Timeline of Zapatista Movement

This timeline covers the major events in the history of the movement.


On Nov. 17, 1983, The EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista Liberacion Nacional, or Zapatista National Liberation Army) is founded by three indigenous activists and three mestizos.

1986: EZLN enters its first indigenous community at invitation of local leaders.

1988: Carlos Salinas most likely steals the election from Cauhtemoc Cárdenas.

1989: EZLN grows to over 1,300 armed members.

1992: President Salinas “reforms” Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, allowing for the privatization of ejidos.

1993: Zapatista communities approve a military offensive by the EZLN.


January: NAFTA is implemented January 1. That morning 3,000 members of the EZLN occupy six large towns and hundreds of ranches in Chiapas. Within 24 hours the army responds, bombing indigenous communities and killing a minimum of 145 indigenous people. Mexican civil society responds with massive demonstrations calling for peace. A cease-fire is declared on January 12.

February: Peace talks begin. The government peace proposal is rejected by the Zapatista communities.

August: The Zapatistas hold the National Democratic Convention. Over 6,000 people attend at the first Aguascalientes. Ernesto Zedillo is elected president.

December: On December 19, the Zapatistas declare autonomy for 38 indigenous municipalities.


January: Chase Manhattan Bank issues a report calling for the Mexican government to “eliminate the Zapatistas”.

February: On the 9th the army mount a massive invasion of Zapatista territory, implementing a strategy of low-intensity warfare (civilian-targeted warfare). The army displaces 20,000 campesinos, destroys Aguascalientes and occupy much of the state (there are currently approximately 60,000 army troops in Chiapas). The Zapatistas respond by constructing 5 more Aguascalientes.

April: Peace talks resume.

August: Zapatistas hold the first international consulta. Over one million people vote calling for the EZLN to transform itself into an independent political force.

October: Talks begin in San Andres Larrainzar on indigenous rights and culture.


February: The EZLN and the government sign the San Andres Accords, outlining a program of land reform, indigenous autonomy, and cultural rights.

March: Talks continue on democracy and justice, concluding with no agreement on August, 12, as government representatives refuse to discuss Zapatista proposals.

July/August: the Zapatistas organize the first Intercontinental Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. Thousands of people from around the world attend.

December: President Zedillo formally rejects the San Andres Accords.


September: On the 12th, the Zapatistas arrive in Mexico City for the founding of the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN), the civil political arm of the movement.

December: On the 22nd, the “Peace and Justice” paramilitary group, affiliated with the PRI, attacks the Las Abejas community of Acteal killing 45, mostly women and children. The Zedillo administration denies the existence of paramilitaries in Chiapas.


February: The Zedillo administration begins a campaign to expel foreign human rights observers from Chiapas. Over the 150 are expelled during the next two years.

April: The army begins to try an dismantle autonomous Zapatista communities. Over 1,000 troops and police invade four communities, destroying records and arresting community leaders.

June: The army’s campaign to dismantle rebel communities culminates in the predawn invasion of San Juan de Libertad. At least eight civilians and one policeman are killed. The resulting outrage puts a temporary halt to the army’s offensive.


March: The Zapatistas organize a Consulta on Indigenous Rights and Culture. Over 5,000 civilian Zapatistas conduct a week-long program of popular activity throughout the country. On March 21, over 3 million Mexicans vote at thousands of polling places, agreeing that the San Andres Accords should be implemented.

April: State police occupy the autonomous community of San Andres Sakamch’em, site of the Andres Accords, and install a PRI mayor. The next day, 3,000 unarmed Zapatistas nonviolently force the police to leave the town and re-install their own electe authorities.

May: The Second National Encuentro of Civil Society draws 2,000 participants to discuss the March consulta.

August: The military deploys paratroopers and forces to occupy the remote village of Amador Hernandez, the final link in plans to build a road that will encircle the Zapatistas in the Lacandon Jungle. The community resists with nonviolent protests, but the military encampment remains.


Zapatista communities register to vote in historic numbers.

July 2: Vicente Fox (of the conservative PAN party) is elected president, ending 71 years of PRI rule.

November 30: Fox assumes the presidency and the Zapatistas break a five-month long silence and call for the new administration to meet three conditions before peace talks can resume: withdraw troops from seven of the 250 military encampments, release all Zapatista politcal prisoners, and implement the San Andres Accords.

December: Fox dismantles military checkpoints throughout the state. Over the next five months he dismantles the seven military bases and frees most of the Zapatista political prisoners. On the 5th Fox introduces consitutional reforms to implement the San Andres Accords.


February 24: The Zapatista Comandancia, including Subcomandante Marcos, commence a march into Mexico City to demand that the government comply with the San Andres Accords.

March 11: The Zapatistas arrive in Mexico City and enter the Zocalo, where 250,000 people have gathered to greet them.

April 25: The senate unanimously approves a mutilated version of the San Andres Accords. The Zapatistas and all other major indigenous organization denounce the laws. The Zapatistas go into silence.


January: The Fox administration begins threats to dislocate some 40+ indigenous communities from the Montes Azules Biosphere.

August: Paramilitary activity escalates again with the assassinations of a number of Zapatista authorities

December: Marcos publishes a series of five letters in regards to Basque autonomy.


January 1: The Zapatistas break their silence with a 20,000+ person march on San Cristobal de Las Casas. It is the largest show of Zapatista strength to date.

Feburary: Two U.S. citizens accuse the Zapatistas of trying to seize their ranch.

April: The Zapatistas mobilize and speak out against the war on Iraq.

July and August: The Zapatistas announce the death of the Aguascalientes and the birth of the Carocoles and the juntas of good government. This marks a major formalization of the Zapatista autonomus communities. In effect the Zapatistas enact the San Andres Accords within the territory they control.

September: In response to the birth of the Carocoles the Mexican government and paramilitary groups step up harassment of the Zapatista communities.

November: The Zapatistas close their villages to all outsiders to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the EZLN.


January: The EZLN celebrates the 10th anniversary of the uprising. The Mexican military invades Zapatista communities in Montes Azules, burning houses and dislocating several families.

August: On the first anniversary of the Carocoles the Zapatistas release a series of communiqués about the progress and struggles of the movement. They detail how their autonomous communities are governed and admit that in most communities Zapatista women still haven’t obtained equal status with men.


January: Seven Zapatista communities relocate from Montes Azules.

March: Marcos writes mystery novel with Mexican novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II. Zapatistas protest the stripping of Lopez Obrador’s immunity.