The following article, translated partially by me from the Spanish version on Pie de Página, looks at the women-led struggle against the passing of a U.S. company’s gas pipeline through Yaqui territory in so-called Mexico. It also touches on the case of Yaqui political prisoner Fidencio Aldama, serving a 15+ year sentence related to resistance to the pipeline. For more information on Fidencio, visit fidencioaldama.org.
Text: Daliri Oropeza and Reyna Haydee Ramirez Photos: Daliri Oropeza
The gas pipeline was already a foregone conclusion, at least that’s what the company, the subsidiary, and the government of Sonora thought. They were wrong. Yaqui women narrate how they have stopped this project.
Loma de Bácum, Sonora: A gigantic metal pipe can be seen at the bottom of a hole in the earth. The family of Carmen García look into the hole which was dug by the people of Loma de Bácum to remove the gas pipeline.
The people used an excavator they seized from the company IEnova, affiliate of the United States transnational, Sempra Energy. The company was building the gas pipeline without the approval of those who live there. A consultation was never carried out. So, after an assembly, the entire community went to where the pipeline was being laid. There, they excavated and cut out with a blowtorch nearly ten kilometers of pipeline, which they then took to Ciudad Obregón to sell as scrap metal.
I want to pause and think about the correct words and also recognize the linguistic paralysis produced by the maelstrom of femicidal violence. Because this is not the first time the tsunami of immediacy has removed the possibility of stopping to reflect on the importance of choosing the words with which we form our discourse. And, I assume, I am not the only one who in the urgency to speak cannot even name what or how much it hurts while I try to reflect more deeply on what we are living through.
Among the feminist reflections sparked by the atrocious femicide of Ingrid Escamilla, there is one that barely resonates and is worth lifting up: we face the abandonment of being citizens of a femicidal state to which we continue to confer our security despite it repeatedly proving itself to be the very perpetrator of violence against women and the propagator of hatred against women.
For a little more than a year I lived in Palestine. This text is not about that time but rather a phenomenon I first encountered there. That would be, in an overarching sense, the experience of the normalization of the expectation of the abnormal event. In this context, an abnormal event refers to an incident or circumstance that is outside the range of normative human experience and often beyond the capacity of the human psyche to make sense of or healthily integrate. During my time in Palestine, abnormal events were occurrences such as the nighttime raids of villages or homes, killings, woundings, beatings, kidnappings, tortures, and home demolitions carried out by Israeli military forces or settlers. (This is limited to the West Bank and would be much more devastating if expanded to include Gaza. Also left out are scenarios such as protests, which one enters into knowing that Israel will utilize varying levels of violence.)
Israeli forces carried out these actions with a consistency accompanied by an intentional unpredictability. In practice, this meant holding in one’s awareness the knowledge that something bad was going to happen, and soon. There was no if. When, where, and how bad? were the ever-lingering questions. And, given the limited territory on which these events occurred, would it involve those one knows or perhaps even oneself? To daily hold the apprehension, dread, or anxiety of the knowledge of an impending but unknown calamitous event is psychologically and physically exhausting. Its presence festers in the background, tingeing even the most positive or enjoyable of activities with an ambiguous darkness, an ill-at-ease that can not be put aside. For at any moment, the phone may ring or text may arrive with the news that something has happened.
Recently, I happened across a news article that unexpectedly sent me drifting more than 15 years into the past. Upon arriving there and sifting through its dusty, neglected contents, I meandered back to the present following the thread of a certain activity that had its origins in that seemingly forgotten corner. Though it spanned years of time and thousands of miles of distance, the recollective detour lasted perhaps 30 seconds. When I came back, I found myself doing the very same act that I’d used to return me to the present: I was translating.
The article in question was about 12 rappers from the collective La Insurgencia who were recently sentenced to two years in prison in Spain for “promoting terrorism” due to lyrics about a now-defunct leftist group. Such a sentence for lyrics is of course absurd, but the Spanish state, especially since passing the Ley Mordaza in 2015, has excelled at zealously targeting political expression which does not reify its own power and image. Another radical hip-hop artist, Pablo Hasel, is currently facing 12 years in prison for the contents of his opinions and songs. Francoism hasn’t gone anywhere, as made clear by events surrounding Catalonia’s push for independence last year, it just wears the cloak of democracy.
We are individual and collective adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, EZLN and CNI sympathizers and people from below and to the left in solidarity with the suffering of our brothers and sisters, victims of the recent earthquakes and the predatory system that is only death.
As in 1985, those who claim to govern remain totally surpassed by reality. Today their wonderland can’t be seen, not even by them. Meanwhile, we are the ones from below who suffered the consequences of these natural and socio-environmental disasters. Like 32 years ago, today the Mexican people are the ones going into the streets and towns to help, to give what little they have to help the other, the one who suffers, the stranger, the brother. Some who have much contribute much. Among those who have little, they contribute what they can, sometimes everything that is in their hands. Those who have nothing give their heart and offer to serve were needed. They are the ones who fill the streets and coordinate to gather aid and distribute it. Small business owners support by giving food and drink to those who give their time and effort. True hope emerges from these smiles and glances of solidarity.
Back when I first began selling my labor for a wage in the wasteland of suburbia’s strip malls, I can recall the tedium of stocking shelves, summoning up insincere courtesy in the face of entitled customers and obnoxious bosses, comparing the stacks of money counted at the end of the day with the totals on our paychecks, and feigning adherence to whatever motivational façade management cooked up to mask the reality of our exploitation.
Yet I also remember, much more vividly and fondly, the latent and occasionally eruptive defiance among my co-workers. This included the constant collective complaining about the job, taking more and longer-than-approved breaks, working as little as possible, fudging time sheets, stealing, and the intermittent screaming matches with the boss in the middle of the store. Underpinning all these actions was an unspoken but broadly understood code of silence when it came to such transgressions and, when appropriate, expressions of support for them.
At the time, I didn’t think much about this, it was just how things happened and I’ve encountered similar experiences to varying degrees in every workplace since. Our actions weren’t guided by a political framework nor was there any attempt to organize them in a directed manner. It was more a spontaneous, innate reaction to experiencing the coercion of capitalism. I had cause to reflect upon this anew while reading Kevin Van Meter’s new book, Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible, published by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies.
Following a calamitous event such as the election of Donald Trump, the first reactions are often visceral. Those who view it positively gloat and interpret it as greater permission to act according to their more base impulses, seen in the increase in anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racistattacks since November 8. Those who view it negatively experience a kind of shock and anger. In an attempt to process the unexpected, those emotions frequently are vented in the form of projection, utilizing shame and blame in an attempt to shore up a challenged worldview. Social media exacerbates this by permitting us all to become unfiltered pundits, clicking the “post” button to bestow legitimacy upon any thought that may pop into our heads or trying to acquire social capital by presenting oneself as the holder of the correct analysis.
I’m of course of the opinion that Trump’s election is a negative occurrence. The thousands who have been militantly taking the streets all around the United States are an encouraging sign, especially heartening are the youth, disenfranchised by this system yet perhaps the most at risk from it, organizing walkouts of their schools. The immediate and spontaneous rejection shown in the streets establishes an important oppositional framework for the long road that lies ahead and serves as a way to communicate to one another, to those most at-risk under a Trump regime, and to the rest of the world that the fight back is already underway. But as we are all aware, street actions are never enough. From an anarchist perspective, this moment calls for reflection along with action. In my view, I see three main tasks: a) problematizing electoral politics; b) understanding Trump’s victory; and, c) planning for the long haul.
Note: The use of the word prison in this text refers to all artificial environments that domesticate us so as to insert us by force into the capitalist system of production; this is a contribution to deepen the reflection of all living beings in the hands of economic powers and the technological project…
Compas, I greet you with insurrectionary love, that these words of war may reach you; greeting as well the coming days of insurrection, as ideas bloom in the fields like flowers we should not stop tending.
We do not know if there will be a victory, but what we do know is that they will not occupy our dreams and our lives…
As the strike against educational reform by teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) in Mexico enters its fourth month, the conflict between the people and the neoliberal narcostate seems poised to take another turn, a potentially violent one. The government is running out of tricks, leaving the likelihood it will return to its old standby, state violence, all the more likely.
When the strike first began on May 15, the government’s tactic was to ignore the teachers, refusing to talk to them. As that failed and support for the teachers grew, it tried brute force, leading to the Nochixtlán massacre on June 19, a day when twelve were killed. That repression caused national outrage and succeeded in turning a teachers’ movement into a popular one. The government then offered up negotiations as a fig leaf, yet meeting after meeting made clear that the state had no actual interest in negotiating anything. The school year started in Mexico on Monday, August 22, but teachers remain on strike and schools have not opened in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and parts of Mexico City.