As an anthropologist interested in anti-globalization movements, my original interest in the Chiapas Highland emerged from the Zapatista movement that has aroused international interest since1994. Some would argue that the Zapatistas, or the more common term used for them EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional) is just another attempt of the Left in Mexico to move towards socialism or even communism. However, the EZLN movement differs from other revolutionary movements in its focus on the maintenance of the indigenous cultural systems, or as 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Octavio Paz said that the EZLN is not simply a postmodernist movement, but one that seeks to mend traditional abuses and injustices against indigenous people and establish an authentic democracy (Paz, 1994). Yet, I would argue that the EZLN movement in their struggle to fight neoliberalism has resorted to marketing images of indigenismo and insurgency by using the internet and other tactics (such as the use of Marcos as an iconic image) and by so doing it has transformed its efforts into a type of internal neocolonialism which has in a way decrease the legitimacy of the movement by posing it as just another marketing icon on the internet. Various renown intellectuals like Octavio Paz, Tom Hayden, Elena Poniatowska, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Carlos Mosivais have argued that what makes the EZLN unique is the poetic beauty of the writings of their spokes person El Sup, nick name for the subcommander Marcos. These poems speak of what the Tzotzil, Tzeltal and all other indigenas of Mexico have been fighting for in the past five hundred years; acknowledgement as indigenous people in the Mexican society, cultural autonomy, respect and dignity, equality of opportunities, sustainable living conditions and the freedom to maintain their culture, and something as simple as a piece of land they can farm for their basic survival. Yet, it has been almost twenty years since the “public birth” of the EZLN and we may ponder on what they have accomplished thus far. How does the EZLN (particularly via Marcos, it’s public face) rhetoric correlate with the ideas being played out by the movement? The EZLN via the internet (and Marcos) has changed from a revolution in the traditional sense, to a marketing of indigeneity (indigenismo) and branding of the image of insurgency, to appeal to a “ready-to-order” form of socialism worldwide. For this project, I decided to explore and follow the Zapatista website titled "Enlace Zapatista" to analyze the type of work the Zapatistas are doing, and to see the way people interact and the views Zapatista followers have about the movement (the website is www.ezln. org.mx).
For many indigenous people in the Americas, capitalism and “the American Dream” have resulted in one of the largest and most destructive effects these lands have ever faced. This destruction included the murder of millions of buffalo only for the eradication of indigenous people, then the thousands, if not millions of Native Americans who were decimated by diseases purposely brought by Europeans (Couturie, 2006). In Culture and Imperialism Edward Said explains the extent of this imperialistic enterprise, “By 1914, the annual rate (of European expansion) had risen to an astonishing 240,000 square miles, and Europe held a grand total of roughly 85 percent of all the earth as colonies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and common wealths” (1993:8). The vastness of this European enterprise is not the only concern we must point out, the key factor in this statement centers on the monopoly not just of power but of ideology. Many times when we think of colonialism or its offspring, neocolonialism, we fail to recognize that the physical expression is not as destructive as the ideological one. The ideological involved the internalization of justification of exploitation. In The German Ideology Marx (1976) explains the power of ideology (based on superiority of the West) in the way that ideas justify and promote the economic system as a natural and inevitable operation, a system that produces ideas and continuously justifies them. Through this ideology, the notion of the nation-state was born. The nation-state is a political system that seeks to promote an imaginary homogeneity in a heterogeneous society, and conformance under a monopoly of force used by those in power. Said explains how The cultural horizons of nationalism may be fatally limited by the common history it presumes of colonizer and colonized. Imperialism after all was a cooperative venture, and a salient trait of its modern form is that it was (or claimed to be) an education movement; it set out quite consciously to modernize, develop, instruct, and civilize. The annals of schools, missions, universities, scholarly societies, hospitals in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Europe, and America are filled with this history, which over time established so-called modernizing trends as much as it muted the harsher aspects of imperialist domination. But at its center it preserved the nineteenth-century divide between native and Westerner (1993:223).
