Words of the EZLN

English translation for publication by NAP courtesy of: Irlandesa
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

February 26, 2001 in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

Indigenous Brothers and Sisters of Oaxaca:
Brothers and Sisters from Oaxaca Civil Society:
Brothers and Sisters from the Democratic Teaching Profession:
Student Brothers and Sisters:
Religious Brothers and Sisters:
Worker Brothers and Sisters:
Campesino Brothers and Sisters:
Employed Brothers and Sisters:
Brother and Sister Bank Debtors:
Neighborhood Brothers and Sisters:
Housewife Sisters:
Small and Middle-sized Business Owner Brothers and Sisters:
Professional Brothers and Sisters:
Artist and Intellectual Brothers and Sisters:
Mexican Brothers and Sisters who have joined in on this March for Indigenous Dignity:
Brothers and Sisters from other countries who are accompanying us:

Through my voice speaks the voice of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation:

We wish to express our appreciation to the people of Oaxaca for the way they have treated us as brothers in struggle, which we have been receiving from them ever since we entered the lands of this state.

From Tepanatepec to this capital city of Oaxaca, everywhere we have received welcome and support from the population, primarily from the indigenous.

The affection you have shown us — and which we believe we do not deserve — has moved us deeply.

We, the zapatistas, the most small, those who live in the last corner of the Patria, have been made large by the strength which Oaxaca has given us.

I hope that one day we shall be able to respond with even a small part of the devotion and care which we have received.

We have learned much from you.

We have marveled at your organizational capacity, your fighting spirit, your sincere pride in the roots which give you color and name in these lands.

The Oaxaca indigenous make every indigenous, in any part of Mexico, feel proud of being indigenous.

Knowing you up close has done nothing but confirm our conviction that the national indigenous movement is enjoying, right now, one of its best moments.

We hope that what all we indigenous of Mexico are seeking will indeed now be possible, and that the Indian peoples of these lands will have an important place here.

Thank you people of Oaxaca!

The zapatistas salute you!

Brothers and Sisters:

For many days now all Mexican indigenous and all honest men and women of Mexico have been listening to a multitude of stupid remarks about our indigenous selves and our march, which we have called the March of Indigenous Dignity.

We all know whose voice it is which is speaking such idiocies.

We know because we have been hearing them for entire centuries.

It is the voice of the one who brought deception and lies to our lands.

It is the voice of the one who imposed death and misery as indigenous state policy.

It is the voice of the one who yesterday used the whip and the sword to conquer our land, and who today uses modernization in order to do away with us.

It is the voice of stupidity.

It is the voice of ignorance.

It is the voice of arrogance.

It is the voice of the one who thinks he is superior to and stronger than us.

It is the voice of the one who cannot conceive of any way of living other than at the cost of our deaths.

It is the voice of the one who says that the indigenous peoples will make progress only when they cease being indigenous.

The one who uses that voice, which threatens and persecutes us, is so blindly stupid that it considers a region of the country to have improved when the number of indigenous residing in it has decreased.

Look at any government analysis and you will see that is how they have the country classified.

In addition, they have the cynicism to declare: “This region has already improved because there is now a greater mestizo population than before, and there are fewer indigenous than before, or fewer people, that is, who speak an indigenous language.”

And then we ask:

In the mind of the powerful: As more indigenous disappear, the country develops more?

The development and modernization plans which the government praises so: Are they nothing more than plans to exterminate the indigenous?

Do they, the powerful, believe that they are deceiving us and that they are doing anything new?

Because their ways of thinking and methods are not at all different from those with which they tried to exterminate us five centuries ago, and they called their war of destruction and looting “civilization.”

“Civilization” they called the destruction of our society and of our culture, the massacres of the indigenous, the seizure of our lands and wealth, the humiliation of and contempt for our culture, the mockery of our language, rejection of our clothing, disgust for our dark color which is nothing other than the color of the earth.

Now the same war against us has taken another name, and it is called “modernization” by the one who is today the new foreman in the service of money.

