Saturday, June 16, 2007
"Esta pa'alla, no mas, cerquita"
I’m back. I spent the last 2 weeks in the Lancandon Jungle in a small community called Nuevo Rosario, the picture is in Nuevo Rosario at sunset. When I say small community I mean just that, small. It is made up of 8 families and about 35-40 people in total. I believe in the last entry I mentioned something about going to Nuevo San Pedro, well, that changed. Frayba, the Center for Human Rights, gave us a letter to take to the Zapatista Junta de Buen Gobierno so that they would clear us to stay in a community in resistence to observe and document the situation being lived in Nuevo Rosario.
My friend and I left May 28th, 2007 at 6:00am from San Cristóbal to the town of Ocosingo just north and east. We packed into a 12 passenger van with our backpacks loaded to the gills with everything we would need for the next “15 días” (2 weeks), hammock, sleeping bag, clothes, water purification drops, silverware, a pot to cook our food and make coffee, etc. After the 2 hour winding trip out of the mountains we finally arrived to Ocosingo much to the delight of the woman sitting next to me who made good use of her motion sickness bag. Once in Ocosingo we found the market and next to it a large enclosed parking lot which reminded me of a large airport with trucks coming and going every which way but going out of Ocosingo no farther than 200Km or so. We found a truck that was leaving for Caracol #3 “La Garrucha” at 10:00am. So, we waited around for another 2 hours and by chance met up with two other brigadistas, a Spanaird and a Swiss, who were on their way to the La Garrucha as well. By 10:00am (we didn’t actually leave until closer to 11:00am) it was already blazing hot. We helped a family load their things into the truck along with ours, including their turkeys and chickens. Sitting in the back of a pick-up truck for 3 hours with 7 people, a few young turkeys, a couple chickens and chicks in 100 degree weather, dust blowing everywhere and sticking to your sweaty body with the road winding like a snake, moving from asphalt to gravel to even worse gravel and the driver dodging washed out sections of “road” was quite a rollercoaster ride.
We arrived at La Garrucha around 2:00pm and welcomed by some of the members of the Junta……….At the end add spiel about JBG. The Junta was quite busy so they offered us a place to put our things and we hung our hammocks and waited for our turn. While waiting to present out letter to the Junta, my Spaniard friend and I got in on a game of basketball. As some of you know I’m a hockey player and I know next to nothing about basketball even the Spaniard made fun of my shot saying that it looked like I was trying to throw a shot put. Needless to say us foreigners were taken to school, even though the Tzeltales we were playing with were shorter than us.
Later that evening we finally were able to sit in front of the Junta and present our letter hoping they would give us the ok to leave for Nuevo Rosario for observation. After some deliberation and a few questions that we had difficulty understanding because of the Tzeltal/Spanish mix we were told to wait outside and they would come find us later. It wasn’t until the morning that we finally heard from the Junta that we were allowed to go to Nuevo Rosario for two weeks. By that time, the one and only pick-up truck had already left from La Garrucha to Ocosingo. So we went out and waited at the road trying to flag down any and every car/bus/truck that passed by. Over a span of about 5 hours that was a total of 5 trucks. We finally got in a “camioneta” (pick-up truck) and returned to Ocosingo but by the time we arrived there were no more trucks leaving that evening.
I stayed in a little hotel in Ocosingo that night. I took my last hot shower I was going to have for a while. We got up early and hopped in a “combi” (one of those old Volkswagon vans) and for 10 pesos (less than $1) we set out on the road south from Ocosingo toward Altamirano. About half way to Altamirano we were dropped off at the side of the paved road and told by the driver as he pointed in I don’t know which direction that “Ejido Campet está por allá” (Campet is just over there). We grabbed our packs and watched the combi take off down the road and we just looked at each other in a moment of “what just happened”. It felt like one of those movie scenes where someone gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere and the car speeds off and then there is total silence and the feeling of, well, I guess we’ll start walking.
