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LOCAL News :: Globalization

Virginia Represent: New years eve at the First Encounter of the Zapatista Communities with the Peoples of the World

As the clock struck 12:00 last night hundreds of soldiers from Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN in spanish initials) and hundreds more civilians from the Zapatista civil society organizations assembled on the basketball court before the mainstage of the First Encounter of the Zapatista Communities with the Peoples of the World. Around the perimeter of the zapatistas were thousands of international supporters and rebels who had come to participate in the meetings. In this crowd of internationals were representatives from organizations working in Virginia, including the Woodbridge Workers Committee, The Committee of Indigenous Solidarity, Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, The Snails Pace Collective, and Richmond Indymedia. Moments after midnight, dozens of members of the EZLN comandancia dramatically took the stage...

The new years celebration in Zapatista Territory is a celebration of the uprising in 1994 in which the EZLN, an army of indigenous peoples in southern mexico took over many small towns, cities, ranches and even military bases. This event has come to be a center of focus for the development of this communications movement. Following the uprising, the Zapatista movement went on to construct autonomous education, health facilities, government, communications systems, and economic projects to strengthen their communities. After 13 years of this work, they have called the first Meeting of the Zapatista Peoples with the People of the World for December 30, 2006 through January 2, 2007.

The meeting has turned Oventic, a Zapatista center for social projects, into a diverse and vibrant encampment, the size of a small town. groups of people cluster all over the place camping, cooking, eating, meeting, making media, connecting with others, planning projects, and bringing their own flavor from their own corner of the world to the meetings. Organizations working in Virginia were present and participating in these meetings. Activists from Mexicanos Sin Fronteras and the Woodbridge Workers Committee brought the word of the immigrant struggles against criminalization and racism in northern Virginia, and a message of solidarity with the Zapatista struggle against neoliberalism. They also participated, along with representatives from the Committee of Indigenous Solidarity, the Snails Pace Collective and Richmond IMCistas in planning meetings for the No Borders Camp, scheduled for November 2007.

During the day have been scheduled presentations by Zapatista civil authorities from the 5 different regions of liberated territory. The presentations are focused on 7 themes of the zapatista autonomous projects including government, education, health, women's struggles, communication and art, economic cooperatives, and the struggle for land and territory. At each of these seven workshops, representatives from zapatista civil society projects discussed the experiences they have had over the past years with their autonomous governments and the challenges and problems they have faced constructing this anti-capitalist project; with humility and respect they shared their errors and achievements. After each of these presentations was space for the audience to ask questions and also to take the stage to share the stories of their struggles around the world.

At night, horns and drums can be heard all over the camp. A samba band from Greensboro, North Carolina got together with one from Mexico City and brought on a high energy, spontaneous performance, amidst the makeshift tents, campfires, power outages, fog, and flashlights. Meanwhile, on the main stage, numerous zapatista bands played to an audience of thousands throughout the night. As midnight approached, a coordinator on stage called for all the zapatista soldiers to come forward and those from civil society to move to the back. In a sort of ceremony honoring the uprising in 1994, hundreds of indigenous men and women wearing black skimasks and red bandanas around their neck stepped onto the court. following them were hundreds more of the zapatista basos de apoyo, the civilian Zapatistas who support the army and the autonomous projects. They stood calmly and with discipline waiting for the new year. Around the periphery of these indigenous rebels were thousands of the rebels of the world, celebrating, dancing, talking, waiting.

A few minutes after midnight, the commandancia of the EZLN came down the hill. They ran in a single file line around the throngs of people, onto the stage and filled the length of the basketball court, shoulder to shoulder. Speeches in spanish and tsotsil from Comandantes Yolanda, Hortensia, David, Subcomandante Marcos, and Lt. Colonel Insurgente Moises were interspersed with the Mexican national anthem and the Zapatista hymn. In their speeches, they affirmed the completion of the first phase of the other campaign, the preparations for the Intergalactic Encuentro, and made a proposal for a meeting of Indigenous peoples of the Americas for October of 2007. Their words were responded to with cheers and cries of "Zapata Vive, la Lucha Sigue" and "Viva EZLN".

The rebels in the camp rose this morning to face the new year with new inspiration, new connections and new plans. Outside of the main structure of the meetings were various breakout meetings, including a multi-day anarchist caucus, planning meetings for a no border camp in Calexico/Mexicali in November 2007, media solidarity with the APPO in Oaxaca, and many other themes. The many IMCistas present came together to coordinate full coverage of the meetings, with individuals committing to covering the audio, video, or visual coverage for each meeting.

Tomorrow is the final plenary session of the meetings, which will focus on the planning of the Intergalactic Encuentro. The Intergalactic promises to be an important space for the building of an international movement against neoliberalism from the left and from below. It was first proposed in the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, www.ezln.org/documentos/2005/sexta1.en.htm,
which was released in the summer of 2005, and is the international counterpart to Mexico's Other Campaign, www.commondreams.org/views06/0118-21.htm.

note: photos from Chiapas Indymedia

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