Acclaimed Muralist Among Oaxaca’s Disappeared

The Arrest of Gerardo Bonilla

November 30th, 2006 – CounterPunch News Service writes: The impact of Oaxaca, Mexico’s struggle is hitting home. Gerardo Bonilla, painter and friend of many in the Austin artistic, activist, and student communities, was one of 149 arrested this past Saturday in a federal police sweep of Oaxaca city that is increasingly targeting the impoverished southern state’s artists and writers. At the invitation of UT student Emiliana Cruz, Bonilla exhibited his paintings at La Pena, in downtown Austin, in October of 2003. He is an accomplished muralist and regularly facilitates and promotes children art workshops in different communities throughout the state of Oaxaca.

“The Mexican army and police forces have arrested and tortured hundreds of innocent protesters. Gerardo’s detention symbolizes the Mexican government’s all-out attack on local democracy,” said Cynthia Perez, founder of La Pena.

The current situation has long roots. On May 22, seventy thousand teachers started a camp out in the main square of the city to ask for an increase in their tiny salaries. This camp out follows a nearly yearly ritual, and each year it bore some meagre fruit. But on June 14, governor Ulises Ruiz of the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), who was elected two years earlier under disputed circumstances, sent the police in helicopters to put a stop to the teacher’s protest. Many Oaxacans condemned this action and organized to form a broader civil group known as APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) Popular Assembly of Oaxacan Communities.

Since then the situation has not been resolved and has turned into an all-out conflict. Last Monday the tension in Oaxaca increased when the Federal police (PFP) announced a “zero tolerance” policy against APPO members and their sympathizers.

Now police are searching and ransacking houses and buildings searching for activists. On Saturday November 25th Bonilla was standing in la Plaza de la Bastida where he often sells his paintings. Like many others on this day he was randomly swept up as the police came through the area arresting everyone in sight. He has been flown to a maximum security prison outside the state of Oaxaca in Tamaulipas where he is being held without due process or outside access. This event typifies the strategy that is currently taking place in Oaxaca. Since last Saturday there have been at least three confirmed deaths, more than 100 injured people, and 221 arrests – including 41 women.

This Thursday, November 30, many Austinites, including Bonilla’s many friends here, will demand freedom for Bonilla as well as the hundreds of detained and disappeared. This is the fourth in a series of consulate protests against Mexican state violence; the first protest followed the May attacks on flower vendors in Atenco, near Mexico city. On Friday December 1 the new Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, will be sworn in, despite widespread political instability.



  1. Compa Gerardo Bonilla,te queremos Libre!
    Oaxaca Libre! no mas presos politicos,Libertad!

  2. What actions can be taken by those of us and how can we support Gerardo? Who can we contact?
    It is time muralists of the world unite to preserve the most ancient of art forms and also help their fellow muralists especially in times like this. Muralists are the visual journalists of all the ages!

  3. Have many things to send to you and some to look at on (this web post it up)
    go to home page click on center and it will take you to the oaxaca page.

  4. Apocalypto – Bernardo Ruiz Statement

    Greetings from Oaxaca, Mexico. My name is Bernardo Ruiz and in the movie Apocalypto, I play a small part as Drunkards Four. My Oaxaca friends Emiliana and Hilaria, who now live in Austin, agreed to pass on to you my message. Apocalypto is about some of the amazing ancient history of our country and its indigenous people. But as you probably know, our struggles continue even to this day. In recent weeks, our beautiful city, Oaxaca, has been occupied by federal troops. It came at a time when many of our people were beginning to stand up for our civil rights with sit-ins and other kinds of non-violent protest. Now the troops have started tracking down and arresting not only our leaders, but also many people from our artistic community here. One of them is my good friend the painter Gerardo Bonilla; another is the artist Dionisio Martinez. Some of you know Gerardo, because three years ago, he exhibited his paintings at La Peña in downtown Austin. It means a great deal to me–and I know to Gerardo and Dionisio–just to feel that you in Austin know something about our real lives today, and to know that you are thinking of us and support us. Call the local Mexican embassy with your concerns and your state and local representatives and please sign on to the letter/petition addressed to President Calderón available at the Consulate General in Austin.

    Consulate General of Mexico
    800 Brazos St, Suite 330
    Austin, TX 78701
    512-478-2866 ext 107


  5. Please, what has happened to Gerado Bonilla since being taken and incarcerated by the police? From Portland, Oregon, we send our respect and appreciation for his work, both politically and artistically. I am fortunate to have purchased a piece of his work at a fundraising auction in Oaxaca 2 years ago.
    With gratitude and prayers for his safe release and all political prisoners, fighting for human rights. Cynthia Smith, Portland, Oregon, USA

  6. Here is some information from Viento de Libertad

    It says that he is currently free.

    Gerardo BONILLA
    Fecha de detención: 25 de noviembre de 2006
    Tipo de preso: Injustamente preso asociado a motivos políticos (+)
    Filiación Política: Ninguna (+)
    Caso: Caso 25 de noviembre – Oaxaca (+)
    Lugar de detención: Oaxaca (+)
    Penal en que se encuentra: CEFERESO 4, El Rincón, Nayarit (+)
    Status: Libre (+)
    Tipo de delitos imputados Fuero común y federal (+)

  7. First and foremost~ you are not alone Gerardo.
    For anyone with information on what action can be taken or how we can help this man and others, please post.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Siempre.
    iL DubZY

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