Thursday, February 2, 2023

Chronicle of the mobilization that collapsed Mexico City

The “indios pata-rajadas” (a discrminatory phrase alluding to indigenous people) went out to march. Yes, those whom a few weeks ago the Mexican right wing called “nacos”, “acarreados” (people carried or taken to the march by force) and sealed their rancor by calling President Lopez Obrador “Indian from Macuspana”. The response was a mobilization of 1.2 million people that collapsed Mexico City to remind local fascism that this country has no room for hate.

On Sunday 27th, AMLO called for what will be one of the last mobilizations of a process that began with the march denouncing the impeachment attempt against him in 2005. At that time, more than a million people also took to the main avenues of the Mexican capital to repudiate the attempt by then President Vicente Fox, of the PAN and its PRI allies, to derail López Obrador from the competition for the presidency of the country, putting him in jail for allegedly disrespecting a court order. That was the origin of the slogan “It is an honor to be with Obrador”! which, sixteen years later, is still reverberating in the neuralgia of the Mexican political system.

People began to arrive as soon as the first hours of the 27th began. But already, at midnight of the 26th, the first arrivals of AMLO followers were reported at the foot of the Angel of Independence where, framed by Mexican flags and posters with the Mexican president’s face, the first festival with music, dance and coffee brought in thermoses began. They spent the night there and, after the early hours of the morning, the contingents arrived little by little from different parts of the Republic.

I arrived at 3:30 am. The truck that drove me left at two in the morning from Pachuca, the city where I live, 45 kilometers away from Mexico City.

This is me at the foot of the Bancomer tower. PHOTO: FROM BELOW MX

−And why so early? −I asked one of the organizers of the trip that brought together people from Pachuca, some militants of Morena, the president’s political party, and others who, like me, wanted to attend as a way of protesting against the advance of fascism.

−This is going to collapse −he said. If we want to get there in time we have to leave now. 

Indeed. By six in the morning, most, if not all, of the entrances to Mexico City were full of vehicles, many of them −like mine− buses carrying obradoristas from every state in the Republic. Thus, a little later in the morning, I met the contingent from Sinaloa, located in the northeast of the country, headed by its governor Rubén Rocha Moya, a leftist leader and former collaborator of López Obrador. From among the group, I was able to talk to an older woman who was holding her own as well as anyone else.

−What time did they leave, hey?

−If I were to tell you… We had a twenty-two hour trip and here we are.

−Twenty-two?!

−And we came twenty-two buses the same way.

By the time I arrived, we were not the first ones, far from it. A large picket from the state of Guerrero was already waiting for us, and little by little more joined us. They wore wide-brimmed hats tied with a ribbon from the top, typical of the state. At one point their bus arrived with its march from the southeast to the rhythm of “Ahí viene el toro! Ahí viene el toro!”, a famous quebradita with which the current governor of the place, Evelyn Salgado Pineda, campaigned, in allusion to her father, Félix Salgado Macedonio, who is so nicknamed. “Where is Guerrero?” shouted a man with a thick voice into the microphone, to which the contingent responded with shouts and jumps. It was four o’clock in the morning but, judging by their cheers, it seemed like noon.

One of the most gentrified points of Reforma Avenue, at the slope of the skyscraper of the BBVA bank, with its heliport and illuminated in blue like the towers of Qatar and at the gates of the so-called entrance of the lions, with its bronze statues and grille in the style of French Classicism, looked like a party in the Vicente Guerrero neighborhood of Acapulco or in the community of Los Zapotales, in Tlapa de Comonfort, in the mountains, homeland of many who were celebrating.

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Before the first ray of sunlight peeked out from between the buildings, several rows of trucks and vans took over the sidewalks on the south side of the avenue. Along with Guerrero, Michoacán arrived with hundreds of people who, in a moment became a thousand or many more.

From their vehicles they unloaded junk and blankets and coolers that, in an instant, became a street stall on the square that houses the Estela de la Luz, a rectangular cookie-like sculpture that is a monument to the 1.3 billion pesos corruption built by the government of Felipe Calderón to commemorate the bicentennial of Mexican Independence.

Its lavishness was taken over by the people of Michoacan and a couple of pots, where they soon began to cook some carnitas, yes, pork carnitas, a very famous typical food of that state, whose plates were handed out to anyone who came to taste a taco and continue celebrating. So the first hours passed between the rejoicing, the smell of candied meat and the serene cold of dawn.

