Subcomandante Marcos

Mexican activist (1957-)

Subcomandante Marcos (born 19 June 1957 in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico) is a leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a Mexican political organisation.

Everything that makes power and the good consciences of those in power uncomfortable — this is Marcos.


  • Antonio dreams of owning the land he works on, he dreams that his sweat is paid for with justice and truth, he dreams that there is a school to cure ignorance and medicine to scare away death, he dreams of having electricity in his home and that his table is full, he dreams that his country is free and that this is the result of its people governing themselves, and he dreams that he is at peace with himself and with the world. He dreams that he must fight to obtain this dream, he dreams that there must be death in order to gain life. Antonio dreams and then he awakens…. Now he knows what to do and he sees his wife crouching by the fire, hears his son crying. He looks at the sun rising in the East, and, smiling, grabs his machete. The wind picks up, he rises and walks to meet others. Something has told him that his dream is that of many and he goes to find them.
  • The storm is here. From the clash of these two winds the storm will be born, its time has arrived. Now the wind from above rules, but the wind from below is coming…. The prophecy is here. When the storm calms, when rain and fire again leave the country in peace, the world will no longer be the world but something better.
  • As to whether Marcos is gay: Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.
  • Marcos is all the exploited, marginalised, oppressed minorities resisting and saying "Enough!" He is every minority who is now beginning to speak and every majority that must shut up and listen. He is every untolerated group searching for a way to speak. Everything that makes power and the good consciences of those in power uncomfortable — this is Marcos.
  • Love is like a teacup that every day falls to the ground and breaks to pieces. In the morning the pieces are gathered and with a little moisture and a little warmth, the pieces are glued together, and again there is a little teacup. He who is in love spends life fearing that the terrible day will come when the teacup is so broken that it can no longer mended.
    • "Speaking of Love, No Love, and Other Nuisances" (23 December 1995) in Our Word Is Our Weapon
  • La libertad es como la mañana. Hay quienes esperan dormidos a que llegue, pero hay quienes desvelan y caminan la noche para alcanzarla.
    • Freedom is like the morning. There are those who wait for it asleep, and there are others that stay awake and walk through the night to reach it.
    • La revuelta de la memoria (1999), p. 165, Centro de Información y Análisis de Chiapas. [1]
  • The world we want to transform has already been worked on by history and is largely hollow. We must nevertheless be inventive enough to change it and build a new world. Take care and do not forget ideas are also weapons.
  • The prince has consequently issued orders: "Attack them! I shall supply the army and media. You come up with the ideas." So, right-wing intellectuals spend their time insulting their left-wing counterparts, and because of the Zapatista movement's international impact, they are now busy rewriting our story to suit the demands of the prince.
  • We treat the children like children. It is the powerful with their war that treats them like they are adults. We talk to them. We teach them that the word, together with love and dignity, is what makes us human beings. We don't teach them how to fight. Well, yes, but only how to fight with their words. They learn. They know that the reason we are in all this is so that they won't have to do the same. And they talk and they also listen. Contrary to what you say, we teach the children that words don't kill but that yes it is possible to kill words and, along with them, the act of being human.
  • We teach them that there are so many words like colors and that there are so many thoughts because within them is the world where words are born. That there are different thoughts and we should respect them. That there are those who pretend their way of thinking should be the only way and they persecute, jail, and kill (always hidden behind the reasons of the State, illegitimate laws, or "just causes") thoughts that are different then their own. And we teach them to speak the truth, that is to say, to speak with their hearts. Because the lie is another form of killing words.
  • We teach them to speak and also to listen. Because when people only talk and don't listen, they end up thinking that what they say is the only thing that is worth anything. ... Speaking and listening to words is how we know who we are, where we come from, and where our steps are going. Also it's how we know about others, their steps, and their world. Speaking and listening to words is like listening to life.
  • In previous armies, soldiers used their time to clean their weapons and stock up on ammunition. Our weapons are words, and we may need our arsenal at any moment.
  • Little by little the Chiapnaneco world is beginning to divide. The wind from above assumes its old forms of arrogance and haughtiness. The police and Federal Army close ranks around money and corruption. The wind from below once against travels the ravines and valleys; it is beginning to blow strongly. There will be a storm...
    • "There will be a Storm" (October 8, 1994)
  • The moon is my button of gilded silver, dented and poorly sewn onto the black shirt of the mountain. In the grand house of the calendar, Mat appears as a conjunction of the double and humid page of August and September. Perhaps that is why the sun travels the day spreading sweat, and suffocating heat, while during the night the moon fills its pages with the sleeping wind.
    • "Duality and Remembrance" (August-September 1999)

