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Date Published: 11/21/1996
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors

Zapatistas: The Recombinant Movie

Ricardo Dominguez

A people mute and brave are better than a people cultured and abject.
- Maria Arias (Maria Pistolas) at Madero's grave, August 1914

I'm thinking of making a movie about all this.
- Oliver Stone

Black Screen.

(A Virus voice speaks between spasms of white noise.)

Virus: "Recombinant politics calls for recombinant strains of disturbance at all levels. As screenal narratives become viral narratives - a new matrix of critical interventions are beginning to emerge. A process of polyspatial democratic movements that use methods of electronic civil disobedience to counter the nomadic bunkers of pan-capitalism."

The words "Rape Culture" appear on the black screen.

Cut to zoom-shoot.

(Jungle trail in Chiapas near Lake Pojaj, it is a hot night on October 26, 1995, in the distance one can hear the screams of a woman being raped. It is companera Cecilia Rodriguez, a United States citizen and the legal representative of the EZLN in the US. Four laughing men surround her and kick her, one of them leans down and whispers in her ear.)

Man: "You already know how things are in Chiapas right? Shut up then, shut up, do you understand? Or you know what will happen to you..."

(On a jeep radio in the distance we hear an announcement that Journalist Fernando Yanez Munoz, who was arrested on October 24, 1995 and accused of being a high ranking member of the EZLN, has been released. Yanez, who was part of the Mexican rebel movement in the 1970s can be heard speaking.)

Yanez: "I have no links to the EZLN, though it would be an honour for me."


(A reporter in front of the Mexican consulate in California on October 25, 1995 interviews John Ross, who published an account of the Chiapas action, "Rebellion From the Roots".)

John Ross: "The Neo-liberal agenda manifested itself, again, as a shaky prop that always lives in fear of the truth. The Zapatistas, without confirming or denying that Yanez was one of them, stated that the arrest was in bad faith and threatened to end the peace talks. This caused the peso and Mexican stock market to tumble. On October 25, 1995, the Dow dropped 50 points in the US. The day after Yanez came out of prison the 'bolsa' and peso came up for air."

"This is the most prolonged absence that Zedillo has dared to entertain since he took office. The arrest of Yanez may not be a stupid blunder by the local police; but that someone is out to derail the peace talks and embarrass Zedillo. The possibility of a military coup cannot be ignored."


(November 4, 1995 a communique from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee arrives via the WEB and is read by a group of people in the cold basement of ABC NO RIO in New York. The camera pans the group.)

Group Member: "Third. The evil government is incapable of guaranteeing the security of any person in Chiapas despite maintaining dozens of thousands of soldiers, whose only goal is to assure the impunity of the powerful.

"Fourth. In view of the fact that the law of the evil government does not do anything to address these situations, the EZLN has initiated the work of finding and taking prisoners those responsible for this and other similar aggressions against women in Chiapas in order to judge them according to Zapatista laws.

"Fifth. The EZLN adds its voice and its actions to that of the thousands of human beings who carry forward the demand for justice in all cases of aggression against women. We call upon all the men and women who, in Mexico and the world, struggle for democracy, liberty, and justice, in order that we mobilize with regard to this fundamental demand for all human beings: respect for women."

Cut to black screen.

(A Virus voiceover as the words "Speed Democracies" appear.)

Virus: "The disturbance of electronic bunkers with excess communication is an important act of radical emergence. The dissolution of informatic-economies will allow cells of electronic opposition-circuits to create speed-democracies. The Winter Palace is not being stormed, it is being dematerialized, as a state in ruins and the lines of flight lead towards liberated terminals. The Zapatistas accelerate the new possibilities of fractal politics by displacing the signature-effect of Domain blockage.

"Spaces of information must be disassembled and reconstituted as replicating networks of decolonization through the naming of free civic digital spaces. These free electronic spaces will be constructed of excessive communication and unlimited counter-memories - and no longer as part of the hyperamnesiac-hierarchies of information. As a memo from the Rand corporation stated: 'institutions can be defeated by networks, and it may take networks to counter networks.' To become effective speed-democracies, we must continue to puncture the smooth-state by whatever means necessary."

Cut to Cecilia Rodriguez.

(She is speaking to a large gathering of people in front of the Mexican Consulate in El Paso, Texas under a clear blue sky on November 12, 1995.)

