The Mexican Revolution (Part II)

Mexico Burning Fire Flag War Conflict Night 3D

 

Hello my little padawans!

Today, I make good on my promise to keep following the events surrounding the disappearance of the 43 Mexican Normalistas (teaching students) who were taken nearly three months ago in Iguala, Mexico. If you haven’t been reading too much into what’s already being labelled as a global movement, you can read about it in my last post here.

Last time around, I talked about the unavoidable similarities between the Massacre of Tlatelolco (1968) and the kidnapping and disappearance of the 43. But today we are going to take a look at other elements and go far beyond the borders of Mexico to see what the global response has been to this national crisis. And to prepare you for this, I warn you that although I will try to remain as objective as I possibly can when it comes to facts, I will also be expressing my personal opinion on some other matters. And yes, there will be a lot of quotations flowing around, because I just love quotations. Enjoy!

 

Within a Breath of Revolution

 

Nearly a month after my post about the “progress” on the investigation of the 43 normalistas who “suspiciously””vanished” in Mexico at hands of “unknown” armed men, the authorities of Mexico are no closer to finding the 43 normalistas- or their bodies for that matter- and appeasing an increasingly frustrated population who want them back alive. As a consequence, what was expected to be a routine “investigation”, has turned into what we can only be described as a cluster-fuck of epic proportions. Beginning with the rumors that the government was directly involved in the kidnapping of these 43 student-teachers of radical-leftist leanings, to the famous “Ya me canse” (I’ve had enough) of the Attorney General heading the investigation, to the recent scandals involving the president’s wife, the Mexican people are banding together closer than ever to oust the current administration. What we are witnesses to is  is one of the largest social movements of my lifetime. If before we were astounded at the high level of animosity and resentment towards the government, today, not just Mexico, but the entire world is astounded at the level of organization, largely- if not entirely- with the help of social media, not seen since the Spring Revolution (or Arab Spring) that started in Tunisia in 2010.

Artists, intellectuals, heads of state, common citizens, and politicians from all over the world that at first were just third-party observers are now involved in the fight, taking a more direct role in condemning the injustices of the government and calling for a complete overhaul of the judicial system and of the people writing the laws. Basically what the majority of Mexicans want is to strip the government of the current cabinet and replace it with a new one. Whether you think that’s a realistic goal remains to be seen, but what is evident is that the rallying mobs are now beginning to influence policy. And yet, the government doesn’t seem to get the hint that it’s fighting a growing monster. However, like any cornered creature would, it’s expected that the government will fight back. And facing the growing pressure from an international community, we’ll see just how civil this beast behaves. Then again, we are talking about the PRI who ruled Mexico in a successful one-party system for 71 years straight. And if you know anything about those guys, is that they don’t disappoint when it comes to fucking things up.

photo credit: sofíagonzález via photopin cc

Girl holds up sign at a protest which reads “We are missing 43”. Photo credit: sofíagonzález via photopin cc

Although the current cabinet is in a sort of damage control at the moment, the people aren’t having it, and what at first was calls for justice has slowly grown into the shouts of warning that if they don’t change the music, the party is going to end, and it’s going to end bad. These warning signs that a revolution is brewing are pretty evident when you see public officials nervously trying to pick up the pieces of a few (or lots) of miscreants who fucked up one too many times. And when the president goes on national television to announce change in reform, that’s when you know that the people are doing something right. And also that the situation is getting bad- or interesting, depending on how you look at it.

It seems that that semblance of inaction by government officials is just that, a semblance, for they have been plenty busy since the last update a few weeks ago.

But before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the details let me explain why I think this is a very exciting (perhaps not the right word) time to live in.

If you live in a country as fucked up as most Latin American nations- in this case Mexico- then at least once every few generations the people have the chance to change their government for better or for worse. The true sentiment of revolution resides in the ability for people to assimilate their realities with their hopes for how that reality should be. What we have in Mexico is not unprecedented in any way, but the calling of millions of Mexicans, and millions more around the world supporting them to change that government is unprecedented, or at the very least surprising. And THAT is what’s exciting.

In a talk I was having with my dad the other day (he lives in Mexico City), he brought up a very good point that I think is applying more and more at a global level, and that is that people, especially students and younger people, are becoming more and more politicized and more involved in the inner-workings of their governments. Long gone are the days when elected officials relied on a blanket of ignorance to continue ruling nations as if they were serfdoms. Nope, the 60s are coming back with a kick, combining classic insurgent techniques for protests and strikes with the efficacy and modernity of social media to drive and organize all these little movements to make it a global one. But a great thing to recognize here, is that although these demonstrations are peaceful for the most part, they are by no means lacking in power. Let no man tell you that the power and rage of the people is not scratching at the surface of restraint that is within a needle’s poke of a nuclear explosion.

