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Palabra del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional


We Don’t Need Permission to Fight for Life Zapatista Women Join the March 9 National Strike

We Don’t Need Permission to Fight for Life
Zapatista Women Join the March 9 National Strike


March 1, 2020

To: Women who struggle in Mexico and around the world
From: The Zapatista indigenous women of the EZLN

Compañera and sister:

We greet you in the name of all of the Zapatista indigenous women of all ages, from the youngest to the wisest—the oldest, that is. We hope you are well and are struggling along with your families, sisters, and compañeras.

Here we are having a lot of problems with the paramilitary forces who now come out of the MORENA party, just like before they came from the PRI, PAN, PRD, and Verde Ecologista parties.

But that’s not what we wanted to talk to you about. We wanted to talk to you about something more urgent and more important: the incredible violence waged against women, which has not only not ceased but actually increased in quantity and in cruelty. The murders and disappearances of women have reached a level that we could not have imagined before, and no woman of any age, class, political affiliation, color, race, or religion is safe. We might think that rich women, women politicians or famous women are safe because they have their security guards and police to protect them, but no, not even they are safe, because the violence that kidnaps, disappears, or kills us often comes from family members, friends, and acquaintances.

We have to stop this violence, wherever it comes from, and that is why we had called for women’s demonstrations on March 8, 2020, in which everyone would organize their actions according to their own ways, times, and places. We had said that the principal demand of these demonstrations should be to stop violence against women, and to declare that we would not forget those murdered and disappeared by all governing administrations, from any party of any color (striped, blue, green, yellow, maroon, orange, brown, or anything else) because they are all the same. We also proposed that we all wear something black on our clothes as a symbol of our mourning for the mass murder of women all over the world and to remind the bad governments and our missing and disappeared compañeras that we would not forget them. The worst part is that even the littlest ones among us are not safe.

Sister and compañera:

A few days ago we learned that a group of feminist sisters from the collective “Witches of the Sea” [Brujas del Mar] in Veracruz had a good idea and called for a women’s strike on March 9, to make clear what things looked and felt like without women. The idea is that we don’t go to work, or buy anything, or move around, that we aren’t seen at all, because that is in fact what it seems like the system is trying to do: annihilate us women as its principal enemy.

Then we saw the reaction of all those patriarchal and macho men and women in the bad government, the political parties, and the big corporations. We saw that they don’t care about the tragedy in which women in Mexico live and die, but only about using that pain for their own gain, then covering it up and arguing over who among them is the biggest badass.

Those in power and their overseers act like they’re so conscientious of and sensitive to the issues at hand but they just can’t shake their patriarchal ways—they even went so far as granting women “permission” to protest the murders. How generous of them to give women permission to fight to live! They are shameless, all of them, including the women who think with the same machismo even though they’re women.

Then there’s the president, who is outraged that people aren’t talking about what he says or burps or vomits up anymore, apparently because some women—young women at that—took his microphone and shouted out exactly what the bad government tries to keep quiet. If it’s ridiculous that the president’s so-called political opposition pretend to be good people who give us “permission” to live, it’s even more ludicrous that the bad government and its fanatics call the struggle for women’s lives an “attempted coup”. In fact now it’s worse, because what the bad government is saying is that no one can live or even survive without its permission, and that no one can struggle unless they say so. That is of course how the patriarchal machistas are in any case, thinking that the whole world revolves around their you-know-what and their balls. So for them anyone who engages in struggle without their permission is against the bad government. But if women are murdered, disappeared, kidnapped, tortured, or scarred, then apparently those very women victims are part of a plan to overthrow the government. Shameless.

And still those shameless patriarchal governments and bosses try to give machista advice to women: that they shouldn’t let themselves be manipulated, that they should behave themselves, that they shouldn’t graffiti monuments and doors or break windows, that they should dress appropriately, keep their heads down, not give people a reason to talk, and be careful about what they say, write, and think. In other words, we shouldn’t do anything without permission. In effect, they are saying we’re mature enough to be killed, disappeared, or raped, but not mature enough to think, analyze, or decide. What idiots they are, and we refer to both men and women, because there are women who applaud that nonsense.

