Lots of stupid fear-mongering about "border violence" lately, even from Obama now.
I think it's important to keep in mind and include in any discussion of this that this whole topic is just another example of the fear-based society we live in. Chertoff started spinning this "border violence spillover" idea back in December and it's pure hype just to get people to be afraid and give in to the idea of even more militarization of the borderlands and more loss of civil liberties. The violence is worse in Mexico, yes, but the spillover is mostly a myth. The last thing the cartels have ever wanted to do was involve gringos in their gun battles. Here's an example of the fear-mongering: recently the statistic came out that Phoenix is the #1 city for kidnappings, but the counterstatistic is that most of those kidnappings are loads of migrants being smuggled by one smuggling cartel and getting "stolen" by another cartel. It's not mom and pop citizen getting yanked into a van at the mall parking lot or whatever.
The other thing to realize is that drug trafficking isn't going down or being restricted, counter to what the migra says. The increased violence in Mexico is because the Calderon administration's "Mano Duro" has upset the delicate balance of power between cartels. But there's still plenty of drugs flowing north, and there always will be till we deal with the demand that us gringos have for the stuff. The problem is not only the demand for the drugs themselves but the flow of money from the drug trade and the drug war that flows to U.S. banks, prisons, private prison companies, rehab centers, therapists, guns, fancy cars and yachts and stuff that the narcos buy for themselves, hospitals, etc etc etc. Sorry to sound negative but the drug war CAN'T be won, ever, or all those industries will crash and burn, not to mention Mexico's economy, since the drug trade is the 2nd largest industry after their oil. All that will ever happen is posturing and faking.
But the real question is: why do gringos like their drugs so much? Why do their lives seem to suck so bad that they have to medicate themselves so much? Is there some other way to make gringos' lives happier, so they don't need the blood-drenched dope?
I'm thinking about the summer, can you tell? I want to go to Chiapas at the end of July... Well details about why are right here.
I'm pasting this bit specifically, mostly so it's easier to find, because every time I go looking on the EZLN websites it takes me forever to find anything.
Communiqué from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation
Intergalactic Commission—Sixth Commission
October 2, 2006
To the peoples of the world.
To the adherents of the Zezta International of the five continents
Compañeros and Compañeras:
The EZLN, through its Intergalactic Commission and Sixth Commission, convoke: encounters of the Zapatista people with the peoples of the world.
The first will be held December 30-31, 2006 and January 1-2, 2007, in the Caracol of Oventik with the following objectives:
One: That the different organizations, groups, collectives, and individuals from other countries who struggle and resist on the five continents for humanity and against neoliberalism get to know the experiences of struggle of the Zapatista indigenous communities and how they organize their governments by talking directly with the five Councils of Good Government.
Two: That the Zapatista communities and their authorities get to know the histories and experiences of struggle of other countries on the five continents that struggle and resist for humanity and against neoliberalism, in their own voice.
Three: That the Zapatista communities and the organizations, groups, collectives, and individuals from other countries that struggle and resist in the whole world against neoliberalism and for humanity relate directly to each other, without intermediaries, in order to offer mutual support and solidarity.
Four: To propose and agree on means, modes, and forms of communication between the organizations, groups, collectives, and individuals that struggle and resist on the five continents.
Five: To give a message of encouragement to the struggles that, against the power of money, currently sustain communities in diverse parts of the planet.
Sixth: To make and discuss proposals for the next Intergalactic Encounter, including dates and places.
The second Encounter will be held July 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31 of 2007.
To be celebrated in the five caracoles, with the same objectives.
July 21st in the Caracol of Oventik, Inauguration.
July 22nd Work.
July 23rd Transfer to Caracol of Morelia.
July 24th Work.
25th Transfer to Caracol of Roberto Barrios.
27th Transfer to Caracol of La Garrucha.
29th Transfer to Caracol of La Realidad.
30th Work and Closing.
31st Return to San Cristobal.
In each Caracol the authorities of the MAREZ and the Council of Good Government, compañeras comandantas, and compañeros comandantes will participate in order to tell of the experiences of struggle in their autonomous governments, but above all in order to discuss proposals for the next real Intergalactic Encounter, including dates and places.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Lieutenant Colonel Insurgente Moisés.
Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Sixth Commission of the EZLN
I don't know who did this (and if i did I wouldnt say here), but it's pretty freaking great.
In the early hours of Monday, 11/20, in response to the Zapatista's call for solidarity actions for the struggle in Oaxaca, direct action was taken against the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade in Tucson, AZ. Windows were smashed, locks were glued, and messages were painted on the building reading "Viva Oaxaca" and "Free Trade = Death".
