Enero Zapatista

by on February 4, 2013 · 2 comments

in From the Soul

At Enero ZapatistaSomeone posted it on facebook, a picture of me silhouetted in a vision of rich colors, sharing a poem. I wanted to write about the experience when I first saw the striking image but didn’t know how to go about it right away.

Then it came to me as I was reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony,” a masterpiece about the Native American world, a brilliant tale about Tayo, an army veteran of mixed ancestry who returns to the reservation, scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II.

In one passage, Sun Man, the father of storm clouds who were abducted by an impressive showy being called Kaup’a’ta who used magical powers to weave evil, discovered where they were and called out to them and at the same time he was calling out to Tayo based on all the problems and stresses rolling about in his troubled mind as he made his way along a rocky journey back to where he belonged. Sun Man declared, having defeated Kaup’a’ta:

“My children.
I have found you!
Come on out. Come home again.
Your mother, the earth is crying for you.
Come home, children, come home.”

That spoke volumes to me and directed my thinking to Enero Zapatista, the event in which I was captured so artistically on camera, one of a month-long series of politically and culturally conscious events that commemorated the uprising of the Zapatistas in Mexico back in 1994.

I thought about how Enero Zapatista, like “Ceremony,” is about home, about having one, as life changed drastically for Mexicans in Chiapas where the Zapatista movement began, introducing us to Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the non-violent insurrection, who shared his thoughts of “a world in which many worlds fit” – of a home for everyone, in other words.

I remember those days as though they were mere minutes ago, how a few of us in San Diego put the energy of the Zapatista’s bold philosophical stand against oppression on stage, under the direction of my old friend, Peter Brown, who has raised funds and built schools in the Lacandonan Jungle.

Through Marcos’ words, we got a deep understanding of how he viewed himself and the movement, of how he saw the universality of himself and all human beings as fellow travelers in life, giving us these eloquent words to say: “Yes, Marcos is gay. Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains. Marcos is also the exploited, marginalized, oppressed minorities resisting and saying `Enough’.

He is every minority who is now beginning to speak and every majority that must shut up and listen. He is every un-tolerated group searching for a way to speak. Everything that makes power and the good consciences of those in power uncomfortable — this is Marcos.”

The movement got underway when NAFTA began, allowing the rich and powerful to fill their coffers while struggling people starved, their hopes and dreams of mere survival knocked from under them like an expert bowler felling pins, their forests and lands bulldozed, sending them off to the four winds, farmers with no ground in which to till and plant crops; they witnessed what was once theirs being abused and looted by capitalism run amok.

Some, like other Mexicans and Central Americans had to leave and set out seeking a life in the USA, meeting coyotes along the way who let them out of the vehicles in which they were jammed like cattle going to market, to challenge the odds for survival that greeted them in burning deserts and freezing mountains and those who make it face the wrath of folks who can only see the “illegalities” in their actions, not their humanity.

And attitudes rise in us Americans that lead to the harassment of people just because their skin color is brown and, in some cases, like in Arizona, Mexican American Studies were banned although they had demonstrably turned Latino students and others on to the wonders of an ignored culture, inspiring them to become involved in their immediate world and the world-at-large, making the thought of going to college attractive to them.

I touched on such thoughts at the Enero Zapatista event at Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park, through the words of my poem, “I Call on You, Oh Mighty Sonoran,” a piece written in the form of a prayer of sorts to the mighty Sonoran Desert upon which I was born: Home. I pointed out to that mighty desert that

“Human ugliness reigns
upon your vast terrain,
a strain of irrationality
suffered by the powers-that-be
that has metastasized
into a real fear that God’s Brown Children
will discover truths
that might set them free
to think,
to analyze,
to strive
to enrich their communities
as they better their lives.”

That was my attempt at reflecting on “a world in which many worlds fit.” Like Sun Man I want to say to those who are displaced or cast aside, as an old African American Black man, a Sonoran, who understands:

“My children.
I have found you!
Come on out. Come home again.
Your mother, the earth is crying for you.
Come home, children, come home.”
There’s a place for everyone under the sun.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dion Markgraaff June 15, 2013 at 10:41 am

Great article! Bien hecho!


avatar Ernie McCray June 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Thank you.


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