Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

Legalization Is a Human Rights Issue: Latin America Steps up Resolve to End the Drug Wars

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Politics and Democracy Page.

Seattle's South Park neighborhood has seen its share of drug-related crime and violence. Many of its residents are recent immigrants from Mexico; some came north fleeing the drug cartel violence that has ravaged their home communities. So the South Park Community Center was a poignant venue for Mexican poet, writer, and activist Javier Sicilia to speak about his campaign to end the drug war in his home country. He began the evening with a moment of silence for all the lives lost - somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 - since the Mexican government stepped up the war against drug cartels in 2006. Then, his commanding voice heavy with grief, Sicilia read a poem:

All absence is cruel

and nonetheless, remains like a space that comes from the dead,

from the bleached roots of the past.

Where might we turn?

Sicilia wrote this poem, "The Survivor," in 2009. Two years later, he became a survivor of heartbreaking absence himself, when his 24-year-old son was murdered, with six of his friends, by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. With the cruel loss of his son, Sicilia did not know where to turn. He wrote a final poem dedicated to his son, Juan Francisco, and then renounced writing poetry.

Nonetheless, Sicilia continues to write tirelessly: essays, journalism, and speeches protesting Mexico's drug war. He has called international attention to the war's almost unspeakable violence, in which, as he described it that evening in South Park: "[People are] decapitated, dismembered, stuffed into trash bags and left under bridges, put into crematoria or barrels of acid so that even their fingerprints are erased. So all physical evidence is erased. There is no list of the tens of thousands who have disappeared. There are no fingerprints."