The EZLN’s José Luis Solís López (aka Comrade Galeano) of the EZLN had already lost one brother (on December 31st, 1993) when he left with his fellow Zapatistas to take the municipal centres of Comitán and Las Margaritas on January 1st 1994.
In the early morning of New Year’s Day, a bus carrying several rebels crashed into a house a couple of streets away from the centre of Las Margaritas because its brakes had failed. The inhabitants of the house, who had been celebrating the arrival of the New Year, were shocked when they saw youngsters wearing olive-green trousers and brown shirts and carrying rifles. “They’re guerrillas!” shouted the occupants before locking themselves inside the house.
A few metres away, while the rebels took the town, Subcomandante Pedro (a red-bearded youngster who inhabitants of La Realidad affectionately called “Pedrín”) was shot to the ground next to a bust of Benito Juárez situated in front of the balcony of the town hall. Zapatista youths would later regret having left him alone as they took the town.
The municipal leader of the National Peasant Confederation (CNN), Aarón Gordillo, had denounced the presence of guerrilla groups in Las Margaritas during 1992 and 1993, and would change the path of the EZLN’s struggle that morning. The Priista ambushed Pedro from the town hall, setting the progress of the Zapatistas back significantly. However, he himself was shot, and would later die in his house a few hours later.
Some drunken locals would confuse Pedro for a foreigner, and some even said the dead rebel was a woman – as they could only see his long hair in the darkness. Without his leadership, the rebels in Las Margaritas were unable to advance to Comitán and take its 24th Motorised Cavalry Regiment (now found in Tehuacán, Puebla), its town hall, and its government offices.
In the town of San Antonio Z, Zapatistas managed to set up camp, but would only arrive, as Subcomandante Marcos later said, “within urinating distance of Comitán”. Major Moisés, meanwhile, led a group of rebels whose task was to stick the First Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle on the municipal centre’s walls.
Nearby, other rebels had entered the ranch of San Joaquín, detaining General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez in the process. Castellanos had returned from town to see what was happening after hearing from his workers that a group of guerrillas had declared war on the Mexican government.
On January 3rd, however, the rebels received the order to return to their communities, and the order to advance on Mexico City was withdrawn. They returned home in their battered vehicles, tired and hungry. Galeano and his brother Jorge Mario travelled with a group of rebels heading back to La Realidad. Jorge Mario drove a white Ford bus known as “The Rabbit”.
As soon as the Zapatistas left, the Army took Las Margaritas, guarding all of the town’s exits and the roads towards Comitán. In Yalcoc y El Encanto, one of the town’s neighbourhoods, soldiers set up camps to capture and interrogate all of the Tojolabales and peasants that passed through the area. At one of these posts, Major Terán (who had already been suspected of links to drug trafficking in the region) detained Jorge Mario, along with another rebel called Eduardo Gómez Hernández, to “interrogate them, torture them, and murder them”. Days later, their bodies were discovered by a local who had noted the strange presence of birds of prey on a piece of land in the Plan de Agua Prieta ejido. They were found on the road between the municipal centre and the Yashá ejido.
Subcomandante Marcos, in a letter to the UN about executions in Chiapas (dated July 9th, 1999), would later write that, “in the first days of combat, Major Terán kidnapped, tortured, and executed Eduardo Gómez Hernández and Jorge Mario Solís López” in Las Margaritas. “Our deceased”, he would add, “do not rest in peace”. On February 14th, 2004, Jorge Mario’s name would be added to the list of the 46 Zapatistas who fell in combat in 1994.
“In the combats of Las Margaritas, we suffered one fatality. In the days after the taking of Las Margaritas by Zapatista troops and the retaking of the town square by the federal army, Major Terán kidnapped, tortured, and executed the militants”. According to Marcos, “their ears and tongues had been cut off”.
Translated by Oso Sabio from a text originally written in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo at http://www.proyectoambulante.org/index.php/noticias/nacionales/item/4299-galeano-y-su-familia-una-historia-de-lucha