One day things will go straight

February 21, 2000.

To: Don Fernando Beni'tez.
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

""Death is called as one, when it arrives, and there is no way for you to escape. I had a very strange dream like devils and animals I had never seen. But do not think that was bad
There were iron horses that plowed the fields.Then some large vats, of stone, filled up with water inside them, to irrigate an infinity of fields beyond imagining some vats as large as hills, which seemed to me as if they were made for giants to bathe in And I saw that the land was for everyone and that everyone looked happy I said to myself: then, where could I be? Could this be Mexico? And it was Mexico, it was Mexico, it was Mexico!
It was then that I remembered"
"Zapata" Screenplay by Jose' Revueltas.

Don Fernando:

It was with bitter sorrow that we learned of your death. It was just a few days ago that I had written you a letter congratulating you on your birthday. January was barely underway when the Sea called my attention to the article in the newspaper where they were congratulating you on your birthday, and, together, we recalled that letter from your last anniversary. In this one which I am now writing, I could reiterate what those who are closest to you (and not so close) should already have told you, but I shall not wear out your eyes with things you knew and understood. Originally thought to congratulate you, these lines are also now to wish you a bon voyage.

I hardly dare to remember, to remind you, that my parents taught us to read ( I am not speaking of literacy, but of reading) with that "always!" of Don Jose' Page's Llergo, and, specifically, with that supplement you directed and that is called "Culture in Mexico." There we learned to read Poniatowska, Jose' Emilio Pacheco, the philosopher Monsiva'is, and many others. We learned there. Afterwards, years later, we found your pages of "The Indians in Mexico," and your advance through other cultural supplements. I do not know if there is still time, but I wanted to tell you "thanks" for having taught us to read. Did you set out once upon a time to teach someone to read? Well, so it goes then, sometimes one does things without setting out to do so.

Don Fernando, we would like to give you something, something simple but very much ours. We do not have many things. Don Fernando. In fact, we have very little. The only thing we possess in abundance is memory, and, with that, we are sending you this gift which has the virtue of not taking up much space in your luggage, and it will serve you for laughing about that which some call "death."

In order to bring you close to ours, this story comes, with which we are also trying to remember those who are no longer with us, but who were before, and who made it possible for us to be here today. With that, Don Fernando, you are also ours.

Sale and vale:


To Pedro, 6 years later, 26 years later.

I remember that day. The sun did not travel straight, but went sideways. I mean, yes it went from here to there, but it went sideways, just that, without climbing up to that which I do not remember right now what it is called, but which the sup once told us. The sun was as if cold. Well, everything was cold that day. Well, not everything. We were hot. As if the blood, or whatever we have within our bodies, was with fever. I do not remember about what the sup said, "the zenith," or something like that, or when the sun reaches the highest point. But that day, no. More as if it were going from side to side. We were moving forward in the same way. I was already dead, lying down, belly up, and I could easily see that the sun was not traveling straight, but going from side to side. That day we were all already dead, wherever we advanced. That is why the sup wrote "we are the dead of forever, dying once again, but now in order to live." When did we all actually die? In truth, I do not remember, but that day in which the sun was traveling from side to side, we were all already dead. All of us, because there were women as well. That day, in the morning, there were people running about. I do not know if it was because the war had begun, or because they saw so many dead advancing, walking as always, without face, without name. Well, at first the people were running, then they were no longer running. Then they stopped, and they came close in order to hear what we were saying. What craziness! If I were alive, I would hardly have come close in order to hear what a dead person was saying! Since one would think the dead had nothing to say. They are dead, after all. Since it was the work of the dead to go around spooking, and not speaking. I remember that in my land it is said that if the dead still walk, it is because they have left something undone, and that is why they are not quiet. So it is said in my land. I believe my land is called Michoaca'n, but I do not really remember. I also do not remember well, but I believe I am called Pedro or Manuel or I do not know, I believe that it is not, in fact, important, what the dead are called, because they are already dead. Perhaps when one is alive, it is indeed important how one is called, but, once dead, for what?

Good, the fact is that these people, after their running around, were coming close in order to see what we, the dead that we were, were saying to them. And then, to talk, as we, the dead, do, in fact, talk, chatting as it were, without a lot of racket, as if one person were chatting to another and were not dead, but alive. Well, a bit like that. It had something to do with the fact that we were dead and at war.

We had taken the city at dawn. At noon we were already preparing everything to go for another. I was already lying down at noon, but I clearly saw the sun was not traveling straight, and I saw it was cold. I saw, but I did not feel, because the dead do not feel, but they do see. I saw that it was cold because it was as if the sun had gone out. Very pale, as if it were cold. Everyone was going from one side to the other. Not I, I remained lying down, belly up, seeing the sun and trying to remember what the sup said they say when the sun is just straight up, when it has already finished climbing and it begins letting itself fall to the other side. As if the sun were becoming embarrassed and it goes and hides itself behind that hill. I did not notice then when the sun went to hide itself behind that. The way I was I could not turn my head, I could only look straight up and, without turning, at the little that reached from one side and the other. That is why I saw that the sun did not go straight, but it was going from side to side, as if embarrassed, as if in fear of climbing up to that which I do not remember right now how the sup said it was said, but perhaps I shall remember in a while.

Just at that moment I remembered, because the stone cracked a bit and made a gash like a knife wound, and then I could see the sky and the sun traveling sideways like that once again, like that day. Nothing else could be seen. Lying down as I am, the sky barely reaches. There are not many clouds and the sun is as if pale, or becoming cold. And then I remembered that day when the dead who we are began this war in order to speak. Yes, in order to speak. For what other thing would the dead make war?

I told them the sky could be seen through this gash. Helicopters and planes pass through there. They come and they go, daily, sometimes until night. They do not know it, but I see them, I see them and I watch them. I also laugh. Yes, because, after all, those planes and helicopters come here because they are afraid of us. Yes, I already know that the dead themselves cause fear, but what those planes and helicopters are afraid of is that the dead who we are will start walking once more. And I do not know what the fuss is all about, if they can, in fact, do nothing, since we are already dead. They are hardly going to kill us. Maybe it is because they want to know and to let those in charge know in time. I do not know. But I do know that fear smells, and the odor of the fear of the powerful is like that of a machine, like that of gasoline and oil and metal and dust and noise and, and, and of fear. Yes, fear smells of fear, and those planes and helicopters smell of fear. The air that comes from above smells of fear. That from below does not. The air from below smells nice, as if things were changing, as if everything were improving and becoming better. Hope, that is what the air from below smells of. We are from below. We, and many like us. Yes, that is it, then: in this country, the dead smell of hope.

I see and hear all that through the gash. I think ñ and my neighbors are in agreement (I know so because they have told me so) ñ that it is not good that the sun travels from side to side and that it must be put right. Because that traveling sideways like that, all pale and cold making, no. Since the work of the sun is to give heat, not to be cold.

And, if you press me, I would even give you a political analysis. Look, I say that this country's problem is that it is has absolute contradictions. There, then, a sun that carries cold, and the living people see and let it do so as if they were dead, and the criminal is judge, and the victim is in jail, and the lying one is the government, and truth is persecuted like illness, and students are imprisoned and thieves run loose, and the ignorant deliver lectures, and the wise are ignored, and the idle have riches, and the one who works has nothing, and the least rules, and the greater obey, and the one who has much has more, and the one who has little has nothing, and bad is rewarded, and good punished.

And not just that, in addition, here the dead speak and walk and do rare things, like setting right a sun that is cold and, just look, it goes from side to side, without reaching that point that I do not remember how it is called but the sup told us once. I believe that one day I shall remember.

- -

There, Don Fernando, may you have a very happy birthday and many more. Love from all of us, especially from this anonymous disciple of the window that you were and which is culture in Mexico. Be well and do not forget about us. There will always be an opening in our memory for you.


Salud and one day things will go straight, the dead will surely set them right.

>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, February of 2000.

Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Mexico. Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ________________________ Translated by irlandesa

To the Mexico page