Maestro Zapatista Galeano: Notes on a Life.
May 2nd, 2015.
Compañeros and compañeras of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation:
Compañeroas, compañeras, and compañeros of the Sixth Declaration:
People who are visiting us:
It is now my task to talk about compañero Maestro Zapatista Galeano.
Talk about him so that he lives in the word. Talk to you so that perhaps in this way you will understand our rage.
And we say “Maestro Zapatista Galeano” because that was the job or position or work which the compañero had when he was murdered.
For us Zapatistas, compañero Maestro Galeano synthesizes an entire anonymous generation in Zapatismo. Anonymous to the outside world, but a fundamental protagonist in the uprising and in these more than 20 years of rebellion and resistance.
The generation which, being young, was in the so-called social organizations and saw the corruption and falseness which nourished their leaders, prepared in secrecy, rose up in arms against the supreme government, resisted betrayals and persecutions with us, and oriented the resistance of the generation which today takes on responsibilities in the indigenous communities.
Violent, absurd, ruthless, cruel, unjust death reached him with the position of teacher.
A little later it would have reached him as an autonomous authority.
Sometime before it would have fallen upon him as an orienter.
Before that, death would have killed a militiaman.
Many moons before, the one who died would have been a young man who knew enough, knew what was necessary about the system, and sought, like many still, the best way to challenge it.
One year ago a trio of paid journalists, vulgarized by the government of Ario Velasco and his rotten court, held up a lie regarding his death.
The one who took the mournful photos of the murderers’ carefully-bandaged alleged blows, as a reward went to New York to present other mercenary photos.
Those who unashamedly swallowed the government shit and spread it front-page, now have an echo in those who dress up the news and present his murder as a the product of a confrontation.
Those who as accomplices shut up out of financial convenience or political calculus continue putting on that they do journalism and not poorly-concealed advertising.
Not many days before today’s event, we read in the paid press that the “heroic,” “selfless,” “professional,” and “untainted,” Mexico City police, had a “confrontation,” that’s what they said, with a group of visually impaired persons. The wicked blind people lashed out with their “weapons,” their canes, at the poor police who did nothing but fulfill their duty and had to respond with cudgel and shield blows to make them, the sightless, see that the law is the law for those from below, and for above it is not.
And also, a while ago, because of those seasonal speculations which tend to splatter not only the journalistic trade but the social networks too, when talking about something is hiding that there is nothing important to say or inform about, a journalist, of those who allege “professionalism” and “objectivity,” wrote about the death of a brother in-struggle and rain gather, Eduardo Galeano, and supposed a false connection between Galeano the writer and Galeano the teacher, militiaman, and Zapatista.
When making reference to compañero Zapatista Galeano, the paid journalist insisted that he had died in a confrontation and sent photos from her tourist colleague in New York.
Let’s take an ordinary case, on ordinary home or street, an ordinary geography, an ordinary day: there is a discussion, a fight, or not even that, just because he said so, because he is in charge, the man attacks the woman, the woman defends herself and manages to scratch the man, the man murders her with punches, stabs, shots, contempt. The man is treated and the scratches are cured and bandaged.
About this, the “professional” and “objective” journalist, as she claims to be, will write the following article: “a woman died in a confrontation with her partner, the man has wounds resulting from the fight. Below are photos of the poor wounded man after receiving medical treatment. The assailant woman’s family refused to allow her body to be photographed.” End of article and time to get paid.
That’s what news articles today are like: blind people armed with canes confront police armed with shields, batons, and teargas. Women armed with their nails confront men armed with knives, clubs, pistols, penises. These are the “confrontations” one finds out about in some paid media outlets, although some of these disguise themselves as free media, like some who registered here, thinking that we didn’t know them and weren’t going to let them in if they were paid media. But we know them and they are here “covering” this event.
Compañero Maestro Zapatista Galeano did not die in a confrontation. He was kidnapped, tortured, slashed, bludgeoned, macheted, murdered, and finished off. His aggressors had firearms, he did not. His aggressors were several, he was alone.
The “professional and objective” journalist will point to the photos and the autopsy, and will not have either. Because if she does not respect herself and does not respect her work, and that is why she writes what she writes without anyone questioning it and also getting paid for it; we the Zapatistas do respect our dead.
