Sunday, 17 June 2012

#YoSoy132 Student Marchers and Protest Signs

The link below opens a pdf slide show file (large-15 meg). The pictures are from the #YoSoy132 march of Sunday, June 10, in Mexico City. There are also a few pictures from the Andrés Manuel López Obrador rally on the Zocalo on the previous evening, Saturday the 9th.

These pictures are of the pancartas (signs) made by the student protestors and others participating in the MORENA rally or participating in the Sunday march. At least 100,000 people—mostly university students from 54 colleges and universities in the D.F. and EDOMEX area— marched as part of the #YoSoy132 protest that began in the Centro Historico (Zocalo) and streamed down two side streets to converge in front of Bellas Artes, and continue their march with laughter and a great deal of fun to the Angel of Independence on Reform. #YoSoy132 marchers crossed paths with another march that had been organized by the Comité68, and that ended up in the Zocalo for a rally after the #YoSoy132 group had departed for the symbolic meeting place of the Angel. Comité68 organized its march in memory of students shot by the notorious special forces group "los Halcones" on jueves Corpus Christi in 1971, and to press for their demand that Luis Echeverria be prosecuted by international courts for ordering those killings. 

The #YoSoy 132 march was part circus, part guerrilla theatre, and 100% anti-Peña Nieto. Although it was clear that many people marching were pro-Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, there were few indicators or visible signs that it was a rally to attract votes for AMLO. Most of the posters and signs were hand-made — many on the spot and others changed during the route as the students thought of something more clever to say. The majority of the pancartas were unique statements by young people who are firmly convinced that it's time to raise their voice in protest. Some were funny, some were obscene, but all were deadly serious in representing their disgust with corruption and manipulation of the electoral process. Many signs made reference to the protests of the past were students had been killed (68, 71), many complained about the manipulation of the electoral process by the duopoly media powers Televisa and TV Azteca, others made reference to the impunity of PAN party members in the 49  children who died in the Hermosillo Guarderia ABC  fire, and others expressed fear that there was already a "fix" in place to steal the next election (…the most common signs referred to this as "La Imposición" - referring to the support of Peña Nieto by the Atlacomulco group of Mexico State). Other signs made irreverent comments about Enrique Peña Nieto's hair and his connection to Televisa and to Carlos Salinas Gortari: perhaps one fourth of the signs had images of Peña Nieto's hair with no face or made reference to his hair style that they everyone refers to as "el copete" (the "crest" as in rooster crest, and a slang reference to a cocky aristocrat). The more creative types used photoshop or adobe illustrator to combine the "copete" hairline of Enrique Peña Nieto with the Televisa corporate logo and/or the moustache that represents Carlos Salinas de Gortari. A significant number of the signs called for plans to stop the "Imposición" of "El Copete" by "El Pelón" (the bald Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

The march was watched by many municipal police, many of who (most?) were very sympathetic to the marchers. Senior officers could be seen happily filming or taking pictures with their phones as marchers passed by crucial crossroads along the route such as Insurgentes. Mexico City is a PRD stronghold, and will solidly vote for anyone who is pro-AMLO. Perhaps the only real surprise in the march is that the public universities such as UNAM were walking side by side with students from the private universities that place much more emphasis on business, accounting and neo-liberal models of training. In fact, some of the right wing newspaper pundits and columnists have been wondering out-loud about who is funding the organizational meetings of students and making sure that the rallies are large and visible. For instance, at one of the Mexican football league games where the PUMAS were initiating the summer and fall season at their home stadium beside UNAM campus,  entire sections of the stadium were populated by students with green cards that were flipped over to reveal a giant #YoSoy132 sign. Someone organized this and the right wing Peña Nieto supporters are crying foul, especially because of the treatment that pro-Peña Nieto marchers received at the same game. Several busloads of Peña Nieto "acarreados" (supporters) pulled up to the gates carrying professionally printed signs and entered the stadium only to be pelted with paper cups, loudly taunted and booed,  and eventually surrounded by large numbers of #YoSoy132 advocates who forced them out of the stadium. The conservative and pro-PRI columnists are crying foul and arguing that either the PRD (Mexico City branch) or even foreign subversives (Chilean student protest leaders) have taken over the #YoSoy132 movement and are using it for political ends. Of course, the same columnists (e.g. Ricardo Alemán) overlooked the fact that someone paid for the buses to bring Peña Nieto supporters to the stadium and paid for the signs that they were carrying when they went through the gates.

The following Sunday,  there were very many creative signs and t-shirts that were mostly hand-made and others that were printed on short notice. One of my favourite T-shirts read "No viné por las tortas, vino por mis huevos". Although I understood the literal translation, I asked one of the men wearing to  explain its significance. He told me that at PRI meetings the organizers always promise something and feed everyone a sandwich (una torta). Unlike those who were helping the PRI, he said that he was marching to protect his own "balls". This man was not a university student, he was a carpenter, but he was there with his wife and three young children.

After the march to the Angel of Independence where the students and others camped out for a couple of hours, many people returned to the Zocalo to watch the second presidential debate on a big screen that had been set up over the weekend (It was actually there to broadcast the Justin Bieber free concert on Monday night). The Sunday evening event was also a raucous event that was decidedly pro-AMLO and anti-Peña Nieto and barely tolerant of Josefina Vázquez Mota. The crowd hooted and hollered whenever Enrique Peña Nieto said something that they disagreed with, and Josefina Vázquez Mota was the target of many barbs and jabs— many of which made the environment close to a Comedy Fest. Josefina had decided to take off the gloves and show her claws.  In the debate, she went on the attack and spent most of her time attacking all of the other candidates. Gabriel Quadri took the bait and ended up in a few hissy-fit cat-fights with Josefina.  The two major candidates did not take the bait and generally ignored her with one small exception on the part of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. She accused him of being an influential PRI party member in Tabasco State in 1968 and 1971, and also said that the was responsible for writing and distributing an number of "anthems" that were pro-PRI. She said that it was hypocritical for him to accept the support of the student protests when he was part of a party that shot and killed students in the marches of 1968 and 1971. She told AMLO that he should apologize to the students for working for a party that suppressed students. The crowd in the ZOCALO groaned, but AMLO managed to bring the entire Zocalo to an uproarious laughter when he responded "that I may look old, but I'm only 58 and I was actually in primary school at that time Josefina. I was still wandering around on dirt roads trying to figure out who I was.". 

The American and Canadian coverage of the Presidential campaign (and the electoral campaign in general) is pathetically negiligent. There has been more news about Greece, Egypt and France than there has been about this critical election in Mexico. This lack of coverage in spite of the fact that most reputable news sources have accepted that there will be as many as 80,000 casualties by the end of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's sexenio (60,000 dead and 20,000 missing). 

Although there are many people who believe that the student protest #YoSoy132 is a sign that voters are going to turn to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, there is no guarantee that this will happen. There remain as many as 20 million undecided voters and thereno guarantee that they will go to the polls. Furthermore, many (the majority?) of the undecided voters are outside of the Distrito Federal with its liberal and leftist leanings and strong PRD party support and campaign teams. Many of the undecided voters are in regions dominated by drug cartels and battered by drug violence, and the narco politics may suppress the vote or see the narco power and money used to support candidates of their choice. There is also a movement to "vote for nobody" (Voto nullo) and it's unclear how much influence that this "vote for nobody campaign will have". The election results are far from decided, and July 1 will result in another election that is razor-thin at the polls.

Although the excitement and enthusiasm in Mexico City is strong and convincing, it remains to be seen how far the influence of #YoSoy132 will spread outside of the central plateau. As Diaz Ordaz once said dismissively "Afuera de Mexico todo es Cuautitlán".

Unfortunately, when it comes to progressive politics that is still sadly true.

Access slide show of #YoSoy132 protest march of June 10, 2012 in Mexico City

No comments: