International Communication and the Internet

The Zapatistas Speak

      The Zapatistas, formally known as the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional) and translated as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, emerged into the international limelight during the first two weeks of January, 1994 as thousands of soldiers, the large majority of them of indigenous Mayan descent, descended from the jungled mountains of the southeast portion of the Mexican countryside. Zapatista man with his son The small, ill-prepared army was protesting the passing of the North American Free Agreement (NAFTA) in Mexico. Greg Ruggiero, author of the essay entitled "The Word and The Silence," discusses the "revolutionary" approach employed by the Zapatistas. According to Ruggiero, the EZLN army succeeded in reaching an international audience quickly and effectively through what Ruggiero calls a "decentralized intercontinental network of alternative communication (Ruggiero, 9)."
      This network of "alternative communication" was generated by one of the Zapatista member's labtop computer, from which he published hundreds of Communiques describing the Zapatistas' struggle in their own words. The Zapatistas unique approach of massive e-mail communications outreach and the subsequent international recognition and solidarity that group received, points to what Ruggiero calls "revolutionary" about the movement:
       "The Zapatista approach is revolutionary because of its emphasis on communication and dialogue over       authority and force. 'We are a network,' say the Zapatistas, 'all of us who speak and listen(Ruggiero, 7).'"
       From the very first day of the rebellion in January of 1994, Subcomandante Marcos was busy e-mailing a series of news letters (which would later become the famous Communiques)from his portable lab-top computer deep in the heart of the Lacondon jungle of southeastern Mexico. The letters were poetic and essay-like, and stated with impressive detail and passion the ideology behind the rebellion. Marcos explained with biting wit and eloquence that the Zapatistas were not in favor of government overthrow or even of violent means. Rather, as Marcos explained, the hope of the movement was simply to break the silence of 500 years.
       Therefore, the Zapatistas waged not so much a war of military force, but a war of words and images with which they have gained tremendous success from the international audience. Marcos sent his Communiques everywhere; to university campus websites, social organization websites, and mass media websites where they were diffused immediately into cyberspace. Today, there are hundreds of websites dedicated to the EZLN, each of which allows the visitor to read about the intricate history of the Zapatista movement, the Mayan culture, Mexican history and other related links. Although the Internet audience is still relatively small, those who did follow the Zapatistas on-line certainly have a fuller picture than the one provided by the main stream media. In fact, one prominent U.S. newspaper called the Zapatista movement an "Indian Rampage" in the headline of a news story covering the event(The Washington Post 4 January 1994).

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