Veracruz, Mexico–Two months ago, a friend and I left Mexico City on our bikes and went south to explore the country. After a two-week stay in Orizaba and its surroundings, we traveled to Coatepec, a small town south of Xalapa, capital of Veracruz. Coatepec flourished in the early 20th Century due to its production of coffee, sugarcane and honey. However, due to changes in the world capitalist sphere of the 1970s, Coatepec had to abandon its agricultural origins and develop as a tourist-oriented economy, which meant the impoverishment of its farmers and, consequently, of its people. It is my parents’ hometown.
Last Saturday we rode to Xico, a town six miles away from Coatepec which has suffered almost the same fate. Crossing the San Marcos bridge, we realized our tires were flat, and we began looking for a mechanic. Local women led us to Don Pepe, a guy in his sixties who has a workshop at his house. He gladly agreed to help us and, while we were waiting, he began sharing all sorts of tales and advice.
He told us about the local organization of birdwatchers, to which his father used to belong, who aim to protect endangered species from illegal hunters. “One or another afternoon I still see black or red toucans standing on that tree,” he said. He also told us of the 20-plus kinds of bananas one can find around there and warned us about the poisonous snakes in the zone. My friend and I were sitting on the floor listening to him, amazed as little children around their grandfather on a fresh sunny afternoon. Then Don Pepe shared with us his most wonderful treasure—the story of the people of San Marcos in defense of their water.
Joined by his older brother Luis, they told us how a landlord wanted to sell the access to a spring next to his property to a private company. The people immediately reacted because this would mean no more water for them, and they stopped the robbery before it took place. “If you go on this road, you’ll find the spring. Go and drink that water. It’s so clean and healthy that you’ll want to come back and drink it every day,” Don Pepe said.
We thought of all the banners that we have seen throughout the region about the defense of the forest, land and water. The central zone of Veracruz is graciously touched by Mother Nature, as if life flourishes without any effort. Coca-Cola, Bimbo, Nestlé and other companies have already planted their tentacles here, trying to turn free natural richness into “natural resources” for narrow capitalist uses.
They’d want to deepen this, but people are organizing everywhere—most of the time invisibly—to stop not just the destruction of nature, but of the human species itself. The story of San Marcos is just one within the mosaic of struggles—taking part not only in Veracruz, but in the whole country, continent and world!!! That is where people and life stand on one side and capitalism on the other. How to turn these pieces of resistance into the colorful picture of a new, free, reconciled world?
“Your bikes are ready,” said Don Pepe, bringing us back from our wonderings. Shaking our hands with a big smile in our faces, we said goodbye and continued our trip.