s supreme council while musicians played the national anthem. Three speakers commemorated the life and death of the “apostle of agrarianism” and affirmed the Zapatista principle that in 1994 as in 1919 the land belongs to him who works it. “Our heart is happy,” Marcos proclaimed, “because Emiliano Zapata has returned.”136 An elderly man with a distinctive Zapata-like mustache, a representative of the Zapatista veterans of 1910, reviewed the troops. Later that evening, revolutionary ballads were played while soldiers danced with young women in their best dresses. “How long has it been,” wondered one observer, “since we’ve seen such a moving April 10 in Mexico?”137

     The new historical syncretism combining national and indigenous history was highlighted in the EZLN’s creation of Votán-Zapata. Votán, “Guardian and Heart of the People,” the Tzeltal name of the principal deity of ancient Chiapas as well as, possibly, a historical holy man, was united symbolically with Emiliano Zapata, Mexican history’s most respected revolutionary. Both were leaders (caudillos) and liberators.138 “There was a man who, his word traveling from far away, came to our mountains and spoke with the tongue of true men and women,” Marcos proclaimed on behalf of the Clandestine Committee in 1994. One year later, he further clarified this symbolic partnership: “In us, in our arms, in our covered face, in our true word, Zapata united the wisdom and the struggle of our most ancient ancestors. Joined with Votán, the Guardian and Heart of the People, Zapata rose up again to struggle for democracy, liberty and justice for all Mexicans. Although he has Indian blood, Votán-Zapata does not struggle only for the indigenous, he also struggles for those who are not indigenous but who live in the same misery.”139

     The study of history played a role in the Zapatista preparations for war. The development of political consciousness of communities connected to Zapatismo, one investigator argues, “implied the recuperation of the past.”140 Marcos told how he “went to teach what the people wanted: literacy and Mexican history.”141 Indian soldiers interviewed after the uprising told how they received instruction in using firearms, reading and writing, and Mexican history.142 Lieutenant Amalia recalled how, at age seventeen, after learning a little Spanish, “we began to study the history of Mexico . . . And after that we were taught combat tactics.”143 Comandante Ramona similarly noted the importance of Mexican history (and that of other liberation struggles) in the formation of a rebel.144 In the months following the uprising, dozens of journalists penetrated the Lacandón and surrounding valleys searching for Zapatistas to interview. Those who talked to them, like Mayor Moisés, knew something about Mexico’s revolutionary history. We Mexicans have rebelled many times, he noted, “it is a long history, coming from the struggles against the Spanish in 1810, and from the struggles against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, in the year 1910. From Zapata and from Villa. The time has come again to form an army, an army of the people.”145 Moisés noted that the EZLN “educated me,” and a reporter remarked that “he narrated entire episodes of national history.”146

     A small episode during the Zapatista occupation of San Cristóbal illustrates the significance of history to the rebels. On January 1, 1994, rebel forces seized city hall and began destroying land titles and other administrative papers. After a plea by the archivist and a brief consultation with the Clandestine Committee, the Indian army took special care to protect the municipal historical archive. Every office in the building save the archive was destroyed and its contents burned or dumped into the plaza. One comandante in patchy Spanish stated: “We too respect the history of the people, we are not fighting against them. This archive shows us the historical struggle and advancement of the people and we will not destroy it.”147

     The rebellion itself has further encouraged the study, teaching, and writing of history. The Zapatista delegation in the 1995 negotiations with the national government at San Andres Larráinzar demanded the recuperation of native historical sources and the elaboration of native histories by native historians.148 In the highlands, an “awakening” of the desire to study the history of indigenous people has been reported.149 The significance of history and the construction of a usable past as part of an ethnic renaissance is certainly not restricted to Chiapas. Native peoples throughout the Americas have also awakened to the significance of their past.

     “Today, at the hour of our awakening,” Justino Quispe proclaimed at the first Indian Congress of South America in October 1974, “we must be our own historians.”150 From the Quichua of the Ecuadorian Andes and the Miskitu of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua to the Blackfoot of Montana, native peoples throughout the Americas are newly employing history to strengthen and revitalize ethnicity, identity, and culture.151 This is particularly true for the Maya and not simply the Maya of Chiapas. Yucatecan Maya, angry about official history that “has hidden the valiant nature of our people,” demand a new curriculum, a Maya curriculum in language, culture, and history.152 The most extensive study and writing of native history by Mayan people is now developing in Guatemala. There, Kay B. Warren has found that “Mayas want to know what others have written about them, unmask foreign researchers’ politics and identities, discuss among themselves the psychological scars of racism, and generate their own cultural knowledge.”153 Herminio Pérez, a Maya radio broadcaster in Guatemala, explains, “for us the past is a tool to analyze the present in order to plan the future.”154 In Guatemala, Yucatán, and Chiapas, Mayas are challenging the historical narratives that have assumed their conquest and justified Ladino domination, and are rewriting history.155

     The rise and fall of the monument to Captain Diego de Mazariegos frames the first stage of the Maya revival in Chiapas. When the municipal government erected the statue in 1978, only four years had passed since the meeting of the first Indigenous Congress in San Cristóbal de las Casas. During the 1970s and 1980s, the consequences of the congress reverberated thoughout Chiapas like aftershocks following an earthquake. One of those was the origin of an indigenous historiography. The native people of Chiapas had long been considered a “people without history.” The colonial and national state, writes Julio Atenco, “has attempted to erase historical memory, making Indian initiatives to reconstruct it impossible.”156 In Chiapas, Indian initiatives to write history were undertaken for the first time since the ancient Maya wrote in stone. Indians have passed from being objects of someone else’s history to become the subjects of their own history. The new histories of the Maya portray Indians as protagonists of the history of Chiapas and Mexico. As protagonists, they see themselves more clearly, with greater unity and with greater pride. The Chamula historian Enrique Pérez López writes, “we have come to know ourselves better.”157 History helped produce, noted Antonio Hernández Cruz, “more awareness of our identity.”158 That identity is both indigenous and national, Mayan and Mexican, grounded in local indigenous history and energized by national revolutionary history.159 As Captain Cristóbal proudly announced, “We are natives, we are campesinos, we are Mexicans.”160 This new historical identity is critical to Indians’ ability to place recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples on the agenda of a democratizing Mexico.161 In this context, the destruction of the monument to the conquistador in 1992 was itself a revisionist historical statement: the history of Chiapas is a work in progress.


I would like to thank Jan and Diane Rus, who made this essay possible by providing me with many of the publications of the Tzotzil Workshop, facilitating interviews in San Cristóbal, and trying to educate me about native Chiapas over the years. I am grateful to those Chiapanecos who welcomed my visits and agreed to talk with me about this topic and this beautiful but difficult land that Bishop Samuel Ruiz once called the Mexican frontier with the past. I would also like to acknowledge the valuable conversations I have had with Andrés Aubry, José Jimenez Paniagua, Neil Harvey, Christine Eber, and Monique Nuijten. I am grateful to Jan Rus, Paul Vanderwood, Carol Green, Michael Grossberg, and the five anonymous reviewers of this journal for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. Central Michigan University supported my research and writing with a research professorship.

1 From a one-act farce adapted by Francisco Alvarez Quiñones of the native Writers’ Cooperative (Sna Jtz’ibajom) of San Cristóbal de las Casas, “Tiempo de los Mayas,” Centro de Investigaciones Humanísticas de Mesoamérica del Estado de Chiapas (hereafter, CHIMECH) 4 (January–December 1994): 197.

2 Adriana López Monjardin, “Los guiones ocultos de Chiapas: La resistencia cívica entre los indígenas,” Viento del sur 7 (Summer 1996): 23.

