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HOMAGE TO CHIAPAS by Bill Weinberg

HOMAGE TO CHIAPAS

The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico

By Bill Weinberg

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-85984-719-6
Publisher: Verso

An eye-opening tour of the south-of-the-border front.

The Mexican state of Chiapas, so much in the news in the mid-1990s thanks to Subcomandante Marcos and his black-masked comrades, has all but fallen off the media map these days. That does not mean that peace has come to the region. Weinberg (a freelance journalist affiliated with New York's WBAI public radio station) holds that "coverage of the ongoing rebellion is increasingly rare, and increasingly distorted"; Indians are still dying at the hands of the federal army, still being driven from their lands, but no one in El Norte seems to be listening. Weinberg chronicles recent events in Chiapas, which, by his account, is the victim of "a dirty war of attrition" that is bringing the state increasingly under Mexico City's control—thanks in some measure, he adds, to surreptitious aid from the US Army (which in 1996 alone trained thousands of Mexican officers in counterinsurgency tactics at Fort Bragg, North Carolina). Chiapas, Weinberg writes, is not alone: throughout Mexico, indigenous peoples and mixed-blood peasants are rising up to claim land and demand self-rule, battling not only the government but also the drug lords and "timber mafia" that seek to control the nation and its substantial wealth. Weinberg argues that the American government's actions, which range from turning a blind eye to Mexican government atrocities to militarizing the US-Mexico border, are misguided and of benefit only to "gringo politicians and the Mexican cartel jefes." Well documented if sometimes shrill, Weinberg's study offers only vague solutions to Mexico's ills. Its value comes from the author's close-hand reporting from little-visited corners of the country, and from his well-placed criticism of the effects of supposed free trade on Mexico's poor.

A useful, provocative study.