Javier Sicilia and the challenge to us all

By Paulina Gonzalez


"In August and September of this year, we will be joining together with North American, Mexican, and Central American organizations on a U.S. caravan on a route of peace and justice.   We will do this because it is important that Central Americans, immigrants, and Mexicans radicalized in the United States, understand that American arms are strengthening the ability of Mexican organized crime to kill.  Only through working together can we put an end to this and construct a unity based on our humanity that extends beyond our borders, political ideologies, and differences."  These were the words spoken by Javier Sicilia, who moments earlier erected a plaque, weighing 60 kilos, dedicated to the memory of his son, Juanelo, and his six friends who were killed in Cuernavaca a year earlier.

For Spanish click here.

A few feet from the stage a quilt was being constructed, and both women and men sat embroidering individual squares. Each stitch on each square lovingly and painstakingly constructed the story of another person, who like Juanelo, had disappeared or been murdered as the result of Mexico's war on narco traffickers.  Not far from there stood dozens of photos of the victims of the war, crosses were strewn across the plaza's cement floor, altars dedicated to the war's victims lined the perimeter of the plaza.  Families lined the plaza wearing t-shirts with the photo of a loved one that had fallen victim to the drug war.  From the stage, Javier reminded us that the Mexican government sought to criminalize these young men and women, dismissing their murder or disappearance as if it had been earned by their criminal behavior.  In this way, the Mexican government sought to wash their hands of the responsibility they have for the 60,000 dead.  Javier's words and the words spoken from the stage by victims of the drug war, refused to allow the Mexican government to wash its hands of the blood that stains them.

The photos lining the plaza of young men and women that stared back at us, reminded us of the humanity of the victims, of their innocence and needless death. Their eyes reminded us of our own responsibility and culpability through our silence or unwillingness to act, in the continued suffering and pain of Mexico.

As a witness to this day, as a Mexican American, with family on both sides of the border, the pain and responsibility feels personal. In the U.S. the mainstream news reports on the violence south of the border, spreading fear and making us feel impotent.  Last year, my father planned to visit family in Mexico.  He planned to drive south with a friend from Los Angeles to his hometown of Las Palmas, Michoacan.  My mother and I pleaded with him not to go.  I remember very clearly the internal struggle that was evident on my father's face as he realized the increasing risk his family in Mexico faced and the risk he would have to face if he wanted to visit them.   My father, like so many other immigrants living in the U.S., are separated from their family by a militarized border, and now they are also separated by growing violence and fear.

Yesterday, I witnessed the courage of the victims and the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity.   Men and women took to the stage fueled by "rage, pain, and love" and condemned the government and the police who fail to protect them or played a direct role in the disappearance or death of a loved one. All the while, police armed with automatic weapons watched from the sidelines. It was then that I realized that I, that we, are not impotent. That I, as a Mexican American, not only have a responsibility because my tax dollars are being used to fund the drug war that has claimed so many lives, but that I also have a responsibility to my father and my family south of the border.  That is why when I leave Mexico on Saturday, I will carry with me this responsibility and use it to ensure that the Mexican people's story of struggle will be told in the U.S. The Movement's caravan to the U.S. will be met with people like my father, who will hear the story of the victims and the movement and like me will realize that they are not impotent and that we can and should act to ensure that there are no more deaths.

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