On Sunday, 25 people holding protest signs, chanted “no mas sangre” (no more blood) and other slogans in front of the Texas Capitol to protest the growing number of dead in Mexico. Earlier in the afternoon, they had marched from the Mexican Consulate to the Texas Capitol in solidarity with a massive citizens’ march taking place in Mexico City’s zocalo Sunday.
Most of the protesters were UT students and members of local human rights groups who seemed comfortable holding protest signs. But in amongst the protesters stood a middle class couple from Monterrey with their two young children. Currently living in San Antonio like thousands of other exiles from Monterrey, they were disappointed that a protest wasn’t held in San Antonio and that more people like them hadn’t come to the protest in Austin.
“In Monterrey everyone has been affected by the violence and thousands of us are living in San Antonio now,” said the woman of the city’s wealthier middle and upper class families. “I used to hear gun shots at night. And I had my two small children at home. We finally had to leave Monterrey,” she said.
Now, her husband was flying on a regular basis from San Antonio to Monterrey to run his business in Mexico. They were still trying to adjust to their lives in the United States but at least they felt safe for the first time in more than a year. It was the first protest they’d ever taken part in. And they didn’t want to give their names, they were still getting used to taking such a public stance against the drug violence in Mexico. But they said they felt compelled to be there.
“I don’t know why more families from Monterrey aren’t here,” the woman said, looking around. “Maybe they’re afraid because this isn’t their country or they’re waiting for their investment visas to be approved and they don’t want to make waves,” she said. “But we have to do something. We have to speak out because everything in Mexico is in chaos. It’s out of control.”
With 40,000 people dead and a growing horror show of daily headlines about kidnappings, decapitations and mass graves, many have waited for the outrage among Mexicans to boil over into a citizens’ protest movement.
In the Mexico City march Sunday, it’s estimated that as many as 80,000 people turned out in the city’s main plaza in front of the presidential palace. At the zocalo, poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, organizer of the march for peace, justice and dignity read from a list of demands including the resignation of Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico’s director of public security. The movement also demanded a new “social pact” to tackle such issues as impunity and poverty, and he called for the nomination of a “citizen candidate” who is not affiliated with any of Mexico’s three major political parties to run in the 2012 presidential election. Sicilia and the movement also called for an electoral boycott should their demands go unmet.
Protesters in Mexico had hoped for at least 100,000 people at the zocalo Sunday. Estimates are that anywhere from 65,000 to 80,000 people turned out. In solidarity, at least 20,000 Zapatistas came out Sunday for a silent protest in San Cristobal de las Casas. And simultaneous marches were held around the world.
Still, some protesters like the family from Monterrey questioned why more people didn’t turn out. Arnulfo Manriquez, the 22-year old UT student, who had organized the protest in Austin, said he wasn’t deterred by the turnout. The movement is going to grow and it’s going to change Mexico, he said. “Mexico is sending out a very important message to the world today,” he said. “The democracy we have is petrified and nonexistent, elections are a big spectacle and democracy will not be in the ballot, but in the active participation of Mexicans.”
This is just the beginning, he said. “We’ll be back with more people next time.”
** For more coverage in English of the four-day march see Journalist Kristin Bricker’s web site or the site Narco News. Also, MexicoReporter.com has a video report, speaking with demonstrators as they entered Mexico City Sunday.