Don Quijote, Sancho And The Turtle

To The Weekly News Magazine Proceso

To The National Newspaper El Financiero

To The National Newspaper La Jornada

To The Local Newspaper Of S.C.L.C., Chiapas, El Tiempo

April 15, 1995.

Sirs: here is a communique for vespers. Over here April plays at disguising itself like March, and May begins to flap its wings on some stray flowers, red-colored, among so much green. I do not tire of hoping and un-hoping among so many crickets. Meanwhile, I plan to begin the Tired Lung Society. I'm sure it will be quite successful in the D.F. (Mexico City). By the time this arrives, Holy Week will be once again, ordinary week. How much longer will the lie prevail? Vale. Health and a mouthful of that fresh air which they say is breathed in the mountains and which some dislocated people call "hope."

From the Mountains of Southeast Mexico.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

Mexico, April of 1995.

P.S. So he continues undoing offenses in the dawn, and offers to a far-away maiden a little bouquet of red carnations hidden in a story called...Durito III (Neo-liberalism and the labor movement...) The moon is a pale almond. Silver sheets re-shape trees and plants. Dedicated crickets nail white leaves to the treetrunks as irregular as the shadows of the night below. Gusts of grey wind agitate the trees and the uneasiness. Durito makes a bed in my beard. The sneeze he provokes makes the armed gentleman roll on the floor. Durito gathers himself deliberately. To his already impotent body armor, Durito adds half a shell of COLOLTE (which is a species of hazelnut native to the Lacandon jungle) on his head in addition to holding a medicine cap like a shield. Excalibur is sheathed and a lance (which is suspiciously similar to a paper clip) completes his attire.

"Now what?" I say as I try to, somewhat pointlessly, help Durito with my finger. Durito rearranges his body, I mean, his armor.

He unsheathes Excalibur, clears his throat twice, and says in a deep-throated voice, "It is dawn, my battered shield bearer! It is the hour to arrange our garments, and march and the day sharpens the spiny mane of Apollo as he peers at the world! It is the hour when nomadic knights ride in search of adventure which will increase their prestige before the absent eyes of the maiden, which prevent them from, even for an instant, closing their eyes looking for oblivion or rest!"

I yawn and let my eyelids bring me oblivion and rest. This irritates Durito and he raises his voice, "We must go out to wrong maidens, straighten widows out, give refuge to bandits and jail the destitute."

"Sounds to me like a government program," I say to him with my eyes closed.

Durito appears to have no intention of leaving without waking me fully, "Wake up, scoundrel! You must remember to follow your Master wherever misfortune or adventure may take him!" Finally I open my eyes and stare at him. Durito looks more like a broken-up Army tank than an errant knight.

I wanted to clear up my doubt so I asked him, "And who are you exactly?"

"Errant knight am I, and not like those whose names history forgot, but of those who in spite of all the envy, of the magicians who created Persia, Brahmans India, women sophists Ethiopia, will put his name in the temple of immortality so it may serve as an example in the coming centuries, where other errant knights may see what steps to follow, if they wish to reach the peak and high honor of arms," Durito answers, assuming his most, according to him, gallant pose.

"Sounds to me," I begin to say but Durito interrupts me:

"Silence, insensitive commoner! You pretend to slander me saying that the ingenious noble Don Quijote of La Mancha plagiarized my speeches. And certainly, since we are on this subject, I should say there are those who say that you are wasting space in your epistles. Bibliographical notes, huh! If you continue you will end up like Galio, citing six or seven authors in order to cover up his cynicism."

I felt profoundly wounded by the annexed comments and I decided to change the subject. "That on your looks like a cololti shell."

"It is a helmet, ignorant one," Durito says.

"Helmet? It looks like a shell with holes," I insist.

"Cololti. Helmet. Halo. That's the order, Sancho," Durito says as he arranges the helmet.

"Sancho?" I stutter-say-ask-protest.

"Look leave this haggling and hurry so we can leave. My indefatigable sword has tolerated too many injustices and its blade is anxious to touch the necks of independent unions." As Durito says this, he bends his sword like a regent from a capital city.

"I think you've read too many papers recently. Be careful, or they will suicide you," I say to him while I attempt to delay the moment in which I rise. Durito, for a moment abandons his XVI century language and explains, proudly, that he has secured a mount. He says it is as swift as lightning in August, silent as the wind in March, docile as the rain in September, and many more marvels which I don't remember, but there was one quality for each month. I appear incredulous, so Durito announces solemnly that he will do me the honor of showing me his mount. I sit, thinking that in this way I can sleep a little.

Durito leaves and is so long in returning, that in fact, I fall asleep...

A voice awakens me, "A-h-h-hem-m-m!" It is Durito and he is mounted on the logical reason for his delay; a turtle! At a pace which Durito has called "elegant trot" and which, to me appears to be a very prudent and slow one, the turtle comes toward me. Mounted on his turtle (they call it "coc" in tzeltal), Durito turns to look at me and asks, "So how do I look?"