More than 20 years ago, in the battle of Ocosingo, which lasted 4 days, Zapatista combatants were executed by the Army after being wounded in battle. The Zapatistas’ firearms were replaced with sticks. The press was then called to cash in under the supervision of the government troops. That’s how they wove the tall tale, repeated until nausea even into the present day, that the EZLN troops went out with wooden weapons to confront the evil government. Of course, the small problem is that someone took the photos when the fallen Zapatistas had nothing by their side. And then that person contrasted them with those presented by the pro-government press. A lot of money is paid for the photos which portrayed reality to not be publicized.
Now, in the modern times of the paid media’s economic crisis, an art, journalistic photography, has turned into a poorly-paid commodity which sometimes only manages to induce nausea.
I’m not going to describe in-detail each and every one of the wounds suffered by compañero Galeano, nor show you photos of his defiled body. I’m not going to review the narrative cynicism with which his murderers describe the crime in-detail the way one talks about a feat.
Time shall pass. The executioners’ confessions will be known. The public will know the details of the tortures, the celebrations which they held with each drop of blood, the drunkenness of cruel death, the subsequent euphoria, the moral and ethylic hangover of the following days, guilt pursuing them, justice reaching them.
Compañero Maestro Zapatista Galeano will be remembered by the Zapatistas communities, without fuss, without front pages. His life, and not his death, will be joy in our struggle for generations. Hundreds of tojolabal, tzeltal, tzotzil, chol, zoque, mam, and mestizo boys will bear his name. And then will come the girl named “Galeana.”
The 3 members of the decadent media nobility, who made a call for war by spreading the lie, those who, with cowardice, kept silent, and the “professional and objective” journalist will continue being mediocre, they will live mediocre, they will die mediocre, and history will continue its course without anyone missing them.
And just to finish outright with stupid suppositions, compañero Maestro Zapatista Galeano did not take that name from the tireless gather of the word from below who was Eduardo Galeano. That link was a media invention.
Although it may sound absurd, the compañero took his name from insurgent Hermenegildo Galeana, a native of Tecpan, in what today is Guerrero, and who rose to the rank of lieutenant under the independence leader José María Morelos y Pavón. Hermenegildo Galeana was with the insurgent troops when, on May 2nd, 1812, they broke the position which the royalist army held in Cuautla, defeating the troops of general Félix María Calleja in their wake. Insurgent resistance then wrote a brilliant page in military history.
It is common in Zapatista towns for men and women to apply gender to their oh-so particular understanding. So, for example el mapa is “la” mapa. What the compañero did was “masculinize” the last name Galeana and turn it into Galeano. This was years before we came out into public view.
I am not going to say much more about compañero Maestro Zapatista Galeano.
His family members and compañeros and compañeras who today honor us with their presence will do so better and in more detail, compañero Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés will do the same.
His absence still pains me a great deal.
I still remain unable to explain to myself the cruelty with which they came before him, wanting to kill him with weapons and with news articles.
I remain unable to understand the silent complicity and indifference of those who were elevated and aided by his generosity, and then turned their backs on his death after having used his life.
That is why I believe that, given that what we hold up is his life, it is better for compañero Galeano to be the one who talks to you.
The following fragments which I will read to you come from compañero Galeano’s notebook. The notebook, with these and other writings, was given to the EZLN General Command by the family of the compañero which we are missing today.
Supposedly he began to write in the year 2005 and the last writings are from the year 2012.
“For all those who read this brilliant story and so that one day my children and my compañeros will not say that I faded away.
I write my actions and steps in the struggle, but I also am critical because you will also know of my errors to not fall into them. But that does not mean that I am not a compañero.
Well I’m going to start from my young and civilian life from before.
When I was about 15 years old I always participated in the work and actions of an organization called “Union of Ejidos of the Jungle.”
I also knew that I was exploited because the weight of the poverty which fell on my burnt shoulders was enough to make me realize that exploitation still existed, and that someday someone would appear to lift us up and show us the path, to guide us.
Well, as I told you in the beginning I participated in a trip which (illegible number) of us indigenous took to try to exchange ideas on productive work. That’s what that program which they did was called according to our advisors in that so-called Union, which we participated in.
