|English | Español||March 20, 2018 | Issue #41|
Student Alex Benhumea Dies in a City Hospital a Month after the Repression in Atenco
A Multitude Arrives at the Wake to Say Goodbye to the Young Man Shot by a Gas Canister
By Juan Trujillo
Photo: D.R. 2006 Ernesto Muñiz
This latest turn of events that Alexis’ father, Angel, called “an assassination by the State,” interrupts the Mexican political stage two days after Subcomandante Marcos of the Sixth Commission of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials) appeared just a few blocks from here, the funeral home where Alexis’ body is being waked. On Monday night, to a full house, Marcos participated in a discussion and poetry reading with intellectuals in memoriam of the playwright Bertolt Brecht. The following night, Tuesday, came a televised “debate” between the five candidates for the presidency of the Republic, which turned out to be more of a repetition of monologues.
Alex had received the mortal impact of a teargas canister – documented by Narco News – on the left side of his cranium on the morning of May 4 in San Salvador Atenco at the moment that federal, state and municipal police forces made their second repressive incursion into the town via Fresno Street.
In the Los Angeles funeral home in Colonia Roma of this capital city, family members, friends, compañeros in struggle, human rights and non-governmental organization representatives, and alternative and commercial media reporters began arriving at 4 p.m. to mourn alongside the body of Alexis. Angel slowly narrated the student’s history of struggle as dozens of people arrived intermittently to express their solidarity. With his face as firm as a strong oak and the penetrating look and humble smile that he has offered in other interviews over the last month, the father told how his son’s health became complicated as the cerebral death – diagnosed and confirmed on Sunday, May 28 – became an irreversible detriment since “his body organs stopped responding and his heart just ceased to beat.”
After a little more than a month of constant anguish for the Benhumea family, time seemed to have converted days into years of waiting. Some days ago, Angel shares, the Zaragoza Hospital of the Social Services and Security Institute of State Workers (ISSSTE) urged the family to transfer Alexis into the intensive care unit a block away; the Benhumea family resisted and succeeded in maintaining him in “intermediary care” and then transferred him to the López Mateos Hospital.
As dozens of floral arrangements arrived and were placed together with those from the Other Campaign and the EZLN, Angel commented to this journalist that the legal complaint against this crime is going to name those who are guilty of Alexis’ death: “The Mexican State and its representatives: the president (Vicente Fox) and the governor of the State of Mexico (Enrique Peña Nieto), since the police were their instrument” to implement a military operation.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Ernesto Muñiz
At 7:30 p.m., as 150 mourners concentrated in front of the funeral home, Jorge Salinas arrived. He is the telephone worker who was brutally beaten by police in Atenco. Angel, who refuses to break down, emphasized that this struggle “is the new way to make politics and so it is necessary to build an anti-fascist movement with much still to be done.” About the role of youth, he added, “I’m surprised by how many people have come here. The people are indignant. The young people see themselves in my son.”
The shared pain, the moving looks, and the tears were many. They continued late into the night. Women, men, children, elders, family members, citizens of Toluca and the State of Mexico, professors and students from the economic department arrived, saying, “He who dies for life, loves life.” Some compañeros from the Internationalist Movement to which Alexis belonged promised: “Alexis has not died. He is in our heart… His death will be avenged.”
The person most visibly affected by the death of Alexis is his tender mother. This delicate woman’s look and touch upon receiving us speak for themselves: pain, nostalgia, injustice. Chela offered this message to the youths: “Take care, you young people who are struggling. Beware of this government.” She added “our Ollin (Alexis) is very content due to the support you’ve brought him here.”
Many people mentioned that Delegate Zero should have come to this wake. However, according to unofficial information as of 9 p.m., Subcomandante Marcos had sent a message saying that he found himself “at a loss for words” and so was keeping silence. This is an indigenous tradition when the unfortunate loss of a loved one, or, in this case, a compañero in struggle, occurs. As of 9:45 there was no official word of any visit.
At 9:45 the members of the People’s Front for Defense of the Land (FPDT, in its Spanish initials) of San Salvador Atenco arrived at the wake. Between chants loaded with energy, the farmers, with their machetes in their hands led by their spokeswoman Ortencia said: “The people of Atenco have a wound that grew larger with the death of Alexis. Alexis did not die. The government killed him.” After delivering a machete as a symbolic gift to the Benhumea family, they also offered a space in the Atenco cemetery for Alexis. The burial was originally scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. in the San Jeronimo cemetery in Mexico City. However, as of late Wednesday night, as people continued to arrive, the family was still considering the invitation of the FPDT.
Today, time and words have stopped for a moment. But the conviction of the voices and shouts of solidarity break the deafening silence to demand justice and freedom. This loss of an adherent of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and of the Other Campaign means the end of one life, but also the beginning of something more that, perhaps, is still to come.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism