Maiz y el Pais: Political Violence in Mexico and Corn’s Lessons for Justice

Luz Rivera Martinez of the Consejo National Urbano Campesino (CNUC) and George Caffentzis in conversation.

Friday, February 20, 6-8PM. Room 9204


Headlines about Mexico are wildly divergent. While business magazines proclaim “the Mexican Moment” emerging from a slate of recent reforms, news of the murder and disappearance of nearly 50 rural teacher’s college students by police quickly silenced the applause.

Attacks on the Zapatistas, imprisonment of indigenous leaders defending water, and cover-ups of military executions all point to a rise in extra-judicial violence. Add to this the fact that the recent “reforms” were no less than the privatization of oil, communications, and education resources left pending after NAFTA, and you can see the extent of the turmoil.

But instead of a “troubled neighbor south of the border,” Mexico is home to inspiring movements building autonomy and justice with dignity against great obstacles.

Join Luz Rivera Martinez as she speaks about her 20 years of experience constructing autonomy, organizing outside the electoral system, and resisting genetically modified corn while protecting millennia-old varieties. She works with peasant families in Tlaxcala, Mexico – a state where corn originated, whose name means “place of the corn tortilla,” and where 52 natural varieties of corn are planted. This bountiful grain was created over thousands of years, primarily by women, and has now come to feed the world.


Just as corn is a gift of sustenance and rejuvenation Mexicans have given to all of humanity, Mexican movements such as Luz’s Consejo Nacional Urbano Campesino (CNUC) are guiding us toward daybreak after the long, cold night of neoliberalism.

George Caffentzis will join Luz in conversation with an update on the present status of the Zapatistas’ project



Luz Rivera established CNUC in the early 1990s to coordinate resistance to the impending North American Free Trade Agreement, especially regarding its dismemberment of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, which enshrined the Mexican Revolution’s battle cry that “the land belongs to those who work it.” Luz and the members of CNUC knew that NAFTA would decimate the small-scale agricultural sector that the Revolution had established at such a great cost.

As CNUC’s lead organizer, Luz has worked tirelessly to demand government accountability, defend family farms, resist the use of GMO seeds, and build inspiring, community-based autonomous projects. CNUC has a long history of disposing of corrupt leaders, democratizing the budget, coordinating community-driven infrastructure projects, including peoples’ history in education, and expanding access to healthcare.

CNUC also joins voices with organizations around Mexico and around the world denouncing State-sponsored violence and rebuilding the social fabric. As an adherent to the Zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration – an international network of organizations struggling against neoliberalism and for autonomy from the grassroots – Luz and CNUC fight tirelessly to build “a world where many worlds fit,” a world for the people of all the colors of corn.

George Caffentzis is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine, and a member of the Midnight Notes Collective and Strike Debt. He has written extensively on commoning and enclosures, especially since teaching at the University of Calabar in Nigeria for five years in the mid-1980s. That is where and when he realized that primitive accumulation of capitalism is an on-going process and that commoning has been an essential weapon in class struggle. His articles on the commons and commoning include “Commons Against and Beyond Capitalism” (with Silvia Federici), and “The Future of ‘The Commons’: Neoliberalism’s ‘Plan B’ or the Original Disaccumulation of Capital?”

The Mexico Solidarity Network is an organization dedicated to popular education and autonomous community organizing. In addition to our community work in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood and speaking tours, MSN also administers a unique, social justice-oriented study abroad program that allows students to learn about grassroots movements in Mexico by living with the families that comprise them, including members of CNUC. For more information, visit

This event is sponsored by The Mexico-US Solidarity Network and Center for Place Culture and Politics, Graduate Center, CUNY.  The event is free and open to the public.


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