Letter from Mexico: Ecological protest in Xochimilco

August 29, 2020

From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Héctor

Photo by Ángeles for News & Letters

Mexico City—On July 31 I participated with a group of around 50 bikers in a protest against the construction of a bridge that would destroy the wetland of Xochimilco, one of the few natural zones remaining in the city. We joined locals in the protest, and for nearly two hours occupied the avenue where the bridge is being built. A few drivers yelled at us for stopping traffic, but several others honked their horns and made signs of support.


The bridge was announced last year by Mexico City’s mayor, along with many other “development” projects, and is supposed to help solve the enormous traffic problems in the city. The locals from Xochimilco, several of them small farmers and merchants, realized the negative consequences this would bring to their own activity and to the environment, and organized as Coordinación de Pueblos, Barrios Originarios y Colonias de Xochimilco (Coordination of Peoples, Native Barrios and Neighborhoods of Xochimilco). They began a legal action against the bridge.

Although a judge responded favorably, he then let the project continue because it supposedly met all the environmental, social and safety requirements. Since then, the protests have intensified, both online and in person. The biking action on July 31 was the second one in the last three weeks. A third one is expected soon.

By the end of our demonstration, a representative from the city government came to the site and offered a dialogue on Monday morning to “arrive at a solution.” The locals from the Coordinación responded fiercely that there was nothing to negotiate, that their only demand was that the bridge construction be cancelled, and that they would talk to no one but the city mayor herself. She happily attends public ceremonies on weekends, but lets this situation wait until a “work day.”

“See our good intention to negotiate,” said the functionary, “We didn’t send in the police.” We immediately booed him. Around 7:00 PM, with the cool breeze and the soft light of the early evening refreshing our faces, we began our ride back home.

This was a most exciting and effective activity, as it really caught the attention of the government and a couple media corporations. It also might have raised some consciousness among drivers of the big pollution issues in the city and the use of bikes as an alternative means of transportation.

However, one can’t help but ask: What comes next? Will the legal action against the bridge, together with mass protest, be enough to stop it? Will the government respect its own rules? How many more actions will be needed? What will happen with all the other projects that are being realized throughout the city, the whole country, as part of the “developmentalist” policy of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s federal administration?


Developmentalism is the law of motion of capitalism. It is constantly looking for new areas of investment where, through the exploitation of labor, it can accumulate more and more profits. It doesn’t matter whether these areas are natural reserves or belong to small farmers. Capitalism sees nothing but accumulation.

This is what is destroying the Earth and, consequently, our own physical and mental resistance to diseases. Only a theoretical/practical united view against capitalism can help us fight this problem at its roots. The question is how to build this with the broadest participation of all the subjects: Native peoples, workers, students, and those who don’t want to keep on living in this rotten system and are aiming for a different kind of life. Maybe details of that life are still to be determined, but it will definitely be human, whole and free.

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