MTB with Zapatista Imagination

It’s been an historic couple of weeks for Mexico

Vicente Fox, the first non-PRI party president in over
seventy years (read as instutionalized dictatorship),
invited the leftist Zapatista rebels to sit down at
the peace table in Mexico City to discuss the
guerillas demands.  As if this wasn’t enough to stir
the muck that has become Mexico’s political viewshed,
he later invited Amnesty International, the world’s
foremost human rights watchdog, to monitor the
Zapatistas’ march from their strongholds in the remote
southern forests of Chiapas to the nation’s capital.

News photos over the past week showed Zapatista men
hidden behind trademark black ski masks sitting next
to the suit and tie politicians of Mexico’s Congress.
Many congressmen refused to attend the talks, citing
that it was impossible for them to negotiate with men
who hide their faces behind masks.

What do the Zapatistas want? 

I first became interested in their cause while a
university student.  Young, idealistic and angry, I
felt deeply that their demands for education, local
self-representation, potable water, electricity and
other basic human needs were not anything
revolutionary.  Hell, they didn’t even want anything
to do with having power in the country’s national,
political arena. 

Several times in Honduras, I sat down with Sisters
Loli, Ena, and Lupe in their convent at the local
Catholic church in Manto.  They were from Mexico, and
they taught me a little more about the people of
Chiapas.

For example, an upward of sixty percent of electricity
that serves southern Mexico and Mexico City comes from
Chiapas, as its rivers are dammed and the
hydroelectricity is harnessed and wired north.  Many
villages in Chiapas have NO electricity. 

It’s information like this that gets under my skin and
make it boil.  When that happens, I have to find my
release.

The other day I was mountain biking with
Subcommandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatistas.
He’s become a cult hero of sorts throughout the world,
much in the same vein as Che Guevara.  Intelligent,
uncompromising and handy with the pen, many people
hypothesize that the most visible guerilla in Mexico’s
quiet revolution may have been a universtiy professor.
 

Back to my bike ride.  I was pushing a steady uphill
when Marcos popped off in my mind’s ear, “Be
strong…if you were to ride the mountains of our
homeland with us, you’d feel real pain.”

The uphill passed by and soon I was rolling on a nice
cross country ride through the high Mojave Desert.  I
came to a ridgecrest when Marcos spoke to me again.

“The view is nice from here.  See those fighter planes
flying across the sky?  Your government directly
supports the Mexican government in the domination and
control of my people.  The imperial tyrant lives
on…tanks and soldiers roll through my streets.  They
rape our women and massacre our villagers.”

I pedaled hard and fast.  I bombed down the hill and
shot over to some steady singletrack.  I twisted
through rock and flesh ripping desert bushes.  I
pedaled harder.

“We are one.”

“We are one.”

Quickly, I reached my car with an endorphine-popping
high, feeling a little better than when I took my bike
off the roof rack.

The world will watch Mexico over the next couple of
months.  Will the Zapatistas and their supporters
receive their justice?  Or will they be forced to
continue living their impoverished lives in hiding?

Ride on. 

(written 1 April 2001)

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