Joaquin Cienfuegos: Report from Mexico City 06/18 and Atenco 06/19/06
The following are the second and third correspondences from Joaquin Cienfuegos, traveling throughout Mexico reporting from the struggle on the streets. Today’s messages are coming from DF and Atenco, and cover much of the repression being witnessed across the country. More updates to come. All messages are free for broad distribution and will be sent across the net. Please forward, and let this be an inspiration to a growing movement in North America towards internationalism
Report from Mexico City DF 06-18-06
I visited two historical sites today, El Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco. These two sites I visited by coincidence but to me it struck something and connected to a couple of current events.
Mexico City or Tenochtitlan was founded by the Mexica in 1325. The city was so large that in 1521 when the Spanish invaders came, they were quoted saying, In all the places we´ve been to, even Rome, we have never seen so many people in one place and such creations (as in the pyramids). The Spanish exterminated most Mexica and other indigenous people through mass slaughter, rape, and disease forcing to assimilate to their way of life and culture (as well as forced slavery, stratification based on how much European blood one had, and dehumanization of indigenous people which for the most part still exists today in Mexico, Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere). Templo Mayor, or Great Temple, stood at the Zocalo or the town center of Tenochtitlan. It was a double pyramid dedicated to Tlaloc (god of water and rain) and Huitzilopochtli (god of war), there were other special temples, and schools. This was all destroyed when the Spanish came in 1521, building a Catholic cathedral afterwards.
Later today I visited Tlatelolco, which was the site of a student massacre in 1968 by the military and the police. This happened on October 2, of 1968 en la Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan. There were uprisings all over the world around this time, there was worldwide discontent and rebellion which was being echoed in Mexico City by the students at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (National Autonomous University of Mexico). The world´s eyes were also on Mexico this year on the eve of the Olympics, and the students used this to their advantage to protest politicians for not fulfilling promises of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 of eliminating poverty and inequality, and the limited levels of democracy in the political system. Students and workers protested in Tlatelolco in their thousands, chanting, Mexico Liberty! The army and police surrounded the square, along with armored vehicles and tanks, started shooting live ammunition into the crowd including bystanders, and removing the bodies in garbage trucks. It seemed that the U.S. government had something to do with this (as always when there is some massacre or genocide in the world since they´re experts at it). The U.S. government gave the Mexican government, radios, weapons, ammunition and riot control training in preparation for Olympics security, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) station in Mexico City produced almost daily reports tracking developments within the university community, they even bought off a student and had him try to discredit the student movement as to being tied to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
All this rang home for me. Not just with my own experiences and particular ways that I´m still affected by colonialism and capitalism, but with the current situation in Mexico. These massacres and genocides are happening today in Mexico, Latin America, United States, Palestine, Africa, the Middle East and different parts of the world the U.S. government and military have their greedy and bloody tentacles on. Today in Mexico it is happening in Atenco, and it is happening in Oaxaca.
Report from Atenco, Mexico 06-19-06
San Salvador Atenco, Mexico is a small town 20 miles just outside of Mexico, City and bordering Texcoco. Atenco is a town that it is a transitional phase of a rural town to an urban town and it is made up of different people, campesinos, families, indigenous people, teachers, workers, and small business owners. Atenco is more known for the rebellion that took place there in 2002 and the repression and attacks on their community in May of 2006. Today I traveled to San Salvador Atenco to visit with people and see if I could connect with someone there. When I arrived from Texcoco, it wasn´t long before I noticed graffiti on walls from the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (Communities Front in Defense of the Land), El Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), and La Otra Campaña. I visited the community center of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (FPDT) and met with the lead coordinator and director of the Frente and the compass of the Frente. They met with me, and talked with me, and took me in as one of their own companeñeros. They were some of the most humble revolutionary people I´ve met.
El FPDT was formed in 2002, when people in Atenco rose up when the Vicente Fox government was trying to expropriate their land to build an airport that would destroy local agriculture and remove people from their homes. People rose up with machetes, shovels, and various tools, to say, Tierra Si! Aviones No! (Yes to Land, No to the Airport!) This struggle set an example and inspired many people throughout Mexico and the world, and they themselves received inspiration by the Zapatistas.
