The Other Campaign Comes to the Border
By Gloria Muñoz Ramírez
September 27, 2006
Tijuana is the bustling city of immigrant passage. It represents the exploitation of the worker in more than 800 maquiladoras (sweatshops), the trafficking of women and children destined for the sex trade, the impunity with which the drug traffickers move, the displacement of Indian communities from their ancestral lands, and a myriad of other violations perpetrated against a population that is in constant movement. But Tijuana is also a place of social struggle and resistance.
In Tijuana, Mexican Independence Day was the point from which to begin conversations about displacement and exploitation and, above all, to discuss the social organizing taking place on this and the other side of the border. The invasions of the lands of the Kumiai, Kiliwa, Pai Pai, Cucapas, Mayos and Series of northeastern Mexico; the resistance to the creation of gas plants along the coast of Baja California; the struggle against the toxic waste plant in Siobac, Sonora; the Yaquis’ organized rejection of the “Escalera Nautica” project [the “Nautical Stairway,” a multibillion-dollar series of marinas intended to attract vacationers]; the extreme marginalization in which the Triqui and Mixtec people (of Oaxacan origin) survive in this zone, and the tireless defense of the precious Tiburon Island, were just a few of the topics that initiated the first Across-Borders Meeting of the Other Campaign.
At the intersection of 2nd St. and Constitution, in the centre of the city, on one side of the red-light district known as La Coahuila, the voice of more than 30 men and women of San Salvador Atenco, who have been unjustly held in prison for more than three months, could be heard. Men and women from Mexicali, Ensenada, Tijuana, Sonora, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oxnard, Oakland and San Francisco gathered here to demand the liberty of these prisoners and the punishment of the authorities responsible for the violations and many abuses committed against the population of San Salvador Atenco during the police operations that occurred on the 3rd and 4th of May.
The testimony of Josefina, the representative of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land, reminded us that the resistance of Atenco has been persecuted by the government. The Mexican state holds political prisoners, has forced some to become fugitives and has raped women. This community today still suffers harassment at the hands of the state and continued persecution in its subjection to daily police rounds.
A convention of “women with rebel faces” was held beside one of the hundreds of “table-dance” venues that proliferate in the city. In the Sotano de Rita, work in the maquiladoras and the mistreatment of women was discussed, poetry was recited, prehispanic and Arab dances performed, painting and photography shown, and an eclectic variety of stage performances was presented. Upstairs, a half-naked woman pleased a handful of customers. Outside, thousands of youths, some of them having had a few too many drinks, from this and the other side of the border, filled the streets, dressed in national colors and riding in vehicles that – I swear – appeared to dance on their tires. This is Tijuana.
Voices of the indigenous resistance could be heard in an old cinema that is today known as the Multikulti. Here, a Kumiai woman, an indigenous leader of the Pena Blanca community, spoke of the constant invasions into her territory and of the unceasing struggle in defense of these lands. “They invade us, but we do not abandon our lands,” she said.
Published in Spanish in Muñoz’ “Underdogs” column of September 19 in La Jornada
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