3 “Our argument about past and present points to the unity of history and politics, to historical work as an aspect of politics.” Popular Memory Group, “Popular Memory: Theory, Politics, Method,” in Richard Johnson, et al., eds., Making Histories: Studies in History Writing and Politics (Minneapolis, 1982), 244. The word “history” has more than one meaning in common usage. In this essay in most instances, the word refers to its conventional meaning, the recording, analyzing, narrating, and explaining of past events and processes or simply knowledge of the past. Another meaning of the word is that of the flow of events in the past, present, and future, as in Oscar Wilde’s saying that any fool can make history but it takes a genius to write it. Richard J. Evans, In Defense of History (1997; New York, 1999), 173.

4 There are heated debates about the division of the world into peoples with and without history. One concerns the validity of the distinction itself and has become a fierce ideological issue. Revisionists question the “stereotype” of ahistorical myth and legend and argue that every dominant ideology declares “the other” to have neither history nor historical understanding. Much good work has discredited the older, condescending treatment of non-elite traditions and sensitized historians to the different ways people have looked at and understood their past. See Romila Thapar, “Society and Historical Consciousness: The Itihasa-Purana Tradition,” in Subysachi Bhattacharya and Thapar, eds., Situating Indian History (New Delhi, 1986), 353–84. The other debate in simplified form concerns the value of Western historicity. Claude Lévi-Strauss viewed mythic thought as valuable and authentic and the European imposition of history as the obliteration of cultural difference and one more tool of human enslavement. Traditional Eurocentric analysis considered the rise of historical consciousness as part of the march of progress, while more recently Jacques Derrida suggested the possibility of historical consciousness as necessary for liberation. It is not my intention to enter this discussion but to consider the more limited question of how a specific people began to put into writing their own historical narratives. See Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques: An Anthropological Study of Primitive Societies in Brazil, John Russell, trans. (New York, 1969); Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Gayatri Spivak, trans. (Baltimore, 1976); and Kerwin Lee Klein, “In Search of Narrative Mastery: Postmodernism and the People without History,” History and Theory 34 (1995): 275–98.

5 Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People without History (Berkeley, Calif., 1982), 23. Native peoples, like E. P. Thompson’s working class, experienced “the enormous condescension of posterity.” Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York, 1963), 12. Also see Ralph Buultjens, “Global History and the Third World,” in Bruce Mazlish and Buultjens, eds., Conceptualizing Global History (Boulder, Colo., 1993), 71–91. Richard White notes that “the oldest and most lasting tradition in the representation of Indians” is that they are “a people without history.” See “Representing Indians,” New Republic (April 21, 1997): 32.

6 The best review and analysis of this historiographical domination is Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, México Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization, Philip A. Dennis, trans. (Austin, Tex., 1996). Also see Bonfil Batalla, “Historias que no son todavía historia,” in Carlos Pereyra, et al., Historia ¿Para Que? (Mexico City, 1980), 229–45; Bonfil Batalla, “Nuestro patrimonio cultural: Un laberinto de significados,” in El patrimonio cultural de México, Enrique Florescano, ed. (Mexico City, 1993), 19–39; Francisco de la Peña Martínez, “La construcción imaginaria de la mexicanidad,” La jornada semanal 212 (July 4, 1993): 31–34; and Luis Reyes García, “Comentarios sobre historia india,” in Movimientos indígenas contemporáneos en México, Arturo Warman and Arturo Argueta, eds. (Mexico City, 1993), 187–98.

7 Thomas Benjamin, “Una larga historia de resistencia indígena campesina: Un ensayo sobre la etnohistoriografía de Chiapas,” in Jane-Dale Lloyd and Laura Pérez Rosales, eds., Paisajes rebeldes: Una larga noche de rebelión indígena (Mexico City, 1995), 183–85.

8 What John Lukacs has called “unhistorical habits of thought”—and others call non-Western historical consciousness—is, in his formulation, a different form of consciousness in contrast to the Greek and European tradition of realistic representation of the past and the belief that anything—a person, a nation, even an idea—can be known through its history. See Lukacs, Historical Consciousness: The Remembered Past (1968; New Brunswick, N.J., 1994), chap. 1, sect. 5; Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (Chicago, 1983); Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of History (London, 1981); Robert Eric Frykenberg, History and Belief: The Foundations of Historical Understanding (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1996). Some recent scholars of Native American history agree that the Indian understanding of time is fundamentally different from, and possibly superior to, the Western idea of history. Calvin Martin makes a clear distinction between ‘people of myth’ and ‘people of history’ and advises historians against seeing or portraying Native Americans as a people of history. See Martin, ed., The American Indian and the Problem of History (New York, 1987). Kerwin Lee Klein discusses the new criticism in “In Search of Narrative Mastery,” 275–98; and Frontiers of Historical Imagination: Narrating the European Conquest of Native America, 1890–1990 (Berkeley, Calif., 1997), 287–96.

9 Robert M. Carmack, Janine Gasco, and Gary H. Gossen, The Legacy of Mesoamerica: History and Culture of a Native American Civilization (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 1996), 455.

10 Victoria Reifler Bricker, The Indian Christ, the Indian King: The Historical Substrate of Maya Myth and Ritual (Austin, Tex., 1981), 180. Miguel León-Portilla considered recent ethnologies and historiography in Tiempo y realidad en el pensamiento Maya: Ensayo de acercamiento, 3d edn. (Mexico City, 1994), 174–92.

11 Benjamin N. Colby, Ethnic Relations in the Chiapas Highlands of Mexico (Albuquerque, N.Mex., 1966), 20. Similar findings are given by Fernando Cámara Barbachano, Persistencia y cambio cultural entre los tzeltales de los altos de Chiapas (Mexico City, 1966); Henri Favre, Cambio y continuidad entre los Mayas de Mexico: Contribución al estudio de la situación colonialista en América Latina (Mexico City, 1973), 130–31, 88; Calixta Guiteras-Holmes, Perils of the Soul: The World View of a Tzotzil Indian (Chicago, 1961); William R. Holland, Contemporary Tzotzil Cosmological Concepts as a Basis for Interpreting Prehistoric Maya Civilization, 35th International Congress of Americanists, 3 vols. (Mexico City, 1962); Ricardo Pozas, Juan Pérez Jolote: Biografía de un Tzotzil (Mexico City, 1952); June Nash, In the Eyes of the Ancestors: Belief and Behavior in a Maya Community (New Haven, Conn., 1970); Carlos Navarrete, Chiapanec History and Culture, José Gabriel Camacho, trans. (Provo, Utah, 1966); and Evon Z. Vogt, Tortillas for the Gods: A Symbolic Analysis of Zinacanteco Rituals (Cambridge, Mass., 1976).

12 Paulina Hermosillo, “Interview: Bishop Samuel Ruiz García,” in Elaine Katzenberger, ed., First World, Ha Ha Ha! The Zapatista Challenge (San Francisco, 1995), 72. The bishop recognizes a significant transformation in this respect. In an interview in 1997, he noted, “the Indians are no longer objects. They have become the subjects of their lives. They no longer see things mundane or divine as they did before . . . They are making new interpretations of their old culture.” From John Womack, Jr., “A Bishop’s Conversation,” DoubleTake 4 (Winter 1998): 27.

13 Gary H. Gossen, Chamulas in the World of the Sun: Time and Space in a Maya Oral Tradition (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), 25, 140–41, 253–54. Gossen has a large and distinguished body of published work. Most relevant to this discussion is “El tiempo cíclico en San Juan Chamula: Mistificación o mitología viva?” Mesoamerica 18 (December 1989); and “Translating Cuscat’s War: Understanding Maya Oral History,” Journal of Latin American Lore 3 (1977): 249–78.

