Special to the Logos
Nearly 500 people – among them members of the University of the Incarnate Word community – pushed for peace and an end to violence in Mexico last Friday at a local rally.
Students, teachers and staff from the University of the Incarnate Word and Incarnate Word High School were among those helping to welcome, serve food, interpret Spanish and English in small-group discussions, and lead prayer and a vigil during the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity at St. Leonard’s Parish Hall.
The caravan — two buses bearing about a 100 people from Mexico — stopped in San Antonio. The riders were mostly family members of persons who had been killed or kidnapped in Mexico as violence has escalated since 2006.
Lauren Bennett, a UIW freshman on the swimming and diving team, said she was moved by one of the testimonies of a mother who lost her son.
“(The local authorities) could not even provide her with body parts for a proper burial,” Bennett said. “She then started her own investigation at her own risk. This was inspiring to me because although her son was already dead, she was willing to risk her life to provide justice not only for her family, but for others.”
Javier Sicilia, a noted Mexican poet, organized the caravan after his son was killed. Sicilia said drug addiction is first of all a medical problem calling for care. Medical solutions are called for, not just military.
Linda Mockeridge, a San Antonio social worker and speaker from the Buddhist community, pointed out that, “When I was in graduate school the drug prevention grant I was part of on the south side was discontinued to put the money into the ‘war on drugs,’ that was into guns, planes and agents.”
William Walker, an instructor in religious studies who is teaching Christian Ethics courses this fall at UIW, said, “After several very deeply saddening and disturbing stories from victims’ family members were shared, it was especially moving and empowering to hear the shouts of solidarity from those listening that followed: ‘No esta sola, no esta sola!’ (you’re not alone, you’re not alone!).”
“And Sicilia did a good job relating the suffering of the Mexican people with the corresponding hardship being experienced by many in the U.S. as a result of mass incarceration for drug-related offenses, which disproportionately affects the black and Latino/Latina communities in our country,” Walker said.
For Cherie Pineer Huff, a junior biology major, the caravan was an experience “that not only served as an eye-opener for me, but it was also an experience that I shall never forget.
“I was overwhelmed at the pain and suffering these violent acts are causing to innocent people,” Huff said. “I could only wonder why is nothing being done to stop such cruelty.”
Fatima Perez, a biochemistry major at UIW, said, “Every day in the news we hear about tragedies around the world, but getting to hear the actual voices of the victims’ family members is what makes us feel their pain. On the other hand, seeing the caravan united makes me proud and happy that they have raised their voices.”
Dr. Lopita Nath, an assistant professor at UIW who spoke at the event from the Hindu tradition, thanked Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a professor of religious studies at UIW who organized the Interfaith prayer at the gathering.
“Thank you for giving me an opportunity to be a part of the Caravan of Peace,” Nath said. “No amount of reading or media coverage could be a substitute for the personal testimonies of the victims and the families of the victims. It was heart-wrenching to listen to those stories. To all who were there, I’m sure it was a lesson in human rights. I wish them success in their search for justice and peace.”
Dr. Adrienne Ambrose, who is teaching several religious studies at UIW this fall, said, “It was clear that the speakers took strength from the presence of so many supporters. I’m hopeful that their courage will serve to awaken those of us in the U.S. who can push for real change.”
Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa, a history professor at UIW, said many of the victims were simply ordinary people whose lives were abruptly ended, with huge consequences for their relatives whose lives, in turn, would never be the same.
Bo Han, a management information systems instructor in the HEB School of Business and Administration, said he learned the drug war is not “only the fights among gangsters, but is influencing innocent people and the community in a worse and wider way. We can’t just be an outsider anymore, but we need to stand up and do something.”
Blanca Diego, a government and international affairs major at UIW, said she was inspired by the bravery of the caravan participants.
“It is inspiring to see people’s bravery in gathering and in sharing experiences to inform people of the injustices occurring,” Diego said. “They are taking a stand that hopefully will bring unity and change.”