The voices of these women have not simply been party-line, which is aptly proven by their insistence on the implementation of the Revolutionary Women’s Law.  Commandanta Susana was one the main instigators of this document in 1993, gathering thousands of indigenous women to participate (Rashkin 1). This document contains ten tenets that from that point were imperatives in the Zapatista struggle.  Many of these are basic rights, addressing things like the rights to education, having choice in marriage, and freedom from abuse, and goes on to include the rights of indigenous and other interest groups to make demands based on their needs, reconceptualizing citizenship (Eber 16).  There have also been additional talks about adding more points to the Women’s Law (Eber 26).

One way the uprising has positively affected women’s live is opportunities in education that it has opened.  When women first enter the military camps they are educated, first to become literate, but then in Mexican history as well as liberation struggles in other countries (Eber 8).  This emphasis on education extends beyond the military camps as it one of the goals of the Zapatistas to provide good educations for all peoples.  The celebrations of International Women’s Day have been important to the women of the EZLN who often create marches and rally to celebrate it.

The women’s participation in the EZLN is not the only way women have been affected by the war.  Especially as the occupation wears on women in many of the communities have begun to speak out loudly against the Mexican army forces.  These groups of soldiers often camp within yards of communities seriously disrupting daily life of residents (Rashkin 1).  The soldiers in many areas are also known to attack and bother the women as they try to go about their lives (Rashkin 1).  The women in surrounded communities are often interrogated about the locations of their husbands while being forced to feed and/or house the soldiers (Rashkin 1).  Women are also often caught in familial disagreements about the EZLN, and resultantly have to choose sides (Eber 14).

Sexual violence has doubled since the beginning of the uprising, according to Marta Figueroa of the Grupo de Mujeres of San Cristobal (Rashkin 1).  Another women, Celia Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Zapatistas in the United States was threatened and rapes by three men last year (Rashkin 1).  The women of the area have been bound together by this violence and their voices have strengthened both their own resistance and that of others.http://chiapas.mediosindependientes.org

The women in these communities have to continue to deal with their daily lives amidst the war.  This becomes more difficult as things like health care become harder to come by, and their children often die of preventable or treatable diseases (Rashkin 1).  Sometimes out os desperation women have turned to prostitution, a practice that was rare in these Mayan communities before the war (Rashkin1, Eber 14 ).

Additionally, the difficulties women have had in obtaining supplies for their artisan work has created many economic problems.  Many of these collectives work separate from men, but in complement to them, based on traditional ideals of the region (Eber 8).  The simple fact that they have in many places organized collectives is threatening to the status quo as they move into financial autonomy and away from governmental patronage.

Special groups have been founded to assist women in deal with these issues.  Some of them predate the EZLN, such as the Grupo de Mujeres from San Cristobal de Casas.  The groups provide many kinds of support, including legal rights information, focusing on health issues and the effects of violence on women’s lives (Eber 16).

Many of the tenets the Zapatistas movement is built on have commonalities with the traditional community beliefs of the Mayans.  This includes social responsibility, mutual respect/gender complementarities and hard work towards as goal (Eber 9).  This has provided women with better positions in their traditional societies than many outsiders are able to see.  Women have also traditionally held roles as “midwives, shamans, weavers of festival garments and leaders of fiestas and cooperatives” that provide easy complements to some of the roles they have played within the Zapatista movement (Eber 9).  Many women also conceptualize their work in collectives as their cargo, traditionally seen as the aforementioned other services to the community (Eber 17).

return to part 1

women * maps * leadership * background * ideology * stories * timeline * references * links