OK, the Center of Radical Empowerment. If you live in St. Petersburg, you've undoubtedly heard of this insurgent group of iconoclasts, but you might not be familiar with their agenda. To that end, we're not exactly sure ourselves. By definition, radicals are extreme advocates of revolutionary change. So far, C.O.R.E.'s definition of extreme tends toward open mics, film fests, knitting workshops and the occasional concert. But with their next event, a Zapatista presentation and discussion, the group's finally kicking it up a notch.
OK, the Zapatistas. Geez, where do we start? Here's a primer: The EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) is essentially a peasant movement based in the communities of Chiapas, Mexico. Comprising mainly farmers, one-third of which are women, the army is named for Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican revolutionary and champion of agrarianism (equitable distribution of land) who fought in guerrilla actions during and after the Mexican Revolution (1911-17). The modern Zapatista army first declared war against the Mexican government on Jan. 1, 1994, by seizing the four largest municipal governments in Chiapas. Land, housing, food, schools, health care, roads, electricity, safe drinking water and democratic elections are among the army's list of demands. After a brief period of fighting, peace talks with the government resulted in an initial agreement of Indigenous Rights and Culture (the San Andres Accords). Then-President Ernesto Zedillo, however, refused to sign the accords into law and instead implemented a strategy of low-intensity warfare against the EZLN and its supporters. This action has driven thousands of indigenous people into makeshift refugee camps, resulting in even further extreme poverty.
At the C.O.R.E.'s 4 to 7 p.m. discussion on Saturday, June 9, you'll learn about the Zapatistas' recent caravan to Mexico City. Leaving their weapons at home, commanders of the EZLN, along with Subcomandante Marcos, traveled 1,800 miles not only championing the rights of indigenous peoples but women and workers' rights, land reform and more. St. Petersburg resident Michael Canney, who participated in the caravan as a member of the Mexico Solidarity Network observer's delegation, shares his firsthand account of this historic event.