TO MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
I am writing to you in the name of the men, women, children and
elderly of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in order to
congratulate you on April 24, which is your birthday.
Perhaps you have heard of us. We are Mexican, mostly indigenous,
and we took up arms on January 1 of 1994 demanding a voice, face
and name for the forgotten of the earth.
Since then, the Mexican government has made war on us and pursues
us and harasses us seeking our death, our disappearance and our
definitive silence. The reason? These lands are rich with oil, uranium
and precious lumber. The government wants them for the great transnational
companies. We want them for all the Mexicans. The government sees
our lands as a business. We see our history written in these lands.
In oder to defend our right (and that of all Mexicans) to live with
liberty, democracy, justice and dignity we became an army and undertook
a name, voice and face that way.
Perhaps you wonder how we know of you, about your birthday, and
why it is that we extend this long bridge which goes from the mountains
of the Mexican southeast to the prison of Pennsylvania which has
imprisoned you unjustly. Many good people from many parts of the
world have spoken of you, through them we have learned how you were
ambushed by the North American police in December of 1981, of the
lies which they constructed in the procedures against you, and of
the death sentence in 1982. We learned about your birthday through
the international mobilizations which, under the name of "Millions
for Mumia", are being prepared this April 24th.
It is harder to explain this bridge which this letter extends,
it is more complicated. I could tell you that, for the powerful
of Mexico and the government, to be indigenous, or to look indigenous,
is reason for disdain, abhorrence, distrust and hatred. The racism
which now floods the palaces of Power in Mexico goes to the extreme
of carrying out a war of extermination, genocide, against millions
of indigenous. I am sure that you will find similarities with what
the Power in the United States does with the so-called "people
of color" (African-American, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asians,
Northamerican Indians and any other peoples who do not have the
insipid color of money.)
We are also "people of color" (the same color of our
brothers who have Mexican blood and live and struggle in the American
Union). We are of the color "brown", the color of the
earth, the color from which we take our history, our strength, our
wisdom and our hope. But in order to struggle we add another color
to the brown: black. We use black ski-masks to show our faces. Only
in this way can we be seen and heard. We chose this color as a result
of the counsel of an indigenous Mayan elder who explained to us
what the color black meant.
The name of this wise elder was Old Man Antonio. He died in these
rebel Zapatista lands in March of 1994, victim of tuberculosis which
ate his lungs and his breath. Old Man Antonio used to tell us that
from black came the light and from there came the stars which light
up the sky around the world. He told us a story which said that
a long time ago (in those times when no one measured it), the first
gods were given the task of giving birth to the world. In one of
their meetings they saw it was necessary that the world have life
and movement, and for this light was necessary. Then they thought
of making the sun in order that the days move and so there would
be day and night and time for struggling and time for making love,
walking with the days and nights the world would go. The gods had
their meeting and made this agreement in front of a large fire,
and they knew it was necessary that one of them be sacrificed by
throwing himself into the fire in order to become fire himself and
fly into the sky. The gods thought that the work of the sun was
the most important, so they chose the most beautiful god so that
he would fly into the fire and become the sun. But he was afraid.
Then the smallest god, the one who was black, said he was not afraid
and he threw himself into the fire and became sun. Then the world
had light and movement, and there was time for struggle and time
for love, and in the day the bodies worked to make the world and
in the night the bodies made love and sparkles filled the darkness.
This is what Old Man Antonio told us and that is why we use a black
ski mask. So we are of the color brown and of the color black. But
we are also of the color yellow, because the first people who walked
these lands were made of corn so they would be true. And we are
also red because this is the call of blood which has dignity and
we are also blue because we are the sky in which we fly, and green
for the mountain which is our house and our strength. And we are
white because we are paper so that tomorrow can write its story.
