Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Invite to 2nd NYC Anti-Displacement Encuentro

Español abajo

The rebels search each other out. They walk towards one another, breaking down fences, they find each other. The rebels begin to recognize themselves, to know themselves to be equal and different. They continue walking as it is now necessary to walk, that is to say, resisting....--words of the Zapatistas at the First Intercontinental Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism

An invitation to: Members and families of organizations fighting against displacement in their communities across NYC

From: Movement for Justice in El Barrio

Second NYC Encuentro for Dignity and Against Displacement

An Encuentro is a space for people to come together, it is a gathering. An Encuentro is not a meeting, a panel or a conference, it is a way of sharing developed by the Zapatistas as another form of doing politics: from below and to the left. It is a place where we can all speak, we will all listen, and we can all learn. It is a place where we can share the many different struggles that make us one.


SUNDAY, JUNE 7th, 4:30 PM

On Sunday, June 7th, Movement for Justice in El Barrio invites members and families of organizations fighting against neoliberal displacement for an evening of sharing, dialogue and food to learn from one another’s resistance throughout the city.

In our first Encuentro, the voices of groups resisting neoliberal displacement across the city echoed together as we learned from each other’s rage and each other’s dreams.

In this Encuentro, we would like to hear once again from people impacted by the devastating effects of displacement who are fighting back in their own communities, people who will not be bought by and are not dependent on politicians, political parties, or government agencies but look to the power of the people for strength to resist.

Please RSVP by Tuesday, May 26th

We are Movement for Justice in El Barrio. We are a group of humble and simple people who fight for justice and for humanity. Movement for Justice in El Barrio is fighting against gentrification in El Barrio, a process that is better understood by we who are affected by it as the displacement of families from their homes for being poor, immigrants and people of color. We are part of the Zapatista initiated transnational movement called “The Other Campaign.”

For Movement for Justice in El Barrio, the struggle for justice means fighting for the liberation of women, immigrants, lesbians, people of color, gays and the transgender community. We all share a common enemy and its called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism wishes to divide us and keep us from combining our forces. We will defeat this by continuing to unite all of our communities until we achieve true liberation for all.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio fights against capitalists and against bad governments and their neoliberal agendas. The landlords and the government belong to a culture of capitalism that uses the power of money to take control of that which belongs to the community. They want to displace poor families to renovate their buildings and rent the apartments to rich people, to white people with money. With the excuse of “developing the community,” they want to change the look of our neighborhood.

They want to remove from the street the street vendors, who earn an honorable and dignified living, the families that have their small restaurants, small clothing stores, and the small bodegas on the corners in our neighborhood. They want to displace us to bring in their luxury restaurants, their large expensive clothing stores, their supermarket chains. They want to change our neighborhood. They want to change our culture. They want to change that which makes us Latin@, African-American, Asian or Indigenous. They want to change everything that makes us El Barrio.

Together, we make our dignity resistance and we fight back against the actions of capitalist landlords and multinational corporations who are displacing poor families from El Barrio. We fight back locally and across borders. We fight back against the government institutions that help the landlords fulfill their goals. We fight back against Mayor Bloomberg and a city council that is pushing a neoliberal agenda across our neighborhoods and our city. We know that this is happening all over the city and around the world and that we do not stand alone in our resistance.

Here in Harlem, the three council members that represent East, Central and West Harlem, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Inez Dickens and Robert Jackson have time and again joined billionaire Mayor Bloomberg to plan, promote, and approve plans that displace our communities. We, as the community in El Barrio, and our sisters and brothers in West and Central Harlem have had the experience of seeing the members of the city council come to agreements amongst themselves to approve their neoliberal gentrification projects that betray the communities that they claim they represent. We have stood together to reject these plans and will continue to fight back and demand respect for our long histories and rich cultures

From Chinatown to Chiapas, from Sunset Park to South Africa to Salford, from Harlem to Morocco to San Salvador Atenco and in all of the places in between, we know that there are humble and simple people like ourselves rising up in dignified rage and fighting back against neoliberal displacement to keep their homes and save their communities.

As we struggle here we do not forget our brothers and sisters resisting in the far corners of the world. Nor do we forget where we come from and that many of us have already experienced displacement from our homelands. We join the humble and simple people across the world in their resistance as we stand up and join the fight against a global capitalist system that has pushed us to this dignified rage.

We fight so that:

The oceans and mountains will belong to those that live in and take care of them.

The rivers and deserts will belong to those that live in and take care of them.

The valleys and ravines will belong to those that live in and take care of them.

Homes and cities will belong to those who live in and take care of them.

No one will own more land than they can cultivate.

No one will own more homes than they can live in.

We hope people will share their struggle in whatever form of expression they choose, whether it be verbally, through song, poetry or rhyme, through a video, through artwork or however people can best express their struggle.

P.S. Children are especially invited to come break open the “Neoliberal” Piñata!

We will provide dinner, childcare and Spanish/English translation.


Due to our limited resources as a grassroots organization, please limit your group or organization’s participation to 3 community members plus children.

