night, too.rnSan Cristobal is a beautiful little town,rnbut it’s filled with refugees. Thousandsrnof impoverished Indian people from therncountrsidc begging, or trying to sell littlernplastic trinkets. Several of} our fellowrnpassengers say it just wasn’t this way arnfew ears ago—before the Zapatistasrnstirred things up. All these people livedrntheir traditional lives in their traditionalrnvillages. But that is oer now, thanks tornthe Zapatistas.rnZapatistas! blow appropriately named.rnAfter the 1910 Mexican Revolution, thernimpatient Emiliano Zapata rebelledrnagainst the revolutioir, thereby throwingrnMexico into a decade of chaos. And thernthiexcs who robbed ou—were they Zapatistas?rnPerhaps. Perhaps not. But therngeneral climate of lawlessness that permittedrnthem to pull such a stunt is thernZapatistas’ gift to this region.rnI Ieav- rains begin to fall, adding to therndepression ou already feel. Refugeesrnhuddle in doorways or beneath plasticrngarbage bags thev have taken from trashrnbins. You haye a ‘er late breakfast in arnsmall comedor where, in the space of arnhalf-hour, vou are bothered 50 or morerntimes by beggars. This is too much. Yournwalk back to the bus station and purchaserna ticket on the night bus to Chetumal,rna citv on the Mexico/Belize border.rnThe bus leaves San Cristobal at 5:30rnP.M. and arrives in Chetumal at 6:00 A.M.rnYou don’t watcli tlic ideo movies. Yourndon’t read. You don’t write in your journal.rnYou don’t sleep. You don’t evenrnM)rr- about another bus robbery. Yournjust think. What a lovely country yournjust passed through. What friendly andrngood people ‘ou met. Industrious andrnhonest. Everwhere they were talkative,rnhelpful, and patient. So undeserving of arncorrupt goxernment. And a “liberationrnarm ” intent on liberating them fromrntheir right to live in peace.rnYou cross the bridge into Belize. It’srnsteann hot. But you’x e been here before.rnThe speak English, and their moneyrncomes in dollar denominations—completernwith a picture of Queen Elizabethrnon each bill. So you feel safe, as if you arcrnin some long-forgotten tropical provincernof Canada. You climb onto a BelizernCity-bound bus, take a seat, and leavernthat enigma called Mexico behind. Yournfeci both relief and regret, ^bu do notrnlook back.rnKay Lowry teaches at a primary achoolrnon the island ofRoatan in Honduras.rnLetter FromrnChiapasrnbv Gonzalo Castillo-CardenasrnLow Intensity ConflictrnThe motto “Justice and Dignity” appearsrnin almost every letter and comunicado ofrnthe Zapatista Army of National Liberationrn(EZLN). The two concepts lay atrnthe heart of the peasants’ uprising inrnChiapas.rnThe Mexican State of Chiapas has 3.4rnmillion people, 35 percent of whom arcrnIndians speaking 18 different languages.rnThe land is blessed bv great naturalrnwealth. Thirty percent of all the territorialrnwater of Mexico runs through here,rngenerating 5 5 percent of all hydroelectricrnenergy used by the nation. PEMEX, thernfederal agency that controls Mexicanrnpetroleum, drills 92,000 barrels ofrnpetroleum from here each day, and 516rnbillion cubic feet of natural gas everyrnyear. However, only 57 percent of thernpeople of Chiapas enjov running water,rnand over 30 percent of living quartersrnlack electricity. Half of the territory ofrnChiapas is forests, including the famousrn”Selva Laeandona,” one of the mostrnvaluable biological reserves in the worldrnbecause of its precious woods and biologicalrndiversity. However, in the last threerndecades, 30 percent of its trees have beenrnlost to the logging industry or to domesticrnuse, at a faster rh thm of deforestationrnthan in the Amazon basin.rnAlthough Chiapas occupies the firstrnplace in the nation in coffee production,rnthe second in cattle raising, and the thirdrnin corn, its population ranks close to therntop in malnutrition, hunger, and disease.rnIlliteracy in Chiapas is three times thernnational average for people over 15 yearsrnof age, of whom only l.l2 percent finishrnhigh school. Thus, in the midst of immensernwealth, most of the population isrnthe ‘ictim of artificial povert-, socialrnmarginality, and political oppression.rnEor the Mexican upper class, especiallyrnthose who promote NAFTA and takernpride in calling themselves part of thern”First World,” this image is embarrassing,rnif not contrary to reality, which theyrnconsider hrmly established in the urban,rnindustrial, and modern worid. But for 80rnpercent of the Mexican population, thernheay-laden women and children of thernMexican countryside reveal the mostrncharacteristic feature of reality, not onlyrnthe Indian’s, but also their own. ThernMexican poor, the unemployed, thernworking poor, the small bureaucrat, seernthemselves like the Indian carrying thernhea’y loads of “progress,” thus pavingrnthe tribute that continues to be exactedrnfrom the Mexican economy b’ the conquistadorsrnof today. “Take a mirror andrnsee vourselvcs,” writes SubcommanderrnMarcos, the visible head of the rebellion.rnThe conditions of injustice and indignityrnthat prcN’ail in Chiapas help explainrnthe people’s uprising that began on Januarrn1, 1994. Despite its limited militaryrnstrength, the uprising precipitated a “crisis”rnthat had been brewing for a longrntime and which could no longer be ignored.rnThere are three aspects to thernconflict.rnThe first involves consciousness-raisingrnamong the Indians. Economic andrnsociological factors have contributed tornthis, as significant numbers have beenrnforced to become seasonal workers inrnneighboring coffee and sugar plantations,rnthus enlarging their understandingrnof the economic connections behindrntheir suffering and enabling them to establishrnlinks with plantation laborers andrnurban poor, both mestizo and ladino, andrnwith their leaders. But even more importantrnhas been the role of religion. Therncampaign of Archbishop Mendez Arceornof Cuernavaca in the early 1960’s tornmake the Bible accessible to the commonrnpeople, the influence of the SecondrnVatican Council and of liberation theologyrnwith its “option for the poor,” to thernpresent identification of the dioceses ofrnChiapas and of its bishop Samuel Ruizrnwith the defense of human rights—allrnhave affected how the indigenous peoplernview their socioeconomic condition.rnBishop Ruiz is recognized nationally andrninternationally as a champion of humanrnrights, and through his leadership as Directorrnof the Center of Human Rights,rn”Erav Bartotome de las Casas,” and asrnpresident of the National NegotiatingrnCommission, the bishop has become arnstrong force.rnSecondly, the number of Indian andrnpeasant organizations has increased considerablyrnsince the 1970’s. The first IndianrnCongress, convened in 1974 by BishoprnRuiz, became the seedbed of severalrnorganizations, having as a common denominatorrnthe Indian social base and thernFEBRUARY 1996/43rnrnrn