Josh Breitbart writes eloquently and persuasively in his blog about the divide between activism and journlism that apparently is unique to Gringolandia, and about a previous-to-Brad-Will indymedia participant killed in Ecuador.
Beyond our colleague and fellow gringo, we can do a better job supporting all journalists under attack, including those who are being beaten and jailed right now in Oaxaca, according to Reporters Without Borders:
Mario Mosqueda Hernández of the Centro de Medios Libres de México [who I may have actually met, my memory is hazy, when i was at the CML last year -steev] who “was beaten and dragged along the ground by 10 federal policemen”
Gilardo Mota of the local weekly Opinión who was “held for 48 hours and was roughed [sic] by federal police”
photographer Alberto López Cruz of the local daily Extra, attacked by police who took his camera
and two unidentified Guatemalan journalists who are reportedly missing.
We, an ad-hoc group we're called Tucson Coalition for Justice in Oaxaca, held a demonstration yesterday at the Mexican consulate, but people showed up there who hadn't even seen our call out. There ended up being about 100 people at the peak of the action. We were peaceful and had a really good dialogue with the Consul.
There's a full report with photos on arizona indymedia. This is the more personal report.
Jessica, Walt, and 5 others received citations from the police for obstructing traffice after 50 or so blocked all but 1 lane of traffic for an hour or so. Jessica and I were both doing the indymedia thing, covering what was happening, her with a still cam and me with video. The cops repeatedly told us politely to get off the street and shoot from the curb, but we sort of politely kept going back on the street to get better shots. Eventually Jessica wore out the main cop's patience and he detained her and ticketed her with the others. I sort of feel like he went for her first, perhaps hesitated with me, because I had my press pass and she did not. But maybe it was just luck. Anyway, all 7 have a court date of November 9. The charge is a class 3 misdemeanor. At least they weren't arrested.
One amazing moment was when Ethan, one of the others that got cited, who knew Brad and has been particularly upset, refused to give his real name and said his name was Brad Will. So the cop started calling him Brad. "Ok, Brad, do you have ID, Brad, you need to know that in the state of Arizona you're required to have identification or else you can be charged with obstructing an investigation. Brad please cooperate with me."
I shot a lot of footage and I plan to put some of it up soon if I can get the time.
The federal police are apparently moving into the areas of Oaxaca City that have been controlled by the protesters. They have small tanks and lots of riot troops.
Apparently people are putting their bodies in front of the tanks. calling it "human rugs" in front of the tanks.
This is according to the live APPO radio stream coming from the University radio station there, which has been operated by protestors for some weeks.
The names of all 4 dead from Friday: Emilio Alonso Fabián,
Bradley Roland Will, Emilio Alonso Fabian,Esteban López Zurita.
a bunch of links to stuff:
I feel really helpless sitting here listening and reading, all i can do is cut and paste links while the goons roll in with their tanks and tear gas a thousand miles away. this is horrible. and I feel foolish. i read articles yesterday about Fox sending in these federal police and i optimistically believed "restoring lawfulness" and "stopping the violence" meant simply preventing the thugs and corrupt local police from further attacking the APPO protestors. but no, apparently it meant going in and finally smashing these brave people. how naive and gullible i still am.
A Tucson friend, Lila, writes from Oaxaca City:
Writing here from Oaxaca because the situation here has gotten more extreme. Varo and I were in San Juan Cotzocom, which is in the Sierra Mixe for about 10 days. We returned to the Zocalo to find it filled again with people. Recently, as the struggle has been renewed and APPO has been focusing on boycotting and disrupting the gelaguetza (a celebration of Indigenous culture which is originally founded on cultural and economic sharing which has been coopted as a money making tourist attraction).
The situation here has become more intense recently as APPO has directly blocked and taken control of the planned location of the Gelaguetza. There are many rumors of impending violence as a plane full of fedral police (the same ones who came to Atenco) landed today in the Oaxaca airport, as well as 5-6 busses of state police. All of the information is in the offical release from CIPO which I sent to most of you.
Things have been stressfull here as four days ago, our first night back in Oaxaca city, we had to quickly clean out the CIPO office at 3:00 am because there was threat of a police raid, and have been rotating on night match ever since. It´s hard to judge the level of danger, because in these types of situations you never know until something happens.
P.S. if you are interested in finding out more about the desalojo on the 14th of june, activist groups here and other Oaxaca stuff, the Oaxaca indymedia site is awesome. They also put together a great film of the desalojo (the police raid) which I think you can download online...
I don't know where the Oaxaca Indymedia site is, I just put that link there as a starting point for your searches.