What they’re saying is that one must ask the bad government or the boss for permission for anything and everything, even to survive—because that’s how bad things are, compañera and sister: women in Mexico and around the world are just barely surviving. They’re living in fear and that’s not really living, it’s just not dying… at least not until we are murdered or disappeared, with terrorist violence.

There are also those, supposedly on the left, who are amused by how the bad government is showing so openly how either dumb or ignorant it is, as if it were necessary to witness the bad government’s temper tantrums in order to know it is both. These people are also always evaluating what works in their favor, to ally themselves with the bad governments or those who criticize the bad governments. But they don’t care if any particular initiative is good or bad for women’s struggle for life. They see the murders, the disappearances, and the rapes and they rejoice because this demonstrates that the bad government is in fact useless in addition to being bad. These people should ask themselves if their leftist values are actually what they say they are, or if they merely approach peoples’ struggles as if they were vegetables in the market—to buy or simply to manhandle and bruise.

Amidst all the political wrangling among the bad governments, the mass media, the political parties, and the pundits, they forget the most important thing about this March 8 and 9 is not that that we as women are being killed, but rather that we as women are going to struggle for our lives with everything we have, each according to our own ways, times, and places. If there are those who don’t care about life, then it’s not because they’re right-wing or left-wing or centrists. They’re just not human.

The struggle for life is essential for all humanity, and we don’t need permission from anyone for this struggle because we carry it in our blood. If someone thinks that women’s struggle for life is a coup attempt or a right-wing ploy or a leftist strategy or a government or anti-government plot, or that that struggle corresponds to one party or school of thought or religion, then what they are actually defending is death. When they hear about another murdered woman, the first thing they ask is the color of her skin, her political affiliation, and her religious association; if it doesn’t match theirs they start talking shit—not about the murderers but about the murdered woman.

We don’t understand how the world has come to such a point, especially since meanwhile they are saying that we indigenous Zapatista women are backwards and don’t understand the development and progress that megaprojects, money, and consumption will bring to us. This is their progress: to cheapen and squander women’s lives because it turns out the cost of disappearing, kidnapping, or murdering a woman is pretty low—there’s no punishment at all. In fact there’s often reward—there’s no shortage of those who applaud and comment on “one less enemy,” “one less disturbance,” “one less sinner,” “one less radical,” “one less conservative,” “one less woman.”

We don’t understand why some people are like that but we do understand that we can’t sit by and do nothing in the face of it, thinking that such pain and rage are foreign to us and don’t apply to us… until they do.


As Zapatista women, this is what we thought and felt when we analyzed the words and actions of our Witches of the Sea sisters:

First: We respect their initiative, and see it as something good, noble, valuable, honest, and legitimate, and we will support it because we think any woman—one, a few, or many—who struggles for life should know that she is not alone. If we believe that those absent from us now, the murdered, disappeared, and incarcerated women, should know that they are not alone, then certainly so should those who are alive and fighting. 

We think their idea is a good one, because if on March 8 everyone will see and feel our pain and rage, then on the March 9 the patriarchal machistas can worry about what we are thinking or planning or feeling, because they’re not going to know—they’re not going to see us at all. In fact we might even organize ourselves more and better that day, because sometimes from pain and rage arises not desperation or resignation, but organization. 

Second: That is why, as is our way as Zapatista indigenous women, we talked to all our other Zapatista compañeras in the communities to see if they thought the March 9 national strike was a good idea, and that if it was a good idea, what we could do to support each other as women who struggle.

We proposed that on March 9, the compañeras who have official responsibilities, whether as autonomous authorities or organizational or military authorities, or positions on education, health, media, or other commissions that we as Zapatista women hold, not show up at work. That would be our way of expressing that we support the idea of a March 9 without women, as one more initiative of women who struggle for life. And since we as indigenous women are a majority in Zapatista autonomy, that day Zapatista autonomy will come to a halt.

We thought about it and talked about it together and the conclusion was that the compañeras of all of the Zapatista zones were in agreement with joining the March 9, 2020, strike convoked by our sisters from the Witches of the Sea collective.

