In the name of my race and of our most ancient parents and grandparents of these lands who gave birth and life to this great nation which today we call Mexico and America, I speak.
Brothers and sisters of all the peoples, of all races, of all languages and cultures, and to all those in whose veins run indigenous blood, those who carry, in their flesh and in their skin, the color of the earth which we simply are, those who carry the first and last names of the most first of whom we are, in fact, a part.
As everyone knows and realizes, before our first parents and grandparents suffered the Spanish invasion and conquest, those who inhabited these Mexican and American lands were already peoples and nations with long histories and experiences. With advances in technical and scientific knowledge, they had their own political, military, social, cultural and religious organizations.
They governed with indigenous intelligence and wisdom.
They were peoples and nations knowledgeable about life, science and the universe. Peoples and nations who care for and loved the land, the water, and all of nature with which they interacted.
They had their own laws, their leaders, their great priests, their gods, their churches, their palaces and their army.
But one day they had to confront a war of foreign invasion. Many men and women fought with courage and dignity in defense of their people and of their sovereignty.
But, in the face of an unequal war, they were ultimately conquered, their wealth was looted, their churches and laws destroyed, and their inhabitants subjected to slavery.
That is how our ancestors were conquered and dominated.
And so began a long history of pain and suffering, but also a long struggle of resistance and rebellion.
Throughout almost 500 years, many men and women have been fighting heroically in the defense of their lives, of their peoples and of their dignity. Only in that way were they able to prevent their extermination.
Today, almost 500 years of resistance and rebellion against oppression and subjugation, after a long time of silence, of deep dream and pain, of a long time of remaining quiet, of tolerating and of waiting.
The Indian peoples, the most first, those of us who are the color of the earth, those of us who are of the maize, and of all nature. Those of us for whom collectivity and coexistence and sharing give life. Those who for almost 5 centuries have been subjugated, humiliated, stripped of our mother lands, of our wealth and of all rights. Those of us who are marginalized, ignored and excluded from our own land, those who have resisted and survived the wars of extermination.
By the peoples who have sown in our minds and in our hearts hate, bitterness, egoism, individualism, superiority, competitiveness and the defeat of the other or the smaller - all foreign to our faith and to our culture.
For almost 500 years the children and grandchildren of the conquistadors did everything possible to exterminate us, in a multitude of ways. They imposed their laws, their ideas, their policies, their beliefs and their gods, all for the purpose of making ours disappear.
They broke our branches, they withered our leaves and our flowers, and they cut off our trunk, but they were never able to pull out our roots, from whence, once more, have sprung life and hope for a better world for everyone.
Now, more than ever, our hope is even greater that the fiesta of the word must return once again. That the new day must dawn, the new land for new and free men and women.
Brothers and sisters, today the awaited moment has arrived. The hour of breaking the silence has come, of breaking the walls and the chains of injustice.
The hour of the Indian peoples has arrived, the hour of all.
Those without voice and without face will, at last, have face and word, which shall resound in all the corners of the land.
Because one day, in the midst of the tempest and the storm, we were able to communicate with each other, to meet each other, to listen to each other, and to join our word and our thoughts. We were made as strong and as great as the rivers which run and penetrate all the corners of the land. Like the thunder which reaches the ears and the hearts of everyone. And so it came to pass that our words and our thoughts were joined, which we wanted the great and powerful to believe and to listen to.
That collection of thoughts, of true words and just demands of the Indian peoples, the "San Andre's Sakamch'en de los Pobres Accords," signed by the federal government and the EZLN, which is known about and defended by millions of indigenous brothers throughout the country and by all honest persons in Mexico and in the world, because they are convinced that in the San Andre's Accords are deposited the words, thoughts, feelings and just historic demands of the Indian peoples of Mexico, known today as the Cocopa legislative proposal in matters of indigenous rights and culture.
Approving and bringing this proposal to the constitutional level would mean guaranteeing life, respect and fundamental rights for the Indian peoples. It would mean the building of a new society based on justice, on equality and on respect for the indigenous, with all their diversity of languages and cultures. A society where, as indigenous, we would not be humiliated, marginalized or excluded any longer.
