Subject: texto chiapas
Sent: 01/31 12:28 PM
Received: 01/31 12:42 PM
To: pedro meyer,



Angeles Torrejón

Mexico City, January 1996
The first of January of 1994, the EZLN ( Zapatista National Liberation Army) took the towns of Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, San Cristobal de las Casas and Altamirano in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, by surprise. They declared war on the Mexican Army and demanded that the then President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari resign, claiming he was responsible for the abandonment of indigenous peoples in the jungles of Chiapas and the rest of the country.

During those first days military confrontation took place between both armies, with deaths on both sides.

The President sent a decree to Congress asking for a cease fire between both armies. The EZLN retreated to the jungle once it was established that this would be Zapatista territory.

In February of 1994, the first Peace dialogues were held in San Cristobal las Casas, Chiapas. The Mexican government was represented by Manuel Camacho Solis on the one hand, and the EZLN by Subcomandante Marcos on the other, the intermediary was the bishop of San Cristobal,Samuel Ruiz.

At the conclusion of the initial Dialogue for Peace, a cease fire is declared between the two contending parts, the EZLN would stay within it's territory declared as Zapatista during the consultation with the government about the approval of what was negotiated. The Mexican Army on the other hand offered not to enter the Zapatista territory or attack them.

During this period of cease fire, we made the first images of the daily life of the EZLN. During training exercises or parades and during parties and just on going daily life.

After several months of consultations among the Indian communities if they approved the conditions set forth by the government, they decided to refuse these, and therefore there was no peace proposal that was accepted.

During all of 1994, the President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas, kept silence with regard to the situation in Chiapas on account of the upcoming Presidential elections.

The 9th of February of 1995, the newly elected President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, ordered the arrest of Sub Comandante Marcos and several of the Zapatista leaders. He also stated, that the up-to-then unidentified and masked Marcos, was in reality Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente. With these actions, the truce which had lasted a year had been broken.

The Mexican Army entered the Zapatista territory to try and capture Marcos and his general staff. During that invasion they reached many communities that were under Zapatista domination, they apprehended numerous Indians from different tribes only to torture them, to get the names of who were Zapatista sympathizers and to find out were they could be hiding. Women were raped. Human rights were violated.

When Federal soldiers or the Federal police arrived at any abandoned village, they would search and destroy the entire place.

The 15th of February, a week after President Zedillo ordered the arrest of the Zapatistas, I arrived at the town of La Realidad, a Tojolabal community which was considered Zapatista. Next morning, I left at four in the morning together with all the Indian population which fled to the jungle mountains, as the army was closing in on them.

They all abandoned their modest homes and belongings for fear of being captured and tortured. It was here that I started the second part of my photographic essay.

It was a lot of walking, for hours on end, there were no trails, as we made our way, the jungle became increasingly dense. The women with their children all marched in silence, one behind the other. Carrying their children and their few belongings they could take with them, such as hard tortillas and a few pieces of clothing. They left everything else behind. The children never cried, they never complained about their tiredness, thirst or hunger. Everyone knew that silence was essential, as any noises might give them away.

The men would look after the women and the children at a distance, without being seen, spreading out all over as a security precaution.

We arrived in the mountains deep inside the jungle, until we got to a place were the planes and helicopters from the Army could not see us. We spent many days hidden. We only ate once a day what we had carried with us, the ration was one hard tortilla and half a glass of water. We slept among the trees and the shrubbery.

The army arrived in the towns and over loudspeakers would announce that they had only come to help the Indian population. The women could not understand why they would arrive with tanks and war machines only to help and bring food. They decided not to return until they would leave the town again, they felt they could not trust them.

We waited several more days, and when the Army had left again everyone slowly made their way back. Only to find that La Realidad had been ransacked and destroyed. The Tojolabal Indians began the hard labor of putting everything back again and to live in fear. For me it also meant the end of a very intense experience and my commitment to have these images seen far and wide.

Angeles Torrejón can be reached at