Mexico of Below


[translated by irlandesa]


The gaze accompanies the hand as it leafs through the calendar and stops at the month of MAY.  And it is the May sun which illuminates one word:  HIDALGO.

Hidalgo.  According to the INEGI, it had more than two and a quarter million inhabitants three years ago.  Of them, more than 300,000, above the age of 5, spoke an indigenous language.  Inhabiting Hidalgo lands are Nahua indigenous, Otomíes-Hñañúes, Tepehuas, Zapotecos, Huastecos, Mixtecos and Totonacos.

May.  Hidalgo.  One must move close to the ground in order to walk these lands, and the cloud becomes stone in order to follow the path of the Mexico of below.  And Hidalgo is, at the same time, both a horrifying and an encouraging example of this country’s bottommost.

Horrifying?  Yes, according to researcher Julio Boltvinik, the state of Hidalgo is among the 7 poorest states in the country, with 73% of its residents in extreme poverty, almost indigent, and 29% of them are moderately poor.  In sum:  93% of Hidalgo residents are poor (La Jornada, August 30, 2002).

As for marginalization figures, some studies (CONAPO) place Hidalgo among the 5 states with a “very high level of marginalization” (illiteracy, unserviced houses, low salaries, lack of health services), along with Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz.

Fox government analyses reveal terrifying statistics for Hidalgo:  it is among those states in the Republic with the shortest life expectancies, with the greatest rates of infant mortality and with more mortality in general, with the least internal gross product, with the greatest labor inequality, with the lowest salaries, with the most illiteracy, with the lowest rates of school attendance, with the most houses without plumbing, without electricity and with dirt floors.

In 5 municipalities alone, with a total of more than 100,000 residents, illiteracy is at about 50%, more than two thirds of the population has not completed elementary school, and the same percentage of houses are without plumbing, without electricity, have dirt floors and are overcrowded.  According to the same study by the Office of the Presidency of the Republic, more than half the population of the state of Hidalgo is rural, and almost a fifth is indigenous.

The poverty is such that the cloud made stone does not know whether it has chosen the wrong path and it has returned to the Chiapas of its origin.

And no, it is not in Chiapas, although somehow its origin comes to mind when it looks at the Hidalgo Huasteca, which, along with the Veracruz portion, the Potosi, and the Tamaulipas, is a clear example of what abounds in the Mexico of below: extreme poverty, repression, rebellion.

Huejutla de Reyes, in Huasteca, is the Hidalgo municipality with the greatest concentration of indigenous (more than 60,000 Nahuatl speakers), but there are also a large number of municipalities in the area whose populations are made up of indigenous towns of between 500 and 9000 inhabitants.

La Huasteca.  This is the land which saw the birth of this rolling stone, and which nurtured it with its wisdom and its struggle.  It is the land which it bid farewell to some years ago, not without having previously learned that one cannot live without doing something.

“Where there are many poor, there are a few rich,” goes the saying which is engraved on another stone, the stone of history, next to another, which says:  ”And where there are a few rich, some of them are the government.”

The current governor is M. A. Núñez Soto (born in Actopan on January 30, 1951).  He was not chosen by the people of Hidalgo, but by Murillo Karam, in a process which left out José Guadarrama, a former chancellor of the University, chief of thugs and expert in election frauds.  With help from two fugitives (Zedillo and Labastida), Núñez Soto gained the nomination and perpetrated one of the most brazen and scandalous election frauds in this country’s history.

In order to accomplish that, he had the help of the PAN-PVEM candidate, Francisco Javier Berganza, who legitimized the fraud as soon as the polls closed.  Señor Berganza, who has experience in this fraud business (as when he was a child “singer” and won “contests” with the same technique), is a ridiculous, opportunistic, mediocre and corrupt individual, the very reason for which he will always fail in politics.  An individual like that could only be protected by the PAN…well, also by the PRI…well, also by the PRD…hmm…well, how can we put it, Señor Berganza, despite his defeat in the gubernatorial election, has a great future as a politician, and he could end up as coordinator of the parliamentary wing in the Senate of any of the political parties.

The PRD-PT candidate, Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, denounced the fraud, but he was quickly abandoned by the parties which were supposedly supporting him, perhaps because he is honest.  The Núñez Soto elections were revealing:  there was an abstention rate of more than 50%.  Two years after the election, José Guadarrama (following a path that is now typical for Mexican politicians) changed parties and joined…the PRD!  Which received him with open arms.

Núñez Soto governs like all PRI governors, like a cacique.  And the cacique logic says:  what cannot be bought, can be beaten, imprisoned, killed.  The people of Hidalgo have known this though various administrations.

In 1995, the FDOMEZ denounced assassinations in Yahualica, Tianguistengo, Huezalingo, Atlapexca and Huejutla.  The teacher, Pedro Palma, assassinated on the orders of Jonguitud Barrios in 1982, is buried in Ixmiquilpan.  And the teacher Misael Núñez Acosta (ordered killed with the consent of Los Pinos – the presidential residence which is also known as “Sahagún City” – Elba Esther Gordillo), was born in these lands, in Chapulhuacán.

