National Geographic : 1996 Aug
CHIAPAS Rough RoadtoReality They carry antiquated weap ons and their formation is far from precise, but a march of a hundred Indian rebels in La Realidad on the eve of peace talks created a sensation. Since the 1994 uprising they had rarely appeared in daylight. Claiming the name Zapatistas-after Mexican Revolution hero Emiliano Zapata-the rebels guard the true name of their spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos (be low left). He has described himself as "owner of the night, lord of the mountain, man without a face and with no to morrow." A rebel for the 21st century, he posts his manifes tos on the Internet. The government hoped to dull his appeal by identifying him as the privileged son of a furniture salesman-and a non-Indian besides-but he remains the symbol of Indian demands for land ownership, economic aid, and education. His stated goal is to fashion the Zapatistas into a national po litical movement. While condemning rebel tac tics, Mexico's government ad mits the legitimacy of their complaints. And though fed eral money for fighting poverty pours into Chiapas, not enough, critics say, actually reaches the people. As a show of force, armed government Humvees rumble through La Realidad (below), though the Zapatistas have now declared their mission to be a non-military struggle. Says Marcos: "We invite all those Mexicans who [want] democracy, liberty, and justice for us and our children."