press release, 04-05-99

Zapatistas in Mexico City
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A group of Zapatistas has come from Chiapas to Mexico City to join the 1 May demonstration on the Zócalo, where they had the opportunity to witness the mounting of a controversial 8 metres high sculpture titled The Pillar of Shame. The sculpture is now placed for two days in most centric square of the Mexican capital. Set up in front of the Parliament, the Pillar is an overt accusation of the Mexican government.

The Pillar was set up during one of the world’s biggest 1 May demonstrations. Immediately after Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo’s speech to the crowd of the official demonstration, the huge Zócalo was invaded by hundreds of thousands anti-government demonstrators. Pictures from May 1st

The mounting of the Pillar was a joint initiative of the CNI (a confederation encompassing all indigenous peoples of Mexico) and CLETA, an organisation for promotion of popular art and theatre. The sculpture was set up to commemorate the victims of the sanguinary conflict between the Mexican government and the indigenous peoples. The atrocities of this conflict have taken a toll of numerous victims, culminating in the hideous massacre of Acteal where paramilitaries massacred 45 martyrs in the village of Acteal in Chiapas. Men, women and children were murdered while they prayed for peace.

On the plinth of the sculpture is engraved a declaration by the CNI, the confederation of indigenous peoples of Mexico, expressing an excruciating denunciation of the white man’s basic values:

"They stole our fruit,they cut off our branches,they burnt our trunks,but they could not kill our roots.The indigenous people have their own deep-rooted cultural heritage through which they experience the basis of life itself. These conditions provide hope for life, both for mankind and for the nature of which Man is so integral a part. For five hundred years unscrupulous forces have waged war against our people. They have forced access to our resources and they have stolen our spiritual values. They have attempted to subdue, bribe, or extirpate whole populations."

The Pillar of Shame is a gift from the Danish artist Jens Galschiot to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. They have now adapted the Pillar, and they are going to use it for the promotion of their cause, of which the main claims are autonomy, democracy and right to the land on which they live – claims that from a democratic view seem to be quite moderate.

The Pillar of Shame is a sculptural outcry – a world wide art manifestation consisting of a network of similar sculptures set up to pillory outrageous encroachments against Humanity. The first Pillar was set up in Hong Kong 1997 to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing 1989, where the democracy movement was crushed down by military force. The sculpture fanned a heated debate on the limits for free speech in Hong Kong after the Crown Colony’s reunion with China.
More about the Pillar of Shame in Hong Kong  |  Photos from Hong Kong

The next sites for setting up a Pillar of Shame will be Berlin in November this year and northern Brazil in April 2000.
More about the Berlin Pillar of Shame    |    More about the Brazilian Pillar of Shame

Level Up

1999: The Pillar of Shame in Mexico

Additional Information:
Categories: 1999: The Pillar of Shame in Mexico | Happenings and Art Installations | 1996-?: The Pillar of Shame
Themes: Criticism of governments | Indigenous peoples | Massacres
Sculptures: Pillar of Shame
Type: Press releases
Dates: 22nd December 1997 | 1999 | 18th April 1999 | 29th April 1999 | 1st May 1999 | 12th May 1999
Locations: Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico | La Realidad, Lacandona jungle, Mexico | Chapultepec park, Mexico city, Mexico | Zócalo, Mexico city, Mexico | San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Mexico
Co-operators and Helpers: Amado Avendaño, governor in rebellion | Bishop Samuel Ruiz | Carlos Rodrigo F. Sáenz | CIEPAC | Claudio Cifuentes | Colette Markus | Daniel Markus | Danish Embassy in Mexico | Finn Damgård Andersen | Fray Ba - Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas | FZLN - Frente Zapatista de Liberación Nacional | Gómez Hernández Eliseo | Gloria Rico | Guy Markus | Internationalt Forum (Mayo) | Julie Greve Nielsen | Kasper Markus | Luca Martinelli | Mette Lindgren Christophersen | Niller Madsen | Ofelia Medina | Robert Etches | Silvie Cifuentes | Sofus Markus | Tinku (Mikkel og Doris) | Town Hall of México DF
Partners: CLETA (Centro Libre de Experimentación Teatral y Artística) | CNI (Consejo Nacional Indígena) | Enrique Cisneros, CLETA | Las Abejas en Acteal
Related Persons and Entities: Government of Mexico, 1999 | Immigration Office in San Cristóbal
Sponsors: BUPL | DeTrey Dentsply AG, Schweiz | Fredsfonden | Funch Fonden | Gelsted/Kirk/Scherfig fonden | Kultursekretariatet i Odense Kommune | Lysgaard Fonden | Socialpædagogernes Landsforbund / National Federation of Social Educators | Socialpædagogernes Landsforbund i Vejle | Vedstaarup Lerfabrik A/S