A rainbow representation of people's movements, NGOs, unfunded groups, unions, individuals, and co-ops, attended the Encuentro opening - a public meeting with Dalia and Felipe from the Zapatista National Liberation Army. They spoke of the militarisation of all parts of Mexico, and the struggles of Zapatista communities. Where neo-liberalism had meant an end to hope for millions all around the world, the message and demands of the Zapatista movement offer renewed hope - shown by the way Dalia and Felipe were warmly welcomed wherever they travelled.
The week was organised by themes - the neoliberal economy, struggles for culture and education, for land and ecology, and the struggle against patriarchy, and all forms of marginalisation - which were held in different parts of Spain, from a squat in Barcelona to occupied farm land at El Indiano in the south.
In the land and ecology workshops at El Indiano, we heard of struggles in the Philippines against the proposed development of a golf and "Country Club" on land currently composed of 4 villages, rich agricultural land and a beautiful landscape of mountains and sea; of thousands of Indian farmers protesting against Kentucky Fried Chicken for their monopolisation of local food growing areas for meat production; and of the Sem Terra movement in Brazil which has been organising among landless families in Brazil, occupying land and campaigning for agrarian reform.
|"Land and Freedom" demonstration|
|The week culminated in a meeting of over 2000 people, where each group gave feedback on their discussions, and the possibility of creating "an international network of resistance" came closer to realisation. Despite our diversity, we are all struggling for a common goal and against the same system driven by the laws of profit. As the Encuentro summons said, "perhaps the most urgent thing to do is to try and break out of this isolation, and open spaces to hold in common our struggles, our frustrations and our desires for change".|
"Have these high ideals been met?", I wonder to myself. I doubt if we can measure the energy and encouragement that the Encuentro gave to people as they return to their disparate communities. Not only have concrete plans for international actions emerged (eg an international week of action against Maastricht in December), but the Encuentro also showed that human beings all over the world are seizing the spaces left by the destruction caused by the free market, and filling them with proposals for self-organisation and viable alternatives.
For more info, or to help start a Zapatista Solidarity Group in Manchester, contact Sophie on 0161 225 3216.