Cecilia: "I know three Tzeltal women were raped at a military checkpoint, and three nurses were raped and almost killed at the site of the peace talks, San Andres Larraninzer. How many other women whose stories we do not know have suffered through this hell? Women who have never said anything publicly because they fear for their lives.

"I have decided to make a public statement because I hope my experience will illustrate the brutal nature of the low-intensity war being waged in Chiapas. I am one more piece of evidence of the use of sexual violence as a weapon specifically directed against women in this war.

"I ask for justice - not from the governments of the United States and Mexico because they are complicit in this war - but from the people of Mexico and the United States. Look into my suffering and multiply that by hundreds of women, men and children whose voices you do not seem to hear, who suffer on a daily basis the humiliation of a low-intensity war which intends to suffocate the very human aspirations for democracy, liberty and justice."

Fade to Black.

(The words "Rituals of Chaos" appear on the black screen.)

Cut to a beetle crawling over the remains of a dead body.

(As the beetle moves in and out of the corpse, the Virus speaks.)

Virus: "Fractal politics crashes the imaginary of total State command and control with a counter-net dissolution which disrupts and erodes the hierarchies around which institutions are normally designed. It diffuses and redistributes power to dispersed cells who communicate, consult, coordinate, and operate on a polyspatial basis. Between real events outside of the macro-panoptic flow of data and excess information - counterhegemonic disturbances spread. Netwar is the most effective form of both defensive and offensive decentralized activism."

"Counter Intelligence Programs, COINTELPRO, are being reconfigured as anti-network forces whose aim is to neutralize nodes that promote participation in engendering an 'excess of democracy' on both a local global level. States in the last few years have began to map out possible methods to limit digital autonomy: Italy, an Anti-Crime group shut down 'BITS Against the Empire,' a node on Cybernet and Fidonet; United Kingdom, The Terminal Boredom (BBS) was raided by police; Germany, the State attempts to stop access to RADIKALL, small anti-State electronic journal; United States, several new bills (S390 and HR896) with bipartisan backing are before Congress that would give full legal force to COINTELPRO actions against electro-political networks; Senators Exon (D-NE) and Gordon (R-WA) are pushing a bill (S314) that would hold internet providers criminally liable for the activities of their subscribers."

Cut to a hand picking up the beetle.

(As the beetle crawls over a series of brown hands the voice of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos is heard.)

Marcos: "In the mirror, chaos is a reflection of the logical order and the logical order a reflection of chaos.

"I don't remember the name of the movie (maybe the masters, Siskel and Ebert, remember) but I do remember that the main actor was Peter Fonda. I remember the plot clearly. It was about a group of brilliant Harvard students who raped a woman. She accused them in a public hearing and they responded that she was a prostitute. Their lawyer defended them by using their grades and good families. They're found innocent. The woman commits suicide. As adults, the 'juniors' look for stronger emotions and they dedicate themselves to hunting down vacationing couples on weekends... after the standard rape, the 'juniors' free the couple in the countryside and hunt them down with shotguns.

"I don't remember the ending, but it's one of those where justice is done, where Hollywood resolves on the screen what in reality often goes unpunished.

"Today, the real 'juniors' have found that they have a country to play with. One of them is at Los Pinos (the Mexican White House) and the other in Bucareli (The Governor's house in Chiapas), they get tired of playing DOOM and instead play at hunting down 'bad guys' in a game of real war in the countryside. They give their prey time to escape, and move their game pieces to surround them and make the game more interesting. But, the 'juniors' find themselves in a quandary, because the game grows longer and they can't catch the 'bad guys.' Then the US Ambassador, the lawyer from the first scene, tries to save them again: 'It was just a game' he says, 'the dead are not dead, the war is not a war, the displaced are not displaced, we always wanted to talk and we only sent thousands of soldiers to tell the 'bad guys' that we wanted to talk.' A pathetic argument for an 'efficient' Harvard government.

"Meanwhile, reality approaches... and the mass media tries to impose itself on reality. Forgetfulness begins to populate the government discourse; they forget the fall of the stock market, the devaluation, the 'negotiations' of San Andres as a window dressing to hide the true indigenous politics of neoliberalism, instability, jealousy and distrust, ungovernability and uncertainty. They forget the principal objective, according to Machiavelli; they've had no results, they've not been 'efficient'.

"In the mirror, chaos is a reflection of logical order and the logical order a reflection of chaos."

Cut to black.

("Fourth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle" appears on the screen.)

Fade into a painting of Zapata. The camera pulls back. We see President Zedillo at his desk.

