In the summer of 1996, two and a half years after the Zapatista armed uprising, Subcomandante Marcos, on behalf of the EZLN welcomed to the Lacandon selva four thousand non-Mexicans, from forty-two different countries, clad not in ski masks but perhaps in the hippie clothing of their parents, retrieved from a quarter century's storage in attic trunks. Along with them came the widow of French President Mitterand, half a dozen world-class writers and intellectuals, and caravans from Pastors For Peace. Invitations were out to Garcia Marquez and Oliver Stone, to attend an upcoming discussion grandly called Encuentro Inter-Continental por la Humanidad y Contra el Neoliberalismo: an intercontinental meeting on behalf of humanity and against the policies of neoliberalism.
Marcos knew from the beginning. He waged the first internet war, summoning protection by foreigners, who must not witness government massacres and brutality. Mexico consists of thirty-one states, plus Mexico City. Most Americans scarcely know what occurs south of our border. Some like my friend Frank came upon the scene in Chiapas, Mexico by accident. Those who responded to invitations to assist the Zapatistas in their first years of struggle perhaps knew more, many did not. Some like Emily went for personal escape from impoverished lives. Some of us like Billy went for reasons which in antique times might have been called "a quest". Some like Martin undertook an exalted version of quest. Like Martin, few of us knew what we sought, nor where it might be found. We knew anger, on behalf of those whose lives bordered starvation and extinction; rebellion provided them the only answer.
This narrative investigates personal discoveries of Americans who were not repressed, assassinated, imprisoned, penniless, or starving. They were ordinary middle-class people, like you, like me, who went to learn what compels us to attack our governments, compels us to shout Ya Basta, compels us to seek that which we have yet to name.
Since 1994 the Zapatistas established their own local good government, their own food supplies, their own education. They survive as an alternative, another way to live and govern. As neoliberalism crumbles around us, the Zapatistas grow stronger. Those of us who witnessed their initial years of struggle were privileged indeed.