An Evening with Subcomandante Marcos

Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista rebel leader, at a press conference, Mexico City, October 1st 2007

It was rather an unlikely setting for a press conference with one of the world’s most famous rebel leaders, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army(EZLN). Mexico City’s Casa Lamm, a cultural centre and converted mansion in the Roma neighbourhood is the kind of place you expect to see expats and well-off Mexican families breakfasting, not Mexico’s guerilla army making its latest political statement.

Arriving on time to a room packed with journalists, activists, fans and onlookers of all ages, Sub Marcos or Delegado Cero (Delegate Zero) as he now prefers to be known – took his seat at the end of a long table, replete with microphones and tall glasses of water, preceded by other members of the EZLN, including Comandante Miriam and Comandante Zebedeo.

Wearing his famous black balaclava and puffing on his old man’s pipe, Marcos tucked his dirty black army boots under his chair as he listened patiently to his companions speak. Members of the audience passed him questions written on pieces of paper which he replied to in handwriting, returning them to the crowd via many hands. A man emerged from the crowd to show him a message on a mobile phone which he read calmly.

Subcomandante Marcos, who led the rebel army in its 1994 uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas, is guerilla leader, novelist, poet and rebel icon all in one. The battered brown cap clamping his balaclava to his head and the two long brown feathers attached to the back of it which trail down his stocky back fit the image cultivated in the media over the years of the guerilla who fights for indigenous rights, although he’s not indigenous himself.

His dark intense eyes gaze out of the gap in his balaclava, the crows feet at their corners betraying his age and years in the punishing Mexican sun.

He holds no less than ten sheets of paper full of black type in his stout, tanned arms and launches into a speech, first paying tribute to perhaps the most famous rebel leader in the world, Che Guevara. Eventually he tears into Andres Lopez Manuel Obredor, the leader of the left-wing opposition and close-loser in Mexico’s controversial 2006 elections which saw Felipe Calderon take power in what many claim were fraudulent elections.

He speaks for nearly half an hour before the meeting descends into a shouting match between supporters of Lopez Obrador and loyalists to the EZLN. A middle-aged man wearing a cap displaying the ‘Hooters’ brand stands up to shout that the only cause they should be following is that of APPO – Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), an organization that was assembled in response to the political situation in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, neighbour to Chiapas.

Disharmony descends and Marcos and his compadres rise and leave, with journalists and geriatrics alike scrabbling in their wake for one last picture, sound bite or promise.

Relevant links:
Man in the mask returns to change world with new coalition and his own sexy novel

Zapatistas warn of ‘social rage’

The Sub’s webpage

On Wikipedia

Marcos and his EZLN panel take questions from the audience


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