Sunday, December 3, 2023


Photographs by David Bacon


    On December 1st the Centro Binacional de Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueña (the Binational Center for Oaxacan Indigenous Development) celebrated its 30th anniversary.  Dancers, musicians, gigantes and diablos led several hundred indigenous Oaxacan families, together with a handful of community supporters, as their procession made its way out of the Hall of Industry, and then through the Fresno County Fairgrounds.
    The Centro is the sister organization of the Frente Indigena de Organzaciones Binacionales (Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations).  Both were established in the early 1990s, and have chapters and offices throughout the communities in rural California where Oaxacan migrants have settled.  
    Thirty years ago few could have predicted the growth in the political presence of California's Oaxacan community. Today dozens of people staff four CBDIO offices, speaking seven indigenous Mexican languages. Building that base through those years helped the community survive when the pandemic hit.  CBDIO and FIOB activists distributed food to keep people eating, brought them to testing centers, and helped provide vaccines and knowledge of their rights as essential workers that saved lives.
    In these photographs Oaxacan community activists show their deep roots - the culture of small indigenous towns in Mexico has been reproduced and is celebrated in California, two thousand miles north.  In the quotes below leaders of FIOB and CBDIO explain the context of this work and its origins.  The late Rufino Dominguez Santos was a co-founder of both FIOB and CBDIO, together with Gaspar Rivera Salgado, director of the Center for Mexican Studies at UCLA.  Oralia Maceda, who heads the CBDIO office in Fresno, has been an organizer with FIOB for many years.
    To see the full selection of photographs, click here:


    Indigenous Oaxaqueños understand the need for community and organization. When people migrate from a community in Oaxaca, in the new places where they settle they form a committee comprised of people from their hometown.  They are united and live near one another.  This is a tradition they don't lose, wherever they go.
    Beyond organizing and teaching our rights, we try to save our language. Even though 500 years have passed since the Spanish conquest, we still speak it.  We are preserving our way of dancing, and rescuing our lost beliefs -- that nature is something sacred for us, just as it was for our ancestors.
    - Rufino Dominguez Santos - Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)


    The labor of migrants in the U.S. has been used throughout its history.  They tell us to come work, and then when there's an economic crisis, we're blamed for it.  This policy of attacking migrants has never stopped in the United States.  They accuse us of robbing other people's jobs, and our rights are not respected.
    But neither Republican nor Democratic administrations have acted to pass legislation to legalize migrants, and this is the solution to the problem.  They've done nothing.  Instead, we've seen a policy of deporting migrants, of imprisoning them unjustly.  This doesn't accomplish anything.  We feel like we're shouting at a wall because we can't change any of this.  
    - Rufino Dominguez Santos - The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)


    At first there were no women involved in FIOB.  Rufino asked me to share my experiences in Oaxaca, and we started going to different cities - Fresno, Selma, Santa Maria, and Santa Rosa.  Once we had a women's conference, but there were more men than women.  We encouraged them to bring their wives since it is important for all people to know their rights.
    Today, women sometimes participate more than men.  The biggest obstacle for women is the lack of time.  They have to work in the fields, and take care of their families.  They don't have childcare.  When they come to meetings they worry about their kids and get distracted.  Transportation is much more difficult here. In Oaxaca I can take a bus anywhere.  Here there is no transportation in rural areas.
    I believe men have to be more conscious of women's needs, so they can participate.  But it is women's responsibility to find out how and get involved.  I told my mom to not to ask me again to quit because it would be the same as if I asked her stop going to church. I told them, this is my life and I like it here.  My family got the message.
    - Oralia Maceda - Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)


    The parallel process of long-term settlement and geographic concentration has led to the creation of a "critical mass" of indigenous Oaxacans, especially in California ... Their collective initiatives draw on ancestral cultural legacies to build new branches of their home communities.  
    Their public expressions range from building civic-political organizations to the public celebration of religious holidays, basketball tournaments involving dozens of teams, the regular mass celebration of traditional Oaxacan music and dance festivals such as the Guelaguetza, and the formation of village-based bands, some of which return to play in their hometown fiestas.
    - Gaspar Rivera Salgado and Jonathan Fox - Indigenous Mexican Migrants in the United States (UCSD, 2004)