Under these conditions we can understand the way that the state normalizes and promotes an internalization of an imperialistic ideology as the price to pay for becoming ‘civilized’ and possibly (though rarely) even part of the bourgeoisie. Throughout the West, capitalism has framed this ideology to justify and rationalize inequalities. One example of an oppressed group is the indigenous Maya people in the Mexican state of Chiapas, who make the majority of the population of this region (Collier, 1999). The Maya have been battling the oppression imposed on them by those in power, from the Spanish colonizers, to the mestizos or ladino rulers, to modern day neoliberalistic practices through globalization. Chiapas supplies 20 percent of Mexico’s oil and 40 percent of its natural gas, yet despite being so rich in resources, those resources are not available for its citizens. Over 60 percent of the population cooks with firewood, lacks clean drinking water and is chronically malnourished (Conant, 2010:44). These conditions have led to an increase in rebellious movements throughout the state. When interviewed, some Zapatista women in Chiapas expressed: “When your kids are dying of starvation in your arms, you don’t care if you live or die, you are already dead.” The EZLN are part of a key component of Mexico, due the geographic location they occupy, Chiapas. The region of Chiapas is particularly important due to its history of resistance to those in power. Despite the hundreds of years of Spanish colonization, the Maya have remained relatively isolated from the assimilation effects of colonization. The harshness of the environment granted the Maya the protection and production necessary for their physical and cultural autonomy. Where the Spanish colonization decimated the vast majority (over eighty percent) of indigenous people in Mexico, the Maya managed to survive until today, though not without negative effects. The Maya have been relegated to the worst regions in Chiapas and to terrible living conditions, as they have faced the oppression of those in power- the Spanish first, and later the Mexican mestizos, the European bourgeoisie, and later what Fanon called “the new bourgeoisie.” In a way, those Zapatistas that have access to the internet and Marcos, with his ability to speak for the indigenous and the poor, can be seen as new colonizers (through the tools offered by neocolonialism), the Mexican mestizos use the images and ideals promoted by the EZLN to market indigenismo and brand it as part of postmodernism, this is evident throughout the internet sites as well. The use of marketing images of Marcos is a form of conformity to the ideology associated with conquest. The internet is yet another method to homogenize and speak for the subaltern (to use Spivak’s terms). Throughout the website, the voice of the indigenous Maya is not as heard as that of Marcos (based on comments and responses on the site which I will discuss later in this paper).
Many may still wonder who the Zapatistas are, and many more erroneously assume that the Zapatistas are a homogenous group of rebels. It is important to outline the different components of Zapatismo . Paco Vazquez of ProMedios, an independent organization in Chiapas explains: “… the voice of the EZLN, the Zapatista military, is not the voice of the indigenous communities that the EZLN exits to defend and protect. It’s easy to forget that we’re talking about two different entities. Related, but different.” (in A Poetics of Resistance, Conant, 2010:46). In this paper, I refer to the Zapatista military, not the indigenous communities. The history of the EZLN is an interesting one, independent from the long history of rebellion of indigenous Maya communities in Chiapas. On November 17, 1983 three mestizos (Mexicans of indigenous and Spanish descent) activists from the National Liberation Forces (FLN) and three indigenous Maya first formed the EZLN or Zapatista National Liberation Army. It is believed that one of these activists was a man who, over the years has been the face of the EZLN and its Spanish voice, Marcos. Many say that the mestizos that joined the movement (including Marcos) were survivors of the student massacre in Tlatelolco (a community in Mexico City) on October 2, 1968. The massacre was a violent attack staged by the Mexican army against a peaceful student protest of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM one of the top universities in Mexico City), where several students were murdered. Subsequently, activists were forced to carry their operations underground and some fled to the Chiapas’ rainforest. It was in Chiapas, in the Lacandón rainforest that these intellectuals met Maya community leaders and learned their culture and values. This group of intellectuals from Mexico City redefined their struggle to focus on the economic, cultural, and political rights of all the indigenous people of Mexico. It is believed that one of these activists is a former philosophy/sociology professor who now calls himself “Subcomandante Marcos.” Marcos is an important figure for the Zapatistas, though the movement is mainly made up of Tzotzil and Tzeltal Maya groups, including the Indigenous Congress by the Diocese of San Cristobal founded in 1974 (Hayden, 2002).
