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This post comes from a little book I’m writing about Zapatismo. It will be like a glossary of words and concepts, along with a bit about the Zapatistas’ history and why this movement interests. Another chapter, A is for Autonomy, is here.


calendars and geographies – calendarios y geografías

Good afternoon, good day, good night to all listening and reading, no matter your calendars and geographies.”

The expression “calendars and geographies” invites us to remember and connect with the fact that in different parts of the world, and in our many different cultures, we think of time and space, and of ourselves in time and space, in different ways. It also conveys a profound and determined sense of resistance and commitment to preserving diverse ways of life while resisting the homogenizing forces of capitalism.

time as an expression of power

When the Zapatistas encourage us to reclaim our calendars and geographies, they are connecting to an age-old revolutionary tradition that recognizes time as a tool of power and control. Destroying the dominant culture’s notion of time and replacing it with a new sense of time and space specific and unique to a location and the people living there is essential to social transformation.

The most common calendar used across the world is based up on the calendar from the Roman Empire and runs from January to December and numbers the years since the birth of Jesus Christ. It is one way the Calendar of Power organize the exploitation of labor at a global level, erasing all other original relationships between time and territorial reference. For example, from Mexico to China to Kenya and beyond, capitalist Christmas is celebrated with images of snow, a fat man in a red and white furry suit because that is what the calendar imposes – the consumption of goods that may or not have any relation to the local calendar and geography. Even Christmas, Jesus Christ’s supposed date has been usurped by the image of Santa Claus. This multi-frontal attack on humanity, every day leaving more people dispossessed and displaced across the globe, the Zapatista call the “capitalist hydra”.

globalized struggles, global solidarity

Before the Zapatisata uprising in 1994, pockets of diverse resistance movements existed the world over, working to defend local interests against the system built upon layers of homogeneous neo-liberal capitalist policies – the new colonialism, globalization.

A great achievement of the Zapatistas has been helping other grassroots groups around the world recognize our common enemy in our diverse struggles and map new territories and create new alliances.

Today we can call anyone who resists, rebels, and struggles in any part of the planet “compañero,” “compañera,”and “compañeroa.”

That is the new geography that didn’t exist in that other calendar.

– “Lessons on Geography and Globalized Calendars”May 2017

The plurality of calendars and geographies acknowledges the multiplicity of factors which influence how we experience reality. Our stories of resistance or accounts of ordinary life are shaped by the fact that we live in the world differently.

Describing European solidarity when the Zapatistas first appeared publicly, Sub-Galeano wrote –

It wasn’t arrogant Europe sympathizing with the poor little Indians who, uselessly, it had wanted to exterminate centuries earlier. It was the Europe from below, the rebellious one, the one which, no matter what its size, struggles every day. The one that told us with its support, ‘don’t give up’.”

Meanwhile across the globe elements of the dominant culture’s calendar attempt to control and influence us.

One of the deceptions from above is how they convince those from below that if you can’t get something quickly and easily, then you can never get it. They convince us that long and difficult struggles do nothing but wear you out and in the end you achieve nothing. They trick the calendar from below by superimposing over it the calendar from above: elections, appearances, meetings, dates with history, commemorations that only hide pain and rage.”

change the story, change the world

“Calendars and geographies” demonstrates the power of stories we tell ourselves to shape who we are and what we believe and value. Changing the story is not enough to bring about deep change, but visiblizing the injustice or other points of view is a start and an essential step to rendering what was once acceptable to something no longer tolerable. The telling of history and every day life is a battle over how the story is told.

During the year across Zapatista territory celebrations and commemorations are held according to their calendars and geographies, dates and events that tell the story of the organization’s history and struggle, and history according to the Maya people. Here for example, the beginning of time, or Genesis according to the Maya and as written down by Eduardo Galeano.

And the days began to walk.

And they, the days, made us.

And thus we were born,

the children of the days,

the discoverers,

life’s searchers.

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