A fresh, humid breeze was blowing. It was the dawn of the 1st of January of 1994 and fog still covered the mountains of southeast Chiapas, in Mexico. Juan Vázquez Guzmán was only 13 when he saw how thousands of men and women, hooded and armed, emerged from the mist of the Lacandon Jungle. “We declare war our bad government”, they said. No one expected it, although Juan had seen them prepare since he was a baby.
“We are the product of 500 years of battles. We, the deprived, are millions and today we say, enough!”. That is how the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) was born. This guerrilla force from the Mexican state of Chiapas rebelled to reclaim work, land, shelter, food, health, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.
As most Tzeltal indigenous young men, Juan Vázquez worked with his father in the cornfields and coffee plantations located at the common lands – in San Sebastián Bachajón, Chiapas. They had strong hands and empty stomachs. They ate whatever the soil and their sweat gave them. “We depend on our land; an ancient legacy from our ancestors and a legacy for the future generations”, ponders Juan. Since he was an adolescent he has walked on the side of the Zapatistas. He is committed to the fight for their rights as Mexicans and as indigenous people, in a region where institutions have been absent and the citizens forgotten. Read More…