Subcomandante Marcos

June 19, 1957 — ?

Entry 14140


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About Subcomandante Marcos

Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente (born 19 June 1957) is a Mexican insurgent, the former military leader and spokesman for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in the ongoing Chiapas conflict, and an anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal globalization icon. Widely known by his initial nom de guerre Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (frequently shortened to simply Subcomandante Marcos), he has subsequently employed several other pseudonyms: he called himself Delegate Zero during the Other Campaign (2006–2007), and since May 2014 has gone by the name Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano (again, frequently with the "Insurgente" omitted), which he adopted in honor of his fallen comrade "Teacher Galeano". Marcos bears the title and rank of Subcomandante (or "Subcommander" in English), as opposed to Comandante (or "Commander" in English), because, he is subordinate to, and under the command of, the indigenous commanders who constitute the EZLN's Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee's General Command (CCRI-CG in Spanish).

Born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Marcos earned a degree from the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature at the prestigious National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and taught at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) for several years during the early 1980s. During this time he became increasingly involved with a guerrilla group known as the National Liberation Forces (FLN), before leaving the university and moving to Chiapas in 1984.

The Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) (Zapatista Army of National Liberation; often simply called the Zapatistas) was the local, Chiapas wing of FLN, founded in the Lacandon Jungle in 1983, initially functioning as a self-defense unit dedicated to protecting Chiapas's Mayan people from evictions and encroachment on their land. While not Mayan himself, Marcos emerged as the group's military leader, and when the EZLN, acting independently of the FLN, began its rebellion on 1 January 1994, he served as its spokesman.

Known for his trademark ski mask and pipe and for his charismatic personality, Marcos coordinated the EZLN's 1994 uprising, headed up the subsequent peace negotiations, and has played a prominent role throughout the Zapatistas' struggle in the following decades. After the ceasefire the government declared on day 12 of the revolt, the Zapatistas transitioned from revolutionary guerrillas to an armed social movement, with Marcos's role transitioning from military strategist to public relations strategist. He became the Zapatistas’ spokesperson and interface with the public, penning communiques, holding press conferences, hosting gatherings, granting interviews, delivering speeches, devising plebiscites, organizing marches, orchestrating campaigns and twice touring Mexico, all with the aim to attract national and international media attention and public support for the Zapatistas.

In 2001, he headed a delegation of Zapatista commanders to Mexico City to deliver their message on promoting indigenous rights before the Mexican Congress, attracting widespread public and media attention. In 2006, Marcos made another public tour of Mexico, which was known as The Other Campaign. In May 2014, Marcos stated that the persona of Subcomandante Marcos had been "a hologram" and no longer existed. Many media outlets interpreted the message as Marcos retiring as the Zapatistas' military leader and spokesman.

Marcos is also a prolific writer, and his considerable literary talents have been widely acknowledged by prominent writers and intellectuals, with hundreds of communiques and several books being attributed to him. Most of his writings are anti-capitalist while advocating for indigenous people's rights, but he has also written poetry, children's stories, folktales and has coauthored a crime novel. He has been hailed by Régis Debray as "the best Latin American writer today". Published translations of his writings exist in at least fourteen languages.


Subcomandante Marcos, identified as Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, also called El Sub, since 2006 Delegate Zero, (born June 19, 1957, Tampico, Mexico), Mexican professor who was the leader of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional; EZLN, also called the Zapatistas), which launched a rebellion in 1994 in the state of Chiapas and later functioned as a political movement defending the rights of Mexico’s indigenous peoples. Marcos’s leadership of the EZLN made him an international rebel icon, and he also became a widely read author not only of political writings but also of novels and poetry.


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June 19, 1957
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February 13, 2022; 3:23:02 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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