On January 1, 2019, the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico celebrated the 25th anniversary of the start of their uprising in 1994. Normally, these yearly celebrations are festive activities marked by speeches and dances commemorating the historic moment the Zapatistas said “Enough!” (¡Ya basta!) to five centuries of colonial rule that left Indigenous communities devastated; to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s decades of “perfect dictatorship”; and to the neoliberal policies that brought about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
This year, the anniversary was anything but a happy event. Subcomandante Moisés stated it clearly: “Our hour as Zapatista peoples has come, and we see that we are alone. I want to tell you clearly that this is what we see, compañeros and compañeras of the support bases, compañeros and compañeras of the militias: we are alone, just as we were 25 years ago.”
But even more so than the words spoken by the Subcomandante, it was the rare display of military strength by the EZLN, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, that clearly set the tone for this year’s celebration. To the powerful clamor of their canes striking in rhythm with their steps, thousands of EZLN militia marched into the central square of the caracol of The Mother of Caracoles — Sea of Dreams, formerly known as La Realidad.