• authored by about_unions
  • published Tue, Nov 30, 2004

Words are Weapons: The Zapatistas and Alternative Economics Tour

Chiapas, what a theme, what a place, what a struggle, what a history, what a reality, for all that have lived, been involved, been affected or inspired by the last seven years of conflict, repression and betrayal, organization, mobilization and resistance in this previously forgotten corner of the world.

It has been ten years since the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico took up arms to create a world where many worlds fit. Today, in a climate of paramilitary harassment and violent poverty, so-called low intensity warfare, the Zapatistas are creating a variety of institutions which function outside the domination of the state or market. One such institution is the First of January Boot Cooperative.

The First of January Boot Cooperative, located in Oventic, a Zapatista community in Chiapas Mexico located just beyond San Andres Larrainzar (about 60km from San Cristobal) is an example of economic democracy.

Members of the Canadian Black Star Boot Cooperative have recently returned from Chiapas, Mexico and are sharing their experiences that they have lived, been involved, been affected or inspired by the last seven years of conflict, repression and betrayal, organization, mobilization and resistance in this previously forgotten corner of the world.

The Black Star Boot cooperative is a non-profit volunteer run organization, created to help foster autonomous economic development in Chiapas, Mexico.

They import boots, produced by the First of January Boot Cooperative in Oventic Caracole, and then send all profits back to Chiapas for community projects.

"We are against capitalism, but we are involved in the international boot business," said Adam Squibb, a co-op organizer presently on tour.

"That may seem like a contradiction but there are efficient and just economic models that function without free market hegemony or state control," said the 25 year old Squibb.

The Black Boot Cooperative project is co-ordintated in Canada by a group of primarily young people, under the umbrella of Students Taking Action in Chiapas (STAC), an NGO dedicated to building schools and solidarity with the Zapatistas.

Two of the members of the Black Star Boot Cooperative are now passing through towns and cities on a speaking tour across Canada discussing 10 years of the Zapatista uprising, globalization and fair trade.

They hope through public education and speaking tours will educate people in our communities about the problems in Chiapas and their solutions.

The two Black Star Boot Cooperative members Chris Arsenault and Adam Squibb with the aid of a spendid slide presentation, and an open discussion period give a teeth jarring, mind opening presentation on the Zapatista struggle, economic alternatives to corporate power, and their solidarity work with a non-sweatshop Zapatista run boot factory.

The Canadian based Black Boot Cooperative is officially recognized by the Junta of Buen Goberino (good government board) for Los Altos, Chiapas. This project is not about "good hearted entrepreneurs" cashing in on brand Zapatista. It is an example of international solidarity, globalization from below, encompassing many of the hopes and the contradictions which define our age.

It's a once in a life time opportunity to meet face to face and to hear about the triumphs and tragedies of other workers that won’t be heard in mainstream venues.

On November 26, Chris and Adam put on their Zapatistas and Alternative Economics presentation for patrons at the Mondragon restaurant in Winnipeg and this writer was there.

The restaurant was packed for supper, when I arrived and there was not a seat to be found. The venue was sold out so to speak, standing room only.

So if you have plans to attend the next cross country presentation in your area, come early to get the best seat in the house.

Thursday, December 2, Edmonton, Alberta.

Friday, December 3, Calgary, Alberta.

Monday, December 6th, Lethbridge, Alberta.

For more information on times and or locations in your area, check their blog.

Everyone is Welcome. Donations to support travel costs for Chris and Adam are graciously accepted.

Check out Chris in this video in action in a G-7 protest.

Other information about STAC and the black boot cooperative can be found at blackbootcooperative.

For further information feel free to contact educationcoordinator at

Or Contact Black Star Boot Collective 902-802-1355.

Speaker Bios

Chris Arsenault: is youth activist and co-founder of STAC. He has extensive experience in Chiapas, working in Francisco Gomez, Guadalupe Teyepac, La Realidad and Oventic. Chris has covered the situation in Chiapas as freelance journalist for CBC Radio, the Chronicle Herald, CKDU news and He has been a guest lecturer about Chiapas and Globalization at Queen's University, the University of Western Ontario, Anahuac University in Mexico City, the University of New Brunswick (UNB), St. FX, St. Mary's and other academic institutions.

Adam Squibb: is a Newfoundland based activist with a degree in International Development from Dalhousie University. He was active with the mobilization against the FTAA in Quebec City and has traveled to Chiapas with STAC.

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