Tuesday, June 27, 2006


[We're a little behind schedule with the blog. Even though we're in D.F., I wanted to catch us up a little on the places we'd hit earlier.]

The “desayuno” wasn’t exactly a breakfast as I understood the word’s direct translation. Brunch, I suppose, would be a little bit closer. Still, it can’t be a brunch, for starters, if it begins at 9 am.

The map, I think, will go down in history as perhaps the worst map ever drawn.* Here’s a picture of it:

It’s supposed to represent how to get from Alejandro’s cousin’s house, on the west side of Querétaro, to Juan Pablo’s house on the east side. Somehow, mysteriously, we made it there without too many problems. Juan Pablo, Abelardo, and Mirta were there, just beginning to prepare the food. Mirta was chopping tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño chiles for pico de gallo. They immediately served us a dark, rich espresso from a percolator and told us the plan: gorditas.

Masa was bought—a multicolored masa, seemingly made with many varieties of corn, reds, blues, greens, in addition to the standard yellow. (Perhaps some lard as well, though I followed my usual “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.) The gordita-making process looks relatively easy, and I was surprised at how pupusa-like these little corn dumplings are.

We also interviewed Alexis Benhumea’s uncle, Oscar. Alexis was a economics student, adherent to the Other Campaign, who was shot in the head with a teargas canister during the police invasion of Atenco on May 4. He fell into a coma and his father called an ambulance, but the police wouldn’t let it into the city. Alexis laid, slowly dying, there for about 11 hours before finally an American journalist named John Gibler (and others) rented a van to take him to the hospital. He survived there for about a month, but died on June 7. This interview appears in a radio segment that aired yesterday on Flashpoints.

* Followed more or less closely by pencil shavings in a bag.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Compas, disculpen el inglish, pero para dar continuidad a los escritos de Daniel, esta va en la lengua del tío sam (o bien de shakespeare, si prefieren), y en breve me redimiré de la displiscencia escribiendo una larga crónica en español.

Guanajuato, colonial gem in the Bajío, with its narrow alleys and its network of underground streets, is a splendid city that proved to be a laberynthine nightmare with an overheating motorcycle, that somehow, miraculosuly, made it to the hostel where we finally let it rest, tied to the bars of a colonial window.

We got here after heartfelt despedidas from the compañeros in Zacatecas, with whom in two days we managed to build friendships that were hard to part from. Our last night there we had a long conversation with them and with teachers who were doing a several day sit-in in front of the city hall, in protest against educational reforms that threaten to reduce an already deficient curriculum in history and for higher wages. It was a fascinating point of contact between La Otra in Mexico and La Otra on the other side of the border, and in the interchange we all learned from different perspectives and the challenges of thinking trasnationally. Their questions about identity reminded me of a commentary by José Rabasa about zapatismo and its redefinition of the concept of nation: where does the "Mexican" nation start and end. And it is curious to think that, while the realities of immigration and "globalization" are imploding the notions of nationhood, physical walls are constructed in a sort of desperate attempt to elude the realities of our times.

Today we went to see two compañeras from Irapuato, who gave us a rather different perspective of the Other Campaign. This is one of the states that the zapatista caravan did visit, the first one in our trip. The story of conflicts between the various organizers told by the compañeras speaks of a number of challenges faced by such an ambitious and innovative movement. On one hand, the Other Campaign is in principle inclusive, and its novelty resides precisely in that it does not guided by a single ideology, a single principle, a single vanguard. As such, political activists from many different affiliations and ideologies participate, which has led long-time zapatista supporters like John Ross to turn his back on the movement at the (admittedly unsightly) sight of stalinist posters held up by members of the communist party. On the other hand, as we discussed with John Sullivan in Zacatecas, social movements in Mexico have been traditionally coopted or infiltrated by political parties, which bring to them their own agendas and their own interests, and because of that the Other Campaign has been adamant in its refusal to admit activists from the PRD, who have repeatedly tried to have an influence in it. These two principles (inclusiveness and rejection of political parties) are rather difficult to conciliate, and often lead to conflicts such as those apparently experienced in Irapuato.

And yet we also heard stories that are representative of zapatismo's ability to serve as a point of contact for people and social segments that would otherwise not find a way to interact. Every Saturday, the colectivo sets up banners and gives out information in the kiosk of the main square, and have long talks with people of every sort, supporters and opposers. They spoke of two women who had a long, heated discussion: a pregnant prostitute and an religious, middle class woman. In a society where religious intolerance and social prejudice are so ingrained, this sort of communication is almost unheard of. That such a conversation might take place and actually lead to some kind of understanding, is more than merely a quaint anecdote. The physical and psychological walls that increasingly separate social classes are one of the most unfortunate tendencies in contemporary Latin American societies, and are at the root of much of the social violence increasingly experienced in the cities.