So many struggles everywhere. In a way, modern communications technology is a double-edged sword, I think. It enables everyone everywhere with an internet connection to know about what's going on everywhere else immediately. And yet the information overload that results sometimes produces paralysis. I just read a pretty good article, for mainstream press, in the SF Weekly about a related phenomenon: that the huge number of activist protests and demonstrations in San Francisco may do more harm than good.
In fact, some political analysts and longtime activists contend the dizzying number of rallies harms progressive efforts by fracturing public support amid a glut of competing interests. With more groups jostling for media attention, voters can grow weary of the scrum, as evinced by the meager turnout for last month's primary elections, slowing the pace of policy reform.
If my blogging software permitted, this post would be marked not only in the personal category but in every other category that I've defined, and more. That's because this entry is about how many different things I'm involved with and how that's a problem.
But before I get too far into that I will link to a post i just published on another blog that I seldom use, on the delete the border site, relating recent news about arizona border crossing deaths and stuff.
Now I move on into saying this: I'm doing too much and I need to figure out how to jettision some stuff if i intend to feel better about myself and stay sane, because very little of it is getting done in a quality way. Here's the list, or everything i can think of now:
The most important things are 2, 7, 11, and 12. A few other things are impossible to get rid of right now. The rest I need to just tell people "sorry, I can't be there." Sigh.
The nice thing, though is that, as usual, just making a list of everything makes it seem like a lot less of a problem. so, yay....
Well, just to check in, we had a great couple of hours being annoying to Wal-Mart and educating shoppers about Atenco. It went really well. it seemed like it would be a chaotic mess at first but people did a good job of splitting into relatively autonomous groups that all did things in diffferent parts of the store and outside. it took about 40 minutes for cops to show up outside and I shot great footage out and in, then got thrown out with a few of my compas who tried to demand to see a manager. i'd kept the camera real on the downlow till then but then when the scary security guys started throwing them out I brought it up on my shoulder and then they started getting all up in my face. We did a dignified retreat and met our masked amigos outside just as the cops were making them march off the property. Then people held signs and handed out fliers on the corner for awhile.
It was a good time, and effective, I think. People seemed very interested and receptive, tho i think a lot of folks thought it was just aout immigration or the border.
I'll be editing together a nice little piece about it, hopefully soon.
sadly the day then proceeded with 2 semifrustrating meetings and a lack of timely food on my part so i'm a little grumpy now. oh well. now it's time to relax with [can't think of a term of endearment I like right now], drink some wine and watch a dvd.
Today here in Tucson there's a (hopefully) gran manifestación at a Wal-Mart. I've helped organize it with Dry River, local Mecha folks, and some earth firsters. It's designed to bring attention to Wal-Mart's connection to the recent events in Atenco, Mexico. This sounds like a unique approach. Wal-Mart Watch mentions the connection on their site, and some other stories echo it, all based on El Sup's assertions. But no one else seems to be taking him up on it. If you know of any other activists putting pressure on Wal-Mart over the Atenco thing, let me know.
Anyway, it should be interesting. We made lots of signs and banners yesterday and there seems to be lots of interest. and we have lots of informational flyers to hand out.
i'll have a report later today or tommorrow morning, unless i get arrested, i guess, tho i dont plan on that happening...
I finally finished uploading all the good photos from the trip [secretperson] and I took to Puerto Peñasco last weekend. The photos seem to fall into 3 categories: beautiful, curious, and personal. With some overlap.
My friend from Virginia IMC has just written with news about the prisoners from Atenco:
The situation in Atenco is reaching even more dire circumstances. Prison
officials are now separating the prisoners, sending them off to different
jails and integrating them into general populations. In addition to the
three Europeans deported, two Chileans (Mario and Valentina) were deported
as well, including a good friend of mine. Their situations are distinct,
however, from the others, who were in Mexico on tourist visas. Valentina
has been living in Mexico City for 11 years and was in the process of
completing a documentary. Mario is a student at UNAM and about to complete
his thesis. Some independent journalists from Radio Pacheco are in jail as
well; one has already been lost to general population.
In Tucson we're having another Atenco solidarity rally today at the Mexican Consulate at 12:30. I'll have photos of that later today, i would expect.
