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El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido

by Juliana Miller

On April 20, I was part of an awesome group of people who traveled down to the border of San Diego and Tijuana to protest against the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas — see “FTAA: The Issues at Stake”).

Those few days were full of magic and transformation and they were a beginning to the very necessary alliance-building between activists up North and activists and organizers South of the border.

One of the main goals of the action was to build alliances with Mexican organizers and activists, partly by showing our support for their struggle and the work they have been doing. It was important to keep in mind as people who are essentially outsiders, although we were there to be allies, that even if our support was important and welcome, they have been fighting these forces for quite awhile. It was evident that we were coming from a place of privilege and power.

Another goal was to draw connections between the struggles against gentrification and displacement in US cities, linking all the injustices within communities of color and expanding the understanding of how these issues are on a global scale. We all must understand that when we talk about “globalization” we see that it starts in our own communities and spreads all over the world. Before the term “globalization” entered the white, middle-class vocabulary, the Zapatistas were fighting “globalization” in Chiapas [see related story, page 20]. This is not a new fight.

These connections were made throughout the weekend. The first day we arrived in San Diego we joined a rally of 1500-2000 people. From there we took to the streets and marched to the border — a 20-minute walk. As we marched, we chanted, “El pueblo, unido, jamas sera vencido — The people, united, will never be defeated,” and “Open the border, stop the New World Order.” There was a police presence, but we were able to do what we planned. Some puppets and signs were confiscated by the police, but mostly we were left alone.

Many of the speakers at the San Diego rally, including a member of Rage Against the Machine, drew connections between the struggles against gentrification and displacement in our U.S. communities and the pressing needs of people South of the border.

Then we crossed the border into Tijuana and made our way to the rally by the beach. I saw how the freeway divided crumbling, impoverished, temporary housing from sprawling, luxurious Spanish-style homes. The image of that disparity is not one I will soon forget. When we reached the Tijuana rally we were met by a crowd of 100 people. They had a platform set up with loudspeakers right next to the iron wall of the border, which extends into the ocean.

That wall served as a powerful symbol and constant reminder of the separation between the US and Mexico. How arbitrary and bizarre the wall was, stretching even into the ocean with the tide rising and flowing around its intrusive presence.

From the platform we heard speakers, with English translation for the mainly English-speaking crowd. We heard about the Maquiladoras, the horrible working conditions and treatment of workers in the sweatshop factories, anti-immigrant violence in the US, farm labor exploitation, and more.

I was struck by how hopeful and strong the speakers were, how much gratitude and positivity they expressed in the midst of such longstanding injustice and dismal conditions. I felt on a deep level how important it is to actually see the faces and hear the voices of people we claim to represent when we march against the FTAA and other atrocities. How can we truly say we are in solidarilty with those who struggle every day, when we sit in the comfort of our privilege and never even meet them?

The expressions on the faces of the Mexican children also struck me. Their gazes were steady and unafraid. It reminded me that when you have nothing to lose you have so much less to fear.

The fight against US imperialism and against the FTAA is inextricably linked to the struggles in US cities and worldwide. People everywhere want to maintain or to gain autonomy for their communities, to have their culture respected and their people thrive with decent housing, food, education and health care. This is at the heart of the struggle. I know in my very bones it is posible for everyone to have these things. Si, se puede.

The road toward this goal is long and difficult. The work is complicated and often tiresome. So I say, let us continue to make music and dance in the streets. Let us love beyond all reason or comprehension. let us create ritual and spread strong, healing magic as we work toward our goal. Most importantly, let us never, ever give up.