Social activist wounded on December 1 inauguration of Peña dies

By Fernando Camacho Servín
La Jornada
January 25, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

The activist and theater director Juan Francisco Kuykendall, who suffered a fractured skull during the December 1, 2012 protests against Enrique Peña Nieto’s inauguration, died early Saturday morning after suffering a cardiac arrest.

“Kuy died at 5:05am. They have still not given me the death certificate and we don’t know what they are going to say the clinical cause was, but since 2:30 in the morning he was in cardiac arrest,” said Eva Palma, the victim’s partner.

The health of Kuykendall Leal – who for the past three months was at the Zone 30 General Hospital of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) – was critical for a long time, she explained.

“He was very malnourished, with deep scars and since he used tubes to urinate and to eat, infections began to attack him. Just yesterday when I went to see him I could tell he was having a lot of difficulty breathing,” said Palma in an interview.

She said that since Kuykendall’s injury, suffered during the protests against the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto, the activist was treated at several IMSS clinics, including at the XXI Century National Medical Center, where he was discharged for supposedly being in “stable” condition.

“The thought that sticks with me is that men as productive and concerned with culture as Kuy, who was an activist since the ‘70s, don’t deserve to end up like him, because of the state, because of men like Peña Nieto, Osorio Chong or Manuel Mondragón, who were the ones who ordered the operation.

“The capitalist system is very unjust and in the end, my partner fell in battle, but he leaves us his example, his legacy and we are going to claim him as an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. He fell in battle for his ideals,” Palma emphasized.

After being hit in the head with a projectile – it is believed it was a rubber bullet – Juan Francisco Kuykendall suffered a cranial fracture causing him to lose part of his brain mass.

It is expected that this Saturday afternoon a wake will be held for the activist at a funeral home in the Doctores neighborhood in Mexico City.

Originally from Tamaulipas

The 67 year old, originally from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, migrated to the Federal District in 1967 with the goal of being an actor. He achieved that at the National Institute of Fine Arts, where he studied drama.

His wife, Eva Leticia Palma Pastrana, remembers that 1968 was a year of political turmoil that “also impacted Kuy,” as he is known among friends and family. On October 2, he joined the students’ protest, but during the arrests he was saved by a Cuban doctor who hid him in her apartment.

Many years later, after becoming a playwright, set designer, theater teacher and supporter of organizations and collectives such as the Other Campaign, we wanted to go to the May 2006 protests in San Salvador Atenco, but we got lost. We were saved many times, says Palma Pastrana. The same did not occur on a Saturday, when Kuy, 67 years old and a resident of Coyoacán, went with his friend Teodulfo Torres to the protest around the Chamber of Deputies.

“We entered on Eduardo Molina Avenue, because everywhere else was closed. We were heading to see what happened, I took out my video camera and then I heard a thud. I turned to see Kuy, but he was already on the ground.”

Complaint filed at the PGR

On January 18, a group of friends and family of the teacher Juan Francisco Kuykendall filed a complaint with the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to demand clarification of what happened and punishment for those responsible for the attack.

Joined by members of the student movement #YoSoy132, the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land, and other social organizations, Rodrigo and Fernanda Kuykendall, children of the academic, entered the premises of the PGR to file their lawsuit, which also requests full compensation for the injury.