The Republic of Mexico’s national anthem begins with the words, “Mexicans, at the cry of war.” But last week Mexicans were instead crying out once more for peace.
On September 21, in front of the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) closed its “Ten Days for Peace and Human Rights” with a number of members representing various local assemblies of the Yo Soy 132 student movement at their side. It was also an event to welcome back those who had participated in the Caravan for Peace, which traveled through 27 cities in the United States over the course of a month. It marked the first time that a joint event was organized between the two movements.
The “Ten Days for Peace,” which included forums, debates, nonviolent actions and art exhibits around the theme of building peace, began on September 12 with members of the MPJD and other organizations declaring that date the National Day for Peace in Mexico.
No authentic peace without democracy, justice and dignity
Since May 8, 2011, the MPJD has organized the victims of the war on drugs. Now various assemblies of the Yo Soy 132 movement have agreed on an agenda to fight for peace. On September 20, they read a position statement directed to the people of Mexico and the United States. In it, they recognized the work the MPJD has carried out and appealed to the need for alliance-building:
With their efforts they have shown the state of war we are experiencing in Mexico and that the Mexican government not only does not recognize the victims of this work but that it denies their rights, it criminalizes and represses.
We want this call that is all of ours to become one single voice, to be heard louder than the bullets… that silences the military boots, that breaks the deafening silence of fear, a voice stronger than the curfews, and one that awakens the desire for just, dignified peace. This light that we lit on May 11 that symbolizes our hope, today we share it with you, fellow members of the MPJD so that we can burn together and illuminate the darkness.
More than ever, there is a need for this union between movements that have common cause. Presumably, they share a set of goals and a perspective geared towards rebuilding the social fabric of the country. In fact, there are clear points of overlap between the two movements’ agendas: the opening of democratic, participatory spaces, and above all, the democratization of the media.
On September 20, Javier Sicilia, the poet and journalist who sparked the MPJD, spoke in this vein in front of the U.S. embassy. He expressed gratitude for “being embraced” by the Yo Soy 132 movement:
The youth and their struggle has been very moving. We had been waiting for it for a long time, and here they are to stay, to make democracy and change the history of this country that has been torn apart, and suffered so much.
In addition, Javier Sicilia announced his temporary leave from the visible frontlines of the MPJD so that he can organize and empower the many victims who form the heart and mind of the movement to assume leadership of it. Sicilia will continue to be the figurehead of the movement and will not abandon the MPJD, but he has stated that he needs to rest after a long year and a half of caravans, dialogues with politicians, and meetings with victims and orphans of the war in Mexico and the United States.
During the vigil on the International Day for Peace, Carlos Moreno, an MPJD organizer, emphasized the need for a path to peace and respect for human rights in Mexico which takes the country’s history into account.
I have been looking for my son for over a year and three months and I cannot find him. I don’t want anyone else to go through this. I am the father of Jesús Israel Moreno Pérez, who disappeared on the beaches of Oaxaca, in Chacahua. No one truly disappears. They took him away. It could have been the delinquency or the very authorities that colluded with it. It’s something common. Unfortunately now Mexican society looks at his case as just one more. We should be horrified even that one person could disappear. Disgracefully, human rights are not respected and authorities “investigate” but really do nothing.
Following that theme, the talks given by members of Yo Soy 132 emphasized the need to cry out for peace and recognized that they are all victims of the state:
We, society as a whole, are victims, not collateral damage. We don’t accept this condition because that would exonerate from all responsibility those who have forced us to live in this supposed state of emergency, those who have been made accomplices by closing their eyes and suppressing us, refusing to recognize us, killing us, kidnapping us, disappearing us, and displacing us time and time again with policies of death. Eighty thousand deaths, 30,000 disappeared, 250,000 forcefully displaced, 20,000 orphaned, and 5,000 children slaughtered, all victims of policies that turn their back on society.
Yo Soy 132 joined the untiring efforts of the MPJD and also called on the North American people, “to join us in solidarity, and the communities all over the world who have suffered from these policies of war, so that together we can all build peace.” They made the call in very concrete terms:
Here, in front of the U.S. embassy, we ask that they stop promoting this war, pushing it forward with agreements that violate our sovereignty — like the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) and the Mérida Initiative — that they stop being accomplices by introducing guns into Mexico… We came to say that we are not one more star on your flag, that we aren’t part of your homeland security, that we don’t accept the export of your system of violence.