Monday, June 19, 2006


The ride from Parral took all day. We left at 7 am and were on the road until about 7 or 8 pm, with a couple breaks for food. Stopped in Durango at a veggie joint for lunch. After lunch, Alejandro noticed that the sky looked a bit, shall we say, cloudy, but we'd been in the desert for so long that even the concept of rain seemed so foreign, impossible.

Of course, between Durango and Zacatecas, on a highway in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields, we saw the storm. Two storms actually, one on either side of the road. Alejandro gunned the engine, and it looked like we'd be able to pass right through the middle and into the clear skies ahead. It didn't quite work out as planned, however. We got caught in a massive downpour and had to pull over on the side of the road where we saw a little brick structure that we figured would let us get out of the rain, since all our rain gear was buried at the bottom of our bags after so many weeks of desert. Turned out the little shelter had been converted into a makeshift toilet...

Eventually we got our stuff on and our bags covered and moved on. Zacatecas is beautiful. And the people we've met here seem like they're doing really good work -- it's the first time on the trip that we've talked to people who are putting on real actions. Yesterday we participated in an event in Guadalupe, a city right next to Zacatecas, in the plaza principal, to spread the word about Atenco and la Otra Campana. Lots of people came, lots of families with little kids, and we had activities for them -- painting, puppet shows, theater, music, the works. A good time was had by all.

Today we're going to give a little talk about la otra in California and the U.S. And tomorrow we're off again, rumbo al D.F. The next stop will either be Irapuato or Queretaro.

As before, photos to follow.

Friday, June 16, 2006


In Pancho Villa territory now, trying to get in touch with our Zapatista contacts here. In a very superficial way, it seems like there's something of a stronger presence here than in Ciudad Obregón. This based on the fact that around the plaza are several pieces of wood painted with EZLN images and messages -- advertising the arrival of the otra campaña. The date that the caravan was supposed to get there, however, has been blanked out (but if you look closely you can still see through the paint that June 3 was the target date).

The last couple days have been amazing. We left Creel (at 2330 meters) and descended into the Barranca del Cobre to a beautiful little colonial town called Batopilas (400 or so meters). The ride down was a little rough, considering that it was a dirt road, rocky, sandy -- not to mention the mile-long drop and lack of guard rails. But beautiful. In tropical Batopilas, mango season was in full blast, and mangos were literally falling out of the sky everywhere you looked. Took a hike to a tiny pueblo called Satevó, about 8km away, where there's a magnificent church (or mission, we couldn't tell exactly). There we met an amazingly friendly 14 year old epileptic girl who could wiggle her ears, pat her head and rub her belly, and do card tricks. We also chatted with her father, Raúl, about the drought that was affecting the region -- the river looked obviously low, and the land parched. And since Sonora people have been complaining about the lack of rain.

So now we're in Parral, trying to arrange an interview, though the people we're supposed to meet seem to be either out of town or unavailable. So if we don't get through soon, we're off to Zacatecas (via Durango perhaps?), where we (hopefully) will find more readily available contacts.

Pictures will follow at some point.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Agua Prieta

A quick post with some photos from the Just Coffee cooperative, where we stayed in Agua Prieta, just across the border from Arizona. The picture above is the family of chiapanecos that run the roasting facility in A.P. They come from the community Salvador Urbina in Chiapas, near the border with Guatemala, and members of the cooperative who live in the village send their organic, shade-grown coffee up to the roasters, who roast, package, and ship the coffee to its destination. The family let us sleep in the office, full of big burlap bags of beans, next to the room with the heavy machinery. In the morning, they roasted beans and then made coffee for us -- by far the freshest coffee I've ever tasted.

Los Danieles. From left to right: Daniel, Daniel, Danielito, and Daniela. Apparently they really like the name Daniel in the Cifuentes family. I'm okay with that.

Finally, Daniel and Danielito with some of the coffee roasting machinery.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The South Central Farm and the Otra Campana en el Otro Lado

by Daniel Nemser

[Updated June 27, 2006]

Not only people migrate from Mexico to the United States every day—ideas cross the border as well. In California, many collectives inspired by the Zapatistas’ Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona (Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle) and the Otra Campaña (Other Campaign) have tried to incorporate the message of autonomy “from below and to the left” into their everyday practice. One organization in particular that has faced struggles similar to those faced by members of the Otra Campaña in Mexico is the South Central Farm, an urban garden in one of Los Angeles’ poorest neighborhoods.

