Margarito and Maria Esquino, refugees in Washington, D.C., received death threats this spring that they suspect came from members of El Salvadors ruling ARENA party. A few days later, their familys house in El Salvador was attacked, which left Margaritos father seriously wounded.
The Esquinos, who are spiritual leaders for indigenous Nahuatl communities of El Salvador and members of the National Association of Indigenous Salvadoreans, quickly spread the word of the attack to other indigenous councils throughout the Americas, which organized their own protests denouncing the incident. Similar demonstrations of solidarity occurred last summer during several stand-offs between indigenous groups and the Canadian government.
The loosely linked network that facilitated this hemispheric protest is the product of years of organizing by native peoples throughout North, South, and Central America to defend themselves in the midst of ongoing repression and injustice.
One vehicle that helped get this network off and running, so to speak, is the Peace and Dignity Journeys, first held in 1992 as an alternative commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus arrival in America. Peace and Dignity Journeys are spiritual runs made as an act of prayer to promote cultural interchange between indigenous peoples and heal the nations. Runners in the ceremony leave simultaneously from the northern and southern tips of the Americas, relaying until they meet in the ancient Mexican sacred center of Teotihuacan.
This years Peace and Dignity Journey began on May 1, with runners leaving from Chickaloon Village, Alaska, and Temuco, Argentina. The two legs of the journey will meet in Mexico on October 12, 1996. There are 15 runners coming from the north and 10 from the south.
Fresh runners are still needed to run from the north, as is gasoline money for support vehicles. For more information, contact: Tonatierra, Peace and Dignity Journey, P.O. Box 24009, Phoenix, AZ 85074; (602) 254-5230.