• Narrow screen resolution
  • Wide screen resolution
  • Auto width resolution
  • Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
  • default color
  • red color
  • green color
Member Area


Mar 24th
¡Presente! Home
Standing With Those Who Fight for Themselves PDF Print E-mail
Written by Simón Sedillo   

Neoliberals believe that somehow they have finally discovered a socially responsible, or socially democratic, way of taking people’s land, labor, and resources by force, for profit.

It’s not possible. This is the myth of neoliberalism. This imposed political economy reduces human beings and natural resources into variables in an economic equation. Every day the human variable in this equation is considered more expendable. Indigenous people, farm workers, women, youth, and poor people everywhere are reduced to variables in this equation. When no longer considered economically viable by the powers that be, communities become economically expendable. If a group of people can be treated as disposable for “not fitting in,” imagine how that group is treated when they organize or resist this imposition. Historically they have been treated as a virus which must be eliminated.

This is the same kind of genocide upon which the United States of America was founded. Somehow most U.S. citizens have managed to detach themselves from their nation’s history to the point of ignoring its present. Native children were still being put in “boarding schools” by the U.S. Army just over 70 years ago. The School of the Americas has made a science out of terrorizing communities in resistance throughout Latin America. The most conservative estimate provided by the Iraqi Health Ministry, claims a total of 151,000 violent deaths from March 2003 through June 2006.

When we think about military occupation, we think about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Military occupation is the most blatant form of imposing a political economy, but neoliberalism includes much more than military occupation. Neoliberal occupation is imposed politically, economically, socially, culturally, psychologically, and spiritually. It is the imposition of a global consumer monoculture, where in places like Mexico,

Billboard in Oaxaca, Mexico
Billboard in Mexico. This image is seen from one of the main roads in Oaxaca.
it is primarily white people who are the protagonists of every billboard, commercial, soap opera, or news report. Indigenous-ness is devalued to the point of being shamed into a deathly silence.

What once was easily-identifiable militarism in Central America has devolved into the para-militarization of indigenous communities through out southern Mexico. In Oaxaca, many of the atrocities committed against indigenous communities are disguised as agrarian land disputes between neighboring communities. Some are orchestrated well enough to confuse the very paramilitaries of their role in this systematic form of state-sponsored repression. The disputes can be between different tribes, the same tribe, and mestizos .These strategies are not new, just a continuation of dividing then conquering.

The greatest threat to the national security of the United States has always been grassroots, community-based organizing for self-determination, people sharing the idea that they are capable of taking care of themselves. That is the threat Native Americans posed, and the threat that the people of Oaxaca, like many others, continue to pose. In 2005-2006 the Department of Geography Imageat Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Defense to map communally-held indigenous lands in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Foreign Military Service Office (FMSO) at Fort Leavenworth is providing the grant money. Fort Leavenworth was the epicenter of westward expansion by the U.S. into Native territory. Today the FMSO assesses “asymmetric” and “emerging” threats to the national security of the U.S. Asymmetric threats are defined as guerrilla armies and terrorist organizations, while emerging threats are clearly being defined as social movements.

The first step in standing in solidarity with people who fight for themselves is understanding that their fights are considered threats to the powers that be.

Today we face “Imperial activism,” the idea that activists know better than the communities with whom they stand in solidarity. U.S. citizens have, in particular, harnessed this notion of “empowerment” of women, people of color, the indigenous, workers, youth or other groups. This notion of empowerment places power in the hands of the activist and negates the power of the people who are resisting for themselves.

This dynamic validates charity and not solidarity. Real solidarity is more about sharing, collaborating, and contributing to self-empowerment, as opposed to feeling good about handing out some aid. It is important to learn first, before teaching anything. Many indigenous communities have centuries of resistance to share and teach. The best way to walk or move forward in solidarity is by asking first about what may be needed or what may be a problem. Walking by asking, then teaching by learning.

To this end, I can only testify to my experience as a Chicano community-based organizer who chose to stand in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca. In 2005, in collaboration with Austin Indymedia, I finished an Oaxaca solidarity film called “El Enemigo Común.” After production the compas in Oaxaca made it clear that they wanted to learn how to shoot and edit video themselves. I had to learn what I could and should teach, and why I should teach that. In my case I had to learn how to edit video, then how to teach this skill.

I started as a solidarity activist but ended up a teacher and, most importantly, a student. I learned a lot about my privilege to learn and my responsibility to teach. In the United States I could learn video and audio to teach in Oaxaca. There, in turn, I could learn about methods of community-based organizing and teach about them in my community here.

Residents of the U.S. have more to learn than teach. The peace in which many U.S. residents believe is a lie. There can be no peace without dignity, justice, and liberty for everyone, everywhere. The more that people in the U.S. believe in this false peace, the more they validate its means: terror.

In 2002, at a farmworker sit-in at the state capitol in Oaxaca City, a compa leaned over to me and said, “Do Americans not realize that their peace is our terror? And if they did, would they care?” This peace has been and continues to be built on the back, sweat, and blood of others. To truly stand in solidarity with the many others fighting for themselves everywhere, people in the U.S. who care about justice have to challenge their ideas about peace. What are you willing to sacrifice for others to have peace as well? True solidarity comes from sacrifice, the recognition of privilege and the responsibility that comes with that privilege. We must be accountable to the whole of humanity at all times, not just to those we choose when it is convenient to do so.

Hits: 62102
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters

< Prev   Next >
Featured Article
Download the Spring 2016 issue of Presente

The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.

As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.

The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!

Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.

Download this issue of Presente here.

SOA Violence
Image SOA Grads Responsible For UCA Massacre Face Extradition, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.
International Human Rights Encuentro in Bajo Aguán, Honduras

fathermila.jpgInterview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras

SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.  

Local Organizing
For 25 Years the SOA Watch Movement has been on a Journey A journey to live into the radical hope that marked the lives of  14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba, and Jesuit priest dissidents Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, SJ.
Direct Action
Moving the 2016 November Vigil to the Border? The 2015 Vigil is still going to take place at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, but there are discussions within the SOA Watch movement to move the 2016 vigil to the militarized U.S./Mexico border. What do you think?
Image Latin American Resistance & U.S. Solidarity Latin America has a 500 year history of resistance to the violence of colonialism, militarization, and elite domination. It is a legacy to treasure and honor.
SOA Watch in Latin America
SOA Watch Chile Declassified List with Names of WHINSEC Graduates

By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.

Image Looking Back to Move Ahead I was asked to write a piece about people of color organizing to attend the 2009 SOA Watch vigil and about our plans for 2010. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Ron Teska Ron Teska, a stone carver and organizer from Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania worked on this piece of art throughout the November Vigil weekend in Georgia.


There never was a good war or a bad peace.

- Benjamin Franklin


Book Tip

Cover of Leslie Gill's book



flickr  facebook MySpace twitter YouTube


On the Line

On the Line  

A challenging new documentary has quickly become one of the widest-reaching films to encapsulate the history of the SOA Watch movement.

Taxi to the Dark SideTaxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.



Which part of the campaign to close the SOA are you most interested in?

Who's Online

We have 7 guests online


Newspaper Delivery
Educate your community. 


Place your ad in ¡Presente! 


Piggy Bank
We rely on donations from supporters like you.

Contact Us

Contact Us
Complaints, suggestions, feedback or ideas?