A Place Called Chiapas

In 1993 the Mexican government signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); implications from this agreement were that it would send Mexico into the status of a 'First-world country'.

Since that time there has been an unsettled peace in Chiapas, Mexico.

The Maya, a large indigenous population who live in and around the state of Chiapas say, "Basta! (Enough!), we will take ourselves underground and wait to rise up, like corn," in response to NAFTA's unfair replications. In traditional lore, The Maya consider themselves to be 'the people born from maize (corn)'.

The indigenous soldiers moved out of the jungle in 1994 to begin their insurrection. The people of Mexico woke to news of an army of indigenous men with AK-47s and some with sticks. The EZLN seized six hundred and fifty ranches and after controlled one quarter of the state of Chiapas. The spokesperson for the Zapatistas spoke in Spanish on behalf of the indigenous leaders of the Zapatista movement. Subcommander Marcos' statement to the Mexican media [look at Mexican Radio] was: 'Today there were attacks on four municipalities in Chiapas. This is an insurrection led by our organization The Zapatista National Liberation Army'. The leaders are mostly indigenous, the Mexican army counter-attacked. However the Zapatistas' demands appeared on the internet claiming that they wanted "control over their lives and land". Eventually a ceasefire was declared. After this however Zapatista villages were surrounded by the Mexican Armies looking for rebel commanders in Realidad- driving army trucks and tanks through villages twice a week and as frequent as twice a day.

The NAFTA did not turn out as Mexico's ruling party had planned. NAFTA resulted in import of very inexpensive American corn and as a result the peso plummeted and the biggest economic bailout was set in motion. Fifty billion dollars in loans was sent to Mexico by President Bill Clinton. The CHASE Manhattan bank sent the Mexican government a memo advising them to 'get rid of the Zapatistas'. With this bailout blurring the lines of power the Zapatistas say "they have no idea who they are negotiating with".

'The Encuentro' was another mode of resistance and support for the Zapatistas. This was a meeting Wild considers "a post-Glasnost revolutionary woodstock, without the acid". Three thousand people attended, and were described as Spanish and Italian communists, assorted Latin American revolutionaries, indigenous from all over Chiapas, and a caped wrestler called Super Barrio. This international meeting was against Neoliberalism and for all of humanity. The Encuentro reveals how important civilian support is to the Zapatista movement, whose goals suffice the civilians of the world.

The Encuentro also entails a dance in which Zapatistas dance with the guests, a dance which is performed "on the edge of romantic ideals and harsh politics, between those who can leave Mexico and those who cannot. There are, however, many people who support the Zapatistas, but could not reach the Encuentro of 1996.

Nettie Wild states, "A month before the Encuentro I encountered a group of people the revolution almost forgot. I followed dark rumours of fear and violence to the north of Chiapas. [Jomajl] Here villages are deeply divided between Zapatista supporters and villagers who work directly with the ruling party and profit from it". She claims that the paramilitary groups have been formed, and ironically named "Peace and Justice" whom work within and sometimes outside of the group too. "Anyone who opposes them they call Zapatistas". Two thousand sympathizers in the north of Chiapas are forced to leave their homes making them refugees in their own country. Nettie Wild questions, "if they go home can or will the Zapatistas help them?" and comments, "my camera is framing the gap between rhetoric and reality". Nettie Wild a month later watches, with three thousand others, as Subcommadante Marcos appears riding on his horse with a pole with a tiny red flag, "reminiscent of the hapless Don Quixote- the fictional Spanish knight who fights for impossible dreams and can't distinguish reality from what's inside his head".

Nettie Wild during a press session asks what the Zapatistas have in store for the supporters in the north and he responds offensively, but later in the documentary ceases to have Peace Talks with the Mexican government until the refugees in the north are served real peace and justice.

This documentary reveals the startling reality of what is like to live in Chiapas relatively today. The nature of the movement is left to the viewer to interpret.