The Caravan For Peace campaign hit El Paso, Texas a few weeks ago. Their most stunning direct action wasn’t a traditional demonstration or ally. The activists worked with installation artists to present a solemn commemoration of the victims of the war on drugs. CultureStrike’s Favianna Rodriguez was on board, and we’ll be running her reflections on her work with the Caravan.
The movement, led by activists on both sides of the border, seeks to raise awareness about the impact of the war on drugs, and to demand a comprehensive response that protects and respects communities that have been shattered by draconian anti-drug policies in the U.S. and Latin America. Poet Javier Sicilia, one of the leaders of the Caravan, urged local authorities to take action on gun violence and restrict weapons sales. As the Caravan rolled into the nation’s capital this week, activists once again stressed the link between the suffering caused by the drug war and the rampant transborder gun trade:
The Mexican government’s strategies to combat drug trafficking, funded by the United States, have only intensified the violence while causing or contributing to gross violations of human rights. Weak regulation and lax enforcement also make the United States’ gun market a paradise for Mexican drug traffickers. Thousands of guns trafficked illegally from the United States end up arming violent drug cartels in Mexico.
But in the evening, the political campaigning yielded to a more powerful testimony: the somber streak of names cascading across an illuminated wall, representing the stolen identities of family members and friends whose silence speaks to the depth of mourning and the memories that refuse to be buried.
The Caravan deploys artistic forms of protests in order to resist borders and insist on a common humanity. That’s the crucial weapon in any battle for peace, especially in the face of a war fought for, and perpetuated by, a national boundary that serves no one but those who abuse their power.
In addition to giving a voice to victims and survivors, the Caravan has also drawn upon the power of the visual imagination in the grassroots struggle against cruel law enforcement regimes and brutal street violence. The sight of names projected quietly against a wall creates a space for all participants to project their own sense of empathy, solidarity and urgency. The border town is still but always silently bearing witness, and as more people join the march, the ground is shifting
Learn about the Caravan and watch more videos at their website.