Two days ago the EZLN declared a red alert because of police abuse near Mexico City in a confrontation with flower sellers, killing a 14-year old boy. This is getting lots of attention in alternative media so I won't go into more detail. I just wanted to mention that early yesterday morning here in Tucson Dry River did a protest at the Mexican Consulate downtown, showing up in masks and presenting a list of demands. Today local MECHA people are doing another protest there at noon-thirty. I'm thinking of playing hooky long enough to cover it for indymedia.
the latest from NN:
We have just received word that Narco News Other Journalism
correspondents James Daria and Dul Santamaría and their colleagues
Moisés Altamirano Bustos, Hasavias López Cortés, Jessica Joseph
Daria, Hillary Chase Lowenbere and Andrew William Saltzman have been
released from police custody in Oaxaca City. The group had been
arrested on May 1, in an illegal attack by the Oaxacan authorities on
press freedom and the Other Campaign.
According to James Daria, the group was set free due to lack of
evidence against them and "because we had a lot of support and
More information on the case of our, and your, persecuted journalists
will be published soon in Narco News. Thanks goes out to all our
readers and allies who have offered their help and support during
these last two days.
Narconews reports that 2 journalists working on the Other Journalism project to document the Other Campaign have been arrested along with 5 others, Mexican and foreign, after a May Day solidarity event in Oaxaca City. Police beat the 2 of the Mexicans at the time of the arrest.
I just love this photo.
From the march for immigrant rights in LA yesterday. Somewhere between half a million and a million, or maybe more, people marched there to protest the Sensenbrenner bill. Is mainstream America hearing about this? On the front page of the LA Times site this morning it's the top story but the eye is distracted immediately to the big picture and blurb about the Bruins winning a basketball game. WTF? And you have to scroll down 2 screenfuls to see a tiny link on the New York Times site. suspira.
I like what Jacob said in his blog yesterday about all this, the idea that the Senate bill is really just a tactic to frame the debate a particular way, to shift everything over to the right. They never expected it to pass, they just wanted the possibility of the extreme to lower everyone's expectations. Oh you'll let us stay if we wear shackles? Ok! Please!?
Saw a great film tonite called "Sembrando Esperanza" (Sowing Hope) about the Magonistas of Oaxaca, CIPO-RFM. They're a sort of a network of indigenous communities in Oaxaca that are simliar in their goals to the Zapatistas, only they are pacifists; but it's interesting, this may only mean that so far they have never taken up arms, because, just as with the EZLN, armed struggle is the last resort after other things have been tried for a long time.
Also, CIPO uses tactics such as letting loose hordes of rats and bugs in the offices of government officials, or putting nametags with the names of politicians on pigs and letting them run through a building... things that in the U.S. would probably get one arrested and charged with "eco-terrorism."
Anyway, it's inspiring to see other radical resistance movements in Mexico besides the Zapatistas, and its great to see solidarity campaigns starting here for them.
Also, right before going to that film I met some AZ indymedia folks at the cafe and we met with 2 guys from Ambazonia, who are involved with the indymedia center there. They're working on a film about what's been going on there in Ambazonia, a small country that's been sort of a buffer zone between Nigeria and Cameroon, and hence between colonial powers France and Britain, for a long time. They're still struggling for independance from Cameroon, and demonstrating students are getting shot in the streets. shot dead. Next time your little white middleclass peace march gets peppersprayed, remember that.
Muy interesante. I just found out tonight about a movement or group of communities in Oaxaca called Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca "Ricardo Flores Magon". They're similar to the Zapatistas, I'm told, except they never took up arms, but apparently they've been organizing autonomous communities and using non-violent resistance to the military and the government. El Sup just met with them last week as part of the Other Campaign tour.
A woman here in Tucson who I know is working on doing english subtitles for 3 films about this group. She wants to have a fundraising screening in early March. We're helping her with this stuff at Pan Left. The longest of these films is called Sembrando Esperanzas - "Sowing Hope."
It's exciting to learn about other popular rebellions going on in Mexico, influenced by the EZLN but also doing things their own way. CIPO, or the Magonistas, seem to be more overtly anarchist than the Zapatistas, and less interested in being part of a Mexican nation-state.
The Washington Post ran a nice little op-ed piece that is a good summary of the connection between illegal immigration and NAFTA. A connection our legislators are refusing to make.
Tuesday I went to Nogales, just across the border and just an hour's drive south of Tucson. I went with a friend, Jonathan, who works for a cool organization called Borderlinks. He was going there for work, and I tagged along, since I'd never been there before. It was a great trip, I learned a lot and met some of the people Borderlinks works with there. I took a bunch of pretty interesting photos. The second Mexican/U.S. border town I've been to, It was interesting comparing Nogales to Juarez/El Paso. Nogales is definitely smaller (around 280,000 compared to Juarez's 1.5 million), and Nogales seems a little more "Mexican" - less "gringoized," though it still has that unique borderland feel that is a mix of both cultures. Nogales, though less contaminated than Juarez with gringo brandnames and businesses, seems to have grown in an even more disorganized way, being really just a long thin strip of buildings lining the highway south toward Hermasillo, following the maquiladoras. And it has no zócalo, no central square.
