Article

Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas

Neil Harvey

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0065
Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas

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The Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas drew widespread attention to the plight of indigenous peoples in Mexico’s second-poorest state. On 1 January 1994 the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) (cited under Primary Sources and Translations) took possession of six towns in central and eastern Chiapas, including the former colonial seat of power, San Cristóbal de Las Casas. More than 3,000 indigenous people participated in the uprising, which was timed to coincide with the taking effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Denouncing NAFTA as a “death sentence for indigenous peoples,” the principal spokesperson for the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos, argued that the privatization of collectively held lands and the implementation of neoliberal economic policy would undermine small producers (campesinos) and make the country more dependent on imported crops and other commodities. The Zapatistas issued a call for all Mexicans to mobilize against then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, a principal architect of neoliberal reforms who had claimed victory in the 1988 presidential elections despite widespread evidence of fraud. The government responded with a military offensive, but large-scale protests were effective in ensuring that peace talks would begin in late February 1994. Negotiations did not lead to a peaceful solution. By 1996 only one set of accords had been signed, relating to indigenous rights, but these have not been implemented. As a result, the Zapatistas have attempted to build alternative community structures and promote autonomous projects on the lands that were occupied during the early stages of the rebellion. Scholarship on the Zapatistas is large and covers many different aspects of this movement. While some scholars celebrate the novel qualities of the EZLN (for example, its desire not to seek power and its promotion of decentralized autonomous bases of support), others claim that outside activists have sought to mobilize local grievances to support their own political agendas. Earlier studies of the EZLN tended to highlight the movement’s public statements, speeches, and communiqués. More recent work has been able to provide more-detailed analyses of the local-level impacts of the rebellion, including greater attention to the participation of indigenous women.

Article.  11536 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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