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   Undertoad  Wednesday Feb 12 01:46 PM

2/12/2003: Mexican car protest

From the interesting protests department. The official caption reads:

<i>In Buena Vista, Chiapas, militant members of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization of Democratic Independence overturned vehicles that were not legally licensed as public transportation. Twenty people were hurt.</i>

Googling for the organization name turned up nothing. So apparently you had this really militant group, coming out of nowhere, terribly ticked off about... <i>gypsy cabs?</i> Is that all? How could it be?

But maybe their real goal is to stop people from using their own cars - is this some sort of anti-driving, pro-public transportation movement? What's democratic and independent about that?

And what's the big deal about vehicles when there's no road to drive them on?

russotto  Wednesday Feb 12 02:05 PM

Seems more like retribution from a protection racket than a protest.

Uryoces  Wednesday Feb 12 02:07 PM

Could mean the Zapatista movement. Googling Zapatista gives this page in English:

The Zapatistas fighting against corruption in the Mexican government, so I understand. Kind of left-wing.

Don't know what flipping cars has to do with the Zapatistas, though.

99 44/100% pure  Wednesday Feb 12 02:21 PM

Language Barrier

To google a spanish group, you need to put the noun first, such as "Organizacion Emiliano Zapata Campesino" (and change English spellings, such as substituting a 'c' for the 'z' in organization).

This is probably a splinter or sub-group of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN or Zapatista National Liberation Army). (This link is a quick overview of the group, written, improbably, as part of a site designed for Irish people to learn about events in Mexico.)

wolf  Wednesday Feb 12 04:07 PM

It's sooo sad when they turn over on their backs like that.

They don't have the ability to turn themselves over onto their wheels and they can bake in the sun and die.

Nothing But Net  Wednesday Feb 12 04:46 PM

This is what happens when a low-rider jumping contest gets out of hand...

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Feb 12 06:52 PM

Sounds to me like licenced cab drivers attacking gypsy cabs.

elSicomoro  Wednesday Feb 12 07:50 PM

Listen to some Rage Against the Machine songs...the Chiapas situation was one of their favorite crusades.

quzah  Thursday Feb 13 02:46 AM

Originally posted by xoxoxoBruce
Sounds to me like licenced cab drivers attacking gypsy cabs.
Reminds me of The Pushcart War.


warch  Thursday Feb 13 02:16 PM

I dunno this particular incident but much of the Zapatista (lots of diverse local groups) action takes on the ongoing racism, social and economic injustice faced by indigenous groups. Most of the rich ag land/ resources of Chiapas are owned by far fewer rico Ladino landlords- A great gulf between rich and working poor who struggle to afford corn for a tortilla, let alone cars. a labor issue, Not condoning it, but I have seen the 70 year old guys toting 80+ lbs of someone elses produce, strapped to their head and back, up mountains barefoot, as the town's one overpacked bus wizzes by.

lawman  Thursday Feb 13 03:03 PM

our recent dealings with the Zapatistas...

On January 22nd of this year, myself and 12 friends were detained and held against our will in the Chiapas village of San Manuel. Here is the blog I wrote immediatly afterwards. I have also posted my webpage that has more information about our encounter and the unfortunate takeover of an American ranch we stayed at. I will get pics up shortly. I did an interview with the CBC shortly afterwards, which went out on the national show 'Richler on Radio'.

Wednesday the 22nd of January: around noon we put onto the Rio Real, a small river with a few class III drops that then flows into the Jatate river, which we were going to do in 5 days. It's a world class canyon that has been run lots but we were the first this year. We had 11 kayakers and 3 in a raft with a little gear.

We started seeing people on the banks of the Jatate after about a half hour of paddling on the flatwater section of the river, the canyon would start in another two hours of travel. They saw us and ran away - kind of unusual, the first time we have experienced that kind of behaviour, but it wasn´t the last thing that was unique about the day. Eventually two men stayed on the shore and waved us over. They told us we had no authorisation to be on their river and that we were to stay in one close group and check into the next village. Unfortunately a few of the kayakers were too far ahead to get this information to.

We rounded a corner to see more men with machetees (sp?) standing in the shallow water signaling us to pull to shore, the other two kayakers were being chased back upriver by two men swimming towards them and more on shore, again with machetees. They were all very agitated, agressive, and yelling at us. Our Mexican guide, Ernesto, hopped out and spoke with a few of them. Whatever was exchanged didn´t placate them as more men rushed from the trees, grabbing our paddles from our hands and pulling our boats on shore. We were marched carrying our gear about a kilometer to their village, all the while more and more villagers appeared, chattering excitedly amongst themselves. As more and more people appeared we certainly became more anxious as mob mentality could flare up at any second. We reminded each other to keep cool and non-confrontational and we would get out of this in one piece.

Once we entered the village they took us to an abandoned school (really just a shack with a corrugated roof), told us to get in and put all our gear in with us. The 5 empty windows were full of faces peering in at us while an agressive teenager guarded the door swinging his machetee in a meanacing fashion as the elders in the village argued loudly very animatedly as to what to do with us. This is southern Mexico, in deep Chiapas - definately Zapatista territory. The imagery on the inside of the school told us this was indeed Zapatista village. We were not happy with our situation.

Eventually they came inside and told us we had entered their country illegally and they wanted our passports and exit visas. Reluctantly we handed them over. A half hour later more men entered and proceeded to search (more like ransack) through all of our gear, emptying our drybags and feeling every square inch of their contents. This was infurating. To as insult to injury, they seized all our cameras and camcorders. They found a bottle of tequila and a small amount of weed in one boater's gear to which they became very angry about and even more agitated.