Please RSVP by May 26th with the number of members and children that will be attending, their names and an address at which you would like to receive your tickets.

Once you have RSVP’d you will receive your tickets and more details on the Encuentro.

For more info or to RSVP please contact us at (212) 561-0555 or

Los rebeldes se buscan entre sí. Se caminan unos hacia los otros. Se encuentran y, juntos, rompen otros cercos…los rebeldes empiezan a reconocerse, a saberse iguales y diferentes. Caminan como hay que caminar ahora, es decir, luchando... --palabras zapatistas en el “Primer Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neoliberalismo”

UNA INVITACIÓN PARA: Familias y personas que forman parte de organizaciones que luchan contra el desplazamiento neoliberal en la ciudad de Nueva York.

De parte de: Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio

Segundo Encuentro Nueva York por Dignidad y Contra el Desplazamiento

Un Encuentro es un espacio de intercambio humano y de reflexión. Un Encuentro no es una conferencia con discursos o con un panel de oradores, sino un momento de intercambio que los Zapatistas han diseñado como otra forma de hacer política: de abajo y a la izquierda. Es un lugar donde todos podemos hablar, donde todos vamos a escuchar a los demás, y donde todos podemos aprender. Es un lugar donde podemos compartir las muchas luchas diferentes que hacen de nosotros uno solo.



El Domingo, 7 de Junio, Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio invita a las familias y personas integrantes de las organizaciones que luchan contra el desplazamiento a una noche de intercambio de experiencias, dialogo, y buena comida para que conozcamos las luchas de cada uno de nosotros por toda la ciudad.

En nuestro primer encuentro, las voces de grupos resistiendo el desplazamiento neoliberal en muchas partes de la ciudad hicieron eco todos juntos mientras aprendimos de la rabia y los sueños de cada una de nosotr@s.

En este Encuentro, quisiéramos escuchar una vez mas de la gente directamente afectada por los efectos devastadores del desplazamiento neoliberal que están luchando en sus propias comunidades; gente que no se vende ni depende de los politicos, ni de los partidos politicos, ni de las agencias gubernamentales, sino que busca el poder del pueblo como una fuerza para resistir.


Somos Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio. Somos una organización de gente humilde y sencilla que lucha por justicia y por la humanidad. Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio lucha contra los capitalistas y contra los malos gobiernos y sus agendas neoliberales. Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio está luchando contra el desplazamiento neoliberal en nuestro vecindario. Es un proceso que nosotros los afectados entendemos como un desplazamiento de las familias para sacarlas de su vivienda por ser personas de bajos ingresos, inmigrantes y gente de color. Somos parte del movimiento transnacional iniciado por los zapatistas, llamado "La Otra Campaña".

Para Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, la lucha por justicia significa luchar por la liberación de las mujeres, inmigrantes, lesbianas, la gente de color (latinoamericanos, africano americanos, asiáticos e indígenas), homosexuales y de la comunidad transgenero. Todos tenemos un enemigo en común que se llama neoliberalismo. El neoliberalismo desea dividirnos y evitar que nosotros combinemos nuestras fuerzas. Nosotros vamos a derrotarlo al continuar unificando a toda nuestra comunidad hasta que logremos la liberación de tod@s.

Juntos, hacemos de nuestra dignidad una resistencia y luchamos contra las acciones de los propietarios capitalistas y de las grandes empresas transnacionales que están desalojando a las familias pobres de nuestro vecindario. Luchamos a nivel local y más allá de las fronteras. Luchamos contra las instituciones del gobierno que ayudan a los propietarios a lograr sus objetivos. Luchamos contra el Alcalde Bloomberg y el Consejo Municipal de la ciudad quienes están imponiendo un plan neoliberal en todos nuestros barrios y en toda nuestra ciudad.

Nosotros sabemos que esto está ocurriendo por toda la ciudad y por todo el mundo y que no estamos solos en nuestra resistencia.

Aqui en Harlem, los tres Concejales del gobierno municipal que dicen representar el Este, Centro y Oeste de Harlem, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Inez Dickens y Robert Jackson, una y otra vez se han unido con el billionario Alcalde Bloomberg para planear, promover, y aprobar planes que desplazan a nuestras comunidades. Nosotr@s, la comunidad de El Barrio, y nuestr@s hermanas y hermanos en el Oeste y Centro de Harlem, hemos tenido la experiencia de ver los concejales colaborar para aprobar proyectos de desplazamiento neoliberal cuales traicionan al pueblo que ellos supuestamente representan. Nosotr@s nos hemos unido para rechazar a estos proyectos y vamos a seguir luchando y demandando el respeto para nuestras largas historias y ricas culturas.

Desde Chinatown a Chiapas, de Sunset Park a Sur Africa a Salford, de Harlem a Marruecos a San Salvador Atenco y todos los lugares en medio, nosotr@s sabemos que hay gente humilde y sencilla como nosotr@s levantandose en su digna rabia y luchando en contra del desplazamiento neoliberal para salvar sus hogares y sus comunidades.

