Brothers and sisters:
It is May and the dawn is heralding heat and flushes. But it is not this May, nor this dawn, no. Or, yes, it is this May and this dawn, but it is ten years earlier. The light from the campfire is painting shadows and lights on the walls of Old Antonio's hut. Old Antonio has been silent for some time, just looking at Dona Juanita who is looking at her hands. I am to one side, sitting in front of a cup of coffee. It has been some time since I arrived. I came to bring Old Antonio a deerskin, to see if he knew how, and could, tan it. Old Antonio had scarcely looked at the skin, he continued looking at Dona Juanita looking at her hands. They were waiting for something. I mean, Old Antonio was waiting for something from looking so long at Dona Juanita and Dona Juanita was waiting for something from looking so long at her hands. I chewed on my pipe and waited as well, but, of all of us who were here, I was the only one who didn't know what we were waiting for. Suddenly Dona Juanita sighed deeply and raised her face and gaze to Old Antonio, saying: "The water is coming on time." "It is coming," Old Antonio said, and right then he took out his roller and began rolling a cigarette. I knew what that meant, and so I quickly filled my pipe, lit it, and made myself comfortable in order to listen to and to remember, as and how I am now telling you
The oldest of the old of our peoples tell that during the first times, time was completely disorganized and it stumbled about like a drunk at the Santa Cruz fiesta. Men and women lost very much and they got lost, because time did not pass evenly, but, rather, sometimes hurried up and sometimes it went by slowly, dragging along almost like an old lame person, and by times the sun was a great skin that covered everything, and by times it was just water, water above, water below and water in-between. Or, everything was absolute chaos and one could barely plant, hunt or fix the straw on the roofs or the sticks and mud on the walls of the huts.
And the gods looked at everything and they looked, because these gods, who were the very first, those who gave birth to the world, were just strolling about and catching macabiles in the river and chewing sugarcane and sometimes they also helped separate the kernels from the maize for the tortillas. And so they looked at everything, these gods, those that gave birth to the world, the very first. And they thought, but they did not think quickly, rather they took a long time, because these gods were not hasty, and so they spent a long time just watching time go staggering about the land, and so, after putting it off like that, then they did indeed think.
After they had thought then, because they also took their time in thinking, the gods called on the Mama they called Ixmucane, and they just said to her:
"Mama Ixmucane, this time that goes about the lands is not doing well and it just skips about and runs and drags, sometimes ahead and sometimes backwards, and so one can absolutely not plant, and you will see that neither can they harvest when they want to and the men and women are growing sad and now many of us battle with each other in order to find the maxcabil and the sugarcane is not where we left it and so we are telling you, we do not know what you thought, Mama Ixmucane, but it is not good that time just goes about like this, without anyone being able to orient themselves as to when and where they must go and what is going on. This is what we are thinking, Mama Ixmucane, we do not know what you are going to tell us about this problem that we are telling you about."
Mama Ixmucane sighed for a good bit and then she said:
"It is not good that time is just out of control like that, wreaking havoc and ruining things for all these good people."
"Yes, that is right, it is not good," said the gods.
And they waiting a bit, because they well knew that Mama Ixmucane had not finished speaking, she had barely begun. That is why, ever since then, it seems that Mamas have already finished when they have barely begun talking to us.
Mama Ixmucane was sighing for another while and then she continued speaking:
"Up there, in the sky, is the tale that time should follow, and time will pay attention if someone is reading it to it and telling it what comes next and how and when and where."
"If it is there and if it does pay attention," said the gods.
Mama Ixmucane sighed more and at last she said:
"I am willing to read time the tale so that it learns how to run straight, but my eyes are not good now and I can scarcely look at the sky, I cannot."
"You cannot," said the gods.
"See, if I can," Mama Ixmucane said. "Then I would straighten out time, but I cannot look at and read the sky, because my eyes are not good."
"Mmmh," said the gods.
"Mmmh," said Mama Ixmucane.
And so they remained, the ones and the other, just saying 'mmmh," until the gods finally began thinking again and they said:
"Look, Mama Ixmucane, I do not know what you are thinking, but we think it would be good if we brought you the sky down here below and then you could see it up close very well and read and put aright the passing of time."