So we are 7 colors because there were 7 first gods who birthed
This is what Old Man Antonio said long ago and now I tell you this
story so that you may understand the reason for this bridge of paper
and ink which I send to you all the way from the mountains of the
And also so that you may understand that with this bridge goes
pieces of salutes and hugs for Leonard Peltier (who is in the prison
at Leavenworth, Kansas), and for the more than 100 political prisoners
in the USA who are the victims of injustice, stupidity and authoritarianism.
And with this letter-bridge walks as well a salute to the Dine
(the Navajo), who, in Big Mountain, Arizona, fight against the violations
of their traditional Dine religious practices. They struggle against
those who prefer the large businesses instead of respect for the
religious freedom of Indian peoples, and those who want to destroy
sacred grounds and ceremonial sites (as is the case of Peabody Western
Coal Company which wants to take lands without reason, history or
rights-lands which belong to the Dine and their future generations.)
But there are not only stories of resistance against North American
injustice in this letter-bridge. There are the indigenous, from
the extreme south of our continent, in Chile, the Mapuche women
in the Pewenche Center of Alto Bio-Bio who resist against stupidity.
Two indigenous women, Bertha and Nicolasa Quintreman are accused
of "mistreating" members of the armed forces of the Chilean
government. So there it is. An armed military unit with rifles,
sticks, and tear-gas, protected by bulletproof vests, helmets and
shields, accuse two indigenous women of "mistreatment".
But Bertha is 74 years old and Nicolasa is 60. How is it possible
that two elderly people confronted a "heroic" group of
heavily-armed military? Because they are Mapuche. The story is the
same as that of the brothers and sisters Dine of Arizona, and the
same which repeats itself in all America: a company (ENDESA) wants
the lands of the Mapuches, and in spite of the law which protects
the indigenous, the government is on the side of the companies.
The Mapuche students have pointed out that the government and the
company made a "study" of military intelligence about
the indigenous Mapuche communities and they came to the conclusion
that the Mapuche could not think, defend themselves, resist, or
construct a better future. The study was wrong apparently.
Now it occurs to me that, perhaps the powerful in North America
carried out a "military intelligence" study (this is frankly
a contradiction, because those of us who are military are not intelligent,
if we were we would not be military) about the case of the Dine
in Arizona, about Leonard Peltier, about other political prisoners,
about yourself, mister Mumia.
Perhaps they made this study and came to the conclusion that they
might be able to violate justice and reason, to assault history
and lose the truth. They thought they could do this and no one would
say anything. The Dine Indians would stand by and watch the destruction
of the most sacred of their history, Leonard Peltier would be alone,
and you, Mister Mumia, would be silenced ( and I remember your own
words "They not only want my death, they want my silence").
But the studies were wrong. Happy mistake? The Dine resist against
those who would kill their memory, Leonard Peltier is accompanied
by all those who demand his liberty, and you sir, speak and yell
today with all the voices which celebrate your birthday as all birthdays
should be celebrated, by struggling.
We have nothing big to give you as a gift for your birthday, it
is poor and little, but all of us send you an embrace.
We hope that when you gain your freedom you will come to visit
us. Then we will give you a birthday party, even if it isn't April
24th, it will be an unbirthday party.
There will be musicians, dancing and speaking, which are the means
by which men and women of all colors understand and know one another,
and build bridges over which they walk together, towards history,
Vale. We salute you and may justice and truth find their place.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, April of 1999
P.S. I read somewhere that you are a father and a grandfather.
So I am sending you a gift for your children and grandchildren.
It is a little wooden car with Zapatistas dressed in black ski-masks.
Tell your children and grandchildren that it is a gift that we send
you, the Zapatistas. Explain to them places that there are people
of all colors everywhere, just like you, who want justice, liberty
and democracy for people of all colors.
Die Welt neu erschaffen
Pieces of the Global Puzzle
Teile des Weltpuzzles
The Intellectual Right and Liberal Fascism
To Mumia Abu-Jamal
Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional
Solidarity Pages with Mexico