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Zapata Lives!

Zapata Lives!: Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico

Lynn Stephen
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 445
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  • Book Info
    Zapata Lives!
    Book Description:

    This richly detailed study chronicles recent political events in southern Mexico, up to and including the July 2000 election of Vicente Fox. Lynn Stephen focuses on the meaning that Emiliano Zapata, the great symbol of land reform and human rights, has had and now has for rural Mexicans. Stephen documents the rise of the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas and shows how this rebellion was understood in other parts of Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca, giving a vivid sense of rural life in southern Mexico. Illuminating the cultural dimensions of these political events, she shows how indigenous Mexicans and others fashioned their own responses to neoliberal economic policy, which ended land reform, encouraged privatization, and has resulted in increasing socioeconomic stratification in Mexico. Mixing original ethnographic material drawn from years of fieldwork in Mexico with historical material from a variety of sources, Stephen shows how activists have appropriated symbols of the revolution to build the contemporary political movement. Her wide-ranging narrative touches on the history of land tenure, racism, gender issues in the Zapatista movement, local political culture, the Zapatista uprising of the 1990s and its aftermath, and more. A significant addition to our knowledge of social change in contemporary Mexico,Zapata Lives!also offers readers a model for engaged, activist anthropology.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92764-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps, Illustrations, and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Acronyms and Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xxv-xlvi)

    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction: The “Fields” of Anthropology, Human Rights, and Contemporary Zapatismo
      (pp. 3-32)

      The purpose of this chapter is twofold: to introduce relevant background information, and, more important, to locate myself within the context of my research in terms of my position in the international political economy, my relationship to those I work with, and my ethical responsibilities as an anthropologist—in other words, what is my role in the stories told in this book, and how and why did I take on the research questions I did? In addition, I argue in this chapter for a flexible understanding of anthropology, one that includes using the tools of anthropology to function as a...

    • CHAPTER 2 Government Construction and Reappropriation of Emiliano Zapata
      (pp. 33-82)

      This chapter looks primarily at one side of the interaction between the Mexican government and local communities, focusing on how the government mobilized Emiliano Zapata and the Mexican Revolution to consolidate a postrevolutionary state and promote a dominant nationalism, first in the 1920s and 1930s, then from 1990 through the end of agrarian reform as Mexico restructured economically to meet NAFTA guidelines. During the 1930s, the arenas of education, art, peasant organizing, and the granting of land to rural communities asejidoswere primary paths for the diffusion of government claims to Zapata and the Mexican Revolution. In the 1990s,...

    • CHAPTER 3 Ethnic and Racial Categories in Mexican History
      (pp. 83-88)

      Chapter 2 describes government attempts to forge a discourse of unitary nationalism built around Zapata and the Mexican Revolution in the 1930s and again in the 1990s. The next four chapters relate the specific story of how indigenous men and women in eastern Chiapas ultimately claimed Zapata and Zapatismo as their own, beginning in the 1980s. To understand this contemporary story, we must first look at the distinctive colonial and postcolonial history of the region, strongly linked to the historical struggle for land, to the establishment of regional indigenous and peasant organizations, and ultimately to armed rebellion.

      To tell this...


    • CHAPTER 4 The Historical Roots of Indigenous Struggle in Chiapas
      (pp. 91-102)

      Colonial history in Chiapas, along with later trends in the republican period, set important precedents for indigenous loss of land and efforts to reclaim it. The system ofencomiendas,put into operation between 1523 and 1531, laid the basis for the exploitation of the indigenous population. Some communities in the Tzeltal- and Tzotzil-speaking highlands, such as Chamula, Tenejapa, Oxchuc, and Huixtán, were able to retain a communal land base during the colonial era (Favre 1984, 46). Others almost completely lost their territorial base. Tojolabal, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Ch’ol people were conscripted to work on ranches and plantations in the lowlands....

    • CHAPTER 5 The New Zapatismo in the Lacandon Jungle
      (pp. 103-146)

      In her mid fifties, Comandante Trinidad cuts an imposing figure at a press conference. Unlike the female comandantes who participated in the second round of peace dialogues between the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional and the Mexican government during 1995 and 1996, Trini is from an older generation. Her long white hair reaches her waist as it flows below the red bandanna she wears over her face, a Zapatista trademark for those who regard ski masks as too hot or too expensive. While Trini herself did notwork as a sharecropper on a finca, her parents and grandparents did. Trini was...

