In December 1994, faced with an impasse in the peace talks with the federal government and as a way to put pressure on it by demonstrating its presence in the state, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) announced the creation of 38 autonomous municipalities superimposed on the “official” municipalities.
Ruled by their own forms of government and ignoring the constitutional authorities, the organizational work of the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ) has focused primarily on education, health, justice, and production projects, under the premise of not accepting government support of any kind, an expression of their “resistance.” As the EZLN itself recognizes, this is neither a new nor an imported process in the Zapatista communities, but rather the development of ancestral indigenous forms of self-government. The autonomous authorities of the MAREZ are called Autonomous Councils.
Since August 2003, each of the five regions with Zapatista presence (The Highlands, Selva Tzeltal, Selva Fronteriza, Tzots Choj and the Northern Zone) is organized on a rotating basis in the so-called Good Government Committees (Juntas de Buen Gobierno, JBG). Their headquarters are located in the “Caracoles” (snails): La Realidad, La Garrucha, Roberto Barrios, Oventic, and Morelia.
The Good Government Committees are formed by representatives elected by the indigenous communities according to a rotation system, and their work focuses on coordinating the municipalities that fall within their region in regard to health, education, justice, productive projects, etc. JBGs also deal with external agents such as press, NGOs, etc.
“Caracol” I of La Realidad – “Madre de los Caracoles del Mar de Nuestros Sueños” (Mother of the caracoles from the sea of our dreams)
- Territory covered: Selva Fronteriza (from Marqués de Comillas, including Montes Azules, the municipalities bording Guatemala, and Tapachula)
- Good Government Committee: “Hacia la esperanza” (Towards Hope)
- Languages: tojolabal, tseltal y mam
“Caracol” II of Oventic – “Resistencia y Rebeldía por la Humanidad” (Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity)
- Territory covered: Altos (including the official municipalities of the Highlands, as far as Chiapa de Corzo, Tuxtla Gutiérrez , Berriozábal, Ocozocuautla and Cintalapa).
- Good Government Committee: “Corazón Céntrico de los Zapatistas delante del Mundo” (Central Heart of the Zapatistas in front of the World)
- Languages: tsotzil, tseltal
“Caracol” III of La Garrucha – Resistencia hacia un Nuevo Amanecer (Resistance Toward A New Dawn).
- Territory covered: Selva Tseltal (including different zones of the official municipality of Ocosingo)
- Good Government Committee: “El Camino del Futuro” (The path towards the future)
- Language: tseltal
“Caracol” IV of Morelia – Torbellino de nuestras palabras (Whirlwind of Our Words)
- Territory covered: Tzots Choj (including parts of the official municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Chilón, Teopisca, Amatenango del Valle)
- Good Government Committee: “Corazón del Arcoiris de la Esperanza” (Heart of the Rainbow of Hope)
- Languages: tseltal, tsotsil, tojolabal
“Caraco” V of Roberto Barrios – El Caracol que Habla para Todos (“The Caracol that speaks for All”)
- Territory covered: Northern Region (including of the official municipalities in the Northern region of Chiapas, from Palenque to Amatán)
- Good Government Committee: “Nueva Semilla que va a Producir” (“New seed that will produce”)
- Languages: tseltal, ch’ol, and zoque