But the powerful forget that those who wanted to exterminate us no longer exist, and we are here.

Indian peoples throughout Mexico are living…no, surviving…in the most shocking conditions of poverty.

The powerful say, and it is said: “If they are in poverty it is because the indigenous are lazy, run away from work and waste what little they have.”

“Lazy” they say to those who raised buildings, cities, great works, entire societies which were the marvel of the whole world before they were destroyed.

They say we run away from work, and few, very few, are the peoples of the land in which - as in many of ours — the voluntary work of the collective is added to each individual’s work.

They say we waste what little we have, but they have been the ones who have looted our riches, those who have made the water filthy with the fecal waste of money, those who have destroyed the forests in order to traffic in wood, those who used up the minerals of our mountains, those who imposed crops which wore down and damaged the land, those who promoted the planting, trafficking and use of drugs, those who fattened themselves with our blood made work.

They are, in short, the ones who have destroyed our house with their ambition and force.

And now they blame us for not having a good house.

And so we would like to ask those powerful ones:

How many rich and powerful indigenous are there in this country?

How many indigenous are owners of industries which contaminate the water and damage the environment?

How many indigenous have enriched themselves with the clandestine or brazen cutting down of trees?

How many indigenous owned mines?

How many indigenous had agro-industries?

How many indigenous are leaders of drug cartels?

How many indigenous have made themselves powerful by exploiting other indigenous?

How many indigenous have devoted themselves to persecuting, torturing, imprisoning, corrupting, deceiving and assassinating other indigenous?

No, it has not been we who have destroyed our house.

It has been they, the man-eaters, those with two faces, those of the sticky fingers, the fathers of the lies.

Before they arrived, dealing out death and destruction, the wealth of the earth was not lusted after.

Because the wealth of the earth was the wealth of the one who inhabited it, and the one who stole it was only stealing from himself.

And that stupidity of stealing the wealth of the earth is what they are offering us as "modernity"?

And then they call us, the indigenous, “ignorant.”

Did we not care for the land before they arrived?

Did we not care for our mother?

Did they not turn her into a prostitute, young and carefree before, and today dried up and old?

Did we invent the methods of over-exploitation of natural resources?

Are we the ignorant ones?

Does doing everything to totally destroy the only house one has mean being wise?

Because up until now no one has discovered another habitable planet, and so this is the only one we have.

Perhaps words have changed quite a bit.

Because, for us, the one who seeks his brothers’ and his own ruin is stupid and ignorant.

Because, for us, the one who seeks his own progress, and that of others, is wise and intelligent.

But they, nonetheless, keep us away from technical and scientific knowledge.


Only because our color is the color of the earth?

Or because our indigenous way of thinking would lead us to using that science and that technology to care for the earth and to improve oneself in the only way possible, that is, with the peoples we are?

Because our sense of community collides with their individualist sentiment?

Because it is easier to deceive, loot and defeat one person who is alone, than the many who are united collectively?

The powerful call us “ignorant,” and say that our beliefs concerning work and collective benefit are the products of foreign, communist and subversive ideas.

Perhaps they are unaware that collective work and benefit already existed in these lands long before the foreigner “discovered” us.

The powerful call us “lazy,” and say that our hands are only good for making crafts.

Perhaps they are unaware that, since before their long war against us, we have been making things they could not even imagine.

So great are, and were, our works.

The powerful does not think, but he has money in order to buy someone to think for him.

And then those purchased thoughts say: “The indigenous want to return to the past. They want to exchange the tractor for the hoe, scientific knowledge for magic, paid work for slavery, to promote the buying and selling of women, to exchange free elections for caciquismo."”

No, we do not want to return to the past.

Those purchased thoughts should not tire themselves out thinking.

We lived in the past.

We have hoes and not tractors.

We do not have schools nor universities in order to shut them down, strangling their budget or with the Federal Preventive Police.

Our women are fighting for their gender rights, and not just now.

We have slavery and the powerful are the masters.

We do not want to return to the past.

But nor do we want to continue living and dying in it.

