"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Our Word is Our Weapon

In January of 1994, when the Zapatistas took over six towns in the Mexican state of Chiapas, the world was shocked. Then the writings from the speaker of these people, a ski-masked mystery man that reminds me of Zorro began to send his writings to La Jornada and the world.

In the eleven years of the Zapatista rebellion, I have spent much of my time searching La Jornada on the internet for the latest Marcos communiqué or news. I remember in the beginning, when I’d print out the pages at work, run to my danza practice and hand over the pages to our history cabeza for copying and disseminating to our group.

We were thrilled when Shadows of Tender Fury was published and urged everyone we knew to buy a copy. I read it to gang members, to danzantes, to my children, to co-workers that I felt needed to know what was going on. Through all my reading both to myself and aloud of Marco’s writings, I became and remain captivated by his prose and poetry, by his simple eloquence.

Our Word is Our Weapon is another book in the vein of Shadows of Tender Fury in that it encapsulates the writings of Marcos. The difference is that it is years later (eight years when the book was published) and still the rebellion continues. There was a Red Alert issued by Marcos as recently as July 1, 2005.

The book begins with a quote of Cervantes in Don Quixote about madness and knight errants and a poem by Pablo Neruda called The Word which is startling not only because it is an amazing poem, but because it seems to fit this book so very well, almost as if it had been written specifically for it. Marcos, I have always thought, loves poetry as much as I do. He writes his own and constantly quotes from poets like Anthony Machado, Miguel Cervantes or Neruda. Many of his communiqués begin or end with a poem. At least I think so, even though they may not be meant as poetry. Take the detailed communiqué from February 20, 2005 that cites both Shakespeare and Machado and ends in what I think is a poem of his own. He ends with, “The Sup, from the top of a hill, seeing to the west how the sun brings down a fading beam…”

The book contains poetry by Marcos and communiqués, including his letter on the 30th anniversary of Tlateloco and the letter to Leonard Peltier. It is another insight into the Zapatista war against oblivion, another great resource to have for anyone trying to learn about or expand their learning about Chiapas, the Zapatistas or Marcos.

In the beautiful and moving Prologue by Jose Saramago, he states, “This was a victory of the spirit” when speaking of the horrible massacre at Acteal.

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