The march seen from the monument to Diana the Huntress. PHOTO: Claudia Sheinbaum / Facebook

By the time the sun came up, everything was a river of people. I walked away from my group with the urgency to find a bathroom, a mission that hundreds more of us embarked on, and I’m not exaggerating. With a clenched jaw and a hurried pace I entered the streets surrounding the luxurious promenade. It was seven o’clock and few things would be open, except, perhaps, a few coffee shops. But that perimeter surrounded by buildings and cornices with gentrified names was not my neighborhood where any fiend can give me a glass of water.

There is nothing like the need to urinate to remind me of the inhumanity of skyscrapers. I was reminded of that Simpsons episode where Homer is in New York and has to look for a toilet on top of the twin towers. But, unlike him, mine was not a cartoon where you can go to the ninetieth floor in search of a free bathroom, but a nightmare where parking lots and restaurants made a killing. The Starbucks, closed until eight o’clock and yes, with the chance to use their bathroom as long as you spend eighty pesos in an overrated coffee.

And if I already have a severe dislike for that brand because of its labor exploitation, I ended up hating it even more and wanting to excrete on every such establishment I come across in the future, like the proletarian dog that I am. And all around me, in every place with an open toilet, queues of fifty or more people waiting their turn with gestures of anguish. Others, running from one place to another chasing the version: “Tatiana tells me that she found a parking lot three blocks away” and they left at the races in pursuit of the intestine hope.

I managed to see on my phone −a miraculous thing because, with so many people, the signal was saturated− that a restaurant called Los Canarios was declared in service not far from there. “Breakfast. Open now,” Google Maps told me. I jogged (almost) very much in spite of my belly until I had completed two hundred meters when I finally spotted it like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Some “No Trespassing” ribbons were fencing the entrance to the place. In front of me, a couple of guards fatter than me indicated that access was through the lobby of the adjoining hotel.

−All right. −I said, aware that at times like this you have to know how to pick your battles.

Immediately, one of the bouncers cut me off.

−Sir, I tell you: it’s eight hundred pesos buffet (40 dollars), four hundred pesos for brunch.

−What? −I answered with honest concern. Maybe I was going deaf with the urge to pee or it was the roar of the crowd that had me in a daze.

−Eight hundred pesos for the buffet, four hundred for brunch. You pay at the entrance, sir. −the guy repeated very proudly.

−Eight hundred pesos to get in?

−Yes…

−Salaverga! I’d better pee here! −I said in perfect Mexican slang.

And I turned around.

Reforma, which already looked full, was flooded by that time. Amidst people walking in all directions like an anthill, I desperately made my way to the only solution I could find. I went into a couple of streets where many people were still lined up waiting for a moment in the public restrooms, I hid between a tree and a car and I applied the soldier’s hand on the tire of the vehicle hoping that the owner would not show up and that those who saw me (because they saw me) would pass by and let me get every last drop, for God’s sake.

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Mission accomplished.

On my way back to the avenue, being able to look again at life full of colors, light as a kite and proud of my resolute power, I found a mass of human beings coming from everywhere, literally on the main tower, a contingent from Zacatecas was waiting among the band music that accompanied them together with one from Sinaloa that, together, were crowds and, both, dancing with the tubas and jumping as if it were a wedding.

I had to return with my group that was two hundred meters away, beyond the Estela de Luz; and I had to pass dribbling bodies, asking for permission, squeezing some calluses and giving hits with the hips to the careless ones because that already looked like Mexico City’s Pantitlán subway station, famous for its exaggerated crowds, at six in the afternoon… but at a thousand percent.

I managed to get to the median, where the governor of the CDMX, Claudia Sheinbaum, decorated with Nochebuenas flowers, several of which had already been crushed by the reckless who crossed jumping over the triangular edges that form it. Not me. I was careful and that’s why I twisted my foot and almost fell flat on the other side if it weren’t for a bro who caught me on his back and I grabbed him and scratched his T-shirt.

−I’m sorry, man, I’m sorry! −I said with some cynicism because, had it not been for him, I would have been the mockery of the entire contingent from the municipality of Chalco that was there, making a mitote.

