I met Fernando last week. He's in his sixties, short, chubby and gray-haired; a mechanical engineer, I believe, who lives in Monterrey, Mexico, home to four million people.
|Bodies of the slain.|
Fernando has had enough.
With the help of many others, Fernando has started a nonviolent movement in Monterrey, aimed first at stopping the bloodshed, then at transforming the social conditions causing it. Sound like a pipe-dream? Pie-in-the-sky idealism? Think again. Fernando and his friends recently persuaded the leaders of nearly 20 gangs, all of them sworn enemies, to sign a peace treaty. At the signing, many members of those gangs ended up dancing together, talking together, lighting candles and praying a peace prayer together. Will the peace hold? "We'll see," Fernando says, but he believes it's a start. Enough of a start that after the peace accord was struck, the Mexican government sent a representative to meet with Fernando and others in his organization, "Uno a Uno" ("One to One"). The man was supposed to learn what their secret was. What was happening in Monterrey, he said, could be a model for the rest of Mexico.
Maybe so. But Fernando, for now, is just worried about his city. About its thousands of young people, who are in danger of being a lost generation. About whatever gang member he happens to be talking with at the moment.
This nonviolence movement that Fernando started doesn't have lots of money. It doesn't have a board of directors, or even a steering committee. It doesn't engage in mass marketing or fancy public relations efforts. What it does have is heart. It has leaders who know well the dynamics of cartels and gangs and turf and revenge, because many of them have been active participants. It has an appreciation of how music and dance and graffiti and street art and festival can build community and offer an alternative message to the anti-gospel of violence and mayhem and nihilism and death. Perhaps most of all, it has a commitment to change that begins and ends with uno a uno contact. I talk to you, you talk to me. I be with you, you be with me. I live with you, you live with me. We reach some sort of understanding. We don't have to kill each other.
|A peace demonstration |
of 7,000 marchers in Monterrey.
Sometimes we in the United States despair at the breakdown of our economy, our political system, our society, our local communities, our planet's environment. We believe there's nothing that we can do. The problems seem too massive, too complex. They overwhelm us. We are too puny....
Never. All of us can be Fernando. Each in our own way. Each in our own place. One to one, we can each make a difference--in our homes, in our workplaces, among our neighbors, as citizens of this country, as inhabitants of Earth. Uno a Uno. Maybe we won't have to fear for our lives to do this, but sometimes we'll be afraid. And sometimes we'll make mistakes. But we can always know, just like Fernando and his friends: love does not quit.
Gracias, my amigo, Fernando. Y paz a Monterrey.