The same on both sides of the border

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News from El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and southern New Mexico

“It’s the same plan on both sides of the border” says Cristina Coronado, a member of La Otra Campaña in Ciudad Juárez. “It’s the same land speculators who sit on each others boards and who are carrying out large-scale displacement, land grabs and violation of human rights. If the powerful are organized at a binational level, then those of us at the bottom also need to join together. We need to form binational coalitions against el despojo—against the theft of our homes and our barrios—that is being carried out in the name of regional development.”

From July-December 2007 I’ll be biking across the U.S. This experience will be the basis for book that follows José Martí’s 1891 call in “Our America” for a distinctively American culture, one that embraces rather than denies, the dynamic and organic relationship between place, language, and experience that shapes the American continent. In the blog I’ll document the exchanges I have with people about the Latinoization of the U.S. as well as my own life experiences and thoughts.

I know that people don’t like to read long emails. But so much is going on in our regional community (El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and southern New Mexico) that deserves our attention and our action that I am sending out this information in the hopes that you will take a few minutes from your busy lives to read it. The people on this mailing list are people involved in healing, in recovering and maintaining the traditional ways of our ancestors, and in working for justice.

Our communities need us right now– our work, our hope, our support, and our voices. Be a voice for justice.

We invite you to attend a forum on December 1 to be held outside the fence Lomas de Poleo in Ciudad Juárez at 10 a.m. The event will be a cultural political event in support of the residents of Lomas de Poleo who are fighting for their lives and their homes. We call the poets, the artists, the musicians, and all voices for humanity to join us. We want the world to know that the people of Lomas de Poleo are not alone.

For more information please see http://alertalomasdelpoleo.blogspot.com/

Last Monday night over 200 people attended a forum held at UTEP, “What side of the fence are you on? Lomas de Poleo and Segundo Barrio under Siege.” The gathering was historic, bringing together residents of both communities who find themselves threatened by the plans of wealthy developers and businessmen on both sides of the border.

Many of us are familiar with Lomas de Poleo because of the femicides. What many of us are not aware of is the fact that the powerful Zaragoza family continues to use violence, armed guards, arson, and murder to force the people out of their homes. They have put up a barbed wire fence around the community and posted guards. While residents are at work, men hired by the Zaragozas destroy their homes. There have been several deaths associated with these efforts to displace residents.

(See http://www.pasodelsur.com/news/thelomasplan.html and the Jornada article at

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2006/07/30/036n1est.php)

Monday night’s testimony of the residents, as well as two Catholic priests who have witnessed the on-going threats and harassment against our neighbors, was heart breaking. We learned that Monday morning, a university professor and his forty students, including a pregnant woman, who had assembled outside the fence at Lomas de Poleo were physically and verbally assaulted by Zaragoza ’s guards.

Why do the Zaragozas want the land at Lomas de Poleo? Because the land sits on the proposed site of a huge highway that will be built as part of an international crossing. Lomas de Poleo finds itself caught in between the bi-national development plans of Bill Sanders ( Santa Teresa , NM ) and the Zaragoza group ( San Jeronimo , Chihuahua ).

The links between developers on both sides of the border are striking. Bill Sanders, father-in-law of city representative Robert O’Rourke whose district includes el Segundo Barrio, is founder of the Verde Group as well as the Paso del Norte Group (PDNG). The PDNG is the force behind the “downtown plan” that includes the displacement of Segundo Barrio residents and the demolition of a large part of the barrio.

Sanders, working with powerful Mexican businessman Eloy Vallina, is also behind a bi-national development plan that runs the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sanders and Vallina both sit on the board of Verde. They are both members of the Paso del Norte Group.

Vallina, his family and their businesses are directly responsible for the extensive logging that has destroyed the environment of the Sierra Tarahumara. Illegal logging, often connected to narco-trafficking, has forced thousands of Raramuri people out of their homes in the Sierra and into Ciudad Chihuahua and Juárez where they struggle to maintain their language and their culture, in the face of poverty and unemployment. Raramuri activists have been jailed for organizing against the huge logging interests in la Sierra; others have been killed.

(See http://www.nmsu.edu/~frontera/apr-may03/feat2.html for a 2003 article on Tarahumara activists arrested for their anti-logging activities.)

The politicians and the wealthy developers try to tell us that there are no connections but we, as people of conscience, know that we are connected to our sisters and brothers on both sides of the border.

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