“We’re Up to Here with This!”, Mexico Bleeds

Photo: Emiliano Gaytán

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 12 — Gabriela Lara* is a Mexican writer. She has spent twenty years of her life publishing books and magazines, mainly academic works.

Having worked over that time in a retreat-like environment correcting pages, one day she decided to join others to demand an end to the crimes taking place across her country.

Since then, Gaby Lara has become an activist within the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD), an organization led by poet Javier Sicilia. We wanted to ask her about the causes of her getting involved and her experiences in the organization and movement.

HT: Firstly, I’d like to ask you to give us a brief explanation about how the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) arose, led by poet Javier Sicilia.

Photo: Emiliano Gaytán

Gabriela Lara: The MPJD emerged following the murder of Juan Francisco Sicily, the son of the poet, writer and activist Javier Sicilia. This occurred on March 28, 2011. The youth, along with six of his friends, was found dead from suffocation after having been tied up in a car and had tape put over their faces. This was in the state of Morelos.

Such a brutal way of killing young people who had nothing to do with the criminal underworld or drug trafficking ignited the unrest that already existed in Mexican society. You have to realize that more than 50,000 people have died in the war against drugs initiated by the Felipe Calderon government since 2006.

HT: Tell us a little about your involvement in the movement, such as if you had previous experience in activism in civil society, why you joined the movement and what your membership is based on.

Gabriela Lara: What led me to participate was my trade union consciousness. This violence touched one of our guilds (editors, poets, writers), and I didn’t hesitate for even a moment the first time we took to the streets demanding peace and explanations for the killings.

Javier Sicilia. Photo: Emiliano Gaytán

We were led by the voice of Javier Sicilia shouting “We’re up to here with this!” And yes, we Mexicans were — and are — sick and tired of so many senseless deaths. The issue of “activism” arose out of human commitment, almost at a personal level. Much later I realized that I was an “activist” in the movement.

HT: I know you participated in the “Caravan for Peace” that traveled across the country. What were its objectives and what experiences did you garner from that journey?

Gabriela Lara: The “Caravan for Peace” had the goal of making the conditions of violence in the country visible, giving voice to the victims so that people could talk about and express their pain. We toured the country from north to south, and what we found along the way was a wounded country in the north (due to drug trafficking and the proximity to the US border) and impoverishment in the south (which is populated mainly by indigenous peoples).

In each plaza, the people climbed up on the platform and shared information with the caravan about the cases of their dead and missing. We collected information about a large number of previously undocumented cases. This gave comfort to those who were still mourning (the first caravan, the one in the north, was called “del Consuelo,” or “of consoling”).

Photo: Emiliano Gaytán

HT: What were the main demands made by the movement to the current Mexican government, and what was the response?

Gabriela Lara: The main demands of MPJD are for justice, explanations about deaths resulting from the strife created by the fight for/against drug trafficking and for reparations to the bereaved for the harm done to them. The government’s response has been inadequate and partial.

HT: In July of this year, federal elections will be held in Mexico. How do you define the movement in this context?

Gabriela Lara: The MPJD defines itself as nonpartisan and unifying. This is a “movement of movements” that brings together lots of people who are fighting for peace in Mexico. In this sense, the role of MPJD will be to pose questions to the candidates concerning the policies they propose to adopt in the war against narco-trafficking.

HT: What role have social networks played in mobilizing civil society against the rising tide of violence in the country?

Photo: Emiliano Gaytán

Gabriela Lara: Without a doubt they’ve been very important. They have permitted the organization of Mexican citizens all across the country. They provide a constant source of information and allow for the reporting of incidents, and have also permitted Mexicans abroad to organize and support initiatives of the “Global Network for Peace in Mexico” (Spanish: Red Global por la Paz en México).

There has also emerged the group “El grito mas fuerte” (the Loudest Shout),  comprised of over 100 artists and actors involved with commemorations and events in support of peace, such as the event “En los zapatos del otro” (In another people’s shoes).

To follow the actions around this national emergency, people can visit the MPJD’s official website and/or its page on Twitter.

HT: Do you have anything else to say to the readers of Havana Times?

Gabriela Lara: I greatly appreciate their interest in what’s happening in my country right now.

* An editor, communications expert and member of MPJD