Report Back from Mexico City and Toluca, Mexico 06-28-06, 06-29-06

by Joaquin Cienfuegos Tuesday, Jul. 04, 2006 at 9:30 PM

I stayed in Mexico until the 29th of June, and wanted to stay until the 3rd but was unable to change my flight (due to the lack of funds). This is the last report back. Now that Im back home in Los Angeles I will work on translating these into Spanish so that other communities and the people in Mexico that I met will have a chance to read them as well. A friend also talked about helping me turn the reports into a pamphlet. I like to think of the reports as a look into the struggles of Mexico right before the elections.

Report Back from Mexico City and Toluca, Mexico 06-28-06, 06-29-06
I stayed in Mexico until the 29th of June, and wanted to stay until the 3rd but was unable to change my flight (due to the lack of funds). This is the last report back. Now that Im back home in Los Angeles I will work on translating these into Spanish so that other communities and the people in Mexico that I met will have a chance to read them as well. A friend also talked about helping me turn the reports into a pamphlet. I like to think of the reports as a look into the struggles of Mexico right before the elections.

Report from Mexico City DF 06/28/06
By Joaquin Cienfuegos

Yesterday and the day before I spent mostly traveling from Oaxaca back into Mexico City. Before I left Oaxaca I passed by the house of the Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca Ricardo Flores Magon to pick up some materials for a speaking tour that were working on in the South West US to support the struggle in Oaxaca (where the CIPO-RFM will be participating and speaking).

I arrived in the evening of 06/27/06 to Mexico City and attended a cultural event at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana Xochimilco / Autonomous Metropolitan University Xochimilco Campus. There was a week of activities happening at UAM-X for La Otra Campana, my friend from Atenco, who is a member of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, goes there and is part of the Sexuality and Queer Organization at the campus (we talked about how this struggle of queer liberation was important and should be fought, and how challenging the culture of machismo within our communities was a big part of organizing within our communities). The event yesterday, June 27th, was a photo exhibition called, Atenco: Represion y Vida Cotidiana / Atenco: Repression and Every Day Life, and it was also an exhibition of paintings with the collaboration of the Committee Liberty and Justice - Jacobo and Gloria. There were paintings there by Jacobo Silva Nogales, who is a political prisoner along with his wife Gloria Arenas who are political prisoners for six years, have suffered repression, and have been tortured because they fought and organized for justice for the oppressed and the poor in Mexico. My favorite painting from Jacobo Silva Nogales was one entitled Zapata Machetero, which he dedicated to the FPDT in Atenco, it was a portrait of Emiliano Zapatas face constructed by machetes. A story posted next to the painting was that of the FPDT and their close relationship to the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), and how they even provided security of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and defended him and broke through police barricades when they surrounded the house he stayed in when he was in Cuernavaca. There were photos also in exhibition of the repression in Atenco on May 4th, a long with a look into the daily life of the people in Atenco through photos.

Today in the morning I attended a National Encuentro (Gathering) of Anarchists from Mexico (with a couple of people from Southern California as well, Los Angeles and Santa Ana). The national gathering was to discuss building an anarchist federation throughout Mexico. People also wanted to provide an alternative gathering for the Otra Campana; to have a collective analysis on the Otra, get an understanding on everyone's view on the Otra, and hear of everyone's local organizing experiences. The encuentro was scheduled for two days, and I stayed for the first part of the first day and the last part of the second day (I had other commitments, but also was able to contribute to the encuentro, talk, and meet other anarchists from all over Mexico DF, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Chihuahua, Baja Califaztlan, Guanajuato, along with other places).

We had a go around at the encuentro to hear of everyones experiences, and also some of our failures and victories. I noticed that people are faced with the same obstacles and similar experiences in attempts of building anarchist organizations or trying to connect anarchists. Everyone was there to continue to try and build a movement, and connect with each other where they wanted to learn and grow from the mistakes theyve done in the past. In Oaxaca they had some failed attempts where they had some people who were more dedicated than others, people didnt have a basic program to start out with, they tried working with organizations but felt like they were being used. They felt that building a network was best so that everyones political differences would be respected. Right now they had formed networks with different organizations to support the struggle against the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in Oaxaca.