    The implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement devastated the local economies of Indigenous communities.  Because they depended on the production of corn and other commodities, when the treaty allowed U.S. corporations to dump corn on the Mexican market it forced people in those communities to migrate. Once in the U.S., those uprooted from communities where they'd lived for generations faced exclusion economically, socially and politically, both as migrants and as Indigenous people.
      The multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry in California is based on cheap labor and the exploitation of farmworkers. Agricultural work is seasonal, and  farmworkers employed on a seasonal basis earn an average annual income of $18,000, making it extremely hard for them to sustain their families.
      Yet despite the essential nature of their work, undocumented workers still have no social net programs helping them survive during the offseason period, and were excluded from the Federal pandemic assistance bills. Because of their undocumented status, they can't apply to unemployment or other supplemental income, causing a long-term effect impact on their children and families.  
    Farmworkers need a path to citizenship as their lack of immigration status makes them vulnerable in the workplace and the community. The global COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated that inequality. Farmworkers were called essential, but that didn't translate into benefits. Instead, the COVID-19 Farmworker Study found they were systematically excluded.
    The Central Valley has a long history of farmworker resistance.  Although farmworkers have the right to organize, there is still a huge power imbalance between workers and their employers.  As they struggle to live, big companies now seek to increase their exploitation by expanding the H-2A temporary worker program. Farmworkers will survive and thrive despite this and other barriers, but the government has a responsibility to respond to their needs and humanity, not just grower complaints of a labor shortage.
    As we struggle to heal from the pandemic and its impacts, we need to honor indigenous farmworkers with policies that will make their lives better.
    - Sarait Martinez, director of the Centro Binacional de Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueña, Article for Arte Americas accompanying the exhibit, "Boom Oaxaca" -





Saturday, November 25, 2023



Photographs by David Bacon


Descending the long escalator into Madrid's Sol metro station, I try to imagine what it was like during the Civil War.  Even this far undergroound, the boom of howitzers, the howling sirens and the earth shaking under the bombs had to have been terrifying. 


Like so many European metro stations, this one holds memories of war.  Moscow and London both endured the rain of exploding terror from the Nazi Luftwaffe, while below people slept on station platforms to escape it.  But before they struck those two cities, from 1936 to 1939, Nazi planes made Madrid the target for the world's first bombing of a civilian population. 


Madrileños held off the onslaught of Franco's fascist armies for three years.  They found shelter from the bombs in the 32 stations already built on the metro's three lines by the time the war started.  Hundreds of those who perished under the fascist assault were taken in subway cars to graveyards outside of the city in trains nicknamed the "metro of the dead." 


Barcelona's metro started operation just five years after Madrid's, in 1924.  Its metro stations provided the shelter from March 16-18, when Mussolini personally ordered Italian bombers to flatten the city.  In twelve raids over those three days 979 people died.  Over 200 raids followed and three times as many lost their lives.


I didn't expect Barcelona's metro stations to be halls of memory, but you can take the subway to the Barceloneta station.  There, in the city museum along the waterfront a few blocks away, the Civil War is not forgotten. Old photographs honor the Catalan independence leaders executed by Franco after the Republic fell. 


You might think that after Franco finally died, and fascists no longer controlled Spain, the cities might have painted murals in the metro stations.  There they might provide a new generation a vision of their own heroic, bitter history.  There are none, however - a strange and disturbing absence.


You may not see much of the past in the metro stations, but you do see the people of these cities as they are now.  The metro is full of working people and students.  It's not a system for the rich, who have redesigned cities for the convenience of cars and individual means of transport.  Subways are collective, and they are cheap.


The Madrid and Barcelona metros go everywhere.  Their many lines are the cities' veins and arteries and people their bloodstream. Madrid has 13 with 276 stations, and Barcelona's 8 lines stop at 165. 


If, like me, you look a little lost at first trying to figure out the ticket machine, a metro worker will usually appear at your shoulder, explaining the cheapest way to buy your fares.  They'll also warn you about the regulations.  It's warm in the stations and on the trains, so young people often show some skin, but I still wonder what inspired one prohibition. "Travelling without footwear or without covering the torso or lower part of the body" is a serious violation,


Today metro systems have spread across the world.  Some 195 cities in 62 countries have one.  China has some of the biggest, and the most recent, with 278 lines in 45 cities.  The Shanghai metro alone, which opened in 1993, has 499 miles of track and provides 2.8 billion trips a year.


