Background on Chiapas95 (written in 2006, updated 2014 to reflect that the information is about past history)

Chiapas95 was created in the Fall of 1994 in response to an ever rising demand for information about the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. Before Chiapas95 there was a "cc" list, i.e., a list of e-mail addresses, to which I forwarded useful material I found on the Internet during my own research on the Zapatista struggles. Early on that list was limited to members of Accion Zapatista, the solidarity group with which I worked. But as word spread from person to person that there was an easy way to stay on top of the flow of news and analysis, a way to get only what was important and skip all the trivia and chit-chat of several lists, more and more people wanted their addresses added to the list. When the list of "cc's" reached about 50 I decided I might as well create a full-fledged listserv which would automate subscribing, unsubscribing and archiving the postings. After that, Chiapas95 became a central source of filtered information for people all over the world.

Eventually, three more narrowly defined lists, chiapas95-lite, chiapas95-english and chiapas95-espanol were created for the same purpose but with reduced flows of postings. A simple command "who chiapas95", or "who chiapas95-lite", "who chiapas95-english" or who chiapas95-espanol sent to the address would produce a list of subscribers.

Over the years the number of subscribers fluctuated somewhat but for a long time always numbered in the hundreds. Some of the subscriber addresses, it should be noted, were way-stations through which the flow of information was routed to other sub-lists of people, so we were never entirely sure how many people actually received our postings. Because a number of our subscribers used the information from Chiapas95 in print, radio and television media, we also knew that it reached even more people than those directly connected to the Internet, but we had no idea how many.

In the fall of 1998, the management of the Chiapas95 lists passed from the Accion Zapatista moderators to a new team of participants, although I continued to participate. This new team created a new architecture which greatly simplified and sped up the filtering of materials and permitted a much wider participation in moderating. In the new system, incoming mail (from lists to which the system subscribed and posts from individuals) were automatically sorted by language and sent to specific "stations" where editors who worked in those languages could login, examine, sort and decide which material to pass along and which to delete. On their way to the stations the messages were stripped of their accents in a way that made them readable to all mail programs (and in a way which made it possible to reinstall the orginal accents) and their subject lines are prefaced with the appropriate language designator, e.g., En; for English. The editors examined the posts, wrote a susccint subject line in English (because most subscribers are English speakers), added the date of composition of the original message and posted it to one or more of the three Chiapas95 lists.

About a year after this new way of operating was put in place, a split occurred among those participating. There were a variety of issues, probably including those of personality as well as politics, but the result was that once again the management of the lists was recomposed. This time the team of editors took full control over the operation and in early 2006 all incoming messages passed through a single gateway (, although script continued to remove accents and assign language prefixes. At that point the managers of the Chiapas95 lists included folks in North America and Europe. The one constant in all these changes has been that the lists have always been operated out of computers in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas, a school well known for its intensive resources and programs in Latin American Studies.

The Chiapas95 team continued to look for new participants to share the load of editing and to invent new, improved software. Folks could always contribute to the lists by sending us observer reports of unfolding events, detailed analyses of current struggles and by forwarding articles found on-line, or scanned from off-line sources. They could also edit from anywhere in the world as long as they had the ability to secure shell to the listserv account and could provide us with verifiable information about who they were (we did background checks for obvious reasons).

Harry Cleaver

2010 Postscript

As indicated on the Chiapas95 homepage, after 12 years the editors redirected their efforts elsewhere. On the one hand, the number of subscribers to the lists had declined substantially and on the other hand, both the quantity and quality of material being generated in Mexico increased dramatically. After an initial burst of cyberspacial activity in Mexico following and in support of the Zapatista uprising in January of 1994, various conflicts among activists in Mexico led to a lull in such activity. But eventually folks sorted themselves out and began to produce truly useful websites and listservs that have provided even more information than used to flow through the Chiapas95 lists. This made the work of maintaining the Chiapas95 lists superfluous and contributed greatly to the decision to stop maintaining them.