xWayichinel-Lum-K’inal: The Liberated Territories of the Zapatista Struggle

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The Zapatista fight for political existence in Chiapas is often considered as a model for other Indigenous struggles. In this text, Juan López Intzin does not just describe the spatial dimension of this political fight, he also gives us a Tseltal philosophical lexicon to understand how space is conceptualized within it.

Translated from Spanish by Irmgard Emmelheinz.

My grandparents, uncles and father worked for the coffee plantations at El Soconusco. My father grew up in that area because he was orphaned at a very young age. Geographically speaking, El Soconusco is located in the Southern region of Chiapas, Mexico. The region is characterized by its mild climate and prominent coffee, banana and cacao plantations. Many Mayan peoples speakers of languages like Tseltal and Tsotsil from the Chiapas Heights, worked for decades in this region. An uncle from my father’s side, kept one of the plantations and still lives there. Before the Zapatista irruption, he would sometimes come back to the Heights of Chiapas and, with a fixed gazed on the horizon, he would say: “One day we will be free, one day these lands will be ours”. The idea that we would someday “be free” was not only the wish or dream of that man, but also coincided with a saying by women Tseltal speakers: “Ta jun k’alil ya xlekub jkuxlejaltik, ta jun k’alil ya xkolotik ta uts’inel, xa’wil awil” [One day our life will be more dignified, one day we will be liberated from oppression, you will see]. I wanted to begin this text with this brief introduction because it will give a sense to whomever reads this, about who writes and from where, a speaking site prefigured also in the title of this essay taking up a Tseltal Mayan term — Tseltal being one of the eleven originary languages that are spoken in Chiapas.