May 6, 2021
De parte de EZLN
218 puntos de vista


Yesterday: Theory and Practice




From the notebook of the Cat-Dog:

Yesterday: Theory and Practice

The scene: an assembly in a village of the mountains of Southeastern Mexico. It must be around July or August, likely of last year as coronavirus was taking over the planet. You can tell it鈥檚 not just any meeting, not only because of the madness that brought the assembly together, but because of the marked distance between seats and the way the fog on people鈥檚 face shields clouds the color of their face masks.

The EZLN鈥檚 political-organizational leadership is there, as are a few military leaders, although they are silent unless asked to speak on a particular topic.

There are many more people present than one might imagine. Among them they speak at least six different Mayan originary languages, but communicate with each other in Spanish, or 鈥castilla鈥 as we call it around here, as an intermediary language.

Many of those present are 鈥渧eterans鈥 who were part of the January 1, 1994 armed uprising and who came down from the mountains and into the cities as just one of many compa帽eras and compa帽eros. There are also 鈥渘ew鈥 people, men and women who have become part of the Zapatista leadership after an extensive learning process. The majority of the new ones are women, of all ages and of various languages.

The assembly itself resembles those carried out in the Zapatista communities in its format, pace, and structure. There is a coordinator for the meeting who is responsible for indicating the previously agreed upon topics to be discussed and for giving each speaker the floor. There are no time limits on each person鈥檚 contribution, so time acquires a rhythm of its own.

Right now someone is telling a story or a history or a legend. No one is concerned with whether it is reality or fiction, but rather with the message the tale conveys.

It goes like this:

A Zapatista man is walking through a village. He鈥檚 dressed in his best finery and a new hat because, he says, he鈥檚 on his way to look for his girlfriend. The person telling the story imitates the gait and gestures he saw in one of the films shown during the first 鈥淧uy Ta Cuxlejaltic鈥 Film Festival. The assembly laughs when he imitates the voice of Cochiloco (played by Joaqu铆n Cos铆o in 鈥El Infierno,鈥 directed by Luis Estrada, 2010), taking off his hat to greet an imaginary woman who passes by with her imaginary mule carrying imaginary firewood. The narrator mixes Spanish with one of the Mayan languages and, without interrupting the story, those in the assembly translate for each other.

The narrator reminds them that it is the time of the fresh corn harvest, and the assembly nods in agreement. He continues:

The man in the hat runs into an acquaintance and they greet each other. 鈥Look at you,鈥 the acquaintance says, 鈥I almost didn鈥檛 recognize you looking all gentlemanly and with that hat.鈥

I鈥檓 on my way to look for my girlfriend, 鈥渢he man in the hat responds.

What鈥檚 your girlfriend鈥檚 name and where does she live?鈥 asks the acquaintance.

Well, I don鈥檛 know,鈥 the man in the hat answers.

What do you mean you don鈥檛 know?鈥

The man in the hat explains, 鈥That鈥檚 what I meant when I said I鈥檓 going to look for her, once I鈥檝e found her then I鈥檒l know her name and where she lives.鈥

 The acquaintance pauses to consider that profound logic and nods in understanding.

What about you, what are you doing?鈥 the man in the hat asks in turn. The acquaintance responds, 鈥I鈥檓 planting corn seeds because I want some fresh sweet corn.鈥 The man in the hat is silent for a bit, watching how the acquaintance makes holes in the gravel road with the handle of a broom. Then he speaks up, 鈥Hey compadre, with all due respect, you鈥檙e a total idiot.鈥 The acquaintance retorts, 鈥What, why? I鈥檓 determined to have sweet corn and I鈥檓 giving it my best effort.鈥

The man in the hat sits down and lights a cigarette, passes it to his acquaintance and lights another for himself. Neither of them seem to be in a hurry, neither the man in the hat to get on his way to find his girlfriend nor the acquaintance to eat his corn. The afternoon stretches into the evening and the night starts to eat away at the light. It鈥檚 not raining yet but the sky begins to cloak itself in gray clouds and the moon creeps up behind the trees. After a long silence the man in the hat explains:

