Pier Paolo Frassinelli (Independent Scholar) and Maggie Ronayne (Junior Representative for Northern Europe – National University of Ireland, Galway) maggie.ronayne@NUIGALWAY.IE
Zapatistas organizan encuentro por la defensa del patrimonio cultural en Mexico
La presente nota muestra el interes del EZLN en la defensa de la memoria colectiva del pueblo. El martes 12 de agosto 1999 hubo un importante encuentro nacional en defensa del patrimonio cultural que había sido convocado por los Zapatistas para detener la propuesta de Ley General del Patrimonio Cultural, que busca privatizar el patrimonio histórico de Mexico. Aqui reproducimos el discurso de bienvenida que diera a este encuentro el Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
‘Let’s talk about relations of production’ – Bertold Brecht (Address to the Writers’ International Conference in Defence of Culture, Paris, June 1935)
The translation which follows this paper is the address by Subcomandante Marcos – the spokesperson of the EZLN – to the first National Meeting in Defence of Cultural Heritage, which took place in the indigenous territory of La Realidad, Chiapas, South-East Mexico, on Tuesday, 12 August 1999.
There are various reasons why this presents a useful piece for translation and discussion in the World Archaeological Bulletin. First, it is important to remind the world of the constant, armed aggression against the indigenous people of Chiapas by the Mexican government. On the same day on which the meeting was called, for instance, there was a military attack against the rural, indigenous community ‘Amador Hernandez’, within the Zapatist territory. Such aggression has continued into the year 2000. Secondly, this meeting – which was attended, among other organisations and members of ‘civil society’, by the General Council of the Representatives of the School of History and Anthropology (ENAH) and by representatives of the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) – has an obvious relevance to archaeologists. The EZLN called for the meeting in order to help create a coalition of forces in opposition to the new government proposal for a ‘General Bill on Cultural Heritage’. This bill entails the privatisation of the historical and other cultural property of Mexico. Thirdly, 12 WAC members are currently addressing the issue of the destruction of cultural property in conflict situations, with the aim of arriving at a series of recommendations for WAC action in such situations. The example of cultural property in Mexico and its relationship to indigenous insurgency indicates both the complexity and the necessarily broad socio-economic scope of the analysis required in that process.
The specific context invoked in Marcos’s address is the currently dominant ideology and practice of ‘neo-liberalism’. In recent years, Latin America has seen an unprecedented implementation of the policies inspired by the dogmas of this ideology although this is not peculiar to Mexico and its neighbouring countries, being common to the contemporary international scenario as a whole. Neo-liberalism is the key feature of what many are overly fond of calling ‘globalisation’, a definition which is in need of sharp qualification, for it implicitly hides and erases inequalities and differences cutting across our supposedly global world. Archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, conversely, have been registering the effects of neo-liberalism in an ongoing, all-pervasive process of commercialisation and privatisation of the past for quite a few years now (Walsh 1992; Samuel 1994; Lowenthal 1998). However, what is often lacking in such studies among archaeologists (see Hodder 1999 and Meskell 1998 for particularly superficial accounts) is an analysis of the broader socio-economic processes which determine and are served by the commodification of different national and indigenous cultural heritages on a world scale. Part of the reason for this lacuna is the failure in most practices of archaeology to develop an analysis of the active contribution of archaeological work in this process of making commodity-pasts, as a step towards alternative archaeological practices (see Schmidt and Patterson 1995 for examples of ‘alternative histories’ and Patterson 1995 for a social history of archaeology in Mexico).
The key element, which must be taken into account within this transnational context and central to an analysis of the political economy of archaeology, is the world economic crisis that has led to the enormous growth of ‘finance capital’. In the US, to provide a key example, the (fictitious) monetary value currently circulating in the stock market broadly corresponds to 150% of the Gross National Product. Disproportionate growth of finance capital, of course, is itself the effect of a socio-economic crisis that runs deeper. This is the crisis of the cycle of standardised mass-consumption that was initiated and fuelled in this century by such sections of production as the car industry. As these industries have saturated the world market, apart from the relatively new and over-hyped potential of information technology, there is no section of production that is today capable of creating new standards for consumption pervasive and widespread enough to provide enough occasions for productive investments.
