Marcos' Closing Presentation at the National Indigenous Forum

January 9, 1996

The Birth of a Great National Indigenous Movement,

Zapatista Army of National Liberation

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

Through my voice speaks the voice of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Brothers and sisters:

We want to say a few words to those present in the National Indigenous Forum


There exists, in many of our indigenous communities in Mexico, the custom of reading in the first days of January how the months of the year to come will be. This knowledge serves to know when to prepare the earth, when to plant the seed and when to harvest. Amongst the most ancient Mayas, this practice was known as Xoc-kin or "accounting of the days".

And there were then, as there are today, learned men and women. The H-MEN, "those who know"". These H-MEN have great knowledge which they had learned in their dreams. Through dreams the gods taught the H-MEN the knowledge of the world. In this way they could find things that were lost, they could cure sickness with their medicinal plants and their prayers and they could read the future in their sacred stones or by counting grains of corn; but their main responsibility and concern was to use their direction to ensure a good harvest. Today we have our H-MEN, those men and women of knowledge who make up the body of counselors of the EZLN to seek peace with dignity. They are the ones who organized this forum which will allow us to find one another and construct the bridge of the seventh rainbow. They dreamed together with the great gods, the ones who gave birth to the world, the first ones, and from them was learned great words and their best thoughts. They have been able to find things that were lost, the word, reason, disinterest, dignity. They have been able to cure that most mortal illness called oblivion. They have been able to read the future by reading what their hearts say and counting the grains of corn, which in the world of today are called hearts.

But, just like our ancient H-MEN, their principal responsibility and concern is to give direction so that we may have a good harvest. Therefore we ask you, the participants of this attending this National Indigenous Forum, to join us in this salute, which we give to the knowledge of our counselors, and ask that it be used to secure a good harvest in the seeding of the word and the knowledge of dignity, as we end today. We ask for an accurate tally of the Xoc-kin, so that we may know about the days, and our harvest may be good and the brown chests of the first inhabitants of these lands may always be filled with hope.

Some of our counselors are not here today to build this bridge, for different reasons. A good group of our H-MEN are not here because they are imprisoned.

They are accused of the crime of belonging to an organization with which the government dialogues, under the protection of a law. By keeping them in prison, the government violates a law that forces it to talk and not to fight. That is why these men and women are our counselors on this good road. We, the Zapatistas, want to ask all of you to send, together with us, a salute to these prisoners. And we ask you to salute them in the traditional way of indigenous communities, by applauding.


To all who have attended the National Indigenous Forum corresponds the task of planting the seeds of the word that we have gathered these days. Here, in the Valley of Jovel, where intolerance, racism and stupidity, which excludes, reign, we have gathered to speak and to know one another. We have gathered up the seed. We must prepare the planting of a tomorrow. Today we must live in a country that is not like the one of our fathers. Today we live in a country with a government that wants to sell us to the foreigners, as though we were animals, things. We, the indigenous people, are just merchandise, they say. The great The Powerful of money does not want to buy a merchandise that does not produce good profits. And we the indigenous people are not profitable. We are a bad investment. That is why the salesman who is in the government gives us oblivion and repression, because he cannot get a good price for our sale. Today the salesman has to modernize his store and has to eliminate all of the merchandise that is unattractive and we, with our dark skin and this overwhelming need to stay close to the earth, which makes us short in stature, are not attractive.

They want to forget us. But it is not only the indigenous threatened by this oblivion, there are many other unattractive Mexican men and women because their value is not transferable in dollars. Those, who are not indigenous, and we, who are, have been condemned to oblivion. Our hose is sold by all and along with it our history. If we want to save ourselves from oblivion, we must do it together, united. Today the hope of this Nation which hurts has an indigenous heart, it is up to its brown skin to save us from oblivion. It is not enough to die, this we have learned now for five centuries. Now it is necessary to live and to live together with the others who are also us.

The past is the key of the future. In our past we have wisdom which can serve to construct a future- where all of us fit without squeezing one another the way in which we are squeezed today by those above us. The future of the nation must be found by looking towards the past, towards those who were the first inhabitants, to those who first had wisdom, who first made us.

We have to prepare for the planting. We must become rain, we have be like the CHAACOB or gods of rain who came out of the underground reservoirs and met in the sky to travel by horse, each one with his sacred gourd full of water, in hand moistening the earth from one to the other so that all might have the giver of life, water.

If the rain is not present, then we will have to kneel as did our forefathers and sing much the same way the frogs do before the rain and beat the branches as the wind of a storm and someone will play the role of KUNU-CHAAC, the principal god of rain, with his lightening rod and sacred gourd.

