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If democracy, liberty and justice arrive,
they will know to share it,
as they have known how to do through their history.


Mexico, 1998

Above and below: masks and silence

VII. The seventh mask and the seventh silence

Communique from Subcommander Marcos
Chiapas, Mexico

Translated from the Spanish by Irlandesa for Nuevo Amanecer Press.
Original communique published in Mexico in La Jornada.

VII. The seventh mask and the seventh silence

"It is clear that in the arena of political action,(...) only he who puts the candle where the wind is blowing will triumph; never the one who pretends the wind is blowing where he puts the candle." - Juan de Mairena, Antonio Machado

1998. Mexico. While the supreme government stays on track towards war and tries desperately to join the winds from above, the growls of the beast and the spells in order to push the heavy sails of the ship of death, these Mexican indigenous, who add the name of Emiliano Zapata to their history, prepare in silence the justice and the dignity that will have to arrive in spite of their death (or perhaps because of it).

In silence, these indigenous watch the skies and the ground to predict the winds from below which run through the fields of Mexico and of the world, through the dusty streets of tiny villages and ranches, through the messy disorder of the popular neighborhoods, through the places of the honest unions, through the offices of the committed political parties, through the theatres-movies-auditoriums-salons-of shows-art galleries, through laboratories and centers of scientific investigation, through the university cubicles, classrooms and halls, through meetings and assemblies of political and social organizations, through the churches of the poor, through the international solidarity committees, through the national and foreign non-governmental organizations, through the highways, through the roads, through the neighborhood streets, through the breaches, navigating the rivers, in the lakes and in the seas of this country, today awash in wet, and of this world awakening, late certainly, but awakening.

In silence these indigenous see and are seen.

In silence they feel where the wind from below is blowing.

In silence these indigenous know.

In silence they finish this new and absurd Noah's Ark and, knowing that the wind is blowing for democracy, liberty and justice, they set high the double sail of hope, motor and light for this ship, the boat of those of always, the ship of life.

With art and science they build the ark and choose from thousands of their own for the crew.

The rest will wait in the port for it to arrive.

If war and destruction arrive, they will resist as they have learned to do so in the hard school of the centuries, that is, with dignity.

If democracy, liberty and justice arrive, they will know to share it, as they have known how to do through their history.

Mexico, the middle of 1998.

After a long silence these indigenous speak a boat and call on all to board it.

After such a silence, these indigenous speak a ship, a Noah's ark, a navigable Tower of Babel, an absurd and irreverent challenge.

In case there is any doubt as to who crews and directs it, the figurehead on the prow lights a ski mask! Yes, a ski mask, the mask which reveals, the silence that speaks. A "For everyone, everything, nothing for us" dresses the flag of the red star with five points over a black background which shines over the mainmast. In golden letters, to port, starboard and the stern, the "Votan Zapata" names the origin and the destination of this ship, so powerfully fragile, so resoundingly quiet, so visibly concealed.

"All on board!" the captain's voice is heard to shout-order-invite. The only ticket necessary is honesty. Several thousand oarsmen wait, are you ready to leave? No, we are missing...

With that strange and repeated tendency to complicate the life they have, these men and women of masks and silences built their the middle of the mountain!

"And now?" I ask them.

As if waiting, silence is the response. But behind their masks there is a smile when they bring me a message and a bottle.

I do what I always do in these cases: I put the message in the bottle, put the top on tightly with some chewing gum of chamoy which the sea gives me, I plant myself firmly by the side of the ceiba, with all my strength, I throw the bottle with the message very far. A trail of cloud gets it and, navigating, takes it to-to-wherever-it-knows-to-take-it. There goes the bottle. Whoever finds it can, by breaking it, break the silence and find some answers and many questions. Perhaps he will also be able to read...

V. Declaration from the Selva Lacandona?

Right, that's all.

Vale. Salud and be ready. Prepare umbrellas, raincoats and life jackets. Who can deny now that the word can call up the damp?

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast

-- Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

In the name of the 300

Mexico, July 1998

Back to Part I. Mexico, the middle of 1998...

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