Run for the Border: The Taco Bell War
"General Diaz's ideal was the petrification of the State... a death's head
had taken the place of the living man..."
- Francisco Bulnes, The Truth about Mexico
Jan. 1, 1994. Ejercito Zapatista de Liberation National, the EZLN,
take over San Cristobal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas and Altarmirano
without firing a single shot in order to defend the rights of the indigenous
communities of Chiapas.
The temporal fractalization of dead capital has allowed a spasm of
micro-invention to emerge and flicker in the liminal-space of the Lacandona
jungle; occurring somewhere between the imaginary borders of the American
hologram and the real Taco Bell power of neo-liberalism's NAFTA: the
Zapatistas. In the Lacandona, a jungle in delirium, floats a temporary
construction of plant, flesh, and circuits that is attempting to play out a
rhizomatic disturbance, an "ante-chamber" of a "revolution that will make
revolution possible..." The Zapatistas are not the first postmodern
revolution, but the last; they are a vanishing mediation between the breaking
mirror of production (dead capital) and the shattering of the crystal of
(de)materialization (virtual capital).
Jan. 3-10, 1994. The Mexican army counter-attacks aggressively and
kills about 159 people, 427 people disappear, and close to 30,000 civilians are
The Zapatistas (re)historize the site of indigenous singularities within
the hyper-deformations of the Mexican party-state, the PRI (The Revolutionary
Institutional Party that has ruled Mexico for over 60 years) and the so called
defenders of the "civil society" sector, PROCOMPO and the National Solidarity
Program. Both of these elements dream of balancing the rupture that is Mexico
with a neo-liberal free-zone of supply and demand, a dream that can never be
realized under the signs of virtual capital.
Jan. 8-12, 1994. Civilian demonstrations demand "Stop the
massacre!" President Salinas orders a unilateral cease fire.
"We believe that revolutionary change in Mexico will not be the product of
action in a sole arena. In other words, it will not be, in a strict sense, an
armed revolution or a peaceful revolution. It will be primarily a revolution
which results in the struggle of different social fronts, with many methods
within different social forms, with different degrees of commitment and
participation. And its results will be, not a party organization or alliance
of victorious organizations with its specific social proposals."
Mar. 23, 1994. Luis Donaldo Collsio, PRI candidate for the
presidency, is assassinated in Tijuana during a political rally. Jun. 11.
Salinas picks Zedillo to head the PRI presidency. Aug. 8-9. The Zapatistas, in
conjunction with the National Democratic Convention leaders convene at
Aguascalientes in the jungle of Chiapas. Over 6,000 representatives arrive.
The Zapatistas are an inappropriate/d gesture that moves outside of the
modernist narratives of "REVOLUTION" and towards a zig-zagging process that is
inclusive of many methods. It seeks to hinder the type of coagulation that
vanguard and collective political action has historically called for: the
imposition by violent or peaceful means of a new social system by a single
social entity. What has been fashioned is a decentralized force against the
rule of the Party-State.
Dec. 12-19, 1994. As the peso falls the EZLN breaks out of the
encirclement by the Army and moves "into freezones," effectively occupying 28
villages & municipalities.
Chiapas is a counter-effect, an armed aporia, that has come from below and
accelerated the multiplication of contestational gestures, that have now moved
away from questions of reform and liberation to questions of direct action as
survival and resistance. Here in the Lacandona surplus flesh gnaws at the
dreams of virtual capitalism, exemplifying that, "mirrors are for cutting,"
and "crystals are for shattering... and crossing to the other side."
The Zapatistas run between walls of Third World starvation and the
high-speed backbone of digital culture. From the Lacandona jungle they hail us
daily, using a PowerBook, a modem, and a small satellite dish. Using these
three elements the EZLN have moved to the forefront of what David F. Ronfeldt,
a Rand Corporation security expert, has called "netwar". This dangerous
"destabilizing" force enables marginalized groups to enter into the
nomadological arena by utilizing e-mail. The Rand Corporation feels this kind
of power could make Mexico ungovernable, claiming that "the risk for Mexico is
not an old fashioned civil war or another social revolution," Ronfeldt notes.
"The risk is social netwar." (Joel Simon, Pacific News Service, Mar. 20,
1995.) The Zapatistas are hybrid real/net warriors who are developing methods
of electronic disturbance as sites of invention and action.
Jan. 31, 1995. The Clinton Administration's call for the rescue of
the Mexican economy via a $40 billion bail-out rejected by the U.S. Congress;
forced Clinton to turn to the special fund of 20 billion in the Federal Reserve
of with other funds made available by the IMF and the G-7 nations for a $50
billion bail-out package.