The Spanish trains look new as well, and the stations are clean and modern.  These photographs of the riders of today are a window into the present, showing the Spaniards as they pass under the ground to their work, recreating their cities every day.  Photographs taken today can't present the reality of what the metro endured, and how it must have appeared over 80 years ago.  But they do provide this vision of place and the people who inhabit it.  With imagination, the open a path into their history.


Sunday, October 29, 2023


By David Bacon
Equal Times, 27 October 2023


Honorata Nono (left) is a Filipina immigrant domestic worker and organiser. She takes care of Michiko Uchida in her home in San Francisco, California.  (Photo (c) David Bacon)

As the age of the US population continues to rise - and millions of people with disabilities, additional needs and children need care - so too does the country's insatiable demand for home healthcare and domestic workers. But years of underinvestment in the sector, and the chronic undervaluing of the important work carried out disproportionately by women of color (particularly those with an immigrant background) has left the sector in a perilous state.

It is a situation that has a deep and shameful history, rooted in the fact that enslaved African-American women were forced to provide unpaid household care for white families during the period of human chattel slavery that operated in the United States from its founding in 1776 until 1865. Following the abolition of slavery, the low wages and poor conditions of domestic work was sustained by a series of violent, racist laws known as 'Jim Crow'.

Against this backdrop, when it passed the US Congress in 1935, the National Labor Relations Act recognised the collective bargaining rights of US private sector workers and established a process to require employers to bargain with their unions. The law carried a political price, however. Racist senators and congressional representatives in the Democratic Party (known as Dixiecrats because they were all from the US South, or from 'Dixie') demanded exclusions. Domestic workers, who were still largely African-American women, would not be covered. Neither would farm workers, mostly Mexican and Filipino immigrants in that era.

The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed three years later, gave private sector workers the right to overtime pay and minimum wages. Again, domestic workers and farm workers were left out, at the insistence of Dixiecrats. It is no accident, therefore, that the labor rights and wages of both groups were held far below those of other workers in the decades that followed. Yet despite the exclusion, farm workers continued to organise. And in the last few decades, domestic workers have sought to end their exclusion as well.

Organising locally, nationally and globally

In California and other states, rising activism accompanied the increase of immigrant workers in the domestic worker labor force. According to labor historian Jennifer Guglielmo: "In the 1970s and 1980s, the domestic workforce began to change dramatically. African-American women moved out of domestic labor in large numbers and into clerical, sales, public sector, and professional jobs. Mexican-American women in the south-west also left domestic work for these jobs [...]. This shift led employers to hire more immigrant women from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia in much larger numbers." This wave of migration was in part the product of the displacement of families and communities in countries forced to adopt neoliberal structural adjustment policies and free trade agreements.

One of them, Cristina "Ate Bingbing" recalls, "My life started as a domestic worker when I decided to work abroad because my life was so difficult in the Philippines."  She recounts having to work despite the risk of COVID during the pandemic.  "I am being forced to choose between two very important things: your livelihood or your health. I am a single mom, and I support my daughter, who I haven't seen in years ever since I decided to leave the Philippines to look for work abroad. If something happens to me here, I have no idea what will happen to my family or when I will see my child again."

In the 1990s, immigrant domestic workers in urban centres began to organise community-based workers' centres. San Francisco's Mujeres Unidas y Activas started as a project of the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights, for example, while the Colectiva de Mujeres was originally a women's centre within the city-sponsored Day Labor Program. In the early 2000s they joined, first with Bay Area organisations like Filipinos for Affirmative Action, and then with Southern California organisations like the Coalition for Human Rights in Los Angeles and the Filipino Workers Center, to form a statewide network. This process paralleled others in New York and other states. In 2007, five California organisations joined six from New York and one from Maryland to form the National Domestic Workers Coalition.  

Just a few years later it played a key role in the adoption of a landmark international labor standard for domestic workers in 2011, International Labor Organization Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which recognised for the first time the right to minimum working standards for domestic workers.  Following a campaign by an alliance of trade unions and domestic worker organisations, C189 has since been ratified by 36 countries.  The United States, however, isn't among them.

When the California Domestic Worker Coalition put a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on the state legislature's agenda in 2012, then-AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka recognised the historic justice of their demands. "It's not right that domestic workers should be excluded from overtime pay laws," he told a crowd in Washington DC. "It's time for that to end. It's not right that domestic workers are excluded from collective bargaining laws. It's time for that to end. Domestic workers' rights are civil rights. Domestic workers' rights are human rights."

