Reflections on the Gira por la Vida

Group of people in a park holding flares and banners. Banners include messages such as "Our Struggle is For Life", "500 ANOS" and "We are all Zapatistas".

A conversation with members of the Zapatista Solidarity Network on the 2021 Zapatista visit to Europe.

This project is supported by a CHASE Climate Justice Network Small Grant

The visit of a large Zapatista delegation from Mexico to Europe was long awaited and long prepared, but due to countless problems resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, visa and quarantine regulations, the arrival date had to be postponed several times, which posed unforeseen challenges to the realisation of our planned podcast.

However, as we were able to witness some highly interesting encounters and conversations during the visit, and the formation of new networks in solidarity with struggles around extractivism, landgrabs and environmental conflicts in Central and South America, we decided not to give up on the podcast idea. Instead, we used the quieter time after the departure of the Zapatistas, to reflect together with some of those who organised and witnessed their visit in the UK. We would like to use this platform in order to disseminate this reflection on the Zapatista visit, their culture of community building, education and self-governance, and to give an account of the formation of old and new decolonial networks and collectives across continents.

This is also to support a critical discussion around what is currently at stake in some of the central and southern regions of Mexico: a case study of the multiple global conflicts around resource extraction and development paths.  A development that is guided by profit-interests of international corporations – many of them of European origin – and national or local governments’ western-oriented ideas of progress and prosperity.

The current marked expansion of infrastructure- and industrial projects in this region is met by fierce resistance of local and indigenous communities, who defend their autonomous subsistence economies, their rights of cultural self-determination, their waterways and the rich biodiversity of their regions. These conflicts, characterised by extreme violence and the cooperation between state and criminal/paramilitary networks cracking down on local activists, are highly relevant not only as a study of socio-political development in central America, but also with regards to wider questions of political autonomy in relation to biodiversity, climate change and climate justice.

And this is perhaps the most important learning point from the Zapatista visit: to hear about epistemic, political, economic, cultural and environmental struggles first-hand, articulated not by western environmentalists or scholars, but by indigenous peoples themselves through their movements and organisations, such as that of the Zapatistas.


More information on the Zapatista organisation

Background information on the history of the Zapatista struggle and territory.

Enlaze Zapatista – Central communication channel of the EZLN.

Enlaze Zapatista on Facebook.

Zapatista Solidarity Network in the UK.

Resources incl. a series of webinars organised by the Zapatista Solidarity Network in advance of the journey (highly recommended!)

Article in English – Zapatistas announcing their visit to Europe, including full communiquee in English translation.

Web resource (Spanish) on EZLN, affiliated organisations and current mobilisation against war.

More info on mega projects, local resistance and human rights violations in Mexico

Website with short video about the so-calle Tren Maya in the Yucatán península, and other clips on indigenous resistance in South Mexico.

Investigative report on the so-called Tren Maya and the involvement of the german rail company Deutsche Bahn.

For those who read Spanish:

Detailed reports on Tren Maya and another mega project, the transoceanic rail, road and port corridor planned in the Istmus of Tehuantepec (shortest land connection between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific ocean.)

Poder is a research organisation supporting local community organisations in their struggles against extractivist operations, conductin “long-term research into mining, hydrocarbons, energy and infrastructure, in addition to other strategic industries, like banking and heavy manufacturing”, with many cases in central and south Mexico.

FRAYBA is a human rights organisation in Chiapas, its website is the most comprehensive source on human rights violation in Zapatista territory.