I don’t know you, but we need each other to make a new world \\ We need a new world — stencil by Rexiste
Hello, everyone – my name is Mariel, I’m a graduate student at the Comparative Media Studies program, and a research assistant at the Center for Civic Media. My research is in the field of participatory approaches for technological capacity building, focused on the right to privacy and youth organizations. Before joining MIT, I worked for SocialTIC in Mexico, for UNICEF and as an independent consultant doing instructional design and strategic communications.
I am from and my heart is in Mexico City, where at least one major road is shut down around once a week because of a street protest. Outside activist circles, marching is condemned for the mayhem it adds to an already chaotic city; inside them, for being part of a boring old narrative that has not brought new people to the movements, nor (or so it goes) proven to be particularly effective. And yet, for good and bad, marching is a substantial part of what organizing in Mexico aims for.
The most inspiring marches that I witnessed and in which I participated when I was in Mexico took place in protest of the forced disappearance of 43 students in 2014. For at least a month and a half, the central district of Mexico City shut down with some of the largest protests it ever witnessed, bringing around 70,000 people for one weekday evening every week –– people who came wearing their hospital coats or ties as they came straight from work, students who left early because they had to study for exams.
These marches inspired me not just because of their populations, but also because of the fresh air they brought to an old practice of taking the streets. Street art collectives filming with drones, music school students coming together to play solemn music, intergenerational coexistence with and without Twitter and Facebook –rare sightings for protests in Mexico– inspired creative acts of protest beyond the streets and fed a movement that reached global attention, and an institutional strategy.
Two and a half years later, we still don’t know where those 43 students are. The institutional strategy seems to have crumbled, the street actions don’t attract the same interest, and forced disappearances continue to take place. It can easily be said that the Acción Global por Ayotzinapa movement was unsuccessful. That we won’t live to see empathy, creativity and collaboration sustained into a long-term process that addresses the big picture through effective local actions.
Two and a half years later, however, that ending does not resonate with me. Every time the De vuelta a casa tracks come up on my music player, or that I see famous TV-producer Epigmenio Ibarra religiously tweet his roll call at 10 pm every night, I am reminded that most people are silent about it today, but they, too, believe that another world is possible. By studying this and other networked social movements, I hope that we’ll get closer to making that world together.