The Zapatistas, a Maya political and militant group best known for staging an uprising in Chiapas in 1994, are preparing for another ambitious undertaking: an ocean voyage to Europe in a so-called zapalancha, or “Zapa-boat.”
According to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a boat officially called La Montaña (The Mountain) will set sail on May 3 from “a port of the Mexican republic.”
The voyage to Europe is expected to take six to eight weeks, EZLN leader Subcomandante Moisés said in a statement posted online.
Seven EZLN members — four women, two men and one person of indeterminate gender — will crew the vessel, a replica of which was built in a Zapatista community in Chiapas, substantial parts of which are controlled by the Zapatistas. It is unclear if they have any prior experience on the high seas.
“… [The crew members] will remain in quarantine for 15 days … to ensure that they are not infected with the so-called Covid-19 and so that they can prepare” for the voyage, Subcomandante Moisés said in the statement posted online on April 10.An ELZN video describes the planned voyage.
“… During these two weeks, they will be living inside the replica of the vessel which we built for this purpose,” he said.
“… Starting April 15, 2021, from the 12 Zapatista caracoles [autonomous zones], our comrades … will be carrying out activities to say goodbye to the Zapatista delegation that, via sea and air, will travel to the geography they call ‘Europe,’” Subcomandante Moisés said.
“In this part [of our history], which we’ve called Travesía por la Vida, Capítulo Europa [Journey through Life, Europe Chapter], the Zapatista delegates will meet with those who have invited us to speak about our mutual histories, pain, anger, achievements and failures,” he said.
The EZLN has accepted invitations to meet with people in 30 European countries and territories, according to Subcomandante Moisés, among which are Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Sardinia, Catalonia, France, Russia and Poland.
An EZLN member said in a video message that the crew members have no fear of dying during the long voyage to Europe.
“We are Zapatistas, we are rebels. We’re not afraid of dying in the water. We’re prepared to live, to arrive wherever we arrive. We want to meet with the brothers and sisters of other countries because it’s necessary — it’s important — to show our autonomy,” he said.
A homemade wooden raft, upon which a transatlantic voyage wouldn’t be possible, appeared in that video, which was posted online in December.
However, La Montaña is a much larger, and hopefully sturdier, vessel. Still, a sea voyage to Europe appears to be a risky venture for the Zapatistas.
Indeed, the organization acknowledged that there wasn’t a great deal of enthusiasm to go to sea among the vast majority of its members.
Apart from the seven crew members, who range in age from 19 to 57, “no one wanted to travel by boat,” the EZLN said.