Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dreaming in Mexico

by Maggie Ervin

It was standing room only, agonizingly hot, and we could barely see from the back. But we weren’t going anywhere. Gathered in one of the many beautiful museums in the ever-expanding metropolis known as Mexico City, we had come to hear dreams. Not to analyze them in a Freudian way or to go to some sort of mystical place of altered consciousness. No, this was all rooted firmly in reality. We had come to hear the stories of Los Otros Dreamers, the “Other Dreamers.” 

Much has been written about Dreamers in the US, thanks to their effective organizing, large numbers, tireless work to get the as-yet Dream Act passed, and for the heartbreak implicit in many of their stories. Considering all of the parallels, it’s interesting that little attention has been given to Dreamers on this side of the border, here in Mexico. After all, their numbers are not insignificant. The new book launched last week, Los Otros Dreamers - with text by Jill Anderson, photos by Nin Solis, and testimonies by 26 "Other Dreamers" - aims to address this absence. 

Anderson estimates that there are about 500,000 Dreamers who have returned to Mexico since 2005. [She defines a Dreamer as someone between 18-35 years who lived in the US for five years or more, and who was either deported, voluntarily departed (de facto deported), or chose to move back to the country where they were born.]  Their reasons for returning to Mexico are varied: to reunite with family, to seek educational opportunities denied them in the US, exhaustion and frustration with the difficulties of living undocumented in the US, deportation (in many cases for minor infractions for which a US citizen would only pay a fine, such as getting caught driving without a license or drinking in public), among others.
The book is a multilingual experience. The Dreamers give their testimony in either English, Spanish or Spanglish, and each is translated into Spanish and English. Saul, Virginia and Rufino's testimonies are trilingual, as are they, and their testimonies are translated to the Mixe and Tzotzil languages. While the stories that appear in the book are as diverse as the stories of any group of 26 people, there are recurring themes around the experience of returning to Mexico that many recount:
  • The struggle to get proof of schooling in the US, which needs to be both notarized and translated in order to be valid in Mexico, and is required from all schools attended (elementary, middle and high school). More than a few of the featured Dreamers had to wait over a year to get these papers, and at great expense, frustration, and even humiliation (i.e., learning that the only way to get their transcripts from the US is to request them in person).
  • The difficulty of getting a voter identification, the most basic document needed in Mexico to be able to rent an apartment, do a bank transaction, or even get a job.
  • Language barriers, especially in the case of those who were taken to the US at a very young age.
  • Not being fully accepted as Mexican by their compatriots.
  • For those who were deported, being dropped off at the border with no one to counsel them or orient them, far from any family member, and at risk of being robbed. In the case of women, they’re often let go a few minutes before the men so they can get a head start and avoid risk.
  • Separation from family that remain in the US, without the possibility of visiting them there or of their families visiting them in Mexico.
This last issue was touched upon during the book launch, as Dreamers read clips of their testimonies. Not an eye was dry as Edgar, who lives in Nogales, read: “I go to the border to see my brothers, they’re in the process of getting papers so they can’t cross. It’s messed up how we’re close but far away because we’re divided by a fence. I can talk to them, but I can’t hug them.” Then Raziel told about his mother's deportation when he was in fifth grade: “Then my mom’s friend drove me home and I remember going to my mother’s bed and laying down where she used to sleep. I put my head on the pillow and I smelled her shampoo, and that’s when everything just came.” 

Border fence separating Nogales, Sonora from Nogales, Arizona

Just this week came news of the 2 millionth deportation since Obama - sometimes called the "Deporter in Chief" - took office. 2 million is a huge number, and hard for some of us to conceive of in our minds. But it is these heart-rending details that bring to life the realities embedded in that number. Currently, a full one-quarter of all deportees are separated from their US citizen children, and more than half of deportees in 2013 were deported without a criminal conviction. 
But it's not all bleak. In their testimonies, some of the Dreamers write about being grateful to be in Mexico and being quite happy with their lives. Moy and Pedro Noé are  thrilled to be studying dentistry at the National University. Maggie works hard to keep her parents' shop running. Saul is a silver level in Amway and is thoughtfully raising a son. Maru and Daniel dedicate themselves to Los Otros Dreamers Collective and Dream in Mexico, non-profits that support Dreamers. In fact, passive or resigned would be the last words I'd use to describe anyone in this book. These are young people whose dreams are many, and they're making them happen.  

