viernes, 29 de diciembre de 2006

La Posada in San Juan Diego FNIC

The lingering month’s anxiety slowly dissipated in San Juan Diego FNIC at dusk on Christmas Eve. As reunited families together returned to their homes for the first time since November 25, one could feel the tension that had burdened this humble community dissolve in the brisk air of the desert night. It was as if everyone—fathers, mothers, children, neighbors, friends and supporters—exhaled together, sighing in thankful relief to finish this painful chapter of an uncertain story clearly not yet over in Southern Mexico.

I unfortunately missed the precious moment when San Juan Diego’s political prisoners stepped off the bus and into the open air of their Huajuapan neighborhood. Instead myself and other CACTUS organizers had been rushing to finish preparing a fruit salad to feed 200 people for the evening’s Christmas celebration. However, when I finally did arrive, Betty Cariño of CACTUS whispered in my ear that the moment was both historical and emotional. The now liberated Huajuapeños, who just hours earlier were cursed with the horrors of confinement, were passionately greeted with joyful shouts and tears of yearning. Their heads were laden with welcoming confetti. And a never-ending round of hugs metaphorically reunited the San Juan Diego residents with their home, linking neighbors to place.

Following the reception, numerous social movement leaders offered words of hospitality, support and solidarity to the gathered community of San Juan Diego. Knowing that the former political prisoners surely wanted to be finally resting in comforts of their homes, the leaders comments were brief but nevertheless inspiring. Another round of informal greeting and embracing followed before the families eventually retreated to their houses. In the face of political repression, institutionalized fear and economic poverty, this gathering profoundly demonstrated the depth and strength of neighborly bonds and mutual aid that is present in San Juan Diego. And as the crowd began to disperse, the all-around mood was unmistakably one of appreciation for freedom, family and home.

Our friends from CACTUS then took me to the Doña Emma’s home across the way from Bernadita’s to help prepare the pozole for the evening’s Posada. San Juan Diego is a squatter community; a neighborhood that physically reflects captialism’s marginalized and forgotten populations. Houses are made from tin sheet metal. Sheets separate rooms, and floors are the earth of pachamama. Water must be carried from a nearby well, and food is cooked on open fires in the yards.

At Doña Emma’s, four women from the neighborhood gathered to cook the pozole: a chicken and corn like soup that is dressed with molle sauce, radishes, lettuce and lime. Together they collectively worked: cutting vegetables, boiling water, stirring corn, and keeping the fire alive. The activity was not that much unlike pre-planning that my comp’has from the north do before community events. The major difference, however, was the intruding and persistent affects of Ulises Ruíz’s political regime on what should flat-out have been a PARTY. While cutting radishes, I asked a fellow cook how this year was different from years past. She thoughtfully responded that they had this problem, where so many of their neighbors were imprisoned.

Shortly later, two of Bernadita’s daughters came over to see what I was doing. I asked them where was their mother. “She’s at home crying,” they answered. My heart stopped momentarily…..mostly from the understanding that despite their freedom, coping with the trauma and affects of the Oaxacan political crisis was far from over for the residents of San Juan Diego FNIC.

The Christmas Eve Posada had been planned for many days. In the face of repression and separation, CACTUS, Tennessee and I wanted San Juan Diego’s children to have the opportunity to celebrate the coming holidays. However, the freedom of their parents and siblings brought sweetness to the evening incomparable to the fruit of any tree.

The community gathered at around ten o’clock at Doña Emma’s. Prayers began shortly after, and a procession fell behind the youth that bore statues of the young Jesus to be returned to his manger. We moved in unison through the neighborhood, candlelight leading us to the small church where the service ended. I only wish that I knew more about the biblical significance of Jesus Christ’s birth (though I imagine that it is quite significant), because the evening was clearly charged with a spirit of metaphor and personification that my ignorance does not understand.

At this point, the cooks served a delicious pozole and fruit salad. The entire community was together, warmed by the presence of their missed neighbors.

I want to thank everyone who have supported this trip and helped make this evening happen. I also want to thank the many people from around the world sent letters of solidarity to the families of San Juan Diego. Your words are DEEPLY appreciated.

Tennessee and I will soon post the stories of these political prisoners. STAY TUNED.

