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(en) Mexico, LA anarchist Joaquin Cienfuegos: Report Back from Mexico City and Toluca, 06-28-06, 06-29-06

Date Wed, 05 Jul 2006 10:03:10 +0300

I stayed in Mexico until the 29th of June, and wanted to stay until
the 3rd but was unable to change my flight (due to the lack of funds).
This is the last report back. Now that Im back home in Los Angeles
I will work on translating these into Spanish so that other
communities and the people in Mexico that I met will have a chance
to read them as well. A friend also talked about helping me turn the
reports into a pamphlet. I like to think of the reports as a look into
the struggles of Mexico right before the elections.
Report from Mexico City DF 06/28/06
Yesterday and the day before I spent mostly traveling from Oaxaca
back into Mexico City. Before I left Oaxaca I passed by the house of
the Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca Ricardo Flores Magon to
pick up some materials for a speaking tour that were working on in
the South West US to support the struggle in Oaxaca (where the
CIPO-RFM will be participating and speaking).

I arrived in the evening of 06/27/06 to Mexico City and attended a
cultural event at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana
Xochimilco / Autonomous Metropolitan University Xochimilco
Campus. There was a week of activities happening at UAM-X for La
Otra Campana, my friend from Atenco, who is a member of the
Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, goes there and is part of
the Sexuality and Queer Organization at the campus (we talked
about how this struggle of queer liberation was important and should
be fought, and how challenging the culture of machismo within our
communities was a big part of organizing within our communities).
The event yesterday, June 27th, was a photo exhibition called,
Atenco: Represion y Vida Cotidiana / Atenco: Repression and Every
Day Life, and it was also an exhibition of paintings with the
collaboration of the Committee Liberty and Justice - Jacobo and
Gloria. There were paintings there by Jacobo Silva Nogales, who is a
political prisoner along with his wife Gloria Arenas who are political
prisoners for six years, have suffered repression, and have been
tortured because they fought and organized for justice for the
oppressed and the poor in Mexico. My favorite painting from Jacobo
Silva Nogales was one entitled Zapata Machetero, which he
dedicated to the FPDT in Atenco, it was a portrait of Emiliano
Zapatas face constructed by machetes. A story posted next to the
painting was that of the FPDT and their close relationship to the
Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), and how they
even provided security of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and
defended him and broke through police barricades when they
surrounded the house he stayed in when he was in Cuernavaca.
There were photos also in exhibition of the repression in Atenco on
May 4th, a long with a look into the daily life of the people in Atenco
through photos.

Today in the morning I attended a National Encuentro (Gathering)
of Anarchists from Mexico (with a couple of people from Southern
California as well, Los Angeles and Santa Ana). The national
gathering was to discuss building an anarchist federation throughout
Mexico. People also wanted to provide an alternative gathering for
the Otra Campana; to have a collective analysis on the Otra, get an
understanding on everyone's view on the Otra, and hear of
everyone's local organizing experiences. The encuentro was
scheduled for two days, and I stayed for the first part of the first day
and the last part of the second day (I had other commitments, but
also was able to contribute to the encuentro, talk, and meet other
anarchists from all over Mexico DF, Zacatecas, Oaxaca,
Guadalajara, Chihuahua, Baja Califaztlan, Guanajuato, along with
other places).

We had a go around at the encuentro to hear of everyones
experiences, and also some of our failures and victories. I noticed
that people are faced with the same obstacles and similar
experiences in attempts of building anarchist organizations or trying
to connect anarchists. Everyone was there to continue to try and
build a movement, and connect with each other where they wanted
to learn and grow from the mistakes theyve done in the past. In
Oaxaca they had some failed attempts where they had some people
who were more dedicated than others, people didnt have a basic
program to start out with, they tried working with organizations but
felt like they were being used. They felt that building a network was
best so that everyones political differences would be respected. Right
now they had formed networks with different organizations to
support the struggle against the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in

