by Raúl Romero
Don Panchito is 79 years old, he turned 79 last January. Doña Gloria is 62 and is a Nahua indigenous woman. Don Panchito and Doña Gloria live in the state of Puebla and are partners in life and struggle. Together they tell many stories of the resistances in which they have participated. In the last decades they fought against the expansion of several highway stretches promoted by the previous governor, Mario Marín, under the pretext of triggering the Hermanos Serdán international airport. They also fought against the privatization of the water system initiated by the former PAN governor Rafael Moreno Valle, a business that benefited Grupo Hermes1, of the Hank Rhon2 family.
For several years, Don Panchito and Doña Gloria have been part of the struggle against the Morelos Integral Project (PIM), in particular against the gas pipeline that passes through volcanic areas of Puebla, and with which they intend to bring gas to the thermoelectric plants in Morelos. There they met Samir Flores Soberanes, their comrade who was murdered in February 2020. The PIM, it should be remembered, is a project that began being promoted under Felipe Calderón, was taken up again in the six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto and now is being pushes by the government of López Obrador.
On March 22, 2021, Don Panchito and Doña Gloria heard on the radio that several people were blocking the accesses to the plant of transnational Bonafont in the municipality of Juan C. Bonilla, in Puebla, and decided to go to show their solidarity with the mobilization. Doña Gloria explains the reasons for the occupation as follows: “We had many water problems, the wells were no longer able to supply water. In the community they began to discuss it and saw that Bonafont was stealing their water with the government’s permission. So they began to organize and on March 22, they decided to take over Bonafont. Using simple words, Doña Gloria is clear about the scope of their fight: This struggle is not only for us, it is for humanity, and she concludes, “We know that in Europe they are also stealing their water, we tell them to get rid of them there too. Those businessmen, who are big capitalists, must stop screwing us out of our lands and our water.”
Contrary to the nationalist discourse fomented by the federal government, on February 15, 2022, the National Guard was sent to evict and dismantle the Altepelmelcalli, or House of the Peoples, a kind of community center that the occupants had built on the ruins of Bonafont. The National Guard thus placed itself at the service of a transnational corporation, to guarantee private property, that of its plant and water, over and above the common good, of course.
The seizure of Atepelmelcalli by the National Guard was a hard blow against the people and organizations that with so much effort and creativity sustained the seizure for 11 months and managed to stop the plundering of the water. But it was not lethal. The seeds of rebellion were already sown.
During the various meetings of peoples, communities and organizations in struggle that took place in Altepelmelcalli, the idea of communicating, connecting and making visible the various processes of defense of territory, water and life that exist in the country was growing. Thus was born the idea of promoting the Caravan for Life and Water. People united against capitalist dispossession, an initiative that began on March 22 and will travel for 34 days through eight states of the country: Puebla, Veracruz, Guerrero, Querétaro, Morelos, Mexico City, Tlaxcala and Oaxaca. The entire initiative is self-managed, organized with resources from the peoples and organizations that participate in this coordination, and who also appeal to the solidarity of those who sympathize with the cause (http://caravana.pueblosunidosporlavida.org/).
As its name says, the caravan is not against this or that government, it is against capitalist dispossession and against the governments that sustain it. It is against the destruction that is disguised as progress. The environmentalism of the peoples, that which is built from below and to the left, invites us to change the questions — development for whom and at what cost? It proposes a struggle of a civilizational nature, for humanity and the planet. It does not confine itself to choosing dispossession by national and transnational corporations or by the State. It breaks with that scheme.
Peoples’ environmentalism, which in Mexico is mainly made up of the resistance of native peoples and the critical participation of women —to the extent that even in academia and in popular organizations there is more and more talk of ecofeminism—, has been struggling for centuries against dispossession and capitalist accumulation. If someone wants to investigate where they were when, they will find that they have been fighting for more than 500 years.
This article was published in La Jornada on March 31, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/03/31/opinion/015a2pol English translation by Chiapas Support Committee Oakland.
- Grupo Industrial Hermes is a group of Mexican companies with activities in the infrastructure, energy, automotive, transportation and tourism industries.
- Jorge Hank Rhon is a Mexican businessman and owner of Mexico’s largest sports betting company, Grupo Caliente. He served from December 2004 to February 2007 as the president of the municipality of Tijuana.