The plaza of the San Cristóbal cathedral, affectionately called Plaza de la Resistencia (Resistance Plaza), was full. A four-deep wall of women and men from communities belonging to the National Indigenous Congress guarded the stage where members of the Indigenous Government Council and its spokesperson Marichuy were.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, so sadly known for its racism, witnessed a new uprising of the original peoples. If the declaration of war was necessary 23 years ago, the uprising now is a declaration of life. And just in this place, inheritor of the power of finqueros (plantation owners), of the racism, violence and dispossession of the original peoples, a large number of people gathered to meet and listen to the Indigenous Government Council for the first time and to receive, from the voice of the council members and its spokesperson Marichuy, an invitation to construct a new country.
Six council members shared their word in their original languages and in Spanish. The word in the original languages is an act not only of respect for the diversity of the peoples present, but it’s also symbolic: they are the original peoples, the first owners of these lands, who take care of it them, who work them, who resist despite more than five centuries of dispossession, racism and oppression. And they are the ones who now invite us to unite and get organized against the destruction that we experience.
“It’s that you are not familiar with the Indians, you can’t dialogue with them, you don’t understand them,” a mestiza woman indignantly told the author of these lines a few years ago, when he was chatting with some Tsotsil women that were trained to expect to receive hats, T-shirts and sandwiches at a PRI event. That’s why, because of that racism and that secular scorn, that this event here, in this space, was so significant.
“The political parties go after us women because they see us as weak, with their food supplies and metal roofs,” said the Wixárika council member from Jalisco. But the time has come for women’s word to be heard and that the world sees that, to the contrary, there is strength and dignity in the indigenous woman. “Women are now the flower, the fire and the word,” said the council member from Huixtán, Caracol of Morelia, Chiapas.
The divisions created by the government’s pro assistance politicians were one of the central themes in the event. “The spokesperson doesn’t come to offer caps or T-shirts,” several council members reiterated and insisted on the necessity to stop depending on “gifts” and instead, to construct autonomy by means of their own work and resources. “We are the original peoples, the owners of our lands, of our lives,” said the Tsotsil council members from Los Altos of Chiapas, “it is not possible that we would deliver our lands for some food supplies, for a few T-shirts, for some caps.”
They emphasized repeatedly the need to stop hoping for solutions from above. Only the people can save the country, said the Chol council member from the Northern Zone of Chiapas, and she clarified that, when she talks about salvation, she means life.
Marichuy said the same thing: “We must organize to construct something new from below… we must organize to overthrow this system of death, because we want life,” and she explained how the Indigenous Government Council emerged. “This proposal is because we analyzed that the problem is stronger in our communities… and because of other things that we do, there is no solution from above.” That’s why the CIG was created: “a government composed of representatives of all the indigenous peoples of Mexico, a government that listens to the people, where the people order and the government obeys.”
She announced that the CIG would tour the country to listen to the peoples and to share the word, inviting organization from below. “We have a big commitment and a big responsibility with all of you, but we also ask that you feel that, if we don’t unite these efforts, then we will regret not having made a common effort among all of us.”
The Tsotsil Council of The Highlands of Chiapas reinforced that point: “I invite everyone to organize so that tomorrow our children can say: thanks to my parents, thanks to my grandparents, today I have land, I have somewhere to live, something to eat, I am not a slave. Because if we let ourselves be conquered, if we sell our consciences to the capitalist system, tomorrow our children are going to say: my parents, my grandparents were cowards, they did not defend the land, today I am a slave, I am the exploited servant of the capitalists and the rich.”
Thus, while the crowd withdrew in the cold San Cristóbal night, those who heard the words of the CIG and made them their own, took away with them the spirit of responsibility.
English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee