The 11th stele:Morelos

NOVEMBER: MORELOS, the Eleventh Stele

(History, tired of journey, is repeated above and below)

History takes the hand and takes the eyes. With both of them it turns another page in the now slim calendar. There is November, of the Day of the Dead, and Morelos, of Emiliano Zapata.

In the state of Morelos (with more than a million and a half inhabitants and more than 60,000 indigenous), an old history is repeated: the idiotic right-wing and corruption give orders in the government, while an intelligent rebellion walks in the people.

And, in the role of the right-wing and corruption: Governor Estrada Cajigal and his Secretary of Government, Becerra. Both of them are tied to vehicle theft and drug trafficking. Repeating the history of the beginning of the century, there is a blacklist of persons who are to be "eliminated" by a thug, contracted by the Attorney General of the state, Montiel. Meanwhile, in the state Congress, they are reviewing whether or not to remove Estrada, and the head of the ministerial police, Pimentel, has opened an investigation into the Attorney General and the guilty parties.

An aficionado of debauches, Sergio Estrada Cajigal has been having a dispute with the municipal government of Cuernavaca. The reason? A dive in the center of that city. In January, the state government awarded the permits for it to do business, but the municipality denied them. The dive opened, and within a week the ayuntamiento, along with municipal police, carried out a raid. The state government issued the permits once again, and the municipality limited it to specified hours. Tongues wagged, and the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) closed it.

In addition to promoting seedy bars, stealing automobiles and doing business with drug traffickers, Estrada Cajigal finds time for personally piloting the helicopter which is owned by the state. He uses the helicopter for taking a spin - in the company of the Firulais Loyola - with ladies of easy virtue. "There goes the helicopter of love," the people of Morelos say, when they see their governor passing through the skies.

The Morelos government, as in the times of Porfirio Diaz, is going to great lengths to pleasure big businessmen. In the eastern part of the state, in the bean and sugarcane growing region of Tenextepango, Ahueheyo, Ocuitoco and Temoac, pressure is being put on ejiditarios to give way for the building of a highway which will perfectly facilitate the route to the maquilas of Guerrero. The plan is to expropriate their lands "based on public use," as stated in Article 27 of the Constitution, which was amended during the Salinas administration. If it happens, the campesinos say, "they'll have to give us a lifetime pension, as well as to our descendants, because they are never going to pay us what the land produces."

And so the problem which most frequently confronts the communities of the east, and other parts of Morelos, is the sale or expropriation of land. It is as if they were taking the first step for the deployment of the maquila industry and mega-projects. There are also tourism related projects, which are being used as pretexts for implementing land and water expropriations.

In addition to the external pressure on the campesinos to give up their land, there is a crisis going on in Morelos - a traditional provider of sugarcane - caused by the introduction of maize fructose in the soft drink and sweets industry (which is backed by the "secret clauses" of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows the massive entrance of that sweetener, to the detriment of national sugarcane production). The calculation is perverse: impoverished by the drop in sugarcane, the communities find themselves forced to sell their ejidal lands for the establishment of maquilas and vacation centers. But that is not everything: some communities which have been forced to sell their lands are now being denied payment (such as in Zacatepec).

Within the logic of big capital, food production is not a priority. The production of ornamental flowers makes more money. That is why more and more nurseries can be seen in Morelos. However, as in the times of the Porfirista haciendas, the people who work in them are being overexploited. They remain in the nursery for 12 hours per shift, or more, without additional pay. And the abuses are constant, since there is a large supply of labor because to the agricultural crisis and the lack of land.

The "coordination" of "efforts" between government and business is criminal. Government programs (Progresa and Procampo) provide, at the most, some 800 pesos monthly per family. That prepares the people to be satisfied with salaries of 350 pesos per week in the maquilas. This is taking place in the municipalities of Tecaje', Tenextepango, Ahuehueyo, Las Piedras, Temoac. Potla'n, Xalostoc, Tlayecac.

Does it seem as if I'm exaggerating when I note the similarities with the Porfirista period? Fine, let's take a look at the labor conditions at Invernadero Internacional, which is located two kilometers north of the Cuautla-Mexico highway, close to the Oacalco caseta. The owner is a gentleman of German origin. The main product it generates is ornamental plants for export to Canada and the United States, with an approximate value of five US dollars per plant. The majority of the workers are women, ranging in age from 15 to 50. It is an open secret that there are minors working there. They are all residents of nearby towns like El Gola'n, Santa Catarina, El Empalme, Las Vivianas, Oacakci and El Capuli'n, among the most important ones. Approximately 400 people are working there. The work day is from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Monday through Saturday, with a break on Sunday (that is, six days a week). They have 30 minutes to eat during their day. Depending on the size of the production they have to deliver, this schedule can be extended until 8:00 or 9:00 PM. An 11 to 14 hour work day! Additional hours are not paid in monetary terms, but in time, as break times. There is persistent irregularity, however, in the recording of the additional hours, because there is no checkout clock, resulting in additional work not being compensated fairly, let alone legally. There are also various irregularities regarding the payment of wages. On the one hand is the fact that the salary is 500 pesos per week (that is 90 pesos per day), but, on the other hand, there is information that one day's absence results in the docking of 120 pesos. In addition, if the worker arrives five minutes late, she is punished by being docked 25 pesos. And not just that: the entrance time clock has been set ahead five minutes, and a buzzer rings for the first time five minutes prior to the start time, and it is then rung for the second and last time, thus indicating that work has begun.

This means that workers have to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of work in order to be able to be fitted out with the necessary accessories. The equipment is not for the workers' protection, but so they will not "contaminate" the plants. When the plants are being fumigated, the workers do not even have a "mouth guard," let alone anti-gas masks.

Now come with me to Cuautla, to the Iztacci'huatl development. Sixteen maquilas are being allowed to operate here. Although some of them are operating as small family industries, they are, in reality, doing assembly work for the large companies. Each member of a family is subject to the rates of the maquilas there, that is, they are paid just like any other worker. It is said that these maquilas are clandestine because they are located within houses which have not been fitted out to operate as textile industries. Products are fabricated here which are exported to Japan and Canada, in addition to supplying Comercial Mexicana.

The wages? For adults in sewing, the wages range between 350 and 400 pesos weekly, in cutting they range from 250 to 300 pesos weekly, and in packing from 150 to 200 pesos per week. The children, for their part, who work in cutting lengths of elastic, removing threads from garments and arranging garments by type, receive a wage of 100 to 150 pesos weekly. All the workers, children, young people and adults, have a work day from 7:00 to 6:00 PM from Monday to Friday and from 7:00 to 2:00 PM on Saturdays. Within this schedule, they have 15 minutes for breakfast and an hour for lunch (there is no canteen, so they either bring their lunch or eat snacks). If the worker takes more time than is set for eating, she must make the time up at the end of the workday. Regarding payment of overtime, this ranges from 10 to 14 pesos. The actual pay, however, is determined by the boss, that is, if he wants to pay, he pays, if not, not.

Wages are held back one week, since they are not paid the first week. That is how they ensure their presence the following week. It has also been noted that they are not always paid for the full week, and are credited a part of their wages as loans.

On the other hand, they work holidays and are paid the same as normal days, which is not in accordance with the law. Workers are not provided with legal benefits, they are not enrolled in Social Security, there is no profit sharing or seasonal bonuses or vacations (the closest thing to the latter is that, when there is no work to assemble, they order them to take a break of one to two weeks, but with no right to wages). In cases of illness or work related accidents, they are not given any medical assistance, and, if they do not show up at work because of illness, they are docked for the day. There are also various irregularities regarding work responsibilities. For example, if a worker knows how to operate several different kinds of machinery, she is assigned to a machine according to the needs of the day's production, that is, she could be assigned to operating a simple machine as well as to one involving greater risk, without being recompensed with higher pay because of the risk involved in its operation. Aside from the work in their assigned areas, they must engage in other, unrelated activities, such as washing, sweeping, cleaning, etcetera, since they do not have cleaning staff.

These are the working conditions in the "modernized" state of Morelos. And the Secretary of Labor, Abascal? Dispensing blessings.

But, also as in the times of Don Porfirio, the people of Morelos are rebelling. The struggle of the people of Tepoztla'n against the construction of a golf club (there is now a similar project for Anenecuilco), and the one in Tetelcingo against the establishment of an airport, are some examples.

The confrontation between the PAN government and the campesino and urban people of Morelos is growing. In the Confitalia textile industry, there was a massive struggle by its union (mostly made up of women). The response was layoffs and threats. Workers at Children's Hospital found the same thing.

There is the struggle of the ejiditario campesinos of the towns of Popotla'n, Huazulco and Amilcingo, which belong to the municipality of Temoac, in the eastern part of Morelos. This has been over the implementation of an agreement between the governments of Morelos and Puebla concerning the demarcation of boundary lines. Despite the official agreement, a decree was issued through which the lands of these three towns were to become part of San Marcos, a municipality in the state of Puebla. In the case of Popotla'n this division involved the dividing of Popotla'n Viejo. On the other hand, the same towns have fought for the cancellation of the highway project called Millennium, which was to be built over the expropriation of part of their lands, since the highway is to pass through their ejidos.

