In a country where violence has become the new normal, the nine months since the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero have been marked by protests from a very discontented public. In less than ten years, there have been more than 23,000 disappearances and 100,000 deaths in the country, but Ayotzinapa tipped the scale. This new social mobilization makes it clear that the people disapprove of the government’s response and want new opportunities and methods for political participation. But which paths should we take in order to build them?
The demand “vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos” (“alive they took them, alive we want them back”) is still ringing strong, even though government institutions would prefer to close the case. Ayotzinapa awoke us to the fact that this was not an isolated case, that corruption at every level has allowed it to happen (reflected online by the phrase #FueElEstado – “It was the State”), and that Mexicans have had it with the impunity and violence that reigns in their country.
Flickr/Por Eso Propongo (All rights reserved)
Por Eso Propongo's call for anti-corruption and civic reform proposals on postcards yielded thousands of results and revealed ten main topics of concern among the Mexican people.
On social media, thousands of voices proclaimed “#YaMeCansé” (“I’ve Had Enough”), echoing the demands of movements such as #YoSoy132 (“I am 132”), created three years ago to protest repression and call for new citizen participation. March marked four years since the start of Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad (Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity), which included the slogan ¡Seguimos hasta la madre! (“We’ve had it up to here with this shit!”).
Millions of Mexicans are unsatisfied with a political class that doesn’t allow open dialogue or is accountable to those it represents, while making public their luxurious expenses or discriminatory remarks in a country with so much poverty and inequality. There is even a lack of trust in institutions such as the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE) or the Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH), whose strongest ties are supposed to be with the people.
The #Caravana43 headed by parents of the Ayotzinapa student teachers is pushing for a civil revolution, which would consist of popular assemblies to replace the current system of government. Other civil society groups are trying to work within the current institutional context in order to recapture or amplify the spaces that have been opened through decades of democratic construction. But faced with the urgency of what is happening in the country, the solutions often appear to be too slow, not enough, and far out of our reach.
The campaign #YaMeCansé, #PorEsoPropongo (“I’ve Had Enough”, “This is What I Propose”) was created in November of 2014 by Daniela Alatorre and Alexandra Délano and then joined by artists, filmmakers, designers, scholars and activists. In order to make Mexican voices tangible in a visually effective, substantial and creative way, we sent an invitation through social media asking people to send their messages in the form of a printed postcard, using the social action platform Postcard.com. The postcards were addressed to Mexican society and government representatives. The goal was to print and display them in public spaces to push for continued dialogue and participation.
Amidst the hundreds of postcards that turned into thousands in less than a month, we began to notice similarities and boiled them down to ten main topics of concern.
The “Ten Citizens' Battles”, as we called them, are not exhaustive, nor do they represent everyone, but they are a form of expressing the concerns that many of us citizens share and are troubled by, in contrast to a government that is not responding adequately. The ten main proposals in the 8,000 postcards we received are: 1) create a genuinely independent anti-corruption prosecutor; 2) eliminate impunity for government officials (fuero); 3) reduce the salaries and benefits of public servants; 4) reduce public funding for political parties; 5) reform the police forces and rebuild their relationship with the communities they work with; 6) prosecute the crime of enforced disappearance; 7) reduce or eliminate congressional seats assigned by proportional representation; 8) create citizen committees to monitor and regulate public service; 9) improve educational and health services, and give priority to culture and the arts, each with an emphasis on human rights; 10) raise the minimum wage.
#PorEso-Propongo shows that people are concerned and desire to participate and be heard from spaces that are truly democratic. #PorEsoPropongo shows that people are concerned and desire to participate and be heard from spaces that are truly democratic. But often we don’t know where to start, or we think that those spaces, including organizations that defend human rights and impact decision-making processes, are closed to us. Since the start of this project we have collaborated with Amnesty International and other civil society organizations that have aided us in opening up opportunities for dialogue. The 8,000 proposals made by citizens are a source of inspiration and a reason for all Mexicans (and also for these organizations) to continue to work on the issues that are already being debated and to expand opportunities to channel citizen participation.
Now the challenge for #PorEsoPropongo is to keep the project alive so that these proposals are actually heard and attended to, and for more proposals to emerge. Through purely volunteer effort, with the network that we established in just a few short months, we have already been able to get responses from three political parties, set up meetings with at least eleven senators, the Supreme Court of Justice, and the president of the National Commission of Human Rights, and representatives of all the political parties and the National Institute for Elections. They have all committed to reviewing topics and incorporating them into their agendas. In September, we will take further steps to gain ground with the new legislators and elected officials, in the hopes that they will take up some of these proposals.
But the most important thing is to take these messages to the people that participated. We want to demonstrate that, as citizens, we have the possibility to open new doors for dialogue with our representatives and with the institutions that are ours—as Mauricio Merino insists—and not wait a set number of years to express ourselves through voting. Besides inviting people to add their postcards to all the spaces that have been used to display them, from the Monument to the Revolution, La Casa del Hijo del Ahuizote and their mobile art exhibitor, Ahuizote Ambulante, the Art Festival Constructo, the Caravan 43 in New York, and the Latin American Studies Annual Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, #PorEsoPropongo has already motivated small groups to form their own initiatives, from schools to meetings with local officials. We hope that it inspires many more to continue searching for opportunities to express themselves, showing that there cannot be democracy without real civic participation.