The members of the Youth Encounter of the Oaxacan Social Movement have set out on the “Jaguar Path for the Regeneration of our Historic Memory and Territorial Defense”. At noon on May 5, the Caravan left the city of Oaxaca and will visit several different communities in the next few days to support, participate, and spread the word about the processes of resistance and struggles of the peoples of Oaxaca in defense of their ways of life.
The caravan was announced at a press conference covered by local and alternative news media outside the Section 22 teacher’s headquarters, where it was explained that the effort was agreed upon at the Youth Encounter of the Oaxacan Social Movement last January in the town of Zaachila, Oaxaca.
SANTA MARIA JALAPA DEL MARQUES
The Caravan arrived at Santa Maria Jalapa del Marques right before a community Forum was held to recall the dispossession of this town 47 years ago, when people were forced to leave their houses that would be flooded due to the construction of the Benito Juárez dam and reservoir. The recovery of this historic memory is also an urgent call and warning to the other peoples of Oaxaca and Mexico to heed the pending threats regarding the plunder of their resources and the very land that they live on.
6:00 in the afternoon. The caravan arrived at the Santa María Jalapa del Marqués and was treated to a meal prepared by the comrades of the Cortamortaja Collective and Radio Arcoiris.
7:00 A cultural event was held featuring a photographic exhibition of the old town of Jalapa, “Jalapa Viejo,” as well as traditional community music, theater, townspeople’s testimonies, and music played by different caravan members to mark the 47th anniversary of the “relocation” of the town that was once in the middle of what is now the Benito Juárez Reservoir. Private corporations now plan to convert it into a hydroelectric plant despite all the negative consequences and the strong opposition of local people.
The testimonies of the adults who experienced the dispossession of their croplands now buried under the waters of the Benito Juarez Reservoir expressed the generalized alarm of the townspeople about water scarcity due to the lack of a project that really deals with the needs of the people now living in the new town Santa María Jalapa del Marques.
“There are 10 municipalities that depend on the water from the reservoir, which now also supplies the PEMEX refinery. It’s shameful that people in the town of Jalapa, just a short distance away, don’t have water.” Antonio Vasquez Castillo, born in “Jalapa Viejo”.
The water level in the reservoir is so low that the ruins of the old town of Jalapa can now be seen. Right in the middle, an enormous temple is visible because the waters that covered it for years have now dried up. The remains of what used to be huge trees, a grade school and a cemetery can also be seen.
“Some say that Jalapa didn’t lose much. But in those years we were making some progress. We didn’t know a lot about all different kinds of vegetables, but we knew all about the ones that we grew. It makes me sad when I see that people who must eat don’t think about these things. But I’m happy to see young people and adults taking up the struggle once again….Let’s hope [what’s happened to us] stands as an example so that it won’t happen in other places. That hydroelectric plan won’t be built!!”
“The Barrio de San Sebastián was on the lowlands. I loved to see all the carts coming down the mountain bringing cane for making honey and panela cheese. Back then we didn’t have sugar. There was corn and also bananas and mangos, a tremendous abundance, but today there’s no agricultural wealth, much less during the drought.”
People from the Salina Cruz Civic Movement came to the meeting to voice their opposition to the PEMEX “reforms” and to demand the freedom of Pedro Castillo Aragón, the young university student who gave them advice when their group first got started and who is now held prisoner in the central Santa María Ixcotel Prison.
The Santa María Jalapa del Marques new town now has a population of around sixteen thousand. In response to the water shortage, the municipal PRD government sends them dirty canal water for domestic use. People’s health doesn’t matter the least bit to them, nor the fact that the people most affected don’t have the money to buy clean water.
In 2003 PRI party members gave away land to people in exchange for their votes in favor of the hydroelectric plant, but in spite of this, there was a legal decision in favor of the opposition due to a study that revealed faulty plant construction. The legal victory notwithstanding, private companies haven’t given up on their plans to build the hydroelectric plant to “bust the Federal Electricity Commission, sell energy cheap at first, control electric light generation, and then sell it at whatever price they choose when they’re the owners.”
All that the townspeople said is not just talk. It’s what’s really happening. This town in resistance has founded the Committee to Defend the Natural Resources of Jalapa del Marques and is taking concrete action to defend their community environment. The transmission of their voices on community radio and the ideas that they publish in their newspaper are daily steps towards reinforcing the unbreakable will to defend what is theirs, what they’ve legally and rightfully inherited ––their land.
CARAVAN “JAGUAR PATH FOR THE REGENERATION OF OUR HISTORICAL MEMORY”
This post is also available in: Spanish