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“todos somos Marcos” – Ethiopianism


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Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista rebel leader, at a press  conference, Mexico City, October 1st 2007

Subcomandante Marcos, Mexico’s masked rebel figure who was one of the frontmen  Zapatista uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas in 1994, is famous for always wearing a black ski mask.

The aim of the mask, allegedly, was anonymity, and an expression of the principle that “todos somos Marcos” — which translates as “we’re all Marcos.” But if it was anonymity he was after, the use of the mask has achieved quite the opposite effect, turning Marcos into a rebel icon for many, at home and abroad.

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Imagine a person who comes from an urban culture. One of the world’s biggest cities, with a university education, accustomed to city life. It’s like landing on another planet. The language, the surroundings are new. You’re seen as an alien from outer space. Everything tells you: “Leave. This is a mistake. You don’t belong in this place.” And it’s said in a foreign tongue. But they let you know, the people, the way they act; the weather, the way it rains; the sunshine; the earth, the way it turns to mud; the diseases; the insects; homesickness. You’re being told. “You don’t belong here.” If that’s not a nightmare, what is?” Marcos

The nickname Marcos is taken from the name of a friend who was killed at a military checkpoint in the road.[1] It is not, as is sometimes presumed, an acrostic combining the names of the communities where the EZLN first rose in arms: Las Margaritas, Amatenango del Valle, La Realidad, Comitán, Ocosingo, and San Cristóbal.

Subcomandante Marcos, also known as Insurgente Marcos and Delegado Cero, is the anonymous spokesperson of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, based in Chiapas, Mexico. The name Subcomandante Marcos is believed to be an acronym that makes reference to some of the first locations where the army started their fight. Subcomandante Marcos has made clear in different occasions that he is not the leader of the Zapatistas, but rather a supporter. The army, consisting mainly of indigenous Mayans, also counts with the support of white rural workers and sympathizers who understand the plight of the locals .

Subcomandante Marcos has never revealed his true identity, but the Mexican government believes his real name is Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente. Guillén was an active member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party while he was teaching Philosophy at Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) in Mexico City, which would go along with Subcomandante Marcos’s speech that the “Zapatista movement is more about ideas than bullets.”

The Zapatistas believe in non-violent protest, and make active use of peace marches and the Internet to share their message. They oppose globalization and fight for the autonomy of the native population of Mexico. Subcomandante Marcos has also widely campaigned against the World Trade Organization and the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on worldwide markets.

Since 1996, Subcomandante Marcos has written 21 books, some of which have gone on to be printed in numerous editions and translated into several languages. La Historia de los Colores / The Story of Colors, a bilingual edition of one of his most famous books, is actually a retelling of an old Mayan children’s fable that speaks of tolerance and solidarity. Subcomandante Marcos is also an avid correspondent, having written more than 250 stories and essays directed to newspapers and magazines, or used as press releases.

In 2005, Subcomandante Marcos announced a two-part plan called “The Other Campaign.” While the creation of the plan coincided with Mexico’s presidential election the following year, the aim of the Zapatistas is not to back any particular candidates. Instead, they request a new national constitution that emphasizes equality and guarantees that public resources will not be sold to private powers. Since the beginning of “The Other Campaign,” Subcomandante Marcos has been traveling Mexico in search of supporters while addressing the issue of poverty and oppression.



25 Mexicans: Subcomandante Marcos, spokesman

Of all the Mexicans one might have recognized prior to arriving here, Subcomandante Marcos – or Delegado Cero as he now prefers to be known – is definitely one of them. His image abroad as the mask-wearing, pipe-smoking mestizo who fights for the indigenous cause rivals that of another Latin American icon, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

That it is hard to nail down the facts about Marcos adds to his enigma. It’s generally accepted that he is (or was) Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, born in Mexico to Spanish immigrants and educated in a Jesuit school in Tampico, Tamaulipas. Marcos denies this.

Guillén, a middle-class academic who graduated from the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), went on to earn a master’s degree in philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where he worked briefly as a professor before, allegedly, leaving Mexico City to embrace the indigenous cause.

The seductive persona of the jungle-dwelling revolutionary clad in combats and battered brown cap lends itself to the romantic idolatry often favored by Latin America. His abilities as both speechmaker and raconteur are legendary. This verbosity has resulted in stacks of both children’s books and ‘adult’ novels.

