The Zapatista movement boiled to the surface on January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, when balaclava-wearing Zapatista revolutionary leaders Subcomandante Marcos and Comandante Romona led thousands of armed villagers in a surprise attack on the Mexican army which culminated in a bloody shootout in the main plaza of San Cristóbal del as Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. Fighting went on for years and the Mexican Army still maintains a very visible presence in the area.

This mural, on a building in the Oventic caracol, an autonomous village run by or Zapatistas, depicts corn (a symbol of the land), an indigenous woman defending her rights, and Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata–the inspiration for the term Zapatista.

Though technically still at war with the Mexican government, the days of palpable Zapatista revolution (which called for land rights, resource rights, rights for women, and economic and educational equality for Mexico’s indigenous poor) seem much lessened. For the visitor, at least, the most noticeable remains of the movement are hand-painted signs and murals which keep the spirit alive in the many rural village that support the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, the Zapatista government) in Chiapas.

This sign shows a snail (caracol in Spanish–which is also the word Zapatistas use for their autonomous villages) wearing the signature black balaclava of the movement’s leader, Subcomandante Marcos. We love the Virgin of Guadalupe at the bottom wearing a typical EZLN red bandana over her face too.

In this sign little baby Zapatistas are depicted as growing ears of corn–wearing balaclavas, of course. Part of what was (and still is) radical about the Zapatistas was their inclusion of women and women’s rights in their doctrine.

An ode to Emiliano Zapata, for which the Zapatista movement is named.

We loved the simple, graphic nature of this painted wall depicting Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos on the left and Emiliano Zapata on the right.

“Land and Liberty,” two basic tenets of the Zapatista movement.

“The land belongs to those who work it” is a basic belief of all Zapatistas.

A tienda in a village in Chiapas which is sympathetic to the Zapatistas.

The Zapatistas stay involved in fresh issues that affect them, including taking a strong stance against a major road project through Chiapas.

“You are in Zapatista territory” this sign proclaims.

This is one of the most understated EZLN signs we saw.

The Zapatistas stay involved in fresh issues that affect them, including taking a strong stance against a major road project through Chiapas.

This sign welcomes you to an autonomous Zapatista village and makes it clear that the people here are “in rebellion.”

An autonomous EZLN-run village makes its politics known.

Here’s more about travel in Mexico