Near the end of last year, I became a father. As expected, it’s been full of ups and downs, joys and frustrations, precious moments and sleepless nights. But one thing I didn’t expect to encounter was racism. More specifically, racism in the guise of compliments.
My partner is Mexican and currently we are living here as we wait an eternity for the US immigration system to process her visa request. During this time, we’ve been inundated by visits from her family members and friends. And I’ve been consistently taken aback by how many have pointed out the color of our child’s skin and complimented us on it – as if we somehow genetically modified our baby to meet their racialized expectations. “How light-skinned he is!” or “Oh, what a good color! Congratulations!” are some of the more frequent comments.
To be certain, our child is light-skinned and at this moment can easily pass as white. But the phenomenon of an individual telling my partner that she had “chosen well” by reproducing with me and as a result was “improving the race” was not a response we had been anticipating. Nor the other range of comments, such as our child being smart because “first-world babies are more advanced.” One wonders what words would have been (un)spoken if our child had different skin pigmentation.
On November 21, 2022, one hundred years after his death, anarchists gathered at the tomb of Ricardo Flores Magón in Mexico City, where clashes ensued with members of the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM), leaving several compañerxs injured. In December, IGD contributor Scott Campbell interviewed Jaime, one of the anarchists present that day. The interview covers not only the events of November 21, but the life and legacy of Ricardo Flores Magón, the state’s attempts to recuperate his memory, and more.
How would you like to introduce yourself?
My name is Jaime. I’ll be speaking on behalf of those who took part in the action [on November 21], but which is not a collective.
Can you speak to the importance of Ricardo Flores Magón? Who was he, what is the significance of his work and legacy?
Ricardo Flores Magón was an anarchist, born in Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, in 1873, and who, at a very early age, became aware of the political and economic situation in Mexico at that time. He had contact with anarchist and libertarian ideas; he read Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta. As well, his Indigenous Mazatec origin and the practices of Indigenous communities, such as solidarity and mutual aid, had a large influence on the formation of his thought and ideology. From a very young age, he began to fight, to combat, to organize against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, which brought him persecution and repression. He, along with his brothers Jesús and Enrique, and people such as Juan Sarabia and others, founded a newspaper in 1900, called Regeneración, through the distribution of which a network of liberal groups was created that over the years evolved into an insurrectional network.
In 1905, the Regeneración group left Mexico for exile in the United States. By then, Ricardo Flores Magón and others had been imprisoned, had been persecuted, the Regeneración printing press had been confiscated, so they considered it unsustainable to continue the struggle in Mexico and went to the United States and settled in California. In 1905, they created the Organizing Junta of the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM), which is the political organization that guided or gave form to this organizational network. By 1906, it became an insurrectional network that encouraged and fomented armed uprisings in different parts of the country, primarily in Veracruz, in Chihuahua, in Acayucan, in Las Vacas, and so on. That is to say, Ricardo Flores Magón and others, such as Librado Rivera, Margarita Ortega, Jacinto Palomares, in short, a series of individuals, began to fight the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, but not to put an end to it and just install someone else as president.
Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón | Desinformémonos. The demand for the freedom of the seven Mazateco political prisoners was the focus of the international event organized to mark the 100th anniversary of the death in prison of Ricardo Flores Magón, an anarchist precursor of the Mexican Revolution who questioned power until his death, which occurred on November 21, 1922 in a U.S. prison. The revolutionary was born in Eloxochitlán, Oaxaca, and here, after a series of commemorative acts organized by the community, it was announced that the prisoners – held in three different prisons – will remain on hunger strike until governor-elect Salomón Jara Cruz opens a dialogue with their relatives to facilitate their release.
In a letter sent from the prisons of Villa de Etla, Taniveth, and Cuicatlán, Oaxaca, Jaime Betanzos, Fernando Gavito, Alfredo Bolaños, Omar Hugo Morales, Herminio Monfil, Isaías Gallardo and Francisco Durán recalled that the federal government recognized them as political prisoners in December 2018. At that time, they noted, “it was recognized that we are Indigenous people whose rights have been violated and that crimes were fabricated against us.”
