Welcoming the Caravan to El Paso!

Global Exchange Executive Director Carleen Pickard has joined the Caravan for Peace!

I arrived Monday night to the main square in El Paso and thought ‘oh no, we’ve double booked the plaza for the Caravan for Peace arrival!’ as Mexican rock blasted through the empty downtown streets at 8:30pm. When I arrived to la Placita it turned out that the party atmosphere was for the Caravan’s arrival, pleasing the few hundred people that had gathered with banners of bienvenidos, candles, pan dulce and hot chocolate.

When the 2 buses arrived, the worn and bleary eyed caravaneros walked through an aisle of supporters and treated to a beautiful ceremony. Representatives from Border Network for Human Rights communities presented the Caravan with:

Javier Sicilia giving testimony to El Paso Council.

  • a symbol of Human Rights from East El Paso County;
  • a symbol of Justice from Mission Valley;
  • a symbol of Respect from Mission Valley;
  • a symbol of Peace from Southern Dona Ana County;
  • a symbol of Liberty from Las Cruces; and
  • a symbol of Dignity from North of Las Cruces.

Tuesday morning

We rose early, boarded our buses and sat in the audience as the City Hall council heard a resolution presented by Ruben Garcia of Annunciation House and other El Paso community members. Read into the record by Councilwoman Susie Byrd, the resolution calls on El Paso to endorse a voluntary Code of Conduct for gun sales developed by mayors across the U.S. (for more info on the problems with lax gun laws, watch ‘U.S. Guns: the Awful, Shocking Truth’), discuss drug policy, money laundering and prioritize human rights.

The Caravan outside the El Paso DEA offices.

With the support of more than 50 victims of the War on Drugs in the room, many holding photos of their loved ones, dead or missing family members, Javier Sicilia spoke in favour of the resolution and appealed to the Council by stating, “The United States helped create this war, so that’s why we come to you today to help us create peace.” Despite challenges from 2 community members about the resolution’s language concerning U.S. citizens’ right to bear arms and clarification about the resolution’s intent of a discussion on drug policy, the El Paso City Council passed the resolution with 7 votes in favour and 1 abstention.

Tuesday afternoon

We protested at the DEA offices, and over lunch victims met with members of the Border Network for Human Rights, and later Javier Sicilia spoke at the University of Texas – El Paso campus.

Annunciation House with names of victims of the War on Drugs projected onto it.

After a symbolic community signing of the voluntary Code of Conduct for firearm sales in the same la Placita the Caravan was welcomed to last night, we marched to the immigrant support center Annunciation House for a closing vigil. Names of the victims of the drug war were projected onto the side of the Annunciation building, while classical music played.

It was astounding to spend 35 minutes watching hundreds of names reach upwards with classical music playing through the streets as everyone sat in silence. I believe each of us re-committed our pledge to impact the dialogue in the United States on the war on Drugs as our El Paso hosts wished us well as we travel eastwards across Texas tomorrow morning.

Watch the names projected onto the Annunciation House:


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Check out Caravan photos from the road…

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Lend Your Support: Donations are still being accepted to help fund this important trip. Will you give?