Comandante Ramona died of kidney failure near San Cristobal in southern Mexico last week, on the road to hospital. If the average member of the public has ever heard of the Zapatistas, the guerilla ‘army’ of Indian rights activists occuping villages deep in the jungle of Chiapas, then they are likely to associate them with their playful, anarchistic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos.
But Ramona has played a central role in the movement, dating since before the ill-fated day when she led the rebels into San Cristobal on 1 January 1994. As the Independent observes in its obit, she was sent to broker peace talks with the Mexican government of the day. “The Petite Warrior” has been virtually canonised by the people of San Cristobal, as “Es una mujer de mucha enagua” – a woman with a lot of petticoats (the equivilent of saying she had “balls”).
In her day, Ramona was one of the Zapatista’s most forthright women’s rights activists – in a movement that prizes equality and tolerance.
Announcing her death, ABC news reports, Marcos said:
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.
Meanwhile, Marcos has embarked on a six month election tour – although the Zapatistas put no-one forward to contend Mexico’s presidential race, the movement seeks to push indigenous rights up the agenda and underline the failings of the left-wing candidate.