09/23/2017 The Atlantic
On January 1, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a group of indigenous rebels in Mexico, seized public buildings in towns and cities across Chiapas, the country’s poorest, southernmost state. On that day, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had gone into effect, heralding a new era in economic integration and freedom of trade across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, eliminating tariffs among the countries and symbolizing a new post-Cold War consensus on free markets and trade. But for the Zapatistas, NAFTA represented the recolonization of their country, and they sought to give voice to their protest through armed struggle. The Mexican military put their uprising down swiftly, and the Zapatistas retreated into autonomously governed caracoles, or communes, where they live to this day, rejecting government aid and living largely on proceeds from San Cristóbal’s NGO-run tourist industry and wealthy supporters abroad.