May 19th, 2007 – vAPPOroaxaca writes: On Thursday May 17 at 7 pm, Elba Esther Gordillo Morales was scheduled to speak in the Jose Cuervo Tequila lecture series at the Institute of the Americas, UC San Diego. Gordillo is the leader of Mexico’s national teachers’ union and is complicit in the murders of numerous dissident teachers and the rampant electoral fraud that put ultra right-wing president Felipe Calderon into power. A coalition of UCSD students, Mexican immigrants, high school students and other community members attended the talk and treated Goridllo as she treats the teachers in her union – by silencing her.
Twenty people from the coalition were at the talk and prepared to do whatever it took to disrupt Gordillo’s speech. The talk was prefaced by an introduction by the president of the Institute. He lavished praise on Gordillo and said that she was one of the few people in the 90’s who was working for true “change” in Mexico. If by this he meant the kind of neoliberal reforms described on the Institute’s website, that “change” is definitely not the kind that would benefit the great majority of Mexicans.
After the introduction and an overly affectionate exchange between him and Gordillo, she began her presentation. Almost immediately, she was interrupted by the first coalition member.
Read More and View Photos | Video of Disruption (28.5 MB / .mov)
He rose from his seat and began to loudly denounce Gordillo for her crimes against the teachers (in Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico) and for her collusion with Calderon and the right-wing elites in Mexico. After about two minutes, he voluntarily left the room shouting all the way out the door. The president of the Institute seemed to be pretty perturbed and requested that if anyone else wanted to speak that they should wait till the end of the talk and respect the speaker. He slowly sat down and Gordillo resumed talking again.
After about 15 seconds, she was again interrupted by another member of the coalition. He read from an article about Gordillo’s dark history for about a minute until two UCSD police officers walked down to his row and waited for him to leave. On his way out, he chanted “Oaxaca Vive! La Lucha Sigue!” in reference to Gordillo’s attempts to crush the social movements and dissident teachers in Mexico by creating a new section in Oaxaca to rival Section 22, the most radical, organized and powerful local in Mexico. After he left, Gordillo said that she didn’t know what she had to do with Oaxaca and that she believed in democracy and an open dialogue. Again she resumed talking and again she was interrupted. The next member of the coalition spoke about how her references to democracy and dialogue were ingenuine considering that she was one of the main players in the electoral fraud perpetrated in July’s presidential election. That elicited a rather strong response from the attendees, who appeared to be very well-off for the most part and who were probably predominantly supporters of right-wing presidents Fox and Calderon. The attendees did their best to help the president of the Institute by constantly clapping every time someone stood up to speak.
And so it continued – Gordillo would get a few sentences in and another person would stand up to denounce her, the Institute of the Americas, and the elites in Mexico who are repressing the social movements. That person would be escorted away by police and then on to the next, one by one, 20 people in all. Her speech was disrupted for almost an hour. As each person exited the auditorium, the other participants outside cheered while smoking their cigarettes (it’s nerve-wracking disrupting a speech!) and excitedly sharing stories of their disturbances. By that time, the corporate Spanish-speaking media had shown up and started to interview members of the coalition.
Once everyone had been ejected, we gathered as a group in front of the doors of the auditorium and began to chant different chants from the rebellion in Oaxaca such as “Ya cayo! Ya cayo! Ulises ya cayo!”. Again, we disrupted the talk and we were soon greeted by the UCSD police and an employee of the Institute who tried to reason with us by saying that they would invite us back again to speak with us if only we would kindly leave. We were informed that we were not on UCSD property, but on private property, owned by the Institute, because “they built the buildings and donated it to the University” and that we had to leave.
We went around the back of the building and started to chant near the windows of the auditorium on the border of their “property”. The police came over to observe but couldn’t do anything since we weren’t doing anything “illegal”. Everytime they would leave, we would go up to pound on the windows of the auditorium and then return to the “border” when the police returned. The chanting and pounding continued for about 30 minutes until the talk was about to wrap up (the shortened version of it assuredly). We left chanting “Ahorita nos vamos, pero luego regresamos” (Now we are leaving, but we’ll be back) and “Elba, entiende, San Diego no te quiere” (Elba, understand, San Diego doesn’t want you).
We were there to show Gordillo that she is NOT welcome and to show the Insitute of the Americas that it is NOT ok to honor human rights criminals (as they did with former Mexican president Vicente Fox last month). Overall, it was a great success!
This post is also available in: Spanish