In a recent interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Marcos confessed to occasionally letting the fame go to his head. But those who know him say his intelligence and sense of humor keep his ego in check.

Some say his mask is a strategy for anonymity though it has achieved something of the opposite. “Todos Somos Marcos” – the Zapatista slogan – signals the sense of solidarity generated within the movement; behind their masks the Zapatistas are no one and everyone.

But the powerful image may exaggerate Marcos’ relevance, which is a matter of opinion and debate. His importance is rumored to be waning.




Our Word Is Our Weapon

by Subcomandante Marcos, Juana Ponce de Leon

Our Word Is Our Weapon is the first authoritative compendium of the writings of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the masked voice of the indigenous human rights fighters in the South-East Mexican state of Chiapas who has become an icon of the worldwide anti-globalisation movement. The evolution of the work of the Zapatistas and Marcos from its first revolt against the government in 1994, as detailed in this remarkable collection is, as its editor, Juana Ponce de León writes, “a testimony to the power of the word”. These writings have secretly been passed from hand to hand, out from the mountainous Lacandon jungle, across miles, until via the Internet, they have been disseminated to the global village. In depicting the conflict in Chiapas fuelled by the indigenous struggle for human rights, which is portrayed in words and paradoxically through the masked anonymity of its spokesperson as the fight against invisibility, Marcos creates a mirror in which we can recognise “the features of our own concerns” with “neoliberalism”. The three parts of Our Word is Our Weapon respectively cover Marcos’ commentary upon the social, economic, and political situation in Mexico and its implications in “Unveiling Mexico”; “Beneath the Mask” contains the “Sup’s” philosophical reflections on the world as he fashions himself in his isolated jungle hideouts as a servant of the revolution, partly through references and letters to other writers and thinkers such as Fernando Pessoa , Jorge Luis Borges, and John Berger; and, in the final part, “Creating Memory”, Marcos’ playful inventiveness comes to the fore in the folk tales he fashions from the forces that shape the Zapatistas’ revolutionary project. As well as showcasing Marcos’ extraordinary literary and political gifts, Our Word Is Our Weapon opens out another forum for a deeply personal and distinct voice that manages at the same time to be a collective one, in the face of which the Mexican government seems powerless. Our Word Is Our Weapon is an inspirational case in point for those who enjoyed Naomi Klein’s No Logo, and belongs in your cultural revolutionary backpack somewhere between Che Guevara’s manual of Guerilla Warfare and the poetry of Pablo Neruda. —Fiona Buckland

Leftist Noir

Published: November 19, 2006

This peculiar stunt of a detective novel is a collaboration between the Spanish-born Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II and, of all people, the Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, that pseudonymous rebel luminary whose rakish pipe juts in photographs from what must be Earth’s most fashionable balaclava.

Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press


(What’s Missing Is Missing).

By Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos. Translated by Carlos Lopez.

268 pp. Akashic Books. Paper, $15.95.

Readers’ Opinions

Forum: Book News and Reviews

Taibo is, among other things, the proprietor of a long-running detective fiction series starring a soulful, one-eyed Mexico City investigator named Héctor Belascoarán Shayne. “The Uncomfortable Dead” is a Belascoarán novel that Taibo and Marcos wrote in alternating chapters, whipsawing the manuscript between, presumably, Mexico City, where Taibo lives, and Marcos’s rather more nebulous Chiapas mountain address.

The book tells two converging stories. In the first, written by Marcos, a Zapatista bumpkin named Elías Contreras travels to Mexico City; he is following up leads about what will turn out to be a plot to privatize and sell off a valuable piece of southern Mexican territory that was seized from its indigenous inhabitants. In the second, written by Taibo, eerie phone messages are left for one of Belascoarán’s clients. They purport to be from a leftist activist who was murdered, supposedly by a government agent, in 1971. Contreras and Belascoarán, a man who likes his cigarettes and Coca-Cola, buddy up in the process of confounding the seizure of land and identifying the killer.