The problem with the highway has been going on for approximately six years now. Prior to that, the project supposedly passed through other ejidal lands. The affected towns, among them Tenextepango and Popotla'n, formed an organization called the Emiliano Zapata United Ejidos of Eastern Morelos (EUOMEZ). The campesinos removed the markers which engineers had put in place to indicate the points at which the highway was to pass through their lands. They managed to legally bring a halt to the project, but then the project's location was changed, and, still affecting Popotla'n, the stretch of highway was cut across the ejidal lands of Huazulco and Amilcingo. One problem, that of the highway, was at odds with another, the one concerning the demarcations.

The Emiliano Zapata Women's Rural Teachers School is in Amilcingo, which is quite combative. Huazulco is attempting to unite internally. The ejidal assembly of Popotla'n has opted out of the political parties. In addition, a campesino by the name of Don Lorenzo, a former independent municipal president from Temoac, has much influence in the ejidal commission in Popotla'n and in the three towns. Don Lorenzo, perhaps remembering the teachings of Emiliano Zapata, has always stayed with the ejiditarios and residents of Popotla'n. He has never belonged to any political party, and he has participated in the struggles of the ejidal assembly to defend its lands. And, like Zapata, he is a man who is respected, and his word is listened to. And so the cloud makes herself stone once again and listens attentively:

The problem with these lands began earlier, in the 1940s, relates Don Lorenzo, and there had already been confrontations between both towns during other time periods. It was revived because of the signing of an agreement, which was achieved thanks to the insistence of the people from Popotla'n and some people from Amilcingo. San Marcos (Puebla), according to its entitlement papers, has around 3000 hectares, without counting the ones in Popotla'n Viejo (which are the ones in dispute). Popotla'n has only a little more than 500. And there are people who do not have anyplace to plant and to work.

The problem in Popotla'n is that the former commissioner of Popotla'n, Francisco Arago'n, supposedly signed the land transfer in favor of San Bartolo and San Marcos, in Puebla, and now he is the PRD candidate for municipal president of Temoac. This time, the position belongs to Popotla'n (the presidency is rotated among four towns: Amilcingo, Huazulco, Popotla'n and Temoac. The current president is from Temoac, and, according to this agreement, this time it is Popotlan's turn. Elections are held based on this rotating structure).

The campesinos of Tenextepango are supporting those from Popotla'n, and they were of fundamental importance in stopping the building of the stretch of highway.

After listening to and learning from Don Lorenzo, the stone goes to Amatla'n de Quetzalco'atl, in order to learn from Don Aurelio about the history of his town in defense of the land, the water and communal resources.

Further ahead is Ocotepec. There, the Soriana store expropriated land from the community in order to build a commercial center. The mobilization by the people and support from honest lawyers (which still do exist) allowed the construction to be stopped, and it is now in litigation. Despite having everyone against them (officials, the media and judges), the residents of Ocotepec held firm.

The case of Ocotepec, along with others, is part of Governor Estrada Cajigal's strategy for seizing communal lands. The governor recently changed the land usage in all of Cuernavaca, so that anything could be built (that is, good business for the builders of commercial centers and suchlike).

Now the stone goes to the Ahuehuetitla development, in Cuernavaca. The women, organized as part of the Ecclesiastical Base Communities (CEB), were recently faced with the problem of an invasion: a person from outside the town tried to divide the comuneros, and a minority was organized in order to invade lands, without the agreement of the town assembly. One part of the lands they wanted to take are communal, and another part are private property, transferred and agreed to by the assembly. The communal property commissioner warned these persons that the town would not support the invasion, but they managed to take it anyway. Then the municipal police came in, expelled and detained several persons, among them the person who had led the invasion. The comuneros view this as an attempt by the state government to divide the town in response to the problem of land concession to the Soriana store, which the town has rejected, and which has been suspended and is in dispute.