And Mama Ixmucane sighed heavily when she said:
"Perhaps I have someplace to put the sky? No, no, no. Can you not see how small my hut is? No, no, no."
"No, no, no," said the gods.
And they remained a good bit longer with their 'mmmh," "mmmh." And then the gods thought once more and they said:
"Look, Mama Ixmucane, I do not know what you are thinking, but we think it would be good if we copy what is written in the sky and we bring it and you copy it and then you will be able to read it and so you will set right the passing of time."
"That's good," said Mama Ixmucane.
And the gods went up and they copied the tale that the sky tells in a notebook and they came down once again and they went to see Mama Ixmucane with the notebook and they said to her:
"Look, Mama Ixmucane, here then is the tale that the sky tells, we wrote it down here in this notebook, but it is not going to last, so you will have to copy it someplace else where the tale that will set right the passage of time will last forever."
Yes, yes, yes," said Mama Ixmucane. "Copy the tale on my hands and I will set the passing of time right so that it goes straight and does not go about like an old drunk."
And on the palms and the backs of Mama Ixmucane's hands, the gods wrote the tale that is told in the sky in order to set right the passage of time, and that is why knowing Mamas have many lines on their hands and they read the calendar on them and that way they see that time runs straight and the harvest that history plants in memory is not forgotten.
Old Antonio was silent and Dona Juanita repeats, seeing her hands, "the water is coming on time."
This that I am telling you happened ten years ago, a dawn in May. Today, on this dawn of May 10, we want to greet a group of persons who were with us in this meeting, and who have been with us even when they were not. I am speaking of the mothers of the political prisoners and disappeared, to whom we, their new children, send best wishes for this 10th of May. Through them, Mama Ixmucane returns to give us dignified memory and to remind us of the tale in order to harvest the dawn that history plants.
Salud, then, to these knowing mothers, salud to these women who assure us that there will always be someone who does not lose the memory.
Brothers and sisters: We want to thank all of you for having come here to meet with us.
During these days we have been able to put back together the puzzle that is the Consulta for the Recognition of the Rights of the Indian Peoples and For an End to the War of Extermination.
With all the pieces that you have brought, and with those we already had, we now all - you and we - have an approximate idea of the form of this movement - which, it needs to be repeated - has not ended.
But then you will see that, behind the puzzle of the Consulta, we have found other pieces that are helping us to imagine another form, a larger and more powerful one, although it continues hidden, although the solution to the enigma remains to be found.
The sacred book of Popul Vuh tells that the most ancient gods had to resist the attacks and deceptions of the great masters who governed people and lands. After an attempted deception, the gods sent three gifts to the great masters so they would learn of the strength and power of the gods. The three gifts were three lovely skins, beautifully painted. One had a powerful tiger painted on it, the other a valiant eagle and on the third there were many pictures of bumblebees and wasps. The great masters were made happy by those gifts and they set about seeing whether or not the power of the gods whom they wished to subjugate was great, and so then they fearfully put on the skin with the painted tiger and they saw that nothing happened and the skin with the painted tiger was in truth beautiful. The hearts of the masters were greatly gladdened when they saw that the painted tiger did nothing to them and they thought the power of the gods they wished to subjugate was not great, and they then put the second skin on their bodies, that of the painted eagle, and they saw the eagle did them no harm and the skin with the eagle shone brightly and their hearts became more happy, and now they took joy that they could soon subjugate those gods who were not powerful because their painted skins did not harm them. Now without any fear at all, the masters put on the third skin, the one that was decorated with thousands of wasps and bumblebees of many and varied colors. And at that very moment it happened that the bumblebees and the wasps came to life and they attacked the great masters most fiercely and their stings brought them much pain and the great masters surrendered before the wisdom and the power of the gods.
With what has been agreed to at this second meeting, we will be able - this we all hope - to finish painting the great skin that this country needs.
Salud and bon voyage.
From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
Subcomandante insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, May of 1999.
Originally published in Spanish ________________________ Translated by irlandesa