A Letter of Solidarity

From Comrades Maia Campoamor and Jacob Mentlik
Montville, Maine

Shut your eyes and breathe deep

Hear your breath, feel your strength
you are alive; you are strong; you are courageous
Imagine arms stretching out towards you
they are stretching from the far northeastern corner of the united states
From a piece of land en el campo
from farmers who live close to the earth
from comrades
from young people inspired by your strength
from people who are clueless as to what your struggle truly feels like
from people who have been fighting in the global north for social and ecological justice since the day we figured out we had no option but to do so.
from people who are filled with rage at the oppression you are experiencing

Our arms are reaching out to you, people struggling in the desert of Mexico, in the beautiful region of Oaxaca, in the community of San Juan Diego; they are reaching out in a show of solidarity, of support, of love, of inspiration to you and your families; Our arms will always remain open to people all over the world, from our neighbors in Montville, Maine, to
the Native survivors of genocide in the U.S, to the endlessly oppressed indigenous people of the South, to families in Iraq who wake up everyday to the sound of bombs and tanks, to the people who are experiencing starvation and genocide in Africa.

But today we are reaching out specifically to you; to the people of San Juan Diego who are without a family member, friend or neighbor during these holidays. To you who are are in the heart of an admirable yet extremely difficult struggle for justice and a dignified Oaxaca. We fully understand and appreciate the importance of family and community and feel extremely
privileged that on a day like today we can be and are with our immediate family. So as we sit down to eat dinner in our home, unoccupied by overt fear and struggle, we will have you in our minds, in our heart and our thoughts.

However, we will not be satisfied, we will not be happy, we can not fully celebrate with our friends and families until all your people are released from prison, until all your people are found and reunited with their families, until Ulises Ruiz steps down and never comes back, until the federal and state forces leave your land, until the political repression ends, until there is punishment for all those who have caused despicable harm to those innocent people, until all living things around the globe are liberated and free!

With our fists in the air, we say to you:

We will not let their political boundaries and their state or national borders separate us
We will not let their efforts to keep us apart tear at our seams of solidarity
We will not let them scare us, rip apart our communities or take our people away
We will stand by your side in whatever way we are able
We will keep your spirits and the spirits of those imprisoned or missing alive and thriving in our region and communities
We have for you all the deepest of respect, the highest levels of admiration

Shut your eyes and take deep breaths
finding a rhythm as you breathe
a rhythm of hope, courage and belief
Know that the world is aware of your struggles
Know that people out there are defiant, rebelling, struggling, fighting for you, for us
After all, we are one.

Home safe for now: Bernadita Ortiz Bautista

Bernadita Ortiz Bautista, Pablo Ortiz's wife, is home safe for now in San Juan Diego FNIC after her release on December 24. Every thirty days she is required to travel two hours to the city of Oaxaca to check in with authorities and sign paperwork. Bernadita is just beginning the long legal process of proving her innocence against accusations she was a part of violent property destruction in Oaxaca City on November 25, 2006. According to Bernadita and other witnesses we talked to, 24 APPO supporters from La Mixteca were detained and beaten in a bus terminal as they waited to board a bus to return to Huajuapan de Leon. Paramilitaries had just burned a bus headed out of the city from that terminal. The bus drivers locked the gates to the terminal to protect passengers from the chaos outside. Police busted down the doors and proceeded to beat the women, men and children inside. They were then transferred to the zocalo, put in a local jail and eventually flown to a federal prison in Nayarit. Bernadita says she was beaten several times in the process of arriving to Nayarit and authorities never told her why she was being detained or where she was being transported. Legal activists worry that Bernadita and other APPO political prisoners could be re-detained at any time.

martes, 26 de diciembre de 2006

prisoners from San Juan Diego released

Sorry we haven't posted in a while. Christmas celebrations had us traveling around with Omar and Betty.

Christmas eve we threw a party in San Juan Diego FNIC for the families of the political prisoners. We didn't know but they released the some of the prisoners from that community and they arrived in the midst of the party. I didn't go because I had a stomach infection that left me doubled over in pain for 24 hours, but Emily went and I hope she will post about what it was like.

I'll catch you up on what's happened in the last few days. The afternoon after the APPO march in Huajuapan CACTUS celebrated its "posada del migrante." People who participate in CACTUS projects from Huajuapan and the surrounding mountain towns joined us in a small public park close to the CACTUS office. There was short catholic mass specifically in honor of migrants from la mixteca and the world over. We offered up our hopes and prayers for the migrants on their journey north, and for a sustainable and autonomous Mixteca that someday will not be so dependent on migration.