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Mexico triggered the EZLN’s first public or national appearance in 1994, which threatened to worsen the economic conditions of the poor and indigenous populations of Mexico (Hayden, 2002). According to Mexican anthropologists Aida Hernandez and Richard Nigh, Mexico made drastic reforms to agrarian policy in order to prepare for the implementation of NAFTA. This included the abandoning of an 80 year commitment to land reform to benefit small farmers by taking away direct subsidies, credits, and technical assistance, as well as ending direct intervention on marketing structure and price regulation (1998:140). NAFTA supporters in Mexico popularized the ideal that NAFTA would bring modernization to Mexico, though the vehicle of industrial technology. The goal would be to increase productivity and reduce the proportion of the population working in the agricultural sector. In most cases they did not inform the public of the price for this modernization, one being the heavy use of pesticides that led to various diseases and the contamination of the environment (Hernandez & Nigh, 1998:140). The consequences to this destruction on indigenous lifestyles have led to the uprising of various social groups including the Zapatistas. In Mexico, this introduced neoliberalism, a wave of deregulation of governmental laws and free enterprise that benefited corporations at the expense of the poor. Marcos explains some of the effects on Chiapas in the following quote:
Chiapas loses blood through many veins: through oil and gas ducts, electric lines, railways, through bank accounts, trucks, vans, boats and planes, through clandestine paths, gaps and forest trails. This land continues to pay tribute to the imperialists: petroleum, electricity, cattle, money, coffee, banana, honey, corn, cacao, tobacco, sugar, soy, melon, sorghum, mamay, mango, tamarind, avocado, and Chiapaneco blood flows as a result of the thousand teeth sunch into the throat of the Mexican Southeast. (in Poetics of Reistance, Conant, 2010: 64)
Marcos expresses the way that imperialism continues to exploit the indigenous people of Chiapas and pillage their resources. Neoliberalism has led to ecological destruction, agrarian ruin, hyperinflation and social devastation such as alcoholism, prostitution and poverty (Conant, 2010). Marcos’ rhetoric highlights the ideology that has justified this exploitation and social violence. Ideology and its manipulation is key to neoliberalism as it has been to imperialism. Antonio Gramsci’s work explores the connection of politics and ideology when he defines the complexity of hegemony. Hegemony can only exist when the value of the elite is internalized and rationalized by those who are subjugated. “The proletariat can become the leading and dominant class to the extent that it succeeds in creating a system of alliance which allows it to mobilize the majority of the working population against capitalism and the bourgeois State” (Mouffe, 1979:178). To achieve this, the proletarian or in this case the working peasants, the campesinos can achieve this through social consciousness. Social consciousness is what the Zapatistas through Marcos’ communiqués are appealing to. The Zapatistas and Marcos understand that in order to generate real change, they must promote a national ideology based on equality and democracy for the working class. The struggle must be a national or internal struggle.
To achieve this is very complex. The Zapatistas through Marcos must use the tools of the colonist against him in the struggle for liberation (as stated by Frantz Fanon, in The Wretched of the Earth). Yet, by so doing, inevitably the Zapatistas and Marcos are becoming part of neoliberalism and may be inter-neo-colonizing the Maya communities. Fanon, the Martinique-born psychologist inspired generations of revolution through his writings by stating that brutal violence, rather than enlightened civilization or the rule of law, was the defining characteristic of colonialism, thus revolutionary violence was essential for liberation (Conant, 2010: 160). Though Marcos and the EZLN made their appearance through violence, they have denounced violence in favor of rhetoric. Inevitably, violence has followed and flourished in the Chiapas region ever since the Zapatista uprising in 1994. However, Marcos and the EZLN believe that “the poetry of words must, at times, be accompanied by a poetics of action in the form of tactical violence: the liberatory word accompanied by the fire of arms, the fire lending weight and tactical primacy to the word” (Conant, 2010:160). Marcos and the EZLN have used and suggested the use of violence as an alternative method to obtaining democracy, liberty and justice (which is a big component of being a sub commander of an army). Fanon explains the way that violence is sometimes necessary to achieve justice when he states: “Violence alone, perpetrated by the people, violence organized and guided by the leadership, provides the key for the masses to decipher social reality. Without this struggle, without this praxis there is nothing but a carnival parade and a lot of hot air” (1963:96). Though Fanon suggests violence as an alternative method for deciphering a social reality, another important point he raises is the organization and guidance of leadership. Among the Zapatistas, two important aspects of leadership are Marcos and the Zapatista women. Even though the women are very important members of the movement, in fact about half of the commanders are women, they do not receive the media coverage they should. It is Marcos who hoards the attention of the media and received the credit for the movement. This is because Marcos exploits the image of the insurgent figure. Violence or its threat is a key component of the insurgent figure.