Within this context, then, a service offered by the state or a public site of cultural or historical interest, in as far as they represent a social necessity or a valuable good, are particularly appetising potential loci for the valorisation of a part, at least, of the obsolescent mass of finance capital. As a result, we are witnessing the accelerated commodification of the past and the interrelated and exponential development of the tourist industry on a world scale. More specifically to the point, Mexico is now part of NAFTA (the American-led area of free market trade) and heavily indebted (in particular to the state across its northern border): in 1995 its foreign debt amounted to 120 billion dollars, 86 billion of which was owed to US banks. After that year, Clinton’s administration subscribed to a new ‘aid’ programme for a further 50 billion dollars. This is how a country with a rich historical and cultural heritage, a huge foreign debt and a corrupt and anti-democratic government can end up in a situation in which transnational capital, in desperate need of sites for profitable investment, sets the scene for a programme of privatisation which includes that same national heritage.
And the indigenous people? That is the issue that in Mexico could make a difference. Differently from many other areas, where the conditions of dependency created by tourism and all-pervasive commodification have been alternatively superimposed or willingly accepted as the only way of survival, in Chiapas there is a significant movement of indigenous resistance. A long discussion could be had on ethical issues related to the use of armed struggle in the EZLN strategy;  or about the ‘acceptance’ of this process of commodification by indigenous people in other regions; and even about the economic benefits of such commodification in different local contexts. However, the point to be stressed here is that the EZLN puts all of us, and our possible objections to its policies, in quite an uncomfortable position. For it is the challenge of an active, independent, emancipatory, indigenous agency that the situation of Chiapas calls us to take a position on.
As Roberto Bugliani (1995) has suggested, among the many ‘anomalies’ of the EZLN’s political approach, the chief one is the relationship that it has managed to create between revolutionary struggle and the complex issue of indigeneity. The EZLN, in fact, has built in a creative way “a strict connection between tradition and revolution and maintains a solid relation between the indigenous past and the multi-ethnic present of ‘civil society’’. Marcos (in Bugliani 1995:62) states that “the political-military structure [of EZLN] has adapted itself to the communal, ancestral forms of organisation”. Other Latin American revolutionary movements have been repeatedly dismissed by the claim that they represent the superimposition of exogenous ideological doctrines and forms of organisation over a specific ‘indigenous’ social structure. Although occasional attempts have been made in the case of the EZLN, there is little room for such critique in relation to the situation in Chiapas. As Marcos has said on various occasions (ibid:ivi), the ‘leaders’ of the EZLN are “the best men and the best women of the tzetal, tzotzil, chol, tojolabal, mam and zoque ethnic groups…They are the democratic and collective direction of the EZLN”.
How has this process of construction of a collective leadership been possible? How has the EZLN managed to give voice to and make heard the local communities of Chiapas – which in most cases do not even speak the national language? It is, to a significant extent, its answer to the problem of communication – the way in which the indigenous community of Chiapas had been cut off from the rest of Mexican ‘civil society’ and ‘forgotten’ – which is one of the key innovations that the EZLN has introduced into the traditional schemes of armed struggle. The EZLN has not imported a pre-packaged, ready-digested revolutionary ideology into Chiapas. Rather, it has tried to elaborate a political project and a mode of communication that move from the specificity of the cultural formation of the indigenous people of southeast Mexico, including the specific forms of oppression endured by them. As a result, some readers may be puzzled by the rhetorical devices used by Marcos in his address. We ask that it be read in the light of a dialogical communication. This is not to say that we should all try to cross the bridge that separates us from different communities, indigenous or otherwise, which are often cut off from each other through the unavoidably specialist, coded sociolects that we all use to communicate. This is not because such a project would not be desirable, but rather because it would entail the preliminary creation of an enabling socio-political environment in order to achieve it.