"The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their
effective control of the national territory and security policy... While
Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexico's
political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment
community," states Chase Manhattan Bank in the Jan. 13th "Political Update on
Mexico," which was passed on to "CounterPunch" by a banking insider. With this
update, the neo-liberal agenda (de)masked not only the "face?" of
sub-commandante Marcos, but the fundamental purpose of the NAFTA agreement.
Chase, of course, was under no illusions that the December crash of the peso
was prompted by the Zapatistas. It was fully aware that the implosion of the
Mexican economy was the product of an overvaluation of the peso, orchestrated
to enable U.S. investors to convert their killings on Mexican Bonds into
dollars - the always/already of neo-liberal economy.
Feb. 9, 1995. Zedillo orders the Army to launch an offensive in
Chiapas aimed at taking over all the indigenous territory, as well as
communities occupied by the Zapatistas, and apprehend the leaders of the EZLN.
This offensive includes the detention of people in Mexico City, Chiapas, and
Veracruz accused of being Zapatistas; almost all of whom were not.
"The EZLN does not want war, but it will not turn over its weapons... We
are prepared to respond, but for now, in the near future, the order is to
resist (combat), so it is clear that the one who wants war is the government
and not the Zapatistas. We want dialogue, but not like this, surrounded."
Suddenly Zapatistas are everywhere and nowhere, they are everyone and nobody,
the PRI follows its orders from Wall St. and begins the hunt.
In the jungle almost ten thousand people hide and consider the proper
method of drinking one's piss, or is it "better to drink someone else's?" As
the days pass and starvation grows, an abundance of liquid shit flows out of
the Zapatistas: they are surprised that the PRI army with its U.S. donated
equipment (for the Drug War) can't smell them as they pass by in the jungle.
The Zapatistas are an excremental force that criss-cross the wired world as
base matter. A kernel of the real that cannot be eliminated or flushed out.
They remain unmoved in the gut of Mexico, in NAFTA, and in the neo-liberal
databody. Here the flesh still struggles against the recombinant speed of the
virtual will by becoming something else: Blockage. A hyper-blockage that does
not seek the elimination of dead capital, the utopian crash that neo-luddites
desire, or the netopian apocalypse of extropian implosion (the complete
downloading of humanity into the datascape).
Instead, the Zapatistas, play within the fractures and fissures of these
models, forcing the spew to backup until these organs-without-bodies begin to
taste their own waste. Even the virtual tongue must think twice before eating
its own sacrifices from the digital toilet bowl, and in that moment of
reflection, a voice calling for dialogue to invent something unnamed maybe
briefly heard. A call to an impossible possibility.
Mar. 22, 1995. Communiques from Subcommandante Marcos reappear,
calling on the PRI army to leave the Indian villages as a preamble to moving
from an "epistolary" dialogue to face-to-face talks with the government, and
calling for such talks to be held in Mexico City. Zedillo rejects the proposal,
but appears to be open to some type of talks being held.
"Bankrupt factory owners are finding themselves marching arm-in-arm with
bankrupt peasants. And in between is a large chunk of the middle-class..."
(John Rice, Associated Press, Mar. 20, 1995). The bail-out forced Zedillo to
order astronomical increases on the interest rates for loans, mortgages and
the time-payments of goods such as cars and TVs: key sites of desire for the
Mexican middle-class. Former interest rates of 20% and 30% rose to 70% to 80%
in a matter of hours. To the already poor, about 41 million in number, this
meant little; they never expected anything from NAFTA. But to the
middle-class, it meant an end to the carnival of the Salinas miracle bubble,
an addicts dream, and the start of a class scrabbling for a little Prozac to
control the spasms of this Zedilloshock economy.
The neo-liberal will to virtualize Mexico has dismantled the "productive
apparatus;" labor has come to an end in a society where there was no labor to
begin with. It has intensified inequalities, diminished savings, as well as
decreased the number of multimillionaires from 24 to 12. The virtual economy
does not need millionaires to function, it does not need a middle-class; the
only thing it needs now from late-capital is a tactical model of rapid
speculation, hyper-transactions, and digital acceleration. Only a few bodies
are really needed for this new social contract: perhaps just Newt and a few of
Apr. 24, 1995. Peace talks between the Mexican government and the
Zapatistas were reactivated on Apr. 23, and then recessed the next day. The
Zedillo government says it will not withdraw its troops from Indian communities,
while the Zapatistas say there can be no peace until they do. Talks are to
resume on May 12, after the indigenous leaders have consulted with their
"Having now a collective name, we discovered that death shrinks, and ends
up small on us. The worst death, that of oblivion, flees so that the memory of
our dead will never be buried together with their bones. We have now a
collective name and our pain has shelter. Now we are larger than death..." So
reads the memo from the indigenous communities of Chiapas on Mar. 12, 1995. It
calls for an end to a society that has always stood before a "mirror of pain,"
and for a sovereignty that will represent this 40% of the Mexican population.
