The following speech by Sirena Pellarolo was given on Sept. 16, 2005 at an event in celebration of Mexico's Independence Day organized by the California State University, Northridge MeChA students. The title of the event was "End Dependence."
I am very honored to be here with all of you, celebrating this day when we declare the end of dependence to colonialism, external and internal oppressions, injustices, and powerlessness. And I want to remind everyone that this event is taking place concurrently to the kick-off of La otra campaña spearheaded by the Zapatistas in Chiapas, happening right now in the liberated automomous caracol of La Garrucha, and subscribed by thousands of grassroots organizations and individuals in México and around the world who believe that the creation of a just world is indeed possible. And this event is happening also at the time of the launching of La otra campaña del otro lado, as a group of local activists who have been meeting under the name of Chiapas Network 05, have called the conversations towards the creation of a binational peoples social agenda as suggested in the Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, issued by the Zapatistas this past summer.
La Otra campaña del otro lado -- that is, what José Limón calls, el otro México, -- was launched last night, at the Eastside Café en El Sereno, a Zapatista-inspired collective, whose misión statement is the commitment to the belief that all people and all communities have the right to self governance and self-determination and that we possess within our own communities all the knowledge and power to make this a reality. We are not involved in a struggle for power- we possess the power already and are working to create a positive alternative to the negativities of our present situation. Committed to these ideas, the Eastside Café has been working towards autonomy here, in the belly of the beast, and last night, among jaraneros, nueva troveros, activists and artists, we gave el grito de rebeldía, to construct this popular social agenda as an alternative to tired political rhetorics that have become so blatantly uncovered in these times, where elected officials have shown the absolute insensitivity to working towards the common good, and where grassroots and individual efforts have shown to be much more adequate in facing an emergency like hurricane Katrina. The erasure of the State in this situation opens up the opportunity to create from the base this other world that is just and respectful of the dignity of the people. As Im writing this, Im listening to the fundraiser that KPFK is having to send a Caravan of Hope to New Orleans as a relief effort that the civil society is taking upon itself to bridge the gap that the absence of federal aid has created.
The swarming activity that there has been in the Zapatista communities this past summer has sent ripples all around the world as a deepening in the commitment to create a network of networks among anti-globalization organizations to give birth to this other world where many worlds fit. In June 19, 2005, and as a pre-emptive move from the Zapatistas to counter a government strategy of disinformation, harassment and isolation, the Zapatistas declared a red alert, evacuated their communities and went to the mountains where all the members of these communities were in consultation for two weeks to decide whether they moved ahead with a new stage in their struggle. They reported later that the changes they had implemented in August 2003 by the creation of the Caracoles and the Juntas de Buen Gobierno had meant a huge success and progress in their plight for self governance, but that it was imperative to make a bold move now and look beyond Chiapas and the indigenous issue and include as their own struggle, the plight of so many organizations and individuals that were daily working against neoliberalism and the globalized greed of transnational corporations. The planning of the new stage or la otra campaña -- as they called their grassroots plan of action in contrast to the televised electoral campaign that the mainstream politicians of México are busy with in this moment -- was clearly articulated in the third part of la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, that all of you can access in the EZLN website.
To summarize the tenet of this other campaign, let me quote Subcomandante Marcos final words to the last group that met with the Zapatistas last weekend -- they had been meeting with different social and political organizations, indigenous advocacy groups, and other Leftist collectives under the restriction that they would not be registered with any of the traditional political parties (PRI, Pan and PRD). The dialogs revealed the shift in the Zapatistas attitude towards the civil society that had been supporting them since January 1994, when they staged an armed insurrection and declared Ya basta! Enough is enough after 500 years of struggle, in the sense that the Zapatistas now were eager to listen to what these other organizations and collectives had to say about designing a social agenda from below. The conclusions of these dialogs and the launching of this otra campaña is the result of the conversations had this past month of August in different Zapatista communities in Chiapas with the groups and individuals who responded to the invitation to dialog. They are meeting as we speak in La Garrucha, in the Lacandon Jungle, to sum up and design a plan of action that will change politics as usual. Subcomandante Marcos explained what la otra campaña means for the Zapatistas:
The Zapatistas recognize that they inherit this different way of making politics from the 500 years of resistance of the indigenous populations of the Americas of which they are a part. As they proclaim in the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, the first document issued by the Zapatistas on the eve of their insurrection on January 1, 1994, the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement was being implemented, We are the inheritors of the true builders of our nation. We are the dispossessed. We are millions and we call upon our brothers and sisters to join this struggle. This plight was clearly heard by the Mexican civil society who, by January 12 rose up to demand a cease-fire between the insurgents and the Mexican military who had overreacted and who, without this civil outcry, would have squashed the movement.
