On August 12th, with activist-poet Javier Sicilia providing the leadership, the inspiration, and the poetry, the anti-Drug War, anti-militarization Caravan for Peace With Justice and Dignity kicked off its one-month, 6,000-mile journey across the United States.
Riding from San Diego to Washington, D.C., the Caravan seeks to educate and confront Americans about the terrible violence besetting Mexico—and perhaps to recruit those who are convinced and inspired to a U.S. offshoot of Mexico’s Movement for Peace. The journey will take the group, composed of Mexican and U.S. citizens, with a sizable contingent of relatives of the murdered and disappeared, along the entire U.S. border with Mexico, and further east to Atlanta and nearby Fort Benning. Readers will remember Fort Benning as the home of the infamous School of the Americas, training ground of Latin American dictatorships—and of some of most brutal tyrants of the last century.
From Atlanta, the Caravan will turn north, reaching Chicago—destination of a large number of Mexican immigrants—on the evening of September 2, where it will stay until the 4th. It will then head to New York for two days of meetings and demonstrations (September 6 and 7) and finally to Washington, D.C. for a closing demonstration/ceremony and press conference on September 12. All told, the Caravan will have stopover points in 27 U.S. cities.
Led by Sicilia, who was presented with NACLA’s La Lucha Sigue Award last May, the Caravan seeks to raise U.S. awareness of the human toll the increasingly violent Drug War is taking in Mexico—with somewhere near 70,000 deaths and countless kidnappings, disappearances, and acts of extortion over the past six years. In pursuit of that awareness, the Caravan wants to highlight the many ways the United States (public institutions and private actors alike) aids and abets the Mexican horror: promotion of, and aid for the militarized Drug War; the ease of access to the cross-border arms trade; the widespread practice of money laundering; and the enormous U.S. demand for illicit drugs. The Caravan has been raising the issue of the “inhumane” U.S. immigration policy as well. It explicitly wants to place these questions on the political agenda during the run-up to the U.S. elections, when people are presumably paying attention to politics and policy.
Sicilia is the founder of the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity, and the principal spokesperson for the Caravan’s agenda. His public talks reflect a fairly sophisticated knowledge of his audience, taking his text from such diverse Americans as Benjamin Franklin (“there never was a good war or a bad peace”) and Tom Paine (“only an army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot”), to Ezra Pound (“…with usura, sin against nature/ is thy bread ever more of stale rags/ is thy bread dry as paper….”) and Bob Dylan (“sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear/ it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”). No Padre Hidalgo or Pancho Villa here.
The use of Pound may seem a little out of place in this movement, but here’s how Sicilia brings it home: “Because of usury—this immense search of profit at any cost—the usury of this war against drugs, of guns, of those banks and their money laundering, this usury coming from the United States, that has encysted in Mexico and spreads out like gangrene throughout the American continent and the world, that has overwhelmed us with pain, misery, death, and the despise of what is human and for the earth.” A powerful gloss on the coyuntura, this.
On presenting Sicilia with the La Lucha Sigue award three months ago, NACLA described his work and his presence in the following way:
“Sicilia’s activism and discourse have increasingly taken on the character and language of nonviolent resistance. To change the dynamic of the violence that has beset the country, he argues, it is necessary to change the discourse of violence. Such a change, he has written, must reflect the belief system of militant nonviolence—the commitment to face power with resistance and sacrifice, and the willingness to publicly absorb oppression in order to end it.”
This is the guiding vision of the Caravan.