("JANUARY 1, 1996. 12:01 A.M." appears on the screen. He stares into the air as he taps his fingers and as he listens to the Reader.)

Reader: "The flower of the world will not die. The masked face which today has a name may die, but the word which came from the depth of history and the earth can no longer be cut by the ears with its cannons.

(Zedillo opens his top desk drawer and finds a remote control. He aims the remote at the camera and the sound of the opening chords of a Dynasty rerun are heard. He reclines back and smiles.)

"The arrogant wish to extinguish a rebellion which they mistakenly believe began in the dawn of 1994. But the rebellion which now has a dark face and an indigenous language was not born today. It spoke before with other languages and in other lands. This rebellion against injustice spoke in many mountains and many histories. It has already spoken in nahuatl, paipai, kiliwa, cucapa, otomi, mazahua, maltatzinca, ocuilteco, zapoteco, solteco, chatino, papabuco, mixteco, cucateco, triqui, amuzzgo, mazateco, chocho, ixcaateco, hauve, tlapaneco, totonaca, tepehua, populuca, mixe, zoque, huasteco, lacandon, mayo, chol, tzeltal, tzotzil, tojolabal, mame, teco, ixil, aguacateco, motocintleco, chicomucelteco.

(Zedillo reaches down and brings up a half eaten bag of Fritos and begins to shove them into his mouth.)

"Ignoring Article 39 of the Constitution which it swore to uphold on December 1, 1994, the supreme government reduced the Mexican Federal Army to the role of an army of occupation. It gave it the task of salvaging the organized crime which has become government... Meanwhile, the true loss of national sovereignty was concretized in the secret pacts and public economic cabinet with the owers of money and foreign governments. Today, as thousands of federal soldiers harass and provoke a people armed with wooden guns and the word of dignity, the high officials finish selling off the wealth of the great Mexican Nation and destroy the little that is left.

"Three new initiatives were launched by the Zapatistas as responses to the success of the Plebiscite For Peace and Democracy. An initiative for the international arena expresses itself in a call to carry out an intercontinental dialogue in opposition to neoliberalism. The two other initiatives are on a national character: the formation of civic committees of dialogue whose base is the discussion of the major national problems and which are the seeds of a non-partisan political force; and the construction of the new Aguascalientes as places for encounters between civil society and Zapatismo.

(An American Express Card commercial comes on and Zedillo begins to channel surf.)

"Today, with the heart of Emiliano Zapata and having heard the voice of all our brothers and sisters, we call upon the people of Mexico to participate in a new stage of the struggle for national liberation and the construction of a new nation, through this Fourth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle in which we call upon all honest men and women to participate in the new national political force which is born today: the Zapatista Front of National Liberation... a civil and nonviolent organization, independent and democratic, Mexican and national... and we extend an invitation to participate in it to the factory workers of the Republic, to the laborers of the countryside and of the cities, to the indigenous peoples, to the colonos, to teachers and students, to the honest artists and intellectuals, to responsible priests and nuns, and to all the Mexican people who do not seek power, but rather democracy, liberty, and justice for ourselves... We are here. We do not surrender. Zapata is alive, and in spite of everything, the struggle continues."

(Zedillo ends his drift with the sound of Clinton saying that he supports the implementation of the Clipper Chip 2 project in order to protect the people.)

Cut to a Mexican mural with the words "The Hallucinogenic-State" in red is scrawled across it with a spray can.

A slow pan across the entire work.

Virus (voiceover): "Pan-capitalism is a crack war of narco-colonialism which enframes the neo-liberal relaxation of exchange between the PRI party and nomadic investment communities. The War-on-Drugs is the main NAFTA artery of exchange for the Colombian cartels of coke and heroin into the urban markets. Drug-enforcement-economies must command and control body-rights and land-rights in Chiapas - this foundational drive of the hallucinogenic-State."

Cut to black and white images of Oliver Stone's _Nixon_ in fast forward.

(We hear John Tesh on Entertainment Tonight speaking, it's March 25, 1996.)

John Tesh (voiceover): "Mr. Stone will be meeting with Mexican rebels instead of in Hollywood for the Oscars. Oliver Stone said he was thinking of making a film about the Rebels as soon as he finishes his next project. He also would like to meet Subcomandante Marcos. Edward James Olmos is also making a pilgrimage, so is Lady Danielle Mitterrand, and the rebels have just turned down a Benetton modeling contract. Mary, who knew that electronic disturbances could be so much fun!"