Anyway, look at the photos!
One of the big "issues" here in Tucson is of course related to the border, and the fact that many people who are prevented from coming to the U.S. legally look for other ways. Immigrants have crossed the border from Mexico illegally for a long time, but in the last several years border security has been tightened in all the places where it's easy to cross: the big cities and the more hospitable areas - leaving only the dangerous and hostile desert country. The U.S. government considers this a deterrent, but people still keep coming, and now are dying in record numbers as they try to cross the desert.
In Tucson there are many who oppose the government border policies, and many activists go out in the desert and leave water and food, or look for migrants in order to help them. This past summer, the situation came to a new level when 2 activists found some critically sick migrants and knew they had to get to a hospital. While driving them to a hospital in Tucson they were stopped by the Border Patrol and arrested. They're being charged with with one felony count of transportation of an undocumented person and one felony count of obstruction of justice., and the trial is set for December 20, I think.
Every year activists and community members have an 8-mile walk, carrying little white crosses, in commemoration of all those who have died. I went this past weekend and it was really amazing and moving.
Here's a short, completely unedited video I shot on my little still cam of local activist folksinger Ted Warmbrand, singing a song about the situation called "Who's the Criminal Here?"
When I was in Chiapas this summer, there was one thing I kept wondering: are the Zapatista people better off for being Zapatistas, or not? An article in today's New York Times addresses just that, though I'm taking it with a grain of salt, like anything in the media.
The conclusion the reporter makes is that things aren't much different between Zapatista and government supporters, and in fact some have left the Zapatista ranks, lured away by government aid programs. I saw myself that life is still very hard for the indigenous people in Zapatista territory. However, it also seemed like there was lots of progress, especially in terms of health care that the Zapatistas are making available through clinics and "microclinics." And besides that, I am reminded of something mentioned by Subcommandante Marcos, who freely states in his recent writings that, yes, things are still very dismal for the Zapatistas, but there is one important difference: now they have hope, and pride. This is something not quantifiable and hence not as easy for a publication like the New York Times to report on. It's not as easy to measure as the thousands of pesos being poured into Chiapas by the federal government or the numbers of troops still occupying military bases there.
While in Chiapas I learned of a film called "Grington" (or "Gringothon" in english) by an expatriate from the U.S. living in Mexico, Greg Berger. I recently found it available for download from the excellent Salon Chingon site (which is connected with Narco News), and last night I finally watched it. It's really great and really funny. The film is all about Greg feeling helpless as a gringo living in Mexico during the start of the Iraq War, and so he decides to start a campaign to raise money to fund an insurrection in the U.S. to oust George Bush. He goes around D.F. dressed as a tourist, speaking purposely really badly-pronounced spanish, and trying to get people to donate to the cause. I recommend downloading and watching it, and if you ever have a chance to see any of his other work, do so - I obtained some DVDs while in Mexico of a few of his other pieces, and they're really excellent. He has a website at gringoyo.com.
In the wake of the PRI's victory last week in the election of governor for el Estado de Mexico, the country's most populous state, The Council on Hemispheric Affairs gives us this detailed account of just how terrible Vincente Fox has been as president of Mexico.
I keep meaning to blog about this. When I was in Chihuahua City a few weeks ago, I saw some stickers and wheatpasted flyers that indicated there was some political/artistic/countercultural undercurrent going on there. Which I was surprised about because it seems like a pretty sterile city, all about business and state government and very little culture, except for lots of cowboy boot stores. Anyway one of the most interesting things turned out to be a poster with the url fllanos.com on it. It turns out to be the well-designed site of an interesting video artist from Mexico City named Fernando Llanos. No idea why his url would be plastered on walls in Chihuahua City, but I'm glad they were.
He has a mailing list that he uses to send out little videos he's done, and I found it interesting to see that he sends to the list every Tuesday because that's the day he can't drive in Mexico City. In D.F. to cut down on pollution everyone has one day a week that they can't drive their car, depending on your license plate number. I often wondered about that when I was there, if many of the people I saw enjoying leisure time were not at work because it was their own "car free day."
This morning I woke up to the smell of fresh air and the sound of birds and breeze, coming in the open windows. This is rare here, Iowa summers are such that if folks have air conditioning, they keep it on and the house sealed up, June through August or so. But last night it was wonderfully cool and we opened up the house. It's great to have that impermeable membrane with the outdoors become permeable.
