January 1st 2003 marks the 9-year anniversary of the Zapatista uprising, and the day when the Zapatista rebels of the EZLN broke their silence and took on San Cristobal de las Casas once again, the main town in the Mexican southern region of Chiapas. The Zapatista uprising of 1st January 1994 coincided with the introduction of the USA's lead North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which imposed, amongst other trade rules and regulations, the removal of all Mexican tariffs against US agricultural products.
Ever since that day, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the Zapatista autonomous communities of Chiapas have been rebelling against the neoliberal policies of NAFTA and the Mexican government, as well as resisting the attacks and repression by the Mexican Federal Army, whilst, at the same time, upholding the rights and culture of the indigenous people of Chiapas through a system of direct democracy, autonomy and participation.
Currently the Mexican government is renewing its threats of arrests and evictions in the Monte Azules Biosphere Reserve region of Chiapas (read report by the Social Justice Committee) whilst still rejecting the Zapatista demands for autonomy, dignity and justice for the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
As a result of this situation, the Zapatistas chose the anniversary of their uprising to call for a day of protest in Mexico. Peasant organisations called for the blockade of the highways, the airports and even the frontiers, and more than 25,000 Zapatista women, children and men - many wearing masks and carrying machete knives - of all ages and from all over Chiapas, came out of the mountains of the Lacandon jungle to march into the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, thus ending a period of silence that had begun nearly two years ago, after the EZLN's Caravan to Mexico City took place in April 2001.
Photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14
Getting ready for the march: photo library from IMC-Chiapas
Zapatistas arriving in San Cristobal the night before (photos): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5