I knew of the lake since I was born. It’s the heritage of my parents. It’s the life we have. the one we want our grandchildren to live. Anáhuac, this area, means to be amongst waters. Fishes, frogs, and axolotls. Ducks, chichicuilote birds and swallows. The people knew how to co-exist with the water to live from the seaweed. The lake is called freedom. I’m young but I’ve lived with the lake. It was a pleasure to see the flocks. We’d play there, we’d go for a swim, make mischief. We are the generation that parted with the lakes. The ahuautle, the caviar of the poor, is now gone. We have so many memories and sometimes we dream we are there. And when we get there, there is nothing anymore. This comes from far back, from the time of the colony: Enrico Martínez, Francisco de Garay, Porfirio Díaz; Tajo de Nochistongo, drainpipe, deep sewage. The stupid policies draw water out of this basin. Someday we’ll manage to reverse this. My grandparents are from here, all of my family is from here. My mom used to tell me there used to be a lake here. People came to fish. They made their livelihood from this lake. Each blossom has the potential to become a peach. People come here and see the peach tree and the ask me to “sell some peaches”. I don’t sell them, I give them away. I give them from my heart. I give them with joy. Every time a tree is born, it brings me pleasure. It is a pleasure to see how that little tree grows. I feel like it’s part of my family. It’s part of why I love my house so much. I love my fruit trees. It’s sad to see all of this ending. Why are they killing me? Why do they want to bury me? Everyone ia amazed when they arrive at my birth place. On my shores civilization was born. They never thought of destroying me. But when the conquistadors arrived, they came with great cruelty and violence. This history has not been left behind. After hundreds of years, the disaster continues. The Earth is now sinking. “The new international airport of Mexico is the biggest megaproject of our time it’s among the top five airports of the world in terms of land area and is the second largest in construction spend after Turkey’s airport. It’s so huge that it’s about 7 times the size of the main plaza of Mexico City”. There was a place called El Salto a hill that had many nopal trees where we used to go to gather nopales for eating or sell El Salto is now a huge quarry they have destroyed everything and so when you walk nearby you think “Oh here is where I used to come for my nopalitos” I remember all the life that was there once rabbits, snakes, hares, raccoons; and I wonder what happened to all of them, where did they go? The story told by the company about the airport was that the airport was a wonderful project however they never talked about the huge impact that the project will have besides all it was an absurd project because it was planned and built in an area of marshlands which meant that they had to extract a huge amount of materials from highly populated areas. Reports indicate that there are 180 quarries created to supply the airport. Just one municipality – Tepetlaoxtoc – houses almost 60 mines. Although only 30% of the new airport was built the impact on the environment is catastrophic. The authorities came here to tell me that all my neighbors had already sold their properties, and only mine was left. Construction trucks started coming through. I saw a lot of movement. They started to drive through to the planned airport site with truckloads of construction materials to fill the lake. This piece of land this piece of homeland belongs to us. It belonged to my grandparents when they left it to me. They left it so I could take care of it and for me to leave it to my children and grandchildren. When the construction of the airport was first announced in October 2001 the people reacted with resignation and resistance. It was a resistance that we didn’t necessarily know how far it would go. We didn’t know how much it was going to take from us or how much it was going to change our lives. [Shouting] “Choose land, not planes” We, the people from the shores of the lake, say: WE EXIST! We want to be acknowledged. The earth is our Mother. She calls to us. She holds us with her fruit. Blessed you Earth who gives me tortillas, who lets me rest on her. México should know that every day, on every table, there is a farmer that brought that food. The airport will give us death. That’s why we have come together from across the country to state our decree: In 2001: we resist the dispossession of our lands. In 2002 all the people said no to the airport. In 2006, former president Peña Nieto behaved as a criminal. We were beaten and wounded. We were left for dead. Our homes were broken into. Women were raped. The Mexican government tried to unweave the social fabric through divisiveness violence and fear. On May 3, 2006 there was a brutal repression. We came here to be close to our brothers but we couldn’t get through the streets because there was so much police. It felt like we were in El Salvador or Guatemala. It was like a counterinsurgency. [Shouting] “Atenco is not forgotten.” [Enrique Peña Nieto speaking] [Shouting] It was a compromise that you all made. No one told you to “be Atenco”. You said it and we became #YoSoy132. We were born amongst wars daughters of dispossession but with strong hearts. We were born uncomfortable. We emerged from the horror but also from dignity of those who don’t get tired or give away to oblivion. We were never the same, because the nightmare of power is the embrace between those who are recognized as different. It was the walls, the bullets, the violence that actually brought us together. It was the State. And the State has names: Peña, Karam, Mancera… Silence We are constantly fighting to defend Life to defend what we believe is right. We stand against capitalism. When you realise that they are destroying more than 180 mountains and that most probably your mountain in Zumpango is going to suffer the same luck. It is so hard to comprehend it really hurts it hurts to know you have been dispossessed. The magnitude of the damage the impact of the quarries the piping of rivers the drying out of underground rivers and what that means for peasants of Texcoco and Atenco the drying out of their wells. Around the new airport a huge real state project was planned Around the new airport a huge real state project was planned which was really the end of the colonization process. For the past six years the country has been living through very dark times full repression, uncertainty, and murderous capitalism that generated a great level of violence throughout the whole country. The compañeras and compañeros of Atenco have always been present in the midst of that darkness. Inevitably the resistance of other communities as well as the resistance of Atenco, started to add up to connect and communicate with each other to build a stronger and more cohesive movement that then and only then was it able to denounce the violence and stop it at its source. Nature take its course. Where did all these many experts come from? Even those who hurt me eat from me. In this territory, during rainy