We want science and technology, but not in order to kill the earth and good thinking, but to make it better and richer.

We want to free ourselves from the slavery which the powerful subject us to, but not in order to make ourselves equal to him, to be stupid and evil.

We want to live in the present and to build a future with everyone.

What we do not want is to cease being indigenous.

We are proud of being so.

We are proud of our language.

We are proud of our culture.

We are proud of our clothing.

We are proud of our struggle as women and as indigenous and as poor.

Proud of our methods of governing and governing ourselves.

Proud of our methods of working.

Proud, in short, of being the color of the earth.

That is why we want indigenous autonomy.

Not in order to separate ourselves from the country and to add one more poor country to those which already exist in abundance.

Not in order to return to a past from which we have not even been able to leave.

We want it in order to care for the earth with wisdom.

In order to make it rich and prosperous for us and for the entire country.

In order to avoid their looting it and destroying it and killing it.

In order to be able to work individually or collectively, but always taking care that one person does not profit to the detriment of others.

We want indigenous autonomy.

Not in order to create fundamentalist despots.

Not in order to replace the color of the earth with the color that is now humiliating us.

We want it so that the majority is valued all the time, and not just every once in a while.

So that the one who governs, governs obeying.

So that governing is a responsibility and work for the collective, and not a means of enriching oneself at the cost of the governed.

So that indigenous women do not have to exchange their marginalization for their being indigenous and being women, and they change their condition as marginalized women because they are women, regardless of whether or not they are indigenous.

So that the measure of political and economic success is no longer subjugating the different and forcing him to cease being what he is.

Not so that everyone will be like us.

But rather to be ourselves respecting and being respected by the other who is different from ourselves.

Those of us who are the color of this Mexican earth want indigenous autonomy and we are going to achieve it.

No one will any longer have any plans or programs which do not take us into account.

No Puebla-Panama Plan nor Trans-Isthmus megaproject, nor anything which means the selling or destruction of the house of the indigenous which — it must not be forgotten — is part of the house of all Mexicans.

No longer will the color of one’s skin, or the way of dress, or the language with which one clothes words, or the way one governs, or the relationship with land, be a reason for persecution, contempt or marginalization.

We want indigenous autonomy because it is the only visible means of preventing this country from ending up in pieces and squandered.

Because it is the only visible means of saving Mexico from those who are proposing finishing it off as a nation and who are trying to turn it into a high plateau of nostalgia of what was and what could have been.

For Mexico, that is why we want indigenous autonomy.

Brothers and Sisters:

The most old of these Oaxaca lands recount that the first man was born from the union of a tree. That the first man grew then, and he took good care of the tree that was his mother and father. That one day he realized the tree was head down, and he worked to put it where its roots should be, and thus the tree grew and never had to dry up and never had to die.

We are all part of the tree that is the Mexican nation.

But some of us are leaves, others flowers, others trunk, others branches, others fruit and others root which nurtures and gives foundation.

We are different, then, but we have one single life.

Tomorrow is only possible if it is inclusive.

But this country has head its head down. It has been determined, for almost two hundred years, to destroy its roots. How will it be nurtured and have foundation if it destroys its roots?

The entire country must be turned right side up and put as it should be, so that it can, in that way, grow and never dry up and never die.

And so, if anyone asks what this March of Indigenous Dignity, the march of the color of the earth, wants, here is the answer:

Nothing more or less than that the entire country be turned right side up, and that it finally be made the tree where all of us who are different will have a common tomorrow as nation, which is, also, the only possible tomorrow.

A tomorrow where all Mexicans, including the indigenous, will have…


Salud Mixtec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Cuicatec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Zapotec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Triqui Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Chocholtec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Mazatec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Mixe Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Chinantec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Huave Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Zoque Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Chontal Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Tacuate Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Nahua Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Ixcatec Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Amuzgo Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Chatino Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Black Brothers and Sisters!
Salud Oaxaca Brothers and Sisters!

From the dignified indigenous lands of Oaxaca.

Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee — General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Mexico, February of 2001.