Zapatistas in New York
The Movement for Justice in El Barrio to March on City Hall on April 6
By Gloria Muñoz Ramírez
La Jornada - Los de Abajo
April 1, 2008
The streets of El Barrio, on the east side of Harlem, are still walked primarily by Latinos, many of them Mexican. But it is not known for how much longer. They want to erase and send them away. Ladders, cans of paint, and construction material around the buildings tell the story of the renovations underway. First, they explain, “the landlords leave the apartments without maintenance, forcing the poor people to leave, they remodel, they make them more elegant and later collect more expensive rents.” The Latinos, African-Americans and Asians leave and the rich arrive, those who can pay. The street vendors, small stores and traditional corners that form part of the life of the expelled of the planet will be swept away.
In El Barrio, Spanish predominates: the language of 400 families that organize themselves to prevent the displacement of their lives, already immigrant. They belong to Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) and they face the powerful transnational company Dawnay, Day Group, which has its headquarters in London and has recently acquired, in El Barrio alone, 47 buildings to expel their current inhabitants and remodel. The real estate business crosses borders and, therefore, the struggle is also intercontinental. The International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio begins this April 6th, with a mobilization in front of City Hall in New York.
At the corner of 117th St and 2nd Avenue, in the heart of El Barrio, a mural of the Zapatista struggle alludes to the connection between MJB and the indigenous of Chiapas. Movement is part of the Other Campaign. They are, then, zapatistas in New York. They were only 15 families when they began to organize themselves in December of 2004. Today they are 400 families distributed throughout 30 buildings. “Before we did not know how to defend ourselves, we had not participated in anything in Mexico and even less here. But we are learning. And now we won’t give up,” say Laura, Georgina and Óscar.
The call is to create “a transnational network of allies and supporters that are on our side and help us in our struggle,” to coordinate acts of resistance against Dawnay, Day Group, in London, and in whatever place where there is “another international, national or local threat to our right to dignified housing, autonomy and self-determination.” MJB will also begin a legal fight against the multimillionaire consortium Dawnay Day Group.
Gloria Muñoz Ramírez can be contacted at email@example.com
Original published in Spanish March 30, 2008 La Jornada
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
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