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Memory by Resistance

This is a speculative timeline that takes place in Mexico and looks into its present and near future. The beginning of the timeline starts off with real events (referenced when possible) that occurred in September 2014. Continuing the flurry of almost unreal events that took place the following six months, this project extrapolates signs and actual actions into their probable outcomes.

1. Resistance through memory

Do you remember that September 26 of 2014? The most severe social conflict of this generation exploded in Mexico.
The disappearance of 43 students by a coalition of the corrupt government and the ever-more-powerful narco set off some of the biggest demonstrations in recent national history.
For the next few years, people had been taking the streets in every major city every month on its 26th day, to demand justice and some sort of willful acknowledgment on the state’s behalf about the rotted condition of the institutional powers. What we got, instead, were lame press conferences that tried to explain (each time with more theatricality and bad taste, but also with outstandingly poor credibility) what really happened, how the state was unaware and that such event was a localized burst of isolated corruption.

The government went so far as to declare the “historical truth,” without the results of the Argentinian forensics team that was independently hired, and then discredited, nor the complete results from the world’s leading DNA analysis institution.

2. November 2014

For months the struggle for the truth continued in the streets. It was relentlessly repressed by the police, jailing innocent bystanders, even restaurant hostesses and children. It was also said that many of the vandalic acts, viciously condemned and overexposed by media, were actually enacted by undercover policemen and military agents.

3. May 2015

However, the citizen’s savvy use of social networks prevented the abuses from staying in the dark and were eventually abandoned. The clash of these two oppositions resulted in a steep decline in popularity of the government’s top officials, both within the country and abroad, a fact that really harmed the establishment, something that they wouldn’t let happen again.

4. May 2016

In the coming months and years an even bigger, but stealthier, method of repression took form. Street photography was effectively banned, and severely restricted even for journalists.

The government hijacked social networks by altering the news and events that became popular and those that weren’t. The first documented strategy to achieve this was by hiring hordes of human “bots” that tweeted and published approved content.

5. Aug. 2017

Afterwards, more aggressive stances would take place: several web services were censored and servers were seized, authors prosecuted for defamation, journalists censored or mysteriously fired, illegal detention and torture became a standard operating procedure.

6. 2020

Over the years, public figures with a record of publishing unaligned content became quieter over time. Suspiciously, their numbers have been steadily declining, both in cyberspace and AFK. The official explanation (isn’t an explanation already suspicious, in the first place?) was that most of them were already aging and probably died of natural causes. Senate employees: dissidents Government employees that showed any sign of approval for counter-system ideas were fired, if not trialled and incarcerated.

7. 2021

In spite of all the systemic pressure, the people have not forgotten about the 43 students. Not only it hasn’t dissolved from the public conscience, it has also become a synonym for forced censorship. As the Internet became a more and more dangerous place for dissidence, people turned to analogue technologies to guard social memories and to keep track of new events. Due to the renewed importance of the physical, untraceable objects, printers, designers and artists have been crucial in the production of these disobedient objects. Illegal Printers jailed

8. August 2021

As expected, raids have been executed in every major city to detect and shut down print shops that support, produce or distribute ‘subversive material’. The last printer that was jailed was also trialled for treason to the nation, in one of the most visible cases of public punishments.

9. 2022

As expected, the printers jailing provoked a flurry of discontent nation-wide. The first street mobilizations were swiftly crushed, only to make the anger more and more widespread. As usual, the first groups to act were farmers and the last agricultural union. This time, they were not involved through direct action. However, controlling the production and distribution of fruits and vegetables, staples of the everyman’s diet, they decided to ‘mark’ every batch with the same number, effectively spreading a symbol to every house, market and city in the country.

Invisible to the eyes of the surveillance state (or submissively ignored, probably due to heavy leverage), the food stamps made a big impact everywhere, inspiring everyone from grassroots activism to corporate decision-makers. In the next few weeks, more and more interventions sprouted across the board. Especially, if it had to do with sequencing, serial identification or statistical control, the more effective the subversion.

This intervention, one of the boldest to date that printed the name of each of the disappeared students on the tickets, plays on the memories of the first protests of 2014, in which people counted from 1 to 43, one for every missing student.

Of course the people making these interventions operate in a clandestine manner in order to not get caught. Most messages are very subtle, identifiable only by the trained eye, which makes them hard to spot at a glance. This characteristic has triggered a scavenger hunt of sorts, with hundreds of young people collecting these messages. It has to be said that some of these hacks, beyond the subversive intentions, have an almost poetic flair to them.

Every opportunity is ripe for disobedience, starting off at the symbolic level. People from every part of society has been taking action in their own hands, and the collective action of memory now takes place everywhere, from the supermarket aisle to the waiting lines in shops.

1.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014
Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 2nd Press Conference, streamed Live on Nov 7, 2014
For the "historic truth" conference, click here.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 The door of the Government Palace is set to flames by undercover police officers in the middle of a protest, Nov 9, 2014

2.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Phone cameras and social networks documented the reality on the streets, that which mainstream media decided to censor.

3.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Street photography banned, 2016

4.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Platforms like Google’s Youtube documented and spread every single meme, image or video that mocked –or exposed– government officials.

5.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Protest on Senate building

6.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Illegal Printers, jailed

7.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Dissident Fruit Stamps

8.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 This countdown was a staple of the Ayotzinapa protests.
Video courtesy of Tania Hernández.

9.

Protest in Mexico City, Nov 22, 2014 Hidden messages found on Fortune Cookies.
[It was the State] [They buried us, didn’t know we were seeds]