The Movement for Peace during the last year and a half has not stopped marching to ask for an immediate end to the war, for justice for its victims, and in Sicilia’s words, to rescue “our human dignity and to save democracy.” Sicilia clarified that the purpose of their act in front of this symbolic border at the embassy was to tell the U.S. and Mexican governments and entrenched powers that:
those who have flourished in this time of war and have turned our era into one of pain did not succeed. To tell them that despite all of the suffering they have inflicted and all of the unspeakable pain that day in and day out they manage to imprint into our skins, despite their desire to sow violence as a way of life, despite sowing confusion, we have come to to tell them that we are on our feet and that we will force them, with our own human dignity, to build peace and make it a priority on the bilateral agenda.
The Yo Soy 132 and the MPJD concluded their speeches saying that there will be no rest or tranquility in the United States or Mexico until peace is recovered and justice, as Sicilia puts it, “pulls us out of the absurd war.”
Organizing alliances for peace and authentic democracy
According to Luís Gómez, an organizer with the MPJD, the caravan to the U.S. had other fundamental objectives. First, they sought to establish a network of organizations within the U.S. against the war on drugs and of the people who have suffered from the direct consequences of it: African American and Latino communities that have been criminalized and suffer from mass incarceration. Second, they wanted to discuss the drug problem as a public health issue, not as a national security issue.
In addition, it was intended to bring international attention to the national emergency in Mexico by “exposing the consequences of the U.S. policy in our national territory and crediting binational treaties with fomenting violence and allowing the militarization of the country.”
The MPJD will also continue working on the agenda it has already launched, the General Law of Victims, which was approved by the Mexican Congress. But Gómez explains that Felipe Calderón has yet to publish it because the law, “places blame for what has happened since 2006 in this war against drug trafficking on him and we believe that it is one of the key laws on which Calderón could be tried for war crimes later on.” Calderón sent this aproved law to the Supreme Court of Justice of the nation to review its constitutionality, thus delaying its publication and implementation.
MPJD’s caravan, which ended in Washington, D.C., sought to put on the conscience of U.S. citizens that Mexico is in a state of war and that Mexicans and Americans must together pressure their governments to take a new route towards peace. “Only with citizens’ pressure can we make governments serve the interests of the nation again,” stated Sicilia. “We haven’t pretended in these long days to be doing great things. We are small against the immensity of the evil. All we have done is light a candle for peace in the midst of the darkness of war.”
It is significant that Yo Soy 132 and the Movement for Peace have come together for actions and seek to harmonize their agendas and build an authentic democracy that, as members of both movements have expressed, cannot exist without peace.
To cry out with art
In symbolic acts in front of the embassy — including creative performances by the Art Action Collective — activists represented the narcotization of Mexican society through the war on drugs, and the inprisonment and “death of Mexico” as a result of the U.S. arms trade and drug policy.
Political forums were established in which there were testimonies from victims regarding their cases accompanied by artistic participation in public spaces in the cities where the caravan stopped. Andrés Hirsch, a member of the Reverdecer Collective and the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy chapter at the Mexican Autonomous National University (UNAM), is part of the group responsible for artistic and visual actions for Yo Soy 132 and traveled with his mobile stencil during the caravan. “We made shirts and posters along the way as a way of connecting with urban artists from the U.S. who brought their own designs as we formed a binational network of artists,” he explained.
One of the most powerful actions during the caravan was the design of a shirt. On it was a red map that included Mexico and the U.S. without a border and with statistics: on the U.S. side, there have been one million people deported and, on the Mexican side, 70,000 dead, thousands of displaced families, and more than 20,000 disappeared.
With the end of the Caravan for Peace in the United States a new phase is set to begin for the Mexican movement against the War of Drugs. The caravans and marches are over and it’s time to begin to solidify and strengthen the alliances made in the north and south of Mexico, as well as the new relationship that were formed during the journey through the United States.
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