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banner carried by machete-wielding members of the San Salvador Atenco ejido where farmers stand to lose about 2,500 acres to expropriation, during a recent raucous rally outside the National Palace. When asked if their militancy is designed to bump up the asking price, ejido leader Felipe Alvarez reiterated that these ancient lands were not for sale: “We will never abandon our king, Nezahualcoyotl!” Imposing an ultra-modern, multibillion dollar, triple-runway airport on the oldest lands in Mexico was bound to lead to conflict. Clanging their everpresent steel machetes and shaking their fists at those who threaten their land, the Indian campesinos of Texcoco prompt comparison to Japanese farmers who have battled authorities over extension of the Narada airport outside Tokyo for 20 years, sometimes burrowing underground to prevent planes from landing and taking off. So far, the farmers of Texcoco have only dabbled figuratively in the undergroundtheir struggle is endorsed by the Chiapas-based, rebel Zapatista and clandestine guerrillas in the state of Guerrero. For now, they battle the Fox government out in the open, seeking alliance with other Indian communities, campesino organizations, disaffected National University students, and workers \(many ejidatarios are veterans of the nearly eight-year-long strike at a include farmers from Morelos state who successfully fought off expropriation of communal lands for a private golf course. Radicalizing at the speed of light are campesinos from the Atenco ejido who deposed a mayor favorable to the expropriation \(about 300 members of and have been encamped in their village plaza since October 22, when expropriation was announced. They declared Atenco “a municipality in rebellion,” and “an autonomous municipality,” in the Zapatista fashion, and painted a mural on their ejido house featuring the obligatory icon of revolutionary martyr Emiliano Zapata, skimasked neo-Zapatistas of the EZLN, and the recently murdered human rights defender Digna Ochoa. As their fight comes down to the crunch, the ejidatarios of San Salvador are in constant motion, organizing daily marches and caravans to pressure government officials. All roads in and out of Atenco are barricaded against police invasion and look-outs keep watch from nearby hills. When unidentified geologists tried to take ground samples, ejido members escorted them off community land and their vehicles were confiscated. Such militancy has attracted police vigilance. Some 600 state judicial police are said to be posted in the Texcoco district and undercover agents are suspected of infiltrating the ejido. Helicopters buzz San Salvador Atenco during daylight hours and 25 warrants for activists, including ejido leader Ignacio del Valle, have reportedly been issued but not yet served. Authorities tell reporters that “subversives” have taken charge of the ejido. In a bizarre move to head off expropriation, ejido officials have hired a high-priced lawyer, Ignacio Burgoa, to stall expropriation with legal maneuvering until the Fox administration sweetens its offer to the farmers. But what no doubt gives the campesinos’ cause a bigger boost than recruiting a fancy lawyer is the recent discovery of ancient, pre-Aztec remains by anthropologists from the nearby Chapingo agricultural university. Doctors Luis Morrett Alatorre and David Lopez Monroy estimate that what they are now calling Texcoco Man, an approximately 40-year-old hunter-gatherer who appears to have died a natural death, may date back 11,000 years. The remains have been sent to England for more precise carbon dating. In recent years, such ancient remains have been popping up all over the lakebeds. The 1999 discovery of 17 sets of remains that are at least 5,000years-old was considered a major find. The area around the lakebed is indeed a repository of fallen civilizations that has yielded up everything froin woolly mammoth bones to significant potsherds. “Who knows what treasures are to be found out there, perhaps even the tomb of Nezahualcoyotl,” reflects Felipe Alvarez, brandishing a long-bladed machete outside the National Palace. Ejido leaders say they will appeal to the National Institute for halt the airport project because of the potential destruction of a rich archeological find. And the machetes? “They are symbols,” Alvarez responds, “our work tools. We use them to cut weeds and sugar cane and now they will cut down the airport. But we are not terrorists.” “Tierra-istas,” he agrees, would be more appropriate. John Ross provided the English version of Nezahualcoyotl’s poetry, based on the Aztec-to-Spanish translation by Miguel Leon-Portillo. The great Jose Guadalupe Posada provided the art. 3/1/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13