The people in Atenco defeated the government in building an airport, and in 2006 the coward government retaliated and held Atenco under siege. In Texcoco, which is neighbor to Atenco, on the morning of May 3, 2006, the state police blocked flower vendors from setting up their stands at the local market. The police then attempted to clear the vendors, beating and arresting anyone who resisted. The community of Texcoco called on their neighboring community in Atenco to support, and they did by blocking a highway to Texcoco in protest. The police attacked the demonstration, and the community members defended themselves with machetes, clubs, Molotov cocktails, and bottle rockets. The police were held back for the entire day. The next day, May 4th, saw some of the most horrific police brutality witnessed by a community.
The compañeros y compañereas del FPDT explained to me what had happened when over three thousand Federal Police, State Police and the local police came into their community. The police surrounded the small city of Atenco, shot tear gas, and beat anyone and anything (including animals) that came across them. They had six police helicopters circling the communities, with PRIstas (neo conservatives of the PRI) from the community, who were bought off, pointing out the houses where members of the FPDT lived in. Hortensia Ramos, the director of the FPDT, said, This act of repression is an act of revenge by the government for having stopped their project of building an airport, a project that would have made them millions.
After the raid two people were dead, a 14 year old shot by a 38 caliber of the Special Forces and a 20 year old, Alexis Benhumea, who died from a tear gas canister that hit and fractured his head. Many women were raped, 47 have come forward but no one knows the exact number. There are still prisoners being held under trumped up charges. Three prisoners are under maximum security, being accused of kidnapping, and attacks on the media, who happen to be part of the leadership of the FDPT, Nacho del Valle, Felipe Alvarez, and Hector Galindo. There are 28 others being detained for attacks on the media and two under aged youth are also detained. There were 5 people illegally deported, four of them women, also raped (who were there because of the Otra Campaña). There were people detained and beaten from all sectors: students, farmers, indigenous people, house wives, elderly, youth, sick and disabled people (in one case beating a paraplegic man and then detaining him). On the way to prison was when the police raped and continued to beat prisoners. They illegally entered people’s homes, stealing from them, and arresting entire families, not thinking of the psychological effects this would have on children. One 14 year old was beaten into a coma. It seemed to me all these psychological and physical torture tactics used on the people of Atenco were taught by US police departments and the US government (who is best at carrying out occupation and raids on communities as we see in South Central because of the gang injunction, and we saw at the South Central Farm).
The police were´t able to destroy the movement of the FDPT, where other members who hid from the police and were able to escape capture were able to take their place and continue the work of in their communities and with La Otra Campaña. People would tell me what they did to escape and how they fooled the police. They saw this siege not only as an attack on human rights, but an attack on their autonomy.
Throughout the day compas from Atenco hung out with me and I with them. We talked about our political views and I told them about what type of organizing I´m doing in Los Angeles with Cop Watch LA and how this organization are Aderentes to the Otra Campaña. They received the idea of organizing for autonomy from police and observing the police better than anybody else I´ve talked to in the city (even though a lot of people thought the project was good, with the people in Atenco this struck more home because of recent events and their history of organized self-defense). Hortensia defended the position of the FDPT at a television interview she invited me to for a Venezuelan T.V. show (where the hostess also heard about the struggle at the South Central Farm when she asked me if I heard about it after, I told her where I was from). ‘The police are coming into our communities not to talk to us, but to massacre us, and to impose themselves on us and our autonomy. They´re coming in to kill us, and beat us. We are not going to allow ourselves to be beaten down. We use the machete, along with shovels and picks because those are our tools. Just because I´m a teacher doesn´t mean I don´t work the land and I don´t live off of it, I use the machete too. Naturally we know how to use these tools and we use them to defend ourselves.’ When I talked to her later we talked about this idea of self-defense on how many people in the US (depending on their social position) reject the idea, but how the people I work with closely uphold it and we also think we need to prepare and organize ourselves in this way in our communities, because this system is killing us and we understand this. Hortensia said, ‘We have to integrate the idea of self-defense into the social consciousness of people.’ This made me think of the South Central Farm, and how self-defense is something that needs to be discussed and maybe even brought into that struggle, and not just relying on the tactics of pacifism.
Siempre en lucha,
(I will report more on Atenco tomorrow).