Look compadre, I鈥檒l try to explain. First of all, there鈥檚 the terrain. Corn is not going to grow in this gravel. It鈥檚 going to die under so much foot traffic and the roots have nowhere to take hold. There鈥檚 no doubt about it, the seed is going to die for sure. And then there鈥檚 broom handle you鈥檙e using as a hoe: a broom is a broom and a hoe is a hoe, that鈥檚 why your broom is all broken and patched together.鈥 He takes the hoe and examines the repairs the other man has made with tape and rope. 鈥Look compadre, you鈥檝e really screwed up, if I did this to my wife鈥檚 broom she鈥檇 send me to the doghouse straight away.鈥

He goes on, 鈥You see compadre, the cornfield can鈥檛 be in just any old place, with just any old tools. It has a time and a place. This isn鈥檛 even the time to plant corn, this is the time of harvest. And in order to be able to harvest, you have to have worked hard in the cornfield. But the field doesn鈥檛 respond to commands like 鈥業鈥檓 home woman, bring me my tortillas and my pozol,鈥 like you always yell at your wife. Well, that is until she started meeting with the 鈥渨omen that we are鈥 collective and boom, no more yelling from you. But that鈥檚 on you. What I鈥檓 trying to tell you now is that you can鈥檛 give the earth orders; you have to talk to it, explain to it, honor it, and encourage it with stories. And the earth won鈥檛 listen just anytime, you have to know its calendar. You have to know how to count the days and nights properly, to look at the earth and the sky to know exactly when to plant the seed.鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 your problem, compadre. You haven鈥檛 done any of that. You think just because you鈥檙e determined to get what you want your efforts will yield fruit. But what you need is knowledge. It鈥檚 not just a hard work and determination that gets you results; you have to choose the right terrain, the right tools, and the right time for each part of the work. That is, you need theory and practice based in knowledge, not in this nonsense you鈥檙e doing, which you really should be embarrassed about because everybody is watching and laughing.鈥

鈥淭hat鈥檚 the thing though, they鈥檙e dumb for laughing too, because they don鈥檛 realize the foolishness you鈥檙e up to is going to affect them too.  These holes you鈥檙e making are going to become puddles when it rains which will then turn into ditches across the road as deep as the wrinkles on your grandmother鈥檚 face (your grandmother, mine is already in heaven). Then the Good Government Council鈥檚 truck isn鈥檛 going to be able to get in because it鈥檚 going to get stuck, along with all the materials and goods it鈥檚 carrying, and they鈥檒l have to carry everything on their backs, and ruin their boots and pants in the big mess of mud puddles鈥攅ven worse if they鈥檙e dressed up like I am right now, and nobody will ever find a girlfriend like that. It鈥檒l be even worse with the compa帽eras, compadre, because they don鈥檛 mess around. They鈥檙e going to pass right by you with a mule carrying their things and say, 鈥榃ould you look at that, there are people dumber and more stubborn than my mule.鈥 And they鈥檒l even clarify for you, 鈥楤y the way, sir, when I say 鈥測ou dumb mule,鈥 don鈥檛 be offended, I really am talking to the animal.鈥

The acquaintance is taken aback: 鈥Now wait a minute compadre, since when do we get along this badly?鈥 

The man in the hat responds, 鈥淣o, that鈥檚 not it. Take what I鈥檓 saying as advice, as orientation, not as an order. Like the late Sup used to say, 鈥榡ust do it the way I tell you, because if you don鈥檛, then when it turns out badly I鈥檓 going to say 鈥淚 hate to say I told you so but I told you so.鈥濃 So take seriously what I鈥檓 telling you, compadre.鈥

So this terrain won鈥檛 work?鈥 the acquaintance asks, 鈥Nor will my hoe? And it鈥檚 not even the right time to plant?鈥

No, no, and no,鈥 the man with the hat replies.

