Cancun Dispatch, 8/26

These are my daily reports from Cancun, written in haste and
mostly very late at night. I think you’ll see from the reports that
I barely have time to bang them out, without editing or polishing.
I’m not here at this action as a journalist, however, but as an
organizer who is juggling a whole lot of plates, as are all of us
here on the ground. I’ll keep doing them as often and as long as I
can, and if you read through them it should give you a sense of
what it’s like to help organize a large summit action. Resources
are still needed to help bring students and to support the creative
actions-details are on

CANCUN CITY, MEXICO — Arriving last night to help organize the
mobilization against the upcoming ministerial of the World Trade
Organization, I’m struck by how Cancun City is, in its own way, a
perfect example of the model of globalization we’re fighting
against. The city is crunched between the jungle and the sea, on
the mainland just where the long, skinny, island of the hotel zone
launches out into the blue bay. The island is cool and breezy,
shaped like a 7, with Cancun City at the upper tip, the airport at
the lower, and the conference center where the ministerial will
take place at the jutting point. The city itself is hot and sticky,
an open-air sauna where all the hotel workers live. There is
nothing on the island but big hotels and a few malls and shops for
the tourists, all on a gigantic scale, like Las Vegas with waves
beyond the sand. There are glossy modern hotels and pseudo-Mayan
temples and faux Colonial mansions and huge resorts hidden from the
common view by gates and fences, where those who have the money can
repose at their leisure while those who serve take the bus home
each night to a simple palapa that probably has no flush

Six of us arrived together last night from northern California
and met up with some of the rest of our team who had come from
Texas. Part of our goal is to create an eco-camp for the
encampments being planned for the thousands of campesinos and
students who will soon arrive. We got in late in the evening, took
a a taxi to the house occupied by the Puente de Cancun, a group of
internationