Poetry News

Poet Javier Sicilia leads 150,000 in march against Mexican drug violence

By Harriet Staff

In a report on Mexican poet Javier Sicilia's three-day "silent march" from Cuernavaca to the Mexican capitol that began last Thursday, CNN looks at how the well known literary figure turned activist after the death of his 24-year-old son in March. Found with six others who had apparently died of suffocation after being wrapped with masking tape and left inside a car, his son's death fit the pattern of drug-trade related killings in Mexico — killings designed to send a message to the government to cease its "war on drugs." In these killings, the choice of victim is often arbitrary, something that instills even more fear in the ordinary people caught between the cartels and the police. Since 2006, these "messages" have claimed the lives of more than 34,600 people.

Sicilia's goal is to move the government to action, calling for citizens to take to the streets and for the resignation of officials in Cuernavaca and the state of Morelos. But he is doing this for more than to bring justice for his son. While his family's tragedy was high profile, Sicilia's movement is about putting the faces and names on all of the victims, not just the ones who make the news: "There are many dead, and there is much pain. ... These citizens have the same dignity as my son." Along the stretch between Cuernavaca and Mexico City, marchers placed plaques in honor of the dead. Police estimate that more than 150,00 marched with Sicilia at some point in his journey, according to the New York Times.

Sicilia first made his commitment known less than a week after his son's death, when he read what would be his last poem.

"The world is no longer dignified enough for words," he said, according to the state-run Notimex news agency.

"This is my last poem, I cannot write more poetry," he concluded. "Poetry no longer exists inside me."

In an open letter "to politicians and criminals" published in the April 3 edition of the magazine Proceso, Sicilia quoted French existentialist Albert Camus and German writer Bertolt Brecht, as he urged Mexicans to take to the streets.

"We do not want one more man, one of our sons, killed," he wrote, calling for "a national movement that we must keep alive to destroy the fear and isolation put in our minds and souls by your incompetence, politicians and your cruelty, criminals."

Originally Published: May 9th, 2011