 

Progress?

 

And now, let’s catch up with what’s been happening lately. And more importantly, what’s going to happen.

Ever since the chant for “Vivos se los llevaron, y vivos los queremos” (Alive you took them and alive we want them back), there’s been a few scandalous events shaking up the establishment starting with the “white house”. This is obviously not in reference to the American White House (although there is a bit of involvement there too- another story), but rather the mansion that Angelica Rivera- the president’s wife- “bought” with her salary as a soap-opera actress. Many people call foul claiming that it’s very improbable that she could have bought a $7 million house with the kind of salary she “earned” as a soap opera actress in Mexico, and that the house, along with many other gifts, were actually concessions as a result of a very lucrative contract the president arranged with a transnational company to build a high speed train in Mexico, something highly illegal under fair-competition-rules. That’s one.

Another one is the events that happened during the massive demonstration in the Zocalo area of Mexico City. While thousands of protesters gathered peacefully on the square, a few black sheep among them that are believed to be government agitators a la Tlatelolco ’68, started bursts of violence that led to 20 people getting arrested and 11 of them being taken to maximum security prisons where they were interrogated and beaten. I will admit that I was not there, therefore I do not know what exactly happened at the Zocalo square. It could’ve been that a few people were being unruly and violent, but by logical conclusions, if only 20 out of thousands were arrested, then you know there’s a piece of the story that doesn’t quite fit the puzzle.

Following the insurmountable pressure on the government, all 11 of the protesters were released alive, but not exactly well. Besides their own testimonies of the beatings they received in prison for crimes that the government has not been able to stick on them, it’s sort of hard to convince an entire population whom you’ve already managed to piss off that they tripped and fell on their way home. Yup, the credibility of the government is so tarnished now that not even El Presidente himself could fix things with his 10 commandments against injustice and corruption or by the implementation of the new anti-corruption telephone number (911- oh irony) that many are mocking as a direct line to denounce corruption to corrupt police. And then there’s the little hide-and-seek game that plainclothes agents of the police played with UNAM student Sandino Bucio. Snatched in plain daylight, Sandino was basically kidnapped, tortured, and threatened by the police who claimed that he was one of the agitators in the November 20th protests. According to the statement Mr. Bucio gave to TV cameras, the police told him that they would disappear him like the 43 of Ayotzinapa, that they would rape him and that they forced him to give up his passwords to his profiles on various social networking sites. He also said in front of cameras that they would pick up more people. But after charges that he was carrying explosives in his backpack didn’t stick, he was released and now his testimony is all we have to prove that individuals who self-identified as members of the police are in the business of hunting down students. Now if it looks like I am adding one trickle of fuel to the fire, then good, I wish to dump the whole fucking can of fuel and burn the whole thing down.

Sandino Bucio Credit: amqueretaro.com

UNAM student Sandino Bucio
Credit: amqueretaro.com

After these succeeding scandals, you would think that the government would be a tiny bit more cautious in the way they conduct business and would let the waters quiet down before resuming their usual games… you would think. However, the reality tells a different tale.

It’s difficult to know just high up this all goes, although it wouldn’t be completely off the mark to say that it goes all the way to the top. And I don’t mean just the top of the Mexican political circles, I mean the top top, meaning ex-presidents, like the Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mexican ex-president accused of stealing not only the elections back in 1991 but also billions as he fled the country. Some even go as far as to say that the American government might once again be involved in foreign affairs of civil unrest. It would make sense if they were, you know with Mexico being just across the border and all. I don’t suppose Obama would want a destabilized country as his neighbor even if America claims to be pro-human rights, anti-corruption, anti-dictatorships, blah blah blah. All this bullshit doesn’t matter in the end if American interests are threatened, and how could they not be when Mexico exports a huge amount of oil back to the U.S. and abroad and the newly-privatized oil companies are now in the reins of foreign investors with a pretty big interest in what is happening there now.

