As we witness the limits of the imaginable being radically shifted, the Zapatista experience is more relevant than ever. Yet, despite the challenges, in 26 years of their struggle for autonomy, Zapatistas have built functioning social arrangements based on bottom-up democracy, cooperation and communal justice, which place community well-being over individual profit. Through these arrangements, Zapatista communities have secured rights, protection and basic needs that the Mexican state has denied or failed to provide them wit.
The functioning of the autonomous government, schools and clinics, as well as other collective projects, is financed by earnings from cooperatives and land collectives. These are at the center of Zapatistas’ aspiration to reach economic self-sufficiency from the state and to build an economy based on equitable distribution of resources. While cooperatives and collectives coexist with family land and individual entrepreneurship, participation in collective work on a rotating basis is obligatory. There are also popular banks in the form of revolving funds that make low-interest loans to members of the support base communities. These banks generate funds that get invested in new collective projects. Some collectives are women-only and intend to provide an opportunity for women to gain confidence and participate in the social life of their communities.
Photo: Meric Dagli