Mientras estamos luchando aquí, nosotros no nos olvidamos de nuestros hermanas y hermanos resistiendo en cada esquina del mundo. Ni nos olvidamos de donde vinimos y que much@s de nosotr@s ya hemos experimentado el desplazamiento de nuestras tierras. Nosotr@s nos unimos con la gente humilde y sencilla en todo el mundo en su resistencia mientras nos unimos a la lucha en contra del sistema global capitalista que nos ha empujado hacia esta digna rabia.

Luchamos para que los mares y las montañas serán de quienes los habitan y los cuidan.

Los ríos y los desiertos serán de quienes los habitan y los cuidan.

Los valles y las quebradas serán de quienes los habitan y los cuidan.

Las viviendas y las ciudades serán de quienes en ellas viven y las cuidan.

Nadie será dueño de mas tierra de la que pueda cultivar.

Nadie será dueño de mas casas de la que pueda habitar.

Esperamos que la gente comparta su lucha en la forma que quieran, ya sea platicando, o a través de una canción, un poema, unas coplas, a través de un video, una pintura, carteles o de la manera como la gente mejor pueda expresar su lucha.

P.D. ¡Los niños están especialmente invitados a venir y a romper la "Piñata Neoliberal"!

Habrá cena, cuidado para sus niños chiquitos y traducción en español y en inglés.


Como nuestros recursos como organización de base son escasos, le pedimos que limite la participación de su organización a 3 compas más aparte sus niños.

Es necesario confirmar su participación no mas tardar que el Martes, 26 de Mayo avisándonos cuántos compas y cuántos niños asistirán, sus nombres, y dándonos una dirección a la que quisiera recibir sus boletos.

Después de confirmar su participación recibirá sus boletos y más detalles sobre el Encuentro.

Para más información o para confirmarnos su asistencia, por favor llámenos: (212) 561-0555 o escríbanos a:

Read More!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Favorite Piece on the Crisis

"Promissory Notes: From Crisis to Commons"
by Midnight Notes and Friends

After five hundred years of existence, capitalists are once again announcing to us that their system is in crisis. They are urging everyone to make sacrifices to save its life. We are told that if we do not make these sacrifices, we together face the prospect of a mutual shipwreck. Such threats should be taken seriously. Already in every part of the planet, workers are paying the price of the crisis in retrenchment, mass unemployment, lost pensions, foreclosures, and death.

To make the threats more biting, there are daily reminders that we are in an era when our rights are everywhere under attack and the world’s masters will spare no atrocity if the demanded sacrifices are refused. The bombs dropped on the defenseless population of Gaza have been exemplary in this regard. They fall on all of us, as they lower the bar of what is held to be a legitimate response in the face of resistance. They amplify a thousand-fold the murderous intent behind the Athenian policeman’s fatal bullet fired into the body of Alexis Grigoropoulos in early December of 2008.

On all sides there is a sense that we are living in apocalyptic times. How did this “end-of-times” crisis develop, and what does it signify for anti-capitalist/social justice movements seeking to understand possible paths out of capitalism? This pamphlet is a contribution to the debate on these questions that is growing ever more intense as the crisis deepens and the revolutionary possibilities of our time open up. We write it in an attempt to penetrate the smokescreen now surrounding this crisis that makes it very difficult to devise responses and to anticipate the next moves capital will make. All too often, even within the Left, explanations of the crisis take us to the rarified stratosphere of financial circuits and dealings, or the tangled, intricate knots of hedge-funds/derivatives operations—that is, they take us to a world that is incomprehensible to most of us, detached from any struggles people are making, so that it becomes impossible to even conceptualize any forms of resistance to it.

Our pamphlet has a different story to tell about the crisis because it starts with the struggles billions have made across the planet against capital’s exploitation and its environmental degradation of their lives.

You can purchase copies of the 16-page pamphlet, saddlestitched from Autonomedia here or can download the PDF here

Read More!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Science Fiction From Below

a still from Alex Rivera's Sleep Dealer

It would seem that the role of speculative fiction is more important than ever as the technologies and cultures we produce and engage shift at an increasingly rapid pace. With
Octavia Butler's passing in 2006, we lost a pathbreaking s/hero of what we might call "science fiction from below." Or perhaps, as recent activity might suggest, many more amongst the living have now found her. Butler proved that this genre, so often dominated by the concerns and colonial fantasies of white men, could be a powerful tool for the oppressed to undertake exploration and self-expression.

While at the 2008 Sundance Festival as part of the Slingshot Hip Hop crew, I was fortunate to meet Alex Rivera -> the Director, Writer and Editor of a tremendous film called Sleep Dealer. Rivera definitely carries a strong dose of zapatismo in his heart along with the torch that Butler had to pass off all too soon...

Science Fiction From Below
Alex Rivera, director of the new film Sleep Dealer, imagines the future of the Global South
By Mark Engler

Tapping into a long tradition of politicized science fiction, the young, New-York-based filmmaker Alex Rivera has brought to theaters a movie that reflects in news ways on the disquieting realities of the global economy. Sleep Dealer, his first feature film, has opened in New York and Los Angeles, and will show in 25 cities throughout the country this spring.