The call north emerges not just out of economic necessity. The myth of migration and the american dream is also a strong force. I spent about an hour talking to Doña Alberta from Xonotle at the posada; three of her kids are in the united states. She explained that young people up and leave driven by a desire to buy cars and fancy clothes. They abandon their traditions and customs and see migration and or immigration as their only path out of poverty and marginalization.

Yet Doña Alberta says she's never been hungry and that her land has always managed to provide sustenance even in the worst times. She owns her own plot of land and a house and lives a content life. It's hard for me to take a stand one way or another. I believe people should be able to do what they feel compelled to do. At the same time there a very strong messages being disseminated through the media and pop-culture that progress only lies in the north, in the United States, and not in the local communities of La Mixteca or even Mexico.

Betty works hard to challenge young peoples' notions about migration, and to educate them about how those in control of wealth and power have continuously neglected indigenous and rural people leaving La Mixteca in dependent and imporverished conditions. I think for some young folks the idea has taken hold and they've resisted the urge to migrate to stay and fight for a different Mixteca. Many of them work with CACTUS. I'm hoping to interview them to understand more about the pull north and what's it's like to stay and work for change when everyone else seems to be giving up.

I still need to tell you about our trip to Tehuacan, Puebla and all that we learned about the maquilas and the political repression labor organizers confront. And I want to tell you more about how CACTUS is working to broaden people's ideas about how to sustain the mixteca but i got to run. Emily and I are going to a meeting today of FIOB--Binational Indigenous Front. It's an organization that organizes folks on both sides of the border. Should be rad to hear more about what they do.

Thanks for reading this and supporting us. It keeps us going.

viernes, 22 de diciembre de 2006

Remembering Acteal

500 people took the streets today in Huajuapan de Leon to denounce the detainment of 23 political prisoners from La Mixteca, and to demand the liberation of political prisoners and the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz . We were hoping that by this morning more prisoners would have been released, but as far as we know they are still being held in jails close to the city of Oaxaca.

Emily and I photographed, recorded and videotaped the march, while sketchy dudes filmed and photographed us. My sense of safety changes every two minutes. Sometimes I feel like Emily and I are untouchable, like our US citizenship means something. Then I remember our comrade Bradley Will who was murdered in October in Oaxaca for doing work not much different from what we are doing in La Mixteca. Coming to terms with how violent and repressive this world is has left me feeling powerless and ungrounded. I know what I am feeling and seeing here in Oaxaca is not unique.

Today is the 9th anniversary of the massacre of 45 unarmed Tzotziles in the community of Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico. The massacre came as response to an indigenous struggle for autonomy and self-determination. ( The movement that was building with the Zapatistas in the mid-1990s in Chiapas doesn't look that much different from what is building in Oaxaca right now. And so I wonder to what degree has the government changed its tactics?

Last year La Jornada broke a story about the detainment and rape of a human rights lawyer Lydia Cacho. She had been working hard to expose human rights violations on the part of maquiladora owner Kamel Nacif. Taped phone conversations were released between the governor of Puebla Mario Marin and businessman Kamel Nacif. Nacif requested that Marin have Cacho arrested and raped in an attempt to silence her, and Marin complied.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to work as a journalist. It ranks right up there with Iraq and Colombia for the number of journalists killed every year. A reporter in Huajuapan wrote a story about a serial rapist who was not being brought to trial because local politicians were protecting him due to his allegiance to the PAN--National Action Party. When the story ran in Las Noticias the paper was stolen everyday for a week on its way to Huajuapan. The following week the reporter was found dead.

Based on the affront to journalists I seriously doubt Mexican politicians have abandoned straight up massacre. Remembering what happened in Acteal 9 years ago made today's march in Huajuapan all the more visceral. The strength and courage it took for the families of the political prisoners to take to the streets is astonishing.

These last few days have helped me to more deeply understand the privilege I have as a US citizen. I'd rather not align myself with a particular national identity, but I can't deny how I benefit from my birth place in my role as an artist and transmitter of stories that challenge dominant notions of power and control.

Tomorrow we take a break from Huajuapan de Leon. We are headed a couple hours north to visit Omar's family. On Sunday we will celebrate christmas in San Juan Diego FNIC with the families of 10 political prisoners.