Trumka responded to the stories he was hearing from workers who'd come to push for the bill's promise of racial and labor equity. Teresita Gao-Ay, a domestic worker from San Diego, told him she'd been a caregiver since 1986, working from 7am to 9pm. "I had to do everything from cooking, cleaning the whole house, laundry that had to be pressed and folded, including sheets, gardening and caring for the dog. And I had to do this for the whole family, not just for the client I was taking care of. But how can you say no? I was living in their house. Plus, they said they'd call the police if I didn't do as they asked. Then, when I was injured on the job, no one paid me for the days I had to take off to recover."

"Care workers deserve to make a decent living"

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the plight of care providers into sharp focus everywhere, but in the US, where resources in the care sector were already stretched thin, the situation has worsened as a result of thousands of experienced care workers either leaving the sector or losing their lives after contracting Covid. According to the AFL-CIO: "Care prices have also skyrocketed, straining working families and forcing them to spend a significant portion of their income on services."

When President Joe Biden issued an executive order in April this year, seeking to use the administrative power of the federal government to raise domestic, home care and child care worker wages and make the care they provide to working families more affordable, he implicitly recognised the historic injustice. "Care workers deserve to make a decent living, and that's a fight I'm willing to have," he declared.  "No one should have to choose between caring for the parents who raised them, the children who depend on them, or the paycheque they rely on to take care of both."

The executive order contains a number of directives to different parts of the federal government, covering the programs they administer. The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, was told to consider actions to reduce or eliminate families' co-payments for childcare. Other agencies were directed to identify which of their grant programs can support childcare and long-term care for individuals working on federal projects. The order calls for increasing the pay of Head Start teachers and childcare providers.  Head Start is the main Federally and state funded program for early childhood education, for pre-school age children.

The order seeks to ensure there are enough home care workers to provide care to seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid, which provides free or low-cost health coverage to low-income families and individuals. It proposes to set minimum staffing standards for nursing homes, as well as conditioning a portion of Medicare payments on how well a nursing home retains workers. "This will be the first time that we'll have a care standard," explains Mia Dell, deputy director for advocacy at the AFL-CIO.

This development also aligns with demands from the international labor movement for greater investment in care to ensure equitable access to quality public care and health services. "It advances the social equity goal of the executive order, because the nursing homes with the worst history are those serving low-income communities of color." Better staffing standards and pay would also benefit the workers of color and women making up most of that workforce, another equity component of the order, Dell says.

The President's statement announcing the executive order highlighted the budget proposals intended to advance these goals. The American Rescue Plan, which provided funding to overcome the impact of the pandemic, contained over US$60 billion for care issues. The administration statement credited that funding with saving the country's system of private childcare providers. The Biden Budget, if adopted, would include US$150 billion over ten years to expand Medicaid home services, and proposes US$600 billion over ten years for expanded childcare and preschool programs. However, it faces extreme Republican opposition in Congress.

Historic exclusion

Today, the consequences of the historic exclusion of domestic workers run deep. In 2022 the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) issued a report, the Domestic Workers Chartbook, that outlines the basic living and working conditions for the 2.2 million domestic workers in the United States. That number is expected to grow rapidly - more than three times as fast as employment in other occupations - because the ageing of the US population and workforce is expanding the number of people needing care.

The real size of the workforce is likely larger, the EPI says, because many domestic workers are paid informally, making them less likely to report employment and earnings. In addition, over a third of domestic workers are immigrants, many of whom lack legal immigration status, and many fear the consequences of contact with the authorities, including participation in national surveys.

The lower pay level for domestic work reflects the racist and sexist structure of the US workforce, where people of color, immigrants and women are paid less than average. A majority of domestic workers are Black, Hispanic, or Asian-American and Pacific Islander women. Over 40 per cent are older than 50.  According to the EPI: "The typical domestic worker is paid US$13.79 per hour, including overtime, tips, and commissions - 36.6 per cent less than the typical non-domestic worker, who is paid US$21.76. The typical domestic worker's annual earnings are just two-fifths of a typical worker in another occupation." As a result, "domestic workers are much more likely than other workers to be living in poverty," the report concludes.

The human dimension of these statistics was described by Honor Nono, a Filipina domestic worker in San Francisco. "The work of a caregiver is no joke," she told a 2016 rally supporting the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Nono spoke as a member of the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants, originally set up by Filipinos for Affirmative Action. "Clients vary, they may be kind or unkind, happy or grouchy, difficult or easy, even dangerous. You can break your back, your neck, arms, or shoulder assisting your clients, transferring them from bed to wheelchair or vice versa. That is why we say the caregiving job is 3D: difficult, dirty and dangerous. Some caregivers do not get the minimum wage, workers compensation or paid overtime."