As for many indigenous peoples, sovereignty over land is a contradiction in
terms, since the whole earth belongs to no one, and is to be shared by all.
But there is a strong sense of primordial right to the land based on tenure
and working it. Indeed, this was the definition of Mexican land within the
ejido (communal land) philosophy as stated in the Mexican Constitution
- NAFTA did away with the ejido under Salinas. With the end of what
little constitutional rights were promised, there was only one choice possible
- armed resistance. It was not the first time this had to be done, it will not
be the last.
Over 230 different languages have gathered together to speak as a
singularity (Mexico has the largest population of Indigenous people in the
Western hemisphere), and call for a hybrid autonomy for themselves and the
landless campesinos. Here in this liminal-land a new viral revolution
has arisen, an electronic cell, that is willing to confront virtual capital at
its own game: netwar. The people of Chiapas will use any media-system to speak
for dialogue, and to push the PRI party out of the loop. "Dialogue by any
Jun. 1, 1995. Summer is wet and hot, dialogue opens and closes,
opens and closes, it becomes a long ride on a merry-go-round. Nothing seems to
work. Pan (National Action Party) wins some elections. They are a fundamentalist
right-wing party, a Jurassic party. For the Zapatistas, this means things are
going from bad to worse.
The Zapatistas decide to call for an international consultation concerning
- "Do you agree with the principal demands for: land, housing, jobs,
health, education, culture, information, independence, democracy, liberty,
justice and peace?"
The Zapatistas consider these demands basic human needs and the question
"refers to the need for a new social pact." The EZLN argues that if these
demands reflect the will of the majority of the Mexican people, "then the
economic direction of the country should be redefined such that a fundamental
objective is the satisfaction of these needs.
- "Should the different democratizing forces unite in a broad-based
opposition front to struggle for the 13 principal demands?")
Collaboration has always been part of the process that the Zapatistas have
worked with. The question is really about putting a face on a civil movement,
a movement "that has no defined face or clear political project yet has a
capacity for indignation and imaginative responses that surpass the great
personages of politics."
- "Should a profound political reform be made in terms which guarantee:
equity, citizenship participation (including the non-partisan and
non-governmental), respect for the vote, reliable voter registration of all
the national political, regional, and local forces?"
According to the Zapatistas, this question is about the necessary
pre-conditions for peaceful political struggle. The lack of these conditions
obliges citizens to take up the clandestine and illegal struggle, or adopt
skepticism and apathy.
- "Should the EZLN be converted into a new independent political force?"
- "Should the EZLN unite with other forces and organizations to form a new
According to the Zapatistas, "The fourth and fifth questions are mutually
exclusive. To say 'no' to both means that one is saying 'no' to the question
of whether the EZLN should make itself a political force... To say 'yes,' then
one still has to ask whether it should be done alone... or should it unite
with other forces in Mexico... We are not asking if we should incorporate
ourselves into one of the existing political forces... because we do not feel
represented by any of the existing ones." Further, "we are not asking if we
should disarm or not... Nor are we asking if we should become a political
party, as this is only one of the many forms that a political force can take.
Until now the EZLN has only called for organizing and struggle for democracy,
liberty, and justice. But as it is clandestine and armed, the EZLN has not
organized. We are not a political force. We are a moral force or a catalyst of
new organizing forms... Our opinion is listened to by many people, and
But it is not translated into an organization. Perhaps our role is only to
point out the scarcities and open space for discussion and new participation.
Perhaps that is our historic role. Or perhaps, the time has arrived for the
Zapatista word not only to move people or create consciousness: perhaps, the
time has arrived for the 'organizing' to be Zapatista as well. This is what we
The Zapatistas are a virtual dialogue about a specific form of flesh: the
indigenous communities. These communities have become a mutating site for a
world that has no single form, with a will to become something the world has
not yet dreamed of. They call for the end of Man and the beginning of a people
who are no longer bound by the mirror of production or the revenge of the
Aug. 27, 1995. On this Sunday the people voted, the slips were in
glass boxes all over Mexico. Some were in "plain sight" of government police.
Voting was heavier in "indigenous" areas. On the 28th, 41% of the votes had been
counted: 95% said "yes" to the 16 demands of the Zapatistas, 56% thought that
the EZLN ought to form a separate political party, "and by a small majority,
voters rejected sharing control of the party with others."
Ricardo Dominguez is part of the editorial collective of
Blast 5: an experimental journal of objects, Managing Editor of
ARTLINK: a Site Electronic Invention (under construction), a member
of the New Committee for Democracy in Mexico, and a former member of Critical
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