Dismantling Power: The Zapatista Vision to Transform Mexico from Below

Graffiti in support of Zapatistas, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, 1996.  Photolangelle.org

GJEP co-Founder Orin Langelle has been working in support of the Zapatista struggle for liberation since learning of the uprising on New Years Day 1994.  He participated in the North American Encuentro in La Realidad, a Zapatista stronghold, in 1996 and led several delegations to the region.  His photo exhibit from Chiapas can be viewed on his website.  The 23 year struggle has never ceased and the Zapatistas continue to evolve their organizing strategies, as evidenced by this new campaign.

Dismantling Power: The Zapatista Indigenous Presidential Candidate’s Vision to Transform Mexico from Below

By Ben Dangl  Full article available on commondreams.org

Patricio’s candidacy and radical vision for Mexico challenges conventional politics and marks a new phase for the Zapatista and indigenous struggle in the country.

The Zapatistas and National Indigenous Congress (CNI) held an assembly in May in which they chose María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, a Nahua indigenous healer, as their spokesperson and presidential candidate for the 2018 elections in Mexico.

“Patricio’s candidacy is based on a model of politics that is far removed from the dominant political parties in the country. Indeed, her position is part of a horizontal, communally-organized structure that relies on democratic decision-making and governance from the bottom-up.”

The 57-year-old traditional Nahua indigenous doctor and mother of three from western Mexico is the first indigenous woman to run for the presidency in Mexico.

Patricio joined the struggles related to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in 1996, when she was involved in the formation of the CNI, a network of indigenous communities in the country. She began helping out sick members of her community with herbal remedies when she was 20-years-old. Her skills as a healer were passed down to her from elders in the community, and are based on a close relationship with the local ecosystem.

“Back then, there was a shortage of doctors and medicine and the health department had no answers,” Patricio told the Guardian. “But we have so many plants and so much knowledge from our elders. My grandmother would give us special teas to cure stress, coughs or diarrhea, and they worked. So I thought: why not give herbal remedies to those who can’t afford medicine?” Her work as an herbalist has influenced her political views: “The political class only see the earth and our natural resources as means of making money, not things that benefit the community and need protecting.”

As a presidential candidate chosen by the CNI and the Indigenous Zapatistas, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez is not interested in winning votes, but in grassroots organizing and resisting the destruction that so many communities in Mexico are facing.

“Our participation is for life,” explained the Nahua healer at a press conference in Chiapas. “It’s to bring together our communities that have been hit hard for years and years and that, I think, right now need to look for a way to keep on existing.’ Her goal is for Mexicans to ‘to join forces to be able to destroy this system that is generally finishing us all off.”

Read the full article on commondreams.org

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