I was not ready for that hike and it was NOT "just over there". Carrying my heavy pack in 100 degrees walking down the gravel road to Campet with no breeze was physically taxing, I found out real quick what kind of shape I was in. After a solid 30 minutes we made it to Campet. Once we arrived in Campet some little tour guides welcomed us with a million questions, ¿De dónde vienen? ¿A dónde van?, etc. (Where are you guys from? Where are you going?, etc.). A couple of kids were ready and willing to show us the way to Nuevo Rosario. We walked through Campet to the single track trail that would lead us another 25 minutes to Nuevo Rosario. When we got the trail I was already tired and I when I didn’t think this road could be anymore difficult, it was. A switchback trail straight-up the side of this STEEP hill. It was difficult keeping my balance with my pack and the mud didn’t make it any easier, plus every 200 yards we had to cross a barb wired fence. The most important part is that we made it. Obviously, I have a lot to write and to tell and I will stop here for now. It seems like a good place to rest because that is the first thing we did when we arrived in Nuevo Rosario…rest. JT
P.S. I never got to ride on a horse but a few riders passed us along the trail offering us a ride. We refused because people kept telling us that "está pa'allá, no más, cerquita." (It's just over there, a little further), which usually means you have at least another 20 minutes of hiking to do.
P.P.S. I am attaching some information I typed up trying to learn more about how the Zapatistas organize themselves and what is all this business about Caracoles and Juntas de Buen Gobierno. So here you have a very brief overview.
In late summer of 2003, the Zapatistas reorganized the structure of autonomy in the Municipios Autónomas Rebeldes Zapatistas (MAREZ), which would now be administered from Caracoles by Juntas de Buen Gobierno (JBG). The word ‘Caracol’ takes on a double meaning. The literal translation is ‘conch shell’ which represents the Zapatistas’ five political cultural centers spiraling outward from the center and the sounding of a conch shell is used to summon the community to meetings. From these political cultural centers is where the JBG are based. Each Caracol is administered by a Junta de Buen Gobierno (JBG), which is loosely translated as ‘good government committees’. Here I provide a list of the Juntas de Buen Gobierno and the autonomous municipalities they govern.
1. Caracol Mother of Caracoles-Sea of Our Dreams – Meeting at La Realidad (Tojolabal Jungle). JBG “Hacia la Esperanza” (Toward the Hope) – Autonomías: General Emiliano Zapata, San Pedro de Michoacán, Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas, Tierra y Libertad
2. Caracol Whirlwind of Our Words – Meeting at Ejido Morelia. JBG “Corazón del Arcoiris de la Esperanza” (Heart of the Rainbow of Hope) – Autonomías: 17 de Noviembre, Primero de Enero, Ernesto Che Guevara, Olga Isabel, Lucio Cabañas, Miguel Hidalgo, Vicente Guerrero
3. Caracol Resistance Until the New Dawn – Meeting at La Garrucha (Tzeltal Jungle). JBG “El Camino del Futuro” (Road to the Future) – Autonomías: Francisco Gómez, San Manuel, Francisco Villa, Ricardo Flores Magón
4. Caracol That Speaks for All – Meeting at Roberto Barrios (North). JBG “Nueva Semilla que Va a Producir” (New Seed That Will Fructify) – Autonomías: Vicente Guerrero, Del Trabajo, La Montaña, San José en Rebeldía, La Paz, Benito Juárez, Francisco Villa
5. Caracol Resitance and Rebellion for Humanity – Meeting at Oventik (Highlands/Los Altos). JBG “Corazón Céntrico de los Zapatistas Delante del Mundo” (Center of the Zapatista Heart Before the World) – San Andrés Sakamchén de los Pobres, San Juan de la Libertad, San Pedro Polhó, Santa Catarina, Magdalena de la Paz, 16 de Febrero, San Juan Apóstol Cancuc
The Juntas de Buen Gobierno administer five Zapatistas Municipal Rebel Autonomous Zones (MAREZ) grouping together 29 municipalities that includes 2,222 villages, a total nearing 100,000 people (Ross).
The Sixth Declaration from the Lancandon Jungle continues with more detail how the JBG’s are operated: “[. . .] we are passing the work of safe guarding good government to the Zapatista support bases, with temporary positions which are rotated, so that everyone learns and carries out this work. Because we believe that a people which does not watch over its leaders is condemned to be enslaved [. . .]”. Since the initiation of the JBG’s in 2003 there has been continued self-learning and continued exercise of the Zapatista saying “mandar obediciendo”, or “govern by obeying” the will of the community. That is to say the Zapatistas continue to develop their worldview and administer autonomy in the region based on practice. Their experiment with participatory democracy and the promotion of dialogue, meetings, and exchanging ideas with people from the entire world helps build consciousness.