There are many voices fighting to stand out among the cacophony of Mexican politicians and media parroting the official line that the government works for the benefit of the people and deserves their trust.
These dissenting voices sometimes rise above all the noise, but other times they are muddled by stubborn intolerance or twisted by those with dark intentions who thrive in an environment of authoritarianism and impulsiveness. Nevertheless, they need to be heard.
Let's take a look at the voices of three Mexicans in particular who have refused to stay quiet on injustice and ignominy. At some point, they have been threatened for expressing their discontent with the armed conflict in the country, but they have continued on with their non-violent struggle in compliance with the law and in exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Catholic priest-turned-activist for migrants Alejandro Solalinde — like few others in Mexico — has understood that migration must be addressed as a phenomenon and not as a problem that “must be solved.” In 2007 he founded the hostel Hermanos en el Camino (Brothers on the Road) located in Ixtepec City, Oaxaca (southwest Mexico) to provide humanitarian assistance to travelers from the country and from throughout Central America. These migrants would come mainly by the freight train commonly known as The Beast on their way to the United States, where they hope to find better opportunities.
Migrants crossing the southern border of Mexico to the United States, as well as domestic migrants heading towards the same destination, find themselves at the mercy of armed groups and other criminals operating in the country. This makes them constant victims of theft, rape and sexual abuse, among other crimes.
Mexico's security forces, who in theory should be protecting them, render them subjects of extortion, abuse of authority, and intimidation; National Migration Institute and other related officials practice complacent neglect.
Given the above, Solalinde has constantly spoken up to place the issue on the public agenda and seek dignified treatment for those who pass through Mexico seeking a better life.
In a piece for the Latin Amercian magazine Gatopardo, Emiliano Ruiz Parra describes the humility with which Solalinde lives, as well as another aspect of his speech that disturbs the power of the Catholic Church:
Se juega la vida al oponerse a una industria en la que se confabula la más alta política con el crimen organizado: el secuestro de migrantes. Nunca será consagrado obispo porque dice lo que piensa de su madre iglesia: que no es fiel a Jesús sino al poder y al dinero; que es misógina y trata con la punta del pie a los laicos y a las mujeres, y que no es la representante exclusiva de Cristo en la Tierra.
He risks his life by opposing an industry in which organized crime conspires inside the highest political circles: the kidnapping of migrants. He will never be made bishop because he says what he thinks about his Mother Church: that she is not faithful to Jesus but rather to power and money; that she is misogynistic, treating women and laypeople like dirt, and that she is not the sole representative of Christ on Earth.
Solalinde knows that challenging the authorities in a country of fledgling democracy such as Mexico carries its risks. “I am aware that at any time they will kill me, but they have not done so because they are avoiding the political cost,” he said in an interview with Laura Cifuentes Weffer from independent online newspaper Efecto Cocuyo.
A journalist, writer and poet — and a convert to activism like Solalinde — who has abandoned his primary occupations to call for a stop to violence, impunity and injustice in Mexico. Sicilia had other reasons for becoming an activist as he personally suffered the consequences of armed conflict when his son was murdered at the hands of organized crime.
Sicilia has taken his voice to many corners of the country, even to the United States, with a caravan. As the head of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, he made his demand known in the highest offices, including a heart-wrenching encounter with former President Felipe Calderon, from whom he demanded answers and concrete actions against the climate of violence that, to date, persists in much of Mexico.
Almost a year ago, following the slaughter in the city of Iguala — to which we will refer later — Sicilia spoke of widespread protests, although he advised maintaining a pacifist attitude:
Que esto no se diluya, hay que subir el tono, no en la violencia, sino en la construccion. Hay que acompañar la protesta con propuesta.
Don't let this be forgotten, the pressure must increase, not with violence but with construction. The protest must come with a proposal.
Relatives of the Ayotzinapa victims
Parents, siblings and other relatives of students who were kidnapped after bullet-riddled confrontation with local police and members of an organized crime group in Iguala, Guerrero, in September 2014, have also spoken out against the impunity that is afflicting the country. It should be mentioned that the 43 students of the Raul Isidro Burgos Ayotzinapa Rural School weren't the only ones deprived of their lives on that occasion. Others were also victims of the violence, despite the fact that they were not a part of the activist students. Their cases keep being eclipsed by the media frenzy that has accompanied the disappearance of the 43 students.
Since these events, marches and days of protest have occurred and can be followed through the hashtag #AcciónGlobalPorAyotzinapa (Global Action for Ayotzinapa). Their goal is to demand that the return of the students (although there has been forensic evidence indicating some of the student's deaths), while some of thousands of people accompanying the victims’ families cry out for justice for the murder or forced disappearance of students at the hands of state agents.
Unfortunately, there have been occasions when the protests have turned violent, and there hasn't been any statement against it from those leading the movements.
One of these voices is that of Ezequiel Mora, father of Alexander Mora Venancio, whose remains were identified by experts of the Austrian university in charge of analyzing the bone fragments recovered from the garbage dump in Cocula. He has spoken out against the country's current administration:
Nosotros como campesinos no podemos manifestarnos contra él [gobierno] porque nos está matando, nos tortura; no es un gobierno para apoyar a la gente. Es un gobierno corrupto y delincuente, más que nada, porque ellos son los que han matado a todos los luchadores sociales. No los mata otra gente, los mata el mismo gobierno.
We as rural people cannot protest against [the government] because they're killing us, torturing us; they are not a government in support of their people. They are a corrupt and criminal government, more than anything, because they are the ones who have killed all of the social activists. They were not killed by others; they were killed by our very own government.