Media of EZLN

The Zapatista rebellion “has been represented by the international media industry, popular images of the rebels have been commodified in merchandise ranging from t-shirts and pens, to dolls and condoms” (McCowan 2003, 32). Through the use of merchandise and revolts, Zapatistas have caught the eye of the media and made it clear that their revolts would be safe and peaceful ones. They “have been culturally appropriated and commodified in a wide array of merchandise—including t-shirts, buttons, refrigerator magnets, posters, ski-mask condoms, key chains, dolls, pens, and billboard advertisements, to name a few—they have become novelties or museum pieces for consumption”(McCowan 2003, 32).

“A Marcondones, or Marcondoms, advertisement shows the rebel leader Marcos with a condom on his head and reads,“Say no to terrorism. Use Marcodoms against AIDS.” A competing Zapatista condom brand, Alzados (those that rise up), also carries the image of a masked rebel on the wrapper. The commodification of the Zapatista knows few boundaries”(McCowan 2003, 32).


“it was a textbook case of self-fulfilling media coverage…. [t]he hundreds of war correspondents from throughout the world…were …looking for new angles to keep the story in the front pages. What viewers didn’t know—and many reporters found inconvenient to acknowledge—was that the merchandising phenomenon had been created by ourselves”(McCowan 2003, 33).

“With the aid of the international press, the aims and images of the Zapatistas have
often been blurred in the public mind”(McCowan 2003, 33).

“The down side of the bargain came when the Zapatistas were not able to compete with other major national issues or keep up with the rapidity and mutating nature of popular culture. In a sense, the Zapatistas have become victims of their own imaginings” (McCowan 2003, 33).

Keeping up with national issues is very difficult for them due to their lack of technology and resources. Unlike what most people think, Subcommandante Marcos and the Zapatista communities are “indigenous, poor and often cut-off not only from computer communications but also from the necessary electricity and telephone systems” (Cleaver 2005). Their initial materials were prepared as written communiques for the mass media and were handed over to “reporters or to friends to give to reporters. Such material then had to be typed or scanned into electronic format for distribution on the Internet”(Cleaver 2005). Therefore, it is very important to realize that EZLN “has played no direct role in the proliferation of the use of the Internet. Rather, these efforts were initiated by others to weave a network of support for the Zapatista movement”(Cleaver 2005).

Once the Zapatistas realized how effective the internet was in making their voices heard thanks to the help of their supporters and follower, they began “to craft their missives and adapt their public interventions”(Cleaver 2005). The FZLN and other groups and individuals who support them, allow Marcos and the EZLN to “regularly send messages to others around the world, including, for example, messages to a European-wide demonstration in Amsterdam against Maastricht and unemployment, to an Italian gathering in Venice against regional separatism or to a conference of media activists in New York. In these communications they make their position on various issues known and seek to create or strengthen ties with far away groups”(Cleaver 2005). This would not be possible if it weren’t for the internet.

In a 60 minutes documentary on Marcos, Marcos says “we want schools, hospitals, lands and support from the government” rather than the false promises put down on paper that their government keeps giving them. This documentary allows us to see how little the Zapatista’s are really asking for and increases its amount of supporters. All they are asking for are basic individual rights similar to life liberty and happiness like we have in the United States as says the interviewer in the documentary.

The Zapatista’s have two different radio shows, one called Radio Zapatista and the other Radio Insurgente. Both of these allow Zapatista’s and their followers to remain updated on current events without any censorship from the government.

Rage Against the Machine is an American rap metal band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1991. The wrote a song called “Zapata’s Blood” and have a video explaining what their intentions were and how they used it to propagate this movement.

The Zapatista’s have also created their own national anthem and their lyrics, which serve as encouragement to keep fighting for their rights and keep going forward even when times get hard.

The Zapatista Website shows all the events occurring daily for anyone who would like to join. The Zapatista’s also have a Magazine website on which they have all of their recent and old editions.


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Imagining the Zapatistas: Rebellion, Representation and Popular Culture by M. Clint McCowan 

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