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Radical Journalist, Author, Activist, Friend – The Loss of John Ross

January 17, 2011

Today I read the sad news that John Ross, writer, poet, activist and chronicler of the Zapatistas, died today in Mexico.

It is hard to believe, since just 10 months ago he sat in my living room, warming himself next to the woodstove. I remember listening to John share stories about his political battles, music, sports, social movements and his writing, all in that manner that people who spent time with him came to know.

John was a no bullshit kind of person, an at times in your face kind of person, but also an extremely compassionate person. When I say compassionate, I don’t mean the fluffy kind, I mean the kind that mixes rage and justice. John was a fighter and his compassion was reflected in his writing, his spoken word and his never-ending commitment to stand with those who stood for something.

I first came across John Ross’s work when he wrote about the Zapatista uprising in Mexico with his book Rebellion from the Roots. Ross followed up that book with The Annexation of Mexico and two more books on the Zapatistas; The War Against Oblivion and Zapatistas: Making Another World Possible.

John also wrote an incredible book called Murdered by Capitalism, which is part autobiography, part reflections on the US Left. His last book, El Monstruo is sort of a “people’s history” of Mexico City.

People in Grand Rapids were fortunate to hear John speak and read from his work on two different occasions in Grand Rapids. We brought him to town in the fall of 2004, just prior to the US Presidential election and John (who had just come back from Iraq) was calling on people to engage in mass demonstrations against the war no matter who won the election. John knew all to well that electoral politics in the US was just a shuffling of people that represented power.

I ran into John in the Zapatista community of Oventic, a small village perched in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico in 2001. It was during the New Year’s eve celebration and John was in his element, not just because he was chronicling the EZLN struggle, but because he was part of the struggle providing international solidarity for those the neoliberal henchmen of the world would like us to forget about.

John was in Grand Rapids again last year while on tour with his last book. He spoke on campuses and at community events and even in his late seventies could make you tired with his passion for intellectual sparing and sarcastic humor.

We are grateful for his humanity, for his passion and his notorious smile. We will miss you John, but your memory will live with us.

(John Ross read some of his poetry last year at Hugo Claudin’s space in Grand Rapids. Lindsay McHolme enshrined his persona in this short video where he reads the poem The Revolution is not like a faucet.)


5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2011 8:58 pm

    posiblemente uno de los hombres mas valientes e interesantes que jamas conoci. pacheco , rebelde, sabio, y joven de corazon. resisito los grandes poderes del planeta con un ojo tuerto y una pluma nada mas..

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    January 17, 2011 9:07 pm

    es cierto……….

  3. Kate Wheeler permalink
    January 17, 2011 9:25 pm

    This is very sad news. John Ross was so knowledgeable about the Zapatistas and about the current state of the situation in Mexico, giving us information that was just not accessible from any mainstream media sources. The article that GRIID re-posted in September from CounterPunch was just one example of that depth of knowledge and his passion for social justice. I urge everyone who didn’t read it earlier to read it today, in memory of this incredible man:

    Jeff, I’m sorry for your personal loss as well as the loss to all of us for Ross’s important voice.

  4. Jeff Smith permalink*
    January 17, 2011 11:18 pm

    Thanks Kate for the link and for your comments……..


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