September 2, 2005

No Border Encuentro

Photos and text by Luis Alonso Pérez

A world without borders. Now, more than ever, it’s very hard to imagine.

But last weekend a group of more than a hundred college students, school teachers, human right defenders, anarchists, political activists, environmentalists, artists, community journalists and concerned citizens came together in a two day event called the No Border Encuentro, so one day that dream may come true.

The Encuentro is a project put together by the San Diego O.r.g.a.n.i.c. Collective, in order to bring organizers, youth and community members together to share ideas, strategies and skills on how to confront and stop the violence and racism in the border, particularly portrayed by the Minutemen vigilante group.

Indigenous tribe members at Sunday’s event in Sherman Heights community center(from left: RicardoTapia, Marta Frausto(on mic), Rogelio Mendez and Sara Mendoza).

“We wanted the encuentro to be a space where people could share their experience and strategies in order to prepare us for their visit next month” said Jacob, one of the organizing members, in relation to the September 16 Minuteman visit to Caléxico.

The two day event began Saturday morning with a tour to Tijuana, led by the Enrique Dávalos from the maquiladora worker’s information center CITTAC. About 40 people came together, mostly from out of town, to check out the situation and get a real sense of what everyday life is like for maquiladora workers.

The first stop was the worker’s information center, where Jaime Cota from CITTAC and members of the Zapatista front, talked about what is like to be a maquiladora worker, and what they call “labor crimes” these workers are faced with everyday, like working under life threatening safety conditions and earning salaries that don’t even allow them to satisfy their elemental needs like food, housing, medicines, education and transportation.

The second tour stop was Metales y Derivados, an abandoned maquiladora that used to be considered a toxic dump site, after years of polluting the ground with improper dumping of lead and other poisonous substances, leading to the contamination of the plant and the whole area, including the neighborhood located right under the hill.

After that, the group drove down to that neighborhood, called colonia Chilpancingo, where they had the opportunity to walk through the dirt streets and over a wooden bridge to cross a highly contaminated river that children still play in. The group saw with their own eyes the inhuman living conditions that many maquiladora workers and their families have to struggle with.

After that, the group drove back to the border and returned to San Ysidro.

That night there was a benefit concert at Voz Alta, featuring hip hop and punk from around the state and Tijuana, like Boomerang Politick, Entartete Kunst and Días Tristes.

There was also a key speaker, Roy San Filipo from the Love and Rage Anarchist Revolutionary Federation, who talked about anarchist perspectives on anti-racism, how to confront it in our communities and how to do it in a decentralized manner, using empowering skills so people can organize themselves, instead of having a leader telling them what to do.

On Sunday the event continued in Sherman Heights Community Center, with a day of conferences, workshops, panels, discussions, strategy sharing, art and video presentations.

The first conference was about the history of the border, by members of the American Friends Service Committee and the Border Angels, who spoke about their experiences on working on the border for the last ten years under Operation Gatekeeper, about immigrant deaths, and ways of organizing the community, so people can have a context of what’s happening, become more critical about those problems and learn how to develop their own strategies.

There was a panel with members of three indigenous nations in California and México, like the Otmí Coordination Project, the Yaqui community and Frente Indígena de Organizaciónes Binacionales, who spoke about indigenous struggles across the border, so activists could realize that they are just a small part in a struggle that’s been going on for more than five hundred years.

During lunch there was a screening of a video produced by the members of San Diego Indymedia called Buenas noches señores, which showed the actions taken by protestors against the Minuteman group throughout their visit to Campo, California, like the marches, vigils, face to face confrontations with group members, and the “Buenas Noches Brigade”, an assembly of young peace activists who confronted the heavily armed and equipped vigilantes with their “sonic attacks”, which consisted in playing loud music and chants at the Minutemen patrols, to non-violently disrupt their illegal immigrant hunting.

After that, everyone participated in an anti-Minuteman strategy session; where people got together to share ideas and strategies on how to oppose and stop these vigilante groups.

The participants split into two teams, the first one concentrated on short term strategies on how to confront the vigilantes during their September 16 visit, and how can people organize solidarity support groups in their hometowns. The second team concentrated on long term strategies that can help eliminate racism and violence in the border regions.

Border Disturbance Art was the name of the presentation by a couple of different artists, professors and organizers, talking about artistic ways of confronting border violence, using sound, cinema, internet, visual design and installation art.

There was a panel on Zapatismo and the sixth declaration of the Lacandona Jungle, so people can learn from the insight of Zapatismo and use it to improve the ways they do autonomous organizing.

The final speaker was Ashanti Alston, an ex-member of the Black Panthers, anarchist and former political prisoner, who talked about movement building in this country, which he’s been doing, since he was released from jail twelve years ago.

“People think it’s silly to talk about a world without borders, but we believe that borders are a relatively recent phenomenon in history, and there have been no borders in many nations for thousands of years, so it’s really not that silly, you just have to go back in history for a couple of hundred years to understand what it’s like” said Jacob.

The No Border Encuentro, a two day effort by local activists, that can really make a difference in the way people think, organize and actively participate towards the dream of a living in a world without borders.

To learn more about the No Border Encuentro or the O.r.g.a.n.i.c. Collective visit the following web pages:

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