Maggie: "I  know we all have struggled and I'm not the only one. 
I just wish I could be in front of the US government and tell them all of 
the harm they do us. I am not a criminal. My parents took me and at 
the age of eighteen, I decided not to break the law. So tell me: What is my crime?"

The problem is, of course, that despite being both "from here and from there," they can't go "there," where they still have friends, families and a rich history. As Pamela writes, "Now, I feel like I was always Mexican...You don't have to tell me. I know it. And do I feel American? I don't even know what I am, but I know I'm both at the same time. I can't ignore my whole life." 

Take action to reduce deportations:

Tell your Representatives and Senators to support the Dream Act:

Where to buy Los Otros Dreamers book:
      dreaminmexico.org/?page_id=207 (all profits go to Dream in Mexico)

Where to attend a Los Otros Dreamers book event:
  •    October 13th, 7 pm: Foro de la Galería "La Capilla del Arte", 2 norte número 6, Centro Histórico, Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
  •    Coming soon to Los Angeles, Chicago, NYC and Washington. Stay tuned at https://www.facebook.com/OtrosDreamersTheBook.

Soñando en México

por Maggie Ervin

El lugar estaba tan lleno que varios estábamos de pie, hacía mucho calor, y apenas podíamos ver desde atrás, pero no íbamos a irnos a ninguna parte. Reunidos en uno de los muchos museos bonitos de esta metrópoli en constante expansión llamada Ciudad de México, habíamos venido a escuchar sueños. No para analizarlos de una manera freudiana o para llegar a algún tipo de lugar místico de conciencia alterada. No, todo esto estaba bien enraizado en la realidad. Habíamos llegado a escuchar las historias de Los Otros Dreamers.

Mucho se ha escrito sobre los Dreamers en los Estados Unidos, gracias a su activismo efectivo, la gran cantidad de adheridos al movimiento, su trabajo incansable para que la Ley Sueño (en inglés, Dream Act) sea aprobada, y desafortunadamente por la angustia implícita en muchas de sus historias. Teniendo en cuenta todas las similitudes, es interesante la poca atención que se les ha dado a los Dreamers en este lado de la frontera, aquí en México. Después de todo, sus números no son insignificantes. El nuevo libro lanzado la semana pasada, Los Otros Dreamers - con texto de Jill Anderson, fotos de Nin Solís, y testimonios de 26 Otros Dreamers - tiene como objetivo compensar esta falta de atención al asunto.

Anderson estima que hay cerca de 500.000 Dreamers que han regresado a México desde el año 2005. (Ella define a un Dreamer como alguien entre los 18 a los 35 años que vivió en los EEUU durante cinco años o más, y que fue deportado, se fue voluntariamente o eligió regresar al país donde nació). Sus razones para regresar a México son variadas: reencontrarse con su familia, la búsqueda de oportunidades educativas que les fueron negadas al otro lado, el agotamiento y la frustración por las dificultades de vivir como indocumentados en los EEUU, la deportación (en muchos casos por infracciones menores por las que un ciudadano estadounidense sólo pagaría una multa, como conducir sin licencia o beber en público), entre otras.

