I found myself in Zapatista territory thanks to a handful of US philosophers, part of the Radical Philosophy Association. They invited me to participate in a conference to launch a new Center for research and activism in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Since I had a scholarship that covered all of my expenses, plus some financial support from friends, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to travel after the Conference to the South of Mexico and experience the Zapatista movement first hand.
In San Miguel I met a lot of interesting people, both Latin American and US organizers, researchers and old time residents. I believe the Center will play an important role in our struggle for social change because it¹s one of the few institutions where theoreticians and organizers, activists and community artists will have an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas.
I was slightly demoralized by the amazing “US invasion” of this cute colonial town, with its cobble stone streets. Many people from the North are retiring there and the trend has changed somewhat. More and more people with big bucks are moving in, displacing the progressive ex-patriate community and Mexican residents.
I thought things would be more balanced once I arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. My only knowledge of the town came from the photographs of the January 1994 uprising, when the Zapatistas took it over. There was no balance there either. San Cristobal is a touristy town. In the streets you hear Italian, German, English, French and other languages I could not identify. A bit disillusioned with my lack of contact with Mexicans, I was certain that once I arrived to Oventic, Chiapas the main Zapatista Caracol (snail), everything would change.