This kind of material — evoking the legacy of the Mexican government’s “dirty war” against its leftist opponents — might have generated interesting genre fiction. But “The Uncomfortable Dead” reads like a gimmick. The problem is mostly with Marcos, whose chapters ramble on at almost twice the length of Taibo’s. The subcomandante, who isn’t a first-time author — his other books include some political volumes and a children’s book called “The Story of Colors” — is simply not a talented fiction writer; it’s sometimes hard even to know what his sentences mean. Marcos does manage to write some lyrical and intelligent passages. But his prose, in this translation by Carlos Lopez, can be hyperactive; he’s like a sophomore impressed by his own facility.

This is a shame, because Taibo’s chapters are written with skill and wit. He does his best to evoke what he calls the “jungle” of Mexico City, that polluted sprawl haunted by history’s phantoms. But Marcos, the aggressive politician, takes control of the novel. It’s like watching Thelonious Monk being shoved off the stool by a thumping fellow in a mask.

Taibo should have known better. It’s one thing to write fiction informed by your own supple leftism. It’s another to use the conventions of noir — that morally opaque genre trafficking in an all-pervasive turpitude — in the service of a cut-and-dried worldview. “The Uncomfortable Dead” is thoroughly overdetermined. Of course it was agents of the Mexican establishment who killed the activist in question. A familiarity with Mexican history makes that certain. So does the fact that the novel was partly written by a leftist insurgent. Given the context, who else might have done it? The West German Greens?

Andrey Slivka, a writer based in Kiev, has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and other publications.


The slaves of money – and our rebellion

Brothers and sisters of Mexico and the world, who are gathered in Cancun in a mobilisation against neo-liberalism, greetings from the men, women, children and elderly of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. It is an honour for us that, amid your meetings, agreements and mobilisations, you have found time and place to hear our words.The world movement against the globalisation of death and destruction is experiencing one of its brightest moments in Cancun today. Not far from where you are meeting, a handful of slaves to money are negotiating the ways and means of continuing the crime of globalisation.

The difference between them and all of us is not in the pockets of one or the other, although their pockets overflow with money while ours overflow with hope.

No, the difference is not in the wallet, but in the heart. You and we have in our hearts a future to build. They only have the past which they want to repeat eternally. We have hope. They have death. We have liberty. They want to enslave us.

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the people who think themselves the owners of the planet have had to hide behind high walls and their pathetic security forces in order to put their plans in place.

As if at war, the high command of the multinational army that wants to conquer the world in the only way possible, that is to say, to destroy it, meets behind a system of security that is as large as their fear.

Before, the powerful met behind the backs of the world to scheme their future wars and displacements. Today they have to do it in front of thousands in Cancun and millions around the world.

That is what this is all about. It is war. A war against humanity. The globalization of those who are above us is nothing more than a global machine that feeds on blood and defecates in dollars.

In the complex equation that turns death into money, there is a group of humans who command a very low price in the global slaughterhouse. We are the indigenous, the young, the women, the children, the elderly, the homosexuals, the migrants, all those who are different. That is to say, the immense majority of humanity.

This is a world war of the powerful who want to turn the planet into a private club that reserves the right to refuse admission. The exclusive luxury zone where they meet is a microcosm of their project for the planet, a complex of hotels, restaurants, and recreation zones protected by armies and police forces.

All of us are given the option of being inside this zone, but only as servants. Or we can remain outside of the world, outside life. But we have no reason to obey and accept this choice between living as servants or dying. We can build a new path, one where living means life with dignity and freedom. To build this alternative is possible and necessary. It is necessary because on it depends the future of humanity.

This future is up for grabs in every corner of each of the five continents. This alternative is possible because around the world people know that liberty is a word which is often used as an excuse for cynicism.

Brothers and sisters, there is dissent over the projects of globalisation all over the world. Those above, who globalise conformism, cynicism, stupidity, war, destruction and death. And those below who globalise rebellion, hope, creativity, intelligence, imagination, life, memory and the construction of a world that we can all fit in, a world with democracy, liberty and justice.

We hope the death train of the World Trade Organization will be derailed in Cancun and everywhere else.

Subcomandante Marcos is the leading voice of the Zapatista movement, which fights for the rights of Mexico’s 10 million indigenous people. This is the transcript of a message – Marcos’s first international communiqué for four years – delivered on Wednesday to the anti-globalization conference taking place alongside the WTO global trade negotiations in Cancun

By Prof. Muse Tegegne

Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change & Liberation in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Americas. He has obtained Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva. A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies. He wrote on the problematic of the Horn of Africa extensively. And Lecture at Mobile University..

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