Anyway I woke up and was thinking a little bit, a little sadly, about all the great bicycle culture I have been missing in Portland. Perhaps the cool, dry breeze reminded me of Portland and riding its streets at dusk. Suddenly I was then reminded of the glimpse of Mexico City bike culture that I got, the night I gave my talk at the H4TCH gallery. After my presentation we were sitting out on the front steps, me and about a dozen of the people who'd attended, talking about art and politics and things, and I saw out the front gate about 100 bicyclists ride by on the street, followed shortly but patiently by a police car. It was like a critical mass! But it wasn't friday and it wasn't the end of the month, either. I asked what it was and it was explained to me that they are a group called the 'bicitekas,' and they ride every 2 weeks or so, very similar to Critical Mass, though it sounded like they were a little less confrontational. I was told that a Mexico City CM was tried before and was supressed, but somehow, this biciteka thing keeps going. 100 riders every 2 weeks?! Si, mas o menos. Wow! Cool! Chido!
The rest of my photos from my trip are now online. This last batch is from Mexico City, Mazatlan, Chihuahua, and Juarez. It took way too long to get them all up there, but anyway, there they are. Now I can get on with more important things, like my film.
It's so strange, the shift in surroundings and habits this week. The biggest change is just being constantly exposed to the toxic infosmog of the Internet, tempted by it, soaking in it for hours and hours. Hot and cold running cyberspace, for free, whereas before, for 3 months, 1, maybe 2 hours a day all I could afford, money and timewise, to spend in front of a computer. And all the excercise I used to get, walking around strange cities.... Well, now that I'm done with this relatively pointless gesture of organizing and uploading all these photos, now maybe I can impose some discipline on myself, be productive and healthy and get my shit together.
Continuing my massive photograph bonanza in the wake of my 11 weeks of travelling, today I bring you a set of photos from San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico. I spent about 16 days in this city and took a lot of interesting photos. A good portion of them were of the great grafitti and stencils which are pretty prevalent and often political there. enjoy!
In solidarity with the EZLN who yesterday went on red alert, I just posted a collection of photos I took a bit less than a month ago while studying spanish in Oventic, one of the Zapatista Caracoles. I have over 800 photos I took in Guatemala and Mexico over the last 11 weeks that I just started going over today, but I decided to upload these first. Vive Zapatismo!
Enjoy and be inspired...
Holy shit! On the very day that I returned from Mexico (well, from that weird hybrid of Mexico and the U.S. called The Border), yesterday, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has called a red alert! Amazing. Less than a month after I was in Zapatista territory, they are encouraging internationals to leave, writing: "national and international civil societies who are working in peace camps and in community projects are being urged to leave rebel territory. Or, if they decide freely of their own volition, they remain on their own and at their own risk, gathered in the caracoles. "
What's going on? The communique doesn't explain WHY they're doing this. Wow. Is this the start of some big new rebel armed operation? Or a new defensive posture based on recent violence perpetrated by the Mexican Army and the Chiapaneco paramilitary groups? Is it related to threats last month against peace volunteers, as I wrote about in this blog?
Pues si, anyway, I am safely back in Iowa, about as far from Chiapas as one could be, though the 2 places are simliar in at least one way: they are both definitely lands of corn.
Jacob has been trying to comment on my blog and my antispam module keeps rejecting him. I can't figure out why. So, I'm going to post what he tried to say, which he just emailed to me:
Hey, I only paid 600 pesos!
Hope you're travels are going well Steev. The night you left, we went a
cafe where Karlitos and someone else from CML were going to do a poetry
reading. Well, the smug dryness of the place mixed with the damp
inebrity of ourselves made for a quite a hilarious night. Karlitos ended
up reciting his poetry from the second floor, meanwhile some others were
throwing down biting anti-bourgeous criticisms at the other 'poets.' We
got thrown out. Just another day in the Ciudad Monstruo.
Some other things you left out (and i haven't written anything in a
while): The amazing pyramids of Teotihuacan, the phat dj-funk party in
that hotel, the wireless hacking adventures, and more. Really, I love
this city. Te amo Mexico.
Say hi to the border for me. She misses me.
Jacob also recently posted the radio show he produced last week which is centered around an interview he did with me in San Cristobal. He's been remotely doing this weekly radio show as he travels, for broadcast on Radioactive, the San Diego IMC web radio station. I'm listening right now and I sort of sound like a spaced out dork for most of the interview. I think I was distracted by the beautiful garden we were sitting in at the time. oh well.