Well, for me it was useful for learning many things. In the first place I realized how those renowned advisors—Juárez and Jaime Valencia, among others—tried to cheat us. We went to Oaxaca, to a place where there are also indigenous compañeros like us, and who also had an organization called X led by a priest who was with them. But they are also in the same situation of oppression as us.
Well, anyway, we traveled to several cities in the country. There I realized how many beggars there are in the streets, homeless and without anything to eat. Truly, it was born in me that that must be our objective for interchanging ideas to try and to see how to demand a dignified life for all those who live in conditions of humiliating poverty, because of governments.
I also realized something which disgusted me and never again did I depend on those liar and trickster men who feign being with those from below. They made all those movements to enrich themselves at our expense, us dumbasses from those times believed in their slick and false idea.
Why do I say this? Well now you will see how things were. It turns out that they promoted government programs to cheat us, and then us cheat our people in our communities. On that trip, the government gave 7 million pesos in aid, which at the time was a great fortune because we talked about thousands and it wasn’t like now when we talk about pesos. At the time they told us that the government had given 7 million, but that they weren’t going to give us all of it, just 3 million and the rest was going to be for the upcoming trips, and we never knew where that money went.
Of course, they did not inform us, because the renowned advisors kept that money, and while we ate totopos with a small piece of cheese, there in Oaxaca, and slept in the halls of the Ixtepec, Oaxaca town hall, and where were they? Well you will see, they slept in good hotels and ate in good restaurants. Like this we went back to Chiapas.
We arrived to Puerto Arista. There they bought cases of beer to finish the damage. When the 3 million which the designees had to cover the expenses dried up. They told us that we were going to have to eat crackers and soda because there was no money left. But I knew that it was not true, that the representatives when doing the accounting made us believe that everything had run out, but the thing is they had already made an agreement with those advisor guys. And I told them to recount to see if it was true that the money had run out. But my proposal was not accepted and what happened is that they told me that the trip had finished in Motozintla. They gave me 40 thousand pesos (in that time’s money) to return to my house, because they already calculated what I was going to spend on bus fare to Margaritas and then to La Realidad, I would see how to make it work. It was fucked up, 40 thousand old pesos which Salinas turned nowadays into 40 pesos. Like so I returned to my town all sad and pissed-off at the same time.
That was when in ‘89, I met a true advisor, a man who passed himself off as a humble worker, a parrot vendor. He and I were practically friends, but in spite of the fact that we already knew each other, he had never told me who he was and what he really wanted and did. Many times we saw each other at Cerro Quemado, we talked and I saw that he was carrying a painted backpack, as we call it, and inside he carried his work tools. That was what my friend told me. How many people like me knew the tale of my friend without knowing the reality, who were going to see how many lies my friend said back then. Lies to make truth, lies to make Reality, true lies. He was my pal, I being so clumsy that I did not understand what was happening.
Until one day I ran into my friend again, but this time he was not dressed as a humble worker, nor was he carrying his painted backpack or a parrot cage.
What was he carrying them? You will see, well there was my friend, my pal, dressed all in black and brown, with a backpack and shoes, and a gun on his shoulders. It turns out that my friend was a brave guerrilla and soldier of the people. I was surprised, and I went home all sad and unable to understand what was happening there.
That was my error, not understanding quickly what that man wanted.
That was when he knew that I had already discovered him, and they called for me in the safe house along with my parents and my siblings. But the thing was that my father did not want to join and then my siblings too, but I had nothing more to do and say. That was how I fully joined the organization. They took me to train. Back then almost everyone was already a Zapatista. We went to train. Later they gave me the rank of corporal and it was like that until all of my relatives joined.
Until the day came which I knew who my liar true friend was and what his name was: back then he was Capitán Insurgente Z. there was that man who had to travel through all the Indian towns of Chiapas, all of their mountains, rivers, and canyons. He walked by night as a guerrilla; by day as the most humble seeker of employment, and sowing the seed of freedom step-by-step until it grew and bore fruit.
His suffering was so great, but the fruits he harvested and brought were so beautiful. And he earned with pride the rank of Major due to his intelligence and brave action in preparation.
But he was not the only one there, there was another great and valiant man and unforgettable revolutionary in the history of our clandestine period, the so-called and beloved Subcomandante Insurgente Pedro, “Uncle,” as he was respectfully called by all the compañeros of our struggle. Loved by all because he was a true example who shared his revolutionary knowledge. He was a true master in discipline and compañerismo.
