Javier Sicilia

Javier Sicilia will speak on the Stockton campus of University of the Pacific about the struggle to control the drug-related violence in Mexico.

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Pacific News

Award-winning Poet and Peace Activist to discuss Drug Violence in Mexico

Javier Sicilia led movement for peace after son’s death by drug cartel
By Rhashad PittmanApr 3, 2012

Although he was one of the most lauded poets in Mexico, Javier Sicilia vowed never to write another poem again after his son, an innocent, was killed by a drug cartel. Instead, the poet, novelist and essayist launched a movement to bring peace to his native country amid a drug war that has taken tens of thousands of lives.

Sicilia will share his experience and insight during a lecture at University of the Pacific on Wednesday, April 11. The event, which starts at 6 p.m., will be held in the Janet Leigh Theatre on Pacific's Stockton campus. Before the lecture, a reception will take place at 5 p.m. in the Regents Room. Both are free and open to the public. The event is co-sponsored by Pacific's School of International Studies, Inter-American program, Ethnic Studies program, English department, Humanities Center and the University's sustainability committee.

After Sicilia's lecture, "Mexico's National Emergency and the Role of the United States," Pacific students, faculty and staff will join local residents for a candlelight vigil for peace at St. Linus Church, at 2620 S. B St., and a silent march organized by Proyecto Voz of the American Friends Service Committee.   

"The problems of drug-related violence and the growing power of gangs and mafias are shared by Mexico and the U.S., and so we ought to seek a shared solution," said Pacific anthropology professor Analiese Richard, the event's lead organizer. "We've invited Javier Sicilia to speak at Pacific because he is part of a movement of everyday people from Mexico who have had enough of the violence between government forces and the cartels and are trying to address the problem of insecurity from the grassroots up."  

Before his passion turned to peace, Sicilia's focus was on letters as one of Latin America's best known contemporary poets and essayists. His numerous honors have included the Aguascalientes National Award in Poetry, one of the most prestigious prizes in Latin American literature. His work has been published in the Mexico City daily newspaper La Jornada and Proceso magazine. He has also written for film and television.

Sicilia currently serves as editor of Poesia magazine and is a professor of literature at Universidad La Salle in Cuernavaca. He also coordinates several writing workshops. But even in these roles, he has given up writing poetry after his son, university student Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega, was killed in 2011 by members of the Sinaloa cartel along with six other bystanders.

In the wake of his son's death, Sicilia started the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which calls for an end to militarization of law enforcement and a change in President Felipe Calderon's security policies in Mexico's War on Drugs. In the past six years, an estimated 60,000 civilians have been killed directly by drug cartels or in the cross fire between the cartels and local police. The large number of deaths has turned once vibrant communities into ghost towns.

Sicilia established the movement last year with a series of peaceful marches in which families of victims of violence and others from throughout the nation gathered in Mexico City to demand accountability from government officials. Since starting, the peace movement has mobilized tens of thousands of Mexicans. In recognition of his efforts to lead the movement, Sicilia was named one of Time Magazine's Persons of the Year for 2011.

"Too often insecurity is framed purely as a problem of growing criminality, but that leaves out factors like corruption, social inequality, injustice and impunity, preventing us from actually confronting the root causes," Richard said.  "I hope that Javier Sicilia's talk will offer us a fresh perspective on the root causes of insecurity in North America and that the vigil afterward will give us an opportunity to stand together with our neighbors and take action."  



about the author

Rhashad Pittman   Rhashad Pittman is the media relations coordinator at Pacific.