I gaze at this errant knight who unknown reason has brought to the solitude of the Lacandon jungle, and keep a respectful silence. His appearance is "peculiar."

Durito baptizes his turtle, excuse me, his horse with a name which seems hallucinatory: Pegasus. So that there is no doubt, Durito writes on the saddle cover of the turtle, with large and decisive letters "Pegasus. Copy Rights Reserved" and below "Please fasten your seat belts." I almost cannot resist the temptation of making a comparison with the economic recuperation program, when Durito turns his mount so I can see his other side. Pegasus takes his time, even when Durito announces a "vertiginous turn of his horse," which is only a slow turn. The turtle does it so carefully one might think he fears dizziness. After a few minutes, one can read on Pegasus' left flank "Smokers Section" "Company unions not allowed," "Free advertising space. For information call Durito's Publishing Company." I believe, I cannot see much free space because the ad covers all the left and rear flank of Pegasus.

After praising the ultra-mini-micro entrepreneurial vision of Durito, the only way to survive the failures of neoliberalism and TELECE [phonetic Spanish for NAFTA], I ask him "So where does your future lead you?"

"Don't be a clown. That language only belongs to noblemen and lords and not to vagabonds and commoners who, were it not for my infinite compassion, would continue in their empty lives and never be able to dream about the secrets and marvels of errant knighthood," Durito answers while trying to hold Pegasus back, who for some strange reason, is impatient to leave.

"It seems to me that, for 2 a.m., I've had enough scoldings," I say to Durito. "Wherever you go, you'll go alone. I don't plan to go out tonight. Yesterday Camilo found tiger tracks, close by."

Apparently I found a vulnerable flank on our brave knight, because his voice shook when he asked, after swallowing saliva with great difficulty, "So what do those tigers eat?"

"Everything. Guerrillas, soldiers, beetles...and turtles!" I watch Pegasus reaction, but it must really believe it is a horse, because it did not seem to be alarmed. Actually, I thought I heard a soft whinny.

"Bah! You just want to frighten me, because you know this armed knight has defeated giants disguised as windmills, disguised as artillery helicopters, he has conquered the most impenetrable kingdoms, defeated the resistance of the most demure princesses, has..."

I interrupt Durito. It's evident he can spend pages and pages talking and I'm the one who gets criticized by the editors, especially when the communiques arrive so late at night.

"Fine, fine. But tell me, where are you going?"

"To the Federal District [Mexico City]," Durito says, bending his sword. The Final destination surprised Pegasus, because he kind of jumped, which, for a turtle is like a discreet sigh.

"Mexico?" I asked, incredulous.

"Sure! Do you think that just because Comcopa [government negotiating body] denied you passage, that would deter me?"

I wanted to warn Durito about speaking badly about Comcopa because the legislators are so sensitive and then they get mad during the TRIBUNA, but Durito continued:

"You should know I am an errant knight, and more Mexican than the failure of the neoliberal economy. I have a right, therefore to go to the 'city of palaces'. What do they want palaces for in the DF if they're not so that errant knights like myself, the most famous, gallant, most respected by men, loved by women and admired by children, should honor them with my footstep?"

"With your many feet, I remind you that besides beings an errant knight and a Mexican you are a beetle too," I correct him.

"With foot or feet, but a palace without errant knights arriving is like a child without a present on April 30th, like a pipe without tobacco, a book without words, a song without music, an errant knight without a shield," and Durito gazes at me steadily and asks: "Are you sure you won't come with me on this intriguing adventure?"

"It depends," I say, pretending to be very interested, "It depends what you mean by intriguing adventure."

"I'm going to the May 1st Parade," Durito says, almost as though he were announcing a trip to the corner for cigarettes.

"To the May 1st parade! But there will be none! Fidel Velazquez, who has always cared about workers' economics, says there is no money for the parade. Some bad tongues are insinuating that he is afraid that the workers will get out of control, and instead of being grateful to the supreme one, they curs********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************eenhaker go (don't criticize me if I didn't spell it right, not even the directors of 'America' can spell it, even though they wrote the checks), not even the vultures will see the 'eagles'. Durito was silent for a moment and looked pensively at Pegasus, who had gone to sleep, because he hadn't moved in a while. Then Durito asked me, "Do you think Fidel Velazquez has a horse?"

I doubt a bit. "Well he's a CHARRO [literally cowboy, but COMPANY UNION in Mexican SLANG] so it's likely he has a horse."

"Magnificent," says Durito, and digs his spurs into Pegasus. Pegasus may think he's a horse, but his body is still that of a turtle and his hard shell proves it, so he doesn't even notice Durito's whoops as he eggs him on. After struggling a bit, Durito discovers that by hitting his clip, excuse me, his lance on his nose, he can make Pegasus go into a gallop. For a turtle, this is about 10 centimeters per hour, so Durito will take a while before he arrives in the D.F.