An example because he said that he would go in front during combat, and if it was necessary to die for people, he would do it.
On December 28th (1993) compañero Sup I. Pedro told me, you are going to Margaritas to buy gasoline and some batteries which we need, tell compañero Alfredo to take “el Amigo,” the community car, that is, but do not tell him that the war is going to begin. And I went. We got together some shelled corn to conceal things from the driver, because it was an emergency trip and in this way he would not suspect what was going to happen. But he already knew, but from gossip, that the war was going to begin, and asked, but I did not tell him anything, that was the order, and I followed it in spite of the fact that he was my pal. I did not even inform my parents about what was going to happen, because they lived in Margaritas then. We traveled all night and all day.
On the 29th (of December 1993) we got back to La Realidad at about 4 in the afternoon. I had completed my first mission. I reported and he told me: “prepare because we are going to fight, in half an hour we will have made the police in Margaritas surrender.” And it remained there recorded forever. Like other feats of Sup C. I. Pedro.
And he remained until the 30th (of December 1993) departure for Margaritas. There were also many accidents on the road. The advance of our troops was incredible. Without the enemy realizing, we advanced like ghosts in the middle of the dark night, just illuminated by the headlights of Zapatista cars and buses.
Before Las Margaritas there is a place, before Zaragoza. Close to that town everyone divided up with their revolutionary work: first group, take the town hall; second group, take and block the Margaritas-Comitán Highway; third group, take and block the San José Las Palmas-Altamirano Highway; fourth group, Independencia-Margaritas highway; fifth group: take radio Margaritas.
This was in the predawn hours of that glorious January 1st, when we were no longer ghosts out in the night, we were now the EZLN in the global spotlight. Everyone looked at us with amazement and with respect for our brave action.
That was when Sup C. I. Pedro fell in combat against the police. He died with great bravery, killing several police. He confronted them alone. His rage against those who murder the people was so great that he did not care about his life, and with that he had fulfilled what he had said: die for the people or live for the homeland.
What shock I felt when they told us that our beloved leader had fallen. I felt such great pain, but he had completed his mission, and also had arranged the command succession well. Because he knew that he was going to fight and that as a matter of fact these kinds of things can happen in a war.
That was when my friend Mayor Insurgente Z took command and once again the action of this brave guerrilla was seen. So our missions, in spite of the painful fall of our great leader, were now led by Mayor I. Z. The group went and took the ranch of general Absalón Castellanos Domínguez and he was taken prisoner and brought to the mountains as a prisoner, to later hold the trial for all the crimes committed during his government, since he was their intellectual author. In spite of everything he was charged with, and how guilty he was, and of being the murder of so many children, women, and elderly in Wolochán, his rights as a prisoner of war were respected. He was not tortured for any reason. On the contrary, what the troops ate was also given to him. That is how our comrade once again demonstrated his manners and good military work which he obtained during the clandestine period. Respect for the lives of those who fall prisoner in a war must be respected. And all those who read our history are reminded that respect is won by respecting those from below, but also those from above but if they demonstrate respect for those from below. Thank you. Die to live. Galeano.”
“In Las Margaritas I had to block the Margaritas-San José las Palmas highway. From there we went to the Margaritas-Comitán highway. We were there on January 1st all night until the next order arrived to go take the Conasupo warehouse which was in Espíritu Santo. We went with other insurgent compañeros to get things for the troops to eat. Then the order was given to retreat to the mountains and we came and positioned ourselves in Guadalupe Tepeyac. Then we made an ambush from La Realidad to kilometer 90 Cerro Quemado, then they sent me to recover a 3-ton vehicle belonging to some asshole named J de Guadalupe Los Altos.
I did not know how to drive well. I only had the theory of how to drive a vehicle, and that was where I passed into practice and began to move the vehicle. I got to La Realidad just in first gear. Compañera Capitán L and several more insurgents were already waiting for me and they told me, “Let’s go Galeano,” but I said, “I have not driven and much less with a load.
Die to live. Galeano.” (between 2005 and 2009)
“It does not matter, in war anything goes,” the compañera told me and we left, but there past Cerro Quemado, I had gotten confident, I began to go lighter, but on a curve I turned the steering wheel too much and went off the road entering into the grass about 15 m from the road. But anyway, I got it out the way I could and continued to carry out the mission.
