Silvia Plath once noted, “[n]othing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.” If this is the case, I have amassed quite the stinky pile. For a little end-of-summer cleaning, I’m freshening up my closet (aka hard drive), mixing metaphors and  posting a few stories I like but for which I have yet to find suitable homes.

Photo by  Jonathan McIntoshThe U.S.-Mexico border; for many it can be hell. It where the national sins of both the United States and Mexico combine to create an ever-increasing mass of displaced people, broken families and death. The political border, built on blood and dollars, is guarded on the U.S. side with more than a billion dollars of militarized manpower and surveillance equipment.

Every day more than $800 million dollars in goods and services are legally exchanged across the border. Every day between $20 and $68 million of illicit drugs—mostly marijuana—enter the U.S. from Mexico, and an unquantified, yet large, amount of handguns and assault rifles legally purchased in the U.S. are shipped to Mexico. Every day people working in the U.S. send roughly $68 million to their families in Mexico. And, every day around 2,000 people are detained by the Border Patrol for crossing the vast and varied expanse from Tijuana to Matamoros without papers—only to be sent back to Mexico where they will more than likely attempt the trek again.

“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta (is an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture,” wrote Gloria Anzaldúa in her landmark book Borderlands/La Frontera. Many claim the bi-national land as their familial home for generations, starting with the indigenous peoples, then to mestizo, Chicanos and finally to whites who have been settling the region for the past 150 years.

Continue reading “Closet Cleaning Part 2: Bordering Hell”

051912-7The Zapatistas have lingered in the imaginations of progressives and radicals around the world since the coming out of their rebellion in 1994. People from nearly all leftist persuasions have taken the struggle of the impoverished indigenous communities at the end of Mexico to be one of their own. This, to a degree, has been welcomed by Subcomandante Marcos’ prosaic communiqués and has been a key component of building significant international solidarity. Yet, perhaps to an even larger degree, much of what is understood of the Zapatista struggle is largely a product of these same outsiders’ imaginations.

Irish writer and activist Ramor Ryan, author of “Clandestines: The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile,” uses a seemingly benign and common water project to delve into the complexities of Zapatismo and of its associated solidarity activism in his book, “Zapatista Spring” published a year ago this month by AK Press. Over the past 15 years, dozens of water systems have been constructed in Zapatista communities with technical help from solidarity activists. The projects have not only had the pragmatic goal of bringing potable tap water to villages which before lacked that basic convenience, but also the heady goal of building solidarity between the Zapatista base and foreigners.

The cast of characters Ryan presents fit the archetypal activist spectrum, from a socially inept yet passionate anarcho-dogmatist and a less ideologically driven, type-A career organizer, to a radical punk sex worker and an academic Chicana in search of her roots in the Lacandon Jungle, among others. The group is far from harmonious and the internal problems of the outsider activists themselves drive the narrative for a good portion of the short work. For an anarchist and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Ryan’s humor, empathy and nondogmatic take on politics and personal folly is refreshing. Throughout his narrative, he invites the reader to laugh at him, laugh with him and, most importantly, encourages fellow activists to laugh at themselves.

Read more at Truthout…