The present article focuses on the repositioning process toward the Mexican State that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) underwent in the late 1990s. Linking the mass defections from guerrilla ranks at the time to EZLN policies that proscribed the acceptance of government “alms,” I differentiate the various effects that political division has had on the Zapatista autonomy project. Narratives from two rebel villages in the Las Cañadas region highlight the existence of diverse sectors among the rebel movement’s indigenous constituency. These vary in their loyalty toward the organization when their options for the accumulation of economic but also of social capital, exemplified by the education of their children, are concerned. After a presentation of both the Mexican government’s and the EZLN’s efforts to promote primary education in eastern Chiapas, I use the contest over community schools as a case in point to portray the wider struggle over local hegemony that both have been engaged in over the decade following the 1994 rebellion.
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