season, I keep fighting. Here you can see me. I am the past story, the present and the future. And with pride, my children present me to the world. With only 16% of the ballot for the Presidency 15% for the Senate 16% for Congress, and no governorship represented the defeat and it was only the beginning of the fall for the Institutional Revolutionary Party. This is the first call to participate in the consultation for the New International Airport. We want to have the best answer possible or the least worst because unfortunately that’s where we stand right now. A few months ago we were in a different context another government arrived but that doesn’t mean we should not maintain the principle and the banner of continuing with what we believe to be fair and what life means to us. This is actually a very complex scenario because the consultation started before Andrés Manuel López Obrador got elected even before they formed a government. This consultation is different because is not a usual free and informed consultation. We needed to work a collective voice a new calling to the civil society in order to make us all participate in this battle against this monster project. Literally the Front of Peoples in Defence of the Earth said: “we need to have a new voice”. [LISTENING]
We asked why are we fighting what are our motives and our differences? We listen to the voices of the peoples that defend the earth the voice of the lake that surfaces from another time the voice of the territory that is present and fighting for life. We need to cultivate a political perspective to know what is really happening and make a deep political analysis in order to find out why they are pushing again the airport, what’s behind of all this. They didn’t dare to say like Andres Manuel to say “No to the Airport” and that is why the elected government passed on that responsibility back to the citizens –we had to take that decision because it was clear from the beginning that stopping the airport will mean starting a massive fight with huge political implications especially with the businessmen and investors who were in stark support of the project. There was a real challenge to vindicate a movement that was portrayed by the media as an enemy of civilization as macheteros and referring to them in an aggressive and disrespectful manner. [MAPPING]
Two months prior to the consultation we use social networks to amplify our hearing. In the conversation around the new airport where does it fit the fight for life who were willing to listen and how could we avoid our voice from getting trapped in an echo chamber? There was a transition happening between Peña Nieto’s government and the newly elected government of López Obrador. We had to acknowledge this transition and shift the way we talked about the government so we can reach the many people who were supporting López Obrador. We started to develop somehow a kind of collective expertise from social networks to direct action and mobilizations. I believe that working with the government was important but even more so, to draw ordinary people into the struggle as this problem was no longer an issue affecting only farmers, but all of us. [UNDERSTAND]
Throughout the media the voice of the communities was absent and the territory invisibilized. Our communities and the land have resisted colonialism for over 500 years and therefore people tend to see peasants as uncivilized and against progress. It is very hard to explain why communities have to organise to fight against the so-called progress to explain why “they don’t want a new highway” or why “they reject the construction of a dam”. It doesn’t make any sense through the lenses of the dominant paradigm that sees economic development as the only way to live. You have to explain to people living in the city: in order to build your city it was necessary to destroy what was there to destroy traditions, ecosystems; it was necessary to destroy so much and we just can’t allow this to carry on. [RECODING]
The conversation around the airport and t he consultation was all about money we asked ourselves, how could we better use this political moment to talk about the struggle for life and open a third option that wasn’t present in that moment. We realised that at the same time we were reclaiming our popular culture and traditional knowledge We had to dialogue with other areas of expertise and knowledge we had to talk with biologists, geographers, economists and historians. The economic system uses the media industry to propagate its ideology of capitalism and in this story neither peoples nor minorities exist. They just can’t see that we are against capitalism. Our posture was to disrupt the dominant economic narrative and the hegemonic development discourse portrayed by media as inherently good with a narrative focused the defense of our watersheds, of waters: in the protection of life itself. We build the #YoPrefieroElLago campaign around those principles. [Singing] “And the results of the public consultation about the construction of the airport in Mexico City are the lake will be protected and with it all the life the birds and ducks that live there, they will not be chased away. This is a huge victory for the environmental movement.” Joining this very successful campaign #YoPrefieroElLago led by the Atenco Front because to me it seems like they managed to position themselves so well in the conversation around the airport. “This project got rejected by 70% of the votes in a consultation organized by a team from the elected government” “After the new government confirmed the decision to cancel the construction of the airport in Texcoco, the Mexican stock market collapsed and fell 4.20%…” [Singing] When I say #YoPrefieroElLago I can literally feel “the water is speaking to me” let’s not wait until we can’t feel anything to organize ourselves we should mobilize wherever we are and those who remain can’t betray the lake. Rise again my children those who don’t forget their roots. Tirelessly they protect me. When you meet them, you will respect them! They know nothing about war, they don’t want a bloodshed. They are willing to give their lives. The peoples of the lake realize that without me they will die of starvation. To my children, there is no money that can buy them there are no riches to win them over. They’ll take to the streets to say that I exist. My children speak on my behalf. I feel proud to raise awareness amongst my generation and tell them that this is our land and we need to protect it because this land is what sustains us. This is where you live, where we stand together this is our planet. The air that exists in the big cities is dirty the one right here is clean and somehow it combines we breathe the same air we live in the same earth. We feel that we have a moral duty to share our story with the rest of the world to tell our brothers and sisters from Mexico and Latin America to tell the people of this Earth: the only thing we can offer to people is our own experience what we have lived and realise that we have a choice and we can choose life and lead a life full of dignity to stand up and if necessary die facing injustice.