14 Jan Rus, “Contained Revolutions: Indians and the Struggle for Control of Highland Chiapas, 1910–1925,” unpublished paper; Rus, “Whose Caste War? Indians, Ladinos and the Chiapas ‘Caste War’ of 1869,” in Murdo J. MacLeod and Robert Wasserstrom, eds., Spaniards and Indians in Southeastern Mesoamerica: Essays on the History of Ethnic Relations (Lincoln, Neb., 1983), 127–68; Rus, “The ‘Caste War’ of 1869 from the Indian’s Perspective: A Challenge for Ethnohistory,” Memorias del Segundo Coloquio Internacional de Mayistas (August 17–21, 1987), vol. 2 (Mexico City, 1989), 1033–47; Rus, “The ‘Comunidad Revolucionaria Institucional’: The Subversion of Native Government in Highland Chiapas, 1936–1968,” in Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent, eds., Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico (Durham, N.C., 1994), 265–300; and Rus, “Local Adaptation to Global Change: The Reordering of Native Society in Highland Chiapas, Mexico, 1974–1994,” European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 58 (1995): 71–89.

15 Interview with Subcomandante Marcos conducted by Carmen Castillo and Tessa Brisac, Aguascalientes, Chiapas, October 24, 1994, in Adolfo Gilly, Subcomandante Marcos, and Carlo Ginzburg, Discusión sobre la historia (Mexico City, 1995), see “Apéndice: Historia de Marcos y de los Hombres de la Noche,” 131–42.

16 Bricker, Indian Christ, the Indian King, 180; Carol Karasik, ed., The People of the Bat: Mayan Tales and Dreams from Zinacantán, collected and translated by Robert M. Laughlin (Washington, D.C., 1988), 1–21; and J. M. Levi, “Myth and History Reconsidered: Archeological Implications of Tzotzil-Maya Mythology,” American Antiquity 53 (July 1988): 605–10. Oral tradition, we should also recognize, is a verbal art, not a precise referencing system. See Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition: A Study in Historical Methodology, H. M. Wright, trans. (Chicago, 1965), 183–85, 102.

17 Joanne Rappaport has made the most in-depth study of a native historical tradition, that of the Nasa of Colombia, and found a distinct vision that merged myth and history. See Rappaport, The Politics of Memory: Native Historical Interpretation in the Colombian Andes (Durham, N.C., 1998).

18 Eugeniao Maurer, “Tseltal Christianity,” in Manuel M. Marzal, Maurer, Xavier Albó, and Bartomeu Meliá, The Indian Face of God in Latin America, Penelope R. Hall, trans. (New York, 1996), 62.

19 Stephen E. Lewis, “Revolution and the Rural Schoolhouse: Forging State and Nation in Chiapas, Mexico, 1913–1948” (PhD dissertation, University of California, San Diego, 1997), 446.

20 Carlos R. Vargas Morales, “La lingüística antropológica aplicada, Oxchuc, altos de Chiapas,” Memorias del Primer Congreso Internacional de Mayistas (Mexico City, 1992), 125. Nancy Modiano in 1973 found that the only history in Indian schools was “polemics about national heroes . . . which were all but meaningless to the students.” Modiano, Indian Education in the Chiapas Highlands (New York, 1973), 104.

21 Bonfil Batalla, “Historias que no son todavía historia,” 244. “History is a question of power in the present, and not of detached reflection upon the past. It can serve to maintain power, or can become a vehicle for empowerment.” Rappaport, Politics of Memory, 16.

22 Marie-Chantal Barre, Ideologías indigenistas y movimientos indios (Mexico City, 1983); Héctor Díaz Polanco, Indigenous Peoples in Latin America: The Quest for Self-Determination, Lucia Rayas, trans. (Boulder, Colo., 1997), see chap. 5, 83–93. Anthony Wallace defines revitalization movements as “deliberate, organized, conscious effort(s) by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture.” Wallace, “Revitalization Movements,” American Anthropologist 58 (1956): 265.

23 June Nash, “The Reassertion of Indigenous Identity: Mayan Responses to State Intervention in Chiapas,” Latin American Research Review 30 (1995): 7–41.

24 Bonfil Batalla, México Profundo, 149. “Throughout the Americas indigenous peoples are working toward these same aims, revalidating their own historical knowledge as an arm against their subordinate position in society. For them, history is a source of knowledge of how they were first subjugated and of information about their legal rights, the beginnings of a new definition of themselves as a people.” Rappaport, Politics of Memory, 1.

25 For the early historiography, see Barry Carr, “‘From the Mountains of the Southeast’: A Review of Recent Writings on the Zapatistas of Chiapas,” Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 3 (December 1997): 109–23; and David LaFrance, “Chiapas in Rebellion: An Early Assessment,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 12 (Winter 1996): 91–105. The first studies include George A. Collier with Elizabeth Lowery Quaratiello, Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas (San Francisco, 1994); Neil Harvey, Rebellion in Chiapas: Rural Reforms, Campesino Radicalism, and the Limits to Salinismo (San Diego, Calif., 1994); and Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (Durham, N.C., 1998); John Ross, Rebellion from the Roots: Indian Uprising in Chiapas (Monroe, Me., 1995); Carlos Tello Díaz, La rebelión de las Cañadas (Mexico City, 1995); and John Womack, Jr., “Chiapas, the Bishop of San Cristóbal, and the Zapatista Revolt,” in Womack, ed., Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader (New York, 1999), 3–59.

26 “The state of Chiapas remains akin to a separate country.” Lynn Stephen, “Election Day in Chiapas: A Low-Intensity War,” NACLA Report on the Americas 31 (September–October 1997): 10.

27 Salvador Guerrero Chipres, “94 Municipios de Chiapas de Muy Alta y Alta Marginalidad,” La jornada (January 3, 1994): 11. San Cristóbal had a population of approximately 90,000 in 1990.

28 Passage from Bartolomé de las Casas, Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias occidentales, Herma Briffault, trans., in Akwe:kon: A Journal of Indigenous Issues 11 (Summer 1994): 16. The city is described by Henning Siverts, Oxchuc: Una tribu maya de México (Mexico City, 1969), chap. 4; also see Thomas Benjamin, “San Cristóbal de las Casas,” Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, Barbara A. Tenenbaum, ed. (New York, 1996), 5: 31.

29 Since there is no consensus regarding what an “Indian” is, the estimates of population size vary considerably. The 1990 census recorded 716,012 “indígenas,” those who speak an Indian language. This figure does not include children under the age of five and adults who speak only Spanish. A more accurate figure could be as high as double the official count. The population of the state of Chiapas in 1990 was 3.2 million. Indicadores socioeconómicos de los pueblos indígenas de México (Mexico City, 1990); Estadísticas básicas de los altos de Chiapas (Mexico City, 1991).

30 Evon Z. Vogt, “Chiapas Highlands,” Robert M. Laughlin, “The Tzotzil,” Alfonso Villa Rojas, “The Tzeltal,” Roberta Montagu, “The Tojolabal,” and Villa Rojas, “Maya Lowlands: The Chontal, Chol, and Kekchi,” all in Handbook of Middle American Indians: Vols. 7–8, Ethnology, Part One, Vogt, ed. (Austin, Tex., 1969), 133–243.

31 Also written as “cashlan” and “caxtlán,” “kaxlanes” is a modern survival of caxtilan, the Náhuat word for castellano (Castillian), a person from Castile. Natalio Hernández, “Imágenes de los indígenas,” La jornada semanal, June 30, 1996.

32 The first monument, a life-size statue on a 25-foot base, was erected in 1909. The second monument, a 200-foot plus stone tower capped by a statue, was built in 1974.

33 Hermosillo, “Interview: Bishop Samuel Ruiz García,” 71–72. The best biography of Bishop Ruiz is by Carlos Fazio, Samuel Ruiz: El caminante (Mexico City, 1994); also see Gary MacEoin, The People’s Church: Bishop Samuel Ruiz of Mexico and Why He Matters (Washington, D.C., 1996); and Thomas Benjamin, “Samuel Ruiz García,” Encyclopedia of Mexico: History, Society and Culture, Michael S. Werner, ed. (Chicago, 1997), 2: 1291.

34 In 1992, as in 1974, commemoration of Las Casas was an occasion to declare that “the Government of Chiapas has made common cause with the indigenous people.” See Unidad: Camino de reconciliación y esperanza; Homenaje a Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1992), 63.

