The Democratic Teachers and the Zapatista Dream

July 31, 1999.

"This is the tree of the free.
The bread tree, the arrow tree,
the fist tree, the fire tree.
It is being drowned in the tumultuous waters
Of our nocturnal age,
But its staff balances
Its tumbling power."
- Pablo Neruda. "Canto General."

The most ancient of the ancient recount that the world holds itself above the abyss of the forgetting through the grace of the ceiba. The first gods, the greatest gods, put the world above the mother tree. With colors, words and songs, the first gods made the world. When it was completed, the gods did not know where to leave the world so that they would be able then to go to the singing and the dancing, because these gods were very musical and dancing, those gods who birthed the world, the very first. And the great marimba of light that crosses the night from end to end was now ready and the first gods could find nowhere to put the world.

Then the gods held an assembly in order to reach an agreement, and, yes, it took some time, but no one noticed because the world had just been born and time had not yet begun its time. The gods of the beginning reached their accord and they called on the mother ceiba so that she could have the world above her head and they hung it over her highest boughs and she remained quiet so that the world would be without fear.

This that I am telling you happened long ago, so long ago that it came about that men and women forgot, and, fearful of not being able to explain the location of the world in the schools, histories were invented of black stars, "big bangs," solar systems, galaxies, universes and other absurdities that fill the geography books that are endured in all the schools.

Everyone forgot, but not everyone.

The first gods were knowing and they saw clearly that everyone would forget how the world had been born and where it was. Because of that, they wrote down the entire history of how the world was made and they even made a map so that it would be made clear where the world was. The greatest gods - those who birthed the world, the very first - wrote down everything in their school notebooks.

And then the gods searched for where to put the notebook where the history was written of how the world was made and the map of where the world was.

The gods battled much over where to put the notebook and then they held another assembly to reach accords.

And then they called on the men and women of maize, the true ones, and they recounted to them the history of how the world was born and they explained to them the place where it was, and, so that they could remember it even if it would be forgotten, they put some notes down on a little piece of paper and they folded it in several creases, like an accordion, and they tucked it away in one of the scars that cover the skin of the ceiba.

The first gods went to their dancing and their singing. And - long after the echo of marimbas, guitars and zapateados had faded away - the mother ceiba remained firm, supporting the world so that it would not fall and so that it would remain in its place.

Since then, the world has been where it is. The ceiba keeps it far from the night of the worst death, the most terrible, that of the forgetting.

The world is above the mother ceiba. But winds from above have assaulted it time and again throughout history, seeking to make it fall into the obscurity of despair.

Not a few times has the world has been at the point of being lost. The winds of the Power have hurled, from all sides, wars, catastrophes, crises, dictators, neoliberal fashions, pro-management teachers' leaders, corrupt governments, assassins in government posts, criminals disguised as presidential aspirants, institutional revolutionary parties, natos and private television stations. Thousands and thousands of nightmares blowing their terrors on all sides, trying to bring down the world from the high grace of the mother ceiba.

But the world has resisted, it has not fallen. True men and women from all the worlds that make up the world have become trunk and branches and leaves and root next to the mother ceiba, so that the world would not fall, in order to resist, in order to be created anew, to make themselves new.

Terrible have been the struggles between those of above and those of below, between the powerful and the dispossessed. Much has been written of the reasons and causes for these clashes. The truth is they all have the same foundation: the powerful want to bring down the world the ceiba is supporting, those of below want to keep the world and memory, because that is from where the morning arises.

The powerful fight against humanity.

The dispossessed fight and dream for humanity.

This is the true history. And, if it does not appear in the primary textbooks, that is because history is still being written by those of above, even though it is made by those of below.

But, even though it does not form part of the official study plans, the history of the birth of the world and the map that explains where it is, continue to be kept in the scars of the mother ceiba.

The oldest of the old of the communities entrusted the secret to the zapatistas. In the mountain they spoke with them and they told them where the note was, left by the most first gods, by those who birthed the world, left so that memory would not be lost.

Ever since, since they were born without face, without name and without individual past, the zapatistas have been students of the history taught by the land. One dawn in the year of 1994, the zapatistas became teachers so that, consulting the old note of memory, they could teach how the world was birthed and could show where it was to be found.

Because of that, the zapatistas are students and teachers. Because of that, teachers are zapatistas, even though that is hidden behind the thousand centuries in which dignity has existed.

In the Aguascalientes of La Realidad, in one of the corners, the ceiba presides, watches over, encourages and shelters the dizzy coming and going of men and women.

There are days in which no on walks this ground, but other mornings it is covered with men and women of all colors, sizes and tastes, who speak and laugh and worry and dance and sing and talk and make accords, although not always, and, yes, they always meet each other.

In the solitary dawns of La Realidad, when some cloud has set itself to weeping with damp measure, when it rains most heavily above and below, someone left behind can be seen among the shadows, without face always, who approaches the ceiba mother and looks for a little piece of paper among the damp scars of history. Trembling he finds it, trembling he opens it, trembling he reads it and trembling he returns it to its place.

Something is written on that little piece of paper that is an enormous weight that frees the one who carries it. A work, a mission, a task, something to do, a path to walk, a tree to plant and nurture, a dream to look after.

Perhaps the little piece of paper speaks of a world where all worlds fit and are expanded, one where the differences of color, culture, size, language, sex and history serve not to exclude, persecute or classify, but so that their variety may once and for all break that grayness that now stifles us.

Who knows?

There is something about that little piece of paper because - I do not know if it is an optical illusion or one of those visual fantasies that abound in the mountains of the Mexican southeast - but everyone would swear that that shadow is now smiling, yes, smiling as if it were gleaming...

Brothers and sisters, democratic teachers:

Welcome to the First "Democratic Teachers and Zapatista Dream" Encuentro.

May you be welcome to La Realidad, to that which suffers and dreams, to that which patiently waits for something good, more just, more free, more democratic.

To The Mexican Realidad that dreams, not of the best of all possible worlds, but that dreams, and deserves, a morning.

This is our dream, the one -zapatista paradox - that takes away sleep.

The only dream that is dreamt awake, sleepless, the history that is born and nurtured from below.

Democratic teachers:

Welcome to sleepless La Realidad, because it is staying awake for the zapatista dream.


>From the mountains of the Mexican southeast
Subcomandante insurgente Marcos
|Mexico, July of 1999.

P.S. Re: Redundancy. - In reality, and given that we are in La Realidad, that of the "Democratic Teachers" is unnecessarily repetitive. To be a teacher is to be democratic. Those that are not democratic are not teachers, they scarcely reach the category of charritos monta-perros.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

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