Not one to be left behind, Núñez Soto did the same as his predecessors.  The Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (Limeddh) denounced the raids, attacks, arbitrary detentions and disappearances that had been perpetrated against Nahua indigenous of the community of Tlalchiyahualica, in the municipality of Yahualica.  All of this is confirmed in File #MEXO080500 of the World Organization Against Torture, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

But it has not been only social and indigenous leaders who have suffered from repression in Hidalgo.

The Confidential News Agency (CAN), created in 2001 as an anti-corruption and anti-repression movement within the journalism profession (they disseminate information without charge and do not demand citation as a source), has documented several cases of repression of the press in Hidalgo.

In Mineral del Monte, on February 21, 2001, reporter Jorge Lozano Pérez, of the “Eagle or Sun” newspaper in that city, was detained, beaten and robbed by police officers.  His “crime” was having denounced anomalies and irregularities in the Ayuntamiento of Mineral del Monte, as well as abuses by the police.  When he was detained for a highway incident, the journalist’s press credentials were found, and the police then told him that they had orders from the then municipal president, Angelina Rosa Bulos Islas, to “sort him out.”

In October of that same year, Feliciano Hernández López and Juan Manuel Hernández Rodríguez, correspondents for the “Ruta” and “Avanzando en Hidalgo” newspapers in the Otomí-Tepehua sierra respectively, denounced in Case #CNIOCDHEH/018/2001, before the National and International Commission of Human Rights Organizations and Confederations in the State of Hidalgo, that they had been victims of intimidations by the then municipal president of San Bartolo Tutotepec, Dagoberto Islas Trejo, who was attempting to dictate their news stories through threats and the use of the municipal police.

On October 31, reporter Dylan Rodríguez, from the “Ruta” newspaper, was called to appear before the federal Public Ministry agent, Jaime García Belio, in investigation #P/217/2001, for having denounced in a news article (relative to the mechanism by which pyrotechnical explosives were being brought into Hidalgo) certain incidents of corruption committed by members of the Mexican army and the Federal Preventive Police.

According to an article by María Eugenia Pérez García, published in “Los Periodistas” of the Reporters Fraternity in January of 2001, political, ideological and economic control has kept a good part of the press co-opted in the state of Hidalgo.  The government controls the media through publicity, “leaking” information through the ayuntamiento press offices.

The stone rolls from Huasteca to the state capital, Pachuca, “the graceful beauty.”

If, in Huasteca, the crime is being indigenous, in Pachuca it is in being young and street and punk.  For the government and the rich of Pachuco, “Street,” “Band,” “Punk” and “Young” are synonymous with delinquency.

But those young persons, who live in the poorest neighborhoods in Pachuca, are trying to organize themselves and open spaces for cultural expression and find jobs.  One of them said:  ”The other day I was at a job interview, but another guy came, white and better dressed, and they gave it to him.”  One of the girls from the gang was thrown out of school for being pregnant, thus taking away her opportunity for an education.  The government’s police officers have their “hunting” hours, during which time they dedicate themselves to persecuting, beating and jailing young people for the “crime” of dressing differently.  The political parties cozy up to them during elections (also “hunting,” but for votes), but, as soon as they are over, they join in with the atmosphere of intolerance.

It is not only here that groups of punks or “street gangs” are surviving, resisting and struggling.  There are similar groups on other parts of the Mexico of below:  Cuernavaca, Atizapán, Neza, Iztapalapa, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Ciudad Madero, DF, León, Celaya, Querétaro, Tijuana, Hermosillo, Chihuahua.

But these young persons are quite far from having been ground down by the system.  They are organizing themselves in music groups and study circles, and, with their music, their dances, their discussions, their accords and their actions, they are linking themselves with popular struggles throughout the country.  The ones who are also graffiti artists force the walls to shout rebellion.  The government doesn’t like it, and takes them to jail…if it can catch them.

The stone continues its path and hops to Zapotlán.  There, in the community of Acayuca, there are maquilas which are run by small owners.  The people who work in these places have few resources and no security, since they are clandestine locations.

Here, in the San Javier valley, where the municipalities of Zapotlán, Tolcayuco, Villa de Tezontepec and Tizayuca share ground, was where the land had been proposed for the alternate airport for Mexico City.  This mega-project included the building of a three lane highway which would lead to DF.  The proposal has still not been accepted, but another, new one, has been brought up:  an Industrial Corridor, with foreign capital of course.  The campesinos in the area have opposed the expropriation of their lands.

Many of these campesinos have organized in order to defend their lands.  When the municipal government approved and lent all their support to the building of the airport, a group of campesinos took over the Municipal Presidential Office on two different occasions, in addition to closing two lanes of the Mexico-Pachuca highway.  It is worth pointing out that the political parties have tried to co-opt them, by promising them that they would respect their lands, but the industrial corridor projects and the growth of the maquilas continue.