Woman holding up sign that reads "The real terrorists are those who kill, not those who protest".  photo credit: Gatifoto via photopin cc

Woman holding up sign that reads “The real terrorists are those who kill, not those who protest”.
photo credit: Gatifoto via photopin cc

It also doesn’t help when the head of the government is seen on very friendly terms with the owner of the biggest television company in Latin America, and the president’s wife’s former employer- Televisa. This is the very same corporation that out of the kindness of their hearts, “gifted” the president’s wife one of the adjacent houses to the “white house” as a retirement present. What would a communications and television corporation want with the government? If you are naive enough, nothing. If you know what the fuck’s up, then a lot. But it’s not entirely news that in Mexico, the news are just a tool for the government to use at their pleasure rather than being a source of information. I suppose you could say that about all governments, but Mexico is slowly going the ways of China in regards to freedom of the press– or lack thereof. So much so that many Mexicans now prefer to get their news through social media channels rather than the evening news. Part of that mistrust lies also in the cozy relationship the media has, or has had in the past, with the government. In turn, many are now turning to social media for its flowing ability to disseminate information quicker and more effectively, not to mention that is a little bit harder to censure than the news the government paid for, and it has the added benefit that these unadulterated news come from an objective third-party perspective, usually from other countries looking from the outside-in. But if we are to guess what’s going to happen next, I would put my money on Mexico starting to censure social media to quell the protests. Already there’s a bill being introduced in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate to make it illegal for protesters to go out into the street.

It is usually said that in Mexico the most dangerous profession to be is a journalist. It’s true. More of them have died covering Felipe Calderon’s War on Drugs than they have at any other time in history. Similarly, it is also said that it is just as dangerous to be a student, than to be a narco. Objectively I couldn’t say that that is true, but it does make a strong statement. It seems that at the moment being a radical left-leaning student in Mexico is more of a gamble than being a drug trafficker. Again, this is only my opinion and I could not sanction that from an objective point of view, but it is starting to seem that way. What is true is that the number one threat to any nascent dictatorship is an informed public, and the people of Mexico are starting to get informed.

 

Worldwide Support

 

It seems that for the time being, the president and his cabinet are toeing the line very carefully making sure that no other fuck-ups, ahem, excuse me, mistakes aren’t made to anger the people even more, you know since they rile up together and stuff. But as we read everyday in the news (those of us that still can), it seems that the beast is fighting back. And with every baton that comes down on another student, and with each video uploaded to YouTube, a deeper grave is dug for the machine of repression in a situation that is increasingly FUBAR. You’re going to have to look that one up on your own.

The only upside to all of this is that while cops and soldiers are out there busting heads, the real revolutionaries (if they can be called that at this stage), are documenting every single instance of violence to add to the already overwhelming PR campaign battle that is being waged not just inside the country but outside its borders. This push to publicly condemn and embarrass the president, his cabinet, and in effect the entire government structure has worked wonders so far.

Among one of the most high-profile call-outs has been that of the universally-loved Uruguayan President José Mujica who has called Mexico a failed state after the disappearance of the 43. My dad and I, as no doubt most Mexicans would, agree that the man is right! President Mujica is not saying that Mexicans are failures, he was merely pointing out an uncomfortable truth to fathom (for civil functionaries at least) that Mexico is indeed becoming a failed state. Of course soon after, he was pressured into recanting his statement, but in the hearts and minds of all Mexicans it stands as nothing but truth what this beloved head of state has said.

In the age of the Internet, thousands of groups in cities around the world support those in Ayotzinapa, and indeed all the Mexicans who scream for change. For me, it’s the pleasure of seeing the people finally wake up, or rather I should say come together to unite under one banner to fight against a regime wearing the mask of a constitutional democracy. And it seems like it’s going to be a long fight, but as they threw the first punch, the people of Mexico cannot back down any longer and now what they are shouting is no longer a call for justice, but a call for honest change.

 

What’s Next?

 

No one can accurately predict what’s going to happen next, as another major protest is already taking place today. But when major news sources, especially outside the country of unrest, start speculating about the what ifs, that is a good time to start paying attention. Usually there is something on TV to distract the people while the government continues doing its shenanigans, but as we have all seen, after three months of protests, a massive awareness campaign, and amounting failures on the side of the Mexican government, the sentiment for change in Mexico has spread worldwide, and there is hardly any other issue that takes precedence in the country.

It is no secret that people love revolutions, and this is a noble revolution. People love to rage against the machine, they love to speak out when their rights and the rights of others are in danger of being suppressed and stripped away. And although a lot of times their voices are scattered, the few times when their voices come together, that single, unified voice echoes not only across the world, but throughout the ages of time. Perhaps this is the time for Mexicans to unite their voices and let people know that this is our revolution, and that the fight for our future begins now.

