The very first time I ever heard about the Zapatistas, I was in middle school. I remember seeing them on the news as well as hearing about them from my family members. 9I did not fully understand what the whole organization was about until I asked my aunt—a high school history teacher—informed me about the struggles of the indigenous living in Chiapas and how they declared war against Mexico around the time I was born. I was astonished. I asked myself: how can anyone declare war against their very own country? This simple inquiry led me to a world of revolutionary movements and politics just by googling the name of the movement. I know now that the rethinking of the political system in Mexico without actually gaining power through the
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About 35% of the coffee produced in Mexico came from Chiapas and about 57% of that coffee was exported. The price of this coffee in 1988 was about 8,000 pesos while the producers of it were paid a mere 2,500 or less. Also, in 1989, a few businesses took over 1 trillion pesos from the state of Chiapas and only left about 600 billion pesos of credit and public works (Marcos 20). This left the residents with virtually nothing. As this was going on, the overall standard of living in Chiapas was deteriorated where communication, education, industry, and health suffered, keeping poverty widespread. The 500 year old struggle for land and resources was still being battled against the oppressors of the indigenous.
Amidst this environment, these early Zapatistas were fashioning a fierce approach to change, resembling the typical Latin American Guerilla organization. However, after various conversations with locals and recommendations from “civil society” the founders vowed to change the form of their struggle by promoting non-violence (Esteva 131). After much quiet demonstrations and slow growth, it was not until the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that the Zapatistas became public to society. As a result, thousands of indigenous peoples, armed with both fake and real rifles, came marching in San Cristobal de Las Casas, while altogether, declaring war against the Mexican state,