Subcomandante Marcos Is No More

Translated by Danica Jorden


For audio recording of Marcos’ goodbye, click here.

“We believe that it is necessary for one of us to die so that Galeano may live on. So we have decided that Marcos must die today,” announced the Zapatista military head and spokesperson.

At 2:08 am this morning, Subcomandante Marcos announced that as of that moment, he had ceased to exist. In a statement made before those attending a tribute to Galeano, the Zapatista assassinated in the Zapatista community of La Realidad, the military head of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) noted: “If I were to define Marcos, the character, then I would say without hesitation that he was a mask.”

After more than 20 years at the helm of the political-military organization that first took up arms on the 1st of January 1994, Marcos announced that he has given up the command. He noted that after last year and the beginning of this year’s Zapatista Little School classes, “we realised that there was already a generation that could look us in the face, listen to us and speak to us without guidance or leadership, neither deferring to us nor requiring monitoring.” And so, he said, “Marcos, the personality, was no longer necessary. The next phase of the Zapatista struggle was ready.”

In the emblematic community of La Realidad, the same one where on May 2nd, a group of paramilitaries from the Independent Central of Agricultural Workers and Historic Campesinos (CIOAC-H) assassinated Zapatista Base Support Galeano, Subcomandante Marcos appeared at dawn, accompanied by six comandantes of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee and Insurgency Subcomandante Moisés, whom he named his successor in command last December.

“It is our conviction and our practice that we don’t need leaders or chieftains, messiahs or saviours, in order to develop and fight, only a little humility, a lot of dignity and a great deal of organisation; the rest either serves the collective or serves no purpose,” Marcos said.

A black patch with the design of a pirate skull covering his right eye, the erstwhile Zapatista spokesman recalled the dawn of the 1st of January 1994, when “an army of giants, or indigenous rebels, descended into the cities, and with their steps shook the world. Just a few days later, with the blood of our fallen ones still fresh in the streets, we realised that we weren’t being seen by those outside. Accustomed to looking past indigenous peoples, they didn’t raise their glance to look at us; accustomed to seeing us humiliated, they could not understand in their hearts the dignity of our rebellion. They fixated upon the only mestizo wearing a balaclava; in other words, they weren’t watching. So the men and women who lead us said: ‘They only see the smallest thing; let’s make someone as small as they are, so that when they see him, through him they will see us.’”

That was how Marcos was born, out of “a complex deceptive manoeuvre, a terrible and at the same time marvellous magic trick, a malicious move played by our indigenous heart; indigenous wisdom defying modernity through one of its bastions: the media.”

The press release, signed by “the free, alternative, autonomous or otherwise known media,” known in various alternative communication outlets as Radio Pozol, Promedia and Resistance Report, produced an atmosphere of applause and hurrahs at the EZLN after the Comandante’s announcement.

The image of Subcomandante Marcos travelled around the world in the early hours of the 1st of January 1994. The sight of a man armed with red bandoliers and an R-15, clad in a black and tan uniform covered with a woolen Chiapas Highlands chuj, his face covered by a balaclava and smoking a pipe, appeared on the front page of the most influential newspapers on the planet. Over the following days and weeks, his ironic and humourously charged communiqués were released, defiant and irreverent. The few hand-typed white pages were literally snapped up by the Mexican and international press. Twenty years and over four months later, Marcos has announced the end of this phase.

“It is hard to believe that twenty years later, ´nothing for us´ became more than a slogan, a good phrase for signs and songs, but a reality, La Realidad”, said Marcos. He added, “If being consistent is a failure, then incongruence is the path to success, and the way to power. But we don’t want to go that way, we’re not interested in that. Under those circumstances, we’d rather fail than triumph.”

“We believe,” he said, “that one of us must die so that Galeano may live on. So we have decided that Marcos must die today.”

“At 2:10 am, Insurgency Subcomandante Marcos forever descended from the stage, the lights were extinguished, followed by applause from members of the Sixth, and in turn a greater round of applause from Zapatista supporters, militants and insurgents,” was the report from La Realidad.

In keeping with his ironic style and traditional postscripts, the character of Marcos signed off with: P.S. 1 Game Over. 2.- Check Mate. 3.- Touché. 4.- Mmm, is this what hell is like? 5.- So now that I’ve dropped the mask, can I walk naked? 6.- It’s really dark in here, I need some light…”