The governor of the State of Hidalgo, Manuel Angel Núñez Soto, has expressed great interest in the Municipal Presidencies in the San Javier Valley remaining in the hands of the PRIs.  He managed to achieve this, with the exception of Tizayuca, which the PAN won.

But, since there is no difference between the PRI and the PAN, not in the degree of corruption nor in the (low) intelligence quotients, Señor Núñez Soto is satisfied (and, along with him, so are the powerful players in Hidalgo).

Rolling, always rolling, the stone reaches the municipality of Ixmiquilpan.  There is El Tephé thermal water spa.  It is a clean, comfortable, well attended, inexpensive and informal hotel.  But it does not belong to any of the large hotel chains.  It belongs to an indigenous community, and it is run by their members.  National and international tourists who visit El Tephé are received – without servility, but attentively – by these indigenous who fought, and hard, to recover the lands which the rich had stolen from them.  And that twofold lesson, fighting for what belonged to them and administering the wealth of their land successfully and equitably, is something for which the powerful cannot forgive the indigenous of El Tephé.

The stone goes on and learns.

It continues its path, and, on the side of a clay hill, sheltered in the dawn, a truth disguised as graffiti is scrawled:  ”‘Rebellion’ is written with an ‘X’ (for MeXico and El MeXe.).”  

And, “like a rolling stone,” the stone continues on its way in subterranean Hidalgo (which, like all nethermost Mexico, abounds not only in poverty, but also in rebel dignity), recognizing and greeting its fellow stones.

And thus it reaches the municipality of Francisco I. Madero, also called Tepatepec, which means “hill of clay” or “hill of flint.”  And here a spark is emitted, as if from a flint, which still illuminates the recent history of Hidalgo.

On February 6, 2000, the Federal Preventive Police (led at that time by a military man, Wilfredo Robledo, who is today a fugitive) took the Autonomous National University of Mexico by storm and arrested more than 700 members of that school’s General Strike Council.  Two weeks later, the Hidalgo police tried to close down the “Luis Villarreal” rural normal school in El Mexe, but something happened.

In January of that year, the fight to keep their school from being closed led to the students taking it over.  On the 26th, the government announced that the school was closed and that the students who were staying there were “occupying it illegally.”  They cut off the electricity, the water and the telephone, and almost a third of the students were arrested.  The conditions of their release were that they had to sign saying that they would not participate in any more protests and that they would enroll in the National Pedagogical University (UPN), Pachuca campus.

Students from normal rural schools in other states, who are also fighting to keep their schools from being closed, set up tents in the Pachuca plaza in support of El Mexe.  At three in the morning on February 19, more than 500 policemen arrested 736 students and returned 700 of them to their state.

The police left Pachuca and went to Tepatepec, and they attacked the people, beating up women, children and old persons and destroying homes.  They went to El Mexe and arrested 176 students and committed violations.  They took the students to the jail in Pachuca, and some 150 police officers remained to “protect” the school.

Two hours later, residents organized for resistance.  They laid siege to the school with barricades of rocks and bonfires, destroyed police vehicles (18) and took 68 police officers prisoner (the rest fled in vehicles or through the sewage canal).  Residents stripped the policemen and took them to the central plaza.  When they searched the school and vehicles, the residents discovered an arsenal (the police had supposedly been unarmed):  grenade launchers, rifles and pistols.

The objective had been to “plant” weapons in the school in order to accuse the students of being “guerrilleros.”  Ultimately, the government exchanged the imprisoned students for the police officers who had been detained.  The majority of the students from here are organized in the Federation of Mexican Socialist Campesino Students (FECSM).

The struggle for the defense of the normal schools is not new, nor is it exclusive to here.  Their students are poor and their avocation is to serve their towns and to fight in order to change the situation of injustice which they are living in.  There are, for example, the normal school students from Amilcingo, in Morelos; the ones from Panotla, in Tlaxcala;  the Ayotzinapa, in Guerrero, to mention just a few of the many who, like those from El Mexe, are resisting being turned into the docile servants of those who are power and government in Mexico.

In El Mexe, a police officer, naked without his weapons, summed up what had happened:  ”We always win, but now it was our turn to lose.”  The sentence is also a prophecy.

Always rolling, the stone takes its leave of El Mexe, where a sign reflects:  ”Unfortunate are the towns where youth does not make the world tremble and students are submissive in the face of the tyrant.”

The stone leaves Hidalgo.  He has learned much from the shouts and silences which inhabit the mountains of this state.  The main thing is that today poverty and rebellion are what unite all of the Mexico of below.  There will have to be much struggle so that that union will be in justice, liberty and democracy.

The stone keeps rolling.

There, in the distance, in Querétaro lands, waiting impatiently, are the Firulais Loyola and Commander Fernández de Cevallos, that is, the dog and the dog’s master…

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico,  January of 2003.

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