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Panel 5, May 30, 2011, 4:00 pm- 5:30 pm
Moderator: Peter Stern, University of Massachusetts
Presenters: Molly Molloy, New Mexico State University (not present; PowerPoint presented by Peter Stern); Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda, Colegio de México; Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud, University of New Mexico
Rapporteur: Sócrates Silva, HAPI
The first presentation was “The Shifting Realities of Mexico’s Drug War Death Toll: Will We Ever Know How Many People Have Died?” by Molly Molloy. Molloy was not present but the panel’s moderator, Peter Stern, presented her PowerPoint. The following is a summary of Molloy’s presentation, drafted with her consultation. Molloy argues that the Mexican government is not fighting a “War on Drugs” but rather a war for the control over the huge amounts of money to be made from the drug trade. The number of casualties related to this war and the statistics released by the government are not clear; journalistic and academic sources in Mexico and the United States provide widely varying numbers. Since December 2006 when the government of Felipe Calderón declared “war” on organized crime numbers range from 35,000 to as high as 50,000. Molloy’s presentation looks at and questions these numbers both to critique the actions of the Mexican government and to question the numbers reported by academic resources and the press.
In her presentation, Molloy hones in on data regarding Ciudad Juárez, the epicenter of the violence. When numbers of dead are reported in the media, sources are typically government bodies such as the Fiscalia General del Estado de Chihuahua. Mexican journalists who report on crimes are often at risk. Molloy mentions Armando Rodriguez, a crime reporter for El Diario who was murdered in November 2008. After his death the crime reporting in the paper became less detailed and solely dependent on official police reports. There is little information about where the numbers come from or how the government determines what “a drug-war-related homicide” is. Calderón and his government repeatedly claim that 90 percent of the dead are criminals in the drug trade, despite a claim by the government that 95 percent of deaths in the “drug war” are not investigated.
Molloy also looks at the scholarship and activism concerning the murders of women in Juárez as cases of femicide. The number of women victimized from 1993 to the present has averaged around 9 percent of all murder victims. There is little evidence of gender-related violence. More and more women are becoming involved in illegal activities as maquiladora jobs disappear due to both the economic collapse in the United States and local violence and insecurity. This of course does not mean that their deaths do not matter but rather that all the people of Juárez (women, men, boys and girls) – their lives and their deaths, all of them matter. Molloy whose work was recognized in 2011 with the José Toribio Medina Award provides daily updates on the murder toll in Ciudad Juárez and other border news through her Frontera List.
The second presentation by Tomás Bocanegra Esqueda entitled “Literatura mexicana sobre los derechos humanos: ¿quienes son y dónde publican los especialistas mexicanos?” covered publishing sources on the theme of human rights. Bocanegra first outlined government sources specializing in this material. The Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) created by the Secretaría de Gobernación and after 1999 fully independent of the government, exists to receive human rights complaints, pursue investigations, attempt conflict resolution, and foster legislative changes across various levels of government. CNDH also offers relevant Masters and Doctoral programs through its Centro Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CENADEH). Through its existence CENADEH has generated promotional literature, annual reports, monographs and a monthly journal, Revista del Centro Nacional de Derechos Humanos. Bocanegra also reviewed literature production by state government bodies, though these tend to publish less due to lack of financial resources and staff.
In addition, non-governmental organizations such as the Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos, the Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria,” and the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez all publish materials and research related to human rights and many of these publications can be found online. There are also numerous research institutions within universities, some with a specific focus on such issues as indigenous rights, migration, or international human rights. Bocanegra also looked at houses within the trade publishing industry that have edited and published human rights materials. By outlining these various publishing sources, Bocanegra hopes for more effective dissemination of Mexican human rights materials.
The last presentation “ASARO: Claiming Space in Digital Objects and Social Networks” by Suzanne Schadl and Claire-Lise Bénaud looked at the work of the Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO), a collective of young artists that emerged as an appendage to protests originating from the 2006 National Teacher’s Union strike in Oaxaca. During the protracted uprising, state and commercial media were hostile to the protestors. In turn, street art flourished as artists clandestinely painted and printed their resistance on city walls. Schadl and Bénaud make the case that the work of ASARO is part of a Mexican tradition of graphic art collectives producing work in the service of social justice such as that of the Taller de Grafíca Popular and harking back to the legacy of printmaker José Guadalupe Posada. According to Schadl, this art tells a story that isn’t the official story. While ASARO’s art often portrays conditions in Oaxaca (such as the print Skull Helicopter which uses calavera representations of a family and a hovering calavera helicopter to depict a raid which would trigger a reminder of the uprising), the art also looks beyond local conditions, for example in art that deals with the violence in Ciudad Juárez.
One of the concerns Schadl and Bénaud bring up is that this ephemeral work, much of it being published through the ASARO blog, is not being documented properly. While ASARO may be center stage in 21st century Mexican graphic arts, academic library and archive projects aimed at archiving born digital artifacts of their work linger in the peripheries. A perusal of the blog reveals striking similarities with newspaper publications like La Patria Ilustrada and Gaceta Callejera, where Posada published, printed, and circulated his graphic production. Schadl and Bénaud argue that savvy digitally focused archival projects designed to save the work of Mexican graphic arts collectives must emerge in order to retain for posterity the creativity and voices of politically and socially active artists’ collectives in contemporary Mexico.
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