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World March Blog
8 December 2009

Viva Mexico!!

We have just spent 3 days in Mexico.  After splitting up in the USA all the other groups headed for Mexico City, but our group, after spending a very nice time with the San Diegans, crossed the hateful border wall into Mexico at Tijuana.  What a contrast!!   Bye, bye Miss American Pie!  Hello land of Tequila, Mariachi, guacamole and Fajitas!

Also you can see the difference in reception.  In San Diego, Paul and Janet worked their butts off trying to get a crowd of 50 people to turn up to their event by the border.  In Tijuana the whole event was sponsored by the City Council.  We had a 5km march through the town (including a scary section on a motorway) which must have had about 500 people taking part.  Then on arrival in the main street, which was closed to traffic, we had a fantastic cultural event with Mariachi music, a fantastic singer, and dancers in which 4 young couples danced together without touching each other – lots of stamping of feet on the ground.  I’m not sure the Brazilians would understand a dance where you don’t touch your partner!

Another nice touch in Tijuana was that on all the lamp posts pendants were hanging with one side a peace symbol and on the other side was a picture specially commissioned for the World March.  It was really impressive.  I asked if the people could bring the pictures to the end of the March and we have an exhibition.  It was incredibly what the city did for us.

We stayed in Tijuana until 11pm then went to the airport where our 12:55am flight was due to take us to Mexico City.  What a complicated process we went through!  First we went into a secure area for check in (bags x-rayed).  Then we checked in, then we had to come out again to go and pay a tax, then we had to go back in again to go to the check in area (bags x-rayed), then we had to go to the departure gates (bags x-rayed).  It was unnecessarily complicated.  On top of that no one in the airport really seemed to know how the process was meant to be.  It was bizarre.

Eventually we arrived in Mexico City at about 3 hours later, but there is a 2 hours time difference, so we arrived at around 6:00am totally exhausted.

Fortunately (and once again take note other countries), the City Council paid for accommodation in a fantastic hotel.  It was a wonderful gesture and we were all very grateful.  We had 2 nights there and it was great to rest and relax in comfortable surroundings with excellent internet access.

The events in Mexico City were on 2 days.  One day of institutional stuff (which I didn’t take part in because I hadn’t slept the night before and there were other issues that needed attention) and one day of public activities with a welcome ceremony, a March and an all day cultural event.  Very nice everything.

It was a bit of a contrast though.  Maybe during our March there were a 1000 people, but later in the evening, just 1 km away from our event the City was turning on the lights on the huge Christmas Tree.  I’m guessing at least 100,000 people came to see that…

People like Christmas, but Peace and Nonviolence is not quite as attractive, yet…

Our last day in Mexico had us flying down to the state of Chiapas.  Chiapas is famous for its Zapatista movement.  I don’t have all the details, but at the heart of the problem are a number of things: first the State is majority indigenous population and there is a huge abuse of human rights, second the State although one of the richest in resources is the poorest in terms of poverty and social development.  In 1994 this social movement arose demanding the rights of the people and was brutally repressed.

The region, which is the border between Mexico and Guatemala suffers similar problems to the USA-Mexico border; namely drug trafficking and immigration.  All of the immigrants wishing to make it to the USA from Central America come through this part of the world, and there are terrible cases of violence, rape, robbery, murder and so on that happen to the immigrants.  It’s distressing to hear about such violence.  I can’t imagine how it is to live in these parts.

Although we had a short time in Tapachula, the city we are staying in, the welcome we received by the President of the region was one of the warmest we’ve received throughout the whole of my time with the March.

We had a press conference where representatives of the media seemed genuinely interested in what we are doing.  Then we met the President and were greeted by some stunning Marimba music and on entry into the reception room we were amazed to see the efforts that someone had gone to, making flags of all the countries of the base team members, putting the names of the countries on labels and putting them into a lovely flower arrangement, giving us postcards and maps of the area and feeding us local food.  It was really touching.  The President presented Rafa with a commemorative plaque and a food hamper and the music went on for a couple of hours.

I think we were all truly amazed.  We really are in the middle of nowhere here, yet these people truly understand the need for peace and nonviolence.  For them it’s not some utopian ideal, it’s a necessity in life…

With a big hug,

Tony

P.S. It’s midnight and we have to be up at 5:00 so there’s no time to do photos today.  Today we were in Guatemala – 14 hours on a bus – Nice :-)

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