Interview with Zack, from Chiapas, Mexico

July 7, 1998.

This young rock singer of 28 years of age, from Los Angeles, California, has accompanied the Zapatista communities throughout the last years. These are his words:


It is important for me, as a popular artist, to make clear to the governments of the United States and Mexico that despite the strategy of fear and intimidation to foreigners, despite their weapons, despite their immigration laws and military reserves, THEY WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO ISOLATE THE ZAPATISTA COMMUNITIES FROM THE PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES.

The rock band Rage Against the Machine has become an alternative medium of communication for young people. We have created a great level of cooperation between groups and people to spread the ideas of the Zapatista movement in its relationship to the poor, the young, the excluded and the dispossessed in the United States. Through concerts, videos, interviews, broadcasting of information at concerts, and our song's lyrics we have placed within reach of young people, our audience, the experiences of the Zapatistas; we act as facilitators of the ways in which they can participate and put them in contact with the organization and the Zapatista support committees in the United States .

And the interest and involvement of the young people of the United States in the struggle of the Chiapan indigenous people is greater each day because of these things; thus, we feel a part of this process and for this reason our music has become a bridge.

I don't have a special FM3 visa, I don't recognize the PRI as a legitimate political power in Mexico because it bases its practices on extortion and it maintains its power through terror and not by the consensus of the people. Through my experience with the Zapatistas, I have found a series of principles, a form of resistance, a way of being and organizing in which I recognize myself. That is why I don't acknowledge Zedillo but do acknowledge the EZLN, it is they who have invited me.

My interest in this struggle has to do with my personal experiences, with my roots, my family. My father is a Chicano muralist, he belonged to the group Los Four, the only Mexican group that had an exhibition at the Los Angeles Art Museum. His attempts at trying to build bridges between the artists in Los Angeles, the workers, and Chicanos against Vietnam, led me, politically, towards the National Liberation movements. Also, my Sinaloan grandfather's experiences as a revolutionary fighter; he fought in Canalia [sp?] in 1910. My grandfather went to the United States as an economic migrant, he worked as an agricultural laborer in Silicon Valley, California. His working days lasted from 15-16 hrs. daily, sweating and subjected to poverty... I see his experience reflected in the testimonies of the Zapatistas, the indigenous peasant rebels who struggle every day to make a living.

This is the fourth time I come to Chiapas. I have had a different experience each time. I was in San Andres during the second round of peace negotiations, it was in May 1995, just after the military offensive in February. This was when the San Andres's sessions were starting and with it, a hopeful peace process. This process was a bit cynical because in the history of the negotiations there has always been, in one way or another, a failure... And this ended up being the same thing because the government has not complied with the signed accords.

At that time, the Zapatista delegates were protected by more than 5000 indigenous people from all over Mexico who had come to the Tzotzil town bearing posters from the EZLN and sheets and colors; they formed a peace cordon around the site of the dialogue in order to defend the Zapatistas and give them political support. I got alot from that experience, it was impressive for me to be able to live that emotion and then being able to communicate to the people in the United States the resistance of the people and the testimonies of the peasants.

In February 1996, I visited civil camps for peace, in La Garrucha. There, I experienced the terror and the intimidation to the integrity of the people by the soldiers; the isolation in which the communities had to subsist; the military camps located between the houses and the fields, I understood then that one of the great missions of a low intensity war is to wear out the people through hunger and to create lack of goods. That starvation practice against the people has the same effect as throwing bombs on the population, but is more comfortable for the rulers because it maintains Mexico as a stable place and as a suitable place for financial investments and it doesn't place the Free Trade Agreement at risk.

We were witness of that, we saw how the soldiers burned and razed the fields, threw the children out of schools, and turned the latter into barracks... and each time we became more familiar with the Zapatistas' form of organization, communal work and cooperation. And I realized that the intentions behind the militarization were to break down the community, to keep the people from organizing in an autonomous manner in order to overcome poverty and isolation.

Later, at the beginning of 1996, I organized a group of young people: students, artists, activists from East Los Angeles, to go to Chiapas. It was just before the first San Andres Accords were to be signed. We saw how militarization had increased, we checked how the militarization of more than 70,000 soldiers obligated the 70,000 families to face death through hunger; we also saw the threat and daily intimidation suffered by the communities. We became conscious of the importance of civil society creating a defense line because one of the obstacles that we could create against the low intensity war was to be in the communities, to be with the children while the men went to work in the fields; just to be there.

All this baggage and expierience I had in Chiapas inspired me to write in the United States the songs "The Windo Blow" and "Without a Face" from our second album "Evil Empire"

Later I was at La Realidad for the Continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. We realized the importance of dialogue between civil society and the Zapatistas, and we identified with them as a generation. We are a people without a party, we are for a different world where money is not the only exchange value, we are against racist politics in the United States. Given the crisis and the Free Trade Agreement, the people of the United States also feel like people "without a face," that is, with no alternatives, without possibilities.

Dialogue and the importance of the place given to us by the Zapatistas made us feel as a part of the Zapatista struggle, because we are students, workers, artists, and many of us are Mexican.

This last time I have come to Chiapas, I have been in San Antonio el Brillante and in Union Progreso, in the autonomous municipality of San Juan de la Libertad. There, we have heard different testimonies that talk about the escalation of violence promoted by Ernesto Zedillo. I think that Zedillo no longer has control of the administration of that country.

His irrational violence is intended to give examples to the communities about what can happen to them if they don't agree with the economic or social policies he practices.