In Mexico there were different collectives from different parts, and
they were all there to figure out what to do to combat the mistakes
done in the past. Some talked about how individualists and
collectivists clashed, were some individuals want to move the
collective, the lack of consistency (where people scheduled
meetings, and no one showed up to them), how when outreaching
anarchists only focused on people who are politicized already and
students, how anarchism is not explained to people and how it
relates to them, where they saw that they've become a sectarian
group of anarco-punks, nothing was being done to integrate
themselves (by speaking at schools or doing outreach), there was a
lack of formation, lack of study, lack of organization, lack of
discussion (so that people can get practice at defending their ideas),
and finding other ways of struggling besides just marching. The
Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (Autonomous Magonista
Collective) talked about what they want to do in terms of building an
analysis of different libertarian movements, building a movement
nationally and internationally, building a clear vision about a
libertarian movement, having self-criticism on our mistakes, and
looking at history and learning from it (Magonismo, Federacion
Anarquista Mexicana / Mexican Anarchist Federation, the 1980s the
student struggles and anarco-punks in Mexico), and building an
organization that is able to coordinate with different collectives. The
Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (CAMA) says that anarchism
doesnt just exist in one sector, it exists in all sectors, "We dont just
have to build an anarco-punk scene, we can rebuild
anarcho-syndicalism in Mexico". A woman who worked with Indy
Media Center in Mexico talked about how anarchism is a way of life,
"it's an analysis, and it's not a lifestyle". "For some, when the state
becomes too real for them, and they suffer repression, they go
home". She said that the libertarian movement has to have a
function; it has to act within the social movements, and organize in a
broader way so we can be stronger.

In Guanajuato they've had a collective thats been in existence for a
long time where if people tried to join it they would be rejected. That
collective also only focused on the immediate work and not on the
revolutionary organizing for the long term, the camarada (comrade)
from Guanajuato had a criticism that because they've been around
for such a long time, and don't allow for new ideas, they're stuck on
dogma, and do not evolve their thinking. They also had a criticism of
the punk scene, for having an immature understanding, and their
ideas being based on whatever new scene existed, and how it is just
a rebellious phase for many. In Guanajuato they're involved in
supporting the struggles of miners.

In many different regions they talked about drugs and alcohol being
a problem and a huge obstacle in their organizing. Where punks just
wanted to get drunk and high, and not do any work. In Chihuahua
they talked about how in the year 2000, they had a collective of 40
punks to start out with, and throughout time those 40 punks stopped
coming around (they left because they were overwhelmed by the
system, they just got into drugs, or when they saw that things didnt
change overnight). They say that they don't work with anarchist
teachers who just talk, they work with community and social
movement organizations that are anti-capitalist, they work within the
movements, and they also work with people from Juarez who have
Zapatista ideas.

I participated in this discussion as well. I talked about some of my
experiences with the Southern California Anarchist Federation, our
failures and our victories. I said that it was important to look at both
the victories and failures of our experiences so we can keep on
fighting. Also, that there isn't a need for an anarchist movement, but
there is for a horizontal revolutionary organization that has a
relationship with the popular movements (revolution is a popular
struggle, and it is not made by a handful of people), with a strategy, a
base for popular support within our communities (so we can all
continue to struggle), and to organize those who don't call
themselves anarchists around our principles (like mutual aid,
horizontalism, autonomy, self-organization, self-determination, and
self-defense). Having structure is important, and the role of our
organization is to lead by example (in terms of how to struggle, and
how we can organize), and democratizing knowledge is part of the
process of building horizontalism (some people have more
experience than others, and shouldnt hold knowledge as private
property). Finally I talked about my vision of a federation of
revolutionary community councils, locally, regionally and
internationally. We have a lot to learn still, and what is needed is a
revolutionary movement of the oppressed.

Later on in the day, I met up with a couple of people from Southern
California that I knew, and we went to another event at UAM
Xochimilco on La Otra Campana. The event was a conference
entitled, "La Otra Campana: De Cuando se Organizan lod De Abajo
(The Other Campaign: When those from the Bottom Organize)".
The speakers included, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (Sexta
Commission of the EZLN), Arturo Anguiano (Adherent to the Otra),
Sergio Rodriguez (from Rebeldia Magazine), Yan Maria Yaoyolotl
(Organization of Lesbian Zapatistas and Mujer Arte), and Francisco
Cruz (militant of the Socialist Workers Party, Partido Obrero
Socialista). We arrived there a little late and the auditorium was full,
and we had to stand in the back. We only got to hear the person from
the socialist party and Marcos speak, and most people in the
auditorium I think were there to see Marcos (My friend from
Corona, Debbie,almost passed out after she touched him : ] ).

