Caravan For Peace ‘Plants Seeds’ In New York City

October 10, 2012 1:35 pm 1 comment
Caravan For Peace ‘Plants Seeds’ In New York City

Teresa Vera Alvarado holds up sign of her sister, disappeared in 2006. (Carolina Ramirez)

NEW YORK – On the night of Sept. 6, a procession of a few hundred people crossed Harlem from east to west before gathering in front of Santa Celicia Parish in the heart of El Barrio, illuminating the steps of the church with hundreds of tiny candles and filling the sidewalk with images of friends and family members lost to the drug war. There, they began to read from a list of dead and disappeared.

“Regina Martines,” someone called. “¡Presente!” the crowd responded. “Andrés Asención Gonzáles… ¡Presente! Minerva Vera Alvarado… ¡Presente!” The reading quickly dissolved into a cacophony of names yelled out by the crowd.

After a 6,000-mile journey across the United States aimed at raising consciousness about a drug war that’s claimed over 60,000 Mexican lives, Javier Sicilia says there’s no one moment when he felt he was making a major impact.

But that doesn’t mean he’s pessimistic.

“It’s been a slow process,” Javier Sicilia told the Latin America News Dispatch. “We’re planting seeds for peace.”

Sicilia, who lost his son in 2011 to gang-related violence, led a group of activists calling themselves the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity across two dozen U.S. cities this summer, from San Diego to Washington. They destroyed legally purchased weapons outside a Texas gun show, dropped off a suitcase filled with red-stained one-dollar bills at an HSBC branch in Manhattan, and lobbied for the attention of politicians in Washington.

The activists arrived without a set agenda. For the people riding in the Caravan, “planting seeds for peace” means starting conversations and building bridges.

“We didn’t bring up legalization,” Pepe Rivera of the Caravan said in an interview. “We thought it would alienate a lot of people.”

Instead, Rivera says, the Caravan hoped to get people talking about alternatives to using violence to tamp down drug use.

“As long as that dialogue happens, we win,” Rivera added.

In addition to calling attention to an estimated 60,000 deaths caused by the U.S.-led Drug War, the Caravan also tried to spark discussion about the impunity, corruption and organized crime that fuel violence in both Mexico and the United States.

The overarching point of the trip, Sicilia says, is to show people that both Americans and Mexicans share the responsibility for the Drug War’s violence, and both countries suffer its devastating effects.

For many in the Caravan, marching with the African-American community in Chicago served as one of the highlights of the trip. The Mexican activists, many if not most of whom had lost friends or relatives to Drug War-related violence, saw parallels between the bloodshed in their country and the skyrocketing murder rate in the city of Chicago—a city where homicides are often connected to the drug trade.

The Caravan held a peace rally in the Midwestern city and marched through the African-American neighborhoods most heavily affected by gun violence.

Not coincidentally, the Caravan scheduled its first march in New York on Sept. 6 through the streets of Harlem.

The march and vigil passed through some of Harlem’s busiest streets, where local residents watched curiously as protesters yelled in both English and Spanish.

“Alive they took them, alive we want them!” “¡Vivos se los llevaron! ¡Vivos los queremos!” resonated down Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.

During a vigil held in Harlem’s Riverside Church before the march, members of the Caravan, organizers from New York City-based organizations including Make the Road and the Mexican protest group Yo Soy 132 gathered with community members to commemorate those lost to the violence. Family members of the murdered and disappeared told their stories, holding up signs and photos of their loved ones.

Among the organizations that participated in the Caravan’s New York stop were members of Vocal New York, a collective of community organizers that works to empower former drug users, ex-convicts and people living with HIV.

“We are here today to support the caravan for peace, justice and dignity,” said Bobby Tolbert, a board member of Vocal New York who lives in the Bronx. “To let them know that this drug war that they are fighting is a universal problem and we all need to be on the same page to fight it.”

