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Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities

Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (in Spanish, known as Municipios Autónomos Rebeldes Zapatistas, or by the acronym MAREZ) are territories controlled by the Neo-zapatista support bases in the Mexican state of Chiapas, founded in December 1994.

Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities

Municipios Autónomos Rebeldes Zapatistas  (Spanish)
Flag of MAREZ
Fully or partially controlled territory by the Zapatistas in Chiapas
Fully or partially controlled territory by the Zapatistas in Chiapas
StatusDe facto autonomous region of Chiapas
CapitalNone (de jure)
Oventik (Tiamnal, Larráinzar) (de facto)[1]
16°55′33″N 92°45′37″W / 16.92583°N 92.76028°W / 16.92583; -92.76028
Constitutional languages
GovernmentLibertarian socialist anti-capitalist confederation under a non-partisan consensus democracy[2]
• Head of government
• Local leadership
Councils of Good Government
Autonomous region
1 January 1994
• Caracoles established[3]
9 August 2003
• Current Declaration of the Selva Lacandona[4]
30 June 2005
• Total
24,403 km2 (9,422 sq mi)
• 2018 estimate

The Zapatista army, or EZLN, does not hold any power in the autonomous municipalities. According to its constitution, no commander or member of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee may take positions of authority or government in these spaces.[7]

These places are found within the official municipalities, and several are even within the same municipality, as in the case of San Andres Larrainzar and Ocosingo. The MAREZ are coordinated by Autonomous Councils and their main objectives have been to promote education and health in their territories. They also fight for land rights, labor and trade, housing, and fuel-supply issues, promoting arts (especially indigenous language and traditions), and administering justice.[8]


On 1 January 1994, thousands of EZLN members occupied towns and cities in Chiapas, burning down police stations, occupying government buildings and skirmishing with the Mexican army. The EZLN demanded "work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace." in their communities.[9] The Zapatistas seized over a million acres from large landowners during their revolution.[10]


Since 2003 the MAREZ coordinate in very small groups called caracoles (Spanish: "snails"). Before that, the Neo-Zapastistas used the title of Aguascalientes after the site of the EZLN-organized National Democratic Convention on 8 August 1994;[11] this name gave the allusion to the Convention of Aguascalientes during the Mexican Revolution where Emiliano Zapata and other leaders met in 1914 and Zapata made an alliance with Francisco Villa.

MAREZ Caracol Former Name (Aguascalientes) Indigenous Groups Area and municipalities in which they are found
  • General Emiliano Zapata
  • San Pedro de Michoacán
  • Liberty of the Maya People
  • Land and Liberty
Mother of the sea snails of our dreams La Realidad tojolabales, tzeltales, and mames Selva Fronteriza. "Ocosingo, Marques de Comillas"
  • 17 November
  • First of January
  • Ernesto Ché Guevara
  • Olga Isabel
  • Lucio Cabañas
  • Miguel Hidalgo
  • Vicente Guerrero
Whirlwind of our words Morelia tzeltales, tzotziles, and tojolabales Tzots Choj Altamirano, Comitán
  • Francisco Gómez
  • San Manuel
  • Francisco Villa
  • Ricardo Flores Magón
Resistance toward a new dawn La Garrucha tzeltales Selva Tzeltal "Ocosingo, Altamirano"
  • Vicente Guerrero
  • Del Trabajo
  • La Montaña
  • San José en Rebeldía
  • La Paz
  • Benito Juárez
  • Francisco Villa
That speaks for all Roberto Barrios choles, zoques, and tzeltales Zona Norte de Chiapas San Andrés Larrainzar, El Bosque, Simojovel de allende
  • San Andrés Sacamch’en de los Pobres
  • San Juan de la Libertad
  • San Pedro Polhó
  • Santa Catarina
  • Magdalena de la Paz
  • 16 February
  • San Juan Apóstol Cancuc
Resistance and rebellion for humanity Oventic tzotziles, and tzeltales Altos de Chiapas, San Andrés Larrainzar, Teopisca.
Hope of Humanity ejido Santa María Chicomuselo
Ernesto Che Guevara El Belén Motozintla
Planting consciousness in order to harvest revolutions for life Tulan Ka’u Amatenango del Valle
December 21 K’anal Hulub Chilón

