|Source: Radio Zapatista“Hey, it’s very dark here, I need a little light.”
Then he stopped talking and straightened the papers on the table. The lights went out. In the penumbra, illuminated just by the faint light of a video camera, he stood up.
He walked a few steps toward the rear of the stage.
Walking slowly, he crossed the threshold.
He began to go down the wooden stairs.
And he slowly faded into the darkness.
And he ceased to exist.
Then a silence spoke out charged with gratitude and so many other things from thousands of hands clapping in unison, and the faces holding back tears, and the hearts repeating: Farewell, Subcomandante. “One, two, three,” the voice of Comandante Tacho was heard talking on the radio. The lights went on again. And Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, military leader and now also spokesperson of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, said: “Compañeros, compañeras, we are going to listen now to the voice of another compañero.”
From the speakers came the voice which until a few minutes ago, for the last twenty years, belonged to Subcomandante Marcos, now coming to life anew, mocking death. “Have a good pre-dawn, compañeras and compañeros. My name is Galeano. Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. Is anyone else called Galeano?”
Thousands of men and women responded together: “My name is Galeano!” “We all are Galeano!” “We all are Galeano!”
“So that’s why they told me that when I was reborn, I would do it collectively. So be it then. Have a good trip. Take care of yourselves, take care of us. From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.”
Exactly one hour before, when the then Subcomandante Marcos began to speak, we heard these words:
We were almost one thousand women and men, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle from many parts of Mexico and from other geographies, who after long travesties came to La Realidad to attend the homage organized by the EZLN in honor of compañero José Luís Solís López, maestro Galeano, murdered with inconceivable cruelty on May 2nd in a paramilitary attack carried out by members of the supposedly peasant organization CIOAC-H, members of the Green Party and the PAN in that community, and orchestrated from the core of the Chiapas government. There were also close to three thousand Zapatista support bases who, with impressive organization, traveled from the five zones of the large Zapatista territory. We arrived, all of us, filled with pain and rage and seeking, with the grammar of wrath and the calligraphy of dignity, the precise expression of true justice.
But what form would that justice take? How to conjugate justice without its verbal form (in Spanish: “ajusticiar,” to execute) acquiring the tonalities of revenge? It is clear that the legal systems of our “democracies” have nothing to do with justice, nor are they concerned about it. And it is more than clear that, in Mexico as in many other places, those legal systems are at the service of abuse and plunder. But then, what is justice?
Over the course of that memorable May 24th, Subcomandante Moisés announced that the Zapatista investigation had already identified the material authors of the crime. He also detailed the ties between the leadership of the CIOAC-H and the various levels of state and federal governments. And he also affirmed that justice would be done, but he asked us not to direct our dignified and justifiable rage against those who, in their blindness and avarice, turn into murderers at the service of the powers of capital. We must direct that rage against the system, he said.
At the crossroads of questions, Subcomandante Marcos’s last words before ceasing to exist attempted to illuminate that indecisive space between light and shadow. In 1994, he said, the Zapatistas rose up exercising the right to legitimate violence of those from below in the face of the violence from above. “But in the first stammers that were our words we realized that our dilemma was not between negotiating or fighting, but between dying or living.” Therefore, after the first combats were over, instead of strengthening the guerilla army, the Zapatistas dedicated themselves to life, building education, health, dignity, justice, hope, autonomy, and a government of the people which commands by obeying. And in all this, resisting the violence of above without weapons, with their body, head held high and saying: “we, the same dead as always, are here dying again, but now in order to live.”
Along the way, something fundamental was changing within the EZLN, changes that went unnoticed by many people:
Along this path, who was Marcos? There is something which does not cease to surprise those of us to whom the Zapatistas have taught to see the world in a different way: the fact that, for the great majority of people outside of the Zapatista communities, the EZLN is only Marcos; most people’s inability to see the indigenous.
The character served to make known a movement which struggled and struggles for life. But it also served as a “distracter,” in a way that, while those from above and the mass media were busy building and destroying the character, the Zapatistas continued their walk in the construction of life.
In that walk Zapatismo always reached out to the other, on the paths that seek life not only for the indigenous Zapatista communities. And in that search, they failed time and again: “Those we found either wanted to lead us or wanted to be led by us.”
And so we return to the issue of justice. Of pain and rage, of the grammar of wrath and the calligraphy of dignity. Because the General Command and the military leadership of the EZLN came to La Realidad with that pain and that rage, with that cry for justice. But, as Subcomandante Marcos well said, there are other pains and other rages in so many other geographies:
And as if that were not enough, “the greatest mockery” of all is the pantomime of “justice” which never threatens nor punishes nor harms the power which buries and tramples life. In the face of this, what do we say to our dead? Is the impotent whisper of pain and rage sufficient? “Our whispers,” said Marcos, “are not only to lament the unjust fall of our dead. They are to allow us to listen to other pains, to make other rages ours, and to continue treading along the complicated, long, and torturous path of making all that become a roar which is transformed into a struggle for liberation.”