President López Obrador making his way through thousands of followers. PHOTO: Facebook

Fortunately for me, that compita did not fall because, out of so many people, he was able to hold himself against the others so as not to hit me on the asphalt of Reforma Avenue. So, my next mission was to cross that sea of Mexicans in the middle of which my group was supposed to be.

I continued with the technique of pushing and shoving and the “tantita chancecita, tantita chancecita (“excuse me, excuse me” in slang), I’m going to pass” to try to make my way through; And yes, many of them made room for me while I saw the “suavicrema” (nickname given to the Estela de la Luz because of its resemblance to a Mexican cookie) closer and closer to me, between the carnitas stand of the Michoacanos and a group of Concheros dancers who came with those from the State of Mexico, perhaps from San Juan Teotihuacan, the town where the famous pre-Hispanic pyramids are located.

But there was a moment when the bodies made a wall and there were two options: strand me there until the march began and then I could move, or try to get out again, just where I had gotten in. So I was in a quicksand where, if I went any further, I could die without air. Well, more or less like that, swept along by the crowd. I recognized that I could not reach my group. I just sent them a message to let them know that I would be around and that, with the benevolence of the masses, I would see them when the march finally advanced.

It was nine o’clock in the morning. I used my strength to look for a little piece of cement where I could sit down. So, I settled myself on the edge of the sidewalk, with my backpack in front of me so as not to crush the flowers. Sitting there, I saw those “acarreados” mentioned by the conspiracy right wing.

In fact, those same people made the insult their own and raised banners ironizing the accusation. “Here are the millions of carried” said one. And there were groups that chanted: “We are not people who have been carried, we came out of conviction”. Could there have been among all of them someone forced to go? Surely. Maybe the musical bands were there under contract, enlivening the dances that were combined with the march.

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Maybe the tuba player wanted to go home; or the drummer who spun to the rhythm of Sinaloense had never thought of being in a march in support of López Obrador. And yet, there they were, becoming one with the cherry-colored river that poured from the National Auditorium to the Zócalo. I got to see a comparsa from the Huasteca hidalguense, dressed as devils, dancing to the rhythm of the wind band. I saw the Chinelos of Morelos, flashing colors and textures. I also saw some Tlacololeros from Guerrero, shaking the space with the sounds of thunder they wielded with their whips, about to burst eardrums and instilling fear.

And I saw a batucada from Mexico City, accompanied by stilt walkers from Ecatepec, performing a carnival followed by a giant pig in a tuxedo and the phrase: “INE (National Electoral Institute) sucks”. I thought: How many traditional groups! This only happens with the left wing. It was my turn to see that fascism does not dance, it manipulates; it does not dance, it spits; it does not march, it hates.

More than one million two hundred thousand people marched with López Obrador this Sunday, November 27. PHOTO: Facebook

Around noon, after seven hours of waiting, at last, the contingents began to advance. They say that at that time López Obrador had arrived at the Angel of Independence, where the advance was taking place. So it was that the million and a half people gathered there started towards the Zócalo.

Noticing this, I stood up from my seat and shuffled my weary feet to the other side of the Reforma sidewalk where, it was assumed, my group would pass at some point behind those from Michoacán. And while I waited for that to happen, I watched the footsteps of people walking like the crash of waves. One lady, holding a sign five feet high, said: “I am a person who has been carried. And I am paid by a president who does work”, making a mockery of the opposition with such a paradox.  They walked slowly, slowly, as on a Sunday at a flea market. With almost the same commotion, but more, not of sales and marchers, but of struggle and joys, with several jeers against the president of the National Electoral Institute, Lorenzo Cordova, supposed democratic arbiter who has become one more opponent to the so-called “fourth transformation” (as this is the name of the political movement of AMLO’s government.).

At last I saw those who came with me, hours before I got lost in the Republican crowd. We bumped into each other and embraced in laughter of relief.

−Where have you been, Beto?

−Well, I was here, but I couldn’t get through.

−There are a lot of people, aren’t there?

−A lot of people, isn’t it?

−Let’s go, then!

We advanced with the same slow pace as the tide. A couple of meters and stop. Another couple of meters and we stopped again in the ocean of the workers’ movement. Behind our small contingent from Pachuca, some people from Guerrero marched: “Here we are, the pata-rajadas!”

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Angeles. Writer and journalist. National Journalism Award for Human Rights by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico. Reporter with 20 years of experience covering social movements. Teacher and activist.

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