Reaching Out from "este lado de la linea"

by Luciente

Revolutionary Worker #1101, May 6, 2001, posted at

On Saturday, April 21, between 1,500 and 2,000 people staged a powerful march and rally on the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, California. The demonstration was against the proposed Free Trade Act of the Americas (FTAA--or ALCA, Area de Libre Comercio de las Americas, as the people of Latin America know it) and global imperialism's stepped-up exploitation of Mexico and the Mexican people. Saturday's actions were part of a weekend of protest in the San Diego area in support of the anti-FTAA actions in Quebec. There were also a teach-in on the FTAA at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Diego, which included a presentation by a maquila worker from Mexico, border tours, and a "cross-border solidarity conference" at Tijuana's Maclovia Rojas Colonia.

After a rally at Larsen Park, less than a mile from the border, the march took the Camino de la Plaza. Led by the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, the anarchist black bloc, the Youth Student Network of October 22, Students for Justice from San Jose, OLIN, Students for Justice in the Americas from UC Berkeley, and a number of MEChA chapters, the marchers headed to the pedestrian crossing at the border where they held a speak bitterness rally for an hour before most headed back to Larsen Park. Others crossed into Tijuana for a "bi-national festival" in opposition to the FTAA.

The following is from our correspondent Luciente who took part in the march. The RW will have further coverage next week.

Growing up de este lado de la linea--on this side of the border--in a neighborhood where nearly every tenant of every building on our block crossed the U.S./Mexico border, meant growing up listening to the story of a man who, at the age of 8, worked in a large hacienda to feed a family of nine with the corn he was paid at the end of the day; then he was forced to leave his village at 13 to travel to Mexico City and then, unable to find work, was forced to leave everything he knew to travel to a country that abused and degraded him despite all his hard work and sacrifice. It meant growing up listening to a woman speak bitterly of the "choice" she made, when there really was no other alternative--forced to leave her mother and sisters in Mexico at age 15 to travel thousands of miles, afraid of being raped every step of the way, and finally making it to Los Angeles with the hope of making enough money to help her family out of poverty...only to find that housekeeping barely pays enough to support herself. Growing up de este lado de la linea means living with the memory of sitting in a room with my cousins while my parents attended the funeral of one of my favorite uncles who died working in la costura--and finding out later that it was the chemicals in the fabric he worked with that ate away at his lungs during the 10 years he worked in the downtown garment industry.

These stories and this kind of experience do not belong only to one neighborhood. These stories extend themselves outside this one neighborhood to neighborhoods across cities and states throughout the U.S. The oppression of the people who live on the other side of the 2,000-mile militarized wall that extends from San Diego/Tijuana to Brownsville/ Matamoros rips through the collective psyche of a new generation of fighters, making us scream with rage at the human cost of U.S. imperialism.

On April 21, more than a thousand of us marched to the San Diego/Tijuana border against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). With all our rage and determination, we stood face-to-face with the wall that separates oppressor from oppressed nation. On that day we marched to the border to deliver a heartfelt message to the people of Mexico and the world that we refuse to accept NAFTA, FTAA, or any other way the U.S. intends to dominate the entire Western Hemisphere or the world. We refuse to accept 65 million Mexicans earning less than $2 a day and 15 million earning less than $1. We refuse the destruction of the planet for profit. We refuse to live in the kind of world imperialism is carving out.

Marching to the border, chanting that this is "Our World," determined that we would deliver our message despite the police in riot gear, on horses, in patrol cars, lined up along the sidewalks, and at the border with batons in hand ready to strike at a moment's notice--all this was absolutely empowering.

Although many in the crowd had never been at the border, after reaching the rusty metal wall that extends well out into the ocean, all our rage multiplied a thousand times over as we saw a small glimpse of the misery of the Mexican people who live on the other side. Words like "imperialism" and "capitalism" that many of us hear or use all the time came to life as our eyes scanned the hills overlooking the ocean that are covered with tiny shacks where the poor people in Tijuana live. The division between imperialism and Third World was undeniable as we entered that highly militarized zone. This division was visible in the height of that wall, with its barbed wire and the concrete barrier, the stadium lights, the Migra with the latest technology in hunting human beings. With our own eyes we could look around and see the effects of imperialism in human terms. Just on the other side, people who work in the maquilas live in colonias with no running water or sewage system--making barely enough to eat. Just on the other side there are women giving birth to babies without a brain as a result of the toxic waste left behind by U.S. industries. For miles along that wall, in the mountains and desert, thousands upon thousands of men and women have died of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and starvation or have been hunted and murdered at the hands of the Migra.

As we looked out beyond the wall, a youth from the neighborhood told me that he had grown up in the border area. Every day he sees the worn faces of people who have traveled thousands of miles to the U.S. He has heard of women being raped and sexually assaulted on the journey across. He is a second generation Chicano, but he feels like he is in the skin of an immigrant every time the Migra and police demand to see his papers. All his life he has felt angry at the way people live on the other side and how they work from sunup to sundown in this country and have nothing to show for it and instead are mistreated and degraded. When he saw us marching down his block, a lifetime of his anger and rage fused with our determination to fight for a different kind of world where that border no longer exists. This is the kind of experience that can transform the screaming rage of a generation into a cry for revolution.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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