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In December 1993, Mexico was in the middle of a heated election for the presidency. The poor indigenous Indian peoples of Mexico united under one man who was at the brink of winning the presidency. He stood for hope, he was the voice of those who had been exploited, raped, killed, and destroyed since Cortes’ Aztec conquest. One day after Luis Donaldo Colosio was projected as winner, he was brutally assassinated.
Days after the assassination of Colosio, there was an uprising in Chiapas, Mexico comprised of a large group of Mayan Indians, who called themselves the “Zapatistas”. Late at night the Zapatistas organized and with rudimentary weapons and gardening tools took over the five largest cities in Chiapas and held the cities in protest of hundreds for years of abuse. The Zapatistas destroyed government documents, and graffitied “Zapatistas” all over the capital buildings. Suddenly it took the country by storm, that maybe for an instant the abused indigenous peoples of Mexico had made a point. After years of seeing their grandfathers, and fathers being ignored, they finally fought back.
The morning sun crept in and with it the Mexican army. Armed with automatic rifles the Mexican army marched in and killed hundreds of the Indians. Thousands of miles away in physical distance, the atrocities directly impacted the hearts of many –namely, Wayne a student at The University of New Mexico. Huddled in a small dorm room, he watched the news in anticipation and fear, as the rest of the world held its breath and many hid. Wayne, a rebel himself, let his friends know that he was going down to Chiapas and was hired on the spot as a reporter if he would go down and document the following days. A fellow student and friend named Thomas –an English foreign exchange student who had been sheltered most of his life, was eager to “Finally be a part of something”, and pleaded with Wayne to go. Thomas and Wayne feverishly packed up, neither knowing what to bring on a trip like this one. Wayne didn’t have much room; he had to make space for a few packages he was asked to deliver while in Chiapas. With no funds, Wayne and Thomas drove to the edge of the U.S.-Mexico border parked the car, walked across into Mexico, and boarded a bus headed straight to Chiapas.
By the time Wayne and Thomas had gotten there, most of the killing had stopped, but there were violent protests, demonstrations, and riots, scattered all around town. The new leaders of the Zapatistas were a man known only as Marcos alongside a woman named Ramona. All of Mexico was in panic mode and the military had full power and deed to crush any rebellious acts. Wayne and Thomas quickly checked into a hostel and Wayne unpacked the packages he was supposed to deliver. For the first time, Wayne decided to open the package. Inside there was money, plans, videos, messages written in code, and maps –most of which was undecipherable to Wayne let alone Thomas. It all came with a map to get the package to the person, whose name he had only recently come to know –Ramona. And all at once Wayne realized that he was Edmond Dantés, he carried treasonous papers of rebellion against the Mexican government. Perhaps for Wayne, being exiled to Château d'If was worth upholding justice. Wayne and Thomas followed the handwritten map, and discreetly perused around for any visible military.
The map led them to a secret house disguised as a cheese shop. As soon as Wayne and Thomas walked in they were searched, and Wayne gave the package to Ramona. The Zapatistas realized that they were allies, or at least not a threat, and they continued to talk about the pressing situation. From all the code words the leading Zapatistas were using, Wayne could only make out two clear things: one, the military had created a list of people that were not to be killed; everybody else was going to be exterminated by nightfall and two, all of Chiapas had recently been surrounded. Wayne saw Thomas bury his head into his hands. They had arrived today, there was no way they would be on the list, not only that, but they were in the company of the most wanted people in all of Mexico. Out of the corner, Wayne saw a hooded figure stand; it was the Archbishop of Mexico –a secret ally of the Zapatistas, who had seen Thomas’ sorrow. Without saying a word, he did all he could do in a last minute attempt to spread some hope, and wrote a letter of passage for Wayne and Thomas, ordering the military not to harm them.