Set largely on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sleep Dealer depicts a world in which borders are closed but high-tech factories allow migrant workers to plug their bodies into the network to provide virtual labor to the North. The drama that unfolds in this dystopian setting delves deeps into issues of immigration, labor, water rights, and the nature of sustainable development.

Rivera's film drew attention by winning two awards at Sundance--the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for the best film focusing on science and technology. Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote of the movie, "Adventurous, ambitious and ingeniously futuristic, Sleep Dealer... combines visually arresting science fiction done on a budget with a strong sense of social commentary in a way that few films attempt, let alone achieve."

Rivera spoke with Foreign Policy In Focus senior analyst Mark Engler by phone from Los Angeles, where the director was attending the local premier of his movie.

M.E.: How do you describe your film?

A.R.: Sleep Dealer is a science fiction thriller that takes a look at the future from a perspective that we've never seen before in science fiction. We've seen the future of Los Angeles, in Blade Runner. We've seen the future of Washington, D.C., in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. We've seen London and Chicago. But we've never seen the places where the great majority of humanity actually lives. Those are in the global South. We've never seen Mexico; we've never seen Brazil; we've never seen India. We've never seen that future on film before.

M.E.: Your main character, Memo Cruz, is from rural Mexico, from Oaxaca. In many ways, the village that we see on film is very similar to many poor, remote communities today. It doesn't necessarily look like how we think about the future at all. What was your conception of how economic globalization would affect communities like these?

A.R.: One of the things that fascinates me about the genre is that, explicitly or not, science fiction is always partly about development theory. So when Spielberg shows us Washington, DC with 15-lane traffic flowing all around the city, he's putting forward a certain vision of development.

Sleep Dealer starts in Oaxaca, and to think about the future of Oaxaca, you have to think about how so-called "development" has been happening there and where might it go. And it's not superhighways and skyscrapers. That would be ridiculous. So, in the vision I put forward, most of the landscape remains the same. The buildings look older. Most of the streets still aren't paved. And yet there are these tendrils of technology that have infiltrated the environment. So instead of an old-fashioned TV, there is a high-definition TV. Instead of a calling booth like they have today in Mexican villages, where people call their relatives who are far away, in this future there is a video-calling booth. There's the presence of a North American corporation that has privatized the water and that uses technology to control the water supply. There are remote cameras with guns mounted on them and drones that do surveillance over the area.

The vision of Oaxaca in the future and of the South in the future is a kind of collage, where there are still elements that look ancient, there is still infrastructure that looks older even than it does today, and yet there are little capillaries of high technology that pulse through the environment.

ME: How far into the future did you set the film?

A.R.: I started working on the ideas in Sleep Dealer ten years ago, and at that point I thought I was writing about a future that was forty or fifty years away, or maybe a future that might not ever happen. Over this past decade, though, the world has rapidly caught up with a lot of the fantasy nightmares in the film. That's been an interesting process.

But, you know, a lot of times we use the word "futuristic" to describe things that are kind of explosions of capital, like skyscrapers or futuristic cities. We do not think of a cornfield as futuristic, even though that has as much to do with the future as does the shimmering skyscraper.

M.E.: In what sense?

A.R.: In the sense that we all need to eat. In the sense that the ancient cornfields in Oaxaca are the places that replenish the genetic supply of corn that feeds the world. Those fields are the future of the food supply.

For every futuristic skyscraper, there's a mine someplace where the ore used to build that structure was taken out of the ground. That mine is just as futuristic as the skyscraper. So, I think Sleep Dealer puts forward this vision of the future that connects the dots, a vision that says that the wealth of the North comes from somewhere. It tries to look at development and futurism from this split point of view--to look at the fact that these fantasies of what the future will be in the North must always be creating a second, nightmare reality somewhere in the South. That these things are tied together.

M.E.: It's interesting that at the recent Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez gave President Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America. This is a book that was written over 30 years ago, but that really emphasizes the same point that you are making now, that underdevelopment is not an earlier stage of development, but rather is the product of development. That development and underdevelopment go hand in hand.

A.R.: Exactly. And I think that you can also add immigration into that mix. Because the history that Open Veins lays out is a lot about resource exploitation and transfer from South to North. And today, of course, one of the main entities that places like Mexico export is workers.

M.E.: There's a quote from the film that says a lot. Memo's boss, who runs this sort of high-tech Mexican sweatshop, says, "We give the United States what it's always wanted. All the work without the workers." Can you describe this concept of the "cybracero" that you have been developing?

A.R.: The central idea for this film occurred to me about ten years ago when I was reading an article in Wired magazine about telecommuting. The article was making all of these fantastic predictions that, in the future, there won't be any traffic jams anymore, and no one will have to ride the subway, because everyone will work from home. Well, I come from a family that's mostly immigrant, a family in which my cousins are still arriving and working in landscaping and construction. I tried to put them into this fantasy of working from home--when their home is Peru, 3000 miles away, and their work is construction.

And so I came up with this idea of the telecommuting immigrant, where in the future the borders are sealed, workers stay in the South, and they connect themselves to a network through which they control machines that perform their labor in the North.

