by Cecilia Rodriguez

"If Zedillo is a man of his word, let him fulfill it and let the law recognize our rights as Indian peoples. If Zedillo cannot keep his word, let him make war on us and fill with bullets what he cannot fill with reason...If he wants the war, we Zapatistas know how to fight with honor and bravery, because we have a very powerful weapon which the government DOES NOT have. That weapon is called dignity. With this weapon no one and nothing can defeat us. They can kill us or jail us. But they will never defeat us. They will never get our surrender."
EZLN Communiqué September 12, 1997Mexico City

The Zapatista march to Mexico City contained many moments filled with history, with its rescue and its vitalization. The Zapatistas refurbished the example and vision of the many men and women in Mexico's history who had died long ago in order to make it free. They had followed and completed the route which Emiliano Zapata took when he went to Mexico City. In Milpa Alta - the same place where Zapata had his quarters and where he ratified the Planof Ayala, the Zapatista delegation was received with bountiful food,tamales, sandwiches, stews, drinks of corn meal and coffee. When they arrived in the Zocalo they were greeted with shouts of "You are not alone!!" as many hung from the doors and the windows. "We need them" says an elderly woman "It's happiness" she says explaining the tears which she does not wipe away.

The Zapatistas bring inspiration and carry their pain in the same way they do their backpacks. At this point there are 209 sites in the state ofChiapas which have military encampments, everything from barracks, to blockades as compared to the 74 which existed in February of 1994. The military presence violates the Mexican constitution, it deepens the conflict, intimidates the population, disorganizes productive activity, brings prostitution, oppresses its inhabitants; it is an enormous obstacle to the solution for the conflict.. Meanwhile the government foments thecreation of paramilitary bands, tightens the military blockade, signs agreements which it never intends to enforce, and drags its feet on a settlement. All in hopes of accomplishing a primary goal; the isolation of the EZLN and its separation from other sectors of the democratic movement in Mexico and in the world.

The Zapatistas return to public view in Mexico City to remind everyone once again that they have not disappeared and that their suffering has not lessened. They raise their voices with their example, their constancy, and their persistence about that old word dignity. In so doing, they raise that voice for millions of others. Yes, they speak for the unemployed of Mexico. But do they speak of needs which are alien to the unemployed in the United States, or France, or Argentina? Are their militarized communities any different than the militarized cities on the U.S./Mexico border? Is terror measured in degrees, and do we only respond when it reaches a certain dramatic intensity, or until we feel it ourselves?

Here more than anything is the response the Zapatistas are looking for, the response of civil society, an increase of public pressure on Zedillo's government, on the capacity for mobilization and organization, on the engagement of ordinary citizens in defending their basic rights. This is their definition of "politics", an active, engaged civil society in the reclamation of self-governance, in the establishment and defense of social norms and relationships.

This they say is the only thing that will pull Mexico from the abyss of corruption and the brutality of war. This, they say, will allow for a Latin American country to veer in a direction different from all the others; a peaceful transition to a democracy where a national political norm is to "govern by obedience". This is the essence of their great leap into history.

It remains to be seen whether it will become history. The peculiar twist isthat this history is not dependent on them. Their courage, patience, and commitment to a peaceful solution has been demonstrated many times. Their limitation is that they are not the thousands who must get organized, they have already fulfilled that criteria. They continue to fight the terror of this low-intensity war.

It is dependent on us. It depends on whether or not we believe "dignity" to be an important element of human life. In a world forged by grand alienation, the power of the Zapatistas lies in their ability to prove time and again the power of resistance. It is hard to hear and feel that in a world where relationships are primarily exploitative, and only what is loud,and flashy, and expensive is heard and responded to. It is even harder to believe that small, thoughtful, creative acts of organization multiplied a million times is what is necessary to turn back Zedillo's tanks and shatter the fragility of an economic proposal that is devastating us all.

It is that simple, though. One of the Zapatista delegates had a few Mayan words embroidered on his waist belt "Ik `otik", [We are wind] it said. The wind has come to Mexico City. It comes to whisper of hope and it speaks to us all. It speaks to that part of us that lived in our ancestors, that lives in us, if only we listen to it. It comes seeking other winds in all parts of the world. Just like the wind, it is not accompanied by loud trumpets and sirens, it does not float above and separate from the earth. It moves the leaves of the fields, it seeks the energies of hundreds of human hands and hearts.

This is the wind which we must listen for, the one which has always moved human history forward.