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Palabra del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional


Words from the Zapatista Women at the Opening of the Second International Gathering of Women Who Struggle


December 27, 2019

Compañeras and sisters:

Welcome to these Zapatista lands.

Welcome sisters and compañeras from geographies across the five continents.

Welcome compañeras and sisters from Mexico and the world.

Welcome sisters and compañeras from the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion.

Welcome compañeras from the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council.

Welcome compañeras from the National and International Sixth.

Welcome compañeras from the Zapatista Bases of Support.

Welcome compañeras who are milicianas and insurgentas in the EZLN.

Sister and compañera:

We want to report that as of yesterday, December 26, 2019, registration for this second gathering came to:

3,259 women
95 little girls
26 men

From the following 49 countries:

1. Germany
2. Algeria
3. Argentina
4. Australia
5. Austria
6. Bangladesh
7. Belgium
8. Bolivia
9. Brazil
10. Canada
11. Cataluña
12. Chile
13. Colombia
14. Costa Rica
15. Denmark
16. Ecuador
17. El Salvador
18. Spain
19. United States
20. Finland
21. France
22. Greece
23. Guatemala
24. Honduras
25. India
26. England
27. Ireland
28. Italy
29. Japan
30. Kurdistan
31. Macedonia
32. Norway
33. New Zealand
34. Basque Country
35. Paraguay
36. Peru
37. Poland
38. Puerto Rico
39. United Kingdom
40. Dominican Republic
41. Russia
42. Siberia
43. Sri Lanka
44. Sweden
45. Switzerland
46. Turkey
47. Uruguay
48. Venezuela
49. Mexico

Sister and compañera:

We are very happy you were able to come all the way here to our mountains.

And for those who were not able to come, we also greet you because you are watching what is happening here in the Second International Gathering of Women Who Struggle.

We know very well what you had to do to get here: we know you had to leave your family and friends; we know the effort and work you had to put in to come up with the money to travel from your geography to ours.

But we also know that your heart is a little bit happy because here you will meet other women who struggle. Maybe something you hear or learn here about other struggles will even help you in yours. Whether or not we agree with these other struggles and their forms and geographies, all of us benefit from listening and learning. This isn’t about competing over which struggle is best, but about sharing our struggles and ourselves.

So we ask you to always be respectful of different ways of thinking and doing. All of us here, and many more who aren’t here, are women who struggle. It’s true that we all have different ways of struggling, but as you can see, as Zapatistas we don’t think that it makes sense for everyone to think and act the same way. We think difference isn’t a weakness, but rather that it is a powerful force when we respect each other and agree to struggle together but not on top of each other.

So we ask you to share your pain, your rage, and your struggle with dignity, and to respect other pains, rages, and dignified struggles.

Compañera and sister:

We have done everything possible so that you can be happy and safe here. It may seem easy to say that, but we all know all too well that there are very few places in the world where we can be happy and safe. That’s why we’re here: because of our pain and our rage at the violence we suffer as women, for the crime of being women.

As you will see over the next few days, men will not be allowed in this space. It doesn’t matter if they are good men, or more or less normal men, or just whatever kind of men, they will not be allowed here for the next couple days. This place and these days are only for women who struggle—that is, not just for any woman.

The compañeras who are insurgentas and milicianas are in charge of taking care of us and protecting us here over the next few days. We have also made sure that you will have a place to sleep, eat, and clean up. In this respect, in terms of rest, food, and bathing, we ask you to treat the “wise” women among us, that is, the older women, with respect. It’s important to respect them because they are not new to this struggle. They didn’t get their gray hair, their illnesses, or their wrinkles from selling out to the patriarchal system or by giving in to machismo. They didn’t get any of those things because they gave up their way of thinking about struggle for our rights as women. They are who they are because they haven’t given up, given in, or sold out.

To the older women—wise women as we call you—we ask that you also respect and greet the younger women, whether they are adults or children, because they have also dedicated themselves to this struggle with determination and commitment. If we haven’t let our geographies divide us, then we certainly won’t let our calendars do so. All of us, no matter the calendars we have marked or the geography in which we live, are on the same path: the struggle for our rights as the women that we are.

For example, our right to live. This point makes us sad because now, a year after our first gathering, the report is not good. All over the world women are still being murdered, disappeared, abused, and disrespected. This year the number of women raped, disappeared, and murdered keeps rising. We as Zapatistas see this situation as very serious, and that is why we organized this second gathering around one theme only: violence against women.