On May 28, I stood in a small crowd of about 100 people listening a group of female rappers, who call themselves Cihuatl Tonali, perform their politically conscious lyrics. The show took place in the middle of fourteen acres of land under cultivation by 350 (mostly Latino, many immigrant) families—one of the largest (if not the largest) urban gardens in the United States. Overhead, from time to time, a helicopter flew by, pausing—so it seemed from the ground—to observe the event below. Indeed, several people in the audience recounted to me what had happened a few days earlier, when a helicopter had arrived in the middle of the night and hovered above the farm, shining a spotlight around, to collect information and intimidate the community. This police presence emphasized the point made on a banner behind the stage that read, “Repudio total a la represión en Atenco. Castigo a los asesinos y violadores: la otra del otro lado” [Total repudiation of the repression in Atenco. Punishment for the murderers and rapists: the other [campaign] on the other side]. The transnational flow of ideas, language, knowledge, and identities is clear from the start.

On June 13, about two weeks after the concert, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in riot gear, along with crews of private security guards and bulldozers, moved in to forcibly evict the farmers and destroy the farm itself. Community members, activists, and even celebrities sought, as they have been doing for months, to stop the invasion, using tactics of civil disobedience like chaining themselves to trees to keep the police from cutting them down. Today, the community has officially been evicted. A number of farmers have apparently moved to a new plot of land provided by the city and begun farming. But at 7.8 acres, just over half the size of the original farm, the new land cannot hope to provide for the entire community.

How did this come about? Why such hostility towards such a tranquil, productive space? According to the South Central Farmers website, the story goes something like this: In the late 1980s, the Los Angeles city government appropriated a city block under eminent domain from a group of private owners composed in large part by a company belonging to Ralph Horowitz. The city intended to use the land to build a trash incinerator (in one of Los Angeles’ poorest and already most polluted neighborhoods), but in the face of a protest organized by the community was forced to back down. Thus, the land was still empty in 1992, when, following the so-called Rodney King riots, the city decided to allow the land to be turned into a community garden. The low-income residents of South Central succeeded in changing this industrial wasteland into a series of fertile, verdant, and productive plots, and have been farming there for the last 14 years. Horowitz, however, wanted the property back and sued the city for the land. In 2003, after years of legal battles, the city finally approved a settlement—behind closed doors—to sell the land back to Horowitz for about $5 million. Laura Palomares, who works with the farm and with the L.A.-based El Puente, an organization that promotes just economics, argues that this price, way below market value, was practically a giveaway and attributes it to corruption backroom dealings. We might dismiss this as rumor or conspiracy theory, but in fact the city’s own auditors had valued the land at $13 million in 1994, more than double the price it was sold for a decade later. What happened to inflation?

Immediately, the South Central farmers organized themselves and went into action. They initiated a legal struggle and built community support, in addition to running events to generate attention and suppot and to raise funds. Last week’s concert falls into this category, but the timing is becoming increasingly urgent as threats from the sheriff’s office—and “red alerts” called by the farmers—become increasingly frequent. They have already succeeded in incorporating Hollywood. During my visit, renowned environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill continued her hunger strike in an old walnut tree overlooking the tents of activists and concerned citizens who came out in solidarity to protect the farm with their presence. Joan Baez, Daryl Hannah, Leonardo di Caprio, and Alicia Silverstone number among the stars voicing their support for the farmers. The results? Approximately $7 million raised. While astounding, of course, the sum falls short of the asking price. Furthermore, both Palomares and Roberto Flores, who also collaborates with the farm and helped found the East Side Café community center in East L.A., assert that the office of mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised to match any funds raised by the South Central farmers—which would have put the farmers within reach of their financial goal. But Villaraigosa decided that there was no money to contribute. So the farmers ran out of time to pay Horowitz off, while the city invested $800 million in a new football stadium instead.

