updates from Zapatista territory
Paul and I have been traveling for the past little while in the Mexican state of Chiapas. We are seeing lots of amazing vistas, incredible mountains, and learning about the politicized Indigenous groups that inhabit the region. From what I am able to understand, though Chiapas is an oil producing state, ensuring a decent income for some, it is a place with much disparity. Many people struggle to attain adequate healthcare, education, access to land, and to live with basic human rights. There are many non-Spanish speaking people who have distinct cultural needs and practices. Beginning in 1994, when Mexico signed on to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), these people began asserting their rights publicly in the form of political protest and armed combat. The group has named itself EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation).
When we visited San Cristobal de las Casas, I was particularly interested in learning about the EZLN and what has become of the high profile uprisings of the 90s and early 2000s. I learned that the concerns of the Zapatistas are similar in nature to the inequalities First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people in Canada face. These include, but are not limited to: little recognition of land tenure, lack of political sovereignty and access to culturally appropriate healthcare and education. Bloody clashes between armed Zapatista groups and Mexican authorities left many dead, including countless women and children. Some of the images we saw during the documentary film Zapatista, crónica de una rebelión were definitely hard to stomach. Some of the more memorable These included: women in beautiful traditional garb and balaclavas violently pushing and swearing at soldiers sent to their town, Zapatista negotiators entering a political meeting with white ribbons tied around the barrels of their guns, and the streets of San Cristobal covered in bodies. It was a very powerful documentary that will take a while to digest.
Chiapas is not only home to current political tensions (the Zapatista demands have still not been met in any meaningful way in the public political sphere), but also home to some impressive and ancient Maya ruins. We checked out the ancient site of Palenque where waterfalls, jungle enshrouded ruins, and vertical architecture enchanted us. We are seeing nature and jungle like I have only ever dreamed of: teal waterfalls with trippy jungle vines, incredible bugs and animals, and wonderful agriculture and food. We have also managed to pick up a few stray travelers. We ran into Paul`s work buddy Moki on the beach in Nayarit, and he has been traveling with us since Oaxaca. We also have a few of his friends, Brittney and Brittany, hanging out and meeting up with us since we have been in Chiapas. It has been fun to travel as a bigger group for a little while, but are likely going to be back to two as we head into Belize in the upcoming week.
We closed in on the halfway mark, and now are on the downslope. It is hard to imagine that the next two months will take us through seven other countries (hopefully), but we are moving into some super small places in comparison. Mexico is such a populous place with so many different and interesting regions to explore that it deserves many many more trips. Mexico City, the Yucatan, and the Copper Canyon are just a few of the places we would have loved to spend time, but have our sights set on the end of the road. We have resolved to not fret about what we “miss”, but to enjoy what we see knowing that there will be more time and opportunities to check things out again.
Here are some photos from the southern end of Oaxaca and from the state of Chiapas. Some are taken by Moki (included with his permission)Enjoy.
-Susie and Paul