Questions & Swords: Folktales of the Zapatista Revolution

$22.00 each


A refreshing take on the EZLN rebellion, that makes this complicated history accessible via folktales.

“Por mi voz habla la voz del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional:” “Through my voice speaks the Zapatista Army for National Liberation,” writes Subcomandante Marcos on the seventh anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising.

On January 1, 1994, this man, Subcomandante Marcos, or “el Sup,” became the media spokesman for the EZLN. A green-eyed meztizo, masked, mysterious, charismatic in language, he also became an international revolutionary and pop-culture icon. But in the midst of all the attention, he has stressed that the rebellion belongs to the Mayan people.

In this book of art and revolutionary struggle, Subcomandante Marcos shares two stories from the Zapatista rebellion against the Mexican government—“The Story of Questions” and “The Story of the Sword, the Tree, the Stone & the Water.” In between these colorful, narrated stories, Elena Poniatowska and Native American poet Simon Ortiz contribute commentary to explain the significance of the Zapatista Rebellion to the 21st Century.

Simon J. Ortiz, considered by his peers as an elder among Native North American writers, is an Acoma Pueblo author of poetry, short fiction essays and a book-length verse narrative “Surviving Columbus,” on which was based a 1992 television documentary broadcast on Public Broadcasting System. His insightful essay connects the struggle in Chiapas to the struggle of Indigenous peoples across the Americas since 1492.

In her essay “Can a book explode like a bomb?” Elena Poniatowska unpacks how Subcomandante Marcos’ “Story of the Sword” explains the moral nature of the Zapatista rebellion. The story, beautifully illustrated by Domitila Domínguez and told by Subcomandante Marcos, warns us not to practice violence against those who appear weak. She writes that the sword is a false instrument of power and that the behavior of the Mexican Army in the indigenous communities of Chiapas has been that of the sword.

Poniatowska is one of Mexico’s most respected writers, a journalist, novelist and poet. Born in Paris, France of Polish and Mexican parents, Elena has lived in Mexico since 1942, becoming a citizen in 1969. Her many books and articles have long announced the fact that she is a spokesperson for human rights and dignity for all peoples. Since January 1, 1994, she has been an advocate for the causes of the EZLN, interviewing Marcos on various occasions. Her novel La piel del cielo, received the prestigious Premio Alfaguara de Novela 2001.

Illustrators Antonio Ramírez and Domitila Domínguez, along with like-minded artist friends and family, formed the Colectivo Callejero, “the streetwise collective.” The group is dedicated to expressing through art the political thought of the left in Mexico—in particular, as it concerns the struggles of indigenous peoples.

Chiara says…

Questions & Swords is a refreshing take on telling the story of the EZLN and the rebellion. Rather than the textbook approach at chronicling history, this book makes the complicated history accessible via folktales, enhanced with beautiful illustrations from Colectivo Callejero.




Author: Subcomandante Marcos

Illustrations: Color illustrations by Domitila Domínguez & Antonio Ramírez

Binding Availability: Paperback

Published: 2001

Tribes/Ethnic Groups: Maya