At dawn on 1 January 1994 Subcommander Marcos made his debut on the
world stage. From the balcony of San Cristóbal’s town hall he addressed the
crowd that had gathered below, informing them that the Zapatista Army of
National Liberation (EZLN in Spanish) had seized four towns in the south-
eastern state of Chiapas and was holding them in revolt from the Mexican
government. By the time that dusk fell on that same town square about
twelve hours later Marcos was on his way to becoming the most famous
guerrilla leader since Che Guevara. In the weeks and months that followed,
through a succession of interviews, communiqués, and public spectacles,
the Subcommander acted as a conduit through which the rebelling indige-
nous peasants under his command articulated their grievances and de-
mands to Mexican society and the government. Also during this period,
through a combination of his charisma, media savvy, and the mystique
attending him, a cult of celebrity swiftly attached itself to Marcos to the
extent that he has become today a world-recognized revolutionary icon and
the champion of the anti-neoliberal-globalization movement.
More than a decade has now elapsed since those early days of Zapa-
tismo, and much ink has been spilled by myriad authors (historians, novel-
ists, journalists, essayists, anthropologists, and others) concerning almost
every aspect of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas: its origins, course, and
results, and their implications. However, despite this considerable interest
in the Zapatista movement in general, and in Marcos in particular—to the
extent that he has enjoyed a high media profile and has seen the publica-
tion and translation of numerous collections of his communiqués (six in
English alone)¹—incredible as it may seem, after more than ten years there
still remains no biography in English of the rebellion’s main protagonist.
Of course, of the plethora of books treating Chiapas to have appeared over
the last decade many devote a chapter (or two) to discussion of the man the
world has come to know as “El Sup.”² However, there exist only two works,
both in Spanish, of a biographical nature focusing on the man himself.
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