One of the remarkable things about this insurgency was the number and visibility of women within the movement both in leadership roles and in the rank and file. The conditions for indigenous women in Chiapas at the time of the January rebellion were difficult, compounding the already terrible conditions of poverty and oppression faced by the indigenous population. In allowing women roles of authority in the movement, then, the EZLN began a negotiation with both local and national culture on an unprecedented level.
He said that the time had come, to be replaced, not because of internal struggles, personal sickness or death as rumors have suggested over the last years, but rather because he had gone from being a “spokesman to a distraction.” Marcos added that his persona was a bridge character the EZLN had created to interact with a media and public that has persistently ignored the indigenous commanders and traditional community leaders.
Though the EZLN attempted to change the cultural patriarchy that was heavily ingrained in indigenous society, since the initial uprising in 1994 little has changed for women outside of the intimate circle of EZLN leaders. However, the women's movement within the Zapatista struggle has exposed hundreds of years of gender inequality and has raised the voice of female dissent throughout the country. Though discussion about women's rights in Mexico decreased in the years after the 1994 uprising, the EZLN continues, nevertheless, to respond to outrageous examples of violence and injustice towards women. This demonstrates that women's rights do remain on the Zapatista agenda, although, control over both economic sustenance and culture remain the focus.
In 1994, when the Zapatistas seized several cities in Chiapas, women were among the most visible actors. Insurgent Infantry Captain Irma, Insurgent Infantry Captain Elisa, Insurgent Infantry Captain Silvia, Infantry Insurgent Isidora, First Lieutenant Amalia, Lieutenant Elena…these are just a few of the women who were present on January 1st. Later, Commandanta Ramona would emerge as a spokesperson for the EZLN:
In this essay, I could be perceived as one who has written the Zeitgeist Movement off as conspiracist drivel; mostly I have. However, at the crux of it, there are anarchistic connotations. Who’s to say that this is not prefigurative politics, i.e., the idea of building a new world in the shell of the old? Or, who could argue that, if this truly was a decentralized, non-hierarchical free-space for people, it is not striving to build a dual power structure? Both prefigurative politics and dual-power building are both anarchistic tendencies, and I argue the Zeitgeist Movement could be that.
You will need to identify a current issue related to the above themes and examine the strategies utilized by one or more social movements organised around that issue. Your essay should have a clear conceptual framework (theory, concepts and methods), which will help you build a hypothesis (proposed explanation for the issue at hand) and a coherent argument.
Analysis of Women’s Role in the EZLN
Unlike many revolutionary movements in the world, the Zapatistas have made a specific effort to include women. Beyond inclusion, they are making strides towards breaking down gender roles and stereotypes in indigenous communities. The women of the Zapatista movement have actively spoken up for the rights of all indigenous peoples, and have also spoken up for their specific rights as women. The EZLN has provided women with a platform to speak out against their oppression in ways that the cooperatives women have set up are as of yet unable to do. Within the EZLN support communities, women experience a level of equality, which women in non-support bases are not able to receive. Although women in the support communities still remain relatively bound by gender roles when it comes to activism, they remain key actors in the success of the Zapatista movement through their contribution to the material needs of the revolution and also in th! e contribution of their minds through their education.
Within the communities, women are the ones actively working towards the Zapatista goal of autonomy. Women organize cooperatives (as we saw with Mujeres Marginadas) to help the communities generate income, as they can no longer survive on subsistence alone. Besides the informal, consciousness-raising education that they engage in through handicraft cooperatives, they formally learn from Zapatista representatives in classes set up by the Good Government Juntas. Through these classes they are able to learn basic math and literacy, as well as the Spanish language and revolutionary strategy. Most indigenous women in communities are monolingual in their indigenous languages and learning Spanish is a way to understand the oppressor, and consequently as a way to fight back. The knowledge of Spanish in Mexico, just like the knowledge of English in the United States, allows a person to better understand the society and participate more fu! lly. For the women of Chiapas, knowledge of Spanish allows them to communicate with non-governmental organizations, state agencies, and anyone else who may be able to help them promote their cause. Further, they learn about Mexican politics and how and why they an effect on everyday life in the communities. Again, this knowledge better equips the women to know what they are resisting against and ways of resistance. Through their roles in the domestic sphere, women can contribute to the EZLN by supplying food and clothing, and even money from their handicraft cooperatives . As said by Subcommandante Marcos, "the women are the spiritual and material support of this army; if we can survive in large numbers, it is thanks to them ...." (Irish Solidarity Network).
Women who remain in the support communities by choice or obligation, also have a place in the Zapatista struggle. These women are the people who implement the Zapatista program on the ground. Currently, the Zapatistas are working to enact the future they wish to see for Mexico in their base communities. They have officially declared autonomy from the Mexican government in their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle(2005), and are effectively setting up an autonomous Zapatista zone in Chiapas. They have organized their base communities into five caracoles headed by "Good Government Juntas" made up of individuals elected by their communities. These juntas work together to provide Zapatista communities with the infrastructure, education, and healthcare that the government has so long denied them (Carlsen).
This structure makes networks enormously resilient and adaptable in low-risk situations. Wikipedia is a perfect example. It doesn’t have an editor, sitting in New York, who directs and corrects each entry. The effort of putting together each entry is self-organized. If every entry in Wikipedia were to be erased tomorrow, the content would swiftly be restored, because that’s what happens when a network of thousands spontaneously devote their time to a task.
In the Nicaraguan, Mexican, and Zapatista revolutions women demand equality within their revolutions. These women join their struggles because they feel that they can provide change in women's lives through equality of effort and a feminist future vision. Sheila Rowbotham is a social historian who also addresses women's fight for equality. She points out that many women fight against capitalism and their own oppression within the movement. She states that women must acknowledge that they must be in charge of liberating themselves because a man would not benefit from it the way they would. In reference to women's emancipation, she cites Bebel, a Marxist revoluntionary: