Brothers and Sisters of Tehuaca'n Civil Society:
We want to thank all of you for the honor you are extending us by receiving us on your lands.
We, the zapatistas, know the historic role that the indigenous of these lands have played throughout the history of Mexico, and that is why we are all trying now to understand our history as indigenous. And that is why we have to search in our memory.
The indigenous of our lands recount that, a very long time ago, men were not men, but rather birds of many colors, of varied songs and of high flights.
And these birds did many and varied things.
For example, it was the birds who touched things in the world and went about painting their colors. Because in its beginning the world was gray, and it was these birds which gifted it with color.
And there were others, for example, who let loose their song wherever they went, and they were so beautiful that they turned into other birds and flew from one place to the other, singing songs that birthed songs. Because in its beginning the world was mute, and it was these birds which gifted it with music.
And there were some others who made trails and they walked them over and over so they would turn into path, and in that way no one would lose the route or destination of their flight. Because in its beginning the world had neither route nor destination in its flight.
And other birds were born and broke the silences. And so they gave sound and word to the world. Because in its beginning the world had neither sounds nor silences, it was only noise.
With the world painted, the paths drawn, the silences and sounds set, these birds made themselves men so the thousand colors the world had painted could be seen, so the paths with route and destination could be trod, so the silences could be heard and spoken and the sounds and words lived which had been thought and felt.
Because our most ancient recount that words are sounds which are lived, not the noise which fills.
Brothers and Sisters:
We are indigenous, and many people ask who the indigenous are.
We, the indigenous, are the guardians of history.
In our memory we guard all colors, all routes, all words and all silences.
We live so that memory might live, and, living, not be lost.
We, the indigenous, are those who, based on the color we are of the earth, paint the first colors of the many which live in the world.
We, the indigenous, are those who signal the time from which we came, our past living today so that it will not be lost and we will not be lost.
We are also those who auger tomorrow which is to come, with more and all colors and the common destiny of all we auger.
We, the indigenous, are those who make the silence and also those who unmake it with words which look at both sides. That, and nothing else, is what history is.
And if, before, we were birds of many colors, of varied and high flight, now we indigenous are guarding that memory so that human beings might once again be the great color which all colors contain, the singers of all sounds, and those of many and high flights.
And, if someone asks who we indigenous in Mexico are, all of us shall respond:
We, the indigenous, are both those who walk the path and the path itself, we are those who are walking today so that Mexico shall not become lost and so that it can then become, with everyone and in enough time, the nation of all colors, the one of multiple songs, the one of high flights.
Thank you Brothers and Sisters of Tehuaca'n!
Vivan the Mexican Indigenous!
Vivan All Mexicans!
>From Tehuaca'n, Puebla.
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Mexico, February of 2001.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ______________________ Translated by irlandesa