Monday, December 13, 2010

Chiapas Diaries: Day 6, Part 4 - The Poster, Continued

This is the sixteenth diary in a series about my recent trip to Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state, to meet with and learn about the Zapatistas, an indigenous insurgent movement made up of several ethnic groups, and their food and agriculture. On our sixth day, we went to stay with the Zapatistas at Roberto Barrios, near Palenque. This diary is about a poster I saw in their secondary school that explains their philosophy quite clearly.

(I went with the group Schools for Chiapas, an organization that works with and provides aid to the Zapatistas. Check out their website if you are interested in either traveling with them to Chiapas yourself, or simply buying some artisanal goods or coffee produced by Zapatistas. Aside from the obvious politics involved in supporting Zapatistas, you are supporting human beings who live in extreme poverty and work their asses off to educate themselves and their children and provide for basic needs like water and health care.)

I'd like to clarify why I am posting this, since obviously the content of these posters are controversial and, in some cases, inflammatory. I am not posting these because I agree with them. I am posting them because they show - in the Zapatistas own words - what the Zapatistas believe. That said, I agree with parts of what they say. And I also think that these posters show a very accurate picture of Milton Friedman economics, what the Zapatistas call "neoliberalismo." I don't oppose capitalism, but I do strongly oppose neoliberalism, and that is what capitalism has turned into around the world in the last several decades.

From Feudalism To Capitalism

"Feudal society ruled from 400 to 1800 A.D. During this time, society was ruled by a monarch, that is, a king. The king had all of the political power and controlled the economy and enslaved society."

"Fiefs enslaved the population under its grip, by the power of the king. Society as a whole was subordinated politically, not having the power to decide how they wanted to live, how they want to work, or what they want to do with the products of their labor."

"But on the other side, there is the immense poverty from the slavery they received from the feudal lords and the dispossession of their lands."

This picture shows a campesino (peasant farmer) trading with a merchant.

"Society produced enough to supply its population, and a class emerged that was committed to the purchase of products and selling them in other regions." ("De las actividades que realisaban la sociedad se producia lo suficiente para abastecer a la poblacion luego surgieron quienes se dedicaron a la compra y venta de producto, comercializando en otras regiones")

"In the process of trade, they faced great difficulties in the exchange of products. They solved this problem by creating and inventing money and determining its value themselves. Over the course of time, the traders accumulated economic wealth."

To get the spot in society they wanted, they used the people for a revolt against the feudal system and formed a new society that includes them, the bourgeois. ("Pero tambien para lograr el espacio que ellos querian utiliza a la gente para una rebelion contra el sistema feudal y se forma la nueva sociedad a la que ofrece la, el burgues.")

"This development permitted the development of science and the invention of machines, steamboats, trains, and these advances in technology facilitated much commerce."

Major Industry
Thus, they created great workshops like handicrafts and agriculture. They also offered people paid (salaried) work, and this form of work has attracted a lot of people, which made the king lose political and economic power. Through economic development, traders conquered political power and society. ("Con ello crearon grandes talleres como artesania, agricultura asi tambien ofreciendole trabajo a la gente asalariadamente, esta forma de trabajo atrajo mucho a la gente y fue perdiendo el poder del rey politicamente y economicamente asi los comerciantes mediante su desarrollo economico conquistan el poder politico y la sociedad.")

World War

"Wars between powerful countries arose from disputes about markets to sell their products, because at times there will be lots of production but too few markets to sell them to."

I cannot read or translate this section perfectly, but here's the best I've got, plus the Spanish below:

"To achieve the great splendor of the bourgeoisie, the situation of society is getting worse and is expressed by providing the new society they called "socialism." This new society was detrimental to the capitalist society. The idea of fighting for a new society emerged in Russia, when workers organized to fight against the oppressor class. Leading the fight was Lenin, following the theory of Marx and Engels. They triumphed, conquering the power in the struggle, and they form a socialist society. This idea of fight arrived in America in Cuba, headed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Then Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. During that time the socialist struggle was convenient as an enemy of capitalism."

("Al lograr su gran esplendor de la burguesia, la situacion de la sociedad, se empeoraba y se expresa proporcionando a la nueva sociedad a la que se conoce como "socialismo." Esta nueva sociedad perjudicaba a la sociedad capitalista la idea de luchar por una nueva sociedad surgio en rusia, cuando los obreros se organizan para luchar contra la clase opresora el que encabeza la lucha fue lenin, siguiendo la teoria de marx y engels se triunfa la lucha conquistan el poder y forma una socieda socialista. Este idea de lucha, llegaron bien en America como en cuba encabezado por Fidel Castro y Che Guevara. Tambien en Chile, Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, y Mexico. Durante ese tiempo la lucha socialista se conviente como un enemigo del capitalismo.")

There was also a third poster, which was partially blocked. I took a few pictures to capture what I could of it.

This is where our ancestors lived.

"Before the people were discovered, they had their own dress, cultures, beliefs, and forms of organization."
("Antes los pueblos se encontraban bien, estructuradas tenian sus propias costumbres, culturas, creencias, sus formas de organizacion")

They had their own languages, architecture, mathematics, artisans, astronomy, writers, their own form of writing, and their own calendars.

Education was divided, between the sons of nobles and the sons of peasants.

They dressed in animal skins.

Peoples, like the Aztecs, invaded this territory because they wanted to extend their dominion and to have tribute paid to them.
("Los pueblos se invadian por sus territorios por el pago de tributos, por que ellos querian extender sus dominios asi como hicieron los aztecas.")

They were polytheists who worshiped nature.

There were peoples who had human sacrifices for their gods.

All of these peoples were autonomous.

They had their own armies.

A brotherhood existed.

This tells about "encomiendas," a labor system the Spanish put in place during the conquest of the Americas. The poster says that under this, the peasants were forced to work the land and give up their harvest as tribute, keeping only a small part for their own consumption.

"They took our land and our right to govern ourselves. Foreigners imposed their ways, their language, their beliefs, their god, and their justice system on us."

"Their god was gold. They conquered us and our land because there wasn't enough gold. Our grandfathers had to deal with these foreigners. They were good warriors and they fought and many died."

"They were forced to become Christian and the Holy Inquisition would not allow them to worship other gods."

Neoliberalism in Our Country

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