The Zapatista movement has created change felt around the world, in many different contexts. Its influence is far reaching, and varied, but there is no question that the movement has changed the way the world sees mass organization. Harry M. Cleaver states, “The effects of the Zapatistas are felt outside of just a political realm. Currently, they are focused on expanding their capabilities for “research, reflection, consultation and action.” This Zapatista effect has been felt in many different locations. Paulina Fernandez, a political scientist from UNAM states, “It is still not possible to see clearly the magnitude of the importance of the Zapatista uprising. I track the news on Internet everyday and the EZLN is cited all over for one reason or another—it is a permanent reference” (Zapatistas: 18 Years of Rebellion and Resistance 2012). Below, we explore some of the most prominent consequences of the movement.
The Zapatistas have:
Maintained an autonomous state in Chiapas.
Although they continue to feel pressure from Mexican government and military, they have maintained an autonomous state for the past 19 years. They operate in 5 different caracoles, or regions of their territory in Chiapas. Throughout the 19 year existence of the movement, 5 different presidents have refused to give into their demands. These governments have all threatened to use extreme force against the Zapatistas. Despite this pressure and opposition, they continue to operate and maintain their state outside of the Mexican government’s power.
Backed projects that train teachers and health workers and create schools in Chiapas.
Although the masks and mass marches may seem hostile and violent, the Zapatistas have chosen to find more productive outlets for their concerns, seeking out ways that they can create changes they want. As noted on DemocracyNow‘s website, “Despite their militant image, Zapatistas have spent the last seven years training teachers and health workers while launching numerous innovative (and non-violent) peace initiatives” (2003). They have inspired and helped to create a number of projects that focus on education and health, both internationally, and close to home in Chiapas.
These projects include:
International Educational Solidarity– seeks to create educational networks around the world. They sponsor workshops and projects to connect parents, teachers and students from many geographical locations.
Schools for Hope– focuses on close to home, Mayan-run schools in Chiapas. They help create the schools, while also helping ensure success with training, materials, and support for the teachers that work there.
Education for Health– The Zapatistas are training indigenous healthcare providers and creating educational opportunities in the jungles of Mexico.
Ecological Agricultural Education– focuses on sustainable agriculture with projects based in Mexico, and around the world. They are working to support the ecological environment in Chiapas, while also introducing organic Mayan corn in countries around the globe.
Artisan Sales Education– Facilitating the education of indigenous craftspeople. Helps these artisans get their goods to market, locally and internationally.
(Schools for Chiapas 2013)
Continued their anti-globalization and anti-capitalist conversations, reaching an international audience.
Immanuel Wallerstein writes, “in 2007, they hosted an international colloquium, ‘Planet Earth: Antisystematic Movements,’ in order to bring many members of the movement together and get a larger picture look at the change that has come from the movement. This meeting was held in San Cristobal de las Casas, the city they began in 13 years earlier.” This colloquium became the International Seminar on Antisystematic Movements, held in the same place annually, starting in 2010. The third seminar was held in December 2012. These meetings draw international crowds, and are open to anyone who wants to participate. The invitation is posted online, and registration is the day before the event in Chiapas. Lecturers have included Subcomandante Marcos himself, but vary each year. The conference held in 2012 focused on the wide reaching effects of the Zapatistas, and how their influence can be seen in other social movements.
Influenced social movements and mass organizations across the world.
“The Zapatista struggle has inspired and stimulated a wide variety of grassroots political efforts in many other countries. . . .’ [I]t is perhaps not exaggerated to speak of a “Zapatista Effect” reverberating through social movements around the world'” (Cleaver 1998). Movements around the world have cited the Zapatistas as influential in the creation and follow through of their movements.
The Zapatistas have pushed back against the World Trade Organization, contributing to the failures of the organization. They, “also inspired a backlash against NAFTA and sowed the seeds of the anti-globalization coalition that first exploded at the December 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle” (Democracy Now 2003). A group of Zapatistas were among the thousands of people protesting the WTO conference, shutting down the streets of Seattle for days.
Chilean student protests for a free and equal education were very influenced by Zapatista movements. After leaders of the movement attended the International Seminar in early 2011, they found new ways to get students involved, leading to the most active year of the movement to date. Students grew more and more involved, seeing new ways to organize, new ways to speak out. The Zapatistas helped the students create a culture of participating, where all students wanted to have a voice and make big changes.
Occupy Wall Street is also seen to have Zapatista influences. Social scientists have argued that Occupy’s belief in mass organization as a form of protest, grew out of the successes the Zapatistas had and the attention they received with huge mobilizations. The Zapatistas’ idea to, “break the relationship between capital and humanity (Zapatistas: 18 Years of Rebellion and Resistance 2012) is one that was clearly reflected throughout the Occupy protests.
Created a Social Netwar.
Perhaps the most prominent consequence to come of the Zapatista movement is the Social Netwar they have created. To learn more, view the next page on our tab!