鈥淪o when is the right time?鈥

鈥淥h, it鈥檚 over for this season,鈥 the man with the hat replies. 鈥You鈥檙e going to have to wait for the next go, April, May, around there. And to make sure you get rain, on May 3 you need to offer the earth bread, a drink for the heat, maybe a hand-rolled cigarette, candles, and some people also offer the earth fruit and vegetables and even chicken soup. The late Sup would say, anything but squash soup, that if you give the earth squash soup it鈥檒l get mad and yield only snakes. But I think he was lying, he just didn鈥檛 like squash.鈥

鈥淲hen exactly is the right time?鈥

Hmm, well let鈥檚 see, we鈥檙e in October now, so about 6 months from now. In April or May, it depends.鈥

Shit,鈥 the acquaintance says, 鈥So what do I do if I want sweet corn right now?鈥  He thinks a minute and then lights up, 鈥I know, I鈥檓 going to ask the autonomous authorities to lend me some corn.鈥

The man with the hat: 鈥And how are you going to repay the authorities?鈥

The acquaintance: 鈥Well, I鈥檒l ask the Good Government Council to lend me the corn to give to the autonomous authorities. And then I鈥檒l borrow some corn from the Tercios Compas media team to give back to the Council, and then to pay the Tercios I鈥檒l ask the autonomous authorities for some more corn, and in the end everyone will see that I pay my debts.鈥

The man with that hat scratched his head, 鈥Shit, compadre, it鈥檚 like in that Vargas movie, you鈥檙e really turning out to be slyer than I thought.[i] If you鈥檙e thinking like the bad governments, you might as well be a legislator or a senator or a governor or one of those assholes.鈥

鈥淲hat happened, compadre? I鈥檓 all about resistance and rebellion. I鈥檝e just gotta see how to make it happen.鈥

The man with the hat: 鈥All right then, I鈥檝e got to get going or I won鈥檛 find my girlfriend. See you later compadre.鈥

God bless,鈥 the acquaintance replies, 鈥and if you find your girlfriend, ask if her family has some corn they鈥檇 lend me, I鈥檒l pay 鈥榚m back later.鈥

The story-teller stopped and looked at the assembly: 鈥So, which is better? Should we lend the compadre some corn or do we let him do theory and practice with knowledge?鈥


The assembly took a break for pozol. SupGaleano, just to be stubborn, said to Subcomandante Mois茅s on the way out: 鈥That鈥檚 why I only eat popcorn,鈥 and went off to his hut. Subcomandante Mois茅s retorted, 鈥What about the hot sauce?鈥 SupGaleano didn鈥檛 answer but veered off in another direction. 鈥Now where you going?鈥 SubMoy asks him. SupGaleano yells back, 鈥I鈥檓 gonna borrow some hot sauce from the insurgentas鈥 store.鈥

I give my word.

The Cat-Dog, currently a stowaway on La Monta帽a

(Well, we didn鈥檛 have enough money for everybody and plus, there鈥檚 a sign on the entrance of La Monta帽a that says 鈥淣o cats, dogs, or schizophrenic beetles鈥).

Mexico still, April 2021.

[i]      In Luis鈥 Estrada鈥檚 film La Ley De Herodes, 鈥淗erod鈥檚 Law鈥, another character says of protagonist Juan Vargas, 隆Ahora s铆 me saliste m谩s cabr贸n que bonito!: You鈥檙e turning out to be slyer than I thought, you rascal!

El Mariachi Renacimiento del Caracol de Roberto Barrios.

Jovena base zapatista despide a la delegaci贸n mar铆tima zapatista.

M煤sica: Santiago Feli煤, interpretando 芦Cr茅eme禄 de Vicente Feli煤.


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