The Zapatista revolution on January 1st 1994 took the whole world by suprise. This image of a new armed rebel movement in
the period when such movements were meant to have recognised their own redundancy was startling and demonstrated that history
was not yet over.
Since then most of the continued support the Zapatistas have received is strongly based on the idea that the Zapatistas
are different. Different not just from the neoliberal world order they oppose but, more fundamentally, different from the
armed revolutionary groups that exist and have existed elsewhere in the world.
The goal of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is not to seize power from the ruling elite, but to empower
themselves and create an autonomous space for collective and communal support. They seek democracy, social justice, and liberation
of their society from foreign and governmental control. The EZLN considers this movement an example for people all over the
world to follow.
Those involved internationally in Zapatista solidarity work are drawn to it not because they believe Mexico is uniquely
repressive. There are many countries that are far worse, Columbia being one obvious example. They hope there is something
in the Zapatista method that they can take home to their own city or region. Hence the popularity of the call from the EZLN
to be a Zapatista wherever you are.
So although the Zapatistas remain isolated in the jungles and mountains of south eastern Mexico their ideas have influenced
many activists across the globe. Not least in the round of global days of action against capitalism. One call for these protests
actually arose at an international conference in La Realidad, Chiapas in 1996 and is part of the reason for the anti-capitalist
or anti-globalization demonstrations that have taken the corporate world by storm.
Dr. Cervantes-Carson is a sociology professor at Mary Washington College
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