Mexican and International "Other Campaign" Organizations Gather in Atenco
'It's another way of organizing ourselves, of listening to ourselves, of helping ourselves.'
By Erin Rosa
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
November 15, 2010
Members of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land and the Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) met in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico over the weekend to discuss moving forward with their opposition to the political systems and business interests that seek to take over their land and their neighborhoods. The goal of the meeting was to unite members and adherents of the Zapatista Other Campaign, a movement that began in 2006 during Mexico’s presidential elections and sought to construct an alternative from “below and to the left.”
The event, officially titled the National Encuentro of Organizations and Struggles of The Other Campaign, was a convergence of social movements from both Mexico and the Untied States. The MJB is based in New York City’s East Harlem (referred to as Spanish Harlem or “El Barrio”), and The Front is from the town of Atenco. Both groups are alike in that along with being adherents to the Other Campaign they have successfully organized against powerful business interests that have tried to destroy their communities.
In 2002, The Front stopped the construction of an international airport that would have ruined their land. On the other side of the US-Mexico border the MJB has organized tenants and immigrants in New York against gentrification, defeating the London-based corporation Dawnay Day Group in its attempt to evict residents in El Barrio from 47 buildings in order to raise the rent.
The encuentro included open forums on a variety of topics, ranging from indigenous rights to the struggles of homosexual and transgendered communities. On Saturday, attendees totaling approximately 40 people formed different work groups to discuss topics like creating autonomous communities, opposing displacement and protecting the environment. That afternoon members of The Front cooked a traditional Mexican lunch of tacos of chicharrón, nopales and Spanish rice for those participating in the meeting.
Residents in Atenco have witnessed some of the most brutal human rights abuses against social movements in Mexico. During the Other Campaign, in May 2006, state and federal police launched a brutal attack against the town in response civil resistance The Front was waging in opposition to the eviction of flower vendors in nearby Texcoco to make room for a new Wal-Mart.
After police raided both towns, two people were left dead, hundreds were arrested, and dozens of women were gang-raped in front of witnesses. Twelve additional Atenco residents were locked in prison with sentences ranging from 30 to 112 years. It wasn’t until June 2010 that Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered their immediate release based on a lack of evidence. Right after the raid the MJB peacefully occupied and shut down the Mexican Consulate in New York in solidarity with Atenco.
“It’s another way of organizing ourselves, of listening to ourselves, of helping ourselves,” said Front member Trinidad Ramirez del Valle, when asked why The Front had decided to host the MJB in Atenco. Her husband, Ignacio del Valle, was one of the political prisoners released this summer. Her daughter, América del Valle, had been in hiding from legal charges stemming from the police raid until they were dropped shortly after the Supreme Court decision. “We’re also talking about our brothers in the struggle. They are organizing from New York and there is no doubt their actions have promoted liberty…I think that for us it’s an identity that we have with them.”
During the event The Front and Juan Haro with the MJB handed out a joint statement referring to the town of Atenco as a benchmark for “the struggles of resistance that show that the union of our forces can subdue our enemies and win battles.” In opposing the political parties and capitalist system in Mexico the communique stated that “now more than ever the dignified people who make up what is the Other Campaign should be united in all parts and in all ways possible.”
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