On Sept. 7, during a press conference at City Hall, Sicilia said the Caravan hopes to bring a proposal to the Mexican and U.S. governments to bring into conversation the issue of drugs and violence. “We come to bring the agenda for peace,” he said.

During his speech, Sicilia identified the Caravan with Occupy Wall Street, which he grouped with other social movements like the Zapatista uprising in southern Mexico and the student-led Yo Soy 132 movement.

“We are part of that 99 percent,” Sicilia said. “The 99 percent speaks to the excluded in the United States and in the world in general.”

During the march and demonstrations in New York’s financial district, Caravan protesters marched though Wall Street, denouncing the flows of dirty money that fuel the drug, weapon and mass incarceration industries.

At Zuccotti Park, protesters held a bilingual people’s mic—a method of speech-making popularized during the Occupy movement where the audience amplifies the speaker’s voice by repeating what he or she says—to tell the stories of Belén and Mahoma López. Belén is a member of the Caravan whose brother was disappeared in 2007 and Mr. López is an activist organizing for worker’s rights in New York City with the Hot and Crusty Workers Association.

“I am here because my sister was disappeared on April, 29, 2006 in Oaxaca,” said Teresa Vera Alvarado, who has been with the Caravan since it began in Tijuana. “I have walked the entire Mexican state asking for justice and found nothing. But I am here to make the victims visible. I am here to make their image public.”

Francisco Ramirez, a Mexican-born plumber and activist who helped organize the Caravan’s events in New York as part of the Yo Soy 132 movement, said he was disappointed that big-name politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t show up.

Nevertheless, Ramirez said he felt encouraged.

“There was an effect. Maybe not in a massive way, but maybe there were people who heard the things that were said, and saw the faces and took photos,” Ramirez said. “I think a message was sent.”

Click the first image to view a slideshow of the Caravan for Peace in New York.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Guatemala Photo Essays Oxlajuj Baktun: Maya Era Ends, As Longstanding Tensions Remain

    Oxlajuj Baktun: Maya Era Ends, As Longstanding Tensions Remain

    HUEHUETENANGO, Guatemala – Events here during the much-awaited end of the Oxlajuj Baktun, a 5,129-year period in the long Mayan calendar, provide a clear reflection of the divisions and challenges faced by Mayan communities today. The media exploited inaccurate apocalyptic rumors the Maya never predicted, the government and business sectors viewed it as an opportunity to gain economically through tourism, and progressive groups like the Consejo del Pueblo Maya del Occidente seized the opportunity “to strengthen ancestral wisdom and never-ending search [...]

    Read more →
  • Dispatches Mexico Mexico Protests: Rumors Of Deaths During Anti-Peña Nieto Demonstrations Stir Social Media

    Mexico Protests: Rumors Of Deaths During Anti-Peña Nieto Demonstrations Stir Social Media

    NEW YORK — Social media buzzed this weekend with unconfirmed rumors that several protesters had died in confrontations with police during the inauguration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Thousands took the streets to protest the return of the Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party to power, which was ousted from the presidency in 2000 after governing continuously seven decades. Some 105 protesters were left injured, with 29 requiring medical attention. Protesters hurled Molotov cocktails, threw stones, and there were reports of a [...]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Today in Latin America Brazil Supreme Court Appoints First Black President

    Brazil Supreme Court Appoints First Black President

    Top Story — The Brazilian Supreme Court appointed the first black presiding judge, Joaquim Barbosa, on Wednesday. Judge Joaquim Barbosa, 58, was appointed by ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003 and became the first black judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court. More recently, he has been known for overseeing the “Mensalão,” or “big monthly allowance” case, which convicted senior members of ex-President Lula’s administration for corruption. Barbosa will take his post once the “Mensalão” trial ends. [...]

