The New Radicals: How Wage Labor, Physical Abuse and an Agrarian Crisis Shaped Women's Participation in the Zapatista Rebellion
Brady, Patrick E.
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My experiences in San Cristóbal de las Casas have been the primary motivation for my interest in female Zapatistas. Ever since I concluded my research project, I have had a question that has been largely unanswered by scholars. What are the separate economic and social factors that motivated indigenous Tetzel and Tzotzil men and women to volunteer in the Zapatista Rebellion, and how has feminism influenced indigenous women’s participation in the rebellion? Up to this point, few historians have studied the gendered nature of the causes for indigenous participation in the EZLN. Those who have were concerned with the impact feminism had on women in revolutions, without appreciating the vital role of female Zapatistas in Latin America feminism. Historians of Chiapas and the Zapatistas continue to repeat the accepted narrative that all participants in the rebellion pursued land reform and greater rights for indigenous people. This explanation reveals a clear gender bias, for it leans heavily on male Zapatistas and does not address the separate causes that compelled indigenous women to enter the revolution. Yet the social and economic challenges that indigenous Tzeltal and Tzotzil sought to resolve were gender specific. Males were concerned with inequalities caused by land distribution and lack of rights provided to indigenous people, for men were the chief income earners and depended on employment in an agrarian economy. Females were compelled to fight in hopes of resolving women-centered issues, which were insufficient access to primary education, employment, and healthcare for indigenous women. The majority of female Zapatistas had absorbed the popular messages of the expanding feminist movement in Mexico. Thus, indigenous women saw participation in the Zapatista Rebellion as an opportunity to pursue feminist causes.