In Mexico, a Movement Against the Drug War Mobilizes on a Holy Day
By Marta Molina Special to The Narco News Bulletin
October 29, 2011
“We will go out that night to name our dead. Together with their names and the dates of their births and deaths we will bring their photographs, offerings, everything that makes them present again among us.” With those words Javier Sicilia called upon the Mexican people to lead a global day of memory of the 50,000 dead in Mexico during the present war on drugs.
He spoke those words during the first part of the second public dialogue between the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD, in its Spanish initials) and president Felipe Calderón in Chapultepec Castle on October 14. The poet called for October 31 to be the date that Mexicans go out into the streets to remembers the victims of the violence and express their will for peace. Sicilia asked the population to take back “all public spaces that have been beaten by delinquency and the government’s ineptitude.” The goal, said Sicilia, is “to unite our pains, remember our dead and demonstrate our desire for peace, love and justice.”
Drawing of “La Catrina” by the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead has been celebrated since pre-Hispanic times and although it has been mixed with the All Saints Day of the Christian calendar (and with Halloween, increasingly part of the Mexican week), this day is a feast filled with joy and mourning at the same time to bring forth the presence of the dead. “Death” (represented by La Catrina, the skeleton, the cold, the malevolent and coquettish smile) is dressed in colors and the people mock her with humor but also respect. On November 1 and 2 the living reunite with their family members that have died to preserve their memory and not let it die with them. Many Mexicans celebrate these dates. They go into the street and the cemeteries, make offerings, and light candles for the dead, adorning their altars with typical yellow marigold flowers of cempaoalxochitl.
Not letting them die, putting the names of the victims and making them present has been one of the objectives of MPJD, since it crossed Mexico from North to South in caravans: that the 50,000 dead cease to be mere statistics or collateral damage, fruit of the so-called “war on drugs” unleashed by Calderón in 2006.
In Mexico City today’s events will begin at the monument of the Angel of Independence, in the historic downtown, with a concentration of candles and a silent procession. Activities will be held there all night on October 31 and all day November 1. People in many other cities have replicated this call in their city and town squares and have joined the global ceremony. Mexicans who live outside the country have also called similar events in foreign lands to organize this 24-hour vigil for the dead.
Prominent personalities of the artistic world will be joining the event in Mexico City, including the 92-year-old legendary singer Chavela Vargas who will join with Sicilia at noon, tomorrow, November 1, when the poet reads a political declaration.
Organizing this symbolic act during the Day of the Dead seeks to convert the intimacy of the family that vigils for its dead into a global action; an act of civil resistance that calls to all Mexicans throughout the world, the dead, and those alive. Just as this movement succeeded that for the first time the victims of this war would go out into the street and share their pain with other victims, now it is the dead who will be named, one by one, so that they will be known among those who appeal for justice for those who are still alive.
The movement has, as part of its call, released this video featuring Maria Herrera, to promote the global vigil of the Day of the Dead: