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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Peace: The Pathway Connecting the US and México

from the Nov. 30, 2022 Bulletin

social movements guns & violence

Marco Castillo, an anthropologist and activist from Puebla, has spent 20 years promoting transnational projects and regional social justice movements. Currently the co-director of Global Exchange and an advisor to the Network of Transnational Peoples, he lives, works, and dreams between Puebla and New York. Castillo has lately been devoting a major share of his time to organizing this February’s upcoming US/México Peace SummitCumbre de la Paz — in México City.


What experiences have made you so passionate about ending violence?

I was raised between two worlds: my father indigenous, my mother white mestiza. From an early age, I witnessed violence, men against women, mestizo against indigenous, white against people of color. 


In 1995, my world changed, with the Zapatistas my wake-up call. The Zapatistas took up a courageous attack against neoliberalism, a regime that they believed would increase violence against the common people. After college, I went to Tlaxcala state, where NAFTA had forced so many people to leave home, just as the Zapatistas predicted. For those left behind, those who left seemed to have fallen into a hole and could no longer be touched. 


After a few years doing community service in these communities, I learned that the people in Tlaxcala didnt need outsiders like me to help” them. Local leaders felt I could be more effective going to the United States and, among other things, find those who had dropped out of sight and help reconnect them with their families. Thats how I began doing transnational organizing.


Armed conflicts, repression, and violence against women and minority peoples are going on around the world. Why the focus on a México/US Peace Summit? 

All over the world, US guns are contributing to violence. Those of us in the US must stop the traffic. The México/US corridor has become a global epicenter of US arms trafficking.


Millions have died since the war on drugs began in 1971, first in the US and then adopted in Mexico in 2006 by then President Calderon. 

The US sent massive numbers of guns to the Mexican military and police to conduct this war,” and many of those weapons made their way to the very drug dealers the policy was meant to defeat.” In México, 70 percent of the firearms recovered from crime scenes came from the USA. And the United States itself is suffering from an epidemic of shootings. 


What do you hope the Peace Summit will accomplish? What do you mean by “peace”?

We need to see peace as not just the absence of war. Peace requires ongoing work. Its not an end goal, its a path. The Summit will be a place to begin reflecting, organizing, and acting to create a region without guns, where human mobility has become a right, environmental justice a priority. A region where human rights take center stage and marginalized communities can decide their own destinies. These issues exist on both sides of the border.

Photo: PBS NewsHour

We also need to see the Peace Summit itself as path, a process, not a one-off event. We’ve had several preparatory forums in the US and México, where people have been listening, talking, learning from each other and those who bear the emotional scars.


In the US, weve heard from Black Lives Matter activists and from the parents of those killed in school shootings. In México, we’ve involved parents of the disappeared and migrants whove experienced terror along their journeys. Through these conversations, we’re constructing an agenda for peace.


At the Summit well be tackling ways to build an effective movement for peace. What elements make up binational action? What actions can strengthen our work if we do them binationally?


After the Summit — just a stop along the way for us — we’ll hold dialogues with government officials, starting at local levels, to implement changes. We agree with the Zapatista slogan, think globally, act locally.” Small collaborations can change local realities. Autonomous local initiatives, as they grow in number, can impact whole countries.

Youre casting a wide net in terms of the political orientation of the people you want to attend. Are there peacemaking methods you use in the context of gatherings like this one?


We consider the Summit a gathering of those who feel the urgent need to end violence, not a gathering of the left or the right.


In both the US and México, fear and insecurity are rising. None of us feel safe in our own homes and neighborhoods, no matter what our political beliefs may be.


Within our own spaces like the Summit, we need to create the conditions for dialogue, because we know that without dialogue, only the police will be winners. We also need to understand cultural differences and find a way to surface and accommodate them. 

Organizing strategies and traditions differ in the United States and México. US organizing puts a lot of energy into advocacy and legislative changes, while most progressive movements for social justice in Latin America are demanding systemic change. 


We need to model a kind of leadership that concentrates on asking the right questions, inviting creativity, and giving everyone the same level of power to answer. We dont believe that a Biden or an AMLO should come up with ideas and impose them on the rest of us. Our definition of leadership skills includes listening, facilitating, and guiding people to put their ideas into action.


In these violent times, you’re boldly demanding peace! What makes you hopeful that peace can be possible?


We can’t put off peace building until we have peace! Global leaders seem to consider peace the last resort to problem solving. But for the people, only making peace can open up the possibility for us to dream again.