When they first emerged out of the jungle early that morning, New Year’s Day 1994, it seemed at first that the Zapatistas materialized out of nowhere.
Their takeover was quick, a flash of ominous lightning that struck Mexico with a force unseen since the sepia-tinted, early days of the Revolution.
Within the space of just a few hours, the scantily armed rebels of the Ejercito Zapatista Liberacion Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army)- black-masked mountain dwellers who looked out upon the world with dark, mysterious, indigenous eyes- overran the numerous large towns that strung across Chiapas, the southernmost
Mexican state whose rainforests border Guatemala to the south, effectively taking over the entirety of the state. By the time the millions of urban dwellers in Mexico City several hundred miles to the north, presumably reeling from the previous night’s drinking, awoke to this development, the rebels had already broken the news, having issued their startling ultimatum to the world: the Zapatistas had declared war on the Mexican government.
Not only had they declared war on their own government; they had begun the first leg of a cosmic battle against the brutal economic ideology of neoliberalism, whose coercive and terrifying tendencies was the symbolic culmination of the more than five hundred year tradition of exploitation, abuse, and genocide directed against the indigenous peoples of Mexico.