People of the Sun The Zapatista movement in Mexico

Jan 1st 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. This led to an indigenous Military group known as the Zapatistas or EZLN declaring war on the Mexican Government. The Zapatistas claimed that NAFTA meant death to the indigenous people of Chiapas. This Indigenous led rebellion marked the first armed conflict within the country since Mexico's revolution in 1910. And the first leftist rebellion since the fall of Communism.

In the anticipation of the signing of NAFTA Mexico began to make reforms to Article 27 of the constitution.

An article that was the cornerstone of the Mexican Revolution.

Article 27 - The land belongs to those who labor it.

This meant that international capitalist would be able to exploit millions of indigenous laborers in what was their own land. And increase the gap between the poor and the rich.

After many peaceful attempts, of protesting reforms of the Constitution and the Free Trade Agreement.

The Zapatistas led by Subcomandante Marcos, engaged in a armed rebellion to get the attention of the Mexican government.

The New York Times called it the first "Post-Modern Revolution"

An estimated 3000 Zapatistas clashed with troops from the Mexican Army in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Infantry being inserted to conduct counter Guerrilla operations
Revolutionaries marching to battle against Government troops


Leader and primary spokesman of the Zapatista Army

  • Earned Degrees from prestigious Mexican University UNAM in Sociology and Philosophy
  • Real Identity: Rafael Sebastian Guillen
  • Was College Professor prior to joining the Zapatistas
  • Author of multiple books on human rights
  • Participated in Anti-Goverment movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador

Fire fights last for 12 days; Representatives of national and international human right groups swarm into the state. After a series of battles causing 145 deaths and hundreds of casualties. Both sides agreed to a cease-fire.

In the following weeks, dialogues for peace between the EZLN and the federal government are held and moderated by the catholic Church.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia played a key role in the peace negotiations. He was later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the aftermath of the Zapatista rebellion.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia

Over the following decades negotiation talks accompanied by low intensity warfare between the Zapatistas and the Mexican Government continues.

As a result of the unstable situation in Chiapas the Zapatistas created and implemented an Autonomist Government in the area that they control.

Outcome of the rebellion

  • Establishment of an autonomous government within Mexico. With the cornerstone being basic human rights, liberty, justice and dignity.
  • Establishment of Zapatista school systems, known as Mayan schools of dignity. That teach both their native language and Spanish
  • Womens empowerment. Women are required to have 50% of positions of authority within their government
  • Community based health systems
  • Sustainable Agriculture and land to farm
  • Conservation of their way of life, language, culture and traditions

cultural impact

The band Rage Against the Machine has been used as a tool to spread the ideas and raise awareness to the movement. Songs like "People of The Sun" and "Killing in the Name of" have been messages of justice and political activism in support of the Zapatistas.

RATM is well known for their leftist and revolutionary political views.

Zach De La Rocha

  • Lead singer of rage against the machine
  • His father was a Mexican-American muralist in Los Angeles
  • His grandfather participated in the Mexican revolution
  • Zach earned a PH. D in Anthropology from the University of Irvine
Johnny Depp wearing a subcomandante Marcos T shirt

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.