Global Exchange Caravan for Peace interns Chelsea (left) and Louise (right) at a rest stop along the Caravan route

The following is a post by GX/Caravan intern Chelsea Brown, who is traveling with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Global Exchange Executive Director Carleen Pickard who traveled last week on the Caravan, describes Chelsea as the “calmest force behind the Caravan for Peace scenes.”

As the Caravan for Peace rolls along its ambitious route of 25 American cities in 30 days, we have been participating in marches, rallies, protests, and vigils to raise public awareness about the immense number of lives lost to the drug war in Mexico and in the U.S. We seek to not only be seen, but to be heard: to raise our voices in unison so civil society and policy makers from coast to coast will know our demands.

Caravan chanter in Laredo TX. Photo Credit: Global Exchange

Here is a bi-lingual breakdown of our most common shouts so you can jump right in if the Caravan comes to a town near you, followed by a video of chants in action:

Some gritos (yells) the Caravan participants use originated with the initial mass mobilizations in Mexico of the Movimiento por la Paz (Movement for Peace), where bereaved families and civil society activists began to demand government accountability for the atrocities resulting from drug war policies.

Caravan for Peace chanters

Today members of the Movimiento continue to voice their outrage about the Mexican government’s failure to provide assistance in the search for the disappeared, chanting: “Vivos los llevaron! ! Vivos los queremos!” (Alive, they took them. Alive, we want them!) This grito corresponds with the posters that the family members of the victims hold with them, showing the faces of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters that were kidnapped or forcibly disappeared, with no trace of their whereabouts.

Javier Sicilia and fellow Caravaneros chanting

Another popular chant is “Que queremos? Justicia! Cuando? Ahora!” (“What do we want? Justice! When? Now!”)  This refers to facts like only 2% of the crimes in Mexico are investigated and solved. This statistic is even more shocking given what Javier Sicilia frequently describes during speeches as the 72,000 murders connected to the drug war that have occurred during President Calderon’s term in office.

While the Caravan was in the Southwest, we were either close to or actually touching the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Many Caravan allied organizations in this region focus on immigration reform and holding the government accountable for the human rights abuses perpetrated against migrants. So some common gritos have been borrowed from those commonly used in the immigration reform movement, including “ningun ser human es illegal!” (no human is illegal!)  and the classic “el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!”  (the people, united, will never be defeated).

Chanters on both sides of the Rio Grande chanting back and forth.

Another gritos session took place across a river, the Rio Grande, to be specific. At sunset on August 22nd, after a 10 hour journey from El Paso, the Caravan went directly to the bridge that spans the river dividing Laredo, TX from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Mexican civil society groups gathered on the Mexico side, while across the narrow river we bellowed gritos of solidarity and of hope, including “Obama, eschucha, estamos en la lucha!” (Obama, listen, we are in the fight!)

Caravan participants at the Vigil for Peace in Brownsville, TX

A few nights later, we stood at the metal fence in Brownsville, Texas, the tip of the state where the border dips into the Gulf of Mexico. Into the darkness on the other side, members of the Caravan and local families yelled the names of loved ones lost to drug war-related violence: an endless roll call of pre-maturely dead. The entire crowd would respond with a shiver-inducing cry in unison “PRESENTE!” (PRESENT!)

The Caravan is traveling across the U.S. demanding peace with justice and dignity and an end to the senseless drug wars rending families and communities across the continent. We are present, we are united, and we will not be defeated.

Join us as we continue our gritos along the Caravan route. Below are ways you can take action in support of the Caravan for Peace, but first, here’s that video of chants in action that I promised you:


Follow the Caravan on…


Check out Caravan photos from the road…

Facebook: Southern California photosSouth-West photos. Texas photos.

LEND YOUR SUPPORT: Donations are still needed, now more than ever, to help fund this important trip. Will you give?