And now I leave you with this video from Mexican rock-hip/hop group Molotov and their song “Gimme Tha Power” from back in 1997, words that to this day still speak of the sad reality of a country on the brink of civil war. Enjoy!

(Visit here if you wish to see the video with English subtitles)

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Interesting Articles to Read

Reporters Sans Frontieres, 2014 (http://en.rsf.org/71-journalists-were-killed-in-2013-18-12-2013,45634.html)

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Penny For the Guy

“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot, I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot…”

Do you remember how fucking cool it was to watch this movie for the first time? I do. By the way, if you don’t know what film I’m referring about, it’s V for Vendetta. I clearly remember the first time I heard that rhyme I thought, “Hey this is pretty cool, finally something original!” By the end of the movie, I was instantly floored by how amazing it actually was. The movie had it all, action, a bit of romance, an actual compelling story-line, interesting multi-layered characters, Natalie Portman, and even the hero was not so much a hero as he was an ANTI-hero. It even had what my geeky ass liked, a political theme to stand behind- the breath of revolution.

At that time, the Wachowskis were still uber famous for their billion dollar Matrix franchise and they were hot shit in Hollywood. Many people inside and outside the industry were worried whether they could pull off a follow up to The Matrix that was just as compelling and successful, or whether they were just a one-trick pony (can you say M. Night Shymalan?).

Then all bullshit speculation vanished away when the movie came out and everybody seemed to dig it tremendously. Hell, it even created a symbol that inspired an entire generation of people to adopt as their revolutionary banner, the Guy Fawkes mask that our anti-hero wears in the film.

You’ve seen it everywhere, from Halloween costumes to protests masks and it even was adopted by some members of the hacktivist group Anonymous, you know those guys with the creepy YouTube videos- “We do not forget, we do not forgive…” Yeah those dudes.

Anyways, it’s pretty rare when a film does that. And I don’t mean simply make something popular, that happens all the time. I mean when a film has the power to change communities, even influence governments that is something very rare. Oliver Stone knows this feeling all too well. That is something that this film did.

And yet, very few people (even outside of England) know who the real Guy Fawkes actually was. Different from how the character of V is portrayed in the movie, the real Guy (pun intended) was not a terrorist- well sorta. And very, very different from how V is portrayed in the comic version, Fawkes was certainly not an anarchist, although he was a revolutionary of sorts.

The real life story of Guy Fawkes is an interesting one in many ways, one of which fits into the context of counter-revolution perfectly. But here’s where the irony comes to bite us in the ass once again, as it often does in this blog.

The story of Guy is not a complicated one, however if you’re one to support acts of rebellion, you might not really like what the man stood for. Approach the story with an open mind and remember that those times were different, when tolerance wasn’t as widespread as it is today (says something about our world today huh!). Enjoy.

 

The Guy Behind the Mask

 

Guy Fawkes- or Guido as he was known from when he was fought with the Spanish- was an English man born in York in the year 1570. During that time, there was a rather brutal oppression of Catholics in England, as the established religion since the time of Henry VIII had turned from Catholicism to Protestant for everyone. Or nearly everyone. (For a loose interpretation of the facts around this time period, watch The Tudors. Or pick up a book.)

Guy’s family on his father’s side were mostly Protestant or attended services for the Church of England. Whether they were actually Protestant or just closet Catholics is left up to interpretation. But what historians do know, is that his grandparents on his mother’s side were hardcore Catholics come-what-may, as was the man his mother married after Guy’s father died when he was 8.

When he was in his 20’s, Guy went to fight for the Spanish in the Low Countries even though Spain and England were technically still in a state of war. During his military campaign, Guy completely switched sides supporting Spain and finally adopting the Italian version of his name Guido to win favor with Spanish, to whom he would later make a plea to support a Catholic rebellion in England to depose the king- James I.

 

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King James I    Credit: photopin.com

 

James I was a Protestant king who succeeded Elizabeth I, youngest daughter of the famous King Henry VIII and sister to Queen Mary (Bloody Mary), and the last in the line of Tudors. By that time Catholicism was no longer the official religion of England, and there was still bad blood between the Protestants who wanted to drive out the Catholics, and the Catholics who wanted to reinstate Catholicism as the one true faith.