In Mexico there were different collectives from different parts, and they were all there to figure out what to do to combat the mistakes done in the past. Some talked about how individualists and collectivists clashed, were some individuals want to move the collective, the lack of consistency (where people scheduled meetings, and no one showed up to them), how when outreaching anarchists only focused on people who are politicized already and students, how anarchism is not explained to people and how it relates to them, where they saw that they've become a sectarian group of anarco-punks, nothing was being done to integrate themselves (by speaking at schools or doing outreach), there was a lack of formation, lack of study, lack of organization, lack of discussion (so that people can get practice at defending their ideas), and finding other ways of struggling besides just marching. The Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (Autonomous Magonista Collective) talked about what they want to do in terms of building an analysis of different libertarian movements, building a movement nationally and internationally, building a clear vision about a libertarian movement, having self-criticism on our mistakes, and looking at history and learning from it (Magonismo, Federacion Anarquista Mexicana / Mexican Anarchist Federation, the 1980s the student struggles and anarco-punks in Mexico), and building an organization that is able to coordinate with different collectives. The Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (CAMA) says that anarchism doesnt just exist in one sector, it exists in all sectors, "We dont just have to build an anarco-punk scene, we can rebuild anarcho-syndicalism in Mexico". A woman who worked with Indy Media Center in Mexico talked about how anarchism is a way of life, "it's an analysis, and it's not a lifestyle". "For some, when the state becomes too real for them, and they suffer repression, they go home". She said that the libertarian movement has to have a function; it has to act within the social movements, and organize in a broader way so we can be stronger.

In Guanajuato they've had a collective thats been in existence for a long time where if people tried to join it they would be rejected. That collective also only focused on the immediate work and not on the revolutionary organizing for the long term, the camarada (comrade) from Guanajuato had a criticism that because they've been around for such a long time, and don't allow for new ideas, they're stuck on dogma, and do not evolve their thinking. They also had a criticism of the punk scene, for having an immature understanding, and their ideas being based on whatever new scene existed, and how it is just a rebellious phase for many. In Guanajuato they're involved in supporting the struggles of miners.

In many different regions they talked about drugs and alcohol being a problem and a huge obstacle in their organizing. Where punks just wanted to get drunk and high, and not do any work. In Chihuahua they talked about how in the year 2000, they had a collective of 40 punks to start out with, and throughout time those 40 punks stopped coming around (they left because they were overwhelmed by the system, they just got into drugs, or when they saw that things didnt change overnight). They say that they don't work with anarchist teachers who just talk, they work with community and social movement organizations that are anti-capitalist, they work within the movements, and they also work with people from Juarez who have Zapatista ideas.

I participated in this discussion as well. I talked about some of my experiences with the Southern California Anarchist Federation, our failures and our victories. I said that it was important to look at both the victories and failures of our experiences so we can keep on fighting. Also, that there isn't a need for an anarchist movement, but there is for a horizontal revolutionary organization that has a relationship with the popular movements (revolution is a popular struggle, and it is not made by a handful of people), with a strategy, a base for popular support within our communities (so we can all continue to struggle), and to organize those who don't call themselves anarchists around our principles (like mutual aid, horizontalism, autonomy, self-organization, self-determination, and self-defense). Having structure is important, and the role of our organization is to lead by example (in terms of how to struggle, and how we can organize), and democratizing knowledge is part of the process of building horizontalism (some people have more experience than others, and shouldnt hold knowledge as private property). Finally I talked about my vision of a federation of revolutionary community councils, locally, regionally and internationally. We have a lot to learn still, and what is needed is a revolutionary movement of the oppressed.

Later on in the day, I met up with a couple of people from Southern California that I knew, and we went to another event at UAM Xochimilco on La Otra Campana. The event was a conference entitled, "La Otra Campana: De Cuando se Organizan lod De Abajo (The Other Campaign: When those from the Bottom Organize)". The speakers included, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (Sexta Commission of the EZLN), Arturo Anguiano (Adherent to the Otra), Sergio Rodriguez (from Rebeldia Magazine), Yan Maria Yaoyolotl (Organization of Lesbian Zapatistas and Mujer Arte), and Francisco Cruz (militant of the Socialist Workers Party, Partido Obrero Socialista). We arrived there a little late and the auditorium was full, and we had to stand in the back. We only got to hear the person from the socialist party and Marcos speak, and most people in the auditorium I think were there to see Marcos.

