Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Muse: A Poet Leads a Peace Caravan

I had never thought of starting a movement or being a spokesman
for anything. I'm a poet, and poets are better known for working
with more obscure intuitions. But . . . I was reminded
that the life of the soul can be powerful too. . . .*
~Javier Sicilia

Did you know that more than 60,000 people have lost their lives to drug-related violence in Mexico? Or that another 10,000 have been "disappeared" and more than 160,000 have been displaced? That less than 2 percent of the crimes have been solved?

What do these heart-stopping statistics have to do with poets and poetry?

Sometimes it takes a death to get someone to act. Sometimes it takes a well-known voice to get people to listen.

In Mexico today, that voice belongs to poet, novelist, and essayist Javier Sicilia, even though he has said that "Poetry doesn't exist in me anymore."

* * *

For Sicilia, silence ceased being an option in 2011, when his son Juan Francisco, 24, lost his life to the so-called "drug war"; six of Sicilia's son's friends died with him (it is thought Juan Francisco and the others were targeted after they were overheard in a bar talking about the drug cartels and the violence). Sicilia's deeply personal loss was a catalyst, prompting the writer to lend his widely recognized voice, and now face, to his country's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity**, whose motto is "End the Drug War — No More Violence". Sicilia, featured among a series of profiles of protesters in Time magazine's 2011 "Person of the Year: The Protester" cover story, also leads the MPJD's trans-border initiative Caravan for Peace.

With logistical and other support from Global Exchange, the Caravan for Peace has come to America. (I heard about the group through an organization I've supported, the Quixote Center, which is a co-sponsor of the caravan.) According to the group's Website,  Caravan for Peace left Tijuana for San Diego, California, on August 11 and over the next month will travel to cities throughout the United States, including Los Angeles; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico; El Paso, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas;  Jackson, Mississippi; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; New York City; and Baltimore, Maryland. (See all the cities on the planned route and dates of arrivals or stays.) On September 12, the caravan will end its trek in Washington, D.C.

(Click image to enlarge view.)

At each stop, Caravan for Peace will repeat its organizing call á´‰Estamos hasta la madre! ("We've had it!") and seek to increase Americans' awareness of the drug war violence and how government policy on both sides of our border with Mexico contributes to the problem. By engaging with and helping to inform and mobilize activists and concerned citizens here, Caravan for Peace aims to promote civil discourse about arms trafficking, money laundering, migration, drug prohibition, and bi-national security (these themes are identified here) and the kinds of reforms needed at local, state, national, and international levels to bring the drug war within control.  

Go here to learn how to add your own voices, poetic or not, and make a difference to the bi-national initiative. Expressions of support, including housing and food for caravanners, monetary donations, and publicity, are welcomed.

In this video, Sicilia talks with a Democracy Now! interviewer about his activism:

Caravan4Peace on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube

Caravan for Peace Blog

* Quoted from Tim Padgett, "Why I Protest: Javier Sicilia of Mexico", Time Magazine, December 14, 2011

** Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad and Allied Organizations

WikiPedia Profile of Javier Sicilia

Betto Arcos, "Artists React to Mexico's Drug War with Music and Poetry", NPR Music, January 21, 2012

Wim Jansen, "'My grief is Mexico's grief'", Radio Netherlands Worldwide, July 30, 2012

Enrique Krauze, "Can This Poet Save Mexico?" The New York Times, Opinion, October 1, 2011

Joanna Moorhead, "Javier Sicilia: 'I have no more poetry in me'", The Guardian, October 28, 2011


Joan Barrett Roberts said...

Maureen - THANK YOU so much for posting about this PEACE CARAVAN now traveling America!

S. Etole said...

My heart always skips a beat when I read of the horrific things that happen there.