This is the precise question that the insurrection of the EZLN has raised. For it is not a standard guerrilla group or vanguard fighting to gain power. Its declared aim is not to take over political power, but to create the ‘pre-conditions’ for the development of a model of democracy and an idea of justice that would make sense for all, including the indigenous, forgotten people of Chiapas. That is, in Marcos’s words (in Báez 1996:50), a model of democracy and an idea of justice that mean “land to the peasants, a decent home, health services, education, job, wage for all the population”.
Subcomandante Marcos’s address
Welcome to La Realidad and to the first National Meeting in Defence of the Cultural Heritage. We wish to let you know that it is an honour for us, the Zapatists, to share with you both this meeting and the noble worries that are its motif and its way forward.
What has brought us here today is an alarm, a call for attention, an appeal. The evil and the wicked that no longer hide and are in charge of the executive and legislative power have decided to put on sale everything that this country, which notwithstanding them is still our own country, possesses.
Those who govern this country now pretend to put a price tag on its cultural history and to convert the national historical heritage into privatised pieces for collection. They want to dip history into an aseptic solution, to use multicoloured fireworks and special effects to convert it into a Disney World of the Ancestral, for there is no other way in which neo-liberalism can conceive of the past.
For those who today govern us, if the value of history cannot be quoted in the Stock Exchange, history has no value. And if the cultural heritage cannot be sold, it becomes a useless dead weight – or, even worse, a potentially dangerous, subversive threat.
If we used to believe that criminals hide and commit their crimes in obscurity, the new generation that forms the political class of Mexico has helped us to correct our mistake. The criminals walk in the light of day, they gain posts in government and in the ruling parties, they use constitutional instruments, they control the administration of justice, they are in charge of the army and the police.
The emergency call that has brought us together today was a timely launch by a community that, once again, is highlighting the great value of youth. The students, the academics, the researchers, the administrators and workers of the National School of History and Anthropology (ENAH) and of the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) have alerted us to a legislative proposal that exudes corruption and baseness. This bill proposes the public auction of Mexican cultural heritage and leaves it to the ‘free’ game of offer and demand to determine the price of such a historical offence.
Thanks to the young scholars of the ENAH, we have discovered what this bill announces: the privatisation of every single aspect of the life of this country.
For this call and appeal, we, the Zapatists, wish to thank all the members of the community of the ENAH and the INAH, and we also wish to tell them that they will always be welcome among us (it should be clear, though, that we make exception for those who now hold managerial positions).
It is not just that we have responded to the call of those who have made the study and protection of the national heritage their life and their destiny. It is also that we believe that today we have with us some of the men and the women who represent the best of Mexican social movements: democratic teachers’, farmers’, non-governmental and cultural organisations, unions and fronts. We have with us some of the workers who are fighting against the privatisation of the electric industry. I am referring to the brothers of the Mexican electricians’ union, to whom we wish to give our welcome and confirm our commitment to fight with them in defence of that other national resource which is the electric industry.
Those here who represent the heroic student movement of the National University of Mexico [UNAM] also deserve a special mention. They have recently been chased as never before, they have been hit and smeared, vilified and persecuted in every possible way, and still, against all odds, they resist and keep alive a movement which is not just for themselves, but, as with every struggle that grows from below, is for everybody.
I also wish to salute and applaud the men and women who still today resist in the brigades, in the guards, in the meetings and in the General Strike Committee. I wish to do it not just because I want them to know that they are not alone, not just because applause hurts less than the blows of the military forces. But I also want to do it to mark once more the distance that separates those who are below and those who used to represent, and no longer do, their hope. Those who are now in government only for the electoral pools and dispense blows and prison to anybody who is signalled by their electronic means of communication.
