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Abstract

Rebellion in Chiapas: rural reforms and popular struggle.

Abstract

The origins and significance of the uprising of 3000 and 4000 armed Indians in Chiapas, Mexico, 1 January 1994 has been debated by many analysts, and it clearly represents a watershed in modern Mexican history. The paper discusses its rural dimensions. It attempts to show how policies to modernize the economy and a series of rural reforms have had a negative impact for most campesinos in Chiapas, particularly in the Selva and Altos regions. The paper discusses the effects of agricultural modernization and institutional reforms in Chiapas, emphasizing the constraints faced by the social sector and, by way of contrast, notes the expansion of private sector commercial agriculture after 1982. The second section discusses the effects of the modifications to land tenure and agrarian codes which were approved by Congress in December 1991 and February 1992, a process widely known as 'ejido reform'. The third section of the paper describes the process of campesino organization in the Selva since the early 1970s, with the goal of explaining why the EZLN was able to attract support in this particular region. The paper concludes with a discussion of the two broader processes set in motion by the Zapatista uprising. These refer to the mobilization of significant sectors of Mexican civil society in support of political democratization and the resurgence of militant campesino activism in the form of large-scale land invasions.