Written by Zara Snapp/ Students for sensible drug policy
October 4, 2012
Two weeks ago, Andrés, Amaya, Miguel and I, along with 120 other people and with the support of numerous partner organizations, finished the Caravan for Peace. And although the marching and events might have ended, the work is only just beginning. As activists for migrant rights, drug policy reform, ending arms trafficking and changing international aid, we recognize that it is the follow-up that will make a long-term impact on policy.
And Andrés spent a month traveling across the country to bring attention to the victims of the drug war on both sides of the border. I was able to join the Caravan for the last week, which included NYC, Baltimore and DC. In that week, my life was changed forever. It is impossible to describe the pain felt by these families who have lost loved ones through this senseless war, whether it is through mass incarceration in the United States, or murders and forced disappearances on the Mexican side. When you are one person crying out against this war, you feel alone, but by joining with others who are also willing to speak out, we gain power and the possibility of changing policy.
In NYC, after a press conference, the Caravan took action against HSBC, one of the largest banksimplicated in money laundering for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Javier Sicilia, along with other victims, took money that had been stained with blood and tried to have the tellers wash the money for them. These simple acts bring awareness to the interconnectedness of this war—as well as how high the moneyed interests go.
In Baltimore, we heard from mothers who had lost their children on both sides of the border. The ease with which one can buy a gun in the United States was highlighted as a main reason for these youth being killed. The pain that binds these mothers was palpable, even if they could not communicate through a common language. The mere existence of these bonds proves that our strategy for the last 40 years has not worked. This war should not exist.
Finally, in DC, we spent a day lobbying on the Hill. I accompanied three women who spent the day tirelessly telling the stories of how their loved ones have disappeared or been killed and their hopes for both finding them and securing justice. It is these family members that are at the heart of the Caravan. It is for them that thousands of organizations helped to facilitate and plan this journey. It is impossible to mention all of them, but in NYC, it was the Drug Policy Alliance, Asamblea Popular de Familias Migrantes and many others. In Baltimore, it was Neill Franklin from LEAP, the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and Critical Resistance.
In DC, for the lobbying day and our final march and rally, it was Jenny and Ruth from the Latin America Working Group, Salvador from the RFKennedy Center for Human Rights and Justice, and Laura from CIP Americas, among others. And throughout the whole journey, there was Global Exchange, along with countless other organizations.
Within the Caravan, there were the many people who helped translate every word that was spoken, the commission on arts, which brainstormed and implemented multiple actions and the journalists and film-makers who captured these moments forever. While our individual memories might fade over time, these experiences have been captured forever and will continue to influence our every day work of fighting for social justice. Porque “¡Vivos se los llevaron! Vivos los queremos!” (Alive they took them, Alive we want them!)