We must know how to sow and how to plant one another. No more are the times when the stones were soft and they could be moved by whistling, and when it was not necessary to work to plow the field, and when one grain of corn was enough to feed a whole family. Since the chief was defeated by a foreigner at Chichen Itza the good times have ended and the bad times began. The ancient chief buried himself in a tunnel which runs east from Tulum submerged beneath the ocean. Then the foreigner DZUL, took the Powerful. Today we have to turn so that reason can reign in our lands. We will do this by seeding the word.

We are our earth. We understand well how we and the earth are one. In olden times before the agricultural camp, the field was protected by four spirits. There were another four which cared for the village, one for each cross planted in the corners of the village. The MACEHUALES, our ancient ones, had seven directions; the first four were the corners of the field or the village, the fifth was the center and in each community it was traditionally marked by a cross and a silk- cotton tree. The sixth and seventh directions go up and down. In addition to the four guardians of the field and the four of the village, each person had an individual guardian. In order to represent the five points, the four plus the center, our ancestors used a cross. As time passed the center rose, and the four corners became five and this star with five points now represents a guardian of men and women and harvests.

Guardian and heart of the people is Votan-Zapata who is also the guardian and heart of the word. He, the man, the star with the five points who represents humanity, he. Today that we have spoken and listened, he is happy, the heart of Votan- Zapata is happy.

Brothers and Sisters:

Each one has our own field, our planter , but we all have the same people , although sometimes we speak different languages and we sometimes have different traditions. We invite each of you to plant in his place and in his way. We invite you to make of this Forum a good planter and that all of us see to it that everyone has the seed and that the earth be well prepared.

We have listened to the good planters like our brothers the Mixes, whose position on autonomy symbolizes a bridge and wisdom among brothers and sisters. The Totonacos and Huichole brothers have also spoken with great truth. From the states of Guerrero, Veracruz, and Oaxaca the brown voices of great dignity have come, which speak the word persecuted by the Powerful, yet remains the word filled with wisdom. The Chinanteco brothers have spoken in the wisdom of the woman representing them. The Mazatecos, Mixtecos and Zapotecos have opened our eyes and ears which the heart possesses but which are sometimes forgotten. The Chatinos, the Chochos, the Chontales, Cuicatecos, Mayas, Nahuatl, Nanhu, Otomis, Popoluca, the Tarahumaras, and the Tepehuas are also light and color in their word. Our Zapoteco brothers from the United State also have given us the benefit of their thought. All of you who are seven, you and us, the brothers and sisters that we are.

All of you have undergone great suffering in order to come here, to speak and be spoken to, to listen and be listened to. We know it although others may not. You came although we did not help you materially; your communities financed you so you could come here. And you always knew that you would not receive any land, money or promises upon coming here. You always knew that you and your community would not have any material reward. You always knew that you were coming to give your word and your example. And in spite of all of this, you came. And my superiors, the comandantes of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN have ordered me to thank you in their name and in mine for all that is known and for everything that remains unknown. We thank you for coming all the way here, for speaking and listening, for coming to that good agreement which guides our walk.

We have nothing material to give you, all we can do is salute you and we ask you accept it as a gift.


At this National Indigenous Forum, there has been present a personality, who, because of his timidity, now scurries away from this room. I refer, of course, to the very great and beloved Don Durito of the Lacandon, gallant knight and nobleman who gallops through the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. The highest and most dignified representative of gallant knighthood, the always lively Don Durito of the Lacandon has asked me, since I am his shield-bearer and companion, to say a few words to you in his name. Due to one of those promises made and carried out by gallant knights, Durito has been silent for some time, awaiting the results of the intergalactic poll that he requested. I have to say, taking advantage of his absence, that his silence was pretty strident and I never had one dawn of rest, which, I believe all good shield-bearers deserve.

So this dawn I was smoking and thinking about how to thank you, when suddenly I see something which looks strangely like a beetle scurrying underneath the door. It was. . . DURITO! Dressed in an old and torn coat, and a rather large hat, which to my liking was too big for him, and a cane in his hand, Durito quickly told me that he was clandestine to avoid his many admirers and he made it clear that he was not carrying a cane, but EXCALIBUR his justice-seeking sword, disguised as a cane.

"The ones you need to avoid are the agents of the PGR, national security, military intelligence, CIA, FBI, and the other etceteras who like to attend events of this kind," I said as I watched him sack a bag of tobacco.

