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Friday, May 11th, 2001


Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected Writings

by Subcomandante Marcos

A review by Maria Russo

This collection of writings by the spokesman for the Zapatista movement is an excellent window into the conflict between indigenous Mexicans and the government over the distribution of land in the Chiapas region. Marcos captured the world's attention in 1994 when his small, disciplined guerrilla group seized several mountain towns from the Mexican army. What's so riveting about the Chiapas story is not just the David-and-Goliath aspect of the Zapatistas' victories but the way in which their grass-roots, democratic agenda was articulated by Marcos - this was a rebel with a brain, as well as a heart. He's also created some mystery around himself, never appearing in public without the Zapatistas' trademark black ski mask, to symbolize his determination to be "a selfless self, a person without a face" committed to serving as "the voice of the voiceless." It turns out that Marcos is actually university-educated and of European, not indigenous Mexican, extraction, but perhaps that makes his struggles on behalf of the landless people of Chiapas even more moving. Marcos writes in a number of styles - the book includes his Calvino-style folk tales as well as impassioned letters to dignitaries and writers around the world - and there's no doubt more in this massive volume than most readers will want to take in. But there's a palpable feeling of excitement about many of these pieces, as if we're privy to the ground-floor thinking of that rare thing, a principled, ethical person who is trying to change history.

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