"At that rate, they'll arrive when Fidel Velasquez dies," I say as a parting thought.

I should never have said anything. Durito tossed the reins and pulled his horse back like when Pancho Villa took Torreon. Oh well, it's a good literary image. In reality Pegasus stopped, which, at his rate was almost imperceptible. In contrast to Pegasus' calm, Durito was furious:

"You are just like the advisors of the labor movement in the last decades! They recommend patience to the workers, and sit and wait for the CHARROS [company unions] to fall, and do nothing to make them fall."

"Well, not all of them have sat down to wait. Some have really struggled to make a truly independent labor movement."

"I'm going to see those folks. I'm going to join them so I can show them that workers have dignity too," Durito says, and I recall that once he told me he was a miner in the state of Hidalgo and an oil worker in Tabasco.

Durito leaves. He takes a few hours to disappear behind the bush which is a few meters from my plastic roof. I get up and notice that my right boot is loose. I turn on the flashlight and learn that...the lace is missing! No wonder Pegasus' reins looked familiar. Now I have to wait until Durito returns from Mexico. I look for a reed to tie my boot and remember that I forgot to recommend that Durito visit that restaurant with the tiles. I lie down and dawn comes...

Above me the sky clears, and with reddish blue eyes, is surprised to find that Mexico is still there, where it was yesterday. I light the pipe, look at the last slashes of night leave the trees, and say to myself that the struggle is long and it is worth it...

Chapter XLVII. "About the strange way in which Don Quijote de la Mancha was enchanted, and other Events."


Who is that man who gallops over a squalid shadow? Why does he not seek relief? Why does he seek new pain? Why so many journeys when standing still? Who is he? Where is he going? Why does he say goodbye with such a noisy silence?


I read somewhere, that while the supreme government beats on both sides, the CND beats on itself. About this and other things, a few lines:

As the poet with the greying mustache who hides behind the piano writes:

Mexico is a flower of jacaranda

Who never seeks a vase;

A wild boar which brags

About its young people;

A javelin at the heart of justice

The camouflaged bull's eye of a jig.

And so Manuel may be right when he says that the meetings of the "collective centers of civilian support" are like meetings of "alcoholics anonymous" or "weight watchers." Maybe there is more to learn from these meetings than from party assemblies.

After all, the CND was born with the idea of unity, and not with the intention of entering the market of party clientele. It was and continues to be necessarily a plan which includes the majority and best quality of civilian will. The CND had (has?) that plan. It was not to be the political arm of the ezetaelene (EZLN) or a new party or a new white elephant of the Mexican irregular left. It was to be the space of imaginative encounters and proposals for democratic change. And imaginations and proposals, the freshest, the most audacious, came (come) from civil society, not political society, not political organizations. Its flag is national, above parties and armies.

From this space of encounter should come proposals which can be imposed, with imagination, on the government, on the parties, and on the ezeta (EZ), and on itself. That ship does not want to arrive at the port of power. In that sense it does not comply with the pragmatic and cynical premises of Galio-Machiavelli, but it does want to arrive at the port of a country with no return to the shadows, a country with democracy, liberty, and justice. Are there bindings? Throw them overboard! Will only a few remain? Imagination will replace quantity with quality! Civil society has much to learn from itself, and very little to learn from political society (with all its spectrum of colors, flavors, and cynicisms). It is not a space for anti-party people, but it is a place for those with no party. Civil society will then, in the midst of the threats of a dirty war (although I do not believe, there is a war which can be called clean), make the angel of Independence rappel its way down the column and make conversation with Juarez, Columbus, and the old grandfather Cuahtemoc. The kind Diana will catch stars, and a stray palm drunk with smog. Civil society will make its un-proposals realities; civil dialogues in the midst of tanks, machine guns and cannons; campaigns of humanitarian aid, in the midst of a profound crisis and a more costly standard of living, for the benefit of its most vulnerable and impoverished flank, the indigenous. If the CND is not the ample space for this and other initiatives, the informal but effective irreverence of civil society will grow out of that straitjacket. Then what? It will find its own spaces. The CND will become another acronym, added to other inefficient acronyms. There is much to learn yet. This country has a great deal to learn from itself.


There is a special kind of glass cut so that it has many surfaces, like a multi-faceted prism. This glass is mounted on a small wooden viewfinder, like an eyepiece. Through this glass, the light becomes many. When it is turned or moved, it offers many new configurations. Is it the same light broken up into many lights? Is it many lights imprisoned in the eyepiece? Is it just confirmation that there is no uniqueness even in the most apparent? Is it one light or many lights which one must be able to distinguish, recognize and appreciate? And, finally, thinking about the small eyepiece, is it a light with many marcos (frames) or a marco (frame) for many lights?

Vale. Once again. Health and only by arriving in hell will we know the answer. The SUB with a red carnation in his lapel, playing at being a crystal and a mirror.

(translated by Cecilia Rodriguez, National Commission for Democracy In Mexico, USA)