The end result is an American economy that receives the labor of these workers but doesn't ever have to care for them, and doesn't have to fear that their children will be born here, and doesn't ever have to let them vote.

When I started this project, the idea of a remote worker was political satire. About eight years ago, it became a reality in the call centers of India and in the idea of off-shoring information-processing jobs that could be done in real time by people on the other side of the planet.

My movie goes further by putting forward a vision of remote manual laborers. What if somebody in India could drive a taxi in New York or bus dishes in a restaurant in Los Angeles? I wonder, do we live in a world where it would be acceptable to have someone in Jakarta laying the bricks for a building that's being built next door to us?

I think under the rules of the economy that we live with, if that were technically possible, it would be considered morally acceptable. It's just another stage of globalization. Yet it seems so surreal, and it makes me wonder: What kind of social order would that produce? What kind of communities would that produce?

sleep dealer 02

M.E.: At the same time, I think in the film you suggest that this new technology also has the possibility to connect people across great distances. I wonder how you weigh the alienating effects of technology with some of its redemptive potential?

A.R.: To me, Sleep Dealer is a parable, a myth. There are three characters: One is a remote worker. The second is a remote soldier--a person who is in the United States but flies a drone that patrols the South. And the third character is a kind of writer, a blogger, who connects her body to the network and uploads, not words that she is typing, but rather her memories. And by sharing her memories she is able to let people see these far-away realities that maybe they're not supposed to. She's able to use technology to erase borders for a moment.

And to me, that is the tension of the moment we're living in. We live in a moment when the military is using technology to wage remote war. Corporations are using technology to move extraordinarily quickly around the globe to take advantage of weak environmental standards and weak labor standards.

And yet, we're living in the moment of the social forums, which are organized over the network. We're living in the age of the Zapatistas, who in 1994 sent messages by horseback, messages written on paper, to Internet cafes where they could be sent out as press releases and could be used to build a global network of solidarity. We're living in a time when I'm starting to hear tremors from the labor movement about creating cross-border unions, which will also be built over the network.

So I think we're in this moment when we don't know who will be more empowered by this connectivity and by new technology. And that's the battle in Sleep Dealer. It's over the future of this connected planet and what kind of globalization we'll be living in.

M.E.: Beyond immigration politics, the commodification and privatization of water is a major theme in the film. How did you choose water as an issue you would focus on?

A.R.: When I look at dramas of immigration, one of the things that I find unsatisfying is that they always focus on an internal dream, a dream that someone has of going to America and making his or her life better. And, instead, what I wanted Sleep Dealer to start with was this idea that immigrants from Latin America, in the places where they're born, are usually living somehow in the shadow of U.S. intervention, that immigrants come here because we--the United States--are already there.

In my film I wanted to have a presence of U.S. power in my character's village. And so I put in a dam. The dam controls the local water supply, and it makes traditional subsistence life much more difficult. In reality, in Latin America, it's been banana plantations controlled by paramilitaries. It's been gold mines and copper mines and silver mines. It's been oil fields. It's any number of situations that have made it hard for the people there to survive.

I chose water because it also has a symbolic and spiritual dimension to it. When my characters have their first kiss, they are by a little river. When they make love, they go down by the ocean. It would have been a lot harder to do that with petroleum.

M.E.: But, of course, struggles over the control of water are not purely metaphorical.

A.R.: When you talk to people about this, the idea that an evil corporation would go in and take the water from the people sounds so bombastic, so bizarre, that it feels like science fiction. And yet it's absolutely happening today.

A lot of people are familiar with the story of Cochabamba, Bolivia, where an American company, Bechtel, privatized the water, and there literally was a water war. All of this stuff can sound like a bad Kevin Costner movie--the idea of a water war--and yet it's one of those realities that, if you were to graph it, is only going to trend upwards in terms of its intensity in the future.

M.E.: The characters in the film are moved to take action about water privatization. Yet this takes the form of a highly individualized type of action--they don't join a social movement. I wondered about the absence of more collective resistance in the movie.

A.R.: Well, I think you've hit on the Achilles' heel of political narrative film. Narrative film is driven by psychology and by identifying with a character. And I think that's why there are so few truly transcendent political films. In narrative cinema we're used to identifying with one person, and so even if the story is anti-imperial or anti-racist or anti-misogynist, it's usually one character's journey in overcoming those things.

In Sleep Dealer there are three characters that represent three vast segments of our society. Those characters are in conflict at first, and then they come together. And their story is meant to have larger resonance than just the three individuals.

But I think that devising a narrative where political hope and political power doesn't belong to one actor, but is somehow made collective, that is very, very challenging. I look at The Battle of Algiers as an incredible model, where there is a single character--Ali la Pointe--who we meet, but then his subjectivity sort of bleeds away from him and is given to a social movement by the end of the film.

That film is a masterpiece; I am but a learner. When we were writing Sleep Dealer we were trying to think about what the future of what a radically networked social movement would look like, but we couldn't get there. Instead, I think the contribution of Sleep Dealer is in being a parable, a myth, that thinks through some of the impulses of globalization.

