by Roberto D. Hernandez / Ymoat Luna
What is Community Justice? This is the theme for this year’s month-long series of events that have come to be known in San Diego as Enero Zapatista, or Zapatista January. This year marks the 19th iteration of politically and culturally conscious events on unceded Kumeyaay land (otherwise known as San Diego, California) that commemorate the Indigenous Zapatista’s uprising of January 1, 1994. The Zapatista communities, themselves are coming together and show of unity and force of diverse Maya Peoples—Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Ch’ol, and Mam—first launched its armed uprising on the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was to go into effect. To this day, they continue to hold on to extensive autonomous communities across the southern state of Chiapas.
While the group had been organizing clandestinely since the early 1980s, their public appearance occurred in the context of a resurgence of Indigenous Peoples struggles following the intercontinental protests against quincentennial “celebrations” of the so-called discovery in 1992. While Spanish, Portuguese, and Italians were fighting each other over who could rightfully claim Columbus, Indigenous nations were on the move across Turtle Island/Abya Yala. The uprising came as a reenergizing charge for social justice and liberation movements across the globe, including in Kumeyaay territory.
Making a call to all to “networks of rebellion, resistance, support, and solidarity” with the Zapatistas and Mexico’s National Indigenous Congress (CNI by its Spanish initials), as well as to “all those who resist capitalism from below and to the left and feel inspired by the EZLN’s struggle.” The Enero Zapatista organizing committee this year has chosen to bring attention to issues of community justice, both in Zapatista communities, in Mexico as a whole, and in our own geographies. The month-long series of events includes an art exhibition at the Centro Cultural de la Raza specifically highlighting dozens of Indigenous and environment activists, land and water defenders, that have been killed during the term of the current Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, commonly known as AMLO. Under AMLO’s administration, which claims to be progressive and of the left, more land and water defenders have been killed then under previous right-wing presidents.
It is said that in Mexico a traditional wake or funeral ceremonies due to political instability, including the ongoing feminicides of young women, happen nearly every day. Accordingly, “Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos!” (Alive they were taken, alive we want them back!) and “Ya no queremos velorios!” (We no longer want any wakes!) have become common slogans among the movements of families and supporters of all those who have disappeared, been assassinated as water or land defenders, as students, as victims of femicides within the narco/state of Mexico and in other countries dominated by capitalist markets that displace millions from Indigenous communities worldwide. The exhibit at Centro Cultural de la Raza held its opening on January 7, 2023 and will run through mid-February. It provides a timeline since the AMLO administration took office in and honors those who have lost their lives voicing protest towards the so-called Fourth Transformation megaprojects of death and those that have lost their lives unjustly as a consequence of narco-state violence and patriarchal structures that continue to discriminate and oppress vulnerable populations.
In standing against the megaprojects of death and all bad governments that are devastating Indigenous communities worldwide, the exhibition invites the San Diego community to reflect on what community justice looks like here in Kumeyaay territory, in your local neighborhoods, past hometowns, and beyond. According to the curators, the hope is that the theme “inspires you to connect past, present, and future stories and create art that can help bring light to spaces and people that may need justice, healing to yourself and your community, and inspiring paths to collective community justice.” Here on the local level, organizers hope folks can bring forth proposals for dialogue about how, where, and by whom justice is determined while living in a capitalist state. The closing of the 19th Annual Enero Zapatista will be held on February 4, 2023, and more information on events can be found at