Salute, therefore, brothers and sisters, students of the National University of Mexico. We know that our applause does not cure the blows inferred by those who call themselves ‘revolutionary and democratic’. But they are still a relief. Because those who are below find a relief in recognising each other and they grow by forging a unity in the struggle.
For those who I am now going to mention, I am not asking for a salute, but just for an attentive listening. I am referring to the indigenous men, children, women and elders of the Zapatist communities, who are today suffering a real campaign of terror led by the Mexican army and by the public security police of the state of Chiapas. The Zapatist indigenous communities today pay, with no discount whatsoever, the price for their support of the student movement of the National University of Mexico, of the fight of the electricians’ Union and of the struggle for the defence of our memory, that is led by the communities of the National School of History and Anthropology and of the National Institute of History and Anthropology. Today we are more persecuted, harassed, hit and attacked than ever before. The Power pretends to humiliate our dignity, the dignity of the students, the dignity of the electricians and of the defendants of cultural heritage.
As I have been ordered to do by the Zapatist people, I communicate to you, and through you to the other students and electricians, that there is nothing that they can do to us that could intimidate us or reduce the admiration and support that you deserve from us. Whatever may happen, I repeat, whatever may happen, it won’t diminish our support to the movement of the National University of Mexico, to the workers of the electricians’ union, to the struggle of the communities of the ENAH and INAH. Eventually it will increase, but in no way could our support to you, however small that may be, diminish. We know that you already know this. However, the indigenous people ask me to repeat it to you not for you to know it, but for you not to forget it.
Brothers and sisters who have come to the National Meeting in Defence of the Cultural Heritage, you probably remember the words that we used in the public appeal with which we called for this meeting. In case you don’t, I shall repeat them. They say, ‘In defence of memory’. This is why we are here. This is why we have brought ourselves together. We can’t allow our memory to be sold. This is not just because by losing it we would start to lose irredeemably our own selves, but also because memory is the only hope which we have been left – with it and through it – to create our future.
If today we are on the defensive, this is because the day is still dominated by evil and wickedness. Because the night is still the privileged space of memory. But also because the night of memory is the site where a new day is already taking shape…and announcing itself.
The time will come in which we will put an end to and expel both evil and wickedness. There will be no corner of the night or the day for them. They won’t even rech our memory or remembrance. They will be what they already are, a nightmare. Only, such a nightmare will be finally over.
Brothers and sisters, it is the time for words, yet again. Let’s create the best space we can for them (the space that is and will always be inside us) and let them find and meet us.
Let speak, then, all who are different. Let them speak and meet memory; let them conspire with memory and through memory let them carve a better future: tomorrow. This is the word of the Zapatists: in defence of cultural heritage and for everyone…
Democracy! Freedom! Justice!
From the mountains of southeast Mexico,
Maggie Ronayne and Pier Paolo Frassinelli wish to thank the editorial board of the journal Unay Runa (Peru) for sending the transcription of Marcos’s speech and granting permission to reproduce it. They also thank Roberto Bugliani, an Italian writer and scholar, for answering some questions about the EZLN.
Báez, R. 1996. Le ragioni dell’EZLN. [The Claims of the EZLN] La contraddizione 55:45-51.
Bugliani, R. 1995. Le rotture rivoluzionarie dell’EZLN. Appunti sul pensiero politico del subcomandante Marcos. [The Revolutionary Breaks of EZLN. Notes on Subcomandante Marcos’s Political Thought]. La contraddizione 51:61-67.
Hodder, I. 1999. The Archaeological Process. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lowenthal, D. 1998. The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. Cambridge: University Press.
Meskell, L. 1999. Introduction: Archaeology Matters. In L. Meskell (ed.), Archaeology Under Fire. Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. London: Routledge.
Patterson, T. 1995. Archaeology, History, Indigenismo, and the State in Peru and Mexico. In P. Schmidt and T. Patterson (eds.), Making Alternative Histories, pp. 69-86. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.
Samuel, R. 1994. Theatres of Memory. London: Verso.