El libro es una experiencia multilingüe. Los Dreamers dan su testimonio, ya sea en inglés, español o espanglish, y todos están traducidos. Los testimonios de Saúl, Virginia y Rufino, quienes son trilingües, son presentados en sus tres lenguas. Si bien las historias que aparecen en el libro son tan diversas como las historias de cualquier grupo de 26 personas, hay temas recurrentes en cuanto a la experiencia de regresar a México: 
  • La dificultad de obtener certificados de los estudios realizados en los EEUU., los cuales tienen que estar apostillados y traducidos para que sean válidos en México. Estos certificados incluyen los de primaria, secundaria y preparatoria. Muchos de los Dreamers tuvieron que esperar más de un año para obtener estos documentos, lo que les costó dinero, frustraciones, e incluso humillaciones (por ejemplo, el enterarse de que la única manera de obtener las constancias de estudios en los EEUU es solicitarlas en persona)
  • Las barreras del idioma, especialmente en el caso de los Dreamers que fueron llevados a los EEUU a corta edad.
  • La dificultad de obtener una credencial de elector del INE, el documento necesario en México para poder rentar un apartamento, realizar transacciones bancarias o incluso conseguir un trabajo.
  • No ser completamente aceptados como mexicanos por parte de sus compatriotas.
  • Para aquellos que fueron deportados, el ser dejados en la frontera, lejos de su comunidad de origen, sin nadie que los aconsejara u orientara, y con el riesgo de ser asaltados o violentados.
  • La separación de los familiares que permanecen en los EEUU, sin la posibilidad de visitarlos allí o de que sus familiares los visiten en México.
Este último tema fue abordado durante la presentación del libro cuando algunos Dreamers leyeron partes de sus testimonios. Todo el mundo se conmovió cuando Edgar, quien vive en Nogales, dijo: "Voy a la frontera a ver a mis hermanos, están arreglando papeles entonces no pueden cruzar. Es un desmadre que estemos cerca, pero lejos a la vez, porque nos divide una barda. Puedo hablar con ellos, pero no los puedo abrazar”. Luego Raziel habló sobre la deportación de su madre cuando el cursaba el quinto grado: "De ahí, la amiga de mi mamá me llevó a casa y recuerdo caminar hasta la cama de mi madre y acostarme donde ella solía dormir. Puse mi cabeza sobre la almohada y olí su champú y fue ahí cuando todo me pegó”.

El muro que separa Nogales, Sonora de Nogales, Arizona

Esta misma semana salió la noticia de la deportación numero 2 millones desde que Obama - a veces llamado el "Deportador en Jefe" – tomó posesión. 2 millones es muchísimo, tanto que a algunos se nos dificulta  imaginar lo que esto significa. Pero son estos detalles desgarradores que encarnan la realidad de este número. Actualmente, una cuarta parte de todos los deportados son separados de sus hijos ciudadanos estadounidenses, y en el 2013, más de la mitad fueron deportados por acusaciones no criminales.
Pero no todo es sombrío. Algunos de los Dreamers escriben que están agradecidos por estar en México y muy felices con sus vidas. Moy y Pedro Noe están entusiasmados estudiando odontología en la Universidad Nacional. Saúl, quien trabaja en Amway y aha logrado estar en un nivel Plata, está haciendo lo mejor para criar a su hijo. Maggie se encarga de la tienda de sus padres. Con su trabajo, Maru y Daniel están apoyando a otros Dreamers en el Colectivo Los Otr@s Dreamers y la asociación civil Dream in Mexico. De hecho, “pasivos” o “resignados” serían las últimas palabras que se ocuparían para describir a cualquier persona de este libro. Ellos son jóvenes con muchos sueños, y los están realizando.  

Maggie: “Sé que todos hemos tenido que luchar y que no soy la única. Me gustaría dirigirme al
gobierno de EEUU y hablarles de todo el daño que nos hacen. No soy una delincuente. Mis padres me
llevaron y a la edad de 18 años decidí no violar la ley, así que dime, ¿cuál es el delito que cometí?” 

El problema es, por supuesto, que a pesar de ser a la vez "de aquí y de allá," no pueden ir "allá", donde todavía tienen amigos, familia y toda una historia de vida. Como escribe Pamela, "Ahora, me siento como que siempre he sido mexicana…No me lo tienes que decir. Yo lo sé. Y ¿qué si me siento estadounidense? Yo ni sé que es lo que soy, pero sé que soy ambas nacionalidades al mismo tiempo. No puedo ignorar toda mi vida”.  

Toma acciones para reducir las deportaciones:      

Díle a tus Representantes y Senadores que apoyen la Ley Sueño:    

Donde comprar el libro:      
dreaminmexico.org/?page_id=207 (todas las ganancias apoyan a la AC Dream in Mexico)

Donde asistir a otras presentaciones del libro:
  •    October 13th, 19:00, Foro de la Galería "La Capilla del Arte", 2 norte número 6, Centro Histórico, Puebla, Puebla, México
  •    Pronto en los EEUU en Los Angeles, Chicago, NYC and Washington DC. Manténte informado a https://www.facebook.com/OtrosDreamersTheBook.

