In the midst of a revolution, life goes on. Mother and child – San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico (1999) Photo: Orin Langelle

Defiance


In 2018, my friend, colleague and poet, Alexis Latham invited me to publish a photo essay in



ABOUT PLACE JOURNAL,




a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society. My photo essay, Remembering Examples: Three Decades of Resistance in Chiapas, Mexico, was published in VOLUME V. ISSUE II in October of that year. On New Year’s Day 2024, the resistance in Chiapas entered its fourth decade. 


On New Year’s Day 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the mostly Indigenous Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rose up against it for being “a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico” due to its elimination of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution. 

Article 27 guaranteed people rights to communal ejido lands in Mexico. It was an outcome of the revolution led by Emiliano Zapata–from whom the Zapatistas took their name–in the early part of the 20th century. But in order for NAFTA – the free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico– to be passed, Article 27 had to be eliminated. Its eradication was accomplished by Edward Krobaker, the Forestry Division Vice President and later CEO of International Paper. Many of Mexico’s forests were on ejido lands, which meant they could not easily be obtained or controlled by multinational corporations such as IP.

In defiance of the Mexican government and NAFTA, the Zapatistas took over government buildings, freed prisoners from jail, and engaged the Mexican army in brief combat. The Zapatistas declared their autonomy which continues today.

That uprising inspired people from around the world in the early global justice movement. In November of 1999, protesters shut down the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Seattle, WA. It was dubbed the “Battle of Seattle.”

I’ve been fortunate to travel to Chiapas over the last three decades behind the Mexican military lines to visit the people and document their resistance. Some of my photos from Chiapas are in my forthcoming book called Portraits of Struggle. Find out more about the book and how to order it at 


PortraitsOfStruggle.org

And to view my photo essay in the ABOUT PLACE JOURNAL please click on 


Remembering Examples: Three Decades of Resistance in Chiapas, Mexico