Last Friday when social media was abuzz with bad end of the world jokes there was actually something amazing happening in Mexico. Something that showed such dignity that for the first time in a long time I dared to hope.
For those of you who know me you know the rap. Mexico is in crisis. The economy may not be tanking, but the human right’s abuses and a widespread acceptance of corruption leading to impunity make for a nightmarish situation. It is hard to get numbers, but it is not out of reason to say that since Felipe Calderon declared a War on Drugs there have been hundreds of thousands of causalities. There is little hope that the new President, Enrique Peña Nieto will change this since he is basically a pretty boy puppet of the PRI, the corrupt party that “democratically” ruled the country for over 70 years (1929-2000). Slightly, more surprising than Mexican voter fraud is how un-informed we are in the United States about Mexican politics and history even though we share nearly 2,000 miles of border. If you want to learn more I’d reccommend checking out Molly Molloy’s Frontera List, anything by Melissa del Bosque or John M. Ackerman and if you are really interested Charles Bowden has written several books worth looking at. I personally think that is some of the best stuff out there on violence in Mexico in English.
Unfortunately, silencing dissent is nothing new in Mexico and that is what brings me to the Maya. If you don’t know about the Zapatistas I strongly encourage you to do some research. Basically, they are indigenous people (different groups who are descendents of the Maya) from the southern state of Chiapas who have formed a mostly non-violent “army” to protect themselves from a State that has a long history of abusing indigenous communities. They gained faim mostly due to their internet presence in the mid 90s back when internet activism was uncharted territory, and are known for occulting their faces with ski masks and their spokesman, the blue-eyed Subcomandante Marcos. This is a gross over-simplification of the movement, but I could write dozens of posts about it and still only be scratching the surface.
On December 21st, 2012, 40,000 indigenous men, women(some with infants in their arms), and children, marched in perfect formation, through the cities of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Comitan, and Altamirano. What is amazing about this march was that it was done in complete silence. In a country where words often mean nothing their silence meant everything. For nearly two decades they have been organizing and in those two decades there have been considerable efforts to stop them. Politicians aren’t going to listen to their demands, but they can’t deny that they are a force to be reckoned with and with social media their struggle is once again taking place on a global stage. I have never seen a march conducted with such dignity and unity and I was frankly saddened when most of my friends did not even know it was going on. I probably wouldn’t have either if I wasn’t such a twitter addict.
The date they chose was no coincidence. Not only was it the end of the Mayan calendar, but it was the day before the 15th anniversary of the massacre at Acteal where 45 members of an indigienous pacifist group were killed for voicing support of the efforts of the Zapatistas. This bloody event was carried out by “guerrilla” armies supported by same party of the very recently inaugurated president who also has employed guerrilas in the past when he served as governer of the state of Mexico. I really hope he was scared when he saw how organized they were and that he realized that the people are tired of the fighting and violence. Peaceful protest is becoming the norm in a country being torn apart by violence. In a country where activism is often frowned upon. Maybe it really is the beginning of a new era.