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Security" in Mexico doesn't apply to many human rights defenders

by Maggie Ervin
Felipe Calderón, president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012, had a way of talking that sounded a bit like George W. Bush, which is to say unapologetically bellicose. As soon as his term started, he declared a War on Drug Trafficking, and quickly put it into full military action. By the end of his term, the results were staggeringly tragic: more than 60,000 Mexicans dead, more than 20,000 disappeared, more than 150,000 displaced, and still plenty of drugs flowing to the U.S. and Europe. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto has shifted the discourse, avoiding the words “war” and “combat” all together, and instead focusing on what he calls a “national security policy.” Additionally, his attention has been divided as he's been busy promoting and passing a series of constitutional reforms. Unfortunately, though, neither of these factors has meant that respect for human rights has necessarily improved under his administration. By a few measures it has, but by others it's actually gotten worse.

Comite Cerezo Mexico was founded 13 years ago and works in the
defense and promotion of human rights of victims of political repression.  

A report issued last week by Comite Cerezo Mexico, “La Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Mexico: una lucha contra la Impunidad” (in English, “Defending Human Rights in Mexico: a struggle against impunity”), revealed that forced disappearances have increased under Peña Nieto. The report points out that towards human rights defenders alone, this particular crime against humanity has gone up 60% during his administration. 29 human rights defenders have been disappeared in just eighteen months, as compared to 24 during the same time period of the Calderón administration. On August 30, International Day of Victims of Forced Disappearances,the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called this situation in Mexico “critical.” 

A public act of remembrance of the disappeared in Mexico. As stated in the report, 
Peña Nieto has tried to "make invisible and diminish violence in his official rhetoric 
as well as through the media...and tried to put forth a message of security and peace." 

During this same year and a half, arbitrary detentions and harassment of human rights defenders have increased as well. Both of these tactics, the report argues, go hand in hand with the implementation of Peña Nieto’s political agenda. His reforms passed over the last year cover many dimensions of Mexican life - labor,fiscal policy, education, telecommunications and energy -  and are complex and extensive. Generally, though, their common thread is an unrepentant move towards privatization. Public opposition to the reforms is fierce and widespread, resulting in protests and blockades and the like by Mexican citizens. Meanwhile, the government has been resorting to repressive measures to quell such protests and to discourage participation. As the report states: “the great majority of those arbitrarily detained… were [detained] because of their political positions and disagreement with the neoliberal policies that are being applied in Mexico.”

Francisco Cerezo presents data from the report,
which covers from June 2013 to May 2014. 

Additionally, despite a less warlike rhetoric than his predecessor, Peña Nieto has hardly scaled down the militarization first initiated by Calderón. Just two weeks ago he launched a new 5,000 strong police force called gendarmerie, a new branch of the Federal Police (a force known for human rights abuses). The U.S. has been more than willing to support this militarization. Since Congress passed the Mérida Intitiative (also called Plan Mérida) in 2007, 1.2 billion USD have been delivered to Mexico, largely in the form of military equipment and training, and all in the name of fighting the War on Drugs. 

But much like its predecessor Plan Colombia, it's done very little to stop the flow of drugs. And yet there are no plans to terminate it. In Fiscal Year 2013 alone, more than 3,000 Mexican military personnel were trained at NORTHCOM in Colorado (an increase of 44% from FY 2011). And the Obama administration has requested 115 million dollars more for the Initiative in its FY 2015 budget proposal. So where do human rights come in? Despite the fact that the Mérida Initiative includes “Respect for Human Rights in Mexico” as part of its second pillar, this assertion has proved rather hollow. A mere 15% of its funds are conditioned on meeting human rights standards. And considering that increased human rights violations in Mexico coincided with the distribution of Mérida Initiative funds, the question becomes: Is the U.S. not complicit in these violations? 

This week, Peña Nieto gave his second State of the Union address. In it he announced the construction of a huge new international airport partly in Mexico City and partly in the State of Mexico. Curiously, in 2006, while governor of the State of Mexico, he ordered the massive repression of protests which had sprung up in response to a similar airport project. The result: two dead, 207 arbitrarily detained, many tortured, and 26 women sexually assaulted. Considering both his past and recent record on human rights, there is reason to be concerned about how the president will respond to the protests that are already springing up.

"Land Yes, Planes No!" reads this 2006 sign.