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Solidarity rally in Chicago for EZLN arrival in Mexico City

On March 11, 300 plus supporters gathered in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago to support the arrival of EZLN in Mexico City. Support of indigenous rights and culture was celebrated through music, dance and artwork.
On March 11, amidst plumes of smoke, the bellow of shell horns and the beating on traditional drums, over 300 people gathered in Chicago to celebrate the arrival of the Zapatistas in Mexico City.

The Zapatistas' arrival marks the end of a march across Mexico to rally people to the support for indigenous groups in the country. The caravan of rebel leaders, supporters and international observers started its slow trek on February 24 from Chiapas.

In Chicago, the event has been met with support and speeches about the need to protect indigenous culture after 500 years of repression. The event filled Plaza Benito Juarez in the Pilsen neighborhood to capacity. People were packed to the edge of the sidewalks to see and hear indigenous dancers and performers.

The combination of political and cultural events weren't chilled by the weather. Neither was one performer who didn't compromise to the Chicago wind and performed in a bird mask, cape and loincloth. Headdresses of long thin feathers swirled to the rhythm of shaking gourds and tall deep sounding drums. The low tone of shell horns celebrated traditions that 500 years have not yet destroyed.

According to the Mexico Solidarity Network, the Zapatistas plan to stay in Mexico City until their demands are answered. The demands include the government to stand by the San Andres Accords which the EZLN and the federal authorities worked out in 1995. The accords call for the protection of indigenous culture, the autonomy for Indians to create their own social institutions and the control of the land to be in the hands of indigenous peoples.

John Everhart of the Mexico Solidarity Network comments on the commitment to the Accords. "Since 1994, they [the EZLN] have been creating their own government. They have been implementing the accords on their own." The Zapatistas have elected local governments, raised taxes, provided health services and started other social institutions.

Two other demands include the release of remaining Zapatista political prisoners and the full withdrawal of government troops from three more areas in Chiapas. 41 Zapatistas remain in jail.

The EZLN has no plans to meet with Vicente Fox, the newly elected President of Mexico, until its demands are met. Fox's views on international trade and investment are opposed to the views of the EZLN. Fox sees trade agreements as a benefit to Mexicans. The EZLN and other indigenous movements see the power of international forces to be causing the destruction of rural life.

One EZLN supporter doesn't see Fox doing any favors for indigenous groups. Neoliberal programs inspire Fox. Before he became president he worked for Pepsi Cola.

What has happened in Chiapas is a different type of movement. Everhart, who spent time in the region, explains. "[Its] not typical, because it hasn't been dominated by a formula. It doesn't seek state power."

That difference has also given a second breath to other indigenous movements. Instead of making demands to those in power and hoping that something might be given, groups are developing their own power without waiting for permission.



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