Comandanta Ramona of the Zapatistas died yesterday in Chiapas, en route from Caracol La Garrucha (Oventic) to San Cristobal. She was 47-years-old and had been battling kidney cancer for over ten years. The Zapatistas have put their Other Campaign on hold for the next few days and returned to Oventic for her funeral. In announcing her death, Marcos said,
I want everybody to listen to what I am about to say without any interruptions. Comandanta Ramona died yesterday… The world has lost one of those women it requires. Mexico has lost one of the combative women it needs and we, we have lost a piece of our heart.
Ramona was in charge of the military takeover of San Cristobal in 1994, and in 1993, after consulting with indigenous communities, wrote the Zapatista's Women's Revolutionary Law with Major Ana Maria.
Though I have no information on what caused the cancer, it would be interesting to know. A friend of mine is currently in a Zapatista refugee camp doing public health work. One of his efforts is trying to find a way to ventilate the refugees' living quarters. This is a problem as the women cook over an open fire inside with no ventilation. The result can be cancer at a young age.
Regardless of the cause, her death shines more light on the dire health situation facing the poor and indigenous in Chiapas and most of Mexico. There is little to no access to health care in rural areas. When I stayed in a Zapatista municipality the only medicines available were expired ones brought in by internationals. In the case of a serious illness, one had to travel eight hours in the back of a truck to San Cristobal for treatment, but even there the quality of health care is poor. One can't help but wonder if she would still be alive if she had access to better medical treatment.
A musical tribute to Ramona:
Quetzal - Todos Somos Ramona [download mp3]
A poem for Ramona:
RAMONA por C.Crabuzza, L.Marielli
Esta es la historia de Ramona
que mira al cielo
lindo por la ausencia
de civilizacio'n invasora
e'l no esta' esta noche
no estara' ma~ana
y quiza's nunca volvera'
su vida es un hilo de lana
del pasamonta~as llega
al zo'calo de San Cristo'bal
a contar los muertos sin cara
es un juego muy peligroso
en cada calle o entre hierba marchita
puede ser la suya
Ella quisiera un hombre y ni~os jugando
un hombre so'lo para ella
no el sue~o de todas
quisiera una casa en la ciudad
Ramona respira fuerte y piensa
no puede ser siempre la misma historia
no crei'a que la muerte
puede caminar a tu lado
la muerte ma's viva que la vida
la monta~a guarda la u'ltima esperanza
la u'nica razo'n para una guerra absurda
E'sta es la historia de Ramona
que escucha so'la
en la sombra de la tarde
sabes que me encantas mi amor especial
ya basta a decidir que no huira'
para esos ojos negros
que la dejan sin aliento
por que sabe que sus ni~os
se parecera'n a e'l porque algo cambio'
en una Noche Vieja
fiesta de fuego
en el zo'calo de San Cristo'bal