This relationship with the Mexican and the international civil societies has been a pivotal element in the success of the Zapatista struggle, and in July-August 1996, the First Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism was held at five different Zapatista communities, and had about 5,000 people from 43 different countries in attendance. The Second Declaration of La Realidad for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism, summons this international gathering to
And this network was the origin of so many battles in protest and resistance to the WTO and other powerbrokers of transnational capital like the G8 and the IMF, starting by Seattle in 1999, passing by Genoa, following with the very successful popular uprisings, first in December 2001 in Argentina that toppled a president, and later other popular uprisings organized by indigenous organizations in Bolivia and Ecuador. La otra campaña is a continuation of this building of networks, and the Zapatistas have announced that they will host another Intergalactic Encuentro next December or January, to strengthen these networks under the mandates of a global peoples agenda.
So all these examples are saying that in addition to end dependence we must work towards interdependence, that autonomy works when we are linked to other autonomous venues. Gloria Anzaldúa was already advocating for a move beyond identity politics in her last essays before her early death, and an interconnection of struggles. She ends the last collection that she edited, This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions of Transformation, with a poem summoning us to embrace spiritual activism and an interconnection of struggles
This Creando Puentes is becoming institutionalized, and it is no surprise that the annual convention of the National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies next June in Guadalajara, will address this issue. With the title Transnational Chicana and Chicano Studies: Linking the Local with the Global in Struggles for Social Justice, the organizers understand that it is tantamount in this day to not only articulate the relationship between intellectual work and activism in the various Chican@ communities, but to also link these endeavors to internationalist struggles. This is a very important move to link the struggles of the peoples of the Americas, and address their internal and external colonialisms.
I should say that my own participation in this panel organized by MeChA, in celebration to the grito de independencia is a clear example of these very necessary connections: not only as a Latin Americanist, but also as an Argentina, I feel honored to have been invited to participate in this struggle that is surely my own. And it is that my own story, as a survivor of a blood-thirsty dictatorship, whose military regime killed 30,000 individuals of my own generation as a result of the mandates of the Manifest Destiny of an Empire that practices an internal colonization of its minority populations (better expressed as social majorities by Gustavo Esteva and Madu Prakash in a book you should all read Grassroots Post-Modernism), makes me one of you.
And what I have learnt in my thirty years of political activism towards decolonization is that there is no independence from any external power if we dont decolonize our own minds first. We must be vigilant of our own internalized oppressions that have insidiously been locked into our inner beings, those cops in the head as Brazilian theater worker Augusto Boal calls them, that agree with the oppressor and keep us in perpetual bondage. What I can offer you in closing is what guru Bob Marley urged to do, emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds. So when we do sing these collective songs of freedom, these redemption songs, we will not look for the prophets out there, but inside each and every one of us, as the native Americans believe we are the ones we have been looking for.
About the author: Sirena Pellarolo is a cultural critic, educator, and activist born in Argentina. She is Associate Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at California State University, Northridge and works with the Eastside Cafe, El Sereno, an autonomous space in Northeast Los Angeles. She is the author of Sainete criollo/ democracia/ representación. El caso de Nemesio Trejo, Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1997, a study of the popular and ethnic theater of Buenos Aires at the turn of the XX century. She is currently working on an experiential and theoretical study of the aesthetics and politics of resistance in Latin American autonomous movements (namely Chiapas and Argentina).
Published in In Motion Magazine October 2, 2005.
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