Last month I took a trip to Chiapas – and I went to Oventic, one of the headquarters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). The Zapatistas are a peaceful resistance army of indigenous villagers in the mountains and jungles of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest and southern-most state.

Chiapas feels like another country. When you’re there, you compare it more to scenes you might imagine more typical of Central America than Mexico. Even if you’ve traveled extensively in northern or central Mexico and know the northern two-thirds of the country well, Chiapas is otro mundo. Most of my Mexican friends have a fondness and special love for Chiapas.

The state has the second- or third-highest indigenous population in the country (Oaxaca at 13.5%, Chiapas at 13%), and today more than 1/3 of the state is in direct autonomous control by the EZLN: they run their own schools, health clinics, and social programs, and tell the Mexican government to keep out of their Zapatista-controlled communities.

Their goal is the increased rights for indigenous groups in Chiapas, in Mexico, and now (thanks to the internet) their message is reaching people everywhere in the world.

“For everyone, everything. For us, nothing,” the Zapatistas declare.

If you go to Oventic, you’ll be treated to dozens of revolution-themed murals, which you’ll be allowed to photograph. Some of these photos have been used in the 2017 documentary, Zapatista Moon.

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The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A mural on one of the wooden buildings in Oventic. The village is located in the Lacandona jungle, so unlike most northern parts of the country, wood is more plentiful and used more often in construction.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Two Zapatistas knit rainbows in the Zapatista mural in Chiapas.
Painting of a woman weaving a rug.
A Zapatista woman weaves a rug in this mural in Oventic.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A mural in Oventic, Chiapas, a village in mountain jungles of Chiapas, Mexico.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
You won’t be allowed to take photos of any of the Zapatistas at Oventic, but you will be encouraged the photograph the revolutionary murals which cover the dozens of buildings. This one says, “To resist is to exist. I will resist. I will exist.”
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Inside an unused classroom for Zapatista children at Oventic.
A zapatista classroom.
The Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Outside a Zapatista classroom.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A Black Lives Matter mural in Oventic, Mexico, several thousand miles from where the Black Lives Matter fight originated. “Black Lives Matter. Everything for everyone. The fight continues.”
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A Zapatista with a corn kernel mask uses his hands and two flag poles as points on the compass rose around the image of the world. The flags are the Mexican flag and the Zapatista flag. Despite being against mal (bad) government and fiercely anti-federal, the Zapatistas are deeply patrotic, but like most Mexican who I’ve met, never in a boastful, pompous way.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
“A world fight.” A Zapatista takes off his mask to reveal the world. A baby, with a marvelous face, is wrapped in a traditional reboso and slung around his torso.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A mural showing a map of Oventic in the shape of a snail or caracol. Oventic is one of the five caracoles, or centers, of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. “Oventik more Oventik, always lots of Oventiks. I can no longer live outside of Oventik because for me what I want is to build. And if the bad government wants to destroy us, we’ll make everywhere more Oventik. I won’t go from here, always ready to fight.”
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A stencil-art type mural with an armed Zapatista. Appo is the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, an organization that formed from hundreds of other groups in 2006, which declared itself the de facto governing body of Oaxaca. Just like that.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A meeting place for Zapatistas. “This is my town, race of brave people who with a stone… overthrows castles. There is no gun more effective than truth in thought.”
Mural of Emiliano Zapata.
Emiliano Zapata on a mural in Oventic.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Women’s Office for Dignity in Oventic, Mexico, a Zapatista village in Chiapas.
"Worthy anger," reads this mural in the Zapatista community of Oventic.
“Worthy anger.” One of the murals at the Zapatista village of Oventic.
Murals on the walls at Oventic.
Murals on some of the buildings in Oventic, Mexico
"500 years of fighting for land and liberty," says this Zapatista mural.
“500 years of fighting for land and liberty.” Zapatistas with flowers and a cob of multicolored corn. Corn, which originated in Mexico, is a sacred crop to the Mayan peoples.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Kids’ backpacks sit on a windowsill during class time. I don’t know how to translate what this mural says, because it is an indigenous language, likely tzotzil or tzeltal. If you can translate this, please let me know in the comments below.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A mural of a people with corn being used as a mask.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Detail of a mural in Oventic, Mexico.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Zapatista heads appear as kernels of corn on this mural in the Zapatista community of Oventic in Chiapas.
Zapatista masks in kernels of corn.
Zapatista masks embedded in kernels of corn, Mexico’s most sacred plant.
Somos raíz mural.
“We are the roots.”
Zapatista star in a mural in Chiapas.
Mural in Chiapas featuring the Zapatista star.
Mural in Chiapas.
Mural in Oventic, Mexico.
Classroom in Oventic.
Outside a Zapatista classroom.
Detail of mural on a classroom.
Detail of a mural on a Zapatista classroom in Oventic.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
Galeano was a Zapatista teacher was assassinated in a paramilitary operation in an action denounced by activists including Noam Chomsky. Today, Subcomandante Marcos has abandoned his previous identity, which he deemed a distraction to the progress of the movement, and is now referred to as Subcomandante Galeano.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
A Zapatista painted on one of the murals in the village.
The Revolutionary Zapatista Murals of Oventic, Mexico
This sign outside the guarded gate at Oventic reads, “For everyone everything, for us nothing.”