"Quickly", he said to me, "Write down what I'm about to tell you because I have to go!"

And without giving me a chance to ask why , Durito dictated the story called . . .

The Story of the Bay Horse

"There once was a bay horse that was pinto like a bean, and he lived in the home of a very poor farmer and the poor farmer had a very poor wife and they had a very skinny chicken and a lame little pig. And so, one day the very poor wife of the very poor farmer said: We have nothing more to eat because we are very poor so we must eat the skinny chicken." So they killed the skinny chicken and made a skinny soup of skinny chicken and ate it. And so for awhile they were fine, but the hunger returned and the very poor farmer told his very poor wife: 'We have nothing more to eat because we are so poor so we must eat the lame little pig. And so the lame little pig's turn came and they killed it and they made a lame soup out of the little lame pig and ate it.

And then it was the bay horse's turn. But the bay horse did not wait the story to end; it just ran away and went to another story."

"Is that the end?," I asked Durito, unable to hide my discomfort.

"Of course not. Didn't you hear me say that the pinto horse fled to another story? said Durito as he prepared to leave.

"And so?," I ask exasperated.

"And so nothing, you have to look for the pinto horse in another story!" he said adjusting his hat.

"But Durito! " I said protesting uselessly.

"Not one more word! You tell the story like it is. I can't because I'm on a secret mission."

"Secret? and what's it about?," I asked in a whisper.

"Insolent knave! Don't you understand that if I tell you it won't be a secret anymore . . .Durito is able to say while he slips under the door.

Durito already knows the results of the intergalactic poll which ended in 1995. He knows that he had a resounding and indisputable victory, which condemns me to narrating his great ordeals and adventures. That is why Don Durito of the Lacandona has left to straighten out injustices and astound the entire world with his achievements. The greatest thief of feminine sighs, role model of men, hero of children, the great Don Durito of the Lacandon returns to us. I know that many of you are happy that he returns, but as far as I am concerned, it's no favor to have to be the writer of such absurd and marvelous stories like this one...stories for a night of asphyxiation.


Finally, we want to thank the press which has also sacrificed to cover this Forum. We want to make it clear that we are referring to the real press and not the policemen who hides behind a press credential. We know that we've been discourteous and rude, and some of you have even said this is the press politics of the EZLN. But today I repeat to you what I said almost two years ago here in San Cristobal during the first dialogues: the press has had an important role in holding back the war and opening a path for peace.

Like a great mirror the press served so that this country still called Mexico can see its true image reflected in a war of oblivion. We know that you are doing your job with interest, professionalism and pride. We also know that, many times what is made public is not your full product, but only what is convenient for the the Powerful and for money

Some of you complained yesterday that there were no political declarations that were news-worthy. You complained that the Sup only came to make literature with the stories of Old Man Antonio. So now we want to make a clear political declaration, as are all of the political declarations of the EZLN. And, in response to the audiovisual needs of the mass media present here, the declaration will be a rough draft for the video script . . .

PS disguised as a video-clip

First an unfocussed shot and a long screeching in the audio. Then an image comes into focus and in the background you can hear that song "Cartas Marcadas". The images bunch up; The Powerful laughing calmly, celebrating their historic and definitive triumph in the last minutes of 1993. An army of shadows introduces itself in the damp and the cold. The Powerful looks in the mirror and sees only eternal and omnipotent The Powerful. The great intellectuals predict greater triumphs, big and robust statues in all the land. A party of rain has said, "You will rule until the jungle walks toward your palace." A handful of shadows multiplies in the mountains. The Powerful knows that it is impossible for the jungle to walk and it affirms its confidence and euphoria. The great intellectuals are at his side and pick up the crumbs of the party. The collective shadow approaches with wooden guns in the dawn of the beginning. In the dawn of 1994, the indigenous people come down from the mountains. They go to the palace of the Powerful to take death and oblivion prisoner. In their wooden weapons walk the trees of the jungle. The Powerful trembles and begins to die. A rifle of wood has wounded them mortally. The end and the beginning .

And if this video-clip appears to be a lot like MACBETH of William Shakespeare, it is not my fault. It's not my fault that the great gods will not be still in Chiapas in these times, and they've taken to wandering in other worlds and other years. Because they're playful and mischievous, these gods, the great ones, the one who gave birth to the world, the first ones.

Thank you very much.

From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Mexico January of 1996.

(Translated by Cecilia Rodriguez and Ana Munoz, National Center for Democracy, Liberty and Justice)

Marcos' Closing Presentation January 9, 1996