From the People of the Colour of the Earth: The Zapatista Statement

By Subcomandante Marcos and the EZLN


This remarkable statement, described by the leading US activist of 1968 and Senator Tom Hayden as perhaps ‘the most important expression of the indigenous dream in the last century’, was delivered to 250,000 people in 2001 in the heart of Mexico City after a march by Zapatista representatives from Chiapas to the capital.

Mexico City: We have arrived. We are here.

We are the National Indigenous Congress and Zapatistas who are, together, greeting you.

If the grandstand where we are is where it is, it is not by accident. It is because, from the very beginning, the government has been at our backs.

Sometimes with artillery helicopters, sometimes with paramilitaries, sometimes with bomber planes, sometimes with war tanks, sometimes with soldiers, sometimes with the police, sometimes with offers for the buying and selling of consciences, sometimes with offers for surrender, sometimes with lies, sometimes with strident statements, sometimes with forgetting, sometimes with expectant silences. Sometimes, like today, with impotent silences.

That is why the government never sees us, that is why it does not listen to us. If they quickened their pace a bit, they might catch up with us. They could see us then, and listen to us. They could understand the long and firm perspective of the one who is persecuted and who, nonetheless, is not worried, because he knows that it is the steps that follow which require attention and determination.

Brother, Sister:

Indigenous, worker, campesino, teacher, student, neighbor, housewife, driver, fisherman, taxi driver, stevedore, office worker, street vendor, brother, unemployed, media worker, professional worker, religious person, homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, artist, intellectual, militant, activist, sailor, soldier, sportsman, legislator, bureaucrat, man, woman, child, young person, old one. Brother, sister of the National Indigenous Congress, now rainbow of the best of the Indian peoples of Mexico: We should not have been here. (After hearing this, I'm sure that the one at my back is applauding like crazy for the first time. So I'm going to repeat it…) We should not have been here.

The ones who should have been here are the Zapatista indigenous communities, their 7 years of struggle and resistance, their ear and their looking. The Zapatista people. The men, children, women and old ones, support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, who are the feet that walk us, the voice that speaks us, the looking which makes us visible, the ear which makes us heard.

The ones who should have been here are the insurgent women and men, their persistent shadow, their silent strength, their memory risen. The insurgent women and men. The women and men who make up the regular troops of the EZLN and who are guardian and heart of our peoples.


It is they who deserve to see you and to listen to you and to speak with you.

We should not have been here.

And, nonetheless, we are. And we are next to them, the men and women who people the Indian peoples of all Mexico. The Indian peoples, our most first, the very first inhabitants, the first talkers, the first listeners. Those who, being first, are the last to appear and to perish...

Indigenous brother, sister.

Tenek. We come from very far away. Tlahuica. We walk time. Tlapaneco. We walk the land. Tojolabal. We are the bow and the arrow. Totonaco. Wind walked. Triqui. We are the blood and the heart. Tzeltal. The guerrero and the guardian. Tzotzil. The embrace of the companero. Wixaritari. They assume us to be defeated. Yaqui. Mute. Zapoteco. Silenced. Zoque. We have much time in our hands. Maya. We came here to give ourselves name. Kumiai. We came here to say "we are." Mayo. We came here to be gazed upon. Mazahua. Here to see ourselves being looked upon. Mazateco. Our name is spoken here for our journey. Mixe.

This is what we are:

The one who flourishes amidst hills. The one who sings. The one who guards and nurtures the ancient word. The one who speaks. The one who is of maize. The one who resides in the mountain. The one who walks the land. The one who shares the idea. The true we. The true man. The ancestor. The Senor of the net. The one who respects history. The one who is people of humble custom. The one who speaks flowers. The one who is rain. The one who has knowledge to govern. The hunter of arrows. The one who is sand. The one who is river. The one who is desert. The one who is the sea. The different one. The one who is person. The swift walker. The one who is good. The one who is mountain. The one who is painted in colour. The one who speaks right word. The one who has three hearts. The one who is father and older brother. The one who walks the night. The one who works. The man who is man. The one who walks from the clouds. The one who has word. The one who shares the blood and the idea. The son of the sun. The one who goes from one side to the other. The one who walks the fog. The one who is mysterious. The one who works the word. The one who governs in the mountain. The one who is brother, sister.


Amuzgo. Our name says all of this. Cora. And it says more. Cuicateco. But it is hardly heard. Chinanteco. Another name covers our name. Chocholteco. We came here to be ourselves with those we are. Chol. We are the mirror for seeing ourselves and for being ourselves. Chontal. We, those who are the colour of the earth. Guariji'o. Here, no longer shame for the colour of our skin. Huasteco. Language. Huave. Clothing. Kikapu'. Dance. Kukapa'. Song. Mame. Size. Matlatzinca. History. Mixteco. Here, no longer embarrassment. Nahuatl.

