The hour of the little ones, II

Second Part: THOSE OF BELOW.

For all those little and different.

"soon will come those crazed with power refined/disloyal/a bit cannibalistic owners of the mountains and the valleys of the floods and the earthquakes those standard-bearers sans standard charitable and mean clothing letters favors demands sheathed in the letter box of time"
Mario Benedetti

The storm is letting up a bit now. The crickets are taking advantage of the clearing and they are going back to chirping the dawn. A great black cowl covers the sky. Another rain is being readied, although the puddles down below report they are already full. The night has its own words now, and it takes out apparently forgotten histories. This is the hour of the history of those of below, the hour of the little ones.

Down below, the long wail of a snail is calling, shadows answer it in silence, the snug iron and the hurried black covering their faces. The guards exchange passwords, and, to the "Who goes there?" hope invariably responds, "The Patria!" Night watches over the world of the forgotten. To do that she has made soldiers of their remembrances, and she has armed them with memory, in order to relieve the pain of the smallest ones.

Raining or not, down below the shadow without face continues his vigil. Most certainly he continues writing, or reading, but, always, smoking that increasingly foreshortened pipe. Good, there is nothing to do up here, so let's visit the little house again. That way, if it rains again, we'll be under cover. Here we are. Vaya! The mess is even more widespread now. Papers, books, pens, old lighters. The shadow toils away at his writing. He is filling pages and pages. He goes back to them. He takes some away, adds some. On the little tape player, a very otherly sound, like music from a far off land, in an equally different language.

"Very other," I said. Yes, at the hour of the small ones, the other, the different, also has its place. And that is what our visited shadow must be thinking of, because I have managed to read that "The Other" heads one of the pages.

But give us time for him to finish or to more completely define the bridge between what he is thinking and feeling and that elusive coquette that is the word. Good, he seems to have finished. He rises slowly and slowly goes over to the corner that serves as his bed. We are in luck, he has left the candle on guard. Yes, a few pages have been conveniently left on the table. It is in the first, which reads...


For the victims of earthquakes and floods.

I did not write the letter which now follows, I received it. Jolting about in a little paper boat, a river of rainwater brought the wet pages and damp letters to my hut.

"October 8, 1999. 04.45 AM.


Here it is for you to distribute among your nets. Aside from the natural tragedy, what most pains is the criminal violence which - from the heights of Power - rains over a bleak, crippled, ignorant, exhausted population full of pain. We must do something for the more than 500,000 victims. These torrential rains have left children, old ones, men and women WITH NOTHING, especially the indigenous and campesinos, those condemned by this ruthless and genocidal, merciless and demagogic system. I am sharing with you a letter given to me by a young woman with whom I was speaking yesterday morning; in it one can feel the harsh reality that is battering us:

Or, as took place in the Town called_________________ (put in any name of any affected community, the history is the same), visited by Zedillo and Governor_____________ (put in the name of any governor, they are the same), along with their entire news machinery, with many trucks of food and aid, and - as soon as the helicopters carrying them took off - the trucks with the aid also started up, leaving just some of it, which moves us to something more than indignation. They are informing each Town that they are not giving us aid because they are aiding and attending to others who are more needy, not knowing that there is communication between all the Towns (the communication, which functions effectively, at least for learning about the situations in the Communities, is Civil Band), and that is how we found out that there is not effective aid for any of the towns (only some of them are reporting a minimal and scant aid that is consumed as soon as it is received). In the particular case of _____________ (name of an indigenous community) (and it would appear to be the case everywhere), the only thing that is needed is for the road to be restored, since the civil organizations will be in charge of taking care of everything from the food to the housing needs. The concentration of the best and only means of communication (helicopters) causes the Government to become arrogant and to think that they are the only ones who understand and who are handling the situation. But the government machinery is insufficient for the opening and restoration of the roads: nonetheless, the officials in charge of that are not going to the Towns and Organizations that have the capability and the willingness to help, either.

__________________ (name of state) most likely to be the last state in the unfair and inequitable distribution of federal funds.

At the beginning of his administration, Zedillo said that that his social policies would be put to the test in this state: he failed; because not only did he not manage to grant the state the resources necessary and sufficient for us to rise above marginalization and the thousand year backwardness to which we have been subjected (it is no use mentioning that the primary problem of__________ (name of state) is impoverishment, and that everything else is the effects of that), but, in addition, nor did he do enough to safeguard that the little that does come is administered well, and, finally, nor was there a satisfactory response in the cases of disasters (although within the Media, they have dressed it up and shown off).

The tragedy continues: the torrential rains are added to the earthquake. Just last night our promoters reported through Civil Band radio on an extremely serious situation that I'll sketch here: In_______________ (indigenous community), 100 homes destroyed by the EARTHQUAKE and 80 swept away by the river, a helicopter took them a minimal delivery of food, there are close to 250 sick children; in _____________ (name of municipality) the Communities of ____________ and ____________ (names of indigenous communities) are abandoned, nothing has been taken to them, a helicopter just landed in order to greet them and it left; in __________ (municipality) they only took a minimal amount of aid to the community of ___________ (indigenous community) (a third of the Community was buried under a mountain), while the other nine communities are still incommunicado; in ______________ (municipality), in addition to 70% of the houses having been destroyed, the river swept away fields, coffee plantations and cut off roads, they have already been visited and they left them food (25 packets of meal), 3 boxes of water and 12 boxes of oil). The situation is dramatic: not only has the emergency not been overcome, but it is worsening: they lack medicines, clothing, covers, non-perishable food, sheetsÖIn response, we have joined 4 Organizations together in order to stockpile resources and to pool donations. We are not going to leave them. Not now."

The letter ends there. I mean, what can be read. The rest is smudged by water and with mud.

"What do you think?" I asked him.

"It's not the government's criminal irresponsibility that is surprising. Certainly they are not responsible for earthquakes and rains, but it is disgusting how they have confronted the situation. The misfortune of those of below only serves them to appear on the front pages and in the headlines of the electronic media. But that is not what strikes one, it was to be expected. The really great and impressive thing is that "We are not going to leave them. Not now."

"Yes," I said, "as if another silence has been broken."

"There will be more..." says Durito, dropping to my boot.

Outside, the morning is breaking through the dawn.

Salud and, in agreement, "not now."

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

The Sup, remaining respectfully silent.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ______________________ Translated by irlandesa  

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