Tuesday 4.30pm. Hotel of the Half Moon
I am so excited. I can not quite believe what I have just experienced. Rhys and I took an alternative tour to the usual tourist trail. We had a young Social Anthropologist as a guide and visited the regional HQ of the Chiapas Zapatista Movement. Inspired by the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, this movement started in 1994, overpowering the local municapality and police for thirty ours but managing to negotiate an agreement on the rights of the indigenous peoples. The people fought with sticks. Over 600 were killed and around the same number police and army.
It is still trying to get these rights recognised, but this movement is still very much alive. They work and organise themselves quite separately and autonomously from the Mexican Government.
We drove for about an hour into the mountains and stopped at what looked like an ordinary village. The difference was that the women dressed in traditional Mayan costumes were also wearing black woolen balaclavas. Our passports were checked and we were led into a small room. Behind the table three men in black balaclavas took our details, writing them down carefully on what looked like a home made scrap book. Black eyes peered at us without any real curiosity. They àre used to Gringos visiting. The next stop was another hut, where six people, four women and two men in balaclavas welcomed us as comrades-campaneros. Again our details were taken, three writing meticulously in exercise books and we were given permission to take photos of the murals but not anyone else and not the cars. We sat on a bench in front of them like we were being granted an audience with the Pope or the IRA. In fact above their table were photos and flags, images of Che Guevara and Zapata, and a green silk kipper tie, with the inscription,
Kiss me I m Irish.
We were told about the Zapatistas. I cant remember much of what was said through our translator, except, we àre still here, struggling for our rights to social justice, freedom and peace. Half of the reception committee were falling asleep in the heat. The temperature must have been in the 90s.
Our guide took us round the village. Those wearing balaclavas were volunteers coming from other villages and were part of the organising authorities. We saw a secondary school, where education is focused on cultural tradition-these communities are indigenous Mayans- history, culture, revolutionary change, leadership,and organic guardianship. We visited handicraft cooperatives, a clinic and we photographed all the murals we could.
I hàve just read in my Rough Guide that being in or near the conflict zone invites suspicion of taking part in political activities-illegal for foreigners-and can lead to deportation.
If it does it will have been well worth it.