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The Revolution will be marketed

19 February 2009

on-the-road-chiapasA show of hands (for the geezers amongst us): how many of you ever heard of Chiapas before the Zapatistas started marketing their revolution?

I’ve always been of two minds about the Zapatistas. While I tend to agree with their critique of globalization and its negative effects on traditional communities, I’ve always been bothered by both the assumption that traditionalism is — in itself — good (“Traditional values” in the United States is a code phrase for reactionary politics and repressive social policies); and bemused that a movement which includes traditionalists, Stalinists like “Subcomandante Marcos” and even a few synarchists (Mexican fascists) has been so successfully marketed to the “first world” as a left-wing movement.

I’ll give credit to the Zapatistas for their brilliant branding campaign, but only if they take their share of the blame for “Commodifying the Revolution:”

The commodification of the Zapatista movement recently reached absurdist heights with the New York Times’ designation of rebel villages in southeastern Chiapas as a hot budget tourist destination.  “Chiapas Is Cheap! Indian Villages Flourish And The Price Is Right!” read the cut line in the NYT’s Sunday Travel section November 16 – ironically, the eve of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN.)

Spearheading the state of Chiapas’s all-out tourism assault on the rebel zone is the on-again, off-again through highway from San Cristobal (“the new Soho” according to tourism publicists) to the magnificent Mayan ruins at Palenque that would infringe on a dozen Zapatista autonomous villages en route.  The push to open up Chiapas as a transnational tourist venue continues to generate violence between Zapatista and non-Zapatista communities over control of such sites as Agua Azul, an eco-tourist resort in the San Cristobal-Palenque corridor.

Further south, both Zapatista and non-Zapatista communities have been forcibly evicted from the Montes Azules Biosphere, a 300,000-hectare swatch of the Lacandon jungle as Big Eco-Tourism combines, backed by such transnationals as Ford Motors, stake a claim on the untrammeled sanctuary.  The eco-tourism boom has brought five-star hotels and Israeli-led caravans to the region.

I doubt I’ll be on an “Israeli-led caravan…” (what for?  There are perfectly decent First Class buses running from  Mexico City) but I expect I will be stopping in San Cristobal –the new Soho — probably about the First of March.   Off to Guanajaunto today… assuming my next shipment of books arrived here in Guadalajara where I’m writing this at night for posting tomorrow morning.

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