The farm

At the South Central Farm, all cultivation was organic. According to Flores, many of the farmers were using techniques that they had previously employed in their home countries—Mexico, the countries of Central America, even Venezuela. Organic farming, of course, already represents a progressive step, considering that the vast majority of farmers in the United States (and Latin America as well) use conventional, chemical- and petroleum-based techniques. But urban farming in an industrial area of south central requires even more innovation. The farmers ripped up the concrete, cleaned away the trash littering this city block, and restored fertility to the earth below. They had to build the soil quality up from scratch, slowly contributing to its organic matter content and transforming it into usable land. Not only did the farm succeed in producing healthy, cheap, and local vegetables, it also created a surprisingly high level of biodiversity. Devon Peña, professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, estimates that 100-150 different species were present in the farm’s ecosystem. Compared with the stark industrial backdrop, replete with concrete, warehouses, and industrial train tracks, it represented an ecological haven, a veritable urban jungle. Tezozomoc, one of the farm’s elected representatives, argued that the farm’s lush greenery ameliorates the neighborhood’s environmental degradation and countering air pollution. The community recognizes the benefits of its methods and hopes to create a school to disseminate these agricultural alternative and urban farming practices to a wider audience.

This way of cultivating is not only good for the environment but also makes good economic sense for these small-scale growers. On the most basic level, it provides poor families with a significant amount of food self-sufficiency. Furthermore, at the farmers’ market held every Sunday, they could sell their produce without having to transport it or sell it through middlemen to large-scale buyers—a difficult proposition anyway, as the scale of these local producers would be inadequate for most grocery stores. Which brings added environmental benefits, since eating local eliminates a major source of fossil fuel consumption. Michael Pollan, an author and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that the agricultural practices (including tractors, petroleum-based chemical additives, and above all transportation) accounts for 20 percent of the U.S.’s annual fossil fuel consumption, while, surprisingly, personal transport only accounts for 18.

Decisions at the farm were made democratically. The farmers made collective decisions at weekly meetings of their General Assembly. Not only did this allow them to participate in shaping their future (as well as addressing their economic needs), it also served as a form of empowerment. “[W]ithin the democratic process here,” Tezozomoc told L.A. City Beat reporter Dean Kuipers, “part of the work that we do is to develop people with the ability to be leaders in their communities. We had some people here who have come out and become part of the neighborhood councils, and others who advocate on behalf of people… [Our struggle is] not only about saving this project, but to develop people with a conscience so that they can stand up for what they believe.”

La Otra Campaña en el Otro Lado (The Other Campaign on the Other Side)

So the struggle at the South Central farm is a struggle for community and land rights, a post-industrial, urban campesino struggle for existence. It may seem like something of a stretch to link it to the Zapatistas and Atenco, but the similarities are striking. In 2002, for example, Atenco faced the appropriation of their communal lands by the federal government for the construction of a new international airport for Mexico City. The community resisted and with support and solidarity of national and international organizations and outraged individuals forced the Fox administration to back down. Many analysts believe that the recent confrontation between the heavily armed Federal Preventative Police and the machete-wielding community defenders spiraled so quickly and easily out of control, with such deadly consequences, because of not only Atenco’s links with the Zapatistas but also the government’s desire to turn it into a sort of retribution for its earlier defeat. Also notable are the coincidental rumors, seemingly initiated by Subcomandante Marcos, that the flower vendors were kicked out to make room for a new Wal-Mart shopping center. (Wal-Mart Mexico did not answer my repeated requests for verification.) Perhaps this explains the rumors (though there’s no lack of evidence) that Horowitz plans to turn the farm into a warehouse serving Wal-Mart. What is beyond a doubt is that the trains continually passing next to the farm are carrying shipments from Wal-Mart’s sweatshops in China, spewing soot into the local air while at the same time contributing to the ongoing depreciation of living standards around the world.

Of course, the links with Atenco automatically generate conceptual connections with the Zapatistas’ Otra Campaña. Members of the Atenco community had served as Marcos’ personal, machete-wielding guard during the caravan’s journey through Mexico. Likewise, in the wake of the violence in Atenco, the Zapatistas immediately offered their support, putting the “campaign” on hold to put pressure on the Mexican government to release its political prisoners. And the Zapatistas’ connections extend directly to the farm itself. The farmers employ community consensus building and participatory democracy, fill their rhetoric with Zapatista terminology (remember those “red alerts”?), and are official adherents to the Otra Campaña through their association with the Los Angeles-based Autonomous Peoples’ Collective. Which is what Hermann Bellinghausen was referring to when, writing in the Mexico City daily La Jornada, he called the May 28 concert “the first large event of the other campaign on the other side.”

