the word is our weapon

root - Posted on 29 May 2001

A book review of a collection of selected writings by Subcomandante Marcos

by George Tirado

It all started at midnight January 1, 1994 when a group of masked guerillas came down from the mountains of southeastern Mexico, raised arms against a corrupt Mexican government, and demanded Justice, Liberty, and Democracy. The news broke the next morning and a place called Chiapas would soon become a household word. A pipe-smoking, black ski-masked Zapatista, named Subcomandante Marcos, would become a spokesman for not only an uprising, but of a generation of revolutionaries.

Some would call Marcos a terrorist, others found a new voice of liberation through his writing. But it is through his many letters that he enlightens the world not only about the problems of classism, but about the poor, and the effects of neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism's international financing strategy is to remove all labor, environmental, and human rights considerations from national laws. They accomplished this through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Marcos explains what happens to Third World indigenous peoples when power-mad countries like the United States and his own country, Mexico, sink their claws into the poor and drain them of everything: land, oil, food, education, leaving them with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, and disease.

You cannot beat what you cannot see; this is the reason why the Zapatistas wear masks and are nameless. "We are the faceless ones," Marcos writes, "Being silent our voices are passing away." To the Zapatista movement this is very important. As Marcos explains, it is time we broke out of the history of pain and humiliation and made our new history, and with this our own pantheon of revolutionary gods like Pancho Villa, Zapata, and El Cheí.

Their voices ring out from these letters. Some are funny. Some are so intense they make you cringe when you realize that all they want is what the rest of the world takes advantage of every day, but thinks nothing about. These are the three words that have changed history: Liberty, Justice, and Democracy. With their voices they will scream, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" or, "YO BASTA!"

The Word Is Our Weapon is an amazing collection of letters that not only record a struggle that has been going on for 509 years but lets us into the secret world of the Zapatistas, seeing the struggle through their eyes by their myths and stories. Through the letters we see everyday life, from children fighting over candy to Marcos letting the author of a lost poem know how he missed whispering the poem into the ear of his lady. In the eyes of the world, Marcos is not only a soldier and a leader in the truest sense of the word, but also a poet and a hero. Through this timeless work, we are shown how their struggle is justified.


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