Marco spoke about the Otra Campana and what it means and how it is going. Some of the things he talked about were traditional politics, anti-capitalism, and the anti-capitalists within La Otra. "In traditional politics, those above put forward their politics, their program, and their principles. The analysis and politics need to come from those who are involved in the movements. The plan is being unraveled by those discussing around the points of the 6th declaration. The politics from above are always where they talk and we listen, we changed that relationship, where people talk and the EZLN listens, so we can build a different relationship built on mutual respect. The Other Campaign is built on mutual understanding, everybody with their way, with their flag, with their demands, with their voice."

"Anti-capitalism of the left, that is said easily but it means to have a position against the systemthere is a system of capitalism, that is build on exploitation. Were not all the same and we are not all equal. There are those who have everything, and those who have nothing. The first ones have because of the second ones. Under capitalism there are those who have money, the capitalists. Then there are those who only have the capacity to intellectually and physically work. This system produces wealth then it concentrates it. Its responsible for robbing workers, for prisoners.., no healthcare, lack of justice, privatizing education, war, social conflict, racism against indigenous people, violence towards women, the attacks and dehumanizing of homosexuals and transgender people, authoritarianism, the criminalization of youth, and the destruction of history and culture. Anti-Capitalism is to go farther away from this. Its about destroying this system and building something else in its place."

Sub Marcos also talked about socialists and anti-capitalists within the Other Campaign, "Socialists arent the only anti-capitalists within the Other Campaign. There are Anarchists and libertarians. Those who say socialism should only be within the Other Campaign mean their socialism. Anarchists do not say their way of thought should lead and be the only ones within the Other Campaign."

At the end of the day, the folks from Southern California and I went to stay at an encampment in Toluca (the capital of Mexico), at the prison Almoloya where the prisoners of the Atenco Repression of May 4th. People have vigils there every night and sleep outside of the prison. They have a media center, kitchen, and have people doing security at night. They play music all night long for the prisoners, out of a sound system, that night we listened to Silvio Rodriguez, the speech from Subcomandante Marcos of earlier, and Pink Floyd.

Report from Toluca, Mexico and Mexico City DF 06/29/06

Unfortunately this was my last day in Mexico, and I felt sad the entire day (I tried to stay longer but had run out of money). I fell in love with the people that I met in Mexico, their humbleness, their rebel spirit, and their revolutionary aspirations that were in practice already.

In the morning people from Atenco, and other municipalities came to organize actions at the different hearings for the political prisoners. People split up and went to the different prisons where political prisoners were being held, Santiaguito, La Palma, and Almolaya prisons. The Southern Califas folks and I went to La Palma, the maximum security prison where three people were being held (Ignacio del Valle, Felipe Alvarez, and Hector Galindo). There were some flower vendors from Texcoco who came, a woman from Texcoco said, "We called on the people from Atenco and they came, so were here supporting their political prisoners." A woman from Catepe, a municipality just outside of Atenco, spoke from a sound system that was set up right outside of the prison and said, "We're all Atenco, it doesnt matter if youre from Guadalajara, from Guerrero, Chiapas, or from California." She later said, "We had machetes to defend ourselves, but we never cut or hurt a police officer. Now if you attack us we will, because you massacred us." Talking to other women from Atenco they told me, "I rather be working sweeping floors than be a cop. Its a much more dignified job." Another woman sitting next to her told me, "They [cops] live off the people, and then they kill the people." The speakers from the mic sent messages to the political prisoners that the women and men are still fighting. A friend that I met from Atenco, who's uncle was being held inside La Palma, told me that the military might be sent into Atenco the day of the elections, he told me, "We never had military before at our protests, he said as he pointed at twenty to thirty Mexican soldiers, They think this will intimidate us, but this only enrages us more."

