Comandante Ramona, as she was known by all of Mexico and many throughout the world, was a diminutive Tzotzil Maya woman from the village of San Andres in the highlands of Chiapas in southern Mexico. She has been described by those who knew her as sweet, gentle, decisive, and capable of leading legions of men.
On New Year's Day 1994, along with Sub-comandante Marcos and many others, Ramona participated in the Zapatista (FZLN) occupation of San Cristobal de las Casas. But her involvement precedes that date. In March 1993 she was one of the authors of a document titled "Revolutionary Law on Women" which contains ten articles, among them the right to work and a fair salary, the right to decide how many children to have, priority rights to healthcare and nutrition, freedom from rape and domestic abuse and the right to participate in revolutionary struggle and achieve the highest ranks in that struggle. In short: "voz y voto" or voice and vote, which translates to power. Mexican journalist and writer Elena Poniatowska has said: "For Indian women, Zapatismo represents the best life option." Ramona achieved the FZLN rank of Commander, above even Sub-Commander Marcos.
Comandante Ramona suffered from kidney cancer. In 1995 she became the first Zapatista to travel outside Chiapas (masked but unarmed). She flew to Mexico City to represent the rebel movement at a National Indigenous Forum attended by representatives of indigenous peoples from across Mexico. While in the capital she also underwent a kidney transplant; the organ was donated by her brother and funds for the operation were raised by the Zapatista Front (the movement's civilian wing). On January 6, 2006, Ramona died of complications from her disease. She was believed to be 47 years old.