35 Fazio, Samuel Ruiz, 103–04; Juan Ojeda, “El Congreso Indígena,” Caminante 45 (Diocesis of San Cristóbal de las Casas, October 1988); “La vuelta del Katún,” El perfil de La jornada, October 12, 1994.

36 Jesús Morales Bermúdez, “El Congreso Indígena de Chiapas: Un testimonio,” América indígena 55 (January–June 1995): 311; Antonio García de León, “La vuelta del Katún,” El perfil de La jornada, October 12, 1994; Ana Bella Pérez Castro, “Apéndice 2: El Congreso Indígena,” in Entre montañas y cafetales (Mexico City, 1989), 189–90.

37 Francis Mestries, “Testimonios del Congreso Indígena de San Cristóbal de las Casas, octubre de 1974,” in Pilar López Sierra, et al., eds., Historia de la cuestión agraria mexicana, 9: Los tiempos de la crisis 1970–1982 (Mexico City, 1990), 473–89; Juan González Esponda, “El Congreso Indígena de 1974: Contexto y consecuencias,” Memorias del Primer Congreso Internacional de Mayistas, 165–82; and Mestries, “Primer Congreso Indígena,” Cultura y sociedad 1 (1974). Selections from the congress have been translated into English in “Las Casas Recalled, Indians Informed, Organized, United, and Defiant: The Congress of San Cristóbal, 1974,” in Womack, Rebellion in Chiapas, 148–61. Ejidos are land-grant communities that collectively possess the nation’s land in usufruct.

38 Exodus is a very important element of religious instruction in the indigenous highlands and in the Lacandón forest. The book of Exodus was the first book of the Bible translated into Tzeltal in 1972–1974. The catechism lesson book in a bilingual Spanish-Tzeltal edition, Estamos buscando la libertad, directly compared the Indian migration into the Lacandón to the biblical Exodus. Enrique Maza, “Juntas, la acción política y la acción pastoral concientizaron a los indígenas en la búsqueda de su redención,” Proceso (February 7, 1994): 22–25; Michael Tangeman, Mexico at the Crossroads: Politics, the Church, and the Poor (Maryknoll, N.Y., 1995), 8–9; Michael Walzer notes that the story of Exodus has for centuries been read as a metaphor for revolution and liberation, in his captivating Exodus and Revolution (New York, 1985).

39 Mestries, “Testimonios del Congreso Indígena,” 475.

40 Ana Bella Pérez Castro, “Movimiento campesino en Simojovel, Chis. 1936–1978: Problemas étnico o de clases sociales,” Anales de antropología 19 (1982): 207–29; Luis Méndez Asensio and Antonio Cano Gimeno, La guerra contra tiempo: Viaje a la selva alzada (Mexico City, 1994), 147–63.

41 The phrase is Ernesto Reyes’s, quoted in Thomas Benjamin, A Rich Land, a Poor People: Politics and Society in Modern Chiapas, 2d edn. (Albuquerque, N.Mex., 1996), see the epilogue and 235–45 for more detail.

42 Morales Bermúdez, “El Congreso Indígena,” 317; Neil Harvey, “La Unión de uniones de Chiapas,” La jornada del campo (October 13, 1992): 10.

43 In time, the National Council of Indian Peoples became more independent of the government and began to criticize presidential actions. This led to its dissolution by President José López Portillo in 1980. Alexander Ewen, “Mexico: The Crisis of Identity,” Akwe:kon Journal 11 (Summer 1994): 34.

44 Luis Hernández Navarro, “Chiapas: Del Congreso Indígena a la guerra campesina,” La jornada del campo 23 (October 25, 1994): 1–3; Neil Harvey, “Estrategias corporativistas y respuestas populares en el México rural: Estado y organizaciones campesinas en Chiapas desde 1970,” CHIMECH 2 (August 1991): 60–61.

45 The origin of this system is explained by Rus, “‘Comunidad Revolucionaria Institucional.'”

46 This outrage was first exposed in the pamphlet by Juan Jaime Manguén, et al., La violencia en Chamula (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1978). Also see Gaspar Morquecho Escamilla, “Expulsiones en los altos de Chiapas,” in Movimiento campesino en Chiapas (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1994), 63; Oliver Tickell, “Indigenous Explusions in the Highlands of Chiapas,” International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs Newsletter 2 (1991): 9–14; “Explusiones Indígenas y el respeto a las culturas, costumbres y tradiciones de esos pueblos en Chiapas,” Anuario indigenista 31 (December 1992): 337–89.

47 Womack, “Bishop’s Conversation,” 32. “The Indigenous Congress of October 1974 is the obligatory reference point for understanding and explaining the organization and struggle of the indigenous campesinos of Chiapas.” María del Carmen Legorreta Díaz, “Política y guerrilla,” Nexos, January 1997.

48 “Ladinos and Indians fear one another. Ladinos are afraid of Indian vengeance.” Siverts, Oxchuc, 48.

49 Rus, “‘Comunidad Revolucionaria Institucional,'” 257–64.

50 Antonio Turok, “Chiapas: The End of Silence,” in Turok and Francisco Alvarez Quiñones, Chiapas: El fin del silencio/The End of Silence (Mexico City, 1998), 25.

51 María del Carmen Legorreta Díaz refers to “the fear of a ‘caste war’ in the air of Ladino cities.” “Chiapas,” in Pablo González Casanova and Jorge Cadena Roa, eds., La República Mexicana: Modernización y democracia de Aguascalientes a Zacatecas, vol. 1 (Mexico City, 1994), 126.

52 Interview with Andrés Aubry, director of the historical archive of the Cathedral of San Cristóbal and founder of the Instituto de Asesoría Antropológica para la Región Maya, A.C., in San Cristóbal, July 1994. During 1978–1979, I frequently visited Dr. Prudencio Moscoso Pastrana—the official chronicler of the city—at his home in San Cristóbal to use his library. He held mid-afternoon tea-and-coffee discussions with friends and colleagues and occasionally invited me. There I listened to city residents (coletos) talk about the issues of the day including “the Indian problem.”

53 E. Flores Ruiz, Libro de oro de San Cristóbal de las Casas (San Cristóbal, 1976). This local historian wrote the historical narrative for the official publications of the 1978 commemoration. A description of the region on the eve of the Spanish conquest is given by Jan de Vos, “Chiapas en el momento de la conquista,” Arqueología mexicana 2 (June–July 1994): 14–21. Ciudad Real was known informally as San Cristóbal de los Llanos. The valley of San Cristóbal contains numerous archeological sites pertaining to the ancient Maya and was fully occupied in 1524, according to accounts of that first expedition. The issue of Maya occupation in 1528 is bitterly contested today.

54 Antonio de Remesal, Historia general de las Indias Occidentales, y particular de la gobernación de Chiapas y Guatemala (1619), 2 vols. (Guatemala, 1932).

55 Francisco Santiago Cruz, Ciudad Real de Chiapas en la historia de Fray Antonio de Remesal (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1974); and San Cristóbal de las Casas en el relato de sus historiadores (Mexico City, 1981). Remesal’s chronicle and influence is the subject of an excellent analysis by Jan de Vos in Los enredos de Remesal: Ensayo sobre la conquista de Chiapas (Mexico City, 1992). Vicente Pineda, Historia de las sublevaciones indígenas habidas en el estado de Chiapas (Chiapas, 1888). The Remesal tradition continues today with José Antonio Gutiérrez, Infundios contra San Cristóbal de las Casas (Mexico City, 1996).

56 Bricker, Indian Christ, the Indian King, chap. 4, 43–52; Jan de Vos, Vivir en frontera: La experiencia de los indios de Chiapas (Mexico City, 1994), 95–96; Gudrun Lenkersdorf, Génsis histórica de Chiapas, 1522–1532: El conflicto entre Portocarrero y Mazariegos (Mexico City, 1993).

