After sailing across the Atlantic for more than one month, on the 10th of June, a delegation of Zapatistas reached the shores of the European continent at the Azores archipelago, Portugal. In their baggage they carry stories of years of struggles and visions to be shared with the people of Europe who, like the Zapatistas, fight for “a world where many worlds fit”. Read here more about their grounded travel and the struggles they have been part of.
On the first day of 2021, the Zapatistas announced that they would be setting foot on each continent of the planet on a tour that they call “Gira por la Vida” (in English, the tour for life). They want to dialogue and exchange with people who understand that for humanity to survive we have to overcome the current system oriented by greed, profit and infinite growth. Their aim is to meet with groups around the world that share the same concerns and have similar and common struggles.
To start out this journey around the world, the Zapatistas decided that the first delegation of the Gira would cross the Atlantic on a sailing ship. In spite of the challenge of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat, on the 2nd of May 2021, the first group of Zapatistas set sail from the Mexican shore for Europe. In between, there were stops in Cuba and Dominican Republic followed by several weeks at sea, before reaching the European continent in the Azores. Upon their arrival to the coast of Galicia on Sunday, 20th of June, groups of people warmly welcomed the delegation of the Zapatistas in Vigo, Spain, from where they are starting their “invasion of Europe”.
More delegations are expected to come to tour around Europe, integrated by the CNI-CIG (National Indigenous Congress – Indigenous Council Government), the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa del Agua y de la Tierra de Morelos, Puebla y Tlaxcala, and the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation).
The legacy of the Zapatistas and the struggle against mega-projects
As descendants of the Mayas, the Zapatistas have been resisting colonialism and dispossession for five centuries. After their uprising in 1994 in the Chiapas state of Mexico, they have become a symbol of the struggle for autonomy, self-governance and grassroots democracy, while resisting all sorts of mega-projects that threaten to steal the land, the water, the culture and the life of many indigenous, forest and peasant communities throughout the territories of Mexico. Those resisting mega-projects face ongoing harassment and persecution from military and paramilitary forces, sponsored by the state, regional authorities and foreign entities.
For the surrounding communities, it has become crystal-clear that airports, touristic resorts, touristic trains, dams, thermoelectric plants, mines, etc. are not there to improve the life of the poor and oppressed. On the contrary, those mega-projects are there to further impoverish and oppress them so that the regional and national elites as well as multinational corporations can expand their fortunes and dominance. The mega-projects are sold and promoted as part of the fundamental path towards development, modernity and prosperity, but instead they bring poverty, pollution and dispossession.
The Zapatistas, along with other groups and communities in Mexico and in Latin America (some members of Stay Grounded), have been successful in denouncing mega-projects as an example of the injustice and inequity brought by globalised capitalism.
Anti-airport struggles: fighting more than airplanes
Fast mobility is a fundamental pillar of globalised capitalism. The possibility of travelling, trading and consuming faster sustains the growth-motivated global economic system. The construction of a new airport or the expansion of an existing one is then part of a broader picture of expansionist projects. The communities resisting the construction of airports in Mexico know that with an airport comes a highway, a gas pipeline, a high voltage tower, the illegal drilling of wells to plunder water and over-urbanisation (industrial parks, hotel zones, etc.). In other words, more projects that open the door for land dispossession, forced displacement, violence, corruption and general plundering of resources.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of examples (to choose from). The development of a new airport near Lake Texcoco in the central zone of Mexico is connected with the construction of the Tuxpan-Mexico Highway, both associated with violence and invasion of communal land in a region already struggling with water scarcity. Plans to expand the Cancun-Tulum highway into the Mayan jungle followed the announcement of a new airport in the touristic region of Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo, complementing the polemic Mayan train, which is set to grab more land from indigenous and peasant communities and risk their livelihoods. The new international airport in Creel in the State of Chihuahua is part of a touristic project that has been met with opposition from the neighbouring indigenous Rarámuri communities and led to the murder of local activist Antonio Montes last year.
In Mexico and in other parts of the world, fighting the expansion and the building of new airports is not only fighting to stop another source of CO2 that is bound to throw us into a trajectory of runaway climate change. Communities, including the Zapatistas, leading and supporting anti-airport struggles are fighting for land, for water, for culture and for life. They fight for the recognition of different forms of living and the right to self-determination.
“A world where many worlds fit”
In the next few months, the Zapatistas and others within the Mexican delegation of the Gira por la Vida will tour around Europe to share their inspiring stories of resistance, of community-building, of fostering alternatives to capitalism and many other victories. They also want to hear from those in Europe that resist and dare to dream of a world beyond exploitation, colonialism, racism, militarism, patriarchy, the destruction of nature and growth – a world that respects the existence of all living things and their diversity.
At Stay Grounded, we know that aviation – an industry that consumes an enormous amount of resources and destroys the climate conditions for all life on Earth for the benefit of a tiny privileged portion of the global population – has little place in a world that we dream of and fight for.
We welcome the Zapatistas in Europe and salute their struggles and visions in the making of many worlds!
Read more about the Zapatistas and their tour in Europe: https://viajezapatista.eu/en/