Five observers from the Civil Observation Brigades (BriCO) withdrew from the Tzotzil community of Nuevo San Gregorio, Chiapas, due to lack of security guarantees and the intensification of attacks against this Zapatista territory.
The attacks appear to be coming from people from the San Gregorio ejido, Ranchería San Andrés Puerto Rico, Ranchería Duraznal, and Ranchería Rancho Alegre—four villages in the area—who are trying to displace the Zapatistas and take their territory.
The attacks began in 2019 and have not let up since then, according to the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba). As a result, the BriCo camp was set up in the community on March 3, 2021.
La versión original de esta entrevista en español puede encontrarse aquí.
The following is an interview with José Antonio Arreola, a former political prisoner released after serving more than three years of a seven-year sentence based on trumped-up charges. He is a member of the autonomous Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzen, a P’urhépecha community in Michoacán. A previous interview with José Antonio can be read here.
After more than three years in prison, you won your freedom on February 9, when the Supreme Court ordered your immediate release. Congratulations on this victory. How are you doing? How does it feel to be back home?
I feel very happy, I feel very glad to now be with my children, with my wife, with all my family there in my community of Nahuatzen.
For those who are unfamiliar with your case, can you share some background on the struggle in Nahuatzen and the events that led to your political imprisonment?
The reason why I ended up in prison, being a political prisoner, is because of the following. In 2015, Nahuatzen rose up against the insecurity that the municipal government had been causing since its inception. An insecurity throughout the entire community. The residents, when they saw that organized crime came for some compañeros and took one of them, got together. We all gathered in the main square in our community and decided at that moment that the plan to follow was to meet with the entire municipal government in the municipal president’s office and to be able to ask for information about our compañero. The situation ended, thank God, with us recovering our compañero.
We called for a plebiscite through a statement read through the public address system in our community, where each person was asked to voluntarily come and sign sheets of paper with their name and a copy of their ID. I can tell you that nearly 5,000 signatures were collected out of the 5,000 photocopies. That is why, in 2017, we won a ruling from the Supreme Court, order 035, which resolved that we are an Indigenous community, that gave us our autonomy, our self-government, our self-determination. Subsequently, we filed another lawsuit to obtain the resources directed to our community, which was also granted to us by the Supreme Court through the Toluca regional court.
La versión original de esta entrevista en español puede encontrarse aquí.
The following is an interview with Indigenous political prisoner José Antonio Arreola Jiménez, one of three political prisoners from the P’urhépecha community of Nahuatzen, Michoacán, currently serving seven-year sentences based on trumped-up charges. The interview was conducted in late November by IGD contributor Scott Campbell.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?
Yes, my name is José Antonio Arreola Jiménez. I’m from the Indigenous community of Nahuatzen, Michoacán. Nahuatzen is an Indigenous community nestled in the heart of the Meseta Purépecha. I have my wife and five children.
Can you share with us some details about Nahuatzen, its struggle, and your role in that struggle?
The struggle in Nahuatzen began in 2015, when the last municipal president was imposed on us by the state government, by [then-governor] Silvano Aureoles Conejo. Then, this Miguel Prado Morales, which is his name, arrived with more than twenty or thirty armed individuals from outside the community, claiming to be his private police, his bodyguard. We, as community members, thought this was bad, because within the town there is no need to bring weapons, we’re not people who fight, we’re not armed people. We’re working people, peaceful people. So that was, more than anything else, the main issue.
Then, one day we asked for a meeting with the municipal president, which was granted, and we told him that we wanted his police to leave the community of Nahuatzen. It turns out that he said yes, but later on he didn’t want to. The next day, he summoned us in front of his police, and we were attacked by them, his entire family, the entire town government. So, there was a revolt, there was a conflict, there were people who had their heads cracked open and people who were beaten. But at that moment, the community decided to hold a meeting, a general assembly, and to remove recognition of the town government. So, in a public meeting in the main plaza, we held this assembly.
