I began embroidering this flag after I returned from a trip to Chiapas this summer. Together with a group of students, professors, artists, and activists, I participated in a three-week course offered by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, on the “Art, Migration, and Human Rights.” During our first week, we studied issues related to rights, nation states, borders and migrations. Our second week, guided by local activists and journalists, we visited migrant shelters, and spoke with migrants and human rights workers. And during our final week, we collaborated on the production of the multimedia Tome dossier: Art, Migration, and Human Rights, and (under the direction of Jesusa Rodríguez) in the preparation and performance of our culminating street performance, Mexico es una fosa común (Mexico Is a Mass Grave).
As a Canadian investigating issues of migration and human rights at Mexico’s southern border I grappled with the challenging relationship between representation and proximity. So many of the stories and images of the brutality experienced by Central American migrants as they journeyed north conveyed violence’s more intimate or proximal “faces”—those of gang members, of border guards, and of the politicians who orchestrated Plan Frontera Sur which has criminalized migration in southern Mexico and intensified insecurity through the “diffuse production of a surveilling gaze.”
The insecurity produced through the through the decentralization of “border security” has manifested a political and humanitarian crisis wherein Central American migrants fleeing physical violence and economic hardship in their home countries become the targets of violence and economic extortion all along the migrant route. (“Performance of Control and Security” Tome Dossier)
But what of the larger faceless machine? What of the network of geopolitical and economic forces?
Canadian mining companies play a major role in the machine that produces the conditions of violent dispossession of the Central American migrants. Moreover, as a 2015 report by MiningWatch Canada and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) illustrates, these companies operate with the economic and political support of the Canadian government:
… it is becoming ever more dangerous and difficult for affected communities and organizations who are fighting for Indigenous rights, self-determination and environmental justice in the Americas to speak out and do their work. As this situation worsens, the Canadian government has increasingly dedicated its diplomatic services, aid budget, and trade and investment policy to promote and favour the interests of Canadian mining companies and to influence decisions over extractive projects and related policies. The trend of repression and deregulation in Canada to favour mining, oil, and gas projects is consistent with the model that the Canadian government promotes abroad.
With the defeat of Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, and the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a new Liberal government, many Canadians are celebrating the return of “Canada the good.” Without a doubt there is cause for celebration. At the ballot box Canadians succeeded in changing the face our government. But what of the deep extractivist machine that underpins Canadian settler-nationalism at home and abroad?
This flag is dedicated to all those who have been dispossessed by Canadian mining corporations throughout Turtle Island, Latin America & beyond … The flag’s text is inspired by Eduardo Galeano‘s The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.