Anyway, more about me. I made it onto a bus last night that knifed its way across Mexico and 18 hours later deposited me here in Mazatlan. All air-conditioned buses in Latin America are TOO air-conditioned, to the point that its always a good idea to bring at least an extra layer with you to your seat. This bus, though, was the worst ever in that sense. It was so cold I should have brought 3 extra layers. Or a down quilt or something. It was crazy. especially when the bus was stopped for awhile. It sucked.
But anyway, now I am in hot sunny coastal Mazatlan and it's beautiful. I've only been here a few hours so I havent been over to where the really nice beaches are, by the resorts. I'm staying downtown where its cheaper and more authentic. Tommorrow I will hit the beach, and I wish I coudl stay longer but then in the evening i plan to jump on another long distance bus and go to Chihuahua City, 16 hours away,where I will hopefully interview one of the activists involved with the fight for justice for the victims of the femicides there and in Ciudad Juarez.
In a few hours I will hopefully be on a bus heading comfortably northwest, toward Mazatlan, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. I've been in Mexico City for 6 days, staying one longer than I had planned, mainly so I could go to El Chopo today.
El Chopo is an amazing punk/goth/metal/ska/whatever/counterculture market on Saturdays, where 4 blocks or so worth of booths materialize full of people selling music, dvds, t-shirts, patches, stickers, books, zines, etc. It is really quite amazing, especially since in a normal week in D.F. you might see like one or 2 people who look truly freaky or countercultural. Not that Mexicans are all conformist drones, I'm just saying that living in Portland and California for the last 10 years has really gotten me used to seeing weirdos with mohawks or leather or purple hair or whatever, and you just dont see that too often in Latin America, usually. (and don't you dare think I mean 'weirdo' to be a negative term. To me its positive, and a convenient handle for referring to those who dont conform to society's ideas of 'normality')
So El Chopo is pretty great. And I was extremely happy to find both discs by the Argentine band Entre Rios, who I LOVE but have not been able to find anything from, even in Buenos Aires. They are sort of like a Latin Portishead crossed with Bjork or something. Absolutely beautiful, and by asking around at several booths I found them. I am psyched.
Me and Jacob wandered around there for awhile and then took the metro downtown to find a good bookstore we'd been told of. There I found the new book about the Juarez femicides that I blogged about a few days ago, 'Cosecho de Mujeres'. Next we went to find the Plaza de Computacion, another huge market, but instead of countercultural paraphenalia it was all computer stuff. Jacob had dropped the power adapter to his laptop in water last week and had to find a new one. It was an incredible experience, wandering this giant maze of little glass cubicles full of high technology. Jacob asked around at like 8 different places, and then we met this guy who was like a freelance bargain hunter, who asked what we wanted and then went running off looking for it, and finally found it for a better price than we had found yet. Jacob ended up paying 650 pesos for it. Which I assured him was cheaper than what you would pay in the states, I'm sure.
We got a cheap but good mexican lunch next and then I had to figure out how to make a call to El Paso to talk to a video guy who might be helping me in Juarez. It was the first time I've had to call back to the States from Mexico so it was a challenge. They don't really have 'locutorios' or 'casetas de llamadas' here in D.F. like they do in lots of other places in Latin America, so I had to go find a place to buy a phone card, then find a card phone, then figure out what to dial to make an international call (001) to the States. Finally I got through. Things might be looking okay. We will see.
Okay, now to go pack, make my way to the bus station, and be on my way to a couple days to relax by the sea until i start work again on my Juarez film.
I'm tired of sitting at this computer and its an absolutely beautiful day outside, but I figure I should post something, since its been a little while.
(Speaking of tired what does it mean that the spanish word for tired, cansado, is so similar to the work for married, casado? hmmm....)
Anyway. This week I've been going to a spanish school here in San Cristobal called El Puente (the bridge). It's really good. My teacher Cecila is very competent and nice and I'm learning a lot. A lot of what we've been doing is going over and 'cementing' stuff I learned some of before but haven't practiced enough. From her I'm also getting more used to how fast Mexicans talk and how they pronounce stuff (there's more of that 'j' for 'y' thing here) compared to Guatemalans. Its also really interesting how teachers vary, in their styles and accents but also in what they consider proper. The biggest difference was Efrain in Oventic, with his Zapatista philosophies of how to communicate, but there are smaller examples that I've been noticing.
I'm staying with a family headed by a mother who has been working with the school for about 10 years and has hosted over 400 students in that time. wow. Her house is really nice, clean, and beautiful, and she prepares wonderul meals and is super friendly. There's a courtyard in the middle of the house, as is the norm here, with a really beautiful garden with lime and peach trees and flowers and lizards. The bedroom is the nicest place i've slept for 2 months.
