UNLEASHING THE DOLLS OF WAR

THE BROADER PICTURE

It is more than two years since subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatista guerrillas stunned the world by taking over San Cristobal de las Casas and four other towns in the poverty-stricken south-eastern Mexican state of Chiapas. After the takeover, in the small hours of New Year's Day 1994, the charismatic Marcos, in black balaclava and bandoliers, chatted to bemused tourist revellers in several languages outside the captured Town Hall.

Within days, the masked man and his ragtag army of indigenous Mayan Indian peasants had vanished again, fleeing before the greater might of the Mexican army. But the political impact of their brief uprising has grown and grown. In San Cristobal today, the army controls the streets, but a miniature army of Marcoses continues to control the pavements.

They are woolly Marcos dolls, from 1in to 2ft tall, made by local Indian women and snapped up by tourists for 50p to pounds 5 apiece. The dolls' eyes are usually green, echoing the initial erroneous wanted poster. (In fact, Marcos's eyes - the most famous in Mexico - are a light honey colour.) Their rifles are of wood - matchsticks or splintered orange boxes. As it happens, many of Marcos's men carried only wooden rifles during their uprising, neatly carved and blackened with shoe polish to look like M- 16s.

After the initial skirmishes, in which 145 people died, Marcos's Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) agreed a truce on 12 January 1994. There has been no formal fighting since, but things have been far from peaceful. The guerrillas retain a power base in the Lacandon jungle, and remain a threat and affront to the Government. President Ernesto Zedillo ordered his troops against them in February last year, issuing an arrest warrant for Marcos, but backed down in the face of domestic and international criticism and merely sealed off the EZLN's jungle strongholds.

Zedillo also "unmasked" the mysterious Marcos as a former Marxist university lecturer, Rafael Sebastian Guillen Vicente, a light-skinned mestizo from northern Mexico. By then, however, the cult of Marcos and his symbolic appeal as a champion of the country's Indian peasants were firmly established. He remains the most charismatic force in Mexican politics today.

There have been "peace" talks in the past year, but Marcos has not attended personally. Perhaps he has been too busy giving surreal jungle audiences to liberal personalities from around the world. French president's widow Danielle Mitterrand, French philosopher Regis Debray, Hollywood director Oliver Stone, Benetton people trying to talk him into starring in an ad campaign - all trekked to his hideout, on foot and horseback, to meet the living martyr, a latter-day Che Guevara with a pipe instead of a cigar.

But little has changed for the Indian peasants in whose name the guerrillas rose. If anything, their lives have grown harsher. It seems unlikely that Marcos has the weapons, the manpower or even the will to renew the guerrilla war. His image may, however, ensure enough PR success to keep his cause alive for some time yet. Meanwhile, it is at least feeding many Indian peasant families - courtesy of those simple dolls. !

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test