Cut to a still image of the Wall Street skyline.

(We hear bombs, gunfire, and the screams of people in the distance.)

Virus (voiceover): "Can the hallucinogenic-State be resisted hallucinogenically? Is electronic activism a mirroring of State-logic as a tool for developing better counter-insurgency networks?"

Cut to a map of Southern Mexico, the words "Popular Revolutionary Army Attacks" stamped on it.

(We hear Mr. Arreolo, a taxi diver in Hautuloc, Mexico, on August 30, 1996.)

Arreolo (voiceover): "They commandeered my taxi, but it doesn't bother me - these people want to change the government, right? Well, I say I'm all for that! But, I'm afraid that the police will accuse me of collaboration. I don't want trouble with anybody, not with the masked ones, and not with the police. I just want to live here quietly."

Cut to a photograph of soldier standing and saluting, with the words "Mexicans across the political spectrum say the rebels pose no real threat" stamped on it.

Dr. Estevez (voiceover): "They seem to have more money and are more heavily armed than in Chiapas. They came fast and vanished even faster into the the mountains of Oaxaca. The fighters have the feet of peasants who work barefoot, but they also had good boots - American maybe. They spoke like Marxists, not like Zapatistas - but, they do have the backing of the coastal peasants. When I was stitching the foot of one of the rebels, a group of peasants brought them a case of soft drinks, mostly Cokes."

Cut to a can of Coke with the words "We often see people dressed in military-style clothing here" stamped on it.

Gonzalo Montoya (voiceover): "As the police commander in Tacambaro I know these armed men who attacked the military convoy on August 30, 1996 were narcotic traffickers. They all attacked military outpost in Guerrero and Chiapas. At this moment we are arresting individuals on suspicion of being members of the group and also anyone who part of above-ground peasant and worker organizations we have identified as fronts for the Popular Liberation Army. We are going to try to make a distinction between the Zapatistas and this new group - if we can."

Cut to a computer screen on which the words "A call for a marcha virtual" appear.

(We hear a Japanese woman read as subtitles in English scroll across the screen)

Japanese Reader (voiceover): "Action Alert: October 7, 1996. The government of Mexico has taken a rigid stance against the Zapatista Delegation traveling to the National Indigenous Congress, threatening punitive action if the Zapatistas leave Chiapas.

"Mexican Civil Society has has called for a 'marcha virtual' to show international support for including the Zapatistas in national dialogues towards peaceful solutions to Mexico's crisis. Given the fact that members of the EZLN traveling to Mexico City are Mexican citizens, and are thus guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution the freedom to travel unencumbered anywhere in the Republic, and given the fact the Mexican government does not consider them criminals or terrorists, and that the San Andres Dialogue, and the agreements which govern it, although on hold, have not been broken, it is extremely important to pressure the Mexican Government. We are also asking that you forward this message to all lists, groups, and individuals liable to participate in the this march, in order to show that we in Cyberspace can mobilize to form 'war of the Internet' (Gurria dixit) in the service of PEACE."

Cut to a folded Mexican flag and a single fuschia rose. Beneath them the date: October 12,1996.

(We hear about 2000 people screaming "the struggle continues".)

Then on the top of the image the words "Tzotzil Woman Arrives" appear.

William Means (voiceover): "Commandante Ramona walked out of the Lacandona and into the heart of Mexico City. The PRI government did not want this to happen, on October 8 they even threatened to arrest any Zapatista that attempted to leave the military cordon. Subcommadante Marcos said that, 'she is the most belligerent, aggressive and intransigent member of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation and before dying she wanted to speak to other indians."

Juan Cuellar (voiceover): "I brought my daughter to the Zocalo to see this small fragile women demolish 500 years of enslavement. She is a bomb of tenderness. She is a bomb of patience. Beneath the ski-mask, my child's future. Long Live Ramona, Sweet Rebel!"

Cut to a black screen. The word "Punctum" appears.

Virus (voiceover): "Commandante Ramona is an event that punctures the bunker of containment as a trace of mourning empowering the ignored. She is a virtual line of flight that names the real condition of fractal politics - death or the invention of a new form of democracy. She is a virus for polyspatial systems of representation which can disturb the telematic force of pan-capitalism. Viva Ramona. (The) struggle continues."

Fade to black.

Ricardo Dominguez is part of the editorial collective of Blast5, Managing Editor of The Thingnyc, a member of the New York Committee for Democracy in Mexico, and a former member of Critical Art Ensemble.
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