Monday, April 23, 2007

Reporter's Notebook, The Zapatista Highway

Zapatistas in Sonora. Photo Brenda Norrell
Reporter's Notebook, The Zapatista Highway
By Brenda Norrell
April 23, 2007
RANCHO EL PENASCO, SONORA, Mexico -- The last thing you want to happen when you are returning from a Zapatista meeting with Subcomandante Marcos in Mexico, is for the van to die on the Mexican side of the border, and to have to push it back into the United States.
But that is what happened on our way back. With a great deal of laughter, Jose and Gregorio, joined by some good-hearted volunteers, pushed the van through U.S. immigration and we coasted into Nogales, Ariz.
It was the unexpected end to a wonderful weekend of the unexpected. It began in Tucson, Ariz., with the arrival of American Indian Movement security, O'otham from Salt River Pima and Gila River, Hopi-Zia Pueblo and Tohono O'odham. With the car packed with buffalo meat from Salt River Pima, we headed down, stopping in Sonora to buy watermelons.
At the Rancho Penasco biodiversity ranch south of Magdalena, there was a larger than usual buildup of undercover Mexican police, intelligence officers driving white and grey compact cars, at the entrance gate.
Arriving from the north and south were Indigenous from many tribes for the consultation with Subcomandante Marcos and Comandantes, to plan for the Indigenous Intercontinental Conference.
Cautious, I decided to spend the first night in a nearby hotel, so I could be in touch with the international press if there were problems with the Mexican police building up at the gate. As a news reporter staying alone at a hotel in Mexico, the worst thing that can happen is to look behind you in the hotel lobby and see a dozen cars of undercover Mexican police ready to check in at the same hotel. But that is what happened. I took an Extra Strength Tylenol and went to sleep on the mattress, which was actually a slab of granite.
Then, Saturday morning, something magical happened. Indigenous arrived from all over Arizona and northern and southern Mexico. Over the fire making tortillas, working 16 hours a day, were Yaqui women from Potam Pueblo, along with Tohono O'odham, Mayo and their friends from Sonora and Arizona. They cut buffalo meat, scrambled eggs, cut papayas and of course made large pots of coffee, washed enormous amounts of dishes and laughed.
At the gate, AIM security checked the identification of everyone who entered and halted the undercover Mexican police along the highway from intimidating people arriving.
Raramuri came from north central Mexico, Purepecha from Michoacan, Yaqui from Rio Yaqui Pueblos, Mayo from Sinoloa, O'odham from Sonora and Mayans from Chiapas. They were joined by San Carlos Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Salt River Pima, Gila River Pima and Tohono O'odham from Arizona.
From this gathering came a powerful force of love and joy. Crossing the border, the old van blew steam like a tired dragon as it limped back.
There was no surrender.
--Brenda Norrell
(Spanish) Declaration for the Indigenous Intercontinental Conference to be held in Vicam Pueblo in October, 2007:
Zapatistas uphold Cucapa fishing rights on Colorado River Delta:
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