We were told that as Canadians we were part of NAFTA which has hurt this community (although it was apparent that it was a VERY good thing we didn´t have any americans with us) and they throught we were spies looking for ways to exploit their territory. They also said that alcohol and pot were illegal in their village and that the offending kayaker was going to be placed in jail until they decided what to do with him and us. I sure am glad it wasn´t me that was hauled off to some shitty jailhouse.

(@!#$...pc crashed after another 40 minutes of typing... this is going to be hard to recreate, so sorry for any breivity from this point on...)

ok where did I leave off....hope I don't repeat myself..apologies in advance if I do...

there was much lecturing from them on the evils of globalization and outside influence. They believed we were spies looking for ways to exploit their territory and were very paranoid about any foreigners. They said that the decision to allow us to proceed on our journey would be made by their superiors. For 3 hours we endured not knowing what was to happen to us, with each of the 5 empty windows of our makeshift prison filled with faces leering at us. Eventually they brought the jailed kayaker back and said that he would be fined 2000 pesos (equal to $200 USD, a HUGE sum to people like this) to prevent him from being turned over to the Federales for possession. This was an obvious attempt at extortion, but what could we do in our position. We passed around a hat amongst ourselves to collect the money as we didn't have much on us, not believing we would need it on the river. Eventually we had enough and we counted out the money to one of the leaders as the locals eyed the pesos greedily.

Once they had their hands on the cash, they told us that we would not be allowed to proceed on our journey. We were very upset and angry at this point. This is one of the top 5 whitewater rivers in the world and as a group we had spent tens of thousands of dollars and 4 months of planning to make it happen. We had asked everyone that could possibly have some insight as to the situation, including driving part way down the river and asking each village. However, the recent show of force by the Zapatistas in the seat of their power, San Cristobal on January 1st (where, ironically, I am now writing this from) has emboldened the indigenous population and this was their expression of power over gringos.

They said that they had not taken anything from us, that the Zapatistas were not theives as made out in the media, that all our siezed cameras and passports would be returned to us and that we were free to go but we were not to take any photos (ha, riiiiiight..who are they kidding??), and we could not enter the village. However, it was now after dark, there were no buses or trucks leaving for Ocosingo until the next day, and of course we couldn´t continue downriver. We resigned ourselves to spending the night in the dirt floored school of an unfriendly village. We were hoping to get on the 8am truck out of there, but as always in Mexico, things are not always so simple.

The following day's events will be sent in the next email as this is getting long and the rest of the group is wanting to get some dinner.

Derrick Law
Kayak Yukon

warch  Thursday Feb 13 05:19 PM

Thanks for the info and the links lawman. Glad you guys made it through that physically ok.
I'll be interested to read the rest of your information. My sketchy understanding stems from traveling in Belize, Guatemala,and Honduras in the early 1990s. Heartbreakingly beautiful country, heartbreakingly violent country. An eye-opening trip for me, but quite tame compared to your recent ordeal.
So youre writing from San Cristobal? How much longer are you staying? Take care.

Leus  Friday Feb 14 04:45 PM

Re: Language Barrier

Originally posted by 99 44/100% pure
To google a spanish group, you need to put the noun first, such as "Organizacion Emiliano Zapata Campesino" (and change English spellings, such as substituting a 'c' for the 'z' in organization).

This is probably a splinter or sub-group of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN or Zapatista National Liberation Army). (This link is a quick overview of the group, written, improbably, as part of a site designed for Irish people to learn about events in Mexico.)
"Organizacion Emiliano Zapata Campesino" doesn't make sense. It's Organización Campesina Emiliano Zapata, or OCEZ.

Hm... why "campesina" instead of "campesino"? It's because things have gender in spanish. It's "La organización"... one time, an english friend of mine asked me why a table was "la mesa" instead of "el mesa", and I didn't have an answer. Still I don't.

Griff  Friday Feb 14 07:15 PM

Lawman you guys also got a quick mention in an NPR piece a couple days ago. The main story was an American resort owner, the Zapatistas had holed up, demanding he hand over his deed. The national government is trying not to further inflame the locals so they're down playing the incidents. Pretty scarey stuff.

take care,

lawman  Friday Feb 14 07:57 PM

Rancho Esmeralda

Hey Griff.... yes the ranch in the NPR (and CNN, and Wash Post, etc...) was the Rancho Esmeralda, where we were staying. We were the first big group to brave going to the ranch since the local indians barricaded the road into it on Dec. 12th.

We had lots of lengthy talks with the owners, Glen and Ellen (great, heartfelt people by the way) who have now been forcefully evicted from their ranch. This ranch was listed in the Lonely Planet guide as one of the best 10 places to stay in Mexico. Not because it was opulent or ritzy in any way, in fact it was the opposite. Rustic small cabins without electricity nor running water. But tasteful. The grounds were beautiful, a macadamia nut plantation, some coffee bushes, lots of flower beds and immaculately groomed grounds. Additionally, the food was among the best I have had on any trip.

Knowing what a special place this was and how hard Glen and Ellen worked (they used to be Peace Corp. volunteers!) on the place, this whole mess almost makes me cry. It's shitty.

Various indiginous groups in Chiapas have overtaken 2700 ranches in the last 10 years, and still hold over 2000 of them. The Mexican government has been negligent in their dealings with these groups. Either enforce rule of law, or negotiate a land claim agreement similar to what we have gone through (and still are) here in Canada.

I have a pic of us at the ranch just before we left for the river... Glen is in it as well and I'm really happy he is. They are truely great people who genuinely care for the community and their staff. I'll post it over the weekend in the Quality Images section.

sigh.... the world sucks sometimes.

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