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The Birth of Mexico’s Peace Movement

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From death, comes life. With the death of a son, a father gives life to a movement.

In March 2011, 24-year-old Juan Francisco Sicilia was found brutally murdered outside of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Like the tens of thousands of families across Mexico who have lost their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers to violence, Juan’s father, Javier Sicilia, was devastated. With the loss of his son, this well-known poet  lost his ability to write poetry as well. Yet, he did not lose his voice. Instead, this tragedy propelled Javier Sicilia to speak out in a new way — against the violence and suffering that the drug war has delivered to countless families across Mexico.  By sharing his painful, personal story, he has given voice to thousands, voices that came together to ignite the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD).

Many who have lost loved ones to violence had to deal with not only a painful loss, but also the fear that neighbors, friends, relatives would interpret the murder as indisputable proof that their loved one was involved in organized crime. President Calderón perpetuated this assumption, stating that criminals accounted for 90 percent of all killed in drug related violence. To address this pervasive and painful stigma,  the MPJD has organized caravans that have served as a mobile forum for victims’ families to share their stories – and call for justice. More than just interrupting the Mexican government’s interpretation of the rising death tally, the caravans and other MPJD events have provided a platform for civil society to push for a shift away from the current militarized approach to violence, and towards accountability and revitalizing the social fabric that has been worn so thin in recent years.  

The groundswell of activity in Mexico to promote justice and peace is inspiring. However, the problems perpetuating this violence require actions from those of us north of the border as well. The United States is not only the primary consumer of drugs trafficked through Mexico, but a key source of firepower for organized crime as well.  Yet, many Americans fail to recognize our role in this crisis. To build relations and promote understanding, the MPJD is embarking on a caravan this summer throughout the United States, starting in San Diego and ending in Washington, DC. This caravan hopes to raise awareness of how the United States contributes to these problems in Mexico and, more importantly, how we can become part of the solution. 

To promote awareness about gun smuggling into Mexico and its destructive impact, a powerful photo exhibit called “A Farewell to Arms. Contraband on the Border,” will travel with the caravan. An estimated 70% of firearms captured at crime scenes in Mexico during 2009 and 2010–and submitted for tracing–originated in the United States, according to a congressional report released last year. Lax gun policies have made the United States a source of cheap and easily attainable weapons for drug cartels. The powerful images in this exhibit provide a glimpse of the impact of arms trafficking on communities and families across Mexico. A realization of the heavy price paid by families who have lost loved ones to smuggled guns is unavoidable. A petition to President Obama to curb gun smuggling will accompany the exhibit to give viewers the opportunity to contribute to a solution. In late summer, petition signatures of thousands of people from Mexico, the United States and all over the world, will be delivered to Washington, DC and, hopefully, the White House. This is one crucial way, among many, that the United States can change from a passive facilitator of violence into an active defender of peace. 

To sign the petition, go to: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-illegal-gun-smuggling-that-fuels-violence-in-mexico