CRAREZ Caracol Former Name (Aguascalientes) Area and municipalities in which they are found
Steps of History, for the life of Humanity The heart of rebellious seeds collective, memory of Comrade Galeano La Unión San Quintín
Seed that flourishes with the conscience of those who struggle forever Dignified spiral weaving the colors of humanity in memory of the fallen ones
New Dawn in resistance and rebellion for life and humanity Flourishing the rebellious seed el Poblado Patria Nueva Ocosingo
The rebelious thinking of the original peoples In honor of the memory of Comrade Manuel Dolores Hidalgo Ocosingo
The light that shines on the world Resistance and rebellion, a new horizon el Poblado Nuevo Jerusalén Ocosingo
Heart of our lives for the new future Root of the resistances and the rebellions for humanity ejido Jolj’a Tila
Flower of our word and light of our people that reflects for all Jacinto Canek Comunidad del CIDECI-Unitierra San Cristóbal de las Casas [14][15]


The sign reads (top): "You are in Zapatista rebel territory. Here the people give the orders and the government obeys." Bottom: "North Zone. Council of Good Government. Trafficking in weapons, planting of drugs, drug use, alcoholic beverages, and illegal sales of wood are strictly prohibited. No to the destruction of nature." Federal Highway 307, Chiapas.

At a local level, people attend a general assembly of around 300 families where anyone over the age of 12 can participate in decision-making, these assemblies strive to reach a consensus but are willing to fall back to a majority vote. Each community has 3 main administrative structures: (1) the commissariat, in charge of day-to day administration; (2) the council for land control, which deals with forestry and disputes with neighboring communities; and (3) the agencia, a community police agency.[16] The communities form a federation with other communities to create an autonomous municipalities, which form further federations with other municipalities to create a region. The Zapatistas are composed of five regions, in total having a population of around 300,000 people.[17][18]


The Zapatista economy is similar to the libertarian socialist economic theories of mutualism and collectivist anarchism. Being mainly composed of worker cooperatives, family farms and community stores with the councils of good government providing low-interest loans, free education, radio stations and health-care to communities. The economy is largely self-reliant and agricultural, producing mainly corn, beans, coffee, bananas, sugar, cattle, chickens, pigs and clothing at cooperatives.[19] The communities have abolished private (but not personal) ownership of property and instituted a system of common ownership of land, and they sell over $44 million worth of goods to international markets each year. Given the collective ownership of land and system of participatory democracy, hunger and violence are extremely low compared to other impoverished Mexican communities.[20]

Public servicesEdit

The Zapatistas run hundreds of schools with thousands of teachers modeled around the principles of democratic education where students and communities collectively decide on school curriculum and students aren't graded.[21]

The Zapatistas maintain a high-quality universal healthcare service which has been praised by the World Health Organization for reducing infant mortality and providing strong primary care to residents.[22] Residents of the Zapatisa communities believe their health services are better staffed, equipped and less racist towards indigenous people than most services in Chiapas. It also works with surrounding hospitals and freely takes in patients from other communities who need to use the medical facilities that only the Zapatistas have.[23] Since 1994, the Zapatistas have built 2 new hospitals and 18 health clinics in the region to increase the well-being of communities.[21] According to one account of Oventic from 2016:

In Oventic, there was a small yet seemingly fully-functional medical clinic, which appeared to offer basic healthcare. A sign on the door said general consultations, gynecology, optometry and laboratory services were all available five days a week. Emergency services were available 24 hours, seven days a week. They appeared to have a shiny new ambulance at their disposal. Other services offered a few days a week included dentistry and ultrasounds.[24]

Environmental ProtectionEdit

The Zapatistas have taken on many projects to protect and restore the damaged ecosystems of the Lacandon Jungle, including the banning of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, as well as resisting the extraction of oil and metal through mining.[25] According to one person who stayed in the town of Oventic in 2016:

There was also something else — something which took me a long time to put my finger on. Then it finally hit me: there was no litter; not even a stray chocolate bar wrapper.[24]

The Zapatistas have also embarked on beekeeping and reforestation efforts, having planted over 30,000 trees in order to protect water sources (especially important given the increasing water scarcity in Chiapas)[26], reverse deforestation in the rainforests and provide sources of food, fuel and construction material.[27] Beekeepers aim to reverse much of the collapse of the bee population, and produce honey for food, ecological regeneration and candles.[28]

Several eco-socialist and eco-anarchist authors have praised the efforts of the Zapatistas to construct an ecological society.[29] However, the Zapatistas have also been heavily criticized by both environmentalists and the indigenous Lacandon Maya for allowing and encouraging logging, farming and settlement construction in protected areas of the Lacandon Jungle.[30][31]

Political affiliationEdit

The neo-Zapatistas do not proclaim adherence to a specific political ideology beyond left-wing politics. However, the functioning of the MAREZ distinguished it programmatically from the traditional left, reclaiming Zapatista- and Magonist-inspired "indigenismo" with contributions from libertarian socialism, autonomous Marxism, and anarchism.[citation needed]