    • CHAPTER 6 Zapata Vive! Local Lacandon Zapatismo and Its Translation to Larger Mexico
      (pp. 147-175)

      Since its first appearance in the press in Mexico, the EZLN has used the figure of Emiliano Zapata as a central symbol in communiqués written by its supreme authority, the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee, constituted in early 1993. This chapter seeks in part to establish how ejidatarios who formed and joined the EZLN in the Lacandon region of Chiapas appropriated the dominant symbol of Zapata, claimed for decades by the Mexican government, and reworked it for the purposes of resistance and armed struggle. This general story is not particularly unique in history. Many groups have reclaimed dominant symbols for their...

    • CHAPTER 7 Conversations with Zapatistas: The Revolutionary Law of Women and Military Occupation
      (pp. 176-216)

      In eastern Chiapas, Zapatismo has been experienced in different ways by communities and by individuals. The process of becoming a Zapatista involves profound challenges and sacrifices for the young men and women who make up the armed ranks of the insurgentes who live fulltime in military training camps, as well as for the men, women, and children in Zapatista base communities, who, having kept the movement a secret as it grew, now defend it in the midst of army occupation, low intensity war, and growing numbers of local paramilitary organizations seeking to intimidate and slowly eliminate, or convert into deserters,...


    • CHAPTER 8 The Historical Roots of Land Conflict and Organizing in Oaxaca
      (pp. 219-239)

      While both support for and opposition to the Zapatistas is well documented in the case of Chiapas, little attention has been paid to the reception to Zapatismo in other parts of rural Mexico. The next three chapters are written as a historical comparison to the stories of the ejidos of Guadalupe Tepeyac and La Realidad and to describe in detail the ways ejidos formed in other primarily indigenous parts of Mexico resulted in different local experiences with the government and agrarian officials. In these chapters, I discuss the particular cases of the Zapotec ejido of Santa María del Tule, formed...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Story of Santa María del Tule: Zapata, Cárdenas, and “Good Guy” Officials
      (pp. 240-266)

      In the ejidos of Santa María del Tule and Unión Zapata in Oaxaca, the figures of Lázaro Cárdenas and Emiliano Zapata came to assume almost familial status in local histories. Cárdenas personally visited both communities during two trips to the region. As president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940, he was personally involved in either providing initial and additional land grants, as in the case of Unión Zapata, or in resolving a long-standing conflict over ejido land, as in the case of Santa María del Tule. In both places, his actions are today seen as an extension of the legacy...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Formation of the Ejido of Unión Zapata Cárdenas y Zapata, presente!
      (pp. 267-286)

      Very Respectable Mr. President,

      Please permit us to direct our attention to you in order to offer you our most abundant thanks for the kind assistance that you have sent to us in order to alleviate our precarious existence.

      At the same time we are pleased to report to you that señor Ingeniero D. Cliserio Villafuerte was in a meeting with the señor Delegate of the Agrarian Department telling him what he thought was pertinent to the urbanization of our community, which is now being designed to our great satisfaction. Now they are gathering the construction materials to make the...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Contradictions of Zapatismo in Rural Oaxaca
      (pp. 287-315)

      This chapter seeks to clarify what I have come to call the “pro-Zapatistaandpro-PRI” stance found among some ejidatarios in Unión Zapata and Santa María del Tule in the mid 1990s, and to explain how this contradiction contributed to a vote for the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) in El Tule in the presidential elections of July 2000. The contradictory stance involved is all the more interesting given important differences between the two communities in ethnicity, economic activities, landholdings, and education. Some of these differences were discussed in the previous chapter; others are elaborated in what follows.

      The common pro-Zapatista...

  10. Conclusion: Reclaiming the Mexican Nation for the Poor and the Indigenous South
    (pp. 316-344)

    The local histories of Unión Zapata, Santa María del Tule, Guadalupe Tepeyac, and La Realidad show that people appropriate aspects of national identity for their own purposes. An “experiential knowledge of the past transmitted through personal recollection can be harnessed in the context of political action,” Joanne Rappaport observes (1994, 19). Government-claimed nationalist icons are reprogrammed with local meaning and then mobilized in response to particular local and national conflicts and policies. Ejidatarios in Oaxaca and Chiapas have fashioned their own responses to the neoliberal economic policy that ended land reform, encouraged privatization, and has resulted in increasing socioeconomic stratification...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 345-354)
  12. References
    (pp. 355-378)
  13. Index
    (pp. 379-400)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 401-401)