The Zapatista movement has many enigmas and contradictions. On the one hand, its goal was to develop a political movement whose leadership would be entirely indigenous. Yet on the other hand, their lack of power and expertise in operating in the Mexican political arena combined with their weak Spanish language skills made it nearly impossible for them stay completely independent from ladinos (another term used for mestizos or Mexicans of mixed ancestry). Jeff Conant (2010) explains how the Zapatistas and their communication strategies are labeled “postmodern.” On the one hand, in a nation state, these communiqués would fit a hybrid multi-centric, multi-dimensional vision which are part of a postmodern academic criteria, yet the Zapatistas (or the communities) are mainly composed of peasant farmers who hope to escape the dominion of the nation-state and the devastating effects of modernity and neoliberalism (Conant, 2010:249). These very peasants use Marcos’s rhetoric and dream of Marxist ideology based on autonomy and no land ownership, yet they are very much part of modernity as they drink Coca Cola and smoke Marlboro cigarettes. There may be electricity and running water, but usually these are considered a luxury few can afford. Healthcare is only available in the main towns, yet cell phones and ATM’s seem to be readily available for all to consume. Jeff Conant explains how the Zapatista project redefines modernity and postmodernity:
The Zapatistas, through their use of strategy and symbol, are engaged in redefining modernity; how the message they project and the ways in which they have chosen to represent the world prefigure emerging conceptions of the world itself at the dawn of the twenty-first century-conceptions that are increasingly mirrored in the construction of popular movements, social structures, and even the emergence of new forms of the nation-state itself. (2010:250) In these modern times, Marcos and his communiqués have been a key strategy to the marketing of the Zapatista movement, yet inevitably using them has had consequences and criticism. Marcos, with his eloquence and theoretical and philosophical training, proved to be a great face for the Zapatistas. A strategy that enabled them to stand out and be heard, as well as to capture international and national audiences was using the image of Marcos as the neo-Zapata.
Collier explains how “in the emerging global order, citizens of the world are more likely to “buy Marcos” than to “buy Mexican- both figuratively and literally, such as by pressuring their own governments to accept or reject trade agreements with Mexico- if Mexico is seen as violating the rights of citizens and minorities” (1999:163). I would argue that indigenous Maya would never have been heard at all by Mexico if they had not used the image that Marcos represents, full of mysticism and machismo ideas. The demands Marcos poetically makes are the same demands indigenous people in Mexico have been making for hundreds of years. However, their inferior ‘sub-human’ status has silenced their voices in the ears of the Mexican mestizo community (who make up the majority of the powerful positions in Mexico). A similar situation occurs in the United States where anti-racism speakers are granted different authority depending on the color of their skin. When black people speak of racism, many (if not most) deny their experiences. Yet when a white person like Tim Wise (a famous anti-racism Caucasian activist) speaks of racism, he is welcomed and celebrated by blacks and whites. Tim Wise is an outstanding speaker, and yet he too acknowledges that what he says is nothing new, but that it must come from a white mouth for whites to accept it. Marcos is as necessary for the indigenous Maya as Tim Wise is for victims of racism in the U.S.
