Luz Rivera Martinez (left) presents at Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, 28 November 2016
Tour organized by: Mexico Solidarity Network-based in Chicago-mostly work with immigrant communities around housing, education, work and more. Anti-capitalist organization. Looking at alternatives to capitalism. Includes study abroad programs in Mexico, Cuba and Brazil.
Event co-sponsored by Global Justice Ecology Project, the WNY Peace Center and Burning Books.
Luz Rivera Martinez, organizer with the Consejo Nacional Urbano y Campesino
I am from one of the smallest states in Mexico. Tlaxcala. Our identity comes from a long time ago. Our people used to paint ourselves as little kernels of corn. So we are born of the Seeds, and its really hard for us to not fight against the corporations like Monsanto since they are fighting who we are.
We never imagined seeds were going to be turned into fuel for airplanes. We have 56 different varieties of corn. This was the birthplace of corn. Corn was given to humanity to fight hunger, like rice and potatoes. It is something that you were born with and live with.
If a baby is born in Tlaxcala, their teeth coming out look like corn kernels. There is not one ceremony in Mexico where there isn’t a type of corn. We get married, have kids, grow old, but corn is always there with us. And then someone says that they found a gene, put a patent on it, and created it in a lab. When corn for us has been for thousands of years, planted in different places. What the companies are doing is called robbery, abuse and the root of capitalism. They are trying to appropriate what belongs to humanity, putting a label on it and trying to sell it.
We are in a place where we have to protect our seeds, in places in our community (not necessarily in banks) and protect them from labs and the evilness of the labs. We are resisting. We do this by protecting our seeds, our land. Beyond corn, we planted 25,000 trees in the region, but what is next? We make our own compost and fertilizers. We produced 130 tons of organic fertilizer, and all of our houses have compost areas. We are also trying to protect the corn that lives in the Tlaxcala region and grow and expand it with compañeras in the area. Corn is very promiscuous so we need to protect our native varieties. Contamination is very easy to happen. With sister organizations, we are sharing our native seeds.
We daily resist the companies. So we know that what happens to us, happens to all, and we have to keep fighting it. Things like Standing Rock have to be fought because it affects all of us. Today we are like all the colors, but together, like all of the different varieties of corn. We have to leave the comfort of our couches and resist in the struggle. Thank you very much.
Q: Can you give examples of resistance of your org?
A: One of the things we have learned from the Zapatistas is that we must learn to ask. Not to think that we know everything and that everything has been said.
For example, in a nearby community we have always drank from that water. We have taken that water and transported it from that area and sent it to our communities for thousands of years. Recently, Coca Cola has been trying to buy/privatize the water.
The way that we resist is by watching them day and night and getting rid of the authorities that try to protect them. We have monthly assemblies about how to protect the water. It requires patience, decision making, and to have it very clear that the water belongs to the community.
Coca Cola has said it would give computers in exchange for water. Sometimes we don’t even have electricity, how are we supposed to turn on the computers? These people are obviously not very intelligent, obviously don’t even know the communities they are talking to.
For a long time, they displaced us, they pushed us away because we were the ugly ones, the indigenous and through all of these centuries that is why we have have lived in the remote areas. Then they realized that the resources they want now is what we have taken care of for so many years. Today, I heard from Sioux Chief Arvol Looking Horse, that water is life. And we are not going to sell the water, because for us, water does not have a price. Just like with corn, water is not something that we want to be labeled, because it is life.
When you ask how do you resist, I struggle with that because it takes patience, we work to move away from the bad government which is not going to protect us or give us justice and will stab us in the back. Some people think that we have to struggle along these bad governments and others say that we have to be a government in order to resist, but the resistance is among us.
Q: With the last US election cycle, there is a lot of talk of NAFTA. How has the loss of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution under NAFTA impacted your community?
A: Our organization was born in resistance to the changes in Article 27. The Mexican revolution that was led by Emiliano Zapata, guaranteed in Article 27 that the land, forest, all the areas the water belonged to the Mexican people. Article 27 would have prevented the problems we are having today, because under Article 27, the land belonged to indigenous communities.
But NAFTA allows the capitalists to displace us from the land. I mentioned the water before, Coca Cola was able to buy some land, and is sucking out the water from the community. Laws are made to benefit commerce and business. Before they didn’t ask us about NAFTA, but they made the laws so they could displace us.
Today they are talking about getting rid of NAFTA, I don’t trust anything that comes from the people who talk about that and I hope you don’t either. The people who talk about this, don’t ask the people from Mexico and Canada what they think about it, they do it for their and commercial interests. That is why we were born. We were born to resist those changes, those laws that came to benefit those at the top. Today Mexico has been privatized. Companies are destroying forests, taking the minerals, and privatizing. That is why we were born, and the struggle we have.
Q: Does the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples help you all at all?
A: I actually think that the struggle and the fight always has to come from people like us. The struggle is global, but I don’t think the UN is going to struggle or fight for us in any way. The UN is part of that bad government. The struggle is by and for indigenous peoples, the seed and the water, but for humanity as well. Now we see a new wave of folks, of xenophobia, machismo, sexism, and if we don’t struggle against these things are going to hit us harder.
Q: What can we do most to help you?
A: To tell you the truth, I think you all are going to need help with your new government and we wish that we can unite– that the communities in the countrysides, cities and schools can fight side by side, work with each other, and leave no one behind. And just as our hands are different from our feet, they are both necessary.
I hope that the prisons get empty and our hearts filled with love and rebellion. Organize locally!