The Maya Are Alive – and Have Made Some Wise Recent Predictions
The Zapatistas foresaw the long-term dangers of globalization. So much for the idea that the Maya are a ‘thing of the past’
When the Maya indigenous peoples of southeast Mexico launched a revolution in 1994, they most certainly did not have in mind the “end of the world.” If there was, in the Zapatista imagination, a date evoking a doomsday, it would have to be January 1, 1994, the date of the inauguration of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
To the Zapatistas, the enactment of economic globalization was nothing short of a “death sentence,” because they understood it could have lethal implications for the land and ancient traditions of the Mayas. On that cool winter’s day, armed with sticks, stones and very little ammunition, the Maya rebels of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) heralded a new era. But new did not mean better: the uprising did not result in the Mexican constitution fully recognizing the indigenous peoples as subjects with juridical status.
Indeed, the long-term repercussions of both economic globalization and the Maya uprising itself, were clearly foreseen by the Zapatistas, who predicted, not an end of the world, but the collapse of the western capitalist economy. Furthermore, Zapatista predictions had a certain sense of “prophecy” – with all the connotations that word has: in the sense of teaching and the sense of foretelling or anticipating. When the EZLN had stated in the first Lacandona declaration that the era of party politics was over, it was not only prophesying alternative ways of making politics – invoking direct democracy (based, incidentally, on ancient Maya traditions, and different from representative democracy), but it was, in fact, anticipating the collapse of some political institutions of western modernity.
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Image Credit: Radio Pozol