The Chiapas Rebellion

Pedro Valtierra won the prestigious Rey de Espana Award in 1998 for his picture of the Indian women pushing a soldier in Chiapas, Mexico. Valtierra remembered his heart beating fast and his hands shaking when he saw the moment and took about two minutes to steady his camera and took the photo. The picture was the most famous picture to come out of the Chiapas Rebellion, and considered one of the most iconic images of modern Latin America.

The Zapatista uprising which began in 1994 and lasted until the 2000s was the backlash against North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. It challenged an image of Mexico as a modern nation, recently freed from poverty and oppression, an image cultivated by Mexican lobbyists in the U.S. Congress to pass NAFTA. On the day the trade agreement came into existence, three thousand insurgents seized towns and cities in Chiapas, freeing prisoners and setting fire to government building.

“In Valtierra’s image, the Indians rise up against the impositions to which they have been subject in reality and, as well, in the systems of representation with which the State has legitimized itself. They push back, and seem to be winning the age-old struggle to define their culture in ways that differ sharply from the picturesque terms in which they have too often been depicted.” — Encyclopedia of Photography.

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