zapatista army

Comandante Ramona (1959-2006) was perhaps the most famous female leader of the rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation, operating in Mexico. She was in charge of an army which consisted of one-third women, and became a symbol for equality and the rights of indigenous women.

She joined the Zapatistas in an effort to give a voice to impoverished Mexican women and to end the injustices of the government against them. She was a dedicated diplomat, often delivering motivational speeches and peace talks.

“I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”  Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, whose Zapatista peasant army fought a long guerrilla campaign south of Mexico City.  This picture was taken in Mexico City in 1914, after the revolutionaries captured the capital.  However, the victors soon fell out, and Zapata allied with Pancho Villa against the liberal Constitutionalist faction.  He did die, assassinated in 1919, but still has an iconic legacy in Mexico today.

Emiliano Zapata waits for the arrival of his ally Francisco Madero in Mexico City, following their victory over Porafirio Diaz in 1911. The alliance was short-lived, as Zapata was distrustful of Madero’s commitment to land reform in southern Mexico and soon broke away, to continue his revolution in opposition to the new government.

(Fototeca Nacional del INAH)

Never underestimate the people. Never underestimate organizing. And never underestimate the power of a charismatic leader.

This series, focused on resistance, would not be complete if we did not include Subcomandante Marcos—the Mexican leader and spokesperson for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation from 1994-2014. The Zapatistas, taking their name from the legendary Mexican Revolutionary & Commander of the Liberation Army of the South Emiliano Zapata, formed in 1983 to protect & defend the Mayan people of Chiapas, Mexico from government wrongdoing. An intellectual, a military strategist, a rebel, a philosopher, a writer, an international icon and mythical figure; Subcomandante Marcos advocated for land reform, indigenous autonomy, and cultural rights. His charismatic speeches have left some in tears with poignant points and selected writings can be found in one of his books entitled, “Our Word Is Our Weapon.” When asked what he wanted the American people to know about the Zapatistas, Subcomandante Marcos replied: “We hope that your people will understand our fight… and you will understand that we are not a threat against the people of the United States. Because it is better to have a strong neighbor, with justice, liberty, and democracy.”

And this is who we are.


The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, Mexico. The Zapatistas’ base is made up of mostly rural indigenous people but has supporters across the country and world. Their main spokesperson is Subcomandante Marcos. The EZLN rejects and defies political classification, with a strong culture emphasizing the importance of indigenous Mayan beliefs. The EZLN can be seen as an anti-neoliberal social movement that seeks indigenous control over local resources, especially land. They highlight the struggle of “all the exploited and dispossessed”, and for this reason support the plight of many people of color around the world. A popular Zapatista slogan is: “For everyone, everything. For us, nothing” (Para todos todo, para nosotros nada).

For More Info Search: Chiapas, Zapatismo, Women’s Revolutionary Law, Zapatista revolution, Chiapas rebellion

Then, in short, the capitalism of global neoliberalism is based o­n exploitation, plunder, contempt and repression of those who refuse. The same as before, but now globalized, worldwide.

But it is not so easy for neoliberal globalization, because the exploited of each country become discontented, and they will not say well, too bad, instead they rebel. And those who remain and who are in the way resist, and they don’t allow themselves to be eliminated. And that is why we see, all over the world, those who are being screwed over making resistances, not putting up with it, in other words, they rebel, and not just in o­ne country but wherever they abound. And so, as there is a neoliberal globalization, there is a globalization of rebellion.

—  Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, Zapatista Army of National Liberation

“EZLN -  Zapatista National Liberation Army

Neither submissive, nor slaves. Long live Zapatista autonomy!”

On January 1st, 1994, to coincide with implemetation of the NAFTA free trade agreement, the then unknown Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched an armed insurrection in Chiapas state against the Mexican government.


The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), often referred to as the Zapatistas, is a revolutionary leftist group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico.