Wayne and Thomas slowly crept out of the underground Zapatista lair and retreated to the hostel where they turned on the Mexico national news. Thousands were now reported captured, hundreds were missing. Apart from the Mexican military, many of the rich plantation owners were flying in “Guardias Blankas” or mercenary thugs to give private protection from Zapatistas. Thomas and Wayne realized what they had gotten themselves into, but Thomas wanted to check it out, and see what was going on. They boarded a bus to the plaza, or the town center. The two got off the bus to find what is normally the most populous place in town, deserted. There were abandoned cars, and houses with doors left wide open. On one corner, parked in front of a church, they saw a Red Cross R.V. and thought they could lend a hand, but it was empty, and there was nobody in sight. Wayne ran into the church, where he knew there would be a priest. He took a few steps in, careful to stay quiet, Thomas behind him turned green, and oblivious refusing to continue and without warning ran down the steps of the church into a neighboring coffee shop. Wayne looked around to see what had spooked Thomas. In the holy water bowl, was blood. His stomach rotted. He followed Thomas to the abandoned coffee shop to seek refuge –at least more than the church offered.
All of a sudden commotion broke the ominous silence of the plaza, and three soldiers holding six captured farmers marched in. The soldiers made the six farmers line up, put their hands behind their back, and kneel down. Wayne took out his camera and didn’t stop taking pictures. The lead soldier began searching the men, and then he backed off, turned and looked at the church, then looked back at the sniveling faces of the six men. For generations the oppressed peoples of Mexico took the injustice, and today they stood as men confronting every past transgression and for the first time, really living. “Dooom, Dooom, Dooom, Dooom, Dooom, Dooom.” In an instant all six were dead, by a bullet from a pistol in the back of their heads.
Thomas stood, hysterical, ready to give up. Wayne snapped his last picture, but somehow the mere pictures didn’t do the travesty justice. The dark sacrificial blood that oozed down the streets of the Plaza would never have the same significance in the picture. But maybe that wouldn’t matter, as soon as Thomas rose, one of the soldiers peered toward the sudden movement. All eyes were on them, Wayne jerked up and Thomas refused to move, only a shell of what he was when the trip had begun. Wayne grabbed Thomas and ran out following a dirt road –the only one leading out of the plaza. They knew that they could only follow the road so long before they too would be dead.
A bus passed by and Wayne knew this was the last chance of salvation, if they didn’t get on this bus heading out of town, they would have one other option; hide out in the woods and hope they weren’t found out. But the way Thomas was acting this plan was not plausible. Wayne ran up and stood with arms stretched wide in the middle of the road, forcing the tour bus to stop. Wayne and Thomas shuffled to the back of the bus and tried to blend in, but the bus didn’t roar foreword. The bus’ doors opened again, and a tall man with a machine gun pointed at the bus driver began questioning him about two white men, the bus started to riot, throwing Wayne and Thomas forward so they might escape unscathed. A few passengers yelled out to them; “They will kill you if you get off”, “Don’t get off the bus!” Thomas couldn’t stop screaming. But it was too late the three soldiers took them off the bus.
The bus quickly drove off, and one soldier took Thomas the other two took Wayne. They yelled at him to get on his knees, his mind was racing, Thomas was nowhere in sight. Suddenly he heard Thomas shriek, and then abruptly stopped –Thomas was dead.
One of the soldiers held Wayne up while the second kicked him, and punched him, and then pulled out a pistol pointed at the back at Wayne’s head. They started laughing cussing him out, and pressed the gun hard against the back of his head. For a moment Wayne wasn’t afraid, “Don’t mess with me I know people, and people know I’m down here. I know the archbishop. Check my bag”, he quickly rattled off in Spanish. The pressure from the gun lightened up and the soldier that beat him up ripped open the bag and searched all he had inside, a crinkled note fell out. The soldier read it and threw it on the ground, walked up to Wayne and picked him up by his arms being held together with ropes behind his back. Blood dripped from his nose and kissed the dry dusty earth, delirious; he was led to a nearby jail. Wayne opened his battered face to see he was in the cell with a proud Zapatista woman who wore her cuts as a mask for the young fiery spirit inside her. Six long hours passed with no food or water, there were hourly interrogations. Then, Wayne was released because of the note. He walked out of the jail, and standing there was a familiar figure, it was Thomas. Wayne wore a black eye and a fat lip, but he had never felt so blessed to be alive, and they left Mexico.
When Wayne came back, he kissed his one-year-old baby on the forehead, and in one instant made a pact with himself to never give up on those who can’t speak for themselves. Little did he know that in doing so, he raised a son named Forrest who would make the same pact. The following month the Pitts family moved to Mexico for three years to help the victims of the attacks.
Wayne would learn years later that the mass extermination that was to occur that nightfall fell through sometime after he and Thomas delivered a certain package.