What Price is Dignity

August 2, 1995

To: Cecilia Rodriguez

National Commission for Democracy, USA

From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos


Chiapas, Mexico.


I write these lines to you during this dawn in which the dead, our dead accept the bridge extended to them through thousands of offerings in the indigenous mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

The reason for it is not pleasant, it is not a salute, yet it is a salute. We want you to know that we repudiate, together with all honest men and women, the criminal intent to which you were subjected. Yes, "subjected", because that kind of aggression consists of making a thing, an object of a human being and "using" that human being as things are used. Those responsible for the attempt will be hunted. Yes, hunted like animals, which is what they are.

But we also want you to know that we salute your determination, your refusal to be humiliated and converted into what the Powerful call a "normal woman", a conformist, a resigned, quiet and objectified woman. As you have well pointed out, the aggression against you is part of a "silent" war, a "discrete" war, a war beyond the reach of the headlines in the press and therefore, distant from the financial markets. We salute your wisdom in reminding everyone that here, in this country called mexico, there is a war, a war by those who would preserve irrationality and eternal omnipotence against those who want a democratic change. We salute all that, this is true. But above all we salute you as a Zapatista woman, your "I will not surrender!" your "I am here!", your "enough is enough!". We salute the fact that being a Zapatista is not limited by borders or customs checkpoints, that it jumps walls and mocks the "border patrol", that it finds voice and a banner in the Latino blood upon which, among others, rests the power of the American Union.

The body of a woman is also a battle ground in this "new type" of war designed for extermination. They wound you as a woman, but above all as a Zapatista. And, more so because you are a Northamerican citizen who sympathizes with the EZLN and its cause of peace with democracy, liberty and justice.

Some women, among which are those who say they are close to Zapatismo, take advantage of the dilemma of rape to denounce..the Zapatista machos! They now demand that we take off our ski-masks, they say, in order to distance ourselves from the rapists and so that we will not promote, they say, crimes such as the one you suffered. We are not the enemy, and our ski-masks do not hide criminals. They remain indignant, they demand a denial, an explanation, a penance for the simple fact that we are men. This is the new crime of which we are accused; of being men. Because of it, they say, we are accomplices of the rapists. Because we have taken up arms, they say, we have created a climate of violence against women.

But this is not a position common to everyone. The great majority of women close to Zapatismo (in other words close to you) understand that this crime forms a part of a belligerent chain which has found in the body of a woman a battle ground. They and we understand that it is the political, economic, social and cultural system which holds up as its banners crime and impunity, which promotes, nurtures, protects and permits this and other aggressions. We understand, they and us, that we should fight to transform the entire world into something better: a world with democracy, liberty, and justice.

Before January 1st of 1994, in this land there were rapes of all kind. Not just of women, and also of women. The fact of being indigenous added a double silence to the fact of being women. Here, and I do not just refer to Chiapas but to the entire country, the human being is raped, dignity is raped, history is raped.

The indigenous Zapatista women, those women who do not belong to us but who march at our side, those women who are so far from the Peking Summit, those women who fight against everything and everyone (and this includes us Zapatista men), those Zapatista women, have decided to stop being women in order to win the right to be women. You know all this well. In the year or more that you have been our legal representative in the American Union, you have discovered us and have found thousands of those women (and men) who are your sisters and with whom you are united by something which is in your blood: human dignity.

The companera comandantes of the CCRI-CG of the EZLN will give your our communique in regards to this aggression which you have suffered and that all of us Zapatistas, suffer with you. They are the ones with the best ability for it. Personally, I feel incapable of putting in pen and paper the bridge of support, sympathy and admiration which you inspire in me. My clumsiness, or perhaps my fear at being clumsy tie up my words. They, our companeras, are not free because they are Zapatistas. But the fact that they are Zapatistas, as you are, makes them fighters who fight to change everything, including us. Rape is not solely the concern of women, it involves all men, not only because men are capable of its perpetration, but because we can be accomplices as well, by engaging in harmful ridicule and by our silence. But the struggle for respect for the specificity of gender, can also include us, by acknowledging what we are, what we are not, and above all, what we are capable of becoming.

So I do not write to you as though you were someone who sympathizes with Zapatismo and is wounded for that reason. I write to you as a companera, as a Zapatista. Perhaps this can explain the paucity of these thoughts and the hesitant lines which try to express it. I only write to you, in the name of my Zapatista companeras and companeros, to remind you and to remind all of us that we are one, we are the intuition that something new is possible and that the fight in order to win it, is worth it.

Vale. Health and a hope that humiliation not be the present or future of women, or of any human being.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, August 1995

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