Chronicles Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala
The Other Campaign moves west to Altepexi, where the local economy is dominated by large maquilas. The 166 workers recently fired from the maquila Rich’s Calidad y Confecciones for speaking up about bad working conditions are protesting their dismissal, They went to municipal authorities and then to state authorities, but, one worker explains in the town meeting hosting the Other Campaign, “they detained us like we were criminals. I felt like an immigrant trying to get to the US. But I was in my own state, Puebla, my home state! They said we’re in a state of law, well what law, for whom.” Other maquila workers talk of 12-16 hour shifts without overtime pay. One woman who sews soccer balls explains that she gets paid 10 pesos per ball (which will later sell for 10 times that amount), but if one doesn’t turn out she is docked 30-40 pesos for the cost of the materials. Who is responsible for this, they ask, for the fact that the person who works 16 hours a day is poor and the one who doesn’t work is rich? The scene changes as the Other Campaign travels to the Nahuatl town of Tzinacapan, but the story is repeated. We enter a dense fog as we climb the curves into this high mountain community, until the spires of an old, crumbling, gothic church emerge above the clouds. The town has gathered on the basketball court to receive the EZ commission. A full band—tubas, flutes, clarinets, trumpets—plays several pieces, the children perform a old Nahuatl marriage ritual in traditional dress, Here the local economy is dominated by artistans who sacrifice most of the profit from their handmade goods to coyotes (like traveling merchants) and coffee producers who receive 2.5 pesos, about 25 cents per kilo of roasted coffee that will sell for 6-10 dollars on the market. The Other Campaign crosses into Puebla, stopping in the Nahuatl indigenous community of Ixtepec, region Totonacapan, Sierra Norte, where they fight to maintain possession of their land, at the Telephone Worker’s Union in the City of Puebla which has fought for decades for just working conditions, at the Iberoamerican University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country, where a young man stands up on the stage and says, “our blood runs through these streets, not through our veins. I’m not afraid to sin, I already live in hell.” Each place is different, each struggle distinct, and each problem so similar: the person who produces the pants, the basketball, the corn, the sugar, the knowledge, the culture, is not the one who gets reaps or receives the benefits of that production. As the Other Campaign accumulates stories, the EZ recounts in each city and countryside:
"So we think the people, simple and humble, should ask, why is this? We need to hear the story and the voice of the person who made these pants, ‘I am so and so, and I made these pants, this day, and in this amount of time.’ For each merchandise, each pair of pants and kilo of sugar—if we knew this, it would change this country…what if the young person who buys a pair of pants in DF put his/her hand in the pocket and found a piece of paper that said who made it and where Altepexi is: ‘Here I am, this is what I am, know me, this is my dignity. I demand respect and I will also respect you.’"
The continual return to the basement of Capital vol. I, the analysis of the place of production, is accompanied always by a contemporary analysis of current conditions of capitalism and also a decision, on behalf of the local communities, students, farmers, city-dwellers, to create something else. The analysis, which frequently consists of a concrete critique of biopower, is in the words of the university students outside Oaxaca City who say “we are exploited in all we have to offer, our bodies and our ideas;” in the transsexual participants in Oaxaca City who claim the body as a place and their place of struggle; in the discourse of the transgendered collective that know that “other loves” are a place of production and revolution and that they are thus attacked directly by capitalism; in the elderly gentlemen in Toluca de Guadalupe, Tlaxcala, who spoke passionately against the consumption habits ruling their culture: he points to the BIMBO (major Mexican producer of packaged bread and snacks] wrappers and cheap soda drinks lying around “we eat this shit, drink this shit that will give us stomach cancer and intestinal disease, we read trash, what is what is in the newspaper stands? soap opera news! We watch trash movies and don’t read…and this is what they [ruling powers] want of us.” It is in the intervention of a maquila worker in Altepexi, Puebla, who insists “we are not excluded, we are a fundamental part of what is happening, it is our work that is fueling this thing; it is our lives and labor,” he adds, “my kids have been born all over this country because I had to move around looking for work—they don't have a hometown-these are the things that are creating our sociality as it exists today”; and for another Altepexi worker, “we are people of the world, not people of Altepexi, nor of Puebla, nor of Mexico. We have to be people of the world.”
The Zapatista analysis of power—not to take power, but to exercise it—finds resonance in the corners it visits all over these states. An indigenous leader in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, claims “we are fighting for a dignified power, not a power from above that is filthy, but rather a power that shares, that is of the people,” and an teenage girl from the poor, unpaved city outskirts of Oaxaca, “we fight to be free, not to take power,” in the words of the same elder quoted above in Toluca de Gualalupe, “we are not what we are now, we are what we could be.”
What “we could be” as proposed in the Other Campaign is together in a common struggle. Marcos greeted the Telephone unionists in Puebla saying, “Good morning, compañeros and compañeras, you don’t know how long we have waited to say this—22 years. It is for us an honor to listen to your word and know, as Zapatistas, that finally, after so much time, we have compañeros workers of the city”; and his answer to a woman at the Iberoamerican University who stated defiantly that she was “neither with Marcos nor Lopez Obrador [leftist PRD candidate for president] “that’s no problem, compañera, the difference is that López Obrador wants to be your president and I want to be your compañero.”
Marcos finished the analysis on the basement of production that day in Altepexi, Oaxaca, with the maquila workers like this: “Perhaps the day will arrive when we buy pants or the jacket and we’ll get not only the story of the exploitation, but the story of rebellion that started February 11, 2006, in Altepexi, where arose the most beautiful lesson of love that these lands have seen. Because when we struggle together, this is what we have, where each person asks another, who are you? And the other answers, this is my life, this is my work, this is my struggle. And the first answers, unite with us, without stopping being who and what you are, fight with us."