Comandante Ramona (1959?–2006)

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Comandante Ramona (1959?–2006)

Comandante (Commander) Ramona was the leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), an indigenous rights movement begun in southern Mexico. The Zapatistas gained international attention on 1 January 1994, when they launched their rebellion and under Ramona's leadership seized control of San Cristóbal de las Casas, the capital of Chiapas state. Until her untimely death on 6 January 2006, of kidney cancer, this diminutive Mayan Tzotzil woman, born near San Andrés de Larrainzer, was a spokesperson and symbol for indigenous people and women's rights.

In addition to being a key military figure, Ramona participated in the peace dialogue known as the San Andrés accords between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government. As a vocal advocate for indigenous community autonomy, Ramona convened the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indigena), a meeting of indigenous peoples from across Mexico, and flew to Mexico City in the fall of 1996 to participate. While there she received a kidney transplant from her brother, with funds for the operation coming from the Zapatistas' civilian supporters.

Until forced by ill health out of a more public role, Ramona spoke on behalf of women in general but also more specifically on behalf of poor women and indigenous women within their communities. She demanded that indigenous women have a say in community decision making and the freedom to choose a romantic partner and to determine the number of children they would bear. She spoke out against physical abuse of women, and for poor women everywhere she stressed the need for access to education and health care.

See alsoChiapas; Mexico, Organizations: Zapatista Army of National Liberation.


Cay y Mayor, Aracely Burguete, ed. Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico. Copenhagen: IWGIA, 2000.

Hernández Castillo, Rosalva Aída. La otra palabra: Mujeres y violencia en Chiapas, antes y después de Acteal. Mexico: CIESAS: Grupo de Mujeres de San Cristóbal: Centro de Investigación y Acción para la Mujer, 1998.

Ross, John. Rebellion from the Roots: Indian Uprising in Chiapas. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995.

Speed, Shannon, Rosalva Aída Hernández Castillo, and Lynn Stephen, eds. Dissident Women: Gender and Cultural Politics in Chiapas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

                               Meredith Glueck