Since 1994, the group has been in a declared war “against the Mexican state”, although this war has been primarily defensive, against military, paramilitary and corporate incursions into Chiapas.[citation needed] In recent years, it has been focused on a strategy of civil resistance. The Zapatistas’ social base is made up of mostly rural indigenous people but includes some supporters in urban areas and internationally. Their main spokesperson is Subcomandante Marcos (currently a.k.a. Delegate Zero in relation to “the Other Campaign”). Unlike other Zapatista spokespeople, Marcos is not an indigenous Maya.

The group takes its name from Emiliano Zapata, the agrarian reformer and commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution, and sees itself as his ideological heir. In reference to inspirational figures, nearly all EZLN villages contain murals with images of Zapata, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and Subcomandante Marcos.

Although the ideology of the EZLN is reflective of libertarian socialism, paralleling both anarchist and libertarian Marxist thought in many respects, the EZLN has rejected[3] and defied political classification, retaining its distinctiveness due in part to the importance of indigenous Mayan beliefs in Zapatismo thought. The EZLN aligns itself with the wider alter-globalization, anti-neoliberal social movement, seeking indigenous control over their local resources, especially land.

Since their 1994 uprising was countered by the Mexican army, the EZLN has abstained from using weapons and adopted a new strategy that attempts to garner Mexican and international support. Through an Internet campaign, the EZLN was successful in disseminating an understanding of their plight and intentions to the public. With this change in tactics, the EZLN has received greater support from a variety of NGOs. The Zapatistas have achieved documented improvements in Chiapas in the areas of gender equality and public health, although they remain unable to establish political autonomy for the province.

December 22, 1997: The Acteal Massacre takes place in Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico. 45 people attending a meeting of indigenous townspeople fighting to keep their land, most of whom were members of the pacifist group Las Abejas (“The Bees”), are murdered. Las Abejas professed support for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, including the Zapatista’s rejection of violent actions. The paramilitary group Mascara Roja, a group with strong visible ties to the Mexican government, carried out the mass killing. Many suspect the group’s support for the Zapatistas as the reason for the attack.

The Zapatista Uprising: 20 Years Later

“Are you going to win?” the journalist asked the rebel.

“We don’t deserve to lose,” the rebel answered.

That was the first exchange journalist Gaspar Morquecho recalls having with the revolutionary Subcomandante Marcos on January 1, 1994, in the central plaza of San Cristobal del las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Morquecho, feeling a mixture of still drunk and hungover from the New Year’s celebrations the night before, interviewed the Zapatista leader minutes after he and his comrades had stormed and taken over the municipal hall of San Cristobal.

Twenty years after the Zapatista uprising, VICE traveled to Chiapas to meet Morquecho, the first local journalist to speak with the Zapatista Army face-to-face, so he could recall the events of that fateful day—it was the first indigenous armed uprising in Latin America in the internet age.

Watch the documentary

Mexican soldiers battle “Zapatistas” in a staged image. More Federales dressed in the typical garb of the southern revolutionaries are playing the enemy.

When published, the image was presented as from a legitimate battle, with an accompanying text of 20 Federales emerging victorious after fighting off 200 of the rebels over two hours of fighting, and the photographer securing the shot before being driven back to the rear by rifle fire!

(Fototeca Nacional del INAH)


EZLN - Our Word is our Weapon Comandante MArcos (by GoHardMG)

Fighters of the Zapatistas, as the Liberation Army of the South was informally called, c. 1913. Commanded by Emiliano Zapata, they were one of the most extreme factions in the Mexican Revolution, drawing their support mostly from the poor peasants who desired land reform. Briefly aligned with Madero, once Madero took the presidency in 1911 Zapata soon turned on him seeing that reform wasn’t coming, and the Zapatistas remained generally in opposition to the various governments of the ensuing decade. Held together by Zapata’s leadership, the group fell apart and disbanded a year after his assassination in 1919. 

(Fototeca Nacional del INAH)