Native peoples of the New World, even as they fell to disease and cultural onslaught, have fiercely resisted the colonial invader since 1492. In the case of the Zapatistas and their struggle against the loss of indigenous territory and indigenous culture, this resistance takes many forms, changing tactics with the times. The type of resistance varies according to the nature of the threat—armed resistance, passive resistance, vocal resistance, silent resistance. The very ability of the rural indigenous farmer—the campesino—to cultivate rocky hillsides while military helicopters circle above and troops stand just across the river awaiting orders to invade—a common scenario in Chiapas—is one type of hardened, passive resistance. In this sense, resistance has become the very soil in which native cultures grow.
Santos de La Cruz Carillo, a Wixarika (Huichol) lawyer from the state of Durango, and a delegate to Mexico's National Indigenous Congress, says:
What does resistance mean? Resistance means to defend what belongs to us as indigenous people: territory, resources, culture. If, among our peoples, we didn't have resistance, we would no longer exist as peoples. Thanks to our resistance, we have maintained our cultures.
For the Zapatista communities, resistance means rejecting handouts from the “malgobierno,” the bad government, and from any other national or international agency whose intention is not to build local self-sufficiency but to undermine it through paternalism, clientism, charity, or other forms of low-intensity warfare. This rejection is the “no” in the Zapatista slogan, “one no and many yeses.” Of course, for a people living at the margins of the capitalist economy, on poor soils and with only the most basic resources, this kind of resistance is accompanied by hunger, thirst, illness, and want. For the Zapatista communities, the decision to resist is a daily one, made next to a cold stove in an empty kitchen on yet another day without beans, let alone meat, or vegetables, or sugar.
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