Until dignity becomes the custom
Francisca Francisco Marcial, accompanied bu her two children: José Luis and Estela Hernández Jiménez. Photo: María Meléndez Parada, La Jornada
By: Francisco López Bárcenas 
Everything was going according to what was programmed until Estela Hernández, the daughter of Jacinta Francisco Marcial,  took the microphone and spoke her word. It was straight to the point from the beginning. She said that it was lamentable and shameful that 11 years has passed before the Attorney General of the Republic would recognize, obliged by a judge, that the process against her mother, the same as that against Alberta Alcántara and Teresa Hernández, the three Hñahñu women accused of kidnapping six federal police in August 2006, was an error. The Jaime Torres Bodet Auditorium, in the National Museum of Anthropology, murmured, and ceded its place to a silence more solemn than the act itself. The act prepared in order that the Mexican State would recognize the innocence of the three women unjustly processed and would offer them a public apology was transformed into a space for denouncing the state’s repression, the lack of justice, the insecurity, discrimination and racism.
It’s probable that Teresa would not see the effect that her words caused among those present, above all the discomfort in which it placed the attorney general of the Republic, located at the centre of the scenario. She narrated how her mother was arrested, sentenced and then released, thanks to support from the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre. “It’s a simple example of the many illegal arbitrary acts that authorities who have an official title, appointment and recognition commit in our country that is Mexico,” she said, and added: “Now it is known that it’s not necessarily the criminals that are in prison, it’s the poor that don’t have money, those without the knowledge to defend themselves, those the powerful subject to their will.” Next she was asked: “How many innocent people are in prison today for a crime they didn’t commit or for a non-existent crime? How many kidnappers, criminals authorized with a title and legally appointed go free, charging our taxes, incarcerating, persecuting or harassing with a fabricated crime?”
Then she referred to the motive for the event. She said that the public apology and recognition of innocence that the PGR offered her mother and the two other Hñahñu women that day was not enough to repair the damage that the false accusation and simulated process had caused them. She clarified that they did not want the money for the reparation of the damage because their wealth is not based on money: “Our existence today has to do with our solidarity with the 43 teachers college students that are missing, with the thousands of dead, disappeared and persecuted, with our political prisoners, with my fallen teacher compañeros, with my compañeros that are hunted for defending what rightly belongs to us. I ask for them because that is the treatment we receive for seeking better living and working conditions.” And she continued in that direction. “To the current victims, to my brother social fighters, to my fellow teachers that are fighting, to the fallen, the disappeared, incarcerated, exiled, persecuted, terrorized that defend and fight in favour of human rights, I want to tell you that after experiencing this State terrorism, we assume the pain and we conquer fear so that victory will be ours.”
These are the three women that were wrongly accused, convicted and imprisoned for kidnapping 6 police agents!
While I was listening to her, I was thinking that the event was similar in many ways to the public trials that indigenous communities hold for those who violate their norms of co-existence, where when they already have the evidence they exhibit it in front of those affected. Estela Hernández, converted into the voice of Mexico’s aggrieved, pointed to the institutions responsible: the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples and the National Human Rights Commission, which were both quiet “despite knowing about the case and told us that nothing could be done because it was a very serious crime.” She demanded that they are put to work for truth, and that they not only make recommendations when other non-governmental institutions have already made them. She told the Attorney General of the Republic that they were not content or happy about the act of apology and she asked that he cease the repression against the indigenous peoples, the persecution of social fighters and demanded the liberation of political prisoners, “whose only crime is aspiring to better conditions of work, life and a just and dignified homeland.”
And she closed with a convincing phrase: “This case changed the way we look at life. We now know that it isn’t necessary to commit a crime to be disappeared, persecuted or be put in prison. For those of us that continue fighting for liberty, justice, democracy and the sovereignty of Mexico, for our homeland, for life, for humanity, we are always and forever with you, […] until dignity becomes the custom.” Her words were marked by the applause of those present that stood up and agreed with the message. At the end of the event, we all left the place thinking that the governmental apology and recognition that the rights of the three indigenous women that had been violated were important, but their greater relevance would be that we should work so that it didn’t happen again, because no reason exists for it to be repeated.
 Francisco López Bárcenas is an indigenous lawyer and writer from Oaxaca
 Read Jacinta’s story here: http://centroprodh.org.mx/en/?p=453
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee