Stop the Violence Against Indigenous People

An open letter to Mexican President Vicente Fox

By David Valladolid
Published on LatinoLA: October 17, 2002

Stop the Violence Against Indigenous People

Dear President Vicente Fox:

We, the undersigned members of the Mexican American, Hispanic and Chicano communities of the United States, are writing to appeal to your sense of justice, morality and history as your administration responds to the historical plight and current crisis affecting the Indigenous people of Mexico.

Some of your predecessors have argued that we have relinquished our right to interfere in the affairs of your sovereign nation since we no longer reside within Mexico's borders. But we are grateful that you have recognized our voice and struggle. You have referred to us as the "forgotten heroes", the children and descendants of the brave Mexican men and women who were forced to leave their country of origin or were separated by the border when half of Mexico's territory was lost to the U.S.

Are we different because of our experiences in the U.S.? Absolutely! We have influenced, and have been influenced by U.S. culture. But have we, the 21 million and growing population of Mexican ancestry in the United States, turned our backs on our brothers and sisters from Mexico? No! We have advocated against, and sought legal recourse to end the exploitation, discrimination and death that many of our fellow Mexican immigrants face in our country. We have worked under horrible conditions in order to provide our children with a better future. We have fought to preserve our language and culture, and we have retained a strong work ethic, our religious values, and the importance of family.

Yet, we have not worked hard, struggled and earned an education only to seek fame, glory and fortune. No, we are the teachers who fight to save bi-lingual education; we are the lawyers who represent the poor and oppressed; we are the architects that promote Mexican and Indigenous culture; we are the workers who help build this nation; we are the socially responsible business men and women; we are the care givers, social workers, nurses and doctors who care for the sick and frail; we are the community service agencies that serve our people; and we are the elected officials that seek to transform the social conditions of our community. It is precisely because of this history of struggle that we cannot remain indifferent to the plight of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Our conscience will not allow it!

With this in mind, we write to express our great concern with escalating violence and repression affecting the indigenous communities of Chiapas. We are specifically alarmed by the recent murders of indigenous leaders by paramilitary groups and the rising human rights violations occurring in the Chiapas municipalities of Ricardo Flores Mag?n, 17 de Noviembre, Francisco G?mez, San Pedro Polh?, Francisco Villa, 1ero de Enero, Olga Isabel, Che Guevara, Vicente Guerrero, Miguel Hidalgo, Lucio Caba?as, and San Manuel.

We, the undersigned, applaud the government's recent arrest of 20 members of the paramilitary group "Paz y Justicia" and implore you to take additional and immediate steps to resolve the current crisis by de-militarizing the region, prosecuting the remaining paramilitary groups who have violated the rule of law, and reactivating peace talks with the legitimate Indigenous leaders. Peace cannot prevail while the army and paramilitary groups foster a hostile and repressive climate in these communities. Do not let your advisors misguide you, a strategy of "divide and conquer" to defeat the legitimate claims of Mexico's indigenous people is deceitful, vicious, and morally corrupt. We urge you to continue siding with dialogue and peace!

We are also greatly troubled by the recent Mexican Supreme Court ruling to uphold the diluted version of the Law on Indigenous Rights and Culture. We respect your nation's judicial institutions, yet we fear this ruling will further alienate Mexico's 10 million indigenous people, divide the nation, and lead to more bloodshed. Please do not allow this ruling to terminate your administration's work to secure peace in Chiapas and your efforts to fully vindicate the rights of indigenous people. We urge you to consider resubmitting the original legislative proposal drafted by the COCOPA to the Mexican Congress for approval and constitutional ratification.

We hope you will act in the great spirit of Father Bartalom? de Las Casas, Miguel Hidalgo, Benito Juarez, Emiliano Zapata, and all the great leaders of Mexico, when you carry out your administration's policies for Mexico's most impoverished states. We are painfully aware of the enormous economic and social challenges that Mexico faces. We know that you desire to use your natural resources to build infrastructure, create jobs, educate your young and move your nation into a competitive role in the global economy.

Please consider that some foreign investors may not share the best interests of your people. They must not persuade your administration to believe the un-tempered building of dams, the selling of precious natural resources, the importation of genetically altered crops, and the establishment of the maquiladora industry in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec are the magical keys to Mexico's economic progress. These policies are a prescription for ecological disaster, famine, and social unrest. Their implementation will result in the physical and cultural genocide of indigenous people -- the very soul of Mexico.

In the wake of your great nation's celebration of September 16th, the day Mexico secured independence from foreign occupation by uniting its entire people; we believe it is appropriate to reflect on the lessons of history for guidance in order not to repeat past mistakes. We, the people of Mexican descent, feel justified, obligated, and compelled to make our own "GRITO EXTRANJERO" and implore your administration not to perpetuate the repressive policies of military intervention to resolve the legitimate struggles of Mexico's indigenous people. "?Que viva un Mexico libre, democratico, y con dignidad para todo su pueblo!"

We pray to the spirit of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that you will show compassion and restraint in how you treat Her people of Mexico. The indigenous people of Chiapas do not seek a war of conquest nor do they want to share or take your power. They only want Mexico to respect and honor their place under the sun. Mexico must show the world that unrelenting profit, repression, corruption, ecological exploitation and greed are not the values that will guide its nation and the treatment of its original inhabitants. Mexico is a "mestizo" nation that must embrace and cherish its indigenous roots-not only in its murals, museums, and folklore, but also, in life itself.

President Fox, you and all the people of Mexico, hold the key to your future! Your nation needs a noble statesman in this time of crisis -- a leader of uncommon courage. We trust that you will demonstrate a capacity to act with great wisdom, honesty and understanding as you decide which path Mexico will take. We implore you to do what is right and just!

We shall forever speak as the children and descendants of brave Mexican men and women, "the forgotten heroes", who have found their own voice and place under the sixth sun, "El Sol de la Justicia!"

Atentamente, "In-La-Kech" (Yo soy tu y tu eres yo!)

About David Valladolid:
Constructed by a dozen Chicanos/as. Signed by over 75 Mexican-American, Hispanics and Chicanos. One of the co-authors is David Valladolid, husband, father of four children, community activist and chair of the Chicano Federation's Board of Directors.

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