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la otra campaña / el otro lado:
magic, migrations, machetes

(About the visit of Subcomandante Marcos to Tijuana)

by kualyque
Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

The following article (22.10.06) comes from the Los Angeles-based THE SICKLY SEASON: notes from mictlan blog by kualyque.

Wednesday night starts at Cal State Northridge with a screening of student Miguel Duran’s new documentary about the founding of CSUN’s Chicana/o Studies department, Unrest. The Student Union is packed. Afterward, Luis (friend and fellow artist) and I speak with professor Gerard Meraz, a producer and the faculty advisor on the film. He tells us they are still in the process of editing the film to make it “pop,” a final edit will start screening probably in December, look out for screenings around town.

Later, we meet at the Chicano house, where we will head out with a caravan of CSUN Mechistas. Little by little everyone arrives, all strangers/new friends to me, several cars, we gather in a circle before the trip, Sirena passes the sage and a few people say some words, then it’s off. Quick stop at the gas station (I get some apple flavored gummy rings), then another stop near UCLA for some other Mechistas who plan to join the caravan. We wait a while, I call up Rerun just to say hey while we’re waiting, they don’t show up, we split. By the time we hit the road, it’s about 11:30. Sirena flies down the 405 and the rest of us struggle to keep up. Orange County is a blur of sick mega shopping mall outlets and grotesque cineplexes, sprawling auto showroom lots, fake-looking office buildings, a massive die-o-rama of sick, diseased space. Rudy rides with me and Luis. Rudy is a trumpeter. We talk about music (Coltrane or Miles?) while listening to Marion Brown’s avant garde jazz, and we talk about San Jose, my hometown, which Rudy has been visiting all his life and which he has come to love, and which I have been visiting about half my life now and which I’ve come to...not quite love. We arrive at our destination near the U.S. side of the border around 2:30 a.m., throw down sleeping bag, grab a spot to sleep at the host house, insist we’ll wake up at 5 so we can get to Tijuas for the morning opening ceremony, and Mechista Marcos Z saying, Yeah right, it’s not going to happen, tomorrow is a long day, let’s just get up at 7.

Five a.m., several alarms going off simultaneously. All of them: Snoozed.

Seven a.m. bathroom scramble. Coffee, pan dulce, swipe a few fast veggie burritos quick from the restaurant next door before hopping the red trolley, Marcos was right, of course. Our morning ceremony is a walk through the new polished silver gates at the border and then a quick taxi ride to the “Multikulti” punk venue where the Otra Campaña encuentro will take place.

The Multikulti is an old baroque movie house on Avenida Constitución between 6th and 7th street in downtown TJ. After passing through the dark entrance area, you emerge into a large open-air amphitheater. It looks like there might once have been a roof, but it has been removed, or maybe there was never a roof. The walls are ragged concrete covered in graffiti, and they rise up high all around us and then crumble off against a sharp, stunning blue sky. We sit on a concrete floor that slants up from the stage several hundred feet to a terraced section that goes up another hundred feet, maybe more. I feel like I’m somewhere between Mad Max and Fellini, Thunderdome and Santa Sangre, and I’m expecting some carnivalesque funeral procession of psycho-road warriors to emerge at any moment with machetes and trombones. At one point, a brilliant, articulate young girl named Mixtli spray paints graffiti on the wall after delivering a stunning speech, while up above on the terraced area, an elder compañero stands all by himself half in shadow, half in bright sunlight, while playing the violin.

Under the deep blue open sky, Delegado 0 sits onstage taking notes and a contingent of Chicana and Chicano Brown Berets stands guard on security detail all around the venue, while people go up and give their palabra all day. Activists, educators, community members, ex-braceros, workers, mothers, fathers, Chicanas and Chicanos del otro lado, anarchists, Wobblies, sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, compañeros y compañeras.

Some bring gifts for Sub. Marcos. Some perform poetry, teatro, music. All speak from their hearts, their experiences, their realities, their hopes and dreams, their rage, their resistant, insistent love. They describe the experiences of neocapitalist, neoliberal oppression in their own communities, the attack on -- and struggle to maintain --family ties, the migration and labor exploitation, the patriarchal domination, the heterosexism and homophobia they encounter daily, the violence against youth and women, the racist, genocidal practices of the prison-school-military-industrial complex; and they talk about the work they are doing in their communities to maintain dignity, to remain connected, to fight back, todos dando sus testimonios, everyone sharing and learning from one another. Often, they, and the audience, are brought to tears. Luis and I, both sons of immigrant parents, are especially moved by the testimony of one elder ex-bracero, and his insistence that we maintain connection with family across the border, across the difficulties of migrant life and disrupted relationship, especially between parents and children; and we are also very moved and impressed by our own young Mechista Marcos’ powerful speech about his LGBT group (much later, still overcome with emotion, Luis can’t help but give Marcos a huge hug and congratulations on his speech, making Marcos blush very cutely). After many speakers are done giving their palabra, Sub. Marcos stands and greets them, shakes hands, exchanges hugs. Repeatedly, Chicanas and Chicanos apologize for their pocho Spanish, but they try anyway, and later, Delegado 0 will address this in his own concluding remarks—how we speak with whatever languages we have, however we can, regardless of the discriminatory and divisive educations that a racist society has imposed on us. He talks about how we construct new geographies with the languages we use, how we shape new communities of resistance by insisting on communication from the heart, sale como sale, English, Español, Espanglish, lo que séa. At several points, Sub. Marcos even throws in a few pochismos of his own.