Anyway, I've only got a few days left in San Cristobal. I have a few gifts to purchase and some preparations to make and then I head far to the north to Mexico City. I'm looking forward to my first visit to the second largest city in the world. Actually according to some, I've already been there, to Sao Paulo, and Mexico City is only 8th. But I thought it was Tokyo, then Mexico City, then Sao Paulo. Actually according to that same site the 3 largest urban areas, rather than cities, are New York, then Mexico City, then L.A. Then Mumbai, Calcutta, etc... hmm. Its all how you count it, I guess...
News that is much more local to me: I heard the following from someone I met at Junax, the hostel for volunteers where I was staying: She went to Roberto Barrios, which is one of the 5 Caracoles, the seats of Zapatista Good Government. This community, unlike Oventic where I was, is mixed Zapatista and non-Zapatista (usually this means supporters of the PRI, the political party that ruled Mexico for 71 years till Fox took office). In many Zapatista areas they need foreign activists to be there as observers so that the Army or the paramilitaries don't commit human rights abuses. These volunteers are called 'Campamentistas.'
Anyway, usually it is muy tranquillo at these campamentos. The volunteers sit all day and watch the road and count how many army or police vehicles and personnel go by. If the authorities try to talk to them, they are supposed to act like the're just dumb tourists. Then they come back to San Cristobal and report what they saw. Usually it's boring, but comes with a good feeling, I'm told, that you're helping prevent further violence against Zapatista communities.
Usually. I was told, however, that last wednesday in Roberto Barrios a foreign campamentista was on her way to the bathrooms when some non-zapatista villager pointed a gun at her and told her they weren't wanted there. Later during the night a mob of villagers were throwing rocks at the house where the dozen or so volunteers were trying to sleep, and shouting threats.
Obviously the PRIstas don't want the campamentistas around, because they're stopping the paramilitaries and army from doing nasty stuff to the Zapatista people there. I think this is a new kind of thing going on in Chiapas. I haven't heard of peace campers being threatened before. My friend arrived a couple days after this happened. She and the other volunteers were told by Zapatista security that they should never go anywhere alone. Even when going to the bathrooms they should go in big groups. After a day or so she and several other volunteers there decided to leave.
A few others stayed. I hope they are alright.
In a few weeks I will be on another travel adventure southward. I'm going to try to write about what my rough plans are and what the details and background is.
This time I will not be going quite so far, but I still, again, have this feeling of being about to drop off the edge of the world. Of course it's really just the edge of my little "world as usual," and of course that usuallness is one reason i go on these trips.
My main destination is one of the largest border communities in the world, El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. Believe it or not, I've never been to Mexico; the closest I've ever been to it is El Paso. I remember, on our way moving from Austin to Los Angeles in the summer of 1995, my girlfriend and I stopped in El Paso for lunch or something. It seemed to be mostly a city of strip malls. And I could look across the Rio Grande and see the sort of brownish-grey blur of short buildings on the other side: Juarez.
At that time the issue that is my reason for going there now was just getting started: hundreds of mysterious murders of women in Juarez in the last 10 years. No one knows who is doing it or why. Most of the women were workers in maquilladoras, the border factories that serve the free trade sweatshop needs of U.S. companies. So there are several theories about why: perhaps something to do with the women trying to organize in the maquilladoras, perhaps men jealous that the women were hired instead of them... recently the Mexican police were reportedly rounding up random criminals and blaming them, just to appear to be doing something about the killings. And the latest news is that the state government seems to be trying to buy off the families of the victims.
The Mexico Solidarity Network is organizing a caravan from points all over the U.S. to converge on Juarez, and then a 5-day delegation to various locations and events in Juarez. I've decided to go on both of these. I'll be joining the west coast leg of the caravan in San Francisco.
First, though, I will be spending a week in the bay area., starting October 16. I'll be attending a friend's wedding, and presenting my collection of Bolivia videos at ATA in San Francisco, on October 21. I'm also looking for a place to show a collection of Portland bicycle videos that a friend and I have put together. I'd also like to meet with some bay area indymedia people.
After the delegation, my plans are quite a bit more vague. I'd like to show my Bolivia videos in some other places, so I'm trying to set up a little tour in the southwest - Albuquerque, Santa Fe, maybe Tucson and Phoenix. I'd also like to spend some time in Mexico and study Spanish and travel around. Ideally, I'd like to spend all winter there, but financial concerns and other factors are going to make that a little difficult, I fear.
If you're reading this and you live in any of these places and would like to help in any way, please add a comment. thanx!