MEXICO CITY -- It has now been more than 100 days since the general command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has been heard from -- and they haven't been just any 100 days.
Since the last communique signed off by charismatic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos, which warned of imminent military invasion, the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has lost the presidency to the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and, in Chiapas, an opposition coalition overthrew the PRI at the polls in August.
Yet neither of these events has elicited a response from the EZLN.
September silence Patriotic holidays -- and September is stippled with them -- are always an occasion for EZLN communiques, yet September has come and gone without a whisper from Marcos. Even the Battle of Prague during the recent World Bank-IMF conclave failed to move him.
The EZLN's stony silence provokes the question, are the Zapatistas history? These days, few visitors travel down the rutted canyon road to the EZLN's most public outpost, La Realidad, deep in the Lacandon jungle. Gone are the foreign correspondents who would wait weeks there for a chance to chat with Subcomandante Marcos. Writers like Eduardo Galeano and Regis Debray and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán no longer hang up their hammocks in the ejido house. Danielle Mitterand and Oliver Stone don't pay courtesy calls.
Conjecture about the EZLN's maddening muteness is everywhere: Marcos is dead, the victim of internal strife in rebel ranks; Marcos is dead or dying of malaria or cancer; Marcos has eloped to Europe with his last reported lover, Marianna, aka "La Mar."
One school affirms that the EZLN's conditions for resuming negotiations -- a military pullback and the enactment of the Indian rights accords -- must first be fulfilled before the Zapatistas break their silence. Some even suggest that the right-wing victories at the polls make the EZLN's war against bad government obsolete.
In other words, the EZLN is history. But the current silence does not signal the end of this uniquely transforming rebellion. In Chiapas, rebellion is often subterranean, running underground until it gathers sufficient force to break into the sunlight and shatter the silence.