Here the pride of our being the colour we are, the colour of the earth. Nahnu. Here the dignity which is seeing ourselves being seen being the colour of the earth which we are. O'Odham. Here the voice which births us and inspires us. Pame. Here, the silence no longer. Popoluca. Here the shout. Purepecha. Here, the place that was concealed. Rara'muri.


Here the dark light, the time and the feeling.

Indigenous and Non-indigenous Brother, Sister: We are a mirror.

We are here in order to see each other and to show each other, so you may look upon us, so you may look at yourself, so that the other looks in our looking. We are here and we are a mirror. Not reality, but merely its reflection. Not light, but merely a glimmer. Not path, but merely a few steps. Not guide, but merely one of the many routes which lead to tomorrow.

Brother, Sister Mexico City:

When we say "we are," we are also saying "we are not" and "we shall not be."

That is why it is good for those who have money and the ones who peddle it, to take note of the word, to listen to it carefully, and to look with care at what they do not want to see. We are not those who aspire to make themselves power and then impose the way and the word. We will not be.


We are not those who put a price on their own, or another's, dignity, and convert the struggle into a market, where politics is the business of sellers who are fighting, not about programs, but for clients. We will not be.

We are not those who are expecting pardon and handouts from the one who feigns to help, when he is, in reality, buying, and who does not pardon, but humiliates the one who, by merely existing, is a defiance and challenge and claim and demand. We will not be.

We are not those who wait, naively, for justice to come from above, when it only comes from below. The liberty which can only be achieved with everyone. The democracy which is on all levels and is fought for all the time. We will not be.

We are not the passing fashion which, made ballad, is filed in the calendar of defeats which this country flaunts with such nostalgia. We will not be.

We are not the cunning calculation which falsifies the word and conceals a new fakery within it. We are not the simulated peace longing for eternal war. We are not those who say "three," and then "two" or "four" or "all" or "nothing." We will not be.

We are, and we shall be, one more in the march of Indigenous Dignity. Of the Colour of the Earth. That which unveils and reveals the many Mexicos which are hidden and suffer under Mexico.


We are not their spokesperson. We are one voice among all those voices. An echo which dignity repeats among all the voices. We join with them, we are made multiple with them. We will continue to be echo. We are, and we shall be, a voice. We are reflection and shout. We shall always be.

We can be with or without face, armed with fire or without, but we are Zapatistas, we are and we shall always be.

Ninety years ago the powerful asked those from below by whose authority Zapata was called: "with whose permission, Senores?" And those from below responded, and we respond: "with ours." And with our permission, for exactly 90 years, we have been shouting, and they call us "rebels." And today we are repeating: we are rebels. Rebels we shall be. But we want to be so with everyone we are. Without war as house and path. Because so speaks the colour of the earth: the struggle has many paths, and it has but one destiny: to be colour with all the colours which clothe the earth.

Brother, Sister:

Up there they say that this is the end of a tremor. That everything will pass except their being above us.

Up there they say that you are here to watch in morbid fascination, to hear, without listening to anything. They say we are few, that we are weak. That we are nothing more than a photograph, an anecdote, a spectacle, a perishable product whose expiration date is close at hand.


Up there they say that you will leave us alone. That we shall return alone and empty to the land in which we are.

Up there they say that forgetting is defeat, and they want to wait for you to forget and to fail and to be defeated.

They know up there, but they do not want to say it: there will be no more forgetting, and defeat shall not be the crown for the colour of the earth. But they do not want to say so, because saying it is recognising it, and recognising it is seeing that everything has changed, and nothing will change now without everyone changed, changing.

This movement, the one of the colour of the earth, is yours, and because it is yours, it is ours.

Now, and it is what they fear, there is no longer the "you" and the "we," because now we are all the colour we are of the earth – and it is what they fear.

It is the hour for the fox and the one he serves to listen and to listen to us. It is the hour for the fox and the one who commands him to see us.

Our word speaks one single thing. Our looking looks at one single thing. The constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture. A dignified place for the colour of the earth.

It is the hour in which this country ceases to be a disgrace, clothed only in the colour of money. It is the hour of the Indian peoples, of the colour of the earth, of all the colours which we are below, and which colours we are in spite of the colour of money.

We are rebels because the land is rebel if someone is selling and buying it, as if the land did not exist, as if the colour we are of the earth did not exist.

Mexico City: We are here. We are here as rebellious colour of the earth which shouts: Democracy! Liberty! Justice!

Mexico: We did not come to tell you what to do, or to guide you along any path. We came in order to humbly, respectfully, ask you to help us. For you to not allow another day to dawn without this flag having an honorable place for we who are the colour of the earth.

From the Zo'calo in Mexico City: Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Mexico, 11th March, 2001. Translated by Irlandesa.

John Berger’s account of his December meeting with Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas in Chiapas will appear in the April issue of Harper’s.