Roberto Barrios

Many of the lands we drove through in Chiapas were Zapatista territory, although there are only five official caracoles, or administrative centers, in the state. On one of our drives, some of us wanted to visit the nearby Roberto Barrios community. After a twenty-minute drive, we pulled up to a small group of buildings; those of us who got off the bus saw a small group of men throwing a ball through a hoop and others sitting around and talking. None of them had masks on, something new for those of us who had visited the formal Oventik caracol.

A gate protected the entrance to Roberto Barrios, and a few men stood by it. We introduced ourselves and said we wanted to visit and talk for a little while. The man who spoke with us went back and talked to someone inside through a window. The office of the Junta del Bueno Gobierno, which was off to our left, looked closed. We waited. The men inside the caracol looked at us surreptitiously. A small boy in an upstairs room poked his head out and looked and smiled at us until we took a camera out. Then he hid, hiding again each time we pulled out cameras. We knew that indigenous people in Mexico often do not like having their photos taken, but we were surprised that even a boy who looked to be around two-years-old would have this preference.

Finally, the man came back and said he was sorry, we would not be allowed to enter. We pleaded. “We have been to Oventik many times, we drove all this way to visit Roberto Barrios,” we explained. The man went back to the window. We waited. Again he came back and said, “no.” “Can we at least take photographs?” we asked. Back he went to the window. After what felt like 15 minutes he came back and again said, “no.” After a few trips back and forth to the window they agreed that Susan Meiselas could take photographs from the road. No one else. They had no idea who she or any of the rest of us where, but she did have the most impressive camera. Here, then, are the photos from Roberto Barrios. Once again, the Zapatistas reminded us who was boss in their “territorio en rebellión” (territory in rebellion).

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