Saturday, June 20, 2009

David Bacon on Blanca Navidad

Noted photographer and author David Bacon has allowed us to print this ImmigrationProf exclusive, with photos.  We appreciate this and previous contributions by David.

NUEVO LAREDO, MEXICO - 05JUNE09 - The people of the settlement of Blanca Navidad, on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo, just south of the U.S. border. This community was created by workers looking for land to build a place to live, and was founded on December 22, 2004. They called it Blanca Navidad (White Christmas) because they say it snowed in the desert on the day they arrived to begin building their homes. The barrio is part of a network of radical communities on the border, and throughout Mexico, sympathetic with the Zapatista movement. Most of its 1000 residents work in the maquiladoras.

Local authorities tried to force people to move and even brought out bulldozers to tear the homes down. On February 1, 2006 people were forced from their houses, often with just clothes and blankets. In their efforts to recover their community, residents were supported by Nuevo Laredo's progressive daily newspaper, El Mañana, and by the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. After a visit from a delegation of Zapatista leaders in La Otra Campaña, "people began to realize that, in reality, Blanca Navidad still existed as a community," says community leader Blanca Enriquez. During the May, 2006 government attack on the town of Atenco outside Mexico City, Blanca Navidad residents demonstrated in their support, and briefly shut down the "Free Trade Bridge" connecting Nuevo Laredo to Laredo, Texas.

Although the barrio still has no electricity and sewage service, residents were able to force authorities to provide drinking water. Today Blanca Navidad has a community garden, a tortilleria, a community clinic, and activists who practice alternative medicine.

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