When the voice of the now Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano ceased to be heard and the clapping died out in that indecisive space between light and shadow, under the drizzle of that pre-dawn morning in Zapatista reality, we were overcome by a silence impregnated by the certainty that something “terrible and marvelous” had just happened. Something which we still did not understand, which perhaps would take days, months, years, our whole life, to understand. Something that would be, for us, for those who had the fortune of witnessing it, a perpetuous source of search and the conviction to never falter.
To listen to Subcomandante Marcos’s last words before ceasing to exist, clic here: BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOW
Images: (CC) Medios libres, alternativos, autónomos o como se llamen
“We believe that it is necessary for one of us to die so that Galeano may live on. So we have decided that Marcos must die today,” announced the Zapatista military head and spokesperson.
At 2:08 am this morning, Subcomandante Marcos announced that as of that moment, he had ceased to exist. In a statement made before those attending a tribute to Galeano, the Zapatista assassinated in the Zapatista community of La Realidad, the military head of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) noted: “If I were to define Marcos, the character, then I would say without hesitation that he was a mask.”
After more than 20 years at the helm of the political-military organization that first took up arms on the 1st of January 1994, Marcos announced that he has given up the command. He noted that after last year and the beginning of this year’s Zapatista Little School classes, “we realised that there was already a generation that could look us in the face, listen to us and speak to us without guidance or leadership, neither deferring to us nor requiring monitoring.” And so, he said, “Marcos, the personality, was no longer necessary. The next phase of the Zapatista struggle was ready.”
In the emblematic community of La Realidad, the same one where on May 2nd, a group of paramilitaries from the Independent Central of Agricultural Workers and Historic Campesinos (CIOAC-H) assassinated Zapatista Base Support Galeano, Subcomandante Marcos appeared at dawn, accompanied by six comandantes of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee and Insurgency Subcomandante Moisés, whom he named his successor in command last December.
“It is our conviction and our practice that we don’t need leaders or chieftains, messiahs or saviours, in order to develop and fight, only a little humility, a lot of dignity and a great deal of organisation; the rest either serves the collective or serves no purpose,” Marcos said.
A black patch with the design of a pirate skull covering his right eye, the erstwhile Zapatista spokesman recalled the dawn of the 1st of January 1994, when “an army of giants, or indigenous rebels, descended into the cities, and with their steps shook the world. Just a few days later, with the blood of our fallen ones still fresh in the streets, we realised that we weren’t being seen by those outside. Accustomed to looking past indigenous peoples, they didn’t raise their glance to look at us; accustomed to seeing us humiliated, they could not understand in their hearts the dignity of our rebellion. They fixated upon the only mestizo wearing a balaclava; in other words, they weren’t watching. So the men and women who lead us said: ‘They only see the smallest thing; let’s make someone as small as they are, so that when they see him, through him they will see us.’”
That was how Marcos was born, out of “a complex deceptive manoeuvre, a terrible and at the same time marvellous magic trick, a malicious move played by our indigenous heart; indigenous wisdom defying modernity through one of its bastions: the media.”
The press release, signed by “the free, alternative, autonomous or otherwise known media,” known in various alternative communication outlets as Radio Pozol, Promedia and Resistance Report, produced an atmosphere of applause and hurrahs at the EZLN after the Comandante’s announcement.
The image of Subcomandante Marcos travelled around the world in the early hours of the 1st of January 1994. The sight of a man armed with red bandoliers and an R-15, clad in a black and tan uniform covered with a woolen Chiapas Highlands chuj, his face covered by a balaclava and smoking a pipe, appeared on the front page of the most influential newspapers on the planet. Over the following days and weeks, his ironic and humourously charged communiqués were released, defiant and irreverent. The few hand-typed white pages were literally snapped up by the Mexican and international press. Twenty years and over four months later, Marcos has announced the end of this phase.
“It is hard to believe that twenty years later, ´nothing for us´ became more than a slogan, a good phrase for signs and songs, but a reality, La Realidad”, said Marcos. He added, “If being consistent is a failure, then incongruence is the path to success, and the way to power. But we don’t want to go that way, we’re not interested in that. Under those circumstances, we’d rather fail than triumph.”
“We believe,” he said, “that one of us must die so that Galeano may live on. So we have decided that Marcos must die today.”
“At 2:10 am, Insurgency Subcomandante Marcos forever descended from the stage, the lights were extinguished, followed by applause from members of the Sixth, and in turn a greater round of applause from Zapatista supporters, militants and insurgents,” was the report from La Realidad.
In keeping with his ironic style and traditional postscripts, the character of Marcos signed off with: P.S. 1 Game Over. 2.- Check Mate. 3.- Touché. 4.- Mmm, is this what hell is like? 5.- So now that I’ve dropped the mask, can I walk naked? 6.- It’s really dark in here, I need some light…”