M.E.: How did you first come to this type of work?

A.R.: I grew up in upstate New York, and when I was 15 years old I met Pete Seeger. Without knowing who he was, I ended up doing volunteer work for one of his organizations. After meeting him I learned about his life using music and song as a part of social movements. When I went to college, that's what I went to study--music and social movements.

M.E.: So you had taken up the claw-hammer banjo?

A.R.: I did learn how to play the five-string banjo, actually! I can still do it. But at a certain moment I decided that the banjo wasn't the future of social movements. And I decided that through film and video you could express much more complicated and subtle arguments about the world than you can through song.

M.E.: I think you're pissing off all of the political songwriters out there.

A.R.: With song I think you have an access to the spirit, access to the heart. But with film we have two hours with people trapped in a dark room. You can refer back to something that happened 60 minutes earlier in the film, and you can play with what your viewers remember, and you can build really intimate relationships with characters. You can lay out both an emotional journey and an intellectual argument. I don't think there's anybody who will say that you can do all of that in a song.

sleep dealer 03

M.E.: Are you concerned with being pigeonholed as a political filmmaker or having the movie labeled as a "political" film?

A.R.: I'd be happy to be pigeonholed as a political filmmaker. For me, making a film is so difficult and so challenging that I only want to make films that are relevant to the world we live in.

M.E.: Do you see a trend toward politics, or maybe away from politics, in science fiction filmmaking today?

A.R.: Science fiction has always had a radical history, all the way from Fritz Lang's Metropolis to Terry Gilliam's Brazil, which is a comedic portrait of fascism, up to Gattaca, which looks at the way that DNA profiling could be used by the government, to Children of Men, to Michael Winterbottom's Code 46.

Science fiction has always been a space for radical critique on one hand, and, on the other, for selling Happy Meals. I do think that science fiction today is at risk of being completely co-opted by superhero movies, big franchises, and xenophobic fantasies about space aliens. It has that face as well. But I think the long history, going back almost a hundred years, is of science fiction as a place for forward-thinking, radical thought.

M.E.: Perhaps unique among these movies you've mentioned, Sleep Dealer is a bi-lingual film, with the vast majority of the dialogue in Spanish. How did you think about language in the film?

A.R.: We need to know in our guts that we are going into a future that will be multi-cultural. I think we are seeing in the news right now that America might not be the only world power in the future, that English might not be the international language of choice. So, for me, doing a science fiction set in the South and doing it in a language that was not English was fundamental. I'd love to do a science fiction in Nahuatl, or in Tagalog, or in Pashto. The language is just part of a gesture that says, the future belongs to all of us.

I think the situation we're in is very striking. It is as if you met somebody and you asked them, "What do you want to have in your future?" And they said, "I don't know. I've never thought about it." In the cinema, that's what we have for the entire global South. We don't have any cinema that reflects on the future of the so-called Third World. There's zero.

Why is it that we've seen comedies from the South, we've seen romances from the South, we've seen action movies from the South? We've seen everything but reflections on the future. To me, the first step to getting to the future that you want to live in is to imagine it.

Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, April 2008). He can be reached via the web site

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Letter from Atenco to the Zapatistas

The People's Front in Defense of the Land-Atenco

There is a long-running relationship of support and solidarity between these two groups. Do consider joining the National and International Campaign "Freedom and Justice for Atenco"! Many thanks to my compa Lopex for this excellent translation...


San Salvador Atenco, May 3, 2009.



When it all began for us, many people told us: “You cannot beat the government.” Back then in 2001, when they condemned us to extermination and to the loss of our history and identity in order to build an airport, we knew that it must not be so, that we had to fight to defeat the idea that things are that way and nobody can change them.

At that time, we looked all around, we looked for others that, like us, were also fighting, we wanted to follow that path to walk it together, because we knew we were not the only ones. We must tell you that you could be seen in all places, there was a great trail full of dignity and hope that announced your presence, there was no need to ask who you were, we always found the brilliant eyes and the soft hands of resistance, of the small women and men that showed us the path built by justice and freedom. In their wake they also sheltered us in their brotherly embrace of solidarity. This is how we met, on the same path, side by side, with your happy and rebellious smile that, reflected on our machete, would light our way. Since you had come from afar and we found you as you walked, we did not hesitate, we decided to follow your steps and open other paths for those who would follow.

We want to tell you that we have learnt the meaning of life from you: To fight and to resist. From your strong shout we learned the message that we owe life: Rebellious dignity. From its heart, which moves the world, we took the only true reason for struggle: Love. This is how we, like many others, took from your hidden face the identity of the hidden, those who refuse to be invisible because they assume their role in history, those who become the motors of humanity’s march. This is how we recognized ourselves in your humble word and in your skin bathed in earth. In Atenco we know that your word is now part of the history of the universe and that your struggle already lives in our hearts. In this time people will call you zapatistas; we do not only call you that, we also call you and recognize you as our brothers and sisters.

