On November 6, The Caravana Contra la Represión de Mexico (Caravana Against the Repression of the Mexican Government) visited UC Merced in collective efforts aimed to denounce government repression of femicide (female homicide), mysterious disappearances of citizens, and assassination. The speakers included family members of Aytozinapa’s 43 missing students, members of the Otomi indigenous community, family members of the June 2016 massacre that targeted teachers and students in Oaxaca, farm workers advocating against unfair labor practices and abuse made by Driscoll’s, teachers against the Education Reform Law that imperils their bargaining rights as teachers, and speakers who discussed the current femicide occurring in the state of Juarez, Mexico.
The student-run event began at 11:00 AM with tacos and duros. After the reception that included food and snacks for all, The Caravana spoke out to an audience of 100+ about the repressions they have face with the Mexican government. Bertha Garcia, mother of Brenda Garcia, who was kidnapped at age 17, discussed how femicide affected her life, “Ustedes, como mujeres, madres y padres saben que no hay nada más sagrado que nuestra familia. Yo ando buscando mi hija ya que las autoridades nunca an hecho nada.” (All of you here, women, mothers, and fathers understand how sacred family is. I am searching for my daughter since the authorities have chosen to do nothing.) She continued her speech on how the Mexican government’s negligence to take action on these matters has failed the families and women of Mexico. Although she received the “remains” of her daughter, Garcia still feels her daughter is alive.
The government has also failed the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. On September 2014, the college students took several buses as a form of transportation to Mexico City to commemorate the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968. Sometime after that, police intercepted the buses, killing six people in the process, and rallied up the students to never be seen again. The government has not disclosed the students’ whereabouts, except for one student whose body was found mutilated according to LA Times. What is believed to be the groups’ remains were found in mass burial grounds but no definite answers were given. The families and citizens of Mexico are still waiting for answers.
The violence surrounding Mexico has created issues of fear, but citizens continue to fight. In Oaxaca, Lucía Gutierréz Nicolás was brutally attacked by police enforcement on June 19 during a protest regarding an educational reform act; the Mexican government denied using any brutal force during the protest. “Hubieron ocho muertos y 300 heridos, el gobierno dice que no es cierto… Nosotros como víctimas ese día 19 teníamos una represión muy difícil, fueron ocho horas con batalla con los policía federales, con el pueblo. Ese día las clínicas se cerraron, los hospitales cerraron del parte del gobierno porque precisamente porque comunicaron para que no nos atendieran” (There were eight deaths and 300 wounded and the government says it’s not true… We are victims of that day on the 19 and were strongly repressed. The battle with the police and city lasted eight hours. That day the clinics and hospitals closed because the Mexican government called them and told them not to help us.) Gutierrez explains during the event.
Teachers such as Gutierrez protested the Mexican government’s budgeting tactics, claiming funds were wastefully used and was not in the interest of the students or teachers, who at times had gone months without pay. Gutierrez-Nicolas explained that it was in the government’s best interest to oppose education in order to continue to have power over its citizens.
The Caravana also discussed the labor abuse in Driscoll’s. Driscoll’s is an agricultural company that sells strawberries and other berries in the United States. Workers are paid only approximately $6 for 19 hours of labor work. Not only did they discuss the economic burden of being employed in an over-worked agricultural company but the negative repercussions it has on their children. The plants are sprayed with toxic pesticides that labor workers are exposed to. Children then receive second hand poisoning from interacting with their parents who are infested with toxic pesticides in their clothing. They urged the public to boycott the consumption of Driscoll’s until employers enact fair labor practices to all employees.
The Caravan came in coalition to denounce government repression and shed light to the social injustices manifested by the government’s failure to serve its people. The Somos Todos, We Are One event ended with 40-60 people holding hands in unity chanting for positive progression in their country.