The Zapatista rebels of Mexico: 20 years on and in retreat

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Once the delight of the global left, the Zapatistas trust few people and reject the outside world

“The caracoles sport rainbows of murals on wooden buildings that glorify the struggle: Women in masks who form kernels of corn, the Mayan plumed serpent god and the hero of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Emiliano Zapata, after whom the movement takes its name. But the villages are still poor and are losing numbers to migration.

The bearded man said the Zapatistas decided a decade ago to go it alone after being betrayed so many times before. Heavily indigenous Chiapas has some of the most underprivileged people in the country, who never benefited from the 1910 revolution’s promise for agrarian reform. The Zapatistas were further frustrated when the government failed to deliver on a 1996 accord for greater autonomy and rights that was meant to pacify them. So they seized land — some estimates are as high as 750,000 acres — and created their own schools and clinics, and rejected subsidies from the state.”


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