Sister and compañera, you who are here and you who couldn’t come:

We want to hear you and see you, because we have questions:

How did you get organized? What did you do? What happened?

Remember that at our first gathering, we all committed ourselves to get organized in our respective geographies, to organize against the murders, disappearances, humiliations, and disrespect. But we see that the situation is actually worse now.

They say there is now gender equality because within the bad governments there are an equal number of bossmen and bosswomen.

But we are still being murdered.

They say that now there is greater pay equity for women.

But we are still being murdered.

They say feminist struggles have made great steps forward.

But we are still being murdered.

They say now women have more voice.

But we are still being murdered.

They say women are now taken into account.

But we are still being murdered.

They say that now there are more laws that protect women.

But we are still being murdered.

They say that now it’s quite fashionable to speak well of women and their struggle.

But we are still being murdered.

They say there are men who understand our struggle as women, and even that those men are feminists.

But we are still being murdered.

They say that women occupy more spaces now.

But we are still being murdered.

They say there are even super-heroines in the movies now.

But we are still being murdered.

They say that now there is more awareness about respecting women.

But we are still being murdered. More and more murdered women. Murdered more and more brutally. With more and more cruelty, fury, envy, and hate. And with more and more impunity. With more and more macho men who get away with it, without punishment, as if nothing had happened, as if murdering, disappearing, exploiting, using, assaulting, or disrespecting a woman was no big deal.

We are still being murdered and they still ask us, demand of us, order us to behave ourselves.

Think of the unbelievable scandal created by a group of workers blocking a highway, or going on strike, or protesting, as if they’ve violated the rights of commodities, cars, and things, and the press is immediately filled with photos, videos, reports, analysis, and commentary criticizing their protest.

But if a woman is raped, it’s just another statistic. And if women protest, if they graffiti the monuments important to those above, break windows important to those above, shout their truths to those above, then that is scandalous.

But if we are disappeared or murdered, it’s just another statistic: one more victim, one less woman. It’s as if the powerful wanted it to be crystal clear that what matters is profit, not life. Cars matter, so do monuments, windows, and commodities. But life doesn’t, especially if it’s a woman’s life.

That’s why we as the Zapatista women that we are, anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal, think about why the system works like that. It seems that our violent deaths, our disappearances, and our pain come out as profit for the capitalist system, because the system only allows what benefits it, what produces profit for it.

That’s why we say that the capitalist system is patriarchal. The patriarchy rules, even if the overseer is a woman. So we think that in order to fight for our rights—the right to live, for example—it’s not enough to fight against machismo or the patriarchy or whatever you want to call it. We have to fight against the capitalist system. They go together as we Zapatista women say.

But we also know there are other ways of thinking and other forms of women’s struggle. Perhaps there is something we can learn and understand. That’s why we have invited all women who struggle to this gathering, no matter what their thinking or form of struggle.

What matters is that we fight for our lives, which now more than ever are at risk everywhere and all the time. Despite the fact that they declare and predict that women have made great strides, the truth is that never in human history has the fact of being a woman been so fatal.

You see, compañera and sister, they’re going to want to tell us which job or profession is the most dangerous—if it’s being a journalist, or forming part of the repressive security forces, or being a judge, or occupying a position in the bad government. But you and we know that the most dangerous thing in the world to be right now is a woman.

It doesn’t matter if she’s a little girl, or a young woman, or an adult woman, or an older woman. It doesn’t matter if she’s white, yellow, red, or the color of the earth. It doesn’t matter if she’s fat, thin, tall, short, pretty, or ugly. It doesn’t matter if she’s from the lower class, middle class, or upper class. It doesn’t matter what language she speaks, or what her culture, religion, or affiliation is. When the violence comes, the only thing that matters is that she’s a woman.

Sister and compañera:

As the Zapatistas that we are, we know that they will give us many examples of women who have advanced, triumphed, won prizes and high salaries—who have been successful, as they put it. We respond by talking about the women whom have been raped, disappeared, murdered. We point out that the rights they talk about above are won by a precious few women above. And we respond, we explain, we shout that what is lacking is the most basic and most important of rights for all women: the right to live. We’ve said it many times, compañera and sister, but we’ll repeat it again now:

Nobody is going to grant us our right to live and all the other rights we need and deserve. No man—good, bad, normal, or whatever—is going to grant these to us.

The capitalist system is not going to give them to us, regardless of the laws it passes and the promises it makes.

We will have to win our right to live, as well as all our other rights, always and everywhere. In other words, for women who struggle, there will be no rest.