57 Juan M. Morales Avendaño, “Tópicos históricos de la época de la conquista y colonial de Chiapas,” Segundo encuentro de intelectuales Chiapas-Centoamerica (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1992), 265–70; Gudrun Lenkersdorf, “La resistencia a la Conquesta Española en los altos de Chiapas,” in Juan Pedro Viqueira and Mario Humberto Ruz, eds., Chiapas: Los rumbos de otra historia (Mexico City, 1995), 78–82; Mónica del Villar K., “La leyenda del Sumidero,” Arqueología mexicana 2 (June–July 1994): 32–35; and Jan de Vos, The Battle of Sumidero: A History of the Chiapanecan Rebellion through Spanish and Indian Testimonies (1524–34) (Amsterdam, 1996), 9–25.

58 Peter Gerhard, The Southeast Frontier of New Spain (Princeton, N.J., 1979), chap. 4.

59 William L. Sherman, Forced Native Labor in Sixteenth-Century Central America (Lincoln, Neb., 1979), 149; and Nélida Bonaccorsi, El trabajo obligatorio indígena en Chiapas, siglo XVI (Mexico City, 1990). Also see Murdo J. MacLeod’s excellent Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520–1720 (Berkeley, Calif., 1973). Encomenderos were granted the authority to collect tribute from specified native communities.

60 Wasserstrom, Class and Society in Central Chiapas, 16–26.

61 Kevin Gosner, Soldiers of the Virgin: The Moral Economy of a Colonial Maya Rebellion (Tucson, Ariz., 1992), chap. 6.

62 Quotations from Benjamin, Rich Land, a Poor People, 28, 67–68, 191. Also see Jan De Vos, “Ser indio en Chiapas,” Siglo XX 15 (January–June 1994): 131–60.

63 Eulalia Guzmán, “Un viaje a San Cristóbal de las Casas,” Antropológicas 10 (1994): 79. Two decades before, Frans Blom and Oliver LaFarge noted: “Economically San Cristóbal cannot exist without the Indians.” Quoted in Aguirre Beltrán, et al., El indigenismo en acción: XXV aniversario del Centro Coordinador Indigenista Tzeltal-Tzotzil, Chiapas (Mexico City, 1976), 13.

64 From the statement of a Chol of Palenque to Governor Patrocinio González Garrido in 1992. Araceli Burguete Cal y Mayor, “Las cuentas pendientes,” Memoria 63 (February 1994): 33. A finquero is an owner of a landed estate, or finca.

65 Benjamin N. Colby and Pierre L. Van Den Berghe, “Ethnic Relations in Southeastern Mexico,” American Anthropologist 63 (August 1961): 772–91; and Colby, Ethnic Relations in the Chiapas Highlands of Mexico. The term coleta—pigtail or hank—is from the eighteenth century and refers to the hairstyle traditionally worn by bullfighters.

66 “In 1978, no less than four years after the first massive expulsion of Chamulas opposed to the PRI, a statue to the conquistador Diego de Mazariegos was erected, in front of the principal entrance of the temple of Santo Domingo.” Magdalena Patricia Sánchez Flores, “De la ciudad real a la ciudad escaparate,” in Diana Guillén, ed., Chiapas: Una modernidad inconclusa (Mexico City, 1995), 82, 106.

67 Memoria 450 Aniversario: 1528–1978 (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1978). This booklet was the official guide and report of the commemorative events. My understanding of the commemoration is also based on an interview with Lic. José Jiménez Paniagua, San Cristóbal’s municipal president in 1977–1979, conducted in San Cristóbal, July 1994. The licenciado kindly gave me a copy of the official guide.

68 Matilde Pérez U., “Polémica por la destrucción de la estatua de Diego de Mazariegos,” La jornada, October 14, 1992.

69 “La cultura es la consumación y justificación de la democracia,” El universal (Mexico City), April 4, 1978. After the second theft, the Mazariegos statue remained unarmed until its demise in 1992.

70 Enrique Krauze, “Founding Fathers,” New Republic (November 28, 1994): 66.

71 De Vos, Los enredos de Remesal, 47.

72 The governor of Chiapas stated that the communities from which the marchers came had received in the previous three years “more attention than they deserved.” José Chablé and Regina Martínez, “Imposible superar en tres años males de siglos: González Garrido,” La jornada, April 9, 1992.

73 Hermann Bellinghausen, “Abril de Xi’Nich,” Ojarasca 8 (May 1992): 13. What did this mean? I can only conjecture that “History” refers to the great flow of events that shape Chiapas, Mexico, and the world.

74 Agrarian conflict with landowners and the government accounted for most indigenous “criminality.” Ninety percent of the approximately 2,500 prisoners in Chiapas jails in 1994 were Indians. Guillermo Correa, Salvador Corro, and Julio César López, “En las cárceles del estado, prolongación de las fincas, el 90% de los presos son indígenas,” Proceso (February 21, 1994): 25.

75 The broader Latin American indigenous movement began in 1971 at the Barbados conference on the Liberation of the Indian sponsored by the World Council of Churches. The “Barbados Group” met for a second time on the same island in 1977 and a third time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1993. The Third Declaration of Barbados states: “Indian peoples have an undeniable right to their history and cultural heritage.” See “Declaración de Barbados III,” Ojarasca 33–34 (June–July 1994): 42. The First and Second International Forums on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples were held in Mexico in 1989 and 1990.

76 Neil Harvey, “Las organizaciones sociales ante el conflicto armado de Chiapas,” El cotidiano 61 (March–April 1994): 21–25; Ricardo del Muro, “Movimientos campesinos: La violenta lucha por la tierra,” Macrópolis (January 31, 1994): 16–19; Hernández Navarro, “Chiapas: Del Congreso Indígena a la guerra campesina,” 1–3.

77 Joel Simon, Endangered Mexico: An Environment on the Edge (San Francisco, 1997), chap. 4, 91–125.

78 Approximately 200,000 people lived in the Selva Lacandona in the mid-1990s, compared to about 91,000 in 1980, 40,000 in 1970, and 1,000 in 1950. Lourdes Arizpe S., Fernanda Paz, and Margarita Velázquez, Cultura y cambio global: Percepciones sociales sobre la desforestación en la Selva Lacandona (Mexico City, 1993), 69; Jan de Vos, “El Lacandón: Una introducción histórica,” in Chiapas: Los rumbos de otra historia, 355.

79 Anna María Garza Caligaris, et al., Sk’op Antzetik: Una historia de mujeres en la selva de Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1993), 42; Xóchitl Leyva Solano and Gabriel Ascencio Franco, “Lacandonia al Filo del Agua,” Ojarasca 33–34 (June–July 1994): 9–13.

80 Xóchitl Leyva Solano, “Notas sueltas acerca de identidad y colonización: La Selva Lacandona en las postrimerías del siglo XX,” in Segundo encuentro de intelectuales Chiapas-Centroamerica, 308–14. Mixtecs in similar circumstances far from their homeland are discovering that they are Mixtec. “A new political consciousness and activism has coalesced into an emerging pan-Mixtec ethnic identity, an ethnic awareness that transcends community and even district identification and manifests itself in the form of Mixtec associations and labor-union activity in the border area of the Californias and Sonora and in Oregon.” Carole Nagengast and Michael Kearney, “Mixtec Ethnicity: Social Identity, Political Consciousness, and Political Activism,” Latin American Research Review 25 (1990): 80–81.

81 María Concepción Obregón R., “La rebelión zapatista en Chiapas: Antecedentes, causas y desarrollo de su primera fase,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 13 (Winter 1997): 175–76.

82 Father Jorge Rafael Díaz Nuñez of Ocosingo, quoted in Chiapas: Rebellion of the Excluded (Washington, D.C., 1994), 20.