Marco spoke about the Otra Campana and what it means and how it
is going. Some of the things he talked about were traditional politics,
anti-capitalism, and the anti-capitalists within La Otra. "In
traditional politics, those above put forward their politics, their
program, and their principles. The analysis and politics need to come
from those who are involved in the movements. The plan is being
unraveled by those discussing around the points of the 6th
declaration. The politics from above are always where they talk and
we listen, we changed that relationship, where people talk and the
EZLN listens, so we can build a different relationship built on
mutual respect. The Other Campaign is built on mutual
understanding, everybody with their way, with their flag, with their
demands, with their voice."

"Anti-capitalism of the left, that is said easily but it means to have a
position against the systemthere is a system of capitalism, that is
build on exploitation. Were not all the same and we are not all equal.
There are those who have everything, and those who have nothing.
The first ones have because of the second ones. Under capitalism
there are those who have money, the capitalists. Then there are
those who only have the capacity to intellectually and physically
work. This system produces wealth then it concentrates it. Its
responsible for robbing workers, for prisoners.., no healthcare, lack
of justice, privatizing education, war, social conflict, racism against
indigenous people, violence towards women, the attacks and
dehumanizing of homosexuals and transgender people,
authoritarianism, the criminalization of youth, and the destruction of
history and culture. Anti-Capitalism is to go farther away from this.
Its about destroying this system and building something else in its

Sub Marcos also talked about socialists and anti-capitalists within
the Other Campaign, "Socialists arent the only anti-capitalists within
the Other Campaign. There are Anarchists and libertarians. Those
who say socialism should only be within the Other Campaign mean
their socialism. Anarchists do not say their way of thought should
lead and be the only ones within the Other Campaign."

At the end of the day, the folks from Southern California and I went
to stay at an encampment in Toluca (the capital of Mexico), at the
prison Almoloya where the prisoners of the Atenco Repression of
May 4th. People have vigils there every night and sleep outside of
the prison. They have a media center, kitchen, and have people
doing security at night. They play music all night long for the
prisoners, out of a sound system, that night we listened to Silvio
Rodriguez, the speech from Subcomandante Marcos of earlier, and
Pink Floyd.

Report from Toluca, Mexico and Mexico City DF 06/29/06

Unfortunately this was my last day in Mexico, and I felt sad the
entire day (I tried to stay longer but had run out of money). I fell in
love with the people that I met in Mexico, their humbleness, their
rebel spirit, and their revolutionary aspirations that were in practice

In the morning people from Atenco, and other municipalities came
to organize actions at the different hearings for the political
prisoners. People split up and went to the different prisons where
political prisoners were being held, Santiaguito, La Palma, and
Almolaya prisons. The Southern Califas folks and I went to La
Palma, the maximum security prison where three people were being
held (Ignacio del Valle, Felipe Alvarez, and Hector Galindo). There
were some flower vendors from Texcoco who came, a woman from
Texcoco said, "We called on the people from Atenco and they came,
so were here supporting their political prisoners." A woman from
Catepe, a municipality just outside of Atenco, spoke from a sound
system that was set up right outside of the prison and said, "We're
all Atenco, it doesnt matter if youre from Guadalajara, from
Guerrero, Chiapas, or from California." She later said, "We had
machetes to defend ourselves, but we never cut or hurt a police
officer. Now if you attack us we will, because you massacred us."
Talking to other women from Atenco they told me, "I rather be
working sweeping floors than be a cop. Its a much more dignified
job." Another woman sitting next to her told me, "They [cops] live
off the people, and then they kill the people." The speakers from the
mic sent messages to the political prisoners that the women and
men are still fighting. A friend that I met from Atenco, who's uncle
was being held inside La Palma, told me that the military might be
sent into Atenco the day of the elections, he told me, "We never had
military before at our protests, he said as he pointed at twenty to
thirty Mexican soldiers, They think this will intimidate us, but this
only enrages us more."

The campesinos created their own chants, and even songs that they
yelled and sang outside of the prison. Some of them were, "Alexis no
murio, el gobierno lo mato (Alexis didnt died, He was killed by the
government)", they sang, "Naranja dulce, Limon Partido, Pinche
Gobierno ya estas podrido, si quieras guerra te la daremos, pero los
presos los sacaremos (in song: Sweet orange, slice lemon, fucking
government youre already rotten. If you want war well give it to you,
but the prisoners will be freed)."