Sister and compañera:

We have to defend ourselves, to take charge of our self-defense as individuals and as women. Above all, we have to be organized to defend ourselves, to support ourselves, to protect ourselves, and we have to start now.

My fellow compañera coordinators of this gathering have delegated me to communicate this to you because I’m the mother of a little girl, who is here with me. Our duty as women who struggle is to protect and defend ourselves, especially if the woman in question is just a little girl. We have to protect and defend ourselves with everything we have. And if we have nothing, then with sticks and rocks. And if we don’t have sticks or rocks, then with our bodies, with teeth and fingernails. We have to teach our little girls to protect and defend themselves when they grow up and have their own strength.

That’s how things are today, sister and compañera, we have to live on the defensive, and to teach our daughters to grow up on the defensive, and we have to maintain that practice until they girls can be born and grow and mature without fear.

We Zapatistas think that the best way to do this is to be organized. We know that there are those who think this can be done individually. We as Zapatistas do it through organization, because we are women who struggle, yes, but we are Zapatista women.

That is why, compañera and sister, our report back to all of you this year is that among us, there has not been a single murder or disappearance of any of our compañeras. We do have some cases, according to our last meeting, of violence against women, and we are in the process of deciding how to punish those responsible, all of whom are men. That punishment is partly the responsibility of the autonomous authorities, but also ours as Zapatista women.

We also want to be totally honest and say that at times we fight among ourselves, compañera and sister, and about stupid things. Maybe these dumb fights are a waste of time because we are all alive and safe. But there was a time in which we only lived death. And truthfully, looking at the way things are in your world—and please don’t be offended sister and compañera—but we hope that someday you all also fight over who is prettiest, youngest, smartest, best-dressed, who as more boyfriends or girlfriends or husbands or wives, or why you’re wearing the same thing, or whose kids are better or worse, or any of these things that happen in life.

Because when that day comes, compañera and sister, it will mean that just staying alive is no longer a problem. And maybe then we can all be equally idiotic about men and gossip and stupid stuff.

Or perhaps not, perhaps once you all are alive and free, your problems will be different, with different arguments and fights. But until that day comes, sister and compañera, we have to take care of each other, protect each other, defend each other.

As you know well, compañera and sister, this is a war. They are trying to kill us, and we are trying to stay alive, but alive without fear—alive and free, that is.

We want to shout to the world our pain and this rage at the fact that we cannot live freely. And we also want to shout our encouragement to struggle to each and every woman who is abused, either physically or however else. As Zapatista women, we want to send a special embrace to the families and friends of disappeared and murdered women—an embrace that lets them know that they are not alone, that in our own way and from our own place, we accompany their demand for truth and justice.

That’s why we’re gathered here, sister and compañera: to shout our pain and rage, to accompany and encourage each other, to embrace each other, to know that we are not alone, to look for paths of help and support.

These are our words for you today, sister and compañera. The insurgentas and milicianas have prepared a talk to present also, and in that one we will remind you of the little light that we gave you in the first gathering. Later we will begin the work of this gathering, dedicating the entire day today to denunciations—an entire day for denouncing the violence that we suffer, all of us together, with an open microphone. We’re going to take turns speaking and venting our rage and our fury about everything they do to us. And we are going to listen to each other with attention and respect. Nobody else is going to listen to what we have to say—only we as women who struggle and who are here present. So do not be ashamed, sister and compañera, express clearly your pain and your anger, scream your rage. And be assured that we, at least we the Zapatista women, will make a place in our collective heart for you, and through those of us present here, thousands of Zapatista indigenous women will accompany you.

Tomorrow we will share the ideas, experiences, and work that all of you bring in order to seek paths that we can take to end this nightmare of pain and death. The last day of the gathering will be dedicated to culture, art, and fiesta. So one day we will shout our pain and rage; the next day we will share ideas and experiences; and the third day we will shout our strength and joy.

Because we are women who suffer, but we are also women who think and who organize ourselves and above all, we are women who struggle.

That’s how the gathering will play out, and as you already know, you are welcome here, compañera and sister, you who could come and you who couldn’t but are here in your heart.


In the name of all of the Zapatista women of all ages, on December 27, 2019, at 1:57pm Zapatista time, we officially open this Second International of Women Who Struggle here in the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

From the semillero “Footprints of Comandanta Ramona,” Caracol Whirlwind of Our Word, Zapatista Mountains in Resistance and Rebellion,

Comandanta Amada
Mexico, December 2019



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