Where we would no longer have to rise up in arms in order to be listened to and to be taken into account as peoples.
Where we would no longer be persecuted, imprisoned, discriminated against, or be treated as inferiors, only because we speak our language, because we practice our culture, or because we dress differently.
As native peoples of these lands, we have the right and the freedom to live in dignity, we have the right and the freedom to organize ourselves, to elect our authorities and to govern our peoples in accordance with the manner of thinking, of understanding and of acting, according to our laws and regulations as indigenous peoples. For centuries, and up to the present moment, we have not had that right.
The only means of guaranteeing the exercise of these Indian rights is the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture in accord with the Cocopa legislative proposal.
Constitutional recognition of Indian rights means reducing an historic debt with the native peoples of these lands.
It means that, as indigenous, we are yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The approval of this proposal would guarantee unity and respectful and harmonious coexistence between all the languages and cultures which reside in this patria.
The indigenous legislation was not Zedillo's, nor was it Senor Fox's, nor the EZLN's.
It was drawn up by legitimate legislators, Deputies and Senators from the country's four main political parties, members of the Commission of Concordance and Peace (Cocopa), with the full authority and rights granted them by the law and by the Congress of the Union.
The approval of this Cocopa legislation will open the path to dialogue and peace.
But it is necessary that we make this path wider and better, so that all of us who truly desire that peace will be able to travel it with ease.
There are, nonetheless, those who want to put up great roadblocks, so that we will stumble, or so that that sole path which is leading us towards peace with justice and dignity will be closed.
The approval and respect for the Cocopa law - which captures the most essential of the San Andre's Accords - is necessary.
Because the denial and rejection of this proposal would mean the failure to fulfill the signed accords and a lack of political will to resolve the conflict, diminishing the possibility of achieving a peace with justice and dignity.
Because this would also mean ignoring the existence of the indigenous peoples.
It would mean attempting to exterminate us and to erase us from history.
That, as indigenous peoples, we have to be treated in the same way, to be persecuted, subjugated and excluded from all our country's political, economic and social development programs.
But that long history of pain and suffering should be ended once and for all.
Our peoples will no longer remain passive. Our voices and our cries of Ya basta! will never again be silenced.
Our people are, and shall be, the creators and owners of their own history.
The March of Indigenous Dignity - begun from the mountains of the Mexican southeast on February 24, with the support and participation of millions of indigenous and non-indigenous brothers from Mexico and the world - made it possible that today, on March 28, 2001, from these legislative halls of the Congress of the Union, we would be able to direct our messages to the nation and to the entire world.
So that our words would be listened to, and our just demands as indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of Mexico would be taken into account.
That is why there are thousands and millions of indigenous and non-indigenous brothers here today, in order to lift up our voices, to defend and to see that the Cocopa legislation is fulfilled and expressed in the Mexican Constitution.
Even knowing that this Cocopa bill does not contain everything that was agreed to between the parties in San Andre's, but in order to demonstrate our political will for dialogue and to honor our word, we accept it. We made this proposal ours, and we shall, with all the indigenous peoples, defend it and demand its complete fulfillment.
Because it will be the guarantee that the indigenous have a dignified place in our country. That we have the right to life, education, health, dignified housing, food, and to the land which is our mother.
That as peoples we will be able to exercise our right to autonomy and to free determination, which consolidates and guarantees the unity of the peoples, but it does not divide or balkanize, as some have accused.
Only in that way will it be possible to construct the peace with justice and dignity which we Mexicans desire and need.
It is a task and an historic responsibility for all Mexicans, a duty and a commitment of all citizens, above their individual interests.
Fighting always so that true democracy, liberty and justice for all might exist and be made real in this nation.
>From the San La'zaro Legislative Palace.
Congress of the Union.
By the CCRI-CG of the EZLN.
Mexico, March 28, 2001.
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN ______________________ Translated by irlandesa