Wednesday, August 31, 2011


"The heart is below and to the left"

Five years of bringing you zapatista-inspired rebellion on Turtle Island and throughout the galaxy comes to a close. The rebellion continues.

In this final post we'll look back on some of the blog's highlights over the years, bring you up to speed on where things are at with the zapatistas, and point towards my next directions on this journey.

Over 17 years since their uprising and first appearance on the public stage, and over 27 years since their founding, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) continues to creatively struggle for a new world -> most recently through lending their support, in word and action, to the first mass movement to end the war on drugs, Mexico's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity.

The over 1,000 zapatista base communities in Chiapas continue building their autonomous institutions, slowly but steadily improving their daily lives in spite of continued repression from all levels (municipal, state and federal) of the Mexican government and all parties in power. In the past year alone they have issued 11 denunciations each relating to some aspect of the counterinsurgency campaign against them. An observation and solidarity brigade with the zapatista communities is currently underway. The brigade, organized by the Network Against Repression and for Solidarity along with other members of the Other Campaign, is documenting and will disseminate information both on the attacks against the communities as well as their progress in building autonomy.

After two years of silence, zapatista Subcomandate Marcos began a public correspondence this year with Mexican sociologist Don Luis Villoro. This dialogue has drawn in many others, including Javier Sicilia, the inspirational poet of the movement against the drug war. Marcos mentions Sicilia and the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity in his latest letter to Villoro, to which he receives a reply from Sicilia himself. You can read a translation of their correspondence in English here. To read Marcos' entire letter in Spanish, released just a few days ago, which details the latest goings on in Chiapas and Mexico (meanwhile managing to mention Obama and Hillary Clinton), click here.

What will come next for the zapatistas... and the rest us?

Following an internal consultation with the over 200,000 members of the zapatista communities in June of 2005, the EZLN released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which was a record of their experiences up to that point and an invitation to publicly join them in building a national and global movement against capitalism “from below and to the left.”

A little over a year after the release of the Sixth Declaration, I began this blog to accompany that initiative from here in New York City... and we've covered much ground together. The first stories came from my extended stay in Oaxaca working for Narco News at the beginning of 2006. Those were the early days of the Other Campaign and many months before the city and state would explode in open rebellion against a tyrannical government. Those first stories of Mexico were soon accompanied by breaking news and calls to action, political analyses, profiles of people and movements, and even the uncovering of buried histories. First from the Levant, then the US and beyond -> a galaxy in rebellion, seeking greater freedom, justice and democracy.

One of the most important contributions made here has been our coverage of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, an immigrant-led community-based organization in NYC's East Harlem that has led many valiant struggles to not only defend their own territory but also to defend fellow members of the Other Campaign. Zapagringo has provided more in-depth coverage of their remarkable work than any other source (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14) including their efforts on behalf of the zapatistas, Abahlali baseMjondolo (the South African Shackdweller's Movement), the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala, their remarkable contributions (1,2) to the campaign Freedom and Justice for Atenco, and -most recently- their bold, global leadership in the successful struggle to free the political prisoners from San Sebastián Bachajón (1,2,3). That's at least 22 stories on Movement for Justice in El Barrio. The publication of this farewell message was delayed as I was informed that this was the first place people were going for information on San Sebastián Bachajón... and that I needed to post on the victory. It's a sweet note to close on, and the struggle continues. I hope that others will continue to carry the torch even as I change gears. Reach out to Movimiento at movementforjusticeinelbarrio [at] to support and stay abreast of their work through their mailing list.

Our coverage of Movement for Justice in El Barrio has perhaps only been rivaled by our early coverage of Oaxaca. A certain sector of New York City exploded in rage when long-time local activist Brad Will was murdered in the suppression of five-months of popular control in Oaxaca City from June to November of 2006. Having met and interviewed many of the highly diverse organizations and activists in Oaxaca at the beginning of 2006 (1,2,3) and already mobilizing in NYC against repression of the Other Campaign, it only made sense to step up to support the mobilizations that began here with Brad's murder that October (1,2,3)... and to support the ongoing action of his family and friends. El Enemigo Común (inspired by and building on the work of Simón Sedillo) continues to be the first place to look for up-to-date coverage of the ongoing struggle for freedom in Oaxaca.

The breadth of struggle that we've covered here over the past five years is considerable, and gives some idea of the distance covered by the word of the zapatistas (the best account of their public history, Gloria Muñoz Ramirez's "The Fire and The Word", has just been published in Farsi). Some of the most consistent international links highlighted here are those with Palestine (1,2,3,4 + Slingshot Hip Hop 1,2,3,4,5) and South Africa (1,2,3,4,5). With such a wide ranging geography, Zapagringo has drawn a readership from across the globe, with a consistent readership over the last two years (I can't track further back) hailing from throughout Europe (especially Germany, Russia, Netherlands, UK and France) and Canada, as well as South Korea, Iran and China... and countless other countries in fewer numbers.

