Ayotzinapa vive! La lucha sigue!

El pueblo unido, nunca sera vencido

The people united, will never be defeated 


La maestra luchando, también está enseñando

The teacher in the struggle, is still teaching

At the #blacklivesmatter teach-in at USF (2.24.15), Dr. Karina Hodoyán discussed the solidarity that has risen up between those affected by events in Ferguson and in Ayotzinapa. It appears that the killing of Michael Brown, and the killing of at least six student teachers from Ayotzinapa, and the subsequent disappearance of 43 student teachers, is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. In both instances, the victims come from impoverished communities that have been ignored by their respective governments for far too long. Public outcry has ensured that the deaths and disappearance of these young people will not be buried on the last page of the paper. The twitter account Noticias Ayotzinapa has tweeted and retweeted over 307,000 tweets and the hash tag #yamecanse[1] continues to trend. As I write, family members are doing a caravan style tour of the United States, to speak to supporters[2]. Journalist Charlotte Saenz relays a comment made by the Mexican government that the families of los 43 make decisions as a collective. It is collective action that has led to resistance struggles throughout Mexico and Central America. Neoliberal policies have hit Mexican public education hard and it is only by coming together that change can be made, or at least held back for now. The courage shown by educators is phenomenal, especially when you consider how repressive government reaction has been. When the people in a rural community in the early 2000s protested issues such as the lack of water, lack of electricity and lack of educational resources, protesters were arrested and many of them jailed for a number of years. The army/government claimed they were fomenting unrest and were assembling a guerilla army. Among those arrested were many schoolteachers[3]. Caravans of educators within Mexico have taken people from the southern states to the capital on a number of occasions. Along with the commonly heard chant of el pueblo unido.. , another chant comes up stating that the teacher fighting/in the struggle is still teaching. Education is certainly not confined to the classroom and these educators show that they are willing to put themselves on the line for the sake of public education.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 guarantees free and secular public education for all. It appears that no amendments have been directly made to Article 3, but articles that restricted private property laws and that dealt with land redistribution were amended in the 1990s. The adoption of NAFTA brought neoliberal education reforms to Mexico, without needing to resort to constitutional change. Standardized testing took on new forms and direct links between companies such as Coca Cola and public education became standard. Resources that the government should automatically have been paying for as part of its mandate came loaded with strings attached on behalf of corporate entities. The Market spoke and public education changed for the worst. At the end of the film Granito de Arena we hear from people in rural communities who refuse to take advertisers’ money and instead make do with meager supplies. It isn’t explicitly stated, but it can be assumed that in these communities critical pedagogy is the order of the day. It is stated that the children need to be educated in their mother tongue first and that their education needs to make sense to them, and reflect their daily life. Education is seen as a tool for liberation. Liberatory pedagogy does not make headline news and it would be worse for wear if it did take up mainstream airtime. It is not something to be monetized and there is a risk of teachers and students making themselves a target if they appear on camera. As educators and researchers, we can selectively work alongside communities to record what is happening and disseminate information, not that this isn’t already happening. Long before the Internet, rural communities were mobilizing to fight for their rights. It is potentially something we can take to other settings, for example Ethnic Studies campaigns here in the US, but we must be careful not to let it become a marketing tool. It is essential individual voices be heard, as part of the community. Neoliberal education reforms promote competition and individual rewards when what is needed for us to reach our potential is education that challenges us to work within society, together. There is no peace when competition takes over, and the people behind the free market system do not profit from pacifying forces. They are a formidable enemy however and creativity is needed to stem the tide. This creativity is shown in grassroots movements, and solidarity builds across borders much more easily now that social media is in play.

Ayotzinapa-Palestine-Ferguson: we are united in the struggle.

I first visited Mexico in January 1994. My original plan was to go to Oaxaca and then travel to Chiapas, but the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional-Zapatista Army for National Liberation) uprising changed that. In Oaxaca I met a couple of Chicano journalists from Texas who were heading through to Chiapas to report on the uprising. I seem to remember that the EZLN had invited foreign press to be in San Cristóbal on the 1st of January, 1994, the day on which NAFTA came into effect. I’m having trouble sourcing this information but what is clear is that the EZLN harnessed the power of the Internet to broadcast their demands from day one. I didn’t travel to Chiapas in 1994 because I didn’t have a role to play there, and I didn’t want to get caught up between the Mexican army and the EZLN. As I was reading up on the current state of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, I came across a document from 1998 that was put out by the RAND Corporation entitled The Zapatista “Social Netwar” in Mexico[4]. The term ‘netwar’ was created by two of the RAND researchers who worked on this document. The Wikipedia page on ‘netwar’ has as subheadings: Terrorism; Zapatistas; Transnational Criminal Organizations. Framing the Zapatistas as akin to a terrorist organization is chilling, as they represent grassroots activism, albeit with the aid of social media. I was able to pull up another RAND report that goes into more detail about the threat posed by social movements as a form of ‘netwar’, but it was dated 1996, so it the term may no longer be in use. The EZLN may have the word ‘army’ in their title but they are not waging armed struggle against the Mexican government. They are standing up for the rights of indigenous communities and for people living under oppression everywhere. If there is ‘netwar’ can there be ‘netpeace’? I am reminded of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ peace as outlined by Galtung. Indigenous communities in Mexico have been fighting colonization for around half a millennia. It is not a clear-cut war, not a civil war as such-at least at the moment, yet peace is the ultimate goal for those in the struggle. People’s basic needs are not being met, and this constitutes violence, especially in a country as wealthy as Mexico. Galtung defines violence in part as that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual, so deprivation of services comes under this moniker. Physical violence carried out by state and federal forces adds to this brutality. It is not easy to see a way out, but it’s unlikely that resistance will fade. Six months after the violence in Iguala the families of the disappeared teachers are not going away quietly and are not letting the government get off with flimsy excuses, with no basis in reality. International media attention likely keeps the Ayotzinapa families and supporters safe from gross state violence as the government wouldn’t be able to explain it away easily. Resistance away from the spotlight may be more dangerous and it is here we need to tread lightly. When individuals are being arrested and tortured for demanding basic rights, and where liberatory education is tied to supposed armed struggle in the eyes of the state, we need to stay vigilant. It is this education that supplies positive peace for the time is enters our hearts. Positive peace engenders dignity for all people willing to stand up for their rights, and the rights of others.

[1] “I am tired/I’ve had enough”, words spoken by Mexico’s Attorney General after an hour of taking questions about the disappearances of the Ayotzinapa 43.

[2] http://www.globalexchange.org/blogs/peopletopeople/2015/03/17/ayotzinapa-43-caravan-information/

[3] as per http://www.corrugate.org/granito-de-arena.html “Granito de Arena” film

[4] http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR994.html


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