83 Juan Francisco Medina Gutiérrez writes that Indians in Chiapas were attracted to Marxism. “The world of theory opened before their eyes that which they confronted on a daily basis: exploitation.” “La larga lucha por una nación indígena,” Macrópolis (January 31, 1994): 51.

84 Ricardo Pérez P., Historia de un pueblo evangélico: Triunfo agrarista (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1993). One of the new indigenous organizations was composed of “los expulsados,” the expelled ones: El Comité de Defensa de los Amenazados, Perseguidos y Expulsados de Chamula in 1984. See María Ester Ibarra, “Los conflictos religiosos,” Macrópolis 99 (February 7, 1994): 8–19.

85 Frank Cancian, The Decline of Community in Zinacantan: Economy, Public Life, and Social Stratification, 1960–1987 (Stanford, Calif., 1992).

86 Christine Eber, “Making Souls Arrive: Enculturation and Identity in Two Highland Towns,” unpublished paper, 1998, ms. in possession of the author.

87 Quoted by Vicente Godínez Valencia, “Chiapas: Iglesia y carisma,” in Chiapas: Los problemas de fondo, David Moctezuma Navarro, ed. (Cuernavaca, 1994), 108.

88 Collier, Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas, 64.

89 Petrona de la Cruz Cruz, “El teatro maya de los altos de Chiapas: Su influencia cultural y su futuro,” Revista de CONSEJO 8 (March 1993): 15; Eduardo Marcial Corzo, “El teatro regional en Chiapas,” in Segundo encuentro de intelectuales Chiapas-Centroamerica, 145–46; and Isabel Juárez Espinosa, Cuentos y teatro tzeltal: A’yejetik sok ta’jimal cuento (Mexico City, 1994).

90 Rosalva Aída Hernández Castillo, “Cuando el idioma regresó al ejido,” Ojarasca 2 (November 1991): 54–56.

91 Evon Z. Vogt, “The Chiapas Writers’ Cooperative,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 9 (1985): 46–48. Sna Jzt’ibajom was organized by Robert Laughlin, who has reported that “the success of this program is an aspect of a native revitalization movement among the Tzotzil and Tzeltal peoples of the Chiapas Highlands.” Vogt, Fieldwork among the Maya: Reflections on the Harvard Chiapas Project (Albuquerque, N.Mex., 1994), 344. Also see Antonio de la Torre López, “Chanob Vun ta Batz’i K’op of Sna Jtz’ibajom: An Alternative Education in Our Native Languages,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 22 (Spring 1998): 44–45; and Christine E. Eber, “Seeking Justice, Valuing Community: Two Women’s Paths in the Wake of the Zapatista Rebellion,” Working Paper 265, Mankato State University (March 1998), 12.

92 Xaw Kojtom Lam, “La voz de nuestro corazón,” Jlum jk’inaltik (San Cristóbal de las Casas) (1994): 2; “En la vanguardia: Sna Jtz’ibajom,” Excelsior, January 29, 1994; Isaías Hernández Isidro, “Identidad y creación literaria,” Ojarasca 37 (October 1994): 57–58; Gordon Brotherston, “Indigenous Literatures and Cultures in Twentieth-Century Latin America,” The Cambridge History of Latin America, Vol. 10, Leslie Bethell, ed. (Cambridge, 1995), 296, 301–02.

93 Natalio Hernández, “La literaturea indígena en tiempos de la guerra de Chiapas,” Ojarasca 45 (August–November 1995): 69–72. The Centro de Investigaciones Humanísticas de Mesoamérica and the state of Chiapas, affiliated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) began in 1987 an annual Concurso de Narrativa Indígena to provide “an open space of expression for Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, Tojolabal and Zoque writers and story tellers that live in Chiapas.” CHIMECH 3 (January–June 1993): 265–66. On the national scene, Nuestra SabiduríaOjarasca, and Ce-Acatl publish indigenous writing.

94 Juan Gregorio Regino, “Literatura indígena,” Letras indígenas 6 (July–August 1994): 1; “La Literatura Indígena Actual, a Debate,” El universal (March 14, 1994): 3c. “The appearance of a literature in indigenous languages is one of the most important literary phenomena of the end of this century.” José Manuel del Val, “Presentación,” Letras indígenas 1 (September–October 1993): 1.

95 Carolina Henríquez A., El reencuentro de la cultura indígena (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1988). This booklet was printed in six languages: Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal, Chol, Zoque, and Spanish. The Second Encounter was held in Tecpatán in 1986 and included delegations from nine ethnic groups. The Third Encounter was held in Tenejapa in 1988 and again brought together delegations from nine ethnic groups from every locality in Chiapas.

96 Bartolomé Alonso Caamal, “Los mayas en la conciencia nacional,” in Warman and Argueta, Movimientos indígenas contemporáneos en México, 51; Ricardo Melgar Bao, “Las utopías indígenas en América, lectura de un año nefasto,” Memoria 62 (January 1994): 29–30.

97 Enrique Pérez López, Chamula, un pueblo indígena tzotzil (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1990), 185.

98 Jacinto Arias, San Pedro Chenalhó: Algo de su historia, cuentos y costumbres (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1990); Arias, El mundo numinoso de los mayas (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1991); and Arias, “Movimiento indígenas contemporáneos del estado de Chiapas,” in Warman and Argueta, Movimientos indígenas contemporáneos en México, 81–98.

99 K’alal ich’ay mosoal/Cuando dejamos de ser aplastados: La revolución en Chiapas (Mexico City, 1982), 2: 68. A more recent native account of one significant episode of the Mexican Revolution in Chiapas is Sventa Pajaro ta Chamula/Los Pajaritos de Chamula, Gary Gossen, trans. (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1991).

100 “¿Qué se pretendió en este libro?” Cuando dejamos de ser aplastados, 2: 84. A selection from this book has been translated into English in “The Mexican Revolution in Tzotzil: ‘When We Stopped Being Crushed,’ 1914–1940,” in Womack, Rebellion in Chiapas, 97–104.

101 Parts of the narratives compiled by Domingo Gómez are reprinted and discussed by Carlos Montemayor in Chiapas: La rebelión indígena de México (Mexico City, 1997), 115–30.

102 Garza Caligaris, Sk’op Antzetik, 1. This booklet was published in Tzotzil and Tzeltal editions as well as Spanish.

103 Anna María Garza, María Fernanda Paz, Juana María Ruiz, and Angelino Calvo, Voces de la historia: Nuevo San Juan Chamula, nuevo Huixtán, nuevo Matzam (Cuernavaca, 1994), 20–21. This booklet was first published in a Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Spanish edition in 1989.

104 Los socios de la Unión “Tierra Tzotzil,” Kiipaltik: Lo’il sventa k’ucha’al la jmankutik jpinkakutik, Salvador Guzmán López and Jan Rus, comps. (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1990).

105 Pax Lopes Kalixto, et al., Abtel ta pinka: Lo’iletik sventa li inyoetik tzotziletik ta pinkaetik sventa kajvel ta Chiapa (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1986). A selection from this book has been translated into English in “Migrant Labor on the Coffee Plantations: Debt, Lies, Drink, Hard Work, and the Union, 1920s–1930s,” in Womack, Rebellion in Chiapas, 111–18.

