BootsnAll Travel Network

El Grito 2010

EVERY 100 years, Mexico seems to have a rendezvous with violence as again the country gathered on Wednesday night for the ceremony of the “grito” — the anniversary of the Revolution…the call to arms that began the war for independence from Spain in 1910.

As they have on every Sept. 15 for 200 years, Mexicans gathered together in the central squares of our cities and towns, even in the smallest and most remote villages. At midnight, they heard a local governing official re-enact the grito uttered by Miguel Hidalgo, the “father of the fatherland.” They shouted, jubilantly, with genuine feeling: “Viva México!”

Euphoric cries were mixed with a flashy Mexico City military parade, a counter-bicentennial gathering, fresh outbreaks of narco-violence in different parts of the country and goads of symbolism that embodied the past, present and future of a nation of more than 100 million people. As the historic day faded, Hurricane Karl bore down on the state of Veracruz, already battered by this summer’s torrential rains.

At a ceremony in the town of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, the unassuming place where Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla launched the 1810 rebellion that resulted in Mexican independence 11 years later, President Felipe Calderon was greeted with a sprinkling of obscenities and unusual shouts. Some members of the audience reportedly yelled out “Viva El Chapo,” or “Long Live El Chapo,” in apparent reference to fugitive drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera. “Death to the Bad Government!” also was heard.

Later, Calderon presided over a Mexico City military parade of about 23,000 Mexican army and navy personnel, including members of elite anti-narco units. While air force jets flew overhead, military delegations from 17 countries were on hand for the historic commemoration.

What’s that all about?!!!

The participation of a Federal Police contingent was an unusual feature of this year’s parade. As the emerging front-line force in the so-called drug war, the Federal Police headed by Genaro Garcia Luna is the institution favored by Mexico City and Washington to take over combat of organized crime from the army and the navy.

Meanwhile in Oaxaca more than 2,000 police and military personnel are guarding entry to the Zocalo as a security measure. Wed night was the Grito, and Thursday was the parade.

Against whom are they guarding? All we know is the ambulant vendors, the unions and protesters.

In Oaxaca El Grito belies a different kind of violence…one instigated by the PRI (the powerful party in control for the last 80 years) to pit one group of Trique indigenous people against another group seeking autonomy as the government had promised years ago.

Two Triqui women were raped and tortured by paramilitary, Natalia Cruz Bautista age 42 and Francisca de Jesus Garcia age 45, and were rescued on Thursday by more than 30 state police persons accompanied by fifteen men of the State Investigation Agency (AEI), all heavily armed.

One might ask why these same police and AEI were not deployed long ago, like for example when the first human rights caravan was shot at when a Finnish human rights worker and 3 other Triques were killed? Or when the second caravan was turned back?

The women were taken out by IMSS ambulance (social security health service) and taken to Takena hospital. The police group was accompanied by a general doctor and two paramedics, who arrived at 11:50 A.M. and were immediately directed to the homes of the injured.

Francisca was wounded by a bullet that scraped her back at the left side. Natalia has a wound on the right side of her chest and another on her right arm.

The president of Human Rights of San Juan Copala, Marco Jorge Albino, said that after pressuring the state governor to enter the community to rescue the two women, Governor Ruiz finally agreed on Thursday September 9 to do so. Both women by then showed signs of psychological trauma from having been savagely raped at the same attack, by members of the Trique UBISORT-PRI.

“In the official media, the government of the state has claimed that this denunciation of an attack on the women was false. Therefore we demanded their rescue to show once more that the state government lies and only seeks to protect its paramilitary group as it continues sowing terror and committing murders, action which we hope soon will be ended with the new government that is about to take office (December 1).”

Jorge Albino indicated that the moment the caravan of state police and AEI left, the paramilitaries in the hills shot off their weapons as a demonstration that they control the region. At the same time the shot several times toward the municipal palace where fortunately nobody was wounded, since they were in places of refuge.

This fight has been going on since 1949 but in this round, the paramilitaries have controlled the entrance to this community since September 27, 2009.

3 PM, September 13, 2010
The Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala:


1. At dawn on Monday, September 13, paramilitaries from the from the Triqui Movement of Unification and Struggle (MULT), together with the Union for the Social Well-Being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT), reoccupied the Municipal Palace of San Juan Copala.

2. From that moment and up until now, they have not stopped firing high-caliber weapons at our comrades who have refused to leave their homes despite the violence. They don’t want to leave because their lives are here, their pasts and their futures, they can’t imagine leaving here and being without their saints and their dead. They would rather die here with them than abandon them.

3. As a result of these attacks, on September 14, comrade María Rosa Francisco was gravely wounded, this same comrade was kidnapped just days ago by MULT paramilitaries. No government authority – federal, state or municipal – is willing to enter to remove this comrade so that she can receive medical attention. The other comrades can’t do anything as the paramilitaries continue firing.

