On January 1, 1994, the concept of Zapatismo arrived when a resistance group took up arms and seized several towns in Chiapas, Mexico. The group primarily consisted of a band of separate and mixed Indigenous tribes with their own customs including Ch’ol, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolobal, Mam, and Zoque. The event made headlines worldwide and sparked a movement for Indigenous rights, autonomy, and social change.
The Zapatista Revolution’s uprising, which occurred on the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, was a revolutionary movement led by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. Zapatistas, as they are commonly known, emerged from decades of organizing among Indigenous peoples to address the systemic issues of poverty, discrimination, and lack of representation faced by Indigenous communities in Mexico. They demanded that the government recognize their rights to land, autonomy, and self-determination and called for a new political and economic system that would benefit all Mexicans, not just the wealthy elite.
The Zapatistas' uprising was a call to action for marginalized communities worldwide and continues to inspire movements for Indigenous rights and social change. Though their initial spark in 1994 came with physical conflict with the Mexican military, the Zapatistas have since focused their efforts on building autonomous communities that are centered around their Indigenous traditions while seeking to create what they refer to as “‘Un Mundo Donde Quepan Muchos Mundos’ (‘A World Where Many Worlds Fit’) by emphasizing the dignity of ‘others,’ belonging, and common struggle, as well as the importance of laughter, dancing, and nourishing children.”
There is much to learn from the Zapatista Revolution and movement, like the demand for equity and belonging and the honoring of all that is ancestral. Let’s take a closer look at the seven Zapatista principles and how they can be incorporated to make a more equitable and suitable world for everyone.