One of the goals of this book has been to establish the novelty and
significance of peasant movements and the Zapatistas. By restating
the main points of analysis, this chapter attempts to underline the
importance of the rebellion while noting some of the obstacles to a
peaceful and democratic outcome.
One of the advantages of taking a historical approach is that it
allows us to observe the evolution of peasant resistance over time.
There is obvious continuity between the
and earlier move-
ments. The symbol of Zapata and the centrality of agrarian de-
mands are clearly part of a long history of rural movements in
Mexico. Nor is the struggle for autonomy without precedent. The
revolts of
can be seen as similar attempts to set limits
on the colonial and neocolonial pretensions of ladino elites. They
also resulted in the redrawing of boundaries between indigenous
and ladino society. Finally, the struggles against local bosses and
corrupt municipal government have precedents in both the nine-
teenth and twentieth centuries, as the pattern of state formation in
highland Chiapas created resistance to the gradual institutionaliza-
tion of caciquismo.
This history reveals not only the contested nature of state forma-
tion, but also the impossibility of any social order ever fully con-
stituting itself. In the case of Chiapas, this means the inability of
colonial and neocolonial structures to absorb conflicts into a stable
order. This is not unique to Chiapas; it is inherent to neocolonial
forms of domination, which, by definition, cannot allow indige-
nous people to freely represent themselves as equal members of a
political community. Here we can bring out the novelty and signif-
icance of the Chiapas rebellion. Unlike previous struggles that
sought to win concessions from the state, the
aims to open
spaces for the gradual dismantling of authoritarian (and specifically
neocolonialist) politics in Mexico. Whereas the Union de Uniones
became caught in an overly economistic strategy, the
calls for
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