California State University East Bay

Why not march for Mexico?

November 6, 2014

Face it—America loves conflict. We declare war on everything: we’ve waged war on terror, drugs, poverty, Iraq. There’s hardly anything we haven’t tried through glorious struggle to overcome. In the 238 years of America’s existence, we’ve spent 217 of those years engaged in some kind of conflict or another, according to blog We’re all about that.

But what about Mexico? That country south of our border? The land of tequila and sombreros, of tropical climates and wonderful vacations? Is it a war or is it just that in-between state of constant violence we too often label developing countries and then ignore?

The Palestinian-Israeli issue we refer to as a “conflict.” What’s happening in the Ukraine is called a “civil war.” But what do we call what’s going on in Mexico?

It’s interesting to me that in Oakland, known for its incredible activism and counter-culture movements, we block shipping freighters for Palestine, we rally for the people of Tibet and we talk about what Ferguson really means, but we don’t march for Mexico.

At times it seems like our view of Mexico is too blurred by our habits of getting hammered on our two Mexican holidays of Cinco de Mayo and Day of the Dead and busting out the salsa and chips rather than remembering that cartel violence is the real deal. It’s a full-scale war.

“Is it really that bad?” you might ask. From 2006 to the present, an estimated 120,000 people have died there according to Trans-Border Institute. This is comparable to some of the estimates of the number of civilians killed in Iraq during the Iraq War.

And it’s not some conflict that’s deep in Mexico, defined by hard sectarian lines of ancient tribal hatreds. Rather it’s mostly just drugs and power relations, things most Americans are already aware of, and it’s happening close to our border.

Located right on the border of New Mexico and the city of El Paso is in Ciudad Juarez, which until the last two years was labeled the most violent city in the world by think tank Security, Justice and Peace. The group has also listed 207 cities in the country this year that reached the status of “failed state” because they’ve been overcome with criminal groups.

Clearly the situation down there is really bad. We here in the East Bay march for victims of police brutality; we march for Ferguson because Ferguson is every day for Black Americans. Naturally we feel more compassion for our fellow Americans because they’re us.

But what about Mexico? Just last month there were 40 students abducted in Mexico after they had the bravery to march against hiring discrimination. The local police picked them up and weeks later mass graves were found outside the city.

The students’ bodies, as reported by the New Yorker, were found with their faces skinned and their eyes gouged out, a signature of cartel violence. The last time I read about victims having their eyes removed was during the genocide of Serbs in Croatia during World War II.

Knowing this happened, how could we continue to turn a blind eye to what is going on down there? It’s not at all like Mexico is a self-contained country distant from our day to day lives, in Hayward alone the city’s population is 40.7 percent Latino according to the latest U.S. Census data from 2010, many of whom are Mexican, a population our local government often ignores in favor of the rich donors in the hills.

We have to take action for Mexico, like we do for our own citizens and like we did for the South Africans in the 90s and the Burmese before them. Our government doesn’t care, but we ought to.

It’s sad to me when I speak to students on campus about opportunities to do small deeds that could save people’s lives, and they lose interest because they’re worried about low turnout. Such vanities shouldn’t stop us from doing what is necessary to fight against the most terrible crime, which is the theft of human life.

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