This blog is so much about Emily and I. We'll try harder to bring you more voices from La Mixteca.

The Rebel Star

In Tennessee's last blog she clearly described the repressive conditions in which our Mixtecan comrades must organize. Tennessee is quite astute, quick on her feet, and constantly analyzing our surrounding environmental circumstances and conditions. Considering that I am more lingusitically challenged and travel with little documentary experience, I am lucky to have my best friend not only at my side, but often guiding us through the cultural and political intracies of supporting CACTUS's imperative work.

Tennessee is the investigator, she uncovers unassuming rocks to find hidden keys that expose the local impacts of foreign capital and global media. Frequently, she fills the gaps of that which I cannot translate. Colloquial spanish in Mexico is quite different from that in Bolivia, Venezuela and Maine. When my mind and energy expire (usually around 8pm), I space out....letting my current environment mingle with past experiences, theories and lessons. Mexico truly is everything and nothing that I thought it would be, constantly challenging my perspectives and understandings of our global home.

As Tennessee wrote yesterday, we traveled to a small town outside of Huajuapan de León to celebrate CACTUS's Christmas party. I traveled on Tenny's lap in the back of Volkswagon bug. We somehow fit six people, including two tall and fully hipped gringas, into the car's small space. Our caravan passed through protected and undeveloped terrain. Mountain passes, skyscrapping cacti, and desert oasises filled our vistas. While I have been priviledged to bear witness to grandmother redwoods, delicate gulf coast wetlands, explosive Maine autumns, smooth white sand Brazilian beaches, firery Lake Michigan sunsets, and humbling Andean peaks.....nothing has sparked such environmental curiosity as seeing life emerge in unexpected places as it does in the Mixtecan deserts.

And this curiosity continued as we celebrated with CACTUS in an unassuming town park surrounding under the shading canopy of ginormous Sabina trees. Each of us toasted to the year's past experiences and the hopes and dreams for the coming seasons. Through the tears and cheers that Solstice afternoon, I believe that I began a process of truly learning what our comrades in Mixteca have had to confront not only in these last six months, but in the last 500 years.

This wonderful planet, third from the sun, is as ecologically diverse as it is culturally. And I think that it is the heterogeneity of life and language that keeps our globe perfectly spinning in orbit amongst the universe's spontaneity.

Last night, I sat in the back of a pickup truck pondering my aforementioned hyposthesis of life's meaning. The day's earlier panoramas were now shaded, the stars barely illuminating the surrounding terrain's contours. Spilling before me was an immense night sky, and I realized that I had not been privy to celestial constallations since I left my home in the United States. It was a sky not much different from my nights in rural Maine, and one that I have dearly missed in my nights of streetlights. It was then that I came to understand, that while humanity's struggles for peace and justice are as diverse as the earth around us, we all dream looking at the same stars. And perhaps it is this reason (not that pinche Marx) that those who dedicate themselves to erradicating oppression and marginalization often unite under the symbol of the star. For it is under one universal sky that our diverse desires for hope, dignity, soverignty and justice are born.

Cartas para las Familias de los Presos Políticos en Oaxaca

En estes días cuando el año termina, espero que todos de uds. encuentren amor y compañerismo
Con este solsticio del invierno, encuentro esperanza, creyendo como los días se hacen llenados más con sol, la luz apasionada seguirá iluminando la lucha oaqueña para la justicia, pero también iluminando todas formas de resistencia contra los intereses racistas, políticos y comerciales.

Hoy día es especial. Es el 22 de diciembre, y acciones de desafío, indignación y solidaridad están pasando en Oaxaca, México y el mundo. Por todos los continentes, gente de consciencia están marchando, rezando, cantando, protestando, mostrando películas, firmando peticiones, haciendo actos de desobencias civiles--demonstrando que la lucha para un Oaxaca justo y dignificado es GLOBAL.

Todavía Tennessee y yo estamos en Huajuapan de León--un pueblo de 40.000 que está ubicado en el corazón del desierto mexicano. También es el centro de los Mixtecos, una de las poblaciones indigenas más grande en México. Huajuapan de León es una ciudad bien bonita que apenas está este de la frontera de Puebla y Oaxaca.

