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Sunday, October 22, 2006

A brief trip to La Otra Compana

Yesterday myself and three comrades trekked the several hundred miles south of Phoenix and into Mexico to meet up with the Zapatista's "La Otra Compana". It was a long ride but one of the most inspiring political experiences I've had in a long time. It was fucking awesome to finally see the process by which the listening tour operates and to be physically close to a movement I have followed for many years.

The event began with what I believe to have been a Mayan ceremony that culminated with vigorous drumming, dancing and pro-EZLN chanting. Following that, a panel was assembled and some of the attendees rose to speak about their particular situations, with indigenous representatives going first.

The location was amazing - a ranch/hostel between Santa Ana and Magdalena. Someone had painted a giant and colorful Virgin Mary on the cliff face of a nearby mountain overlooking the ranch. It was well attended, numbering around a couple hundred folks. Representatives of various indigenous peoples spoke about their troubles, which often focused on the disposal or storage of toxic waste on tribal lands by government or corporate interests and the harmful and offensive effects this has.

There was some dissension when the representative from Phoenix's Tonatierra took a position to speak. He was interrupted by O'odham attendees who disputed his ability to speak as a representative of an indigenous organization. After some discussion of the matter by tribal elders, he was allowed to continue, although with the caveat that it be clear he did not represent an indigenous group.

My crew couldn't hang over night, so at around 8:30 we left, just barely making it across the border in time. We were briefly searched, an experience that was clearly shortened by the agents' desire to close out their shifts and go home. "Now can we go home?" one of them whined to a superior officer as we got back into the car and pulled away. It was clear they didn't feel we really meritted their full attention.

Nevertheless - as I can't help but notice every time I go to Mexico - despite any minor shakedown we may receive on crossing, the border simply doesn't exist for people like me and my other white American comrades. We weren't stopped on the way into Mexico, which is typical of my experience, and at the Border Patrol checkpoint a few miles into the US we were sent on our way with a relatively casual inquiry as to our citizen status. No proof was required except our white skin and perhaps our accents, it seems.

Below are some photos I took with my phone. The first photo is the van in which Marcos arrived. The next one is a picture of the event itself. The speakers generally took a place next to Marcos, and he took notes when not greeting or talking quietly with them. Translation was provided, which was helpful to me since my Spanish is still a bit shaky and I did not understand any of the indigenous languages spoken. The final two photos are shots I got of Marcos right after he arrived.

marcos arrives

marcos arrives



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