The impact of the peasant rebellion in southeast Mexico has resonated far beyond the region. Part of the reason for this was the upsurge of unrest in a country whose government was a champion of fast-track neo-liberal reforms. The uprising appeared to be a timely indictment of these economic reforms - a view which seemed further confirmed by the rebellion's coincidence with the creation of the NAFTA. Our paper acknowledges the significance of these facts but argues first for a deeper historical perspective. The Mayan rebellion criticises not only neo-liberalism but also the whole post-revolutionary trajectory. We also argue for the need to take into account a variety of intervening factors which facilitated the rebellion. One inspiration for the rebellion came from an unexpected source - from a radical section of the Catholic Church, a church which had supposedly been buried as a political force for over a hundred years. The combination of theology of liberation and the sensitivity of post-1968 radicals to indigenous traditions behind the uprising exposed the extent to which the Mexican elite had systematically disregarded the condition of the indigenous population.