The Zapatistas have faced criticism from several socialists and anarchists. Anarchists have argued that the Zapatista communities have not taken enough effort to fully abolish the capitalist practices of wage labor, rent and multinational investment from their communities.[10] Whilst non-anarchist socialists have criticized them for not centralizing their power enough and exploiting their natural resources to fund social programs in their communities and sponsor revolutionary activity throughout Mexico.[32] Some eco-anarchists have criticized the communities for not engaging in a fully vegetarian lifestyle, continuing to use plastic and deforest the surrounding jungle to raise cattle.[33]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Caracoles y Juntas de Buen Gobierno". Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  2. ^ "Two decades on: A glimpse inside the Zapatista's capital, Oventic - Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal".
  3. ^ "per-portada".
  4. ^ "Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona". 30 June 2005.
  5. ^ "Autoridades electorales validan el 94% de las firmas de Marichuy, pero se queda corta: le faltaron 600 mil".
  6. ^ "¿Cuántos son cómo tu? Chiapas".
  7. ^ Gloria Muñóz Ramírez (2003). 20 y 10 el fuego y la palabra. Revista Rebeldía y Demos, Desarrollo de Medios, S.A. de C.V. La Jornada Ediciones.
  8. ^ "Chiapas: La treceava estela".
  9. ^ Ramírez, Gloria (2008). The Fire and the Word: A History of the Zapatista Movement. p. 22.
  10. ^ a b Grubacic, Andrej (2016). Living at the Edges of Capitalism: Adventures in Exile and Mutual Aid. ISBN 9780520287303.
  11. ^ Utopía, CCD. "LOS AGUASCALIENTES: Centros Culturales en el Corazón de la Selva Lacandona y en las montañas y rincones zapatistas". Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  12. ^ Hidalgo, Onésimo and Castro Soto, Gustavo. Cambios en el EZLN. CIEPAC, 2003.
  13. ^ Zapatistas announce major expansion of autonomous territories
  14. ^ Hidalgo, Onésimo and Castro Soto, Gustavo. Cambios en el EZLN. CIEPAC, 2003.
  15. ^ Zapatistas announce major expansion of autonomous territories
  16. ^ Barmeyer, Niels (2009). Developing Zapatista Autonomy: Conflict and NGO Involvement in Rebel Chiapas. University of New Mexico Press. pp. Chapter Three: "Who is Running the Show? The Workings of Zapatista Government".
  17. ^ Andrew Flood, "The Zapatistas, anarchism and 'Direct democracy'", Anarcho-Syndicalist Review 27 (Winter 1999)
  18. ^ El Kilombo Intergaláctico and Subcomandante Marcos, Beyond Resistance: Everything (Durham: PaperBoat Express, 2007), 23.
  19. ^ Resistencia Autónoma: Cuaderno de texto de primer grado del curso de "La Libertad según l@s Zapatistas", 6-13.
  20. ^ Esteva, Gustavo. Liberty According to the Zapatistas.
  21. ^ a b Zibechi, Raúl (2012). Territories in Resistance: A Cartography of Latin American Social Movements. AK Press. p. 132.
  22. ^ J.H. Cuevas, "Health and Autonomy: the case of Chiapas", March 2007.
  23. ^ Translated by Dan Fischer, 'Resistencia Autónoma: Cuaderno de texto de primer grado del curso de "La Libertad según l@s Zapatistas" 19.
  24. ^ a b "Two decades on: A glimpse inside the Zapatista's capital, Oventic | Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal". Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  25. ^ Gobierno Autónomo I: Cuaderno de texto de primer grado del curso de "La Libertad según l@s Zapatistas", 19.
  26. ^ ""Development" and Extraction: Water Scarcity in Chiapas". Schools for Chiapas. 2019-07-09. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  27. ^ "Neem: The People's Pharmacy". Schools for Chiapas. 2014-02-20. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  28. ^ "The Other Bee: Reviving a Mayan Tradition". Schools for Chiapas. 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  29. ^ Kovel, Joel (2007). Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?. Zed Books. p. 253.
  30. ^ Mark Stevenson (Associated Press) (July 14, 2002). "Unusual battle lines form around jungle". The Miami Herald. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  31. ^ "Inbreeding, Rebels And Tv Threaten Mexican Jungle Tribe's Existence". Chicago Tribune. February 24, 1994. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  32. ^ Louis Proyect, "Fetishizing the Zapatistas: a critique of "Change the World Without Taking Power",, 7 June 2003
  33. ^ Javier Sethness Castro, "Neo-Zapatista Autonomy", Counterpunch, 23 January 2014