Los mixtecos han salido a la calle hoy, como los compañeros han hecho por todos rincones del mundo. Sus demandas son simples: libertad por los presos politicos, la renuncia del gobierno Ulises Ruíz, y vivir en una Oaxaca justa y dignificada.

Son 23 presos políticos de esta región de Oaxaca. 10 son de San Juan Diego--una comunidad ocupada, humilde y pequeña que está afuera de Huajuapan de León (por favor lean más en nuestro blog sobre este barrio).

Con tantos vecinos, parientes, hijos, hermanos y hermanas encarcelados, es un momento difícil para ellos de San Juan Diego. Celebrar la Navidad no es una opción para muchos.

Tennessee y yo esperamos organizar una celebración pequeña para los residentes de San Juan Diego con algunos de los fondos que muchos de uds. han dado para esta viaje. Nos gustaría llevar algunas cartas de UDS.....demonstrando LA FUERZA de los redes solidarios a pesar de las fronteras políticas y lenguajes diferentes. En esta época de lucha y represión política, apoyando a las familias de los presos es un imperativo absoluto. Por favor, nos manden tus palabras y cartas para que podamos compartir con ellos de San Juan Diego.

¡Desde el corazón del desierto mexicano!

Send your Solidarity Letters to Families of Mixtecan Political Prisoners

As the year comes to a close, I hope that all of you are finding love and companionship. With the passing of the winter solstice, I find comfort believing that as the days become increasingly brighter, empassioned light will continue to illuminate not only the Oaxacan stuggle for political, social and economic justice, but also all forms of resistance against racist, partisan and commerical interests.

TODAY IS SPECIAL. It is December 22, and actions of defiance, indignation and solidarity are occuring in Oaxaca, Mexico and around the world. Throughout the continents, people of conscious are marching, praying, singing,protesting, showing movies, signing petitions, and committing acts ofcivil disobience--demonstrating that the struggle for a just and dignified Oaxaca is GLOBAL.

Tennesse and I are still in Huajuapan de León--a small city of about 40,000 residents in the heart of the Mexican Desert. It is also a center of the Mixtecan people, one of Mexico's largest indigenous populations. Huajuapan de León is a beautiful Oaxacan city, falling just east of the Puebla/Oaxacan border. High plane mountains, decorated with cacti many years older than myself, dominate the surrounding environment. We stand solidly on the dry earth of La Madre Tierra: blessed, humbled and priviledged to tell our neighbors' stories.

Just as comrades in all corners of the world today are protesting, Mixtecans have taken to the streets. Their demands are simple: freedom for Oaxacan political prisoners, the resignation of GovernorUlises Ruíz, and to live a just and dignified Oaxaca.

There are 23 political prisoners from this region of Oaxaca. 10 are from San Juan Diego--a small, very poor squatter community on the outskirts of Huajuapan de León (please read other blog posts to find out more about this barrio).

With so many of their neighbors, parents, children, brothers and sisters in jail, it is a difficult time for San Juan Diego. Celebrating Christmas is out of the question for many. Tennessee and I are hoping to organize a small Christmas celebration in San Juan Diego with some of the funds that many of donated tosupport this trip. We would like to bring with us letters from YOU...demonstrating the strength of solidarity networks regardless of political borders and language.

In this time of great struggle and political repression, supporting the families of political prisoners is absolutely imperative. Please send us your words so that we can share them with those of San Juan Diego. If you do not speak/write inSpanish, we will translate. (More to come about the March today in Huajuapan de León)

From the heart of the Mixtecan Desert!
¡Desde el corazón del desierto mexicano!

mass migration and repression

Sorry for the typos. I'm going fast.

Things are moving along slowly for Emily and I. CACTUS has asked us to gather material to put together a short documentary about the political prisoners from La Mixteca and their families. The catch is CACTUS folks are super busy making it hard for us to get out to the communities where the the families live. CACTUS doesn't want us to go alone for safety reasons and because they know the families won't talk unless they are there. It's been a little frustrating, but I'm still learning a lot. I'm watching the roots of a revolutionary social movement take hold. I try not to throw those ideas around, but it really feels like Oaxaca is on the edge of some pretty intense change.