When his requisition was denied by the Spanish, a discontent Guido then went back to England and in 1604 he met Robert Catesby, the leader of a group of disheartened Catholics who wished to assassinate  king James and replace him with a monarch sympathetic to the Catholics.

Together, along with a group of 11 other men, they set out to plan out how the assassination would take place, and eventually decided that they would blow up the House of Parliament while it was in session, which meant that the king would be there to precede the session. Guy being the most militarily experienced of all, was given charge of the barrels of gunpowder that would level the palace and kill the king and most of parliament loyal to the crown.

 

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Credit: photopin.com

 

However, the plot wasn’t to be. On the eve of the terrorist attack, authorities were alerted of the plot via an anonymous letter. Historians aren’t exactly sure whether this letter was sent by one of the members of the group who repented due to concern to kill civilians or whether it was tortured out of someone with knowledge of the plot. What they do know is that when a sweep of the grounds of the palace was conducted, they discovered Fawkes keeping guard of enough barrels of gunpowder to blow the House of Lords to smithereens.

In the succeeding days, Fawkes was arrested, tried, tortured, and prepared for execution. His fellow planners fled England with their honor semi-intact- whatever that means. Some tried to raise a small army to fight the king’s men while others were arrested and executed alongside Guido.

In 31 January, 1605, Guy Fawkes along with other conspirators were set to hang. While some jumped from the scaffold and survived only to be tortured to death later, Fawkes was able to jump before he was hanged and broke his neck thus avoiding the pain of torture and death by hanging. Just like many others before him, his body was quartered, decapitated and displayed for all to see as punishment of high treason to the crown.

A sad story indeed.

In the aftermath of the events, poets, writers, and common-folk remembered November 5th as a day not of tragedy, but of celebration. Not of condemnation but of remembrance of the man who paid with his life for his ideals and for the freedom to practice his religion. And while Bonfire Night was a forced-upon celebration where people burned effigies of Guy Fawkes to celebrate Britain’s Protestant tradition and the saving of the king, over time it has become an anti-establishment celebration.

If you are like me, then you will think that it was a waste of life to fight and die for something as useless and oppressive as religion. But you must remember that during those times- and for many centuries after that- the only thing worse than being a Catholic, or Protestant, in England was being an atheist. In fact, there was no such thing, if you were smart enough. So the only thing to accept was one religion or the other.

Also, it is noted that during the following years, there was a slow reformation in England that took place about civil liberties and freedom of religion. Of course, this didn’t happen for many years to come, but by the time of the Enlightenment, Europeans were becoming increasingly more concerned with matters of science rather than religion, and all religious matters were already in the process of taking a secondary stance in people’s views.

 

Why We Remember November the Fifth?

 

It’s important to know where history comes from, the story of history if you will. And as ironic as it may be, while England was a violent place to be if you were part of the wrong religion, now intolerance has shifted in part to America. It’s true that although we don’t torture  people to death for belonging to a different religion anymore, there is still severe discrimination in the United States, and in many other parts of the world, if you choose NOT to be part of any religion at all, while in England the percentage of atheism rises every year.

The story of V and his inspiration- Guy Fawkes- has brought a little piece of history to center stage. Today many more people know who Guy Fawkes was and what he meant to the English. Today those words recited by the very talented Hugo Weaving (Matrix Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings) in the guise of V will be remembered by a new generation of revolutionaries who fight against injustice and who speak out for reason whether is behind a keyboard or in public forums, “People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.”

And on this November 5th, are you gonna strap on your mask and walk out to your local march and show support for the cause of Guy Fawkes? I am.

 

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credit: photopin.com

And just so you know that the writers of the movie weren’t just pulling a fancy rhyme out of their hats for the sake of entertainment, here’s the full rhyme as it was sung on Guy Fawkes Night.

 

The Fifth of November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.

Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake

For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.

A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.

Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!

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This information was gathered with the help of several websites. For more information on Guy Fawkes, November the Fifth, The Gunpowder Plot, and related articles and websites please visit the following links.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder_Plot

http://www.bonfirenight.net/index.php

http://www.potw.org/archive/potw405.html

For information on the hacktivist organization known as Anonymous please visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group)

Credit for picture of King James I: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/60861613@N00/3483779833/”>lisby1</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Credit for picture of Gunpowder Plot conspirators: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/12912053305/”>David Holt London</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Credit for picture of French protestors: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/equinoxefr/6857192421/”>equinoxefr</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;