The Occupy Wall Street movement has hit Mexico City. There are campouts along Paseo Reforma, one of the major arteries in the city, as well as in the main plaza of Coyoacán.
The first time I visited the centro, I was handed a flyer advertising an upcoming protest. A selection from the handout (translated from Spanish) reads:
In the national scope, there are 40 families that control the political classes and the forces of the establishment who have stolen the wealth generated by all of us and, acting like criminals, have been able to maintain the functioning of the destructive system.
The actual war against the people, disguised as a war against narcotic trafficking, has implanted a state of terror through torture, forced disappearances and assassinations, whose real objective is to keep the population terrified and repress social protest.
One of the things I find most fascinating about Latin America is the revolutionary mindset. Before I came to the region in February of last year, I fueled my interest by reading Che Guevara’s diaries, Silence on the Mountain, and books from other revolutionary greats like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.
I even entertained fantasies about one day being a part of ending global injustice and inequality.
The first year I spent in the region was pretty disheartening. Some places I visited, like Leon, Nicaragua, had already seen their revolution. In Honduras, I arrived a year after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the army. The energy of the country was tense and straight up dangerous – not a place I’d stick around.
Finally, in Colombia, I got my first revolutionary fix. While I was there, the proposed Law 30, which sought to privatize public universities, was causing dissent across the nation. I had the opportunity to interview a student involved in the protests (Spanish speakers can watch the interview video).
Now, the buzz word of the season is Occupy Wall Street, which has spread throughout the US and the world. I spent some time walking through the encampment in Coyoacán. Aside from promotion of the catchphrase, “We are the 99%,” the encampment is also being used as a platform for all of the primary issues of our generation.
Banners advertise solidarity with indigenous rights groups. Signs encourage people to ride more bikes and less cars. One states that land isn’t for selling, it’s for defending. A makeshift recycling station is set up.
Shining a light on negativity and being focused on change is great. Anything that awakens the consciousness of the people and aims to encourage evolution is positive.
But I have to wonder how effective all of these movements will actually be.
I tend to learn towards Gandhi’s sentiment, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” For this reason, I keep my money in a small banking institution. I try to shop locally and avoid franchises. I buy organic products which haven’t been tested on animals. I am a vegetarian with vegan aspirations. I do my best to limit use of plastic bags. I take personal responsibility for the state of the world and I think my lifestyle reflects that. If I learn of something more I could be doing personally that will positively affect the world and those in it, I’ll make the move.
I think in terms of solutions. If I see a problem, I don’t dwell in it, but immediately seek a resolution.
Camping out in the streets brings light to the problem. Great. A few specific issues have been outlined in Occupy Wall Street’s call to action, such as the fact that the power corporations exercise is wildly out of control and has been left unchecked for too long. This is a first step.
But what’s the answer? What can the individual do to change the state of things? Where are the defined solutions and propositions? What demands are being issued to world governments? How can we actually bring about a change instead of just saying that we need one?
Mary Sanchez writes: “It’s time to launch Occupy Wall Street, Phase II. The part where the movement articulates what it wants, wins over a large bloc of the public and fights to get its demands enacted.”