Marcos has become the face of the Maya “intellectuals” to use Gramsci’s term. The intellectuals are those in charge of elaborating and spreading “organic” ideologies. Gramsci stated that all forms of consciousness are political and the following equation was made: philosophy= ideology = politics (Mouffe, 1979). In this case, Marcos revived and rearticulated ancient Maya ideology and transformed it into post revolutionary ideals of democracy, freedom, and justice for all. Marcos came to represent the eternal insurgent figure in Latin America ideology, like Simon Bolivar, El Che Guevara, and Emiliano Zapata, to name a few.
Enlace Zapatista is the official EZLN/Zapatista website. This site is divided into five categories and several subcategories within. The website has been operating form many years, allegedly since the emergence of the movement in 1994. The website is not open to the public, it is restricted and in order to access it the user must submit a request which must then be authorized. Once the request is authorized, then the user can view all the different sections, and leave comments. This site also provides a link to Facebook or what they call "feisbuc" (the pronunciation in Spanish). I was recently accepted as Facebook friend so I was able to learn that the Facebook site is not an official site for the EZLN, though it has various pictures and 198 friends. I will not really discuss the Facebook page, as it was not the focus of my study. The following is the breakdown of the EZLN official site. The main categories and subcategories are outlined below:
I- “Juntas de Buen Govierno (JBG)” or Communiqués of the Good Government
a. “Construyendo la Autonomia” or Building Autonomy
b. “Archivo Historico” or Historic Archive
II- “Abajo y a la Izquierda- Denuncias” or Down and to the Left- Denouncements
a. “Actividades” or Activities
b. “Caminando” or Walking
c. “En el Mundo” or In the World
d. “Red Nacional Contra la Represion y para la Solidaridad” or National Net against Repression and for Solidarity
III- “Ya Esta A La Venta- Revista Rebeldia” or Now for Sale- Rebeldia Revista
IV- “Palabras de Abajo” or Words from Below
a. “Articulos” or Articles/Journals
V- “Comision Sexta del EZLN- Communiados de la Comision Sexta del EZLN” or Commission to the Sixth of the EZLN Communiqués
a. “Equipo de Apoyo a la Comision Sexta del EZLN” or Support Team for theCommission to the Sixth of the EZLN
These are links available through the site:
“Radio Insurgentes” Zapatista Radio
“Comunicados EZLN 1994-2005” Communiqués from the EZLN dating from 1994 to 2005.
“Camino Andado 2005-2009” News from the “Otra Campana” or Other Campaing from 2005 to 2009.
These categories list various events and denouncements that are taking place, not only in indigenous territory but throughout Mexico, and sometimes even international events. The website was recently changed to highlight on the top the current news. Overall, the website sends weekly or biweekly announcements. These announcements range from simple denouncements of human rights violations, to multicultural events, or communiqués from the Zapatistas. Many times they cover news of things that are going on concerning indigenous communities. I followed the website by reading the weekly or biweekly announcements, starting in January and concluding the first weeks of May 2011. For the most part, the announcements were relevant to small town news about people erroneously harassed by the Mexican authorities, or commending Zapatistas supporters helping in communities. I was surprised to see the number of cultural events taking place all around Mexico, and I even felt tempted to attend a few which were taking place in Tijuana, Mexico. There were too many posts to list here, but there were two, which received the most comments and were also very significant to me. One was the dead of the renowned Bishop, Samuel Garcia Ruiz (which received over 100 comments) and two communiqués by Marcos (one in March and the other in April).
What I found very interesting is that most posts received very little to no comments. Therefore, I was very impressed to see when any posts were widely commented and read most of these comments. For the most part, people’s comments were supporting the movement and of approving comments, but once in a while (like the case with Marcos) comments were challenging more action in the part of the Zapatistas. Interestingly, none of the comments I read actually responded to any challenges or criticism. Overall, the comments were quite boring and superficial. I also noticed that the vast majority of people read (or started reading) the comments as each post lists the number of readers and this was significantly higher than the comments posted.