Since that day I began to drive every day, until one day the helicopter saw us and shot at me with a machine gun. It spent about 10 or 20 minutes shooting at me, but I was already sheltered under a rock. Only the dust and rock smell and gunpowder got to where I was. And after the firing stopped and the helicopter went away, I left my hideout and continued with my mission. The mission was to go get the militiamen who were near Momón. I left and returned with my friend and military leader compañero Mayor Insurgente Z. we were always together in the days of war, even when there was the cease-fire.
In the work of the first Aguascalientes in Guadalupe Tepeyac, I participated in checking the people who came to the National Democratic Convention. They trained me as a bodyguard, I was the bodyguard of our commanders.
Then, the day of Zedillo’s betrayal, we went on February 9 to block the road in Cerro Quemado. The army was already in Guadalupe Tepeyac. Even so we advanced in darkness and worked making ditches and cutting down trees to prevent the federal army’s passage to La Realidad.
Then we retreated to the mountains for several days, until, once again, the people of Mexico and the world mobilized and halted the persecution of our commander compañeros and EZLN troops. After several days and nights camping in the mountains, we returned to our towns.
I participated in all the encounters which our organization organized. I was there as a bodyguard for our military leaders. I participated in the march of the 1,111 Zapatistas to Mexico City.
In all of the marches I always proudly traveled as the driver for “conejo,” for “tata,” for “chocolate.” Always carrying our compañeros in the marches to make our demands. When all the sergeants backed out, I stayed and they gave me the rank of sergeant. I participated as a regional responsible for clandestine youth groups and in times of war. In a thousand and one ways we have made war against the enemy, although the evil government has also done the same.
But we must value the great paths which we have traveled no matter the sacrifices and hardships. That has made us stronger and keeps me on the path of struggle, until we achieve the freedom which our people need. There is much left to travel, because as a matter of fact it is long and difficult, perhaps close, perhaps far, but we will triumph.
Then the Juntas de Buen Gobierno were formed, and they chose me as the driver for the first truck which the JBG obtained. It was called “el Diablo.” Then they kidnapped me along with another compañero and also brought us tied-up inside the same truck by the CIOAC-Histórica. They had me tied-up for several hours and then took me to a prison in Saltillo. And then they took me to Justo Sierra and held me without food, tied up, without communication. They wanted me to demand the liberation of a criminal, but I could not accept being exchanged because I was innocent and he was a thief of those who always abound in the social organizations.
I was captive for nine days until they realized that they were getting involved in problems with human rights and with the EZLN. And finally they released the truck after having it for three months. And then its (the truck’s) name was changed, it got the name “El Secuestrado Histórico.” Since then the work of the JBG and autonomy began. Die to live. Galeano.” (January 24, 2012)”
This is the last date which appears in his notebook. Along with that short autobiography, there are a few poems, probably of his authorship, and some love songs and those things.
As for me, all that’s left is to add that compañero Maestro Zapatista Galeano was like any of the Zapatista compañeras and compañeros, someone for whom it was well worth dying to make him be reborn again.
Upon finishing these lines, there may be a response to a latent issue. A question sown in the middle of history which is not written with words:
What or who made it possible for the Zapatista philosopher and the indigenous Zapatista to converge in the same space of struggle?
How was it that without ceasing to be a teacher, the philosopher became a Zapatista, and that the indigenous man, without ceasing to be a Zapatista, became a teacher?
Something happens in the world which makes this and other absurdities possible.
Why, to live, does the one bequeath to his own a hidden piece of his history’s puzzle?
Why, to not leave, does the other leave us in letters his look turned toward himself and his history with us Zapatistas?
This is what we try to answer every day, at all times, in all corners.
Now, about to put the final period on these words, the answer occurs to me, or at least a part of it, it is sitting at that table, it is in those who are in front of and behind me, it is in the worlds which lean out into ours for the struggle of those who, with secret pride, call themselves Zapatistas, professionals of hope, breakers of the law of gravity, people who without fuss at each step say to themselves and say: WE DIE TO LIVE.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.
Mexico, May 2nd, 2015.
The Zapatista listen compañera Selena has the mic…
Translated from Spanish by Henry Gales.