You must know that after several months of direct confrontation with bad governments in 2001 and 2002, we achieved what we knew was possible, we defended our land, we blessed it with our struggle and prevented Fox and Montiel from despoiling us of the most sacred: Our mother earth. This is how we brought down the most important project of the Fox administration, the International Airport of Mexico City. It was then that we understood our role in history, we understood that things are not this way because someone decides, but that we too can decide what to do when faced with a decision from the powerful. When we prevailed in July and August of 2002 we confirmed what we already knew: “The government can be beaten.” From then until now, nothing can stop us, no matter how dark and stormy the path, since that time we know that victory lies at the end of our path.

However, as you well know, on the path of The Other Campaign, when we rode along with you back in 2005 and 2006, we had to once again confront the powerful. On May 3 and 4 of 2006 they undertook a violent State action, murdered two of our brothers, raped our sisters, detained 207 people, searched our homes, tortured and occupied our communities. They brought out all of their contained rage, charged at us with all their strength, once more they tried to exterminate us, they wanted to finish off the People’s Front in Defense of the Land and strike at the Mexican social movement. Throughout that period you were in our struggle, taking on as yours a fight that had in its wake a victory and an affront to the powerful. However –as you know well- in 2006 Atenco was only one more instance of violence in the Mexican State, the repression in Sicartsa had take place before, then came Oaxaca and electoral fraud. 2006 marked the Right’s offensive against the social movements that today sees its resurgence as the army leaves its barracks to carry out public safety functions, in a war disguised as one against so-called “organized crime.” Throughout this period you, brothers and sisters, have been with us, from here we received all the calls for solidarity from our imprisoned and persecuted brothers; from Atenco we know that in the zapatista heart there will always be a small place for those who are equal, that there will always be the serious and committed promise of its rebellious fight.

But we also know that you are still fighting a low-intensity war against bad government. That the situation in which you find yourselves is a war less hidden each day, of confrontations with diverse forces, of attrition and constant blows. That on both fronts they are trying to undermine resistance, wanting to put an end to one of the most important social processes in Mexico and in the world. This explains the aggression suffered these days by our indigenous brothers of the San Sebastian Bachajon cooperative, in the Chilón municipality, when they were detained and tortured by Juan Sabines’ government, being accused of robbery and drug-trafficking; likewise, the recent armed aggression suffered by the compañeros of the Caracol IV Good Government Council, in Morelia, who were in charge of the El Salvador resort, suffered at the hands of the paramilitary Organization For The Defense Of Indigenous People And Peasants (Opddic). We know that aggression against the EZLN is always latent, because you have built a counterpower able to confront the State, that your process is a very important effort to build democracy from below and that a blow against you would be a victory for the political and economic powers of not only Mexico, but of the world. Because of that, we say to you that we are with you, that the zapatista struggle is our struggle and, as much as possible, as much as we are able, we are with you, brothers and sisters.

We also reaffirm our fight for the freedom of 12 compañeros and 2 others who are fugitives; 9 of them are Alejandro Pilón Zacate, Jorge Alberto Ordóñez Romero, Román Adán Ordóñez Romero, Juan Carlos Estrada Cruces, Julio César Espinosa Ramos, Inés Rodolfo Cuellar Rivera, Edgar Eduardo Morales, Oscar Hernández Pacheco y Narciso Arellano Hernández, who are in the Molino de Flores Prison, Texcoco, Mexico State, sentenced to 31 years, 10 months and 15 days of imprisonment; Felipe Álvarez, Héctor Galindo and Ignacio Del Valle (Nacho) are imprisoned in the maximum security prison of El Altiplano, in Almoloya de Juárez, Mexico State, the first two sentenced to 67 and a half years, while Nacho is sentenced to 112 and a half years; on top of this, they have another three arrest warrants pending; in the same way, Adán Espinosa Rojas and América Del Valle are declared fugitives facing arrest warrants. To gain their freedom we constituted the Promoting Committee of the National and International Campaign “Freedom and Justice for Atenco,” made up among many by Don Samuel Ruíz, Don Raúl Vera, Manu Chao, Ofelia Medina, Julieta Egurrola, Luis Villoro, Ricardo Rocha, Bruno Bichir, Demián Bichir, Alejandro Bichir, Odiseo Bichir, Diego Luna, Luís Hernández Navarro, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Adolfo Gilly, Alejandro Toledo, Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa, Carlos Montemayor, Miguel Concha, Rocco, Rubén Albarran, Los de Abajo, Asian Dub Foundation, Las Reinas Chulas, Ana Francis Mor, Jorge Zarate and other compañeros who are joining up. With them we intend that their voice will raise the demand for freedom and justice for our movement, because their voice reaches other sectors that we have not reached and also because we want it to be a voice that will make a deep impression in our country’s and the world’s collective memory.

As our elder grandfather Nezahualcóyotl, whose lot in life was for a long time persecution and repression from Tezozomoc, king of Azcapotzalco, we have decided that we do not want to live in that condition, but will instead learn from the Triple Alliance that gave the Poet King his victory, to defeat the tyrant and achieve the Acolhua-chichimeca Kingdom’s splendor.

