Sounds Of Struggle In San Cristobal De Las Casas

Zapatista poster on the refridgerator at La Calaca. The translation is “Two wheel revolution! No to the destruction of the environment! Yes to the destruction of the capital!

‘La Guerra De Desgaste’ (War of Attrition) was the name of the event held in the main plaza of San Cristobal de Las Casas on the 25 June 2013. Many people gathered to listen to the political speeches and watch the many musical performances. Each performance relayed the same message; to address the continuing marginalisation and exploitation of the indigenous people of Chiapas.

We stayed in a unique house share / hostel in San Cristobal known as La Calaca. Our house-mate Alejandra performed a skit for La Guerra De Desgaste with her amigas. They combined comedy, dramatic performance and music.

The video below shows a few clips of their performance. Alej is playing the jarana, a traditional guitar that originates from Veracruz, Mexico. The first song is called ‘El Mutilado‘ (The Maimed), originally by the Mexican rock artist Armando Palomas. The second song she performs is ‘La Paloma’ (The Dove), the origin and original artist is unknown.

Zapatista Army Of National Liberation

The housemates of La Calaca are Zapatistas, a political leftist group based in Chiapas. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation supported the Chiapas Indian uprising in 1994. With the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA) the United States were free to import subsidised low-cost corn to Mexico resulting in a dramatic economic downturn for the Mayan Indians who use low-tech agricultural methods.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) are protecting the rights of the indigenous people who live in San Cristobal and the surrounding areas of the state. Their ideology is to preserve the Mayan traditions and stop the exploitation of the people from the previous reforms the government put in place and also from the continuing pressure the government creates to cash in on tourism. Opportunists are dispossessing the land, destroying the biodiversity of the state, at the same time sweeping the homes from under the feet of the indigenous people (source: Upside Down World).

Para todos todo, para nosotros nada

Zapatista slogan meaning “for everyone, everything. For us, nothing”

The living room at La Calaca

Exploitive Tourism Echoes In Other States

This theme of exploitive ‘eco-tourism’ is obvious in Huatulco, a resort town in the neighbouring state of Oaxaca. Despite resistance from the locals, massive hotels moved in, crushed their homes, claiming the prime real estate with little or no compensation. These hotels now block the access to the public beach.

Lars and I camped one night in Huatulco, in the RV & Trailer park!  From there we found the only usable public access to the beach and for that you have to walk into a dense wooded area and wade calf-deep through the bog of eternal stench! We were disgusted with the lack of respect and support for this community.

Moving On From San Cristobal

Our journey continues to take us along many paths, some that Lars plots out on the GPS and those we find through the incredible people we meet along the way. We want to thank La Calaca for sharing their home and friendship. We hope the support continues to grow for the Zapatistas and for the indigenous people of San Cristobal, Chiapas. Let us hope that progressive change is on the horizon for this culture-rich, caring community.

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