Just a moment! Did you say Ecclesiastical Base Communities? Didn't they disappear when Don Sergio Me'ndez Arceo died? Well, no, they didn't disappear. Despite the attacks made against them by the ecclesiastical hierarchy which succeeded Me'ndez Arceo, the CEB are resisting and continuing their work, committed to the people. Like in the Santa Mari'a neighborhood, in north Cuernavaca. Or the Lomas de Corte's neighborhood and, close by, an irregular neighborhood of displaced persons who are living along the train tracks. The neighborhood is called Ahuehuetitla, and many of the children from there are working the streets, stealing, and almost all of them are doing drugs and are involved in drug distribution. Family violence is extremely high: abuse, rapes, suicides. An NGO called Caminando Unidos is working with them, and it has a little arts and crafts school whose goal is to salvage childhood.

Now the stone goes to the Ahuehuetes part of the town of Santa Maria. The town is geographically divided into two parts, east and west of the federal highway to Mexico. The Ahuehuetes sector is in the western part of the town, in northern Cuernavaca. Here, as in many parts of rebel Mexico, there are many women fighters. In Ahuehuetes, Ocotitla, Emau's, Monasterio and El Sector the women are organizing in order to resolve those problems which the government neglects. The people from Ahuehuetes have a problem with electricity. They have been fighting for more than ten years against the Light and Power Company, which is demanding up to 10,000 pesos per pole, and another additional charge for installation in each house. The women are quite opposed to this, and they are trying to organize, even without the support of their husbands, who tell them: "If you fight with the government, then afterwards you aren't going to have a school for your children."

In the Ocotitla sector, the Japanese Watanabe are lords and masters. They are the owners of photo labs in Cuernavaca. These neo-caciques bought up much of the land in the Ocotitla sector through irregular means, and today they are demanding that the residents leave "their lands."

Some years ago the residents won a fight against the Del Prado hotel, a gray monstrosity with its back to them and which stands in marked contrast to the houses made of sticks and cardboard, and to the irregular buildings of the residents of Ahuehuetes, buried into the highest part of the ca~ada which flanks the west of Cuernavaca. This is where the Casas Geo were built when the current governor, Sergio Estrada Cajigal, was municipal president here. The comuneros sold their lands at low prices, and they were relocated in predios which were supposedly going to be provided with services. But the services never came. The municipal president at that time also displaced residents of the adjoining slope, in order to create a highway bridge which joined the west with Cuernavaca's center, so that the buyers of Casas Geo would have an access road and so the homes would sell more quickly. The owners of Del Prado hotel protested about the "bad view" that Ahuehuetes was providing its! clients, and so they asked for them to be dislocated. The residents organized in order to resist, and the hotel had to close the rooms which faced the ca~ada.

Neoliberal exploitation is not only about lands, it is also about history and about culture. But it, fortunately, encounters resistances there as well.

The project to turn the Casino of the Selva into a commercial center is being opposed by the Civic Front for the Defense of the Casino of the Selva. Formed, among other organizations, by La Neta Collective, the Guardian of the Trees, SERPAJ-Morelos and the Citizens Council of Artists and Intellectuals in Defense of Culture of the State of Morelos, the Civil Front has confronted Governor Estrada Cajigal's stubbornness with firmness, even in spite of repression.

Members of the Front for the Casino of the Selva were violently attacked by government forces in the month of August of 2002. The results: prisoners and persons beaten. Did they surrender? No. Morelos civil society organized then, and they held one of the largest protest marches in recent Morelos history.

Further along, on the calendar, the most recent thing they did was that six of them went into the Green Room in the Chamber of Deputies and disrobed in protest. In addition, they are maintaining a sit-in/fast at the doors of the state government palace.

But the rebel spirit of Emiliano Zapata is not only present in Morelos campesinos, indigenous, workers, CEB and intellectuals.

It also lights the path of young people.

There, for example, the CLAT (Liberation Anti-Everything Collective) Anarchist Punk Collective. Some young people form part of the RIVAL punk network (Information Network of Autonomous Liberation Voices) and the Anarchism Punk State Coordinating Group. The young punks' project is linked with community work in popular neighborhoods. Despite their being constantly harassed by the police, these young people have bound together with other struggles, without ceasing to be what they have chosen to be. Perhaps because they well understand that tomorrow will be built with many rebellions.

The cloud believes that my General Zapata would be pleased to see the rebellion which, despite everything, is resisting and flourishing in Morelos. That is why the stone smiles when he places a blue cloud, in the form of a flower, on the tomb of the chief of the Liberation Army of the South and Supreme Commander of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

And, inspired by the memory of Emiliano Zapata, stone and cloud set out on their rebel way towards Milpa Alta, indigenous and dignified land on the edge of the earth which grows upward, Mexico City.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, January of 2003.

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN 
Translated by irlandesa 

To the Chiapas and the Zapatista rebellion page