Some FAQs from the street
For 3 weeks, I have traveled the Ciudad Hidalgo-Mapstepec route several times and have counted up to 10 inspection points in 150 kilometers. The number of green and blue uniforms has increased slowly and steadily. I have heard diverse opinions but two call my attention, full support for the strategy to reduce insecurity, and concern about restricting local mobility. I do not want to deep in the first, in the special section "En el camino" (On the road) of the Periodistas de Pie (Journalists on foot) network have made an extraordinary follow-up of the militarization strategy Mexico's southern border. Strengthening the security strategy and its consequences on local (im)mobility, however, is a not-so-widespread part of the strategy.
What does a local person feel and think when they are detained and asked for their identification? Annoyance first. The heat, the reduced space in the taxis that travel the region, the lost time. Long lines at inspection points and accusatory looks of the uniformed are already part of the itinerary of thousands of people moving in the region. People assume it is an expensive nonetheless fair price. "Security requires sacrifices," a lady told me in a taxi, before sighing and mentioning that AMLO knows what he does.
"How is it possible that they confuse us with those illegals? With those Central Americans?" Violent, gang members, and prostitutes are stigmas mentioned for salvadorans and hondurans. Despite sharing physical characteristics, confusion generates anger. To their relief, they will never be confused with the Afro-descendant populations of Haiti and Honduras (no one mentions African countries) because "dirty" is the word with which they are defined by locals. Guatemalan people are forgotten and do not appear on the map of claims and confusion, it seems that their indigenous origin is unworthy even to mention.
"What will happen when everyone leaves?" a federal policeman asks me at an inspection point, referring to journalists and photographers. "Nothing, everything will remain the same," he replies. Exactly the same question asked by a couple at another inspection point, when they have been taken off the taxi while their identification is reviewed. "They come, they take pictures, they write how bad we treat migrants but nobody writes what happens to us." Migration coverage in the region and its almost exclusive focus on human rights violations of migrants causes frustration in the local population. This region has been abandoned by the state and federal government for decades, only when economic projects (such as the Special Economic Zones or the Puebla Panama Plan) or security (such as the Southern Border Plan) are activated is that national and regional attention turn to these places. The geopolitical position has played tricks on local people, according to their assessment.
he increase in racism, xenophobia and discrimination of the local population are consequences of the reinforcement of the security strategy, or of militarization, as it has been rightly called for years by civil society organizations such as the Centro de Derechos Humanos "Fray Matías de Córdova". And it is calculated and intentional. Mobility restriction of local population generates instantaneous and ephemeral discomfort, but also generates justification and lasting sympathy. This Schizophrenic relationship finds relief in the creation of a common enemy: foreign people.
National identity and border regions were born at the same time. In the nineteenth century, when modern states were defined they also defined us and others. As Benedict Anderson said, the museum, the census, and the map were the tools for the construction of States / Identity. But we are in the 21st century, and those tools are no longer enough. They never really were, Anderson forgot to say that identity was not created harmonically, it was imposed. Armies and police were / are executors of an idea that should be adopted and reinforced at all times. Purpose of the restriction is not only foreign people, it is us.
(Im)mobility policies are the vehicle of national identity and reinforcement of States. That is why there are no demonstrations by locals, raw reports about dangers of clandestine routes and the alarming amount of security forces do not find an echo, outside of civil society organizations, journalists from other parts of Mexico and foreigners, and the UN, who really is against these measures? Although local support for the militarization strategy is overwhelming, I have also found small and daily signs of resistance to solidarity with migrants. In the next posts of this blog I hope to portray them.