|El profesor tzotzil Alberto Patishtán Gómez al arribar ayer a San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas Moysés Zúñiga SantiagoFoto Moysés Zúñiga Santiago|
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, November 30, 2013
“The struggle doesn’t end here. It begins here.” With these words Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez arrived in Chiapas, free for the first time in 13 years. Around a hundred indigenous people received him. They were from the Catholic organization Pueblo Creyente (Believing People) and from the Movement of the People of El Bosque, which has demanded the Tzotzil teacher’s freedom for more than a decade.
After coming from Mexico City, Patishtán left the Ángel Albino Corzo Airport at 12:30 PM. Representatives of the communications media surrounded him immediately. Once outside, his people greeted him with affection; he received the first hugs from his Aunt María, his grandfather and other family members and neighbours.
In what turns out to be a kind of poetic justice, those who accompanied the professor revealed that during the flight, one seat ahead of Patishtán was the former Chiapas Governor Roberto Albores Guillén, whose government was responsible for the professor’s unjust incarceration in 2000. And although he was the first local governor to promise the population of El Bosque to free him, he never did so. The young president of the state Congress, Luis Fernando Castellanos, was also travelling in the aeroplane. On hearing the exclamations of “¡Viva Patishtán!”, he shouted from his seat: “Patishtán, I was always in favour of your freedom.” The witnesses say that Albores Guillén, uncomfortable and trapped in his seat, “played dead.”
The indigenous who were guarding him formed a wall and walked with him a few metres to stop and welcome him properly: embraces, laughs, hugs, blessings, vivas to Tatic Samuel Ruiz. “May truth live!” and “May injustice die!” Patishtán took the word: “They always told us that we were disoriented; that this struggle wasn’t worth it, but justice is worth it, the people need it.” Marcelo Gómez, parish priest of Simojovel, “baptized” him as “a traveller who defends his people,” and gave him a cross that was also a staff. The Tzotzil professor said: “We have to transcend and deepen things to find the key of love. Jesús does not tell you ‘we are going to walk alone,’ but rather ‘we are going to walk together.’ We should not say to him ‘take away this problem,’ but rather ‘give us the strength to conquer it.’”
The indigenous hospitality came from San Juan Chamula, Zinacantán, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Juan del Bosque and San Cristóbal de las Casas. The airport authorities considered it preferable for the indigenous to remain outside, arguing that “there wasn’t sufficient space” for them in the waiting room. Some attendees considered it unacceptable that the indigenous were prevented from entering a public space where tumultuous crowds have been seen receiving stars of spectacle and sport, without denying passage to their fans.
The catechist from Chamula, Zacario Hernández, ex political prisoner and compañero of Patishtán in the Voice of El Amate, read the greeting from the Pueblo Creyente for this “encounter with freedom”: “We came to meet you now that you arrive in your land, in your town, with your people, as a free man; free of the blame that the powerful imposed on you, that cost you 13 years, five months and 11 days.”
Afterwards, a caravan of vehicles accompanied him to San Cristóbal de las Casas. In the afternoon, Patishtán prayed at the tomb of the Tatic in the cathedral. Then a welcome mass was held, celebrated together by six priests with the auxiliary Bishop Enrique Díaz; among them Gonzalo Ituarte, Pedro Arriaga (spokesperson for the diocese) and the vicar José Avilés.
At one side of the altar, Professor Patishtán remained flanked by his grandfather and his son Héctor. Bishop Díaz expressed “the joy of all the believers in the diocese” for his liberation, and referred to his “unique, emblematic case,” which nevertheless reflects the situation “of many in prison who have not had the means to obtain justice.”