Nono has been an organiser of other care givers. "We make all other work possible," she told the rally, "and we work not only with our hands but with our hearts, because the people under our care also deserve love, respect and dignity. We are always in a battle, physically, and emotionally."

Build Back Better

Passing a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in California has been part of a national strategy to pass similar legislation elsewhere. To date, ten states and three cities have adopted it in some form, and they often include guarantees of paid time off, overtime, a requirement for written agreements and protection against discrimination. In California, the first bills originally proposed guarantees of eight hours of sleep for live-in workers, the right to use kitchen facilities to cook their meals, sick pay and vacations, cost-of-living raises and advance notice of terminations.

The final Bill of Rights was more limited, but the original demands reflect a broad agenda of goals that domestic workers seek to win over time. In Seattle, for example, a more recent bill, passed last year, brings domestic workers under the state's minimum wage law and qualifies them for unemployment insurance. A Domestic Workers Standards Board, with worker, employer and community representatives, will make further recommendations for improving working conditions.

When the Biden administration came into office in January 2021, many of these goals were incorporated into the Build Back Better bill, which included many elements of the Bill of Rights adopted by several states.  Other parts of Build Back Better would have made it possible for undocumented immigrants, including thousands of domestic workers, to gain legal immigration status. In negotiations with conservative Democrats, however, Build Back Better was pulled off the Democrats' agenda, and only a bill funding infrastructure improvements was passed. That was a blow to domestic workers and immigrant rights advocates, among many others.  

The inclusion of the domestic worker agenda in Build Back Better, and then the executive order in April, were the fruits of years fighting against their original exclusion from basic labor legislation.  "The Covid pandemic showed the urgency of the need and created a unique opportunity for making systemic reforms," says Dell. "Making care available to all workers was included in Build Back Better. When it was knocked out and we could no longer pass those reforms, the executive order made sense."

Nevertheless, it is difficult to quantify the concrete impact of the executive order, in terms of the number of people it enables to access care and the changes in the economic situation of care givers. "Basically, the administration was pulling every lever it could. In reality, there are only so many levers," Dell says.

One major achievement of the statewide strategy was legislation in California that gave unions the right to bargain over wages paid to about 500,000 home care workers who provide care to people receiving support from the state's In-Home Supportive Service Program. Two unions - the United Domestic Workers, a local affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers organized in 1977, and Local 2015 of the Service Workers International Union - were then able to negotiate wages for workers on a county-by-county basis. That led to substantial raises, and a similar system was later achieved for childcare workers. Today UDW represents 98,000 workers, and Local 2015 represents about 450,000. The number of actual union members, however, is not publicly available, however.

The effort continues to pass a national Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, although that path is effectively blocked without a change in the political balance of forces in the Congress. In addition, in 2014 the rightwing-dominated US Supreme Court held that home care workers couldn't be required to pay union dues, and weren't actually workers at all, but 'caregivers' who don't come under labor law and can't be considered state employees. In the meantime, state-by-state efforts are continuing. They make progress in states where domestic workers and care recipients are well-organised, and where progressive Democrats have legislative majorities and governors. "The state-based model has allowed us to organise at scale, but there are not enough states," Dell warns.

The elections of 2024 could change that calculation, but whatever happens, Dell says that unions will keep fighting for decent work for care workers: "We must make sure that workers are paid a living wage, with access to benefits, and the opportunity to join a union."

Each year, 29 October marks the International Day for Care, as part of the call for greater public investment in a resilient and inclusive care economy. For more information, you can visit the International Trade Union Confederation's online care portal.  This article was copublished with Equal Times, with support from the Ford Foundation

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Social movements claim public space in one of the largest cities in the Americas.
by David Bacon
The Progressive - October 9, 2023


Every day Mexico City taxi drivers, trying to navigate the city's intense traffic, tune into the morning's radio announcements of marches and demonstrations.  There are a lot of them - colorful, loud and insistent.  Over the years it has been easy to step out of the Maria Cristina in the morning, walk a block up to the Reforma, and join them with my camera. Much of the political life of the city is found in the street.  Its social movements use the public space often as a reminder of earlier protests and actions that have given form to Mexican politics.  

