Monday, May 02, 2011

Better to Live: Mexicans Mobilize against the Drug War

The last few months have seen bodies heaped upon bodies in Mexico. In some cases, the heaping is quite literal: drug graves have been opened up in the northern Gulf state of Tamaulipas, the largest contained almost two hundred people. Authorities sent cadavers to Mexico City for identification by forensic specialists. Though killed by drug gangs, investigators in Tamaulipas suggest that the local police was complicit.

And yet the greatest outcry to this uptick in brutality came in the wake of the deaths of several teenagers in Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City. Cuernavaca is known as the city of eternal spring, it has an enviable climate: spring, all year round, and is the second home for many Mexico City residents. It's now also known as the place where poet, writer, and journalist Javier Sicilia initiated protests against the Mexican government and its failed drug war policies. Why has Sicilia become an outspokent figurehead for pain? At the end of March, Sicilia had to confront that which all parents fear, the death of his son. Juanelo Sicilia and six other friends were found dead in a car near Cuernavaca, the result of drug war violence.

Deaths in Mexico attributed to the drug war now number 35,000 since 2006. Juanelo Sicilia and his friends are yet more grim statistics. Yet Javier Sicilia decided to use the deaths of his son, and those of his friends, to move people to protest the violence in Mexico, its scope, and President Felipe Calderon's inability to imagine his government acting in ways that do not heighten violence.

At the end of March Javier Sicilia convened a national series of marches. The Cuernavaca march ended up being the largest in the city's history. He also convened more marches for the week of 5 - 8 May. The second Cuernavaca march starts on 5 May and ends in Mexico City's main square, zocalo, on 8 May, a distance of almost 100kms. Many Mexican cities are participating, as are some foreign cities. You can find a list of registered marches, here.

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