The campesinos created their own chants, and even songs that they yelled and sang outside of the prison. Some of them were, "Alexis no murio, el gobierno lo mato (Alexis didnt died, He was killed by the government)", they sang, "Naranja dulce, Limon Partido, Pinche Gobierno ya estas podrido, si quieras guerra te la daremos, pero los presos los sacaremos (in song: Sweet orange, slice lemon, fucking government youre already rotten. If you want war well give it to you, but the prisoners will be freed)."

Later in the day I caught a bus back to Mexico City, for the Anarchist Encuentro that was still going on at the Centro Social Libertario Ricardo Flores Magon. When I got there we were talking about organizing an anarchist contingent at the mass mobilization being planned on July 2nd, against all the political parties, and in support of the struggles in Atenco and Oaxaca. We talked about forming affinity groups or cells of 3 in case the contingent was broken up, and we also talked about security (where we discussed having cameras to observe, document, and a form of defense, but also having walky-talkies to coordinate with the rest of the security of the march). There was a good discussion around how we would deal with repression if it came down on us.

After this, the adehrentes of the Otra Campana met to discuss the upcoming National Assembly for the adherents of the Otra Campana. The points of unity around the anarchist participation in the Other Campaign included, 1. Libertarian organization, 2. There is a possibility for libertarian struggle within La Otra, and 3. Support for the social movements within La Otra. Along with these points of unity there were serious concerns and criticisms that came from comrades from all over working within La Otra, who were proposing building a libertarian bloc within La Otra. The concerns included protagonism (where people seek to put themselves out there like the saviors of the people, or to build a cult of personality around themselves), too bureaucratic organization, and even compas from Juarez said some social organizations working within La Otra went as far as to call the anarchists terrorists for dressing, thinking and acting different.

We had a discussion around the different concerns for a couple of hours. Around protagonism, in particular concerning La Otra, I dont think its the individuals in the EZLN who are at fault principally. I think people from the time they're born are trained in thinking that someone else has to solve their problems for them, that someone will make the decisions for them, and I think people sometimes build Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to be that. We have to challenge this, and provide a means to where people can organize themselves without this relationship. The individuals who don't challenge this when it happens are also at fault, as coordinators and organizers, our job isnt to always put ourselves out there, taking credit for things we do not do or do on our own, or impose ourselves. We have to seek to democratize knowledge, build collective ownership, and distribute power. We talked about the importance of uniting with the ideas we agree with within the Other Campaign (which was why most of us were adherents to the 6th Declaration of the Selva Lacandona), but at the same time criticize and call out things we disagree with and oppressive actions, language and behavior. You can't have unity if there is oppression or if there isn't any respect. If there is no respect for anarchists, women, queer people, or different collectives and states that are involved in the campaign there can't be unity or solidarity. You can't have solidarity if there is opportunism, where organizations and individuals use the campaign for their on interests of centralized power (in particular authoritarian communists). We talked about having a clear analysis as anarchists within this national movement on why we're anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, and anti-oppression. We need to get our vision out there, and how we think we can get there and how we can organize ourselves. I talked about why I think it's important to keep our independent position within this movement, and continue our collective work that we were doing already. This is the time to propose a better future and organize to make that a reality.

The comrades asked me to stay with them that night, and asked me to stay longer in Mexico (which I tried to do). I hung out with camaradas from Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Chiapas, DF, and we talked and exchanged stories. They asked me a lot of questions about California and Los Angeles. They asked me what part of LA I lived in, and I told them I grew up in South Central and they heard stories of how the situation was there. They showed me solidarity, and talked about organizing street youth, gangs, punks and hip hop heads, the funny thing I told them was that most of the organization of Cop Watch Los Angeles was that. They thought it was good to hear about an organization made up of the oppressed (women, people of color, queer, trans, working class people).

