Just 16 miles north from the colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, a large sign welcomes outsiders to Oventik, a Zapatista enclave. It reads, “In this place the people rule, and the government obeys.” Guards stand watch 24 hours a day, rigorously questioning outsiders about their business and often turning them away.
Supply stores sell T-shirts with the popular image of Subcommander Marcos wearing a mask and smoking a pipe, with catchphrases like, “I apologize for bothering you, this is a revolution.”
Bright, enormous murals with revolutionary slogans, both in the local Tzotzil language and in Spanish, cover every building. No alcohol is allowed and neither is the use or cultivation of illegal drugs. Instead, farmers grow coffee, honey and flowers. The people make shoes, sell tortillas and live in a commune-like system, sharing responsibilities and decision-making power in so-called Good Government Councils.
“The U.S.A. seems to be destined, by providence, to plague Latin America with misery in the name of freedom,” reads a worn-down sign hanging in the middle of a dusty dining hall.
This Zapatista model of community organization, and the new political movement backing Mrs. Patricio for president, have given hope to some disenfranchised Mexicans that the way they are governed can be different, and better, with a more democratic system free of the deal-making and patronage politics that exist on practically every level of government.
“They were the ones who sustained and nourished our hope over the years,” said Maribel Cervantes, a community organizer from the state of Veracruz, referring to the Zapatistas.
“They are a living example of how different things can be,” she added. “And now this candidate can be a ray of light in the darkness.”