Unlike the atenquenses, who were able to block the government’s destructive intervention, the South Central farmers could not hold off the police forever. But the struggle is far from over. Community supporters continue to maintain a vigil at the farm. In addition, on July 12 lawyers for the farm will launch a lawsuit against Horowitz, alleging backroom corruption in his acquisition of the land. The next few weeks, then, will be critical to challenge the destruction. Fortunately, farmers, community members, and activists continue to mobilize in defense of the farm. Even if their voices are not heard by the city government, there is no question that they have reached the ears of activists everywhere, on both sides of the border.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Otras Alternativas

por Alejandro Reyes

Agua Prieta, Sonora, es una pequeña ciudad fronteriza que, según nos dicen, vive sobre todo del negocio de la inmigración. Aquí llegamos en el calor del medio día y fuimos recibidos por Sergio, quien nos llevó al CRREDA, Centro de Recuperación y Rehabilitación de Enfermos de Drogadicción y Alcoholismo. Los directores del centro y los funcionarios son todos narcodependientes en recuperación. En una pequeña oficina, hablamos con Sergio y, después, con Raúl, el director de la pequeña institución. Como en otros centros similares que he visitado, hay una conciencia de que la recuperación es una suerte de renacimiento y, con él, la llegada de una nueva forma de ver el mundo, más aguda, quizás más sensible. Lo que distingue a este centro, sin embargo, es el trabajo que hacen de ayuda y rescate de migrantes en el desierto de Sonora. Sergio, uno de los principales colaboradores de ese trabajo, fue pollero durante 20 años y, durante todo ese tiempo, era narcodependiente. Hoy utiliza su conocimiento no sólo del desierto sino de las vicisitudes del tráfico humano en la frontera para ayudar a otros migrantes. El centro lleva dos años estableciendo campamentos en el desierto para dar buscar personas perdidas que, con frecuencia, son abandonados por los coyotes. También colocan tanques de agua en lugares estratégicos, y tratan de prevenir a los migrantes de posibles peligros, como la presencia de minutemen, los cazamigrantes que patrullan la frontera.

Lo que más llama la atención es que, en el contexto de una situación en la que los gobiernos no sólo no proveen soluciones para la gente, sino que la conducen más y más a la marginación y a la muerte, sean justamente los más marginados, la "escoria de la sociedad", como dice el propio Sergio, los que lleven a cabo ese trabajo fuera de los paradigmas tanto del gobierno como del capital.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


One more photo. It's a little bright, but it features cameos of some of the people we've been working with here in Arizona. From left to right, Josete, Delle (from Border Links), Miguel, Alejandro, and Dan. We've been working on the immigration documentary with Josete and Miguel, and Border Links is one of the organizers of the walk.

Tucson - Reportaje sobre la Inmigración / Report on Immigration

Nuestra estadía en Tucson tuvo que prolongarse por la providencial avería de Rocinante, nuestra fiel moto, que decidió descomponerse en pleno desierto. Como tuvimos que mandar pedir la parte por internet, nos vimos obligados a permanecer aquí varios días. Pero eso nos dio la oportunidad de conocer mejor la ciudad, que a primera vista no inspira mucho cariño, pero que tiene sus cositas escondidas, sobre todo en las relaciones de las personas, la comunidad de gente comprometida y modernosa. Pero sobre todo tuvimos la oportunidad de participar en la caminata por el desierto junto con unas 100 personas, cuyo objeto es concientizar la opinión pública sobre la tragedia de las muertes de los migrantes en el desierto gracias a las políticas de militarización de la frontera. Nuestras experiencias aquí, y las entrevistas con migrantes, activistas etc, resultaron en este documentario de radio, que les recomendamos escuchen: http://www.radiozapatista.org/migranttrail.mp3.

Our stay in Tucson was longer than expected thanks to the providential breakdown of Rocinante, our faithful motorcycle, which decided to stop right in the middle of the desert. Since we had to order a radiator fan through the internet, we had to wait here several days. But that gave us the opportunity to get to know the city better, which a first sight is not particularly inspiring, but which in fact has its hidden secrets, especially in regards to human relations and the community of committed activists. And, above all, we had the opportinity of participating in the Migrant Trail, a walk through the desert to raise public awareness of the tragic deaths of migrants in the desert caused by the absurd politics of border militarization. Our experiences here and the interviewes with migrants, activitsts, etc., resulted in this radio documentary, which we suggest you listen to: http://www.radiozapatista.org/migranttrail.mp3.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Frontera de muerte y resistencia

por Alejandro Reyes

Yanet está muy delgada y tiene la mirada triste. Lentamente se desplaza con su andador y se acomoda con dificultad en el sofá. Tiene un pie enyesado y, en las rodillas, profundas llagas. Hablando con lentitud, llorando cuando los recuerdos se vuelven demasiado vivos, nos cuenta su historia. Y conforme habla, esta pequeña mujer va creciendo, se agiganta, y nosotros quedamos pequeños y mudos ante la fortaleza humana y la brutalidad de un sistema ciego y cruel.