Yesterday Emily and I went to CACTUS's Christmas party. We went to a town about an hour away so that everyone would feel safe meeting together. They have their suspicions that their office might be bugged. The drive there was incredible. On winding roads through the high desert we saw cactus after cactus as tall as trees; a sign that there is life in the desert. La Mixteca is a region politicians have given up on not that they ever cared. People seem complacent, settling on mass migration as a solution to the poverty the Mixteca faces, but CACTUS clearly sees other options. They are pushing for autonomy, better education, and local control of resources like land and water in the hopes that Mixtecos can create a sustainable future based on local resources instead on the seperation of families and the importation of US dollars.

They are expecting a couple years of intense repression for what they believe in and what they have openly pushed for in the last 6 months. There are already warrants out for the arrest of Betty Cariño and Omar Esparza from CACTUS. They do everything they can to avoid being detained. They don't shop in the central market downtown, in fact they don't go downtown at all. They spend as a little time as possible in the CACTUS office because that makes them easy targets. When we drive places we take crazy routes on back roads instead of taking the main drag to avoid the police. It's the most intense security culture I've ever experienced in my life and yet I don't think it's simply paranoia.

From what I've seen so far Betty and Omar are the core organizers for APPO in La Mixteca and they are bottom lining the liberation of the 23 prisoners from La Mixteca. They work really hard to bring lots of different organizations and political projects together, from communists to campesinos. I really respect the fact that they don't promote a particular idealogy except that solutions must come from the desires of the communities they work in.

Last night Emily and I got to observe an APPO meeting. There was a lot of tension between the different groups present and a lot of suspicion about who is going to sell out and negotiate with the state. Omar was encouraging the various groups present to be honest about their goals. To be trite you could have cut the tension with a knife. There was a representative there from the FPR--the Revolutionaries Peoples Front--an organization that displays posters of Stalin, Lenin and Marx in their encampments. He was criticizing anarchists for provoking the violence in the march on November 25th, which eventually landed 24 people from La Mixteca in jail. By the end of the meeting everyone was on board for today's march putting all the organizations name on the same banner. It's hard for me to imagine a community organization teaming up with Stalinists. That's not necessarily a criticism. I'm not sure how I feel yet. Right not I see it as an accomplishment. Hopefully those who aren't wrapped up inm dogma will lead the movement. That's why I put my energy and time into supporting CACTUS. I've been working with them for 3 years and I know they are able to bring people together because people trust their actions as reflecting the interests of the people.

From what I've gleaned so far CACTUS and APPO in La Mixteca are not only fighting to oust Gov. Ulises Ruiz, but for the autonomy of the region and Oaxaca. What are their motivations for doing so? I'm sure there are tons, but the impact of mass migration/immigration to the United States comes up a lot. The area around Huajuapan receives the highest amount of remittances from migrants/immigrants in the United States. The economy is based on the fact that the majority of the Mixtecan work force is in the United States sending money back. I've been coming here for three years and I can already see the detrimental affects that's had on the sovereignty of the local economy. As more and more able bodied people travel to the US there is less and less production of agricultural products and goods locally, meaning products have to be imported. In the last year a huge grocery story resembling something like COSTCO was built just 5 blocks from the central market where vendors are struggling to compete. Communities can't grow their own food, but they can buy cheap crap from transnational grocery stores.

The local government and the state government of Ulises Ruiz does nothing to confront the factors that generate the necessity to go north for work. From what I've heard folks from the Mixteca Alta, which is a drier more arid region, have always migrated. The harvest season is only two months at the most so in order to sustain themselves they migrant to more fertile sections of Oaxaca, but always to return home to their towns. When people migrant to the United States they are divided by a militarized border that separates families and makes it hard for people to return home. It's important to be clear that mass migration to the United States is not just symptomatic of ecology. It's symptomatic of corrupt politics that generate profit for the rich while robbing indigenous and campesino communities of their right to sustenance. It comes in the form of damns that channel water to lands that produce cash crops, and structural adjustment policies that dismantle subsidies for small farmers.

I realize what I've written is a rhetorical rant. Hopefully by the time I leave I will have stories that illustrate what I've said. But for right now Emily and I are hearing a lot of revolutionary rhetoric and we are working on doing more interviews. It's hard because people are super busy and super stressed.

If nothing else it is amazing that these folks have invited us into their lives to watch the construction of what they someday hope will be a revolution or better said a transformation. They share intimate details about their hopes and dreams and strategies that I don't feel like I can talk about yet, but I know in 10 years it will be amazing to look back at how Oaxaca has changed for the better having had a glimpse into how it started.

