Words of the EZLN at UNAM

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

Words of the EZLN
March 21, 2001.
At City University, UNAM.

Brothers and sisters, students of the Colleges of the Sciences and Humanities,
of the National Preparatory School, of the national faculties and schools:

Brothers and sisters, teachers and researchers:

Brothers and sisters, manual and administrative workers:

All university students:

It is an honor for us, the zapatistas, to be in the home of the highest seat of learning in the country, the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Because, no matter how much the private universities pay for public relations, none of them can hold the position the UNAM occupies, and which those who work, study and live here have been able to secure.

We are grateful to everyone for having opened this space.

We know that you have had to overcome not a few difficulties in order to make our visit a reality. We know that you all made your best effort, and you knew to put aside the differences, which are natural and, in addition, desirable, in a university.

Because the university is exactly that, a universe of thoughts, which learn to coexist with, not surrender to, each other.

We also know that there are deep wounds on both sides. We have not come to deepen the one or the other. Nor to set ourselves up as a court, which passes sentence according to the fickle judge of the media, absolving one day and condemning the next.

One hopes that those who were unstinting with their criticisms and disparaging comments about the UNAM over the strike, recognize today that the foundations are already being laid for a great program, tolerant and inclusive, in defense of the public free university.

Up there, they want a university caught in the false dilemma of immobility or unthinking action. Either of those two options benefit those whose sights are set on privatizing higher education, the electricity industry, oil, the cultural heritage, the Indian peoples, the entire country.

Those who think that UNAM will end up wearing itself out in internal fights will soon see their error.

Here, in front of us, are some of the best men and women of Mexico, students, teachers and workers, mostly young people, and your actions must evoke admiration and respect, not only from those whom we already love and respect. Also from others who, like us, are fighting for dignity.

National Autonomous University of Mexico, the zapatistas salute you.

University men and women:

I did not come to tell you the price you must bear to wear that name across your chest.

You know it very well, because you carry it with dignity.

That badge is not just about belonging to a house of higher learning. It is also a mark which evokes pride or shame in the one who carries it, depending upon the place it occupies in the dawn.

We, who are the color of the earth, believe that the best way to approach the dawn is by looking down.

Our most ancient ones taught us that truth should seek its nest by looking at the ground, and that lies seek the heights, in order to know its impunity and power.

In the land that grows upwards, the power of money is on high, and the ones who support the towers are below, and they must, nonetheless, settle for picking up the leftovers and trash which come from on high.

Beneath is the one who is the color of the earth, the indigenous, the worker, the campesino, the employee, the teacher, the student, the housewife, the neighbor, the intellectual, the artist, the religious person, the homosexual, the lesbian, the unemployed, the young person, the man, the woman, the old one, the child.

The child is down below, yes. By knowing how to look at him we will be able to approach the dawn, and then we will be able to select, to choose, to pick our place.

We have often heard that everyone, especially young people, must look to the future in order to become responsible, mature, adults.

Let us look, then.

There it is: there are nothing but numbers.

They brand us with a number. In adolescence we are a number in the school total. In youth, at 18, we add the voting credential number and the number of the federal account registry.

>From that point on, maturity is reached, adding other numbers: the credit
card number, the number of the bank account, the driving license number, circulation card number, the telephone number, the numbers of the address, the retirement and pension card numbers, the INSEN number, the prisoner number - inside or outside of jail - the property tax number, the numbers of the electricity account, the gas, water.

Then we will be a number in a survey, in voting, in the poverty rate, in the illiteracy rate, in the percentage of accidents, of curable diseases, of consumer preferences, of radio listeners, of television viewers, of satisfied consumers of the "Leftovers" detergent, which cleans everything except consciences.

Yes, if we look to the future which they, up above, are promising us, we are not what we are.

We are a number. Not a history.

Up there, they tell us that the individual is the most important thing. That one must be concerned about oneself, not about others. That cynicism and egoism are virtues. That goodness and solidarity are defects which must be corrected. That anything which smacks of mutual or collective thought is an indication of totalitarianism. That there is no liberty other than the individual and personal.

Up there, that only one in particular matters, the one which is each one, that is, the one which is…a number.

And, yet, in that future we are not one. We do not become individuals with our own histories, with virtues and defects, with desires and frustrations, with victories and defeats, with dreams and nightmares.

No, we are merely a number.

We are not valued as persons because we struggle. Not because we have built a personal history in which dignity is the backbone and the only worthwhile legacy.

Not because we desire to be better, and because we all try to be so each and every one of the minutes of all the hours, of all the days, of all the weeks, of all the months, of all the years.

We are valued as people if we accumulate more numbers than the rest.

We will be recognized if we climb over the others, not along with the others.

For every successful man or woman there are millions whose failure is built on the success of one single person.

And the arguments for success are, once again, numbers: so many millions accumulated, so many millions stolen, so much property added, so much property usurped.

Are there, then, no collective successes? Yes, there are, but, since they do not accumulate numbers, they do not count.

Because up there they count numbers, not lives nor histories.

That is the future which they are promising us up above, and they tell us we are free to choose, not our future, but the number we will have in that future to which they have condemned us.

But let us not look up so much. Let us cast a glance at what is below.

There is a child, let us say. A child, not a youngster.

There is a child who, for example, is called Pedro.

And, for example, Pedro is Mexican, the son of a Mexican mother and father, the grandchild of Mexicans, brother of Mexicans, cousin, godson and nephew of Mexicans.