Yanet salió del hospital ayer, donde pasó tres días recuperándose de lo que por muy poco podría haber sido su muerte. Como miles, millones de mexicanos y latinoamericanos, Yanet atravesó todo México desde su pueblo en la costa de Chiapas para cruzar la frontera en búsqueda de una vida digna. En la costa de Chiapas el huracán Stan a finales del año pasado destruyó no sólo los poblados, la infraestructura, las viviendas, los ranchos, sino que acabó con las fuentes de trabajo. Desempleada, sin ninguna oportunidad de salir adelante y viendo a su familia empobrecer sin remedio, Yanet decidió migrar al norte. Como tantos otros, vino a Sonora, al pueblo de Altar, el punto de encuentro de migrantes y polleros y toda la industria formal e informal del tráfico humano. De ahí, a Sásabe y a la travesía por el desierto. “Los polleros te la pintan muy bonita”, nos dice. “Dicen que es fácil, unos dos días de camino, sólo hay que llevar un garrafón de 4 litros de agua. Pero todo es mentira. A mí lo que me gustaría decirles a los que quieren venir para acá, sobre todo a las mujeres, es que no les crean a los polleros. Es muy duro.”

El clima en el desierto es inclemente y los peligros innumerables: insolación, deshidratación, hambre, víboras, coyotes, rancheros racistas, migras, helicópteros, armas, asaltantes, violaciones. Yanet tiene problemas de presión, y en las subidas sentía desmayarse. Los polleros la insultaban: “¡Ni para caminar sirves!”, le gritaban. La jaloneaban, la empujaban, y en una de esas se cayó y se rompió el tobillo.

“Nunca me imaginé que me iban a abandonar”, nos repite una y otra vez. “Nunca, nunca, me imaginé que me iban a abandonar”. Hay que estar media hora, una hora en el desierto para empezar a entender lo que significa ser abandonada allí. La inclemencia del sol, el frío de la noche, la completa ausencia de seres humanos. Todo el mes de mayo estuvo gateando por el desierto, desde el día 2 hasta el 26. Veinticuatro días sin comer, arrastrándose con las rodillas y las manos destruidas, el pie hinchado, febril, deshidratada. De alguna manera fue encontrando suficiente agua para sobrevivir: en un arroyo, en charcos inmundos que le revolvían el estómago y la hacían vomitar, en botellas abandonadas por otros migrantes en posibles redadas de la migra. En cierto momento encontró a cinco hombres, también migrantes, que trataron de ayudarla. Hicieron una camilla con una cobija, entre todos la trataron de cargar, pero no llegaron muy lejos. Finalmente, encontraron leña e hicieron una gran fogata, con la esperanza de que, al prenderla en la noche, los helicópteros de la migra la encontrarían. Se despidieron, cada quién con su destino, dejándola atrás con la soledad y la muerte en la encrucijada ética de la desesperación: salvar el pellejo significa, bajo la lógica creada por la militarización de la frontera, entregar al otro a las manos de la muerte. Me recuerda los dilemas éticos planteados por Primo Levi en sus descripciones de la experiencia de Auschwitz y su concepto de la Zona Gris, donde las víctimas son obligadas por la situación a darse la espalda, cuando no a condenarse mutuamente. La propia Yanet me dice en voz baja: “Yo creo que Dios me castigó, porque la primera vez que traté de cruzar, una mujer perdió su hijo cuando nos agarró la migra y todo mundo corrió. Ella le había dejado su hijo de cuatro años a uno de los hombres que caminaba en el grupo, y cuando llegó la migra él huyó, con todo y niño. La migra soltó a los perros, el hombre se asustó y dejó al niño y la migra finalmente lo encontró. Pero yo le dije a la señora que ella tenía la culpa, que cómo le dejaba su hijo a un desconocido. Yo creo que Dios me castigó porque entonces no entendía lo que ella estaba sufriendo, cómo es difícil caminar cuando ya no hay fuerzas y lo que debe haber sentido cuando perdió a su hijo.” Curiosamente, la condenación de Yanet hace eco inconsciente al discurso oficial norteamericano: cuando un menor muere en el desierto, los culpables son la madre o el padre. Recientemente se llegó al extremo de encarcelar a un hombre que fue atropellado junto con su hijo por un ranchero que los perseguía por el desierto. El culpable por la muerte del niño, según las autoridades norteamericanas, fue el padre, por negligencia.