The following is a statement from the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, translated by Scott Campbell, regarding the launch of a new permanent campaign against extractivist, neoliberal megaprojects.
Launch of the Campaign: “It’s Not Development – It’s Dispossession!”
We, the communities and organizations that have joined together since 2019 as the Oaxacan Assembly in Defense of Land and Territory, today, November 20, 2021, on the 111th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, declare the following:
Thanks to the long struggles of our ancestors against the conquistadores, colonizers and invaders who for centuries tried to dispossess us of everything that gives us life and sustenance, the First Peoples of Oaxaca still retain our communal and ejidal lands, as well as our territories and autonomy as communities and municipalities. We are still here as Afro-Mexican, Amuzgo, Binizaa, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocholteco, Chontal, Cuicateco, Ikoots, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Tacuate, Triqui, Zapoteco y Zoque peoples, and all the men, women, and others who have their blood in our veins and maintain their culture in our daily lives. We inhabit and work our ancestral territories, developing our own forms of knowledge and at the same time enriching the world with them, in a reciprocal and respectful manner. Thanks to this connection to territory, Oaxaca and all of Mexico has great cultural and ecological richness and diversity that those who seek to harm us so often boast about.
The peoples of Mexico today commemorate the invaluable struggle of our general Emiliano Zapata, speaker of the Nahuatl language and son of the people of Morelos, and our immortal Ricardo Flores Magón, Oaxacan and son of the Mazateco people, who together with thousands of Mexicans gave their lives for justice and for a dignified life for the peasants, the workers, the dispossessed, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico.
The following is the manifesto of the recently launched #FuturosIndígenas initiative being organized in so-called Mexico and beyond. Translated by Scott Campbell.
In the midst of this electoral drought, a network of narratives of resistance is born. Facing a climate crisis that threatens our future on the planet, that puts our lives and territories at risk, representatives from more than 20 Indigenous peoples are organizing to confront this emergency. To reforest minds, to indigenize hearts.
We are defending territory, our way of being and existing; we are uniting efforts and hearts through communicative actions and the creation of narratives in defense of life. We name ourselves Kiliwa, Cucapá, Nahua, Acolhua, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Ñu Savi, Hñatho, Amuzga, Purépecha, Ayuuk, Afro-descendant, Zapoteca, Popoluca, Maya, K’iche’, Wayuu, Zoque and germinate as #FuturosIndígenas [#IndigenousFutures].
Today, May 31, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, students from the Mactumactzá Rural Normal School took over at least 11 commercial trucks and set up a blockade to the protest the May 18 state attack against them as they were protesting against changes to the school admissions process. During that previous attack, 95 people were arrested, women were subjected to sexual assault, and many were injured by police beatings. All 95 face serious charges, with 19 still being held in the high-security El Amate prison. Joining the students in protest both today and on May 18 were displaced Indigenous Tzotzil residents from Chenalhó, forced to flee their homes due to paramilitary violence.
The following piece by Erika Lozano, published by Desinformémonos and translated by Scott Campbell, discusses the hunger strike started by women from Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, demanding the release of seven political prisoners from the community.
Mazatec women encamped in front of the Federal Judiciary Council in Mexico City to demand the release of their relatives after seven years in prison. Argelia Betanzos, Bertha Reynosa and Carmela Bonfil, from Eloxochitlán, Oaxaca, demanded a meeting with the president of the council, Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea.
“What brings us here is desperation, since the innocence of our family members has been proven by legal evidence, as has the fabrication of the crimes of which they are accused,” explained Betanzos during an interview. She is the daughter of prisoner Jaime Betanzos Fuentes, and she started a hunger strike on Tuesday, May 25, stating she will not leave until she has an answer. She also denounced that “using the pandemic as a pretext,” there has been no progress in the case on the part of Oaxacan authorities.