The following quotations are from:

Dylan Fitzwater, Autonomy is in Our Hearts: Zapatista Autonomous Government through the Lens of the Tsotsil Language

“What defines a ‘people in struggle’? Or perhaps more precisely: How does a locale come to define itself as a people, a community, a collectivity and then decide to struggle for self-determination? This question is always complex, especially when we place it in terms of the Tsotsil word for struggle: pask’op, to make the word. In order to make the word, there must be a collective word that demands its own materialization in the world, and in order for the collective word to be born there must be a collective heart that can give rise to common thoughts and feelings in a certain place and people. To put it very concretely, imagine that the EZLN came to the place where you are reading this text and expelled the forces of the national government, the army, the police and the large capitalists and landowners. Who would you seek out as your people, your community, your collectivity: Would they be prepared to democratically elect their own civilian authorities and take up the struggle, the endless task of creating your collective word? Would they be able to take the first step of administering economic redistribution or even day-to-day governance in your locale in a way that seemed fair and just to everyone that lives there?” 30

“As Xuno López Intzín, a contemporary Tzeltal intellectual and political activist, writes:

[T]hat which all existing beings hare is ch’ulel. From this understanding of the ch’ulel in everything, the human being establishes relations with all that exists, in other words the human being ineteracts with their environment and the environment with the human being on a material and immaterial plane. From this plane or universe of ch’ulel existence is ordered, and social relations are ordered with all that exists.

For López, ch’ulel is inherently tied to interaction and the creation of relationships, a view that was echoed in my Tsotsil lessons from the Zapatista education promotors. In this understanding, every entity in the world has ch’ulel that defines its potentials and shapes is relationships with other entities.” 33

“… the creation of ichbail to muk’ is not a spontaneous ‘mysical’ process, It arises through concrete forms of political self-organization. Ways of thinking and feeling that might appear ‘mystical’ often only appear as such because they employ different ways of understanding and describing the dynamic relationships that compose existence in the world, ways that may not conform to Western ideas of causality. The growth and strengthening of ch’ulel through the process of ichbail ta muk’ encompasses multiple aspects of the everyday life of self-organization. One of the education promoters in Oventik told me that ch’ulel is not an eternal spirit or soul, rather it only exists in a person if she creates it. For example, this promoter told me that very young children do not have ch’ulel because they have no consciousness of the world or their place in it. A child creates her ch’ulel by learning how to create respectful relationships (ichbael ta muk’) with her community and with all entities in her environment, just as a community creates their ch’ulel when they build respectful relationships (ichbael ta muk’) in their process of self-organization.

                  The process of Zapatista self-organization described by the Zapatista responsables in the second-grade video is readily understood in terms of the growth of the heart (o’on, ch’ulel) or the creation of ichbail ta mk’. However, this understanding should not undermine the purpose of the second grade according to the responsables: to describe a certain ‘way’ of organizing that is a ‘seed’ capable of bearing fruit in numerous different social, cultural, and linguistic contexts. The purpose of using Tsotsil categories to understand Zapatista political aspirations is not to make these aspirations unintelligibly ‘other.’ On the contrary, the purpose is to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of these aspirations , to learn from them as much as possible, and to fully engage with them as a ‘seed.’” 36-37

“Most were pulled aside by a responsible in the organization after some form of political meeting of a nonclandestine organization. In general they describe a conversation in which the person who recruited them talked about their experience in terms of a system of exploitation, and most describe recruiting others as a slow process of identifying potential recruits, talking to them one by one and, once there were between five and fifteen, organizing a secret assembly outside of their village.” 38

“However, the conversation in which a person is recruited, or the initial ‘grabbing’ (tsakel) of a person, is only the first step toward mutual recognition (tsakbail ta venta). This mutual recognition is first fully practiced in the clandestine assembly where the first few people recruited into the organization begin to experience their common potential to understand their shared sadness, to make collective decisions, and to organize themselves. Once the whole village is recruited, the entire community begins to hold assemblies as part of the organization and participates in this process.” 39

“The struggle for Zapatista autonomy is not just for the creation of a democratic process independent from the Mexican state. It is the struggle for the right of every place and people to define the meaning of democracy and to create forms of government that embody that definition. It is a struggle for the rifht to a new politics in which every people defines its own particular forms of governance and social relationships. A Tsotsil definition of this struggle for democracy would be ichbail ta muk’, a form of relations among all existing people and peoples and all of the beings with ch’ulel based in mutual respect and recognition. It is this mutual respect that defines the dignified life, or lekil kuxlejal, that is the ulatimate aspiration of Zapatista autonomy. The proposal of the escuelita is that others learn from the Zapatista creation of autonomous democratic governance (ichbail ta muk’) when beginning their organization and take this lesson back to their own calendars and geographies. The definition of Zapatista ichbail ta muk’ is not a model, it is not even really a definition, it is a certain direction or orientation toward mutual respect, in other words, a seed. The particular forms ofgovernance and politics that emerges from this seed when it is planted in new places can take many forms. As Subcomandante Galeano has pointed out, the course Freedom According to the Zapatistas has a final exam with only one question, ‘What is freedom according to you?’” 45-46

“Zapatista democracy does not just consist of the right to elect their own authorities, it consists of the right to define and constantly redefine the form of democracy practiced by each community.” 50

“There is no Zapatista ‘constitution’ describing their rules of self-government, there are only those principles laid out through collective agreement, such as the seven principles of autonomous government or the rights in the Revolutionary Law of Women.” 50

“The only commonality is their adherence to the seven principles of autonomous government and the rights collectively ratified in the Revolutionary Laws.” 51