“We have to learn how to work as a team”, says the mother of Joaquin, who will carry the memory of her son through the entire country
By Marta Molina
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
September 11, 2011
Teresa Carmona is a mother whose son was assassinated. She came aboard the Caravan of Solace toward Northern Mexico, because, as she says, “I can’t stay here, because we can’t live in this state of impunity with its horrors and corruption.” She was one of the 23 family members of drug war victims invited to the dialogue in the Castillo de Chapultepec on June 23rd – A public audience with president Felipe Calderon – and has been participating in several actions spurred by the movement and trying to organize the populace in their city.
Teresa forms part of a Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity headed by the poet Javier Sicilia and she was with the Caravan of Solace since the beginning of June. This northbound caravan gave a name and a face to who at this time were considered just numbers or collateral damage, fruit of the violence of the war on drugs. From then, they’ve brought to a head various initiatives that give shape to the Movement’s plan to put and end to the violence in the country and demand from the state it does its job. Teresa is doing her work. On September 9th, she will accompany the caravan to the south of the country to the central american border. More than 500 people who traveled from Cuernavaca, Morelos to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, walking this trail of pain; Teresa came from Quintana Roo, Cancun, where she has lived for 25 years, where she sought a way of life with the father of her children who were born there.
She had three children. The oldest son Joaquin was 21 years old when he was murdered. After he finished high school, he went to Mexico City to study his for his degree. He was at the beginning of the the third year of architecture in the University Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). And two days before the beginning of the fifth semester he was brutally assassinated in his apartment.
We talked with Teresa on June 10th, at the final point of the journey of the caravan to the north. In the patio of the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, just after caravan members began dividing up into work groups to create proposals for civic action to put an end to the violence.
Teresa sat down on a stone bench and with her, she carried a picture of her son Joaquin on a stand. She did not let go of this memorial for the entire eight days, crowned by 5 wreaths of white cloth, fastened with adhesive tape. Joaquin seems happy in this photo. He seems young, smiling and handsome. It is for him that Teresa is touring the entire country with the Caravan of Solace. And that’s why she decided that never again will she let go of this banner – this is her way to demand justice for her son and for all sons and daughters who have been assassinated. We call this the war on drugs, or the fault of the drug mafia, but in reality, it’s a war against the Mexican people.
We spoke with her at length about what we can do as citizens, how can we can we act and what kind of weapons we have available. Teresa reponded firmly “We can and should recover what is ours, what we have given away with apathy, with ignorance, for our comforts. We have to recover the peace, the trust in the authorities, the confidence to go out in the streets – or even to be secure in our homes, because Joaquin was killed inside his own house. We can’t continue this way, we have to recover our rights, and this is where we must begin to take back our lives”.
With Narco News, we followed the caravan northward, and we have been speaking with the Movement for Peace inspired by Javier Sicilia; a movement that believes in nonviolent direct action as the way to fight for peace in a dignified Mexico. Teresa Carmona joined the movement for nonviolent direct action, but according to her, “nonviolence must begin inside ourselves. I think only with peace can we make peace, and for that, we must do the internal work, deeply and rigorously, to be able to go out and live a life that matches the values that we hold dear. Right now, there are no values that we hold dear.”
But now, what are the values that we must put forward? How do we do it – According to Teresa, “Mexican society doesn’t have the training. We have to begin to educate Mexican society. I’m sure that the majority of the people in this country don’t have any idea what nonviolence really means. So we have to begin to promote this concept in action and civil disobedience, it has empowered us, we must use the imagination. I was, just a few hours ago, on the Justice and Truth panel for the Victims, and I proposed that we have to learn how to work as a team, we have to become brothers, we have to open our hearts, and we have to leave behind our poor little normal lives.”
There’s a lot of work to do, but Teresa Carmona is doing her part, and with that, beginning to organize, little by little, the men and women of Mexico that she encounters. The first step, as she said very well, “we have to leave behind our poor little normal lives”. This is what she said when she boarded bus #1 of the caravan to the north with the banner of her son Joaquin, together with poets, indigenous people, and people that I don’t even know, but they are my brothers.” In her home state of Quintana Roo, Julian Ricalde Magana, mayor of Benito Juarez (the official name of Cancun), showed solidarity with the movement, and the local media has started to publish stories about the organizing on the local and national level.
One of the most emotional moments of the conversation with Teresa was when, in a very natural way, in the middle of the arid June climate in Juarez, she made a marvelous comparison between the caravan and one of the biggest natural riches of the Mexican Coast, “I see this caravan like the reefs of Quintana Roo, and it’s a huge organism, but it’s all singular – there are sharks, whales, and there are snails, there are stingrays, and predators… but it’s an organism that you can see from the moon. So, when we are in civil society, when they see us from the chambers of the capitol and through the media, and they say, ‘civil society of Mexico is a society that is working for peace’, and we intend to achieve peace.”
Teresa is ready to dedicate her life and her time to organize work people that, like her, have had enough of this war and violence, she is ready to continue putting down her little grain of sand, not just to do justice for her son Joaquin, but for all Mexicans. She is leaving behind her poor little normal life on the Mexican Coast, to accompany the caravan to Ciudad Juarez, and then to rejoin the Movement and come back to the south.
The caravan to the south, which departed from Mexico City on September 9th, was one of the initiatives that came out of the meeting in Ciudad Juarez. In two months, civil sociey of Mexico has given form to this initiative. This shows, that, step by step, the movement inspired by Javier Sicilia and families of the victims of the war on drugs is getting organized and making changes to public policy (see article by Al Giordano: Four Months of Struggle in Mexico: An Election for Cynics). Less than six months have passed from the assassination of seven youths in Cuernavaca, which was a pivotal point in this movement. From then, the movement has been unified, walking, step by step, pursuing their strategies despite the inconveniences or as Carmona said – “the sharks, the whales, that try to find the possible flaws of the movement – or those who are in a hurry to find them, to find immediate tangible results. But dedication is also one of the qualities that we have to have to make a movement of nonviolent resistance. Organizing, acting without hurry, but without stopping.”
August 14 marks one year and seven days since the assassination of her son. Teresa Carmona called a conference in Quintana Roo, at the same time as the march that started in the country’s capital, against the law of Public Security. During the conference, according to a public communication by the Movement for Peace, she said that “we have to take responsibility that belongs to each of us to create the Mexico that we want, and there are many ways to participate, it only requires that you have the will to do it and in the face of an emergency, this is the best moment to begin. My son was assassinated one year and 7 days ago in Mexico City and he has not yet gotten the justice he deserves and the dignity that the Mexican Government denies him, but It’s not just the personal tragedy that moves me.”
To Teresa Carmona, what moves her is “the shared tragedy of thousands of brothers & sisters, the Wixáritari people (Huicholes) and the Tepehuano, thousands of youth who have a shitty life, the tragedy of the kidnapping of boys and girls, the clearcutting of the Michoacoán forest by lumberjacks in collusion with who knows who,” the land devastated by foreign mining concessions, the contamination of rivers, the lakes, the coasts, the starvation in Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, the atrocious inequality, the murdered journalists, the harrassed defenders of human rights, the violence against women and sexual exploitation of our children, the mothers of soldiers and dead policemen in this absurd war. “But, also, I’m moved by the shows of solidarity, that I have encountered since we started.”
Teresa Carmona doesn’t want to form part of a movement of 200 or 400,000 victims. She wants to form a movement of united and conscientious of Mexicans where “the power is ours, of citizens ready to deliver our time and force for the construction of peace; ready to commit ourselves to the tasks that nobody could do for us, and that is, in truth, a Mexico without corruption, with honest and efficient law enforcement, where nobody dies of hunger, where there are no child hit men, or narco-graves. We want ethical mass media, who are committed to our reality. We want an educational system that develops the potential of our children and youth. We want to live without shame for the way the migrants in Mexico are treated. We want respect for diversity and a new and more human way of livng together. We want to live without fear that someone will hurt our kids. We want to live in peace with justice and dignity.”
Teresa Carmona will accompany the Caravan to the south because she feels responsible, because as a Mexican citizen, she wants to create a Mexico that she loves, because she wants to share her determination to make it with Mexicans of the South, because “in the face of an emergency, this is the best time to start.”
From Mexico City, passing through Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas, Tecuman (Guatemalan Border), Acteal (Zapatista Autonomous Territory), Tabasco, Veracruz, and Puebla the caravan will return to the nation’s captial. Most importantly, it will arrive in Guatemala to denounce the poor treatment that the migrants on the southern border receive.
We will see Teresa Carmona again, surely in Oaxaca, accompanied inseparably by the banner crowned with the white wreaths that indicate the presence of her son Joaquin. His facebook profile is still active. Joaquin was a fan of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Tarantino’s films, and he wanted to be an architect and build a house for his mother. He was a 21 year old kid “he had two younger brothers, he liked the sea a lot, he was really happy, he was always smiling, nobody could resist his smile; he had a pretty girlfriend and they were in love, they would go to Mexico City and Cuernavaca on the weekends. Like other sons and daughters who were assassinated, he was the type of person who needed Mexico to go forward.”