    Read more →
  • Dispatches Mexico Photo Essays United States Caravan For Peace ‘Plants Seeds’ In New York City

    Caravan For Peace ‘Plants Seeds’ In New York City

    NEW YORK – On the night of Sept. 6, a procession of a few hundred people crossed Harlem from east to west before gathering in front of Santa Celicia Parish in the heart of El Barrio, illuminating the steps of the church with hundreds of tiny candles and filling the sidewalk with images of friends and family members lost to the drug war. There, they began to read from a list of dead and disappeared. “Regina Martines,” someone called. “¡Presente!” the crowd responded. [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America Zetas Leader Body Stolen From Funeral Home, Mexico says.

    Zetas Leader Body Stolen From Funeral Home, Mexico says.

    Top Story — The body of Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano, alias “The Executioner,” was stolen out of the funeral home where it was being kept by armed men, Mexican authorities said on Tuesday. Lazcano was allegedly killed on Sunday afternoon and his identity was confirmed on Tuesday by the Mexican Navy. However, the military seems to have been unaware that they had killed Lazcano until after his body was snatched. Lazcano, for whom there was a $5 million U.S. bounty, [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America Mexico Arrests Alleged Zetas Leader Suspected Of Migrant Massacre

    Mexico Arrests Alleged Zetas Leader Suspected Of Migrant Massacre

    Top Story — The Mexican Navy captured alleged Zetas cartel chief, Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, suspected of some of the country’s most well known crimes. Martinez Escobedo was arrested on Saturday and is thought have led the massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas among numerous other crimes, authorities said on Monday. He is also linked to the breaking of 151 prisoners out of jail and the killing of a U.S citizen in 2010, the jailbreak was the largest in recent Mexican [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico News Briefs Guatemala Implements Police Reform Aimed At Reviewing 20,000 Officers

    Guatemala Implements Police Reform Aimed At Reviewing 20,000 Officers

    Guatemala will implement a program to root out corruption in the police and military, according to Mexican daily El Informador. The wide-reaching anti-corruption program marks an effort by the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina to crack down on the drug traffickers that have infiltrated Guatemala’s often poorly paid security forces — particularly Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel. Some 20,000 police officers will face reviews during the first phase of the program. Two-hundred of them have already begun the process, according [...]

    Read more →
  • Today in Latin America Venezuela Hugo Chavez Wins Venezuela Elections

    Hugo Chavez Wins Venezuela Elections

    Top Story —  Hugo Chávez won the presidential election on Sunday, defeating his opponent Henrique Capriles by over 1 million votes, with 54% of the vote. This will be Chávez’s third re-election after almost 14 years in office. The elections saw a high turnout and voting was extended past the closing time of polling stations.  The electoral council president said that stations where voters hadn’t been able to cast their ballots would remain open. Read more at Aljazeera. Headlines from the Western Hemisphere [...]

    Read more →
  • Honduras News Briefs 2 Honduras Officials Receive Death Threats

    2 Honduras Officials Receive Death Threats

    Two officials in Honduras viewed as sympathizers with the county’s political left have received death threats, the local press reports. The news of the death threats against National Agrarian Institute Director César Ham and Secretary of Justice and Human Rights Ana Pineda raises questions about security in one of the region’s most violent countries, after a string of attacks against journalists and political activists preceded by threats that were disregarded. Ham told Honduras’ El Heraldo that President Porfirio Lobo himself [...]

    Read more →
  • Mexico Today in Latin America U.S. Embassy Car Was Targeted In Mexico Attack

    U.S. Embassy Car Was Targeted In Mexico Attack

    Top Story – New evidence suggests that the Mexican police officers who shot at a U.S. Embassy vehicle on Aug. 24 near Cuernavaca, wounding two CIA officers, were working for organized crime, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday. Mexican officials have confirmed that they are investigating the involvement of the Beltran Leyva Cartel in the attack. Contradicting the Mexican federal police’s claims that the shooting was a mistake, a U.S. official told the Associated Press that the attack was an ambush planned [...]

    Read more →