Protesters, in traditional Aztec attire and wearing colorful headdresses, marched down 6th Street toward Congress Avenue in downtown Austin Saturday afternoon. Drivers honked their support and stuck their fists out or cheered the demonstrators on. The Aztec danzantes led the march with colorful, elaborate feather headdresses and giant signs. They chanted, “Se ve, se siente, Peña es delincuente!” or “It can be seen, it can be felt, Peña [Nieto] is a criminal!”
The protest was organized in solidarity with the #YoSoy132 movement, which some refer to as the “Mexican Spring,” fueled by discontent with Mexico’s recent presidential election. Demonstrations took place all around Mexico and in some U.S. and Texas cities today, including Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Houston and Austin, and in cities in Spain and Canada earlier this week. Mexican nationals, many of them students, living in the United States denounced the July 1 election as a fraud and demanded that President Obama retract his acknowledgment of the announced winner, Enrique Peña Nieto.
As with many burgeoning protest movements fueled by social media, however, there was some disagreement over who represented the student movement. #YoSoy132 representatives disassociated themselves from these marches in a press release, because they said the website promoting these marches, yosoy132.mx, is an apocryphal one run by PRI supporters, the political party of the newly appointed president. The website has a banner that reads “The truth will make us free” and the associated Facebook page, “Si hay imposición, habrá revolución” calls for a mega-march across all cities in Mexico with public plazas to protest the PRI president-elect. As of Saturday night the page had more than 1,500 likes and many posters of protests happening in early July, as well as comments from people in different cities on both sides of the border.
The Facebook page for the Austin protest said the organizers tried to reach out to #YoSoy132, but received no response. Regardless, the event description encouraged participants to bring banners and posters as large as possible with whatever messages they wanted. The only restriction was posters for or against a particular political party, as the movement is nonpartisan. They asked people to bring phones, cameras and other recording devices, as the movement largely started and continues to grow through social media.
Around 150 people showed up to the Mexican Consulate on Baylor Street near 5th Street Saturday, most wearing black and carrying large posters with strong messages. Some were as simple as “Peña Nieto is not my president” and others were entire paragraphs denouncing the election and its purported winner. Participants took turns reading part of a declaration against Peña Nieto, demanding the Mexican government hear the Mexican people and actually use the votes they cast. Each part was read by someone in Spanish followed by someone in English. Before the march began, the danzantes did a dancing ritual involving chants and incense.
Airy Mejia, one of the organizers of the event, said they encouraged protesters to bring their own proof against Peña Nieto. He had bank statements he says prove the candidate and his party paid for gift cards they gave to people in exchange for their votes. He says others had more documents proving there was rampant fraud in the election.
The group ended its march at the Capitol, where they restated the main points of their grievances and reiterated their demands for change. More protesters joined at the Capitol and some took the microphone to speak or sing their words of protest. Mejia said they would take the statement they read as well as the proof collected by protesters to the Mexican Consulate on Monday and encouraged anyone to come.
“We are here because we are in opposition to the imposition,” says Oscar Ponce, one of the event organizers. “We need to pressure our government, our institutions so they can see that we are talking for other Mexicans who cannot talk in our country. We believe that with [#YoSoy132] or without them the people should still be working and pushing the anti-democratic institutions in Mexico because this is crucial because most of us cannot wait. We cannot wait until December; we need to take it back right now.”