106 Pérez P., Historia de un pueblo evangélico, 10.

107 Alfredo is quoted by Ronald Wright, Time among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico (New York, 1991), 283. José Alejos García, Wajalix Bat’an: Narrativa tradicional ch’ol de Tumbalá, Chiapas (Mexico City, 1988); Jacinto Arias, Historia de la colonia de los Chorros, Chenalhó, Chiapas (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, n.d.); María Gómez Pérez (with Diana Rus and Salvador Guzmán López), Ta Jlok’ta chobtik ta k’u’il (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1990); Martín Gómez and Enrique Pérez, K’op a’yejetik sok xkuxinel te muk’ul lum tzeltal (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1986); Manuel Hidalgo Pérez, Tradición oral de San Andrés Larráinzar: Algunas costumbres y relatos tzotziles (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1985); Li’e skuenta sa’k’op vo’ne k’alal imeltzaj ach’ rasone: Revolución mexicana y sus consecuencias entre los tzotziles de Zinacantán (San Cristóbal de las Casas, 1977); Arturo Lomelí González, Ayni tuk tradision sok skostumbre ja b’a schonab’il ja tojolab’ail (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1988); Miguel Meneses López, K’uk witz, Cerro de los Quetzales: Tradición oral chol del municipio de Tumbalá (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1986); Jesús Morales Bermúdez, On o t’ian = Antigua palabra: Narrativa indígena chol (Mexico City, 1984); José Luis Pérez Chacón, Los choles de Tila y su mundo (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1988); Enrique Pérez López, Relatos y tradiciones de un pueblo tzeltal (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1986); Relatos tzeltales y tzotziles/lo’il maxiel: Antología (Mexico City, 1994). Some of these are “spoken books,” which are translated and transcribed by non-Indians.

108 The new indigenous literature includes traditional (sacred) narratives. There is a clear determination to maintain and increase respect for “our cosmology.” See J. L. Pérez Chacón, Antigua palabra maya: Literatura tzotzil (Tuxtla Gutiérrez, 1988).

109 Adolfo Gilly, Chiapas: La razón ardiente; Ensayo sobre la rebelión del mundo encantado (Mexico City, 1997), 97.

110 The four Declarations of the Selva Lacandona by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) begin with references to or statements by these national heroes.

111 The most important of these is the Plan de Ayala National Coordinating Body (Coordinadora Nacional Plan de Ayala, CNPA) formed in Milpa Alta, D.F., in 1979. The name is taken from Zapata’s 1911 revolutionary declaration and program. In Chiapas, one of the most important agrarian organizations is the Organización Campesina Emiliano Zapata, formed in 1982, which is affiliated with the CNPA. The way in which “Zapata occupies a complex space in Mexico’s soul” is discussed by Anthony DePalma, “In the War Cry of the Indians, Zapata Rides Again,” New York Times, January 27, 1994.

112 Taibo quoted by Méndez Asensio and Cano Gimeno, La guerra contra tiempo, 102; Luis Hernández Navarro, “El fantasma de Zapata,” La jornada, July 16, 1994.

113 Salinas quoted by Elsie L. Montiel, “Chronicle of a Conflict Foretold,” Voices of Mexico 27 (April–June 1994): 84.

114 Tello Díaz, La rebelión de las Cañadas, 132–33, 148–49. The amendment of Article 27 of the 1917 constitution removed the right of citizens to petition for land redistribution and permitted the partial privatization of ejido land to encourage investment in agriculture. The dismantling of Article 27 and the prospect of NAFTA was viewed by most mestizo and Indian campesinos in Mexico and Chiapas as serious threats to farming as a way of life.

115 Enrique Plasencia de la Parra, “Introducción,” La invención del quinto centenario: Antología (Mexico City, 1996), 9–44.

116 Matilde Pérez U., “Se suman grupos Mayas a la marcha de la dignidad indígena,” La jornada, October 4, 1992.

117 Raúl Llanos Samaniego, “No al quinto centenario, demanda desde Chapultepec hasta el Zócalo,” La jornada, October 13, 1992; “Manifiesto del Consejo Mexicano 500 Años de Resistencia India, Negra y Popular al Pueblo Mexicano,” México, Tenochtitlán, October 12, 1992, handbill.

118 Matilde Pérez U., “Algo podría suceder por la situación en Chiapas, el gobernador,” La jornada, October 11, 1992.

119 Quincentennial protests took place in Venustiano Carranza, Palenque, Ocosingo, Simojovel, Salto de Agua, Las Margaritas, Motozintla, Sabanilla, Tumbalá, and Marqués de Comillas.

120 Matilde Pérez U., “No perder identidad, pide obispo de San Cristóbal a los indígenas,” La jornada, October 12, 1992.

121 “Ataques a monumentos en las marchas contra el quinto centenario,” Unomásuno (Mexico City), October 13, 1992. There are only two, very brief accounts of the events of October 12 in print: Tello Díaz, La rebelión de las Cañadas, 151–52; and Ross, Rebellion from the Roots, 80–82.

122 Interview with a Chamula living in San Cristóbal who participated in the march. San Cristóbal, July 1994. Days earlier, cattlemen from Ocosingo warned of “bloody deeds” on October 12 in an open letter and demanded the intervention of the army to prevent violence and land takeovers. Matilde Pérez U., “Exigen seguridad y garantías para los cerca de 800 integrantes de la marcha de la dignidad indígena,” La jornada, October 6, 1992.

123 César Espinosa, “Demanda contra quines destruyeron la estatua de Diego de Mazariegos,” El día (Mexico City), October 15, 1992; Matilde Pérez U., “Pólemica por la destrucción de la estatua de Diego de Mazariegos,” La jornada, October 14, 1992. Even before the event, the editor of San Cristóbal’s La voz del Sureste wrote that the bishop “incites Indians to violence.” Quoted by Pérez U., “Algo podría suceder por la situación en Chiapas.”

124 Two years later, the Frente Unico was one of more than a hundred organizations representing supposedly 120,000 citizens that came together in a coalition in “defense of law and the constitution.” This citizens’ group used the phrase “defense of law” as a euphemism for police and army action against Zapatista rebels and other Indian-rights organizations and for efforts to force Bishop Ruiz out of Chiapas. A handbill distributed in San Cristóbal stated that “we know that in Chiapas today no one is going to defend our rights, and the time has come for us to defend ourselves.” From “Coalición de Organización Ciudadanas del Estado de Chiapas por la Defensa de la Ley y la Constitución,” July 1994, handbill.

125 Subcomandante Marcos, “Carta a Adolfo Gilly,” October 22, 1994, quoted in Adolfo Gilly, “Chiapas and the Rebellion of the Enchanted World,” in Daniel Nugent, ed., Rural Revolt in Mexico: U.S. Intervention and the Domain of Subaltern Politics (Durham, N.C., 1998), 301.

126 Interviews with native informants in San Cristóbal and Ocosingo in July 1994 and December 1995 were conducted with the stipulation that no names be mentioned.

127 In the Chiapas Highlands Museum in the Dominican Convent in San Cristóbal, there is a reproduction of a section of a Diego Rivera mural showing a Spanish encomendero branding an Indian. Bishop Samuel Ruiz talked about the branding of Indian slaves as one consequence of the Conquest in the documentary film Columbus and the Age of Discovery, Episode 5, “The Sword and the Cross,” PBS, 1992.

128 “Interview: Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization,” in First World, Ha Ha Ha! 137.

129 Arias Pérez quoted by Rita Balboa and Gonzalo Egremy, “Chiapas niegan su identidad para no ser tratados como ‘indios,'” El universal, October 12, 1992.

130 Montemayor, Chiapas: La rebelión indígena de México, 138–40; Obregón R., “La rebelión zapatista en Chiapas,” 186. The EZLN was formally established in 1983.

131 Alma Guillermoprieto, “The Unmasking,” New Yorker (March 13, 1995): 42. Guillermoprieto has called the rebellion “a shadow war.” See “The Shadow War,” New York Review of Books (March 2, 1995): 34–43; and Alberto Cue’s interview of Jorge Aguilar Mora, “Guerra zapatista en México: Modernidad y posmodernidad,” La jornada semanal (August 7, 1994): 22–30. Guillermo Gómez Peña has written that “what made the Zapatista insurrection different from any other recent Latin American guerrilla movement was its selfconscious and sophisticated use of the media.” “The Subcommandante of Performance,” First World, Ha Ha Ha! 90.

132 The Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle begins, “We are the product of 500 years of struggle.” Oscar Camacho Guzmán, “‘Declaración de guerra’ del Ejército Zapatista en Chiapas,” La jornada (January 2, 1994): 8.