Overall, I realized that exploring this website confirmed my feeling of the Zapatistas resorting to marketing to continue keeping the movement alive. However, by this I don’t intend to minimize the importance of this site. I think this site is successful in its effort to promote democracy, unify people under the cause of Zapatismo, and in exposing violations taking place in Mexico and around the world. I plan to continue participating in this site, as it also serves the function of allowing people like me to feel like we are part of the movement, or moving the movement virtually.
The methods I used for my research included extensive literary analysis of the Zapatista movement, as well as following the official Zapatista website for several months during this semester (Spring 2011). I read weekly or biweekly all the posts and comments submitted in the site and kept a journal (or tried as much as possible) of the important information discussed. Though these are my methods of research, I would like to also discuss the methods the Zapatistas use to keep the movement alive, and to move it to cyberspace or online.
The website Enlace Zapatista uses various activists and human rights news to keep its members involved in the movement and to give a relevance to contemporary events. However, as most of the most widely read posts (based on public comments) are by the its iconic figure, Marcos, it is important to explore his key role in the movement’s virtual success. Marcos has been a key element to the success of the Zapatistas as an iconic image of insurgency. He has a magnificent poetic charisma as well as an attraction embedded in the mystery of his identity. He is a brilliant analyst, eloquent speaker and great strategists. Such qualities made the Zapatista movement highly popular among the masses and the media, through the use of the Internet and visiting reporters from all over the world. Despite all this Subcomandante Marcos does not hold the highest authority within the power structure of the movement. In several interviews, he acknowledged the use of his mysterious image of a magnificent leader; however, he claims to be only a messenger to those really in charge (Hayden, 2002). One Marcos’s best attribute is his eloquence. Marcos uses a poetic style in his lectures where he promotes the connection with the earth, trees, animals, and water, not the typical tedious and calumnious political rhetoric. Tom Hayden explains how “in a country like Mexico, heroic figures are long dreamed of, and Marco offers the possibility for a better country and better people” (2002:378). He maintains his integrity and his promises, which have gained him the trust of over 2,300 Zapatistas, as well as famous figures like Ofelia Medina, Irma Serrano, Octavio Paz, Elena Poniatowska and Tom Hayden.
Perhaps the best way to understand Marcos is by reading some of the quotes that have made him famous among many intellectuals of the twenty first century. One of his best known quotes happened during the uprising of January 1, 1994, when Marcos approached a group of tourists in the Plaza de Armas (main plaza) of San Cristobal and without alarming them said, “We are sorry for the inconvenience, but this is a revolution” and wished them a good time for the rest of their stay (Hayden, 2002:379). In this quote we can see his gallantry in the way he apologizes to tourist, yet his determination to carry on a revolution. This phrase sounds almost comical and hints to the romanticism of the heroic figures like El Zorro.
Ilan Stavans (in Hayden’s The Zapatista Reader) explains how “the magic of the insurgent figure centers around his secrecy; therefore, the best way for the Mexican government to “defeat” Marcos was to unmask him” (2002:391). According to the Mexican government Marcos’ real name is Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente, a 46-year-old (born in 1957) former college professor in the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM) or Autonomous Metropolitan University. Stavans clamis to have known him as a former student of his at the university; he recognizes his rhetoric and style (Hayden, 2002). Marcos has always denied this identity and continues to hide his true identity behind a mask, which he offers to take off when the injustices are stopped and Mexico reaches an authentic democracy. During an interview with renowned writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marcos briefly talked about his childhood. Raised in a middle class family, both parents were rural teachers during the Lazaro Cardenas days when communist teachers had their ears cut off (Hayden, 2002). His parents made their children read and appreciate literature. Marcos explains the way he acquired “a consciousness for language as a way of building something” (Hayden, 2002:189). His world as a child revolved around great works of literature such as Don Quixote, The Death of Artemio Cruz, Days to Save and The City and the Dogs. He didn’t know the world through a newswire but through a novel, an essay or a poem.
