As Mexico heads toward a major election, a movement has emerged from the streets, college campuses, and twitter feeds across the country, crystallizing in a one-word manifesto: #YoSoy132. The grassroots initiative spawned from a student movement (involving 131 young protesters at a university) that merges digital savvy, Mexico’s tradition of social protest, and a grassroots ethos. And, like many of the uprisings of the past year, it’s premised not on a single ideology or agenda, but a spirit of resistance that transcends politics. Of course, #YoSoy132 does have a strong political message–of youth empowerment, media democracy and government accountability–but the movement is a response to the political establishment and the mainstream press, which many see as an accessory to a corrupt power structure. CultureStrike poet Logan Phillips explains in a reflective multimedia essay on his site DirtyVerbs:
#YoSoy132 provides a nearly perfect case-in-point of how social media continues to change the relationship between media and democracies around the globe. Idea-sharing was coupled with old-school people power techniques with a quickness that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago: within a month of the beginning of #YoSoy132, multiple marches of an estimated 100,000 people each took to the streets in Mexico City and were echoed across the country.
But again, to talk about the movement exclusively in terms of numbers, technology and speed is also to miss the mark about why this is an important moment in Mexican––and hemispheric––history. It’s the feeling in the streets: empowerment, jubilation, awakening. It’s the poetry in the manifestos, that declare:
We are sons and daughters of a new Mexico who are yelling––enough! Never again! … This movement is nourished … from the roots of respect between human beings. The movement has grown, and will continue to grow.
#YoSoy132 moves at a pace of hundreds or even thousands of individual messages per hour, pushed by a generation that is able to couple the hyper-literacy of the digital age with a political consciousness drawing on generations of struggle. They have organized their own marches, presidential debates, and have brought to the fore the anti-democratic tendencies of their country’s television duopoly.
The movement, led by an ever expanding agglomeration of young voices, speaks out against all the leading political factions, including the so-called “new PRI” party that to them portends a regression to authoritarian rule. Through public demonstrations, viral videos and the now-iconic hashtag, the participants in the movement focus on the need for inclusive democracy, clean elections, social justice and an end to the violence and oppression that has been tearing the country apart.
The messages also make an appeal to international organizations and the wider global public for solidarity. To people living north of the border, including migrants as well as those born in the U.S., the images and sounds of this movement are a powerful reminder that yearnings for democracy and dignity are universal. Moreover, transnational immigration from poorer to wealthier countries can’t be written off as simply a desperate one-way exodus. At the root are the societies to which many, many migrants remain deeply connected, politically and socially, and their journey isn’t merely to escape but to struggle to fulfill a promise to their people back home.
#YoSoy132 has a New York branch, in fact, which keeps Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the U.S. keyed into the political developments in their home country. As a transborder movement, their campaign also demands political and economic equity on both sides of the border.
Social movements that transcend borders–from the Arab Spring uprisings, to Spain’s Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, to Quebec’s student rebellion, to Mexico’s young digital vanguard–show us that migration doesn’t just create distances between people; it generates promise as well as peril. And a conscious diaspora can reshape the landscape of political power. Watch this space.
(h/t DirtyVerbs for the video)