The First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (Jan. 1, 1994)

  • Mexican Brothers and Sisters,
    We are a product of 500 years of struggle: first against slavery; then during the War of Independence against Spain led by insurgents, then to avoid being absorbed by North American imperialism, then to promulgate our constitution and expel the French empire from our soil, and later the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz denied us the just application of the Reform laws and the people rebelled and leaders like Villa and Zapata emerged, poor men just like us.
  • We have been denied the most elemental preparation so they can use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don't care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a roof over our heads, no land, no work, no health care, no food nor education. Nor are we able to freely and democratically elect our political representatives, nor is there independence from foreigners, nor is peace nor justice for ourselves and our children. But today, we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
  • We also ask that international organizations and the International Red Cross watch over and regulate our battles, so that our efforts are carried out while still protecting our civilian population. We declare now and always that we are subject to the Geneva Accord, forming the EZLN as our fighting arm of our liberation struggle. We have the Mexican people on our side, we have the beloved tri-colored flag highly respected by our insurgent fighters. We use black and red in our uniform as our symbol of our working people on strike. Our flag carries the following letters, "EZLN," Zapatista Army of National Liberation, and we always carry our flag into combat.
  • To the People of Mexico: We, the men and women, full and free, are conscious that the war that we have declared is our last resort, but also a just one. The dictators have been applying an undeclared genocidal war against our people for many years. Therefore we ask for your participation, your decision to support this plan that struggles for work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace. We declare that we will not stop fighting until the basic demands of our people have been met by forming a government of our country that is free and democratic.

Quotes about Marcos

  • Marcos is a revolutionary who writes long meditative letters to Eduardo Galeano about the meaning of silence; who describes colonialism as a series of 'bad jokes badly told', who quotes Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare and Borges. Who writes that resistance takes place 'any time any man or woman rebels to the point of tearing off the clothes resignation has woven for them and cynicism has dyed grey.'
    • Naomi Klein, as quoted in ¡Ya Basta! Ten Years of the Zapatista Uprising (2004), p. 17
  • Marcos has spread the Zapatista word through riddles. Revolutionaries who don't want power. People who must hide their face to be seen. A world with many worlds in it. A movement of one 'no' and many 'yesses'. The phrases seem simple at first, but don't be fooled. They have a way of burrowing into the consciousness, cropping up in strange places, being repeated until they take on a quality of truth—but not absolute truth: a truth, as the Zapatistas might say, with many truths in it.
    • Naomi Klein, as quoted in ¡Ya Basta! Ten Years of the Zapatista Uprising (2004), p. 19
  • Marcos is A new kind of hero, one who listens more than he speaks, who preaches in riddles not in certainties, a leader who doesn't show his face, who says his mask is really a mirror. And in the Zapatistas, we have not one dream of a revolution, but a dreaming revolution.
    • Naomi Klein, as quoted in ¡Ya Basta! Ten Years of the Zapatista Uprising (2004), p. 22
  • (What’s your go-to classic? And your favorite book no one else has heard of?)...Subcomandante Marcos’s writings in conjunction with the 1994 Zapatista revolution showed me how lyrical and literary political writing could be, so the anthologies of his manifestoes and essays are up there in my pantheon
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