El Cero

short stories

Which way home?

Back at the end of March the son of a Mexican poet was murdered alongside friends in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos just south of Mexico City. His father Javier Sicilia called for nation-wide protests against the violence in Mexico and the current government policies being used to combat it. I saw the protest in Monterrey and some of the things that struck me most were its size and the people who were leading it. Now I don’t know the history of protests around this issue in Monterrey, and I don’t know the traditions of political movements within Mexico itself, but I felt the absence of traditional community leaders on the day. The issue is massively important for the region and Monterrey, but I was left with the feeling of a fringe event, that saying Stop the Violence was in some sense controversial, even embarrassing.

The protest in front of the government palace, Monterrey.

However, the majority of the people who were there, and who were willing to stand in front of the TV cameras and reporters were normal, young 20-30 year-olds. They were prepared to talk about and criticise a situation in full public view, that many people struggle to mention within the safety of their homes. Young people who don’t have any protection from heavily armed security contingents, or who can rely on the sanctity projected by the Catholic Church within Mexico. Last weekend as I watched people mourn at the site of another indiscriminate killing, it was the same young people who were alone, putting themselves in front of the cameras, speaking out about what was happening and finding alternative ways to be active against the violence other than just using more violence. In the circumstances I find this incredibly powerful.

A guitarist in front of a pock-marked wall, plastered over with political messages criticising the current situation in Mexico.

Many people I talk to say the violence will be over after the next presidential election in just over a year. They hope that the next President will work with, rather than fight against the drug cartels and the situation will normalise. I can fully understand people being desperate for some peace and I’m not a Mexican who’s lived in Mexico over the last few years, but this view really surprised me. Will this problem – and all the moral questions that have come with it – not just rise again the next time all these parties are in disagreement? Will everything that’s happened just be forgotten?

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