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.

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