La fiebre, el hambre y la deshidratación arreciaban conforme pasaban los días. De día, Yanet buscaba las escasas sombras, se enterraba en la arena, trataba de protegerse la cabeza del sol y se colocaba piedras frías sobre el vientre para calmar los dolores y los calambres. Y conforme sus descripciones avanzaban en el tiempo, se volvían más nebulosas, oníricas, delirantes, replicando el delirio de la fiebre, el cansancio y el hambre. Así es la descripción del rancho aparentemente abandonado que encontró, donde pudo beber agua y donde no quiso pasar la noche por miedo. Flotan imágenes inconexas: una camioneta con arañones, la llave de agua y sobre todo una foto, con tres hombres armados, cartucheras en la cintura y cruzándoles el pecho.

Se alejó de los ranchos que se volvían más frecuentes conforme se acercaba a la carretera, segura de que, en vez de ayuda, encontraría violencia. En la carretera, finalmente, después de 22 días de desesperación, un hombre mexicano y su hija la vieron y llamaron a una ambulancia que la llevó al hospital. Ahora está en la casa de una persona extraordinaria, una de tantas que se arriesga ante las leyes draconianas que transforman la solidaridad humana en un crimen.

Mientras Yanet habla, Sandra, sentada en un sillón, escucha con esa mirada humilde que la caracteriza. “Bueno, pero tú también tienes algo que contar, ¿verdad?”, dice Miguel.

“Sí”, responde con esa sonrisa amable, sencilla, transparente, resignada, cargada de tristeza y a la vez de determinación. “Se me murió mi bebé.”

Sandra es de Michoacán, donde vivía con su madre y sus hermanas. Trabajaba en una fábrica de Coca-Cola, donde ganaba 600 pesos a la semana, hasta que la fábrica cerró. “La renta es de 1400 pesos al mes, y mi mamá gana 1500.” Es difícil verla llorar, pero al recordar la desesperación de su familia, no puede contener las lágrimas.

Embarazada de 6 meses, Sandra decidió migrar a los Estados Unidos para poder ayudar a su madre, para que sus hermanas menores pudieran continuar estudiando, para que su hermanito de 8 meses no tuviera que pasar las penurias por las que ella ha pasado.

No nos cuenta muchos detalles, su descripción es sencilla: se nos acabó el agua, pasé dos días sin beber, me deshidraté y mi bebé se me murió dentro de la panza. Por fortuna, a ella no la abandonaron. La llevaron hasta la carretera, febril, moribunda, cuando los sorprendió la migra. Alguien le quitó su mochila con el poco dinero que tenía, una foto de su hermanito y las direcciones de sus familiares en los Estados Unidos. Y después no supo lo que sucedió: despertó en el hospital. Cuando pregunto por qué no fue deportada, la compañera que está con nosotros me explica. Cuando la migra lleva a alguien al hospital de emergencia, no regresan por él, para no tener que pagar los costos médicos.

Sandra piensa quedarse poco tiempo en Estados Unidos, lo suficiente para ahorrar un poco de dinero y ayudar a su familia. Sueña con regresar a México para enterrar a su bebé. “¿Para qué lo quiero aquí, si yo aquí no pienso regresar?”

En el transcurso de la noche, ambas recibieron llamadas de sus familiares y ambas tuvieron la noticia de que al día siguiente alguien las recogería y las llevaría rumbo a sus respectivos destinos: Oregon y Florida.

En los últimos días hemos hablado con un buen número de activistas y defensores de derechos humanos, que nos llevan a una reflexión sobre el fenómeno de la migración que es mucho más compleja que cualquiera de los debates que se llevan a cabo a nivel gubernamental en ambos lados de la frontera. Buscando, con los compañeros del Ciepac, las causas estructurales de la migración, nos enfrentamos con la coincidencia nada aleatoria entre el Tratado de Libre Comercio de Norteamérica (NAFTA) y la militarización de la frontera y, ahora, el salto sin precedentes de esa militarización y el Tratado de Libre Comercio de Centroamérica (TLCAN). La relación entre el llamado “libre comercio”, el neoliberalismo, el capitalismo desenfrenado, y el aumento de la migración, por un lado, y el endurecimiento de las posturas antiinmigrantes, por el otro, es insoslayable. En ambos lados de la frontera, los intereses económicos del gran capital articulan, de forma sistémica, procesos de exclusión, marginación y explotación de mano de obra barata que están arrinconando más y más a la gente, y llevando a los horrores cotidianos de historias como las de Sandra y Yanet. Esas historias no pueden, no deben dejar de indignarnos y de llenarnos de rabia. La pregunta es qué hacer con esa rabia y esa indignación. Para dónde canalizarla, como transformarla en una fuerza creativa.