This morning Emily and I are headed to photograph and record a march to demand the liberation of the political prisoners. If we don't get arrested this morning we'll probably be fine from here on out.

This afternoon there is a "posada del migrante." A posada is Mexican tradition where folks reenacting Mary and Joseph looking for a place for Jesus to be born. CACTUS is borrowing from that tradition to draw attention to the affect migration has on La Mixteca. We'll march in honor of the struggle of migrants everywhere, but especially those from La Mixteca.

Here's a translation of the poem by Rigoberto Menchu that Emily posted yesterday in Spanish:
My homeland, mother of my grandparents
I want to caress your beauty
to contemplate your serenity and
to accompany your silence
I want to calm your pain
to cry your tears to see
your children dispersed throughout the world
struggling for place in far away
lands without joy, without peace
without mother, without nothing

jueves, 21 de diciembre de 2006

Actions throughout the United States in Solidarity with Oaxaca

Tomorrow Tennessee and I will be participating in an event organized by CACTUS in Huajaupan de Leon. We will be marching and celebrating at "la Posada del Migrante."

Please check out this website and consider participating in events throughout the United States in solidarity with the people of Huajaupan de Leon, Oaxaca and Mexico.


Tierra mía, madre de mis abuelos quisiera acariciar tu belleza contemplar tu serenidad y acompañar tu silencio quisiera calmar tu dolor llorar tus lágriams al ver tus hijos dispersos por el mundo regateando posada en tierras lejanas sin alegría, sin paz, sin madre, sin nada!

miércoles, 20 de diciembre de 2006

first settlers of San Juan Diego FNIC

These two shopkeepers were the first to settle San Juan Diego, a squatter community of the National Federation of Indigenous People and Campesinos.

prisoners transferred back to oaxaca

we just got word that 91 prisoners have been transferred from the federal prison in nayarit to a detention center in oaxaca. there are still four prisoners in nayarit. that's all we know so far.

Photo of Pablo Ortiz

Pablo Ortiz and two of his kids, Itzel Yazmin and Silvino. Since November 25th their mother Bernadita Ortiz Bautista has been detained by the Mexican Federal Police for her participation in a march calling for the resignation of Oaxacan Governor Ulises Ruiz.

Prisoners from La Mixteca

On November 25th, after the seventh mega march organized by APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) there were over 140 people arrested from throughout Oaxaca. They were first detained in Oaxaca City and then transported to a federal prison thirty hours away by bus in Nayarit.

On December 18th Emily and I read in La Jornada (the leftist newspaper in Mexico) that 43 of the prisoners had been released from a federal prison in Nayarit. One of them is from the community of San Juan Diego in La Mixteca. CACTUS--Center for Communal Support--is coordinating the fight for the release of the remaining 23 prisoners from La Mixteca, and all political prisoners connected to the struggle to oust Governor Ulises Ruiz.

When and if the prisoners are released they will still have to appear in court to determine their innocence. Given the political climate in Mexico and the recent inauguration of President Calderon, our friends here at CACTUS tell us the fight to free the political prisoners will be long and arduos.

Yesterday we went to visit San Juan Diego, a small community outside of Huajuapan de Leon. From this community alone there are still nine people imprisoned in Nayarit.

San Juan Diego is a squatter community founded by FNIC--National Federation of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos--five years ago. There are no more than 100 families living there. Many of the residents migrated from indigenous communities high in the mountains of the La Mixteca Alta to find work as campesinos or tradesmen closer to the Huajuapan de Leon.

Pablo Ortiz moved his family to San Juan Batista two years ago so his oldest children would have the opportunity to attend high school. He works as a campesino. On the morning of Saturday November 25th he left for work at dawn. When he came back that evening his wife and kids were no where to be found.

Pablo would come to find out that his wife and kids had been detained in Oaxaca after the march. Bernadita, Alejandro, Beatriz Belen and Rosalva were headed towards the bus terminal in Oaxaca City to catch a bus to Huajuapan de Leon when the federal police detained and beat them.

Pablo returned home at 9pm that Saturday, but he couldn't find his wife or kids. He asked his neighbors if they had seen his family. A neighbor told him that they had gone to the march and supposedly they'd been grabbed by the police.