Schmidt, P. and Patterson, T. 1995. Making Alternative Histories. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.
Walsh, K. 1992. The Representation of the Past. Museums and Heritage in the Post-Modern World. London: Routledge.
El discurso de bienvenida del Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Bienvenidos a La Realidad y a este primer Encuentro Nacional en Defensa del Patrimonio Cultural. Queremos que sepan que es honor para nosotros, los zapatistas, el participar junto a ustedes en esta reunión y en la noble inquietud que es su motor y camino.
Lo que hoy nos convoca es una alerta, un llamado de atención, un pliego. El mal y el malo que ya no se esconden y actúan con fuero legislativo y ejecutivo han decidido poner en venta todo lo que este país, que sigue siendo nuestro a pesar de ellos, tiene.
Quienes gobiernan ahora pretenden ponerle etiqueta de precio a la historia cultural de México y convertir al patrimonio histórico nacional en privatizada pieza da colección, dar un baño aséptico a la historia para, después de adornarla con foquitos multicolores y agregarle algunos efectos especiales, convertirla en un Disney World de lo Ancestral, que no de otra forma concibe el neoliberalismo al pasado.
Para quienes hoy nos gobiernan, si la historia no se cotiza en la bolsa de valores no tiene valor alguno. Y si el patrimonio cultural no se puede vender, es algo inútil y estorboso, además de que tiene un peligroso potencial subversivo.
Si creíamos que los criminales se escondían y aprovechaban la oscuridad para sus fechorías, la nueva generación que padece la clase política mexicana nos has sacado del error. Los criminales andan a la luz del día, ostentan puestos gubernamentales y partidarios, disfrutan de fueros constitucionales y son quines tienen en sus manos la administración de la justicia y las fuerzas militares y policiacas.
Hoy, la emergencia que nos convoca fue lanzada a tiempo por una comunidad que vuelve a poner en alto el valor de los jóvenes. Los estudiantes, académicos, investigadores, administrativos y manuales de la Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (ENAH) y del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) nos han alertado sobre una iniciativa de ley que rezuma podredumbre y bajeza. La iniciativa en cuestión propone la subasta pública del patrimonio cultural de México y que sea el ‘libre’ juego de la oferta y la demanda del que determine el precio de esa molestia histórica.
Gracias a estos jóvenes estudiantes de la ENAH hemos descubierto lo que ese proyecto legislativo anuncia: la privatización de todos y cada uno de los aspectos de la vida de este país.
Por el llamado, por la convocatoria y por la señal de alerta, nosotros, los zapatistas, les damos las gracias a todos los miembros de la comunidad de la ENAH y del INAH, y les decimos que son y siempre serán bienvenidos (claro que excepción hecha de quién ahora padecen como directora).
No sólo los zapatistas hemos escuchado el llamado de quienes han echo del estudio y resguardo del patrimonio nacional su vida y destino. Hay también hoy con nosotros hombres y mujeres que representan a algo de lo mejor del movimiento social en México: maestros y maestras democráticos, organizaciones de colonos, no gubernamentales, culturales, sindicatos, frentes. Están con nosotros algunos trabajadores que luchan contra la privatización de la industria eléctrica, me refiero a los hermanos trabajadores del Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas, a quienes les mandamos nuestro saludo y le reiteramos nuestro compromiso de luchar junto a ellos en la defensa de ese otro patrimonio nacional que es la industria eléctrica.
Mención especial merecen quienes ahora nos acompañan representando al heroico movimiento estudiantil de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Acosados como nunca antes, golpeados y calumniados, perseguidos y denigrados de mil y una formas, los universitarios resisten y sostienen, contra viento y marea, un movimiento que no es sólo por ellos, sino que, como todas las luchas que de abajo nacen, es para todos.
