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Who is Subcomandante Marcos?

Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Subcomandante Marcos, also known as Insurgente Marcos and Delegado Cero, is the anonymous spokesperson of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, based in Chiapas, Mexico. His name is believed to be an acronym that makes reference to some of the first locations where the army started their fight. He has made clear in different occasions that he is not the leader of the Zapatistas, but rather a supporter. The army, consisting mainly of indigenous Mayans, also counts with the support of white rural workers and sympathizers who understand the plight of the locals.

Subcomandante Marcos has never revealed his true identity, but the Mexican government believes his real name is Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente. Guillén was an active member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party while he was teaching Philosophy at Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) in Mexico City, which would go along with Marcos's speech that the "Zapatista movement is more about ideas than bullets."

The Zapatistas believe in non-violent protest, and make active use of peace marches and the Internet to share their message. They oppose globalization and fight for the autonomy of the native population of Mexico. Subcomandante Marcos has also widely campaigned against the World Trade Organization and the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on worldwide markets.

Since 1996, Subcomandante Marcos has written 21 books, some of which have gone on to be printed in numerous editions and translated into several languages. La Historia de los Colores / The Story of Colors, a bilingual edition of one of his most famous books, is actually a retelling of an old Mayan children's fable that speaks of tolerance and solidarity. Subcomandante Marcos is also an avid correspondent, having written more than 250 stories and essays directed to newspapers and magazines, or used as press releases.

In 2005, Subcomandante Marcos announced a two-part plan called "The Other Campaign." While the creation of the plan coincided with Mexico's presidential election the following year, the aim of the Zapatistas is not to back any particular candidates. Instead, they request a new national constitution that emphasizes equality and guarantees that public resources will not be sold to private powers. Since the beginning of "The Other Campaign," Subcomandante Marcos has been traveling Mexico in search of supporters while addressing the issue of poverty and oppression.

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Discussion Comments

By anon157386 — On Mar 02, 2011

Marcos represents the kind of thinking that the world needs. Especially right now. The right to self determination and the respect of people as equals rather then commodities is something the world has lost. It isn't only the disenfranchised indigenous populations of the world that look to Marcos. It is also the many who continue to believe that we can fight for dignity and respect for all in a world that only looks at profits and accumulation of excessive wealth. Viva Marcos and Viva the ELZN

By anon125848 — On Nov 10, 2010

EZLN is in my blood! Marcos is a hero (reading past comments)

Marcos, is the truth. I'll tell you what. Later on the U.S. will call him a terrorist, just because he is against globalization and capitalism. And for god's sake, this guy is truly a heroic person. he hasn't killed anyone. It is the stupid media that plays all wrong like Televisa and CNN. Media that is owned by government.

By anon54356 — On Nov 29, 2009

I do believe in The Subcomandante Marcos. He wants the rights for indigenous people. Indigenous people are like us, just that they don't have us much as we do. He is someone that wants better for them. He is a hero.

By anon54333 — On Nov 29, 2009

anon25949: He is probably not a hero like you say. But it's more than clear that you're one of those who think the mexican government is right.

By anon40870 — On Aug 11, 2009

what are you talking about, believing the mexican media? the media itself portrays marcos as a criminal! he goes against the mexican government, which is possibly the most corrupt in the world. read a book or something before you pass judgment on a country and its political system.

By anon34067 — On Jun 16, 2009

Marcos is a hero in a world of people who still fear governments too much to effectively make their cases heard. Often times when people like that do exist negative propaganda is promoted such as that discussed by the previous anonymous poster. Any educated person knows the difference between the truth and propaganda. Marcos and his followers are not criminals. But then again you believe everything your government tells you don't you.

I am a proud mohawk and I know better. Peoples' lies are not the same as the truth and are usually blatantly apparent. Sometimes people are too scared to speak up about it but it doesn't change the reality that they are lies.

By anon31156 — On Apr 30, 2009

If you believe the Mexican media.

By anon25949 — On Feb 05, 2009

I live in Campeche state and have been here since the beginning of 1993. I don't believe that the Zapatistas believe in non-violent protest. I remember very well new years day of 1994 when we heard that Marcos and his other mass murderers had sneaked into a military base and beaten and hacked to death 70+ young draftee soldiers.

Then for the next year or two they would raid a small farmhouses and kill the old men and women so they could steal the cows or chickens.

Not white skinned politicos, but the same indigenous people they claim to be protecting and promoting.

Marcos and his cronies are criminals.

He is not a hero.

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