Es esa la pregunta que se ha planteado la Otra Campaña y la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona. Cuando estuve en San Diego, al inicio de este viaje, uno de mis hermanos, con cierta perplejidad, me dijo que no entendía qué diablos quería yo con los zapatistas. Los cambios se hacen, dijo mi hermano, por medio de las elecciones, de los partidos, de los mecanismos de la democracia institucional. Hablando hace unos días con Miguel Pickard y Josete Gaya, me di cuenta de que la difícil conversación que tuve con mi familia no es sino un reflejo de las opiniones (y de la falta de conocimiento sobre el tema) de gran parte de la población mexicana.

¿Qué es la Otra Campaña? ¿Qué es el neozapatismo después de la Sexta Declaración? ¿Por qué nos importa? ¿Por qué sus ideas tienen tanta relevancia para México, para el mundo?

Este es más o menos el propósito de este viaje y de estas anotaciones. Abrir un espacio más para la palabra que los medios masivos callan o tergiversan, no sólo para aquéllos que comparten el entusiasmo por las posibilidades que el pensamiento zapatista plantea, sino sobre todo para los demás, para los que poco conocen al respecto, para los que no están de acuerdo, para los mexicanos y ciudadanos del mundo, amigos, parientes, desconocidos, para que con nuestras diferencias y desacuerdos podamos comenzar a pensar nuevas formas de pensar el mundo.

En las interminables discusiones ideológicas entre derecha e izquierda, los dos ejes sobre los que giran las soluciones y las utopías son el capital, la iniciativa privada y las leyes del mercado, por un lado, o el gobierno populista o socialista, por el otro. Y las alternativas que la democracia electoral ofrece se reducen a esos dos ejes.

Pero el zapatismo y la Otra Campaña se plantean una tercera alternativa: la posibilidad de que el pueblo, la gente, encuentre sus propias soluciones independientemente tanto del gobierno como de las grandes empresas. La base de la Otra Campaña está en el concepto de la autonomía y de la formación de redes de autonomías, y está inspirada en la experiencia de años de las comunidades autónomas zapatistas de Chiapas. Ningún gobierno tiene, hoy por hoy, la capacidad de sanar los abismos creados por el capital y las supuestas leyes del libre comercio. La única alternativa real que tenemos si queremos un cambio verdadero es la unión efectiva de todos los de abajo y la construcción de soluciones alternativas, comunitarias, autónomas, independientes. La Otra Campaña es el gran atrevimiento, la gran osadía, de saltar de la teoría a la práctica, de la utopía a la labor nada sencilla de la construcción de esa otra posibilidad.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Oxnard to Tucson

From Oxnard, we set out towards Tucson, AZ to meet up with our colleagues from CIEPAC, who were participating in an event called "The Migrant Trail." Just across the border into Arizona we stopped for the night. Since we couldn't find a campground that wasn't specifically set up for RVs, we decided to just pull off the highway we were on, drive into the desert, and camp there.

Ate at some great local diners along the way:

Now we're in Tucson working with Miguel and Jose-T on the immigration documentary. Interviews and such. And thinking about our route in Mexico. It sounds like the Zapatistas aren't going to leave Mexico City after all. Marcos' most recent letter calls for grassroots mobilization by "zones," which will be defined in a democratic and participatory way (that is, not by traditional geographic concerns like spatial proximity). Events are scheduled for June 11 and June 24-25:

- Dislocación local con tema y acción definida.- Arte, Cultura y Comunicación por la libertad y la justicia para l@s luchador@s sociales. Se propone que sea el 11 de Junio del 2006, cada quien en su lugar según su propio modo.

- Concentraciones Zonales.- Agrupamientos de estados, regiones, subregiones y localidades según el acuerdo de cada quien (según la propuesta que se acuerde en la Comisión de Enlace Nacional formada para eso, si se aprueba, de manera provisional). O sea reunirse para ver problemas y demandas conjuntas, para analizar, discutir y en su caso acordar coordinaciones, acciones y apoyos. Se propone que las Concentraciones Zonales se realicen el 24 y 25 de junio (claro, si es que ya se formó y reunió antes la Comisión de Enlace, y ya se conoce la propuesta).
So we wrote to some of the organizers in the states that we'll be passing through on the way to D.F. Hopefully, we'll be able to participate in some of these events, and at the same time make it down to Mexico City in time to be there for the "plenaria" on June 30.