It is because of this that they have not beaten us thus far, that despite the hardening of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, the Front of Peoples in Defense of The Earth is not defeated, and we know that the more our enemy’s profile grows, the bigger our victory will be, because they will not last 112 years in power.

Brothers and sisters, we will keep struggling until we gain freedom for our political prisoners and fugitives, but what we are really fighting for is for the liberation of our peoples, because we are aware that the powerful can be defeated and we will do so.

We send our combative and brotherly regards to the whole Zapatista Army of National Liberation.




People’s Front in Defense of the Land - Atenco.

Translation to English by Lopex

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mexican Consulate in NYC Shut Down for Atenco!


On the third anniversary of state repression against the people of Atenco, the Mexican Consulate in New York was “taken over” by the pro-zapatista group Movement for Justice in El Barrio.

Authorities decided to close down the Consulate for the entire day.

During a press conference the Consul, who was very angry, denounced and blamed the members of The Other Campaign New York.



To our sisters and brothers from the People’s Front in Defense of the Land:

To our Zapatista sisters and brothers:

To our compañer@s of the Other Campaign:

To our compañer@s from the Zezta Internazional:

To our compañer@s who are adherents of the International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio and our allies from all over the world:

Receive this greeting in solidarity from the women, men, and children, those marginalized in society who belong to the Other Campaign New York, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, in Zapatista East Harlem.

Today, May 4, 2009, the Other Campaign New York took over the Mexican Consulate in New York to demand the liberation of the 12 political prisoners who have been brutally repressed for resisting neoliberal urbanization projects that are destructive to human life and culture, specifically the construction of an airport in Atenco, and for protecting displaced flower vendors in Texcoco.

Today, on this third anniversary of the repression, the arrests, the violations, the torture, and the breaking and entering made by the military police in Atenco, a delegation of members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio succeeded in entering the offices of the Consulate of Mexico in New York despite the fact that these offices have been under strict and tightened security since precisely 3 years ago when Mexicans of The Other Campaign New York with real heart and memory, demanded the liberation of the political prisoners of Atenco. We succeeded in entering the offices to hold a non-violent protest demanding the immediate release of the prisoners of Atenco.

Once inside, the compañer@s of the Other Campaign New York, amongst the clamor of: “Freedom for political prisoners (Presos politicos, libertad)!, Liberty, liberty, to those prisoners for fighting (Libertad, libertad, a los presos por luchar)!, We are all Atenco (Todos Somos Atenco)!”, along with other chants, and with our signs, some with prison bars to look like a cell, and also with bandanas, gave out to our fellow country men and women at the Consulate DVD’s of the video "Breaking the Siege", about the repression in Atenco, and informational flyers where we explain our main demands.

Later, we demanded to speak with the consul Ruben Beltran in order to give him a letter of demands. First, they told us that he was not there because he was in Mexico, but we knew that this was a lie, since the day before the consul was in El Barrio at an event proselytizing for PAN during the imposed Cinco de Mayo celebration.

After a while, the authorities of the Consulate told us that the Consul was in New York but that he could not be found in the Consulate, and they closed consular services to the public, asking all of their clients to abandon the offices. By the end of our action, the consul arrived. We gave him a giant size letter on a poster-board with the following demands:

1. Liberty for the political prisoners in Atenco.

2. Cancel the arrest warrants for those 2 who are being persecuted.

3. Revoke and appeal the sentences.

4. Complete respect for the human rights of the detained and the persecuted.

5. Punishment for those responsible for the violations of human rights.

The consul, Rubén Beltrán, first told us that he was open to engage in dialogue with all Mexican people in New York and listen to all opinions, but then blamed us – and our cause, the liberation of the prisoners in Atenco – for having closed the services of the Consulate and for having left so many people & unattended.

We consider that the consul’s reaction is an act of great injustice and cynicism, since ifthe Mexican government would not torture, kill, rape and unjustly incarcerate its people for resisting its doing business with huge transnational companies that turn everything even water into merchandise, these things would not have to happen.

Nonetheless, we are satisfied for having done this successful protest for the liberation of the martyrs of Atenco, and now we know that many Mexicans in New York will be able to inform themselves through alternative media like the DVD "Breaking the Siege".

Afterwards, in the afternoon of this same day, the press was convened to gather at the Consulate for another event, and the consul took advantage to denounce us, and say that because of us the Consulate had to close for the entire workday. In this early evening event, the consul showed the press photographs of us from distinct angles. In this respect it was clear that our demonstration was peaceful. If he had retaliated against us for having exercised our right to freedom of expression in Mexican territory (as is in whatever representation of the Mexican government in other countries), this means that the Consulate’s authorities would have been violating our rights, just as they don’t respect the rights of the people of Atenco.

It brings us much pain that dignified fighters for social justice, the real defenders of our land and our country, remain in prison. We will not rest until they are liberated. Human beings are not merchandise. They can’t move us & place us anywhere they wish so that they can build airports and hotels, not in Atenco, nor in Agua Azul, nor in our Barrio in East Harlem.

From the Other Campaign New York, fraternally:



Movement for Justice in El Barrio, New York, May 4, 2009

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