A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith
Poet-activist Javier Sicilia, who led anti-violence marches across Mexico after his son Juan Francisco was killed in apparent drug-related violence in the Cuernavaca area, presented his book "Estamos Hasta La Madre" on Thursday night in Tijuana. (A sanitized translation of the title could be, "We are Fed Up" or "We are Fed Up Up to Here.")
About 200 attended the event at the city's Casa de la Cultura, and more than 70 had books signed by the author. The event began at 7 p.m. The author signed books and hugged attendees past 10 p.m. Sicilia and his Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity have become a repository for the nation's ills. Many of those in attendance took their problems to him, giving him a piece of paper or report about a missing or slain relative or friend, or telling him their sad stories.
Protesters against the city's proposed 11 de Julio Plaza project whom police booted off Tijuana city hall grounds Nov. 2 brought up their case to Sicilia during a question-and-answer session, to much applause. When some became aware of the presence of Tijuana public safety director Alberto Capella at the event, there were cries of "Fuera Capella," or "Capella Out." Sicilia calmed the crowd, telling them, as he had during his talk, that what the country needs most is dialogue and that what some of what they were advocating was a form of violence. Questioners in the audience mostly followed the instructions of the moderator to keep their queries brief: The one exception was Capella, who took the floor for nearly seven minutes and indicated that the protesters against the 11 de Julio Plaza project often were not allowing ordinary citizens to freely conduct their business at city hall. Capella also said that Tijuana had undergone tremendous violence but through the work of its citizens and others has dramatically reduced that violence, in part through a program whereby citizens can anonymously denounce crimes. Capella spoke of 105 police who have been killed. Capella also received applause, but not on the scale of the protesters. He later spoke onstage for a few minutes with Sicilia, as seen in the photo.
Sicilia wore his trademark hat, which he took off when he called for a minute of silence for the more than 40,000 who have died since President Felipe Calderón began his war on drugs in 2006.
Sicilia lamented, "This is a country that does not know how to have dialogue." He called for more dialogue, and said mobilizations were an important form of dialogue.
Sicilia said his group was non-political and urged those in attendance to vote for the candidate of their choice in next year's presidential election. However, he also said he had a lot of worries about likely Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, who has a wide lead in the polls. While some have claimed that Peña Nieto is the candidate of the Televisa TV network, Sicilia said: "He is not the candidate of Televisa, he is the employee of Televisa."
Among those embraced by Sicilia onstage after the book presentation were two Tijuanenses who head civilian groups seeking answers about friends and relatives who disappeared as an apparent result of violence. They were Cristina Palacios de Hodoyan and Fernando Ocegueda Flores (pictured with Sicilia in left photo). Previous mention of the groups.
Sicilia said an Editorial Planeta editor suggested the book, but that Sicilia said he did not have time to write one. They decided on a compilation of his columns for the left-of-center newsmagazine Proceso.
Sicilia often ends his columns calling for support for the Zapatista movement and protesting Costco's actions involving the Casino de la Selva hotel in Cuernavaca. When I approached Sicilia for him to sign his book, I told him I had bought it at Costco to see what his reaction might be. He frowned, but then good-naturedly said he would sign it anyway (and I then told him I had actually bought it at Sanborns).
The book was 198 pesos ($14.40) at Sanborns and for sale for 190 pesos at Thursday night's book event.
In the Casino de la Selva case, the hotel, which had many murals, had fallen into disrepair. Many of the murals were removed and the hotel destroyed to make way for the Costco warehouse store. The murals now are part of a museum on the site (PDF file).
Sicilia also opposes Costco on the grounds that its mass merchandising takes away from native Mexican products, and has called for the destruction of its Cuernavaca store. Sicilia has ended his columns thusly: "Además opino que hay que respetar los Acuerdos de San Andrés, liberar a todos los zapatistas presos, derruir el Costco-CM del Casino de la Selva, esclarecer los crímenes de las asesinadas de Juárez, sacar a la Minera San Xavier del Cerro de San Pedro, liberar a todos los presos de la APPO y hacerle juicio político a Ulises Ruiz." (In addition my opinion is that the San Andrés Accords (with the Zapatistas) must be respected, all jailed Zapatistas must be freed, the Costco-CM of the Casino de la Selva must be demolished, the San Xavier mining company must be removed from the Cerro de San Pedra, all of the prisons of the APPO (group supporting Oaxaca teachers who went on strike) and impeach Ulises Ruiz (Oaxaca governor during the protests).
Update, Dec. 15: Time magazine profiles Sicilia as one of the people involved in worldwide protest movements who were collectively named Man of the Year. Story in Time.