Pablo explained his wife Bernadita and three of his kids decided to attend the mega march in Oaxaca City to speak out against the impoverished conditions they live in, and to support the continuation of APPO.

Almost a week later his two oldest daughters were released and returned home, but Bernadita and the oldest son, Alejandro, were transferred to a federal prison in Nayarit. Pablo hasn't been able to communicate with his wife or son since they were detained. The information he has about what happened to his son and wife is from what two of his daughters, Beatriz Belen and Rosalua, observed before they were separated from their mom. The two girls told CACTUS that while in detention the police removed their shoes and made them stand on a wet floor with live electric cables in order to deliver them electric shocks.

Beatriz Belen was really shy about sharing her experiences with us, but she did explain that the last month with 10 community members in jail has hit their small community hard. Normally on December 9th they celebrate San Juan Diego Day for which their town is named. This year nobody wanted to celebrate.

Pablo hasn't been able to work in weeks because he has to stay home to take care of his eight kids. Despite the fact that he receives some money to buy tortillas from folks involved in APPO, Pablo is struggling to feed his children and find the money to continue to send them to school.

Most of the prisoners are being charged with crimes like property destruction and rioting. It's hard to imagine Pablo's wife Bernadita and his three kids beating up cops or lighting buildings on fire.

Emily and I are doing are best to understand how we can support these communities and their political prisoners. Handing them a check to help them buy food for a week is one option. We know this going to be a long fight and we are investigating where and what kind of pressure needs to be applied to ensure that Bernadita and her comrades are not forever separated from their families for crimes they did not committ.

To read more about the released prisoners check out this article from La Jornada. (It's in Spanish)

lunes, 18 de diciembre de 2006

Lights on the Horizon

I spent close to 24 hours en route from my home in Montville, Maine in order to get to Mexico City. It took a ride in the trunk of my friend´s suburu station wagon, a quick bus ride from portland to boston, a little talking to the Continental Airlines agent (who almost didnt let me on the plane because my passport is apparently too tattered), and two long flights....but I made it through immigration without problems.

While desending into DF, I took my eyes off my reading material to glance out the plane´s window. Shock doesnt quite do justice to explain the emotions that raced through my heart at the sight before me. The night sky that I am so accostomed to in Montville was flipped before my eyes. There was not a star to be seen, instead the city lights stretched as far as the eye can see. I have never in my life seen such immense human impact. dense urbanization until the horizon and beyond. and as the plane continued towards the tarmac, i understood why my friend holds this place so close to her heart....we are in a place of mass humanity. art and diversity is in every corner. plants break through the concrete. artesanos dance in the zocolo. revolutionary love emerges from unexpected places. Mexico is everything and nothing that i thought it would be.

Today, Tennessee and I met her comrade from CACTUS. Betty is a mother, sister, daughter, organizer and freedom fighter. Her energy and spirit are clearly rooted in visions and dreams for a better Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico and world. Betty sees through the facades of neoliberalism because of her profound experiences of living with the economic, political and cultural hardships that the ideology has brought to her community. The world would be a more loving place if there were more people like this woman.

Despite traveling all morning with her two children that she hadnt seen for a month, Betty spent hours with Tennessee and I this morning. She brought us up to date on her specific situation and the political repression that her people are enduring.

She told us of journalists "accidently" dying and families trying to get their children and parents out of jail. Betty also said that Governor Ulises Ruiz came to Huajuapan de Leon (in la Mixteca) this past weekend. His visit required 1,000 federal police. I guess the people are just a little fed up with the man.

Betty also shared with us her vision of our trip and what CACTUS would like us to document in our time here. We hopefully will be working with Mixtecan families who have members in jail.

There is so much more to tell. But now we must be off to our bus that will take us to La Mixteca.

en camino a la mixteca

The first post to the blog must begin with a huge thank you to everyone supporting the work Emily and I have come to do in Mexico. The money and supplies you all donated are going directly to CACTUS-Center for Communal Support-based in La Mixteca region of Oaxaca.

Betty from CACTUS met with us today in Mexico City. It was amazing to see her and her two kids who she hadn't seen in month. Betty talked to Emily and I for hours today about the situation in Oaxaca and more specifically in La Mixteca.

Tonight we leave for Huajuapan de Leon in La Mixteca region of Oaxaca to see for ourselves what's happening there.

More concrete info to come soon.