Mexico City At first Mexico City may not seem like the place to be when there is a heat wave in the USA, but July at a mile high turns out to be the rainy season and wildly pleasant especially reading about power outages in Toronto, record heat in NYC, and I don’t even have to guess about New Orleans. The only time our gang (Suyapa Amador, Dine’ Butler, Julia Donahue, and Emily Atterbury) really felt a sweat coming on was scrunched in the metro coming back from Neza before the thunderstorm broke.
We had trooped out to the Municipality of Nezahualcoyotl (or Neza for short) to get a closer feel for the organizing projects that Suyapa, as head organizer of ACORN Mexico, was mapping out. In a surprising development we got a personal tour of the history of the city itself since the first rough squatting occurred almost 50 years earlier. It is rare that one can trace the struggles of squatters or settlers, as I would prefer to call them, so clearly, but in the cultural building one could see the time with the State of Mexico had finally given the city a formal charter to the time that water finally came in and streets were paved. I say State of Mexico because Neza is one of scores of communities in the sprawling megapolis of Mexico City. An hour and a half outside of the Zocalo, we had crossed the boundaries of the Districto Federal which encompasses the formal city, much like the District of Columbia holds Washington, and had moved to one of the many states of Mexico and in fact THE State of Mexico, which holds the city of Neza as well as the teeming jovenes barrios where we were lining out our work out of the city but firmly in the state.
One area of 180,000 houses where we are moving forward in the Neza municipality (for American readers, let’s pretend this is like a county or parish outside of the city limits) had been inundated by flooding from heavy rains leaving tens of thousands homeless and destitute. But, we could have pinning the tail anywhere and come up with ten areas as large with as many issues and demands. Unless we can move thousands of members to carry the weight, there is no way to even imagine the capacity that we would need to be able to organize in the megaslums.
The rest of the night and most of another day were spent making plans for exactly how to do that with allies, friends, and others. Exhilarating and exhausting!
Suyapa having worked with ACORN International in both Tijuana and in setting up Honduras, told a joke about being in Mexico and feeling like a street person: no phone, no computer, no internet, no office, and hardly a place to lay her head. The difference is that she has a plan and the courage to pursue it here in the largest city in the world. Now that does take your breath away and send you on the road, humbled and unafraid.