A potent seed planted just a few short weeks ago broke through the soil at just the right moment to meet us in the time of our departure.
The wish made by yours truly to witness a Zapatista event, was the potent seed planted. Of course, I dreamt it up in a slightly more romanticized way.
This event takes place the morning of our afternoon flight to Mexico City.
For those that are not aware of who the Zapatistas are, they are a Mexican indigenous armed revolutionary group based in Chiapas. May sound alarming initially, however until you eat in their restaurants, walk among their lands and feel their deep relationship with the earth and their indigenous roots, ones worldview changes. Their’s is a culture filled with color, beauty and magic.
Here’s the story…
Two sets of spiraling plumes of smoke send out warning signals ahead. “What’s that about,” I wonder, as we inch up closer to the border station. Our driver Ramón has a puzzled look on his face. Hmmm. This can’t be good. We inch up to the station guard where we receive the news. BLOCKADE AHEAD. No one is getting through. Unless of course, you are willing to pay your way through! And that price will be up to the rebels holding the blockade down, the station guard says.
Looking around the car with all our belongings in tow, that doesn’t seem to be a great idea. But, hey why the heck not see what’s going on? A hint if sarcasm here, as I am feeling a bit uneasy about all this. My red flag radar is lit up like a Christmas tree.
Does anyone else in the car feel what I am feeling?
Ahead past the station are a line of cars and trucks stopped to a halt. We join them in line. Ramón jumps out of the car to see what the deal is. Can we pay our way through? What will it cost us? Will it cost our lives? haha…j/k. This isn’t about us. But I am sure they could use some computers and other resources we have on hand.
Moments later, Ramón opens the car door, closes it, turns to us in the backseat and says. No pase. (no passing)
Two colorfully dressed indigenous women walk by smiling and carrying on like business as usual. They are crossing the blockade by foot. No problema.
Ramón searches his brain for an alternate plan. You can see the wheels turning in his mind. How can I get these two to the airport? Seriously I think his desire to get through the blockade is greater than ours at this point. But, hey I can only speak for myself, here.
After assessing the current situation, Ramón decides to turn the car around away from the blockade. Good choice, Ramón. Good choice.
Back to the border station attendant we go. Ramón asks some questions. In the meantime, Tyler is calling to cancel our soon to be departing flight. After some discussion, We are met with two options. OPTION ONE…We could go the long way around (could take hours with no guarantee there isn’t another blockade) OR Ramon can drop us off at the blockade with all our stuff and see if a taxi could take us the rest of the way. Ha! I am not crossing that smoke warning!
Somewhere in the conversation, we seem to agree to proceed and check out OPTION TWO. Yikes!
Once more, we head towards the blockade. At this point, I notice that the black smoke is growing larger. I am feeling a growing concern as I start to see signs and messages in the layers of the smoke. I express my thoughts to Tyler with great anxiety. He’s calm and collected. I am not. At all. Tyler seems to be starting to listen to me. However, our driver is also offering his two cents and it seems to be weighing more. At least in my mind. In this moment. That seems to be the case.
Heart racing a little more. I feel the energy rising in me. Where is this coming from? Why the anxiety? I am usually the one that wants to get just a little bit closer to the significant event. Not this time though. Something feels way off.
Not a moment too soon, two armed Zapatistas race by my car door. They stop a few feet away. A situation stirs. They surround a small group of people. Apparently, the Zapatistas are all fired up and angry with the photos that are being taken of them. The circle peacefully disperses. Thank, God. Phew. No gun fire necessary.
Sitting in the car, feeling helpless, between the blockade and the event behind us, I imagine the worst. Would if we are stuck in the middle of a crossfire? How this could have been avoided if I had a bigger voice in the car, saying ” I have a bad feeling about this, let’s turn around.” What a difference a moment can make between life and death. Seriously.
So with that inner nudge and the final third flag warning and Yes, the growing looming smoke. I made it loud and clear that we are leaving NOW. “Turn the car around, NOW, I say! I am not going any further and no way in hell am I crossing the blockade by foot.” Knowing full well that this conflict isn’t about me, or us, I will not be in the middle of an event such as this, no matter how peaceful it turns out to be.
Tyler relays…”My spouse wants us to turn around and head back to San Cristobal”. I believe Ramon looks relieved but still struggling with the idea.. He is still bent on getting us to our flight on time. Who cares? Really, I think to myself. There will be other flights!
Ramón slowly inches the car back. A car that was not there a moment ago, now momentarily blocks our way. Congestion opens, the road clears.
It is taking forever and a day to turn the car around. Driving backwards, Ramón, rolls down the window and stops every few feet to pass on the message to everyone and their brother. “No tocar fotos.” No tocar fotos. (Do not take photos) For this is what is firing up the Zapatistas. Each step away from the blockade, I feel the pressure releasing. The lioness has spoken and I can now uncoil and relax. Deep breath.
I graciously touch Ramón on his shoulder and express my gratitude for him turning around. He seems to be relieved too. By the softening look on his face.
Alternate plan. Back to OPTION ONE. Take the long and winding road through the private and peaceful indigenous countryside. Catch a later flight. Win win solution for everyone.
Driving down the dusty windy roads, Tyler asks Ramón. “What was the blockade about?” “Cafe”, Ramon, says. Something about wintertime crops and not being paid enough for the coffee.
I smile with a great understanding and sense of compassion. Well you know, their coffee is pretty outstanding. The spirit and love of the coffee is worth protecting! 🙂
*Chiapas is a wealthy area of Mexico, unfortunately the wealth does not trickle down to the indigenous people of Chiapas, who are among the poorest in Mexico.
(For all those concerned, we are safely in Mexico City in good spirits…soon to be in Ojai on Saturday night, in the coming time of the Solstice.)
(original photo above by Tyler)