Remembering Acteal

December 22nd, 2006 – Tennessee writes: 500 people took the streets today in Huajuapan de Leon to denounce the detainment of 23 political prisoners from La Mixteca, and to demand the liberation of political prisoners and the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz. We were hoping that by this morning more prisoners would have been released, but as far as we know they are still being held in jails close to the city of Oaxaca.

Emily and I photographed, recorded and videotaped the march, while sketchy dudes filmed and photographed us. My sense of safety changes every two minutes. Sometimes I feel like Emily and I are untouchable, like our US citizenship means something. Then I remember our comrade Bradley Will who was murdered in October in Oaxaca for doing work not much different from what we are doing in La Mixteca. Coming to terms with how violent and repressive this world is has left me feeling powerless and ungrounded. I know what I am feeling and seeing here in Oaxaca is not unique.

Today is the 9th anniversary of the massacre of 45 unarmed Tzotziles in the community of Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico. The massacre came as response to an indigenous struggle for autonomy and self-determination. The movement that was building with the Zapatistas in the mid-1990s in Chiapas doesn’t look that much different from what is building in Oaxaca right now. And so I wonder to what degree has the government changed its tactics?

Last year La Jornada broke a story about the detainment and rape of a human rights lawyer Lydia Cacho. She had been working hard to expose human rights violations on the part of maquiladora owner Kamel Nacif. Taped phone conversations were released between the governor of Puebla Mario Marin and businessman Kamel Nacif. Nacif requested that Marin have Cacho arrested and raped in an attempt to silence her, and Marin complied.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to work as a journalist. It ranks right up there with Iraq and Colombia for the number of journalists killed every year. A reporter in Huajuapan wrote a story about a serial rapist who was not being brought to trial because local politicians were protecting him due to his allegiance to the PAN — National Action Party. When the story ran in Las Noticias the paper was stolen everyday for a week on its way to Huajuapan. The following week the reporter was found dead.

Based on the affront to journalists I seriously doubt Mexican politicians have abandoned straight up massacre. Remembering what happened in Acteal 9 years ago made today’s march in Huajuapan all the more visceral. The strength and courage it took for the families of the political prisoners to take to the streets is astonishing.

These last few days have helped me to more deeply understand the privilege I have as a US citizen. I’d rather not align myself with a particular national identity, but I can’t deny how I benefit from my birth place in my role as an artist and transmitter of stories that challenge dominant notions of power and control.

Tomorrow we take a break from Huajuapan de Leon. We are headed a couple hours north to visit Omar’s family. On Sunday we will celebrate christmas in San Juan Diego FNIC with the families of 10 political prisoners.

This blog is so much about Emily and I. We’ll try harder to bring you more voices from La Mixteca.