4. Since they know they can act with impunity as a result of the support they receive from the state government, the paramilitaries are shouting to the inhabitants of San Juan Copala that they have 24 hours to abandon their homes or they will be killed. We don’t believe that this is a simple threat, as in past months they carried out a similar attack in San Migual Copala, where they killed 12 comrades on the municipal basketball court.

5. Given this desperate situation we are making an urgent call on all people of good faith, to human rights organizations, to social movements, to all those who believe that the Triquis have the right to live with dignity, that they do all they can to denounce this situation; to demand that the government guarantee the rights of the Copalans and detain the murderers. It is very urgent, comrades, tomorrow it may not be possible.

In the Zocalo Oaxaca City, the Trique women are protesting:

A temporary shelter of strung-up plastic, with a pot cooking on a charcoal grille, and a three month old baby at its mother’s breast. 28 children, 32 mothers. The Triqui women agreed to leave the zócalo for the government’s Grito, and offered their own in front of Santo Domingo on September 15, 2010. Outside their shelter the crowd watched short films, and the feature film “The Violin”, projected onto a white sheet.

From inside the shelter a Oaxaca watcher, Nancy Davies, chatted with the woman whose baby was nursing. Nancy: “She repeated that the issue for San Juan Copala is political control of the dozen small towns which comprise the municipality of San Juan Copala. UBISORT paramilitary does the shooting and maintains the siege. She holds muted hope for the incoming government to make a change and save them.

Meanwhile, the women have taken off their distinctive red horizontally striped over-dresses, out of fear they will be tracked and assaulted or worse. Now they wear jeans, and look much like other indigenous Oaxacans, young, slender, some speaking Spanish better than others. There must be elderly women too; I thought I saw one in her traditional dress passing with a girl child. Maybe finding a bathroom. The children playing outside the tent looked to me like they were boys, no girls running around unguarded.

Since the women and children have been sent out of Copala, I tend to think that the death of all the remaining men will be not far off. The women need food and whatever assistance one can offer. We brought a bag of apples which vanished before my eyes—they had no fruit in evidence, nor juices, nor milk. I think of the nursing mother. The baby’s face inside her hat and blanket was round, healthy, and at three months her dark eyes looked alert and willing to live.

These women will return to the zócalo after the holiday, and stay there until some solution is offered. That might mean December 1 when Cue takes office. Not before.”

Another expat warns: “Not trying to be alarmist, but yesterday the police placed metal barriers on the corners of all the streets leading into the zocalo. There was a noticeable increase in police in the area, along with stacks of riot shields. As the gov’t has previously threatened to remove the three plantones (Copala, Antorchistas and vendors) from the zocalo before Sept. 15, folks should be aware of this possibility and what appears to perhaps be preparations for the removal. It could equally be preparations for the Sept. 15 celebration itself. One would reason that removing the plantones by force would create more of a problem than letting them be, though reasonable and thoughtful behavior are not the hallmarks of this government.”

The women had been promised 10 tons of maize in exchange for leaving the zocalo the night of the 15th. Instead of corn they have been given a check for 35,000 pesos. They are supposed to use the check to buy supplies at the rural supply store de DICONSA. Another woman was shot in San Juan Copala, María Macaria Merino, 85 years old. Supposedly all three of the women (one shot, one raped) this week will be taken to a hospital.

Meanwhile, a letter has been issued by the parents of the Finnish human rights activist who was killed on the first caravan from Mexico City to Copala and signed by 24 Finnish organizations:

“We parents of Jyri Jaakkola, just came home from the opening ceremony of the exhibiton of Finland-Mexico 2010 in Helsinki for the Bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico, and found out the news from San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, which make us worried.

We, as parents of a beloved and murdered son, send out this call to the governments of Mexico and the newly elected government of Oaxaca lead by Gabino Cué Monteguado, to make sure that no more blod be spilt in the triqui region due to the on-going siege around San Juan Copala.

We are deeply worried about the safety of the children, women and elderly people that still live in San Juan Copala.

As the latest news from the area tell that armed men responsible for the siege around the village have given warnings that the time for the people in the houses is ending and that these paramilitaries are now little by little approaching towards the houses with their weapons, we would like to share a call to the public and to the Mexican authorities to make sure that a massacre of Copala’s population is avoided.

We are also amazed and deeply concerned about the omission by the current governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in doing nothing to stop the illegal siege and the violence practiced by it.”

Eeva-Leena and Raimo Jaakkola

Perhaps what Mexicans have to celebrate is their own endurance — the real glue that’s held the country together for centuries. Much like I observed in Thailand this spring.

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