It is not likely that the small but persistent pacifist movement organized by poet and essayist Javier Sicilia—the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity—will bring a genuine internal peace to Mexico any time soon, but its growing visibility and its persistence in the face of threats and smug dismissals from all sides is encouraging.
Last night the Peace Caravan to the South, organized by the Movement, arrived in Mexico City’s central plaza, the Zócalo, ending its eleven-day, round-trip journey to and through southern Mexico, where it documented 221 cases of violence, chiefly among them disappearances. The mile-long caravan consisted of some 500 activists and twelve private guards travelling in 14 buses and at least 20 private cars and vans. Three cars carried the armed bodyguards. Like its previous trip through the north—then called the Consolation Caravan—this peace march on wheels was meant to raise awareness of the daily violence experienced by many Mexicans, to encourage people to tell their stories, and to give a public voice to the heretofore “invisible” victims of the violence. On its arrival at the Zócalo last night, some 5,000 supporters greeted the caravan.
As the caravan traveled through nine southern states, the security provided for Sicilia himself was particularly intense, especially after groups of hooded men were spotted on the highway in the state of Tabasco. Eventually the van in which Sicilia and members of his family were riding was separated from the rest of the vehicles, to reunite for a rally in Villahermoso, Tabasco, only to separate again.
No one, of course, knows precisely who these masked men were, but given the often thin line between law enforcement and criminality that prevails in certain areas of Mexico, they could have been members of either side—or both sides—of the “war against organized crime.” Human rights activist Fray Tomás Gonzáles, a colleague of Sicilia, told a press conference over the weekend that the Caravan had been detained in the town of Tenosique, Tabasco by municipal police, and later by soldiers and members of the federal police, one of whom hit a protester in the face.
For supporters and the curious, the Movement now has an informative Website, with links to its “global network” in several North American cities, including Dallas, Montreal, New York, San Diego, and Seattle. The U.S.-based network has been established within Mexican-American communities, and function more as outposts of the movement rather than solidarity groups. There is some material, however, directed at solidarity activists and available in English.