The Guardian August 13, 2003


Vinimo a la Guerra

The elements of the past are still here, as alive as phantoms and 
wandering souls. The subsoil of Chiapas is full of murdered Indians, 
petrified forests, abandoned cities and oceans of petroleum.

Anthropologist Tono Garcia de Leon

Where had they come from?
When they looked south to Mexico
their American brothers and sisters
saw they had emerged, that
their hands and eyes and feet and bodies
were all individual yet of themselves.

Such moments are a revelation.
To be one with an entirety
but still retain yourself as entity;
to see a great land mass, connected and borderless,
yet maintaining and strengthening its uniqueness;
truly such an insight is staggering
for its simplicity and the question
"Why didn't we see this before?"

The Zapatistas in their green trousers, their black tops
home sewn, their shotguns, machetes, assault rifles,
the black, yellow and red of the paliacates tied
round their necks or masking their faces.

"Vinimo de aqui' proque no aguantamos, ve?"
We come because we couldn't take it anymore, see?
Now in control of six cities in Chiapas,
the capital San Cristobal de las Casas, theirs,
the road to Guatemala, the Lacandon jungle.

Whole towns and communities without electricity
in the shadow of hydroelectric dams, no sewage systems -
illiteracy, death from hunger and curable diseases,
torture at the hands of the army, assassination
by the big land grabbing elite.

Days, years, decades, centuries turned over
in calloused hands; unemployment, poverty, humiliation
running like grain, like clean water, through the fingers
until the interior world  the phantoms, the whole of history 
fuses with hardened reality and the meaning of it all can be found
in a simple action like the grinding of corn:
"Vinimo a la guerra"  We came to the war.

Tom Pearson

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