With such a global readership, it makes sense that one of our top three most-read posts is our publication of Kolya Abramsky's article, "The Bamako Appeal and The Zapatista 6th Declaration: Between Creating New Worlds and Reorganizing the Existing One"... or as I provocatively titled the post, World Social Forum vs The Intergalactic. It's a compelling look at global processes of struggle through a zapatista lens. And if you enjoyed that piece I recommend you also check out, "Gathering Our Dignified Rage: Building New Autonomous Global Relations of Production, Livelihood and Exchange," which he wrote in the lead up to the World Festival of Dignified Rage, which was co-hosted by the zapatistas and gathered people from across the globe for 11 days in three locations in Mexico around New Years '08-'09.

The heaviest readership without a doubt has come from within the US. Over the years I've prioritized illuminating the links between the zapatista struggle and our work here in the States. The connections made range from the early, foundational piece "Enter the Intergalactic" to a look at the relationship between zapatismo and the movement to abolish the prison industrial complex; from publishing the first ever biography of the New Afrikan revolutionary Kuwasi Balagoon to current debates within the community organizing left. It comes as no surprise then that another of our top three most-read posts is the online publication of Paula X Rojas' "Are the Cops in Our Heads and Hearts?," which was originally published in the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence collection, "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex."

What has been surprising, though, is that this blog's top post is also it's most personal (Again, this is measuring from the past two years or so -> I can't believe what's been accomplished with such a limited understanding of the medium... I clearly don't even know how to "tag" things). The most-read story over the past couple years on Zapagringo is the piece we collectively wrote from the Challenging Male Supremacy Project. And this is the direction in which my work is deepening.

My main motivation for closing the blog, and stepping away from other work I've been holding for a long time now, is to more deeply enter and focus on building transformative justice responses to violence against women, queer and trans people, and children. I've actually landed here through my engagement with the zapatistas.

If you're interested, keep an eye out for continued events I'll be producing through my paid gig with the Foundry Theatre; such as a dialogue series this spring (April 2012), which will bring together social justice organizers from across the city, and world, to "show-and-tell" about their work on various themes. Another Politics is Possible (1,2,3,4,5,6) will be part of a forthcoming book project, Regeneración Childcare NYC (1,2,3) will likely be writing something collectively as well, and Secret Survivors (also here) will be coming out with a documentary and toolkit based on our live performance.

The main thrust of my work, however, will be in building transformative justice, through the Challenging Male Supremacy Project in NYC, and nationally in coordination with and through generationFIVE. This focus will include a deepening engagement with generative somatics and will bring to bear what I’ve learned and continue to learn from the zapatistas and other struggles throughout the world. It's from this place that I'll add my grain of sand to this struggle between humanity and "the empire of money," the fourth world war.

If you're looking for information on the zapatistas, on related struggles around the world, or even on the work I'm directly involved in, look no further than the links to the right of this post.

A special thank you to all those friends and compañer@s who over the years have intentionally given your words and work to this project: Al, Alex, Andre, Andy, Another Politics is Possible, Anwar, Ashanti, Boston Interpreters Collective, Carwil, Casa Atabex Aché, Challenging Male Supremacy Project, Chris, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Cory, Dan, Fernando, Francesca, Grace, Greg, Karl, Kaya, Kazembe (soon to be a papa!), Kolya, Kristen, Left Turn Magazine, Mandy, Matrix Magazine, Matt, Max, Midnight Notes, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Paula, Prita, Regeneración Childcare NYC, Rethinking Solidarity, Simón, Steve, Tessa, Toussaint, Trip and Upping the Anti.

Thank you for joining me on this journey readers and, most of all, people in struggle.

That’s farewell… at least for here, and now :-)


tej said...

This is a fantastic and (of course) thoughtful summation.... Thanks for this last post: a go-to portal for those of us who will make time in the future to dig deeper on certain topics.... Keep up the great work! -- hearty thanks for maintaining zapagringo for five years, at such a consistently high level of quality, commitment, and care.

Alejandro said...

Excellent, RJ! and Excellent RJ!!

Dan said...

Thanks so much for doing this blog for all these years, RJ, and for this beautiful summation. I'm excited for what is to come. In solidarity, Dan

Debbie B said...

You continue to inspire me!

Chris Dixon said...

Much appreciation to you, RJ, for maintaining this wonderful blog and for the intentionality that you've consistently brought to it (reflected here, beautifully, in your final post). Rock on.

Anonymous said...

My only complaint about this blog was "why doesn't he update more often?!" Obviously, writing thoughtful, well-written posts takes a lot of time and effort, and I appreciate every post Zapagringo has ever made.

Anonymous said...

I've been a lurker that has checked out the site for a while but never commented. Just wanted to say I think you've done great work.

vik said...

Felicidades por el trabajo que has hecho y suerte por el valiente camino de transformacion que has escogido,

desde italia, un compa que en algun momento fue zapatista de corazon,


RJ Maccani said...

It's been great to hear from so many readers and contributors here, on Facebook and especially over e-mail this past week. I couldn't be in better company. I'm looking forward to staying connected as we all take our next steps.

And to answer a question that's come up more than a few times -> Yes, the blog and all posts will stay up!

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