Those politics reflect an interplay of street protest and a more formal electoral process.  Today, following a new more open procedure for choosing presidential candidates (itself in part a product of movements in the streets), Mexico's governing party Morena (the Movement for National Regeneration), has selected as its standard bearer the city's mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum.  Given the popularity of Morena and its founder, current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, she is virtually certain to be elected.

She is an engineer, a skilled politician, the daughter of a leftist family, and of course a woman.  If elected, she will be Mexico's first female head of state, joining a growing number of women who head or have headed governments throughout the Americas (notably not including the United States).  But it's not just women in office that is changing politics.  The country's Supreme Court recently struck down the prohibition of abortion.  Women have been protesting abuse and gender-based violence for years, especially since the disappearance of scores of young maquiladora workers in Juarez, on the Mexico/U.S. border.

It's no surprise, therefore, to see that women have taken over a traffic island in the middle of the Reforma to highlight these attacks and demand justice.  A metal, violet-colored silhouette of a woman with her fist in the air rises above the corrugated walls of a kiosk.  The surfaces have first been painted back, and then the names of women murdered and subjected to repression have been hand lettered in white.

The number of names is extraordinary.  Each panel of the kiosk emphasizes repression directed towards a particular group.  One displays the names of women journalists.  Another lists indigenous activists.  It includes Bety Cariño, ambushed and killed as she brought support to an autonomous Triqui town in Oaxaca, and Digna Ochoa, defender of the poor, shot in her Mexico City office.  A third panel memorializes the 49 children burned to death in the ABC nursery.

On paper banners hung on strings at the edge of the curb are the words of ordinary women, giving account of abuse:  "Because of fear, because of reprisals, because I was not protected," or "Because he was family, I was afraid of what they'd think of me, and when I told my mother, and she told his mother, they said I'd probably provoked him," or simply, "He scares me."


Further up the Reforma is another permanent memorial.  Not far from the guarded facade of the U.S. Embassy, and the buildings housing rich banks and government offices, is the Ayotzinapa encampment.

Nine years ago, students set out in commandeered busses from their teachers' training school in Guerrero to the annual march commemorating the death of hundreds of students in the city's Tlateloco Plaza in 1968.  Forty three Ayotzinapa students were seized and disappeared.  Through those nine years the investigation into the crime's authors has reached into the highest levels of the government, especially the armed forces.  While previous administrations tried to pretend the students were simply victims of a narcotics cartel, it has become clear that there were deep political reasons for their murder.  

The Ayotzinapa school itself has been the target of the Mexican right for its history of training rural teachers.  The school gave students a radical and Marxist analysis of their country, preparing them to be social organizers, even revolutionaries.  It followed the tradition of one of its best known professors, Lucio Cabañas, who took up arms against the Mexican government in the 1960s.  

Over the years since the 43 murders, new generations of Ayotzinapa student have kept up pressure on the government by coming to the capital every month.  They have built a permanent camp on the Reforma, with cabins and shelters for sleeping and space for meetings.  Surrounding it are silkscreened images of the disappeared students, strung in rows on the shelter's walls, facing the traffic.  This planton, or encampment, even boasts a small library, cared for by Martin, one of a group dedicated to maintaining the space.

On September 28 the families of the 43 disappeared lifted another planton they'd maintained in front of the Military Camp #1 in Mexico City, after a new report from the Commission for Truth and Access to Justice authored by Undersecretary for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas.  Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated, “We have not abandoned the case, we are going to continue investigating it for the mothers and the fathers, for justice and also for our convictions."  He gave a new order to the army to release files on the case it had withheld, including documentation of the personal involvement of past President Enrique Peña Nieto in covering up the crime.

Public space is contested space for protest movements in any city.  In some, any effort to create a permanent presence is greeted with fire hoses, arrests and worse.  Mexico City has its own history of trying to sweep social movements out of sight.  But a tradition of popular protest is equally strong, including the planton.  It has popular recognition, which the government must take into account.



Perhaps the Ayotzinapa encampment, and the Glorieta de las Mujeres que Luchan (the Roundabout of the Women in Struggle) are products of a certain political moment.  But perhaps they will become as much a part of the recognized life of the city as the Angel of Independence.  The column with its winged statue has towered over the Reforma since 1910, the first year of the Mexican Revolution.

The two occupations of public space mark their own watershed in Mexican politics, and that change, with or without memorials, will perhaps last decades as well.