I was more than a little bummed that our trip to Guadalajara would have us away from Mexico City on the night of the Iluminemos Mexico march. Starting at the statue of the Angel and proceeding to the Zocalo, thousands of Mexicans were expected to descend upon the capital and unite in a peaceful, non-political march for peace.
You probably haven’t heard about el “Caso Marti,” the tragedy that was one of the reasons why the march was organized. On June 4, Fernando Marti, a 14 year old boy who was the son of a wealthy businessman, was kidnapped on his way to school. A month and a half later, Marti was found dead in the trunk of a stolen car.
In the weeks since, Marti’s father has been tireless in demanding that the federal government take more active measures in combating kidnapping and other forms of violence. He voiced the thoughts of thousands of Mexicans when he appeared before a group of politicians and authorities and, exasperated with their excuses, said, “If you can’t fulfill the duties you’ve been given, resign!”
Caso Marti was a high profile case among the thousands of crimes that are committed in Mexico City and the country on a monthly basis, but it seemed to be a tipping point. A group began to organize the Iluminemos Mexico march and informed politicians that they weren’t welcome to make speeches at the event. The capital’s newspapers dedicated entire sections not only to informing readers about the event, but also to publishing investigative pieces about the problems of crime in Mexico.
The plans for the march spread quickly from one city to another, and last night, at 7 PM, people in towns across Mexico put on white shirts, lit candles, and took to the streets in a show of unity in their declarations for peace. Here in Guadalajara, it was raining until 6:40 PM. Yet by 7:15, at the corner of Vallarta and Avenida Cuatuhemoc, there was a mass of people as far as I could see in either direction. There were the obviously wealthy and the obviously poor. The young and the elderly. Children on their fathers’ shoulders. People in wheelchairs. On crutches. People with white flags, with Mexican flags, all moving en masse to the Minerva fountain, where doves would be released and the crowd would erupt in the national anthem.
We had the camera and two video cameras and weaved in and out amongst the marchers. “Poverty is also a form of violence!” yelled one student. “Felipe Calderon [the Mexican president] is my friend,” one elderly woman told me, cupping her hands around the flame of her candle so it wouldn’t go out. “We’re here because we want a safe future for our children,” said one mother, a tear rolling down her cheek as she talked to me. “Thank you for being here,” said men and women, again and again as we stopped them and asked for brief interviews.
At 8:30, the crowd gathered at the fountain and placed their candles around its perimeter, filling the entire space. And suddenly, a wave of applause ripples up the avenue… a group of indigenous students, dressed in outfits representative of their respective cultural groups, is making its way to the fountain and the crowd welcomes them with whistles and applause.
They’re taken aback, surprised to be drawn into the crowd’s embrace. “There is so much discrimination and violence against indigenous people,” said one young woman I interviewed, “so it feels very special for the people to welcome us in this way.” “VIVA MEXICO!!” one woman screams with a kind of primal ferocity, her face contorted with rage and hope. “VIVA!” the crowd roars back, before it begins to dissipate.
Photos: Francisco & Julie Schwietert Collazo