Tim's Reviews > Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas

Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas by George A. Collier
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's review
Dec 31, 2011

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bookshelves: latin-america, social-justice
Read from December 08 to 31, 2011

The story about the Zapatistas has always been that their rebellion, launched on New Year's Day 1994, was in protest of NAFTA, which went into effect on that day. Collier's book makes it clear that the economic, social and political changes that fueled the rebellion were mostly local and national in origin, and had been brewing for decades. NAFTA was a convenient post-facto news peg, although a compelling one since the treaty promised an accelerated version of the economic disruption that sparked the uprising in the first place.

The book discusses a number of changes to the society of southern Mexico over the years -- including the abandonment of agrarian reform by the ruling party, the oil boom and credit crisis in the early 1980s, the rise and co-optation of numerous peasant movements -- documenting how those changes reverberated through the indigenous social and economic networks. One key conclusion seems to be that a neo-liberal economic agenda paired with an authoritarian political structure is a recipe for trouble.

Although the book is a great introduction to context in which the Zapatistas arose, they themselves are largely absent from the story, appearing only in a handful of manifestos and media interviews. It was originally published in 1994, only a few months after the EZLN burst onto the international scene and well before anyone knew quite what to make of them. That also makes the book fairly dated. Eighteen years of NAFTA, plus rising drug violence and mass migration across Mexico's "other border" have surely re-written the story of southern Mexico yet again.
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12/10/2011 page 45

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