After Marcos gives his closing remarks, summarizing all that he’s heard all day, commenting, analyzing, etc., I interview some of the Mechistas to get their immediate response on audio recording. We are all moved and inspired, not just by Delegado 0, but by all that we have heard and seen and shared all day long. I tell Luis how I am glad to have seen Marcos here, in Tijuana, at the border, because I am a border creature, an urban halfie with one foot on either side of multiple borders. Then security clears out the Multikulti to prepare for the music performance later, and we all pour out into the street in front of the theater.

The street has been closed off, and it is already filled with people from the encuentro and members of the general public. All are welcome in front of the makeshift stage that has been erected at the theater entrance. Again, while Sub. Marcos stands behind the podium, people go up to give their palabra, including Don Juan, who breaks it all down clearly and elegantly, emphasizing the ecological dimensions of capitalism’s destruction, how we are destroying not just humanity, but all life, destroying the planet itself. Then Sub. Marcos speaks again, blasting the politicians -- the leadership of Tijuana and Baja California, the falsely elected president and the false alternative parties. Marcos insists that this presidency will not last to the next election in 2012. He also insists that the Zapatistas have no interest in taking over this false, mal gobierno -- they only want to destroy it, because under the local, autonomous self-rule of Zapatismo, there is neither want, nor need, of any government.

Then, afterwards: son jarocho in the street for hours, looking for lost Mechistas, finding them, a quick meal nearby while two cops, a man and a woman, sit a few booths behind us, and I remind Luis (and myself) that we have to remember that they are human too, otherwise, they have won.... then: later, still outside on the street, brief audio interview with a beautiful, badass anarchist Wobbly from San Pancho, then brief contact with a beautiful undercover cop who flirts with me to try to get some information, I give her a fake name and email address, she gives me her own fake name and email address, it occurs to me that it’s not much different from a real flirtatious exchange and what passes as human contact in our fucked up society, fake names fake personas fake communication fake life fake love fake fake fake all trying to pass for life and truth, all wearing us down with death death death, the whole thing rattles me and bums me out for a while and I forget my own advice and forget that she is human too, and for a little while, they have won again -- after such a beautiful day of human re-connection and interaction, community, reality, truth, it’s a reminder of why things are so fucked up, why we have to fight, why it is so hard to connect with other human beings in this world that capitalism has created, why it is so hard to hold onto our humanity.

But then we go back into the theater for the music, and after moping a bit, smoking like crazy sitting on the ground, while Luis slams my shoulder with his fist and tells me to forget about it, don’t let them get to me, that’s how they win, that’s how they undermine our humanity, I finally start to dance a little and start to shake it off.... meanwhile: all around, flirtations, smiles, innuendo, laughter, playing, dancing, having fun, giant EZLN banner above the stage, cosmic chicano music from aztlan underground, beautiful bodies moving, circling, pulling away, playing it cool, everybody just chilindrina, shake it off, get back, close eyes, let go.... and meanwhile: reggae beat under open night sky, dreadlock rastaman gliding around creating space.... then: jump into tijuana no’s mosh pit, counterclockwise swirl young beautiful tijuapunks elbows in the air colliding, sweating, Luis jumping in like a madman all elbows and knees dropping down to half-height disappearing into the crowd of punks, and the punks circling, some arm in arm wall of threefourfive abreast, and centrifugal force holding me in for a few rounds, then wildly spinning off the circle and collapsing, lungs screaming, should not have smoked that last cigarette (or the ten before it) in Tijuana’s unforgiving air.... then: 8 of us piling into a honda accord everybody sweaty smelly exhausted crammed in like payasos in a circus car through the streets of Tijuas, 2 a.m., jump out at the border line, scramble past the line of cars, walk back into the other side of hell... arrive L.A. 6:30 a.m... exhaustion...exhilaration....

[note: digital media documentation coming soon to sickly season website. check back.]

Published in In Motion Magazine October 25, 2006.

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