And, for example, Pedro is indigenous, in addition to being Mexican.

And, for example, Pedro is poor, in addition to being Mexican, a child and indigenous.

And, for example, Pedro was born in the mountain, and he learned to play, to speak, to grow up in the mountain.

And Pedro has a home, but he was not born, or grew up, or played in his home, because there are soldiers in his house who, they say, are there in order to defend the national sovereignty which, until something else is determined, is the sovereignty of Mexico.

And the soldiers are defending the sovereignty of Mexico in the face of the threat of a Mexican, indigenous and poor child. The government of Mexico is using Mexican soldiers to defend itself from indigenous Mexican children. And, it so happens, they say up there, that Pedro is a Mexican, indigenous and poor child, yes, but he is also zapatista.

No one has asked him, but Pedro says he is a zapatista child, the son of zapatistas, the grandson of zapatistas, brother of zapatistas, cousin, godson and nephew of zapatistas.

That is why Pedro was born and grew up in the mountains, and not in his house, because, instead of numbers, he has added what, in the eyes of the powerful, are crimes.

Because in Mexico it is a crime to be a child. Being poor is another crime. Being indigenous is one more crime. And being zapatista is the ne plus ultra of crimes.

That is why there are soldiers in Pedro's house, because Pedro, who is 4 years old, is a criminal to those who are governing up there.

But up there they say there has been a democratic change now, that July 2 and la madre del muerto, and so they have decided to be generous, and they have issued their sentence: Pedro can return to his house if he is humiliated, if he continues to be a child and poor and indigenous, but if he ceases to be a zapatista.

Because if he stops being a zapatista he will then learn to be a number which accumulates other numbers.

Excuse me if I am boring you.

You are university students, and I am here, making you waste your time with the history of a child who, is indeed, called Pedro, in honor of a zapatista insurgent fallen in combat on the first of January of 1994, when the color which we are of the earth shook the world.

I am talking about an indigenous child, instead of talking to you about world revolution, insurrection, tactics and strategy, the situation, the objective and subjective conditions, the watershed, the-people-united-will-never-be-defeated, the if-Zapata-were-alive-he-would-be-with-us.

I am talking about an indigenous child, instead of talking to you about wise up, about grab it before they take it away from you, about uca, uca el que se lo encuentra se lo emboruca, about obey the carnal law, but the law of Herod and you're screwed anyway, about sterile bitterness, about cynicism as a career path with doctorate included, about the little shop, about the vocho, about the TV, about the people-united-will-invariably-be-defeated, about if-Zapata-lived-with-us-he-would-be-bored.

But you are university students, and university students are patient, generous, intelligent, and so you will know how to understand that I am only trying to tell you what a zapatista is.

Because we are zapatistas.

Fine, that is what we zapatistas are, rebels who refuse to be numbers, those who prefer to be dignified, those who do not sell ourselves, those who do not surrender, those who, when we want to look to the future, do not look up, seeking a monetary sign. Those who, when we wish to approach the dawn, look down, and we seek, and there we see a child, and in him we seek and we find, not what we were, but the mirror of what we shall be.

That is why, although it looks as if zapatistas have our gaze fixed downwards, it is, in reality, quite high, much higher than those, up there, who believe themselves to be very high.

This is something which neither the congressional representatives, nor the Fox team, can understand. But I am certain that you, who are university students, can indeed understand.

Because, unlike those who are up there, you are, in fact, intelligent. If not, then you would be heading some business organization.

You can indeed understand because, in looking at us, you are looking down, and you have known that we are not a number which seeks to accumulate numbers, but barely a mirror.

Brothers and sisters of the UNAM:

We would like to ask something of you.

To the students, we would like to ask you to study and to fight. That, without stopping fighting, you finish your studies. That you leave the university. That you not remain here. That the university, with all it is and its universality, is limited. That there is another universe out there as well, and you are needed there in order to fight there. That we are out there, and many others like us. And, with us, you have a place and not a number. That you not make youth an excuse to try and dominate and homogenize the other student, the other professor, the other worker, the other different one.

To the professors and researchers:

We would like to ask you to teach to learn. To see and to teach seeing everything, including us, with a critical and scientific spirit. That you teach and teach yourselves to see the other, because seeing him is respecting him, and respecting the other is respecting oneself. To not allow your teaching and research work to be valued by the logic of the marketplace, where what matters is the number of pages, and not the knowledge that is produced. Where the only thing that matters is the signature at the bottom of the display ad in support of the rector. Where the criteria for whether or not a project is funded is the number of hours invested in meetings and courting of illiterate gray officials. That you not make learning a power which attempts to dominate and homogenize the other professor, the other researcher, the other student, the other worker.

To the workers:

We would like to ask you to remember that previously you wrote glorious pages in the struggle for better working conditions. That you not forget that you were an example of solidarity with the just causes in Mexico and in the world. That you - and you know it better than we do - make memory and see that your book of history has not yet reached the final page.

To all university students:

That you never stop looking down, that you never stop looking for a child, that you never stop seeking or finding a dawn which, as such, will be collective or it will not be.

Brother and sister university students:

The sorrows which unite us are not few. Many are the hopes which we recognize in each other. Our desire as zapatistas is that, by looking at you, and your looking at us, we shall always find dignity, which is the word our most ancient ones used to describe the dawn.

University students:

Here we are, you and we. And you and we are rebel dignity. Democracy!

>From the "Mirror of Water Aguascalientes", University City, UNAM.

Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee - General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Mexico, March of 2001.

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
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