133 The newspaper of Father Miguel Hidalgo’s insurgency published in Guadalajara in 1810 was entitled El despertador americano. Throughout Mexico and the weeks and months after the uprising, peasant groups took action against local political bosses and government offices. “The word they used again and again was ‘awakened.’ That was what the Zapatistas, they said, had done to them.” Tim Golden, “‘Awakened’ Peasant Farmers Overrunning Mexican Towns,” New York Times, February 9, 1994. In August 1994, the Zapatistas organized a National Democratic Convention in a jungle site named “Aguascalientes” in reference to the revolutionary convention of Aguascalientes in 1914. The word “convention,” writes Andrés Aubry, brings to mind Zapata, Villa, Carranza, and Obregón. “Convención: Las experiencias de la historia,” La jornada, July 3, 1994.

134 Gary Gossen, “Comments on the Zapatista Movement,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 18 (Spring 1994): 20.

135 Government officials referred to the rebels as “delinquents” and “law breakers,” and television and radio reporters were ordered by their directors not to use the name “Zapatista.” See “El termino Ejercito Zapatista, prohibido en radio y televisión,” La jornada, January 12, 1994.

136 “Communique from the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, Mexico, April 19, 1994.”

137 Hermann Bellinghausen, “Los rostros verdaderos,” Ojarasca 33–34 (June–July 1994): 31; “Bienvenidos a la cuna de insurgentes,” Macrópolis 118 (June 20, 1994): 21–22.

138 Edgar Robledo Santiago, “Votán,” in Lecturas Chiapanecas (Mexico City, 1980), 58–60; and Eva Hunt, The Transformation of the Hummingbird: Cultural Roots of a Zinacantecan Mythical Poem (Ithaca, N.Y., 1977), 133.

139 “Votán-Zapata, 11 de abril,” EZLN: Documentos y comunicados (Mexico City, 1994), 210–13; an English translation is found in Shadows of Tender Fury: The Letters and Communiqués of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Frank Bardacke, Leslie Lopez, and the Watsonville, California, Human Rights Committee, trans. (New York, 1995), 195–98; and “Votán-Zapata se levantó de nuevo, 16 de abril de 1995,” EZLN: Documentos y comunicados, vol. 2 (Mexico City, 1995), 306–09. Marcos discussed the fusion of Zapata and Votán in the October 24, 1994, interview in Gilly, Marcos, and Ginzburg, Discusión sobre la historia, 134.

140 Guiomar Rovira, Mujeres de Maíz (Mexico City, 1997), 49.

141 Marcos quoted in Harvey, Chiapas Rebellion, 165.

142 “The preparation of the combatants was very strict.” It included technical understanding of weapons, the development of revolutionary ideas from the early utopian socialists to the disciples of Karl Marx, and the history of Mexico. Tello Díaz, La rebelión de las Cañadas, 176.

143 Bellinghausen, “Los rostos verdaderos,” 28. Captain Laura told Guiomar Rovira, “in the mountains we learned many things, history, for example.” Rovira, Mujeres de Maíz, 75.

144 Interview by Matilde Pérez U. and Laura Castellanos in Doble jornada, March 7, 1994.

145 Guido Camú and Dauno Tótoro, “Mayor Moisés,” Macrópolis 102 (February 28, 1994): 30.

146 Rebeca Hernández, “Lluvia, zozobra, soledad y hambre del guerrillero,” in Luis Humberto González, ed., Los torrentes de la sierra: Rebelión zapatista en Chiapas (Mexico City, 1994), 70.

147 Quoted in Ross, Rebellion from the Roots, 16. “Respetaron rebeldes el archivo histórico de San Cristóbal,” La jornada, January 12, 1994.

148 Rosa Rojas, Chiapas ¿Y las mujeres qué? vol. 2 (Mexico City, 1995), 262–64.

149 Eber, “Seeking Justice, Valuing Community,” 38.

150 Quoted by Michel de Certeau, Heterologies: Discourses on the Other, Brian Massumi, trans. (Minneapolis, 1986), 227.

151 See Ernesto Salazar, Indian Federation of Ecuador, Cultural Survival, International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs, Paper No. 28, 1987; Susan Hawley, “Protestantism and Indigenous Mobilisation: The Moravian Church among the Miskitu Indians of Nicaragua,” Journal of Latin American Studies 29 (1997): 111–29; Lea Whitford, “Teaching Tribal Histories from a Native Perspective,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 22 (Spring 1998): 35–37; R. David Edmunds, “Native Americans, New Voices: American Indian History, 1895–1995,” AHR 100 (June 1995): 717–40; Patricia Galeana, “El neoindigenismo en México,” and Miguel León Portilla, “La antigua y la nueva palabra de los pueblos indígenas,” in Cuadernos americanos 59 (September–October 1996): 164–83, and 196–201.

152 Allan Burns, “Maya Education and Pan Maya Ideology in the Yucatán,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 22 (Spring 1998): 50–52.

153 Kay B. Warren, “Transforming Memories and Histories: The Meaning of Ethnic Resurgence for Mayan Indians,” in Alfred Stepan, ed., Americas: New Interpretive Essays (New York, 1992), 189–219; also see Richard Wilson, Maya Resurgence in Guatemala: Q’eqchi’ Experiences (Norman, Okla., 1995); and María del Carmen León, Mario Humberto Ruz, and José Alejos García, Del katún al siglo: Tiempos de colonialismo y resistencia entre los mayas (Mexico City, 1992).

154 Phillip Wearne, Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas (Philadelphia, 1996), 176; Edward F. Fischer and R. McKenna Brown, “Introduction: Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala,” and Kay B. Warren, “Reading History as Resistance: Maya Public Intellectuals in Guatemala,” in Fischer and Brown, eds., Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala (Austin, Tex., 1996), 15–16, 89–106; and Warren, Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala (Princeton, N.J., 1998).

155 See the section “New Indian Writing in Mesoamerica,” in Carmack, Casco, and Gossen, Legacy of Mesoamerica, 467–71.

156 Julio Atenco, “Un estado de cuenta,” Ojarasca 45 (August–November 1995): 13.

157 Pérez López quoted by de Vos, Vivir en frontera, 31. “A new identity has been born. The process took off with the Indigenous Congress in October 1974 and culminated in January 1994 with the armed uprising.” Maza, “Juntas, la acción política y la acción pastoral,” 25. Also see Enrique Rajchenberg and Catherine Héau-Lambert, “History and Symbolism in the Zapatista Movement,” in John Holloway and Eloina Peláez, eds., Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico (London, 1998), 19–38.

158 “Interview with Antonio Hernández Cruz of CIOAC,” Abya Yala News 8 (Summer 1994). Luis Hernández Navarro, “Reconstrucción de las identidades indias,” La jornada, July 19, 1995.

159 This national identification is not found in all Indian revitalization movements. Héctor Díaz Polanco identifies one current of the new indigenism as “ethnicism,” which attributes a Western character to the nation and to national cultures and thus repudiates any national solutions. See Díaz Polanco, Indigenous Peoples in Latin America, 73–74.

160 Ricardo del Muro, “Encuentro con los Zapatistas,” Macrópolis 97 (January 24, 1994): 32. Also see the testimony of Marían Peres Tzu, trans. by Jan Rus, “The First Two Months of the Zapatistas: A Tzotzil Chronicle,” in Kevin Gosner and Arij Ouweneel, eds., Indigenous Revolts in Chiapas and the Andean Highlands (Amsterdam, 1996), 120–30; and Arij Ouweneel, “Away from Prying Eyes: The Zapatista Revolt of 1994,” in Gosner and Ouweneel, 94–101.

161 Xochitl Leyva Solano, “The New Zapatista Movement: Political Levels, Actors and Political Discourse in Contemporary Mexico,” in Valentina Napolitano and Xochitl Leyva Solano, eds., Encuentros Antropológicos: Power, Identity and Mobility in Mexican Society (London, 1998), 35–53.