WhyHunger reports from Mexico as part of an international climate justice delegation organized by La Via Campesina. (Day 2)
WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program Outreach and Partnerships Coordinator, Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, reported from Mexico as part of an international climate justice delegation organized by La Via Campesina to coincide with the official climate talks (COP 16) that took place in Cancun.
In the morning on the second day, I woke up to find out that the community center we were staying at in Salamanca was next to a large farm growing lettuce and spinach. We had arrived late at night so none of us knew what was near us. The farm was massive and the produce looked great, but we noticed that there were many farmworkers who were packing up the lettuce in boxes, most likely for export. In Salamanca we heard about problems of pollution and contamination in the land, yet this seemingly good farmland was being used for export and not benefiting the community. The disparity was quite obvious.
As we continued on our journey from Salamanca to Pachuca, we saw many fields, which were brown and dry because they lacked water. The land could be irrigated, but without the money to do this, farmers were forced to leave the land or suffer small yields. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet with small farmers and campesinos from UNORCA (National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations) at our stop in Pachuca because our traveling took longer than UNORCA expected and their members had to return to their fields. UNORCA is a member organization of Via Campesina and a leader in Via Campesina North America, so we will be with them later on the caravan.
From Pachuco we traveled to Ecatepec, a suburb of Mexico City with a population of 3 million. The local organizations of Ecatepec organized a rally and a panel in a plaza and invited members of our caravan to speak. I joined Randy Jaspers of Family Farm Defenders and the National Family Farm Coalition, as well as Maria Whittaker of the Rural Coalition as well as Family Farm Defenders, and let the grassroots organizations of Ecatepec know that they had allies in the United States.
The real issue in Ecatepec stemmed from its proximity to Mexico City. Ecatepec had once been a separate community, but Mexico City’s continual growth has absorbed Ecatepec in its massive urban sprawl, which accommodates more than 20 million people. Our guides on the caravan from Via Campesina, the National Liberation Movement, and the National Alliance for People Affected by the Environment pointed out that Mexico has concentrated growth and development in the “Federal District” of Mexico City, rather than the smaller cities that we were visiting. This massive, centralized urbanization meant that not only were rural areas being devastated, but the nearby cities were also empty, making it more unlikely that rural areas could support themselves through local economies. At the end of Day 2 we arrived in Mexico City, which is much more modern than San Luis Potosi, Delores Hidalgo, Salamanca, Pachuco, or Ecatepec. But our trip showed us how important it is for a healthy society to have diversified urbanization that can strengthen local economies.