Marcos’s communiqués are a form of branding for the movement. In the website Enlace Zapatista there is a section with his communiqués and it is one where many people have placed comments, including controversial ones. Through the use of the internet, Marcos and the EZLN have been able to spread these communiqués across borders, “going beyond the traditional limits of political pamphleteering, to function as Branding” (Conant, 2010:41). Just like Starbucks has its symbolism and sells more than just overpriced coffee, and Nike swoosh sells more than athletic apparel but success and competition, the Zapatista had to brand Marcos to mass-produce and mass-diffuse their ideology.
Marketing & Neoliberalism
Branding Zapatismo and Marcos has been key to the widespread success of the movement. Unlike the fate of thousands of indigenous Maya in Guatemala; the Zapatistas set out to market their story and by so doing gain global attention and sympathizers for their cause. As Conant highlights “the ski mask and other symbols of Zapatismo serve to deliver a dense package of information wrapped in a single visual icon to create recognition for it” (2010:41). Branding and marketing are key components of neoliberalism, so in a way the Zapatistas are using these tools to spread their message, yet by using these tools do they also become the oppressor? Who gets the revenues of the massive marketing and sales of Zapatismo? By using the same methods, do the Zapatistas & Marcos further or perpetuate the exploitation of the poor?
In The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord discusses the role of the mass-mediated spectacle through the reproduction of capitalist ideology (in Conant, 2010). In this he argues that everything in social life is mediated by images, “social life has lost any quality of unmediated experience- it is reduced, in late capitalism, to the endless reproduction of images” (2010:43). In this sense, the Zapatistas are also part of capitalism and recreate and manipulate the spectacle, particularly through Marcos and his strategies. Marcos continues to write to the world about the conditions of indigenous people and anti-globalization issues. His essays are shared worldwide through the official EZLN site Enlace Zapatista (www.ezln.org ). Some of his latest essays criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the U.S. support to Israel in the Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip. Some of his most important demands center on advocacy for gender equality. Yet, does he really promote gender equality when he exploits an image of a Casanova?
Jeff Conant explains the way that revolution has an undeniable sex appeal, “but the heroic bravado of Marcos, combined with his poetic language, his humor, and his mysterious disguise raise this to a new level. He becomes an icon, or beyond an icon, a fetish, the embodiment of guerilla chic- ‘the very stuff of myth’- and so is ensured, as long as he maintain his invisibility, his ubiquity, and his mythic status, a safe haven among the icons of civil society” (2010:243). I agree that Marcos has become a fetish, yet his icon image may be in decline as his actions are further resorting to commercialization. Marcos has been interviews and photographed for Time, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Equire and more. In the film A Place Called Chiapas by Nettie Wild (1998), Marcos expresses “Estaban mas faciles los bombardeos de San Cristobal” (It was easier to deal wit the bombings in San Cristobal) when he is posing for Marie Claire. This would make anyone think he does not like to be photograph, yet one can find a large variety of pictures of Marcos posing, not only in these magazines, but throughout the internet.
Additionally, Marcos recently published a book of erotic poems, which he sells for the inflated price of $145 and must be a special order (according to La Jornada, June 10, 2007 by Arturo Jimenez). Though Marcos refuses to copyright his work (as stated in Shadows of Tender Fury) it seems odd that he would sell his erotic novel titled Noches de Fuego y Desvelo (Nights of Fire and Sleeplessness). I also can’t help but wonder why a revolutionary figure would commercialize an erotic novel if not to exploit the sexiness and mystery of the insurgent figure.
Marcos is manipulating his image far from the idealistic one of the insurgent with revolutionary goals, it is possible that he wishes to renew the marketing of his image as the sensual and mysterious macho, an image more fitting of a romantic hero out of a novel by Isabel Allende, such as his new version of El Zorro. The iconic insurgent image Marcos has been portraying is very much connected with masculinity, virility, and mystery. The image Marcos portrays, rather than fighting colonialism, serves to promote interneocolonialism by validating racism, with the voice of the white man speaking for the indigena, and sexism through equating the image of a man with the idea of revolution. In this sense, by using the iconography of Marcos, the EZLN has moved from a revolution in the traditional sense, to a neorevolution based on marketing and globalization, ironically a component of neoliberalism.
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