Para ellos y ellas, para quienes hoy resisten en las brigadas, en las guardias, en las asambleas y en el Consejo General de Huelga, pido hoy a todos ustedes un saludo, es decir, un aplauso. No sólo para que sepan que no están solos, no sólo porque los aplausos duelen mucho menos que los golpes de los granaderos, también para marcar más la distancia frente a quienes eran, ya no más, la esperanza de los de abajo y ahora gobiernan para las encuestas y reparten golpes y cárcel a quienes les son señalados por los medios electrónicos de comunicación.
Salud pues, hermanos y hermanas estudiantes de la UNAM, sabemos que el aplauso que ahora les mandamos no cura los golpes propinados por quienes se dicen ‘revolucionarios y democráticos’, pero algo alivian. Porque los de abajo se alivian saludándose y se crecen hermanando luchas.
Para los y las que voy a mencionar no pido un saludo, sólo un oído atento. Me refiero a los hombres, niños, mujeres y ancianos indígenas de las comunidades zapatistas que hoy sufren una verdadera campaña de terror encabezada por el ejército mexicano y la policía de seguridad pública del estado de Chiapas. Las comunidades indígenas zapatistas pagan hoy, rigurosamente y sin escantinar nada, el precio de su apoyo al movimiento estudiantil de la UNAM, a la lucha del SME y a la defensa de la memoria que encabezan las comunidades de la ENAH y el INAH. Hoy somos más perseguidos que nunca, más hostigados, más golpeados y más atacados. El Poder pretende derrotar en nuestra dignidad, la dignidad de universitarios, electricistas y defensores del patrimonio cultural.
Por orden de los peublos zapatistas les comunico a ustedes, y a través de ustedes a los universitarios y a los trabajadores electricistas, que nada de esto que nos hacen nos intimida ni logrará reducir ni la admiración ni el apoyo que ustedes se merecen. Pase lo que pase, escuchen bien, pase lo que pase, no variará nuestro apoyo al movimiento de la UNAM, a los trabajadores del SME y a la lucha que hoy encabezan las comunidades de la ENAH y del INAH. En todo caso aumentará, pero de ninguna manera se reducirá, el apoyo que, aunque pequeño, les damos. Sabemos que ustedes lo saben, los pueblos me piden que se los diga, no para que lo sepan, sino para que no lo olviden.
Hermanos y hermanas asistentes al Encuentro Nacional en Defensa del Patrimonio Cutlural: Tal vez ustedes recuerdan las parablas con las que termina la convocatoria que se hizo pública para este encuentro. Si no es así, ahora se las repito. Dicen: ‘En defensa de la memoria’. Para eso estamos aquí, para eso hemos sido convocados. No podemos permitir que la memoria sea puesta en venta. No sólo porque perdiéndola, empezaríamos a perdernos irremediablemente todos nosotros, también porque la memoria es la única esperanza que nos queda para, con ella y por ella, abrir un mañana.
Si hoy estamos a la defensiva es porque aún el mal y el malo dominan el día, porque la noche sigue siendo aún el espacio predilecto de la memoria, y porque es en la noche de la memoria donde otro día se forja ya…y se anuncia.
Tiempo llegará en que, entre todos y todas, encontremos al fin al mal y al malo y lo espulsemos. Y no habrá rincón del día o de la noche para ellos, no los alcanzará la memoria ni el recuerdo. Y sólo serán lo que ahora son, es decir, una pesadilla, pero ahora al fin acabada.
Hermanos y hermanas: Es otra vez el tiempo de la parabla. Hagámosle el espacio mejor, que siempre será dentro nuestro, y dejemos que sea ella la que nos busque y encuentre.
Que hablen, pues, los todos que son diferentes. Que hablen y encuentren la memoria, que con ella conspiren y que con ella labren el futuro mejor: el mañana. Esta es la parabla de nosotros los zapatistas: en defensa del patrimonio cultural y para todos…
¡Democracia! ¡Libertad! ¡Justicia!
Desde las montañas del Sureste Mexicano
 The EZLN is the Zapatist National Liberation Army, which began its ‘official’ insurrection on 1st January, 1994.