Later in the day I caught a bus back to Mexico City, for the
Anarchist Encuentro that was still going on at the Centro Social
Libertario Ricardo Flores Magon. When I got there we were talking
about organizing an anarchist contingent at the mass mobilization
being planned on July 2nd, against all the political parties, and in
support of the struggles in Atenco and Oaxaca. We talked about
forming affinity groups or cells of 3 in case the contingent was
broken up, and we also talked about security (where we discussed
having cameras to observe, document, and a form of defense, but
also having walky-talkies to coordinate with the rest of the security
of the march). There was a good discussion around how we would
deal with repression if it came down on us.

After this, the adehrentes of the Otra Campana met to discuss the
upcoming National Assembly for the adherents of the Otra
Campana. The points of unity around the anarchist participation in
the Other Campaign included, 1. Libertarian organization, 2. There
is a possibility for libertarian struggle within La Otra, and 3. Support
for the social movements within La Otra. Along with these points of
unity there were serious concerns and criticisms that came from
comrades from all over working within La Otra, who were proposing
building a libertarian bloc within La Otra. The concerns included
protagonism (where people seek to put themselves out there like the
saviors of the people, or to build a cult of personality around
themselves), too bureaucratic organization, and even compas from
Juarez said some social organizations working within La Otra went
as far as to call the anarchists terrorists for dressing, thinking and
acting different.

We had a discussion around the different concerns for a couple of
hours. Around protagonism, in particular concerning La Otra, I dont
think its the individuals in the EZLN who are at fault principally. I
think people from the time they're born are trained in thinking that
someone else has to solve their problems for them, that someone
will make the decisions for them, and I think people sometimes build
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to be that. We have to challenge
this, and provide a means to where people can organize themselves
without this relationship. The individuals who don't challenge this
when it happens are also at fault, as coordinators and organizers, our
job isnt to always put ourselves out there, taking credit for things we
do not do or do on our own, or impose ourselves. We have to seek to
democratize knowledge, build collective ownership, and distribute
power. We talked about the importance of uniting with the ideas we
agree with within the Other Campaign (which was why most of us
were adherents to the 6th Declaration of the Selva Lacandona), but
at the same time criticize and call out things we disagree with and
oppressive actions, language and behavior. You can't have unity if
there is oppression or if there isn't any respect. If there is no respect
for anarchists, women, queer people, or different collectives and
states that are involved in the campaign there can't be unity or
solidarity. You can't have solidarity if there is opportunism, where
organizations and individuals use the campaign for their on interests
of centralized power (in particular authoritarian communists). We
talked about having a clear analysis as anarchists within this national
movement on why we're anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, and
anti-oppression. We need to get our vision out there, and how we
think we can get there and how we can organize ourselves. I talked
about why I think it's important to keep our independent position
within this movement, and continue our collective work that we
were doing already. This is the time to propose a better future and
organize to make that a reality.

The comrades asked me to stay with them that night, and asked me
to stay longer in Mexico (which I tried to do). I hung out with
camaradas from Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Chiapas, DF,
and we talked and exchanged stories. They asked me a lot of
questions about California and Los Angeles. They asked me what
part of LA I lived in, and I told them I grew up in South Central and
they heard stories of how the situation was there. They showed me
solidarity, and talked about organizing street youth, gangs, punks
and hip hop heads, the funny thing I told them was that most of the
organization of Cop Watch Los Angeles was that. They thought it
was good to hear about an organization made up of the oppressed
(women, people of color, queer, trans, working class people).