Third: On March 8, thousands of Zapatista women will gather in our caracoles and talk about the pain and rage that we heard in the two [international] women’s gatherings that we have held, but also about our struggles—ours as Zapatista women and yours, compañeras and sisters who are reading these words. We will also all wear something black on our clothes that day. Then on March 9, many of us will not go back to our communities but instead stay at the caracol and at dawn on the ninth, light thousands of candles so that in the caracoles and the Zapatista communities, the light of women will shine.

This act is not only so that the women who make that day a day of struggle know that we see them, admire them, respect them, salute them, and that they are not alone. It is also so that our lights signal to all those sisters who are absent from us, those murdered, disappeared, or incarcerated, those who have been abused, and those who are migrants, that here in these mountains of resistance and rebellion someone cares about them and their families, about their pain and their rage. It doesn’t matter if that sister in struggle is white or black or yellow or the color of the earth. It doesn’t matter if she believes or not in any religion. It doesn’t matter if she dresses nicely or not or has money or not or is affiliated with a political party or not. It doesn’t matter if she’s a friend or an enemy.

What matters is that she is alive and free. Because if we are alive and free we can criticize, complain, fight, debate, discuss, analyze, and maybe even come to an agreement: to fight the violence waged against women. Right now with so much killing we are stuck moving from one source of mourning to another, one pain to another, one outrage to another. Maybe this is the system’s plan—to keep on killing and disappearing us so we never have time or way to organize ourselves and fight the capitalist and patriarchal system.

But as history shows us, organizing ourselves to stop this killing is precisely what we are going to do. After that there will of course be those who say that was enough and stop there, but there will also be those of us who continue on and go beyond until we get to the root of our pain: the racist, exploitative, repressive, thieving, anti-human patriarchal capitalist system.

Once we win our right to live, there will be those who say that slavery is good, embracing it and defending it as destiny, as divine mandate, or as bad or even good luck. There will be those who say that the next fight should be for a good salary, or that men and women should be exploited equally, at the same pay. There will be those who need freedom like they need air and fight for it. There will be those who say that we can win this fight alone, as women. And there will be those who say that in order to destroy the beast that is the system, we must struggle together with everyone [todos, todas, todoas]. Then instead of so many murdered, disappeared, kidnapped, and abused, maybe we as the women that we are will have so many ideas, thoughts, and forms of struggle. Maybe then it will be understood that difference is good, but if we are to be different we must be alive.

Fourth: This is why we respectfully call on the sisters and compañeras of the National Indigenous Congress – Indigenous Governing Council, the Sixth in Mexico and abroad, and the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion to analyze and discuss if the proposal made by our witch sisters is a good one or if there are others. If you all think it’s a good idea, join us, without asking permission. If you think it’s a bad idea and that something else would be better, another initiative, then go for it and don’t ask permission for that either. Just like we aren’t asking permission from our authorities, nor from our fathers, sons, boyfriends, husbands, or lovers; rather, we are doing what we are doing because not for nothing did we rise up in arms on January 1, 1994.

See for yourselves what you think, and keep in mind that we don’t care if we are called conservatives or coup plotters or right-wingers or leftists. And if the bad governments who say that society can be divided into liberals and conservatives insist that they are against neoliberalism, then that must make them “neoconservatives.” That’s what we think and that’s what we’re going to do as indigenous Zapatista women, WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM ANY MAN, whether he’s good bad, or just whatever.

That’s all for now.

From the mountains of Southeastern Mexico,

For the indigenous Zapatista women of the EZLN,

Marisol, Yeny, Rosa Nery, Yojari, Lucia, Sol, Elizabet, another Elizabet, Yolanda, Natalia, Susana, Adela, Gabriela, Anayeli, Zenaida, Cecilia, Diana, Alejandra, Carolina, Dalia, Cristina, Gabriela, Maydeli, Jimena, Diana, Kelsy, Marisol, Luvia, Laura.

Comandantas and Coordinators of the Zapatista Women of the EZLN.

Mexico, March 1, 2020



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