Interview With Javier Sicilia Part II: Reweaving Mexico’s Social Fabric

"In Mexico we have the case of Monterrey, a wealthy, dynamic northern city that is supposed to be an example for the rest of the country to follow..... But when we arrived in Monterrey we found a destroyed city. We found a city with no social fabric; a city built on an economic paradigm of competition, on the legal form of criminality, because competition is another form of violence."
Fred Rosen 2/13/2012


In my last blog, published two weeks ago (alas, unforeseen commitments kept me away from my computer last week), I reported on a long conversation I had just had with Javier Sicilia, the founder of the nonviolent, anti-violence group called Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD). In that report I excerpted some of Sicilia’s comments on the questions of nonviolence and the process of dialogue.

760 Monterrey, Mexico Photo:

In this blog, I present more excerpts from that same conversation, this time focused on Sicilia’s belief that Mexico needs to reconstruct its social fabric—the broad complex of obligations and expectations that groups and individuals owe to and expect from one another—in order to effectively take on the dark forces of violence and organized crime that have beset the country over the past few years.  

FR: In your speeches and articles you talk quite a bit about reweaving the social fabric. When the social fabric is strong, you say, there is less crime. Say more about that.

JS: Let me give you an example. In Mexico we have the case of Monterrey, a wealthy, dynamic northern city that is supposed to be an example for the rest of the country to follow. Monterrey is supposed to be the paradigmatic city of Mexican development and the strong, new economy. And then you have its opposite: the state of Chiapas with, for example, the Zapatistas, the pre-modernity, the Indians, just the opposite of what the future should supposedly be. But it turns out that when we arrived in Monterrey we found a destroyed city. We found a city with no social fabric; a city built on an economic paradigm of competition, on the legal form of criminality, because competition is another form of violence. And facing the violent brutality of criminality, the people of Monterrey didn’t know how to defend themselves because there was no social fabric that bound them together.

But entering Chiapas, above all in the Zapatista areas, we find that there is almost no criminality. The people aren’t rich; they are poor, but they have a deeply woven social fabric. So we have to understand that the economic paradigm is also a paradigm that leads to violence, which in turn leads to crime.

FR: And what’s behind all that? What’s the relation between crime and the economic paradigm?

JS: Organized crime is nothing more than the market economy organized in a very perverse form. It’s a form of using individuals in a way that those individuals are made use of by capital: as instruments, to extort, to kidnap, to rape, to enslave, to sell, well simply to use human beings as resources and instruments for economic ends.

And this is born from an economic concept that is now dominant throughout the world. I would also like to make North Americans aware of this. Because the Occupy movement hasn’t been paying attention to this. Although they are very conscious of the human pain that exists within the economic system, they don’t seem to recognize that much of the pain exists in the economic system as a form of negation of humanity. So we have to change the economic paradigm.

FR: One of the things you will find in the United States is that the great majority of the people—including many on the far right—are in agreement with the idea of a social fabric. But many times they are in agreement with a fabric that excludes others. Is there a contradiction between a strong social fabric and the exclusion of people who are not deemed to be part of that fabric?

JS: Of course. It’s that the social fabric is distinct in each place. And when there is an imperial mentality of the social fabric it is destructive because it tries to inform everything, and so it has to be reconstructed from below, by the people in each region.

FR: Here in Mexico, it’s the Indigenous communities that have long been excluded from the dominant social fabric. One of the successes of Sub Marcos seems to be this reconstruction of the social fabric, bringing Indigenous people out of social exclusion. What do you think of the role of the Zapatistas in Chiapas?

JS: Well, it’s a very serious situation. It’s a situation in which [the forces of the state] are using the pretext of the war against organized crime to counter a political movement fighting for dignity and self-respect. So it’s very serious because we should have learned—and the government should have learned—that the Zapatistas are playing an important role in the reconstruction of the social fabric and human solidarity, putting a stop to the economic disparities.

The autonomous communities of Chiapas are a new social fabric, attempting to become a part of the fabric of the nation. Those who are trying to take over the country are the criminals, not the rebellious Indians, not the communities that have autonomous, alternative ways of living but that want to be at the service of the country.

FR: Time Magazine recently named you one of its “people of the year.” In an interview with the magazine you talked about conflicts between MPJD and the “left,” and you were quoted as saying that the left has tried to “hijack” the movement. What was that all about? Did a group on the left try to take over the MPJD?

JS: Well, we are a moral movement, and most of us who make up this movement are people of the left. And the PRD, the party of the democratic left, has seen us as allies. But, they have committed some serious errors trying to subsume the movement under their electoral logic. We don’t want to be subsumed under that logic because there is a great deal of corruption within the PRD. And given the circumstances of the moment, I have always thought that we needed a government of national unity that had a moral president that would permit us to save our democracy. It’s as if we were at war. But the PRD has its own electoral interests. And the PRD tried to pull us in that direction and we resisted. And that was the cause of the conflict.

On the other hand, with the Zapatistas we have had a close relationship. Each group has shown a great deal of solidarity with the other. I think they understand what is involved with the renewal of the left. And they are not trying to take state power but rather to remake the social fabric. They understand the economic roots of the problem and so we have been very close to them—even though, unlike us, they are not a nonviolent movement. We want an independent moral movement, not one dependent on elections and ideologies and political parties. Our function is ethical morality.

Having said that, I think part of the solution has to come from the state. Within the state there are people who are genuine criminals, and other people who submit to organized crime, who aren’t doing the jobs they are supposed to be doing. To recreate the social fabric the state must to do something about the capital produced by money laundering. It must clean itself up.

And society should be pressuring the [federal and local] governments to do that. It should be pressuring the state with mobilizations to respond to humanity and to the pain of the people.

More to come. 



For more from Fred Rosen's blog, "Mexico, Bewildered and Contested," visit To read Fred Rosen's last interview with Javier Sicilia, visit

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