We talked about music, and our favorite hard core punk bands, and
we talked about how hip hop is also from the streets. I told them I
listen to all types of music, and when we organize fundraisers and
gigs we sometimes even have cumbia bands perform. I mentioned
one of my favorite bands, Sin Dios, and some friends mentioned that
a vegan punk band boycotted them in Mexico because Sin Dios had
made a comment about animal liberation. They said human
liberation should come before animal liberation. I told them that I
agreed with that, and was saying it before I heard of Sin Dios. We
talked about the American punk scene influence on Mexico (the
animal liberation, and veganism, and the complacentness with
privilege of the American punk scene). I mentioned how a lot of my
friends who are punk don't even look the part (and the ones who do,
are really different from the privileged punks) and come from the
ghettos and barrios (and combine hip hop and punk sometimes) and
we see that the anarchists who focus on animal liberation do so
because it allows them to lead in a movement without challenging
sexism, white supremacy, capitalism, homophobia and their own
privilege. A brother from Zacatecas had heard of the South Central
Farm, and talked about supporting the struggle by doing outreach to
the Zacatecas' community in Los Angeles. A lot of us stayed up all
night writing a statement that was going to be read at the National
Assembly of Adherents to the Other Campaign. At times we would
argue over our different positions, over language, and how to define
ourselves, but this is part of the process of learning how to organize
ourselves collectively.

Concluding the Visit to Mexico.

In my time in Mexico I learned huge lessons. Like I mentioned to a
brother from Chihuahua, about the struggles that I encountered, "In
the cities, we're still in preparation, we're still thinking of the
struggle in terms of ideas, but in Atenco and Oaxaca they're already
putting it into practice." There is definitely a lot to learn from those
movements, and I would like to bring back these lessons into my
organizing in Los Angeles and adapt these lessons to our conditions
in our communities.

There were different organizations, and not everybody worked
together either. People had concerns of different organizations, even
if they shared similar politics. Although, that relationship wasnt
antagonistic, movements just had a mutual understanding that they
couldn't work together at this point. When criticism was raised, even
if people were inside the same movement or in the Other Campaign,
they did it in a way that helped strengthen the movement and the
relationships they had within the movement and the Other

I also think that there are many things that are similar with some
communities in Mexico and communities in the US, and some
things that are different. In Mexico there is racism towards
indigenous people or anyone who is dark skinned, and in the US
white supremacy is also responsible for the oppression of people of
color. If you don't speak Spanish in Mexico, youre seen as not being
human, just as if you dont speak English in the US. The culture of
machismo, religion, the system of patriarchy and other things still
subjugate women, queer, and transgendered people in Mexico as in
the US. Poor people, working class people, farmers and peasants,
are exploited and robbed by the capitalists, in a more overt and brutal
way in Mexico due to imperialism, but familiar to immigrants and
workers in the US. There is repression in the US as in Mexico, but
there is a difference. Most tactics in torture, in brutality, and rape are
coming from the US, but we don't suffer this type of repression on
the level that the people in Atenco and Oaxaca were witnessed to. In
oppressed communities in the US we have a low intensity war, in the
communities in Mexico they're higher intensity, because of
imperialism and the government in Mexico has to keep people in
check for their masters in the US. We also have resistance in the US,
and organizations from oppressed communities have similar ideas to
those movements in Mexico (some of us more than others), but the
people in Mexico have more experience in struggle. My comrades in
Cop Watch Los Angeles actually have a lot of similar ideas to
organizations like el Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra and
Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca, but
we,re still building our base, getting organized, preparing, studying,
and training. We are dealing with different conditions in the US, with
a big propaganda machine, with a more cohesive state, and with
people being content with their privileges and luxuries afforded to
them by the empire.

The government of Mexico, though, is in trouble. They see these
revolutionary popular movements as a threat to their interests of
selling Mexico to the highest bidder, so recently they have unleashed
some of the most vicious repression in an attempt to kill these
movements. The tactics of the state is to attack the head of a
movement, hoping that the rest of the structure of a movement
would fall apart. They've had trouble doing this when a popular
movement exists within the communities, and a base of support
exists for the revolutionaries and militants (as in the Campesinos
(farmers) in Atenco and the Majesterio (teachers) in Oaxaca (as well
as the movement for the disappearance of governments in Oaxaca).

As long as you have a hierarchical, oppressive system and a state
that imposes; where it doesnt allow for the people to govern
themselves, then you will have a people who are ungovernable. This
has been the case of struggles that exist in Mexico. At the same time
when you have a centralized power structure, those in power will do
anything to keep their power. They will even go as far as to
massacre, rape, detain, and brutalize people. Those in power can be
beaten though, and they have been beaten in the past. We can win,
with an organized force and a popular movement that has
revolutionary aims and is able to sustain itself for the long run as
well as defend themselves from the sate.

siempre en lucha,

Joaquin Cienfuegos
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