We talked about music, and our favorite hard core punk bands, and we talked about how hip hop is also from the streets. I told them I listen to all types of music, and when we organize fundraisers and gigs we sometimes even have cumbia bands perform. I mentioned one of my favorite bands, Sin Dios, and some friends mentioned that a vegan punk band boycotted them in Mexico because Sin Dios had made a comment about animal liberation. They said human liberation should come before animal liberation. I told them that I agreed with that, and was saying it before I heard of Sin Dios. We talked about the American punk scene influence on Mexico (the animal liberation, and veganism, and the complacentness with privilege of the American punk scene). I mentioned how a lot of my friends who are punk don't even look the part (and the ones who do, are really different from the privileged punks) and come from the ghettos and barrios (and combine hip hop and punk sometimes) and we see that the anarchists who focus on animal liberation do so because it allows them to lead in a movement without challenging sexism, white supremacy, capitalism, homophobia and their own privilege. A brother from Zacatecas had heard of the South Central Farm, and talked about supporting the struggle by doing outreach to the Zacatecas' community in Los Angeles. A lot of us stayed up all night writing a statement that was going to be read at the National Assembly of Adherents to the Other Campaign. At times we would argue over our different positions, over language, and how to define ourselves, but this is part of the process of learning how to organize ourselves collectively.

Concluding the Visit to Mexico.

In my time in Mexico I learned huge lessons. Like I mentioned to a brother from Chihuahua, about the struggles that I encountered, "In the cities, we're still in preparation, we're still thinking of the struggle in terms of ideas, but in Atenco and Oaxaca they're already putting it into practice." There is definitely a lot to learn from those movements, and I would like to bring back these lessons into my organizing in Los Angeles and adapt these lessons to our conditions in our communities.

There were different organizations, and not everybody worked together either. People had concerns of different organizations, even if they shared similar politics. Although, that relationship wasnt antagonistic, movements just had a mutual understanding that they couldn't work together at this point. When criticism was raised, even if people were inside the same movement or in the Other Campaign, they did it in a way that helped strengthen the movement and the relationships they had within the movement and the Other Campaign.

I also think that there are many things that are similar with some communities in Mexico and communities in the US, and some things that are different. In Mexico there is racism towards indigenous people or anyone who is dark skinned, and in the US white supremacy is also responsible for the oppression of people of color. If you don't speak Spanish in Mexico, youre seen as not being human, just as if you dont speak English in the US. The culture of machismo, religion, the system of patriarchy and other things still subjugate women, queer, and transgendered people in Mexico as in the US. Poor people, working class people, farmers and peasants, are exploited and robbed by the capitalists, in a more overt and brutal way in Mexico due to imperialism, but familiar to immigrants and workers in the US. There is repression in the US as in Mexico, but there is a difference. Most tactics in torture, in brutality, and rape are coming from the US, but we don't suffer this type of repression on the level that the people in Atenco and Oaxaca were witnessed to. In oppressed communities in the US we have a low intensity war, in the communities in Mexico they're higher intensity, because of imperialism and the government in Mexico has to keep people in check for their masters in the US. We also have resistance in the US, and organizations from oppressed communities have similar ideas to those movements in Mexico (some of us more than others), but the people in Mexico have more experience in struggle. My comrades in Cop Watch Los Angeles actually have a lot of similar ideas to organizations like el Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra and Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca, but we,re still building our base, getting organized, preparing, studying, and training. We are dealing with different conditions in the US, with a big propaganda machine, with a more cohesive state, and with people being content with their privileges and luxuries afforded to them by the empire.

The government of Mexico, though, is in trouble. They see these revolutionary popular movements as a threat to their interests of selling Mexico to the highest bidder, so recently they have unleashed some of the most vicious repression in an attempt to kill these movements. The tactics of the state is to attack the head of a movement, hoping that the rest of the structure of a movement would fall apart. They've had trouble doing this when a popular movement exists within the communities, and a base of support exists for the revolutionaries and militants (as in the Campesinos (farmers) in Atenco and the Majesterio (teachers) in Oaxaca (as well as the movement for the disappearance of governments in Oaxaca).

As long as you have a hierarchical, oppressive system and a state that imposes; where it doesnt allow for the people to govern themselves, then you will have a people who are ungovernable. This has been the case of struggles that exist in Mexico. At the same time when you have a centralized power structure, those in power will do anything to keep their power. They will even go as far as to massacre, rape, detain, and brutalize people. Those in power can be beaten though, and they have been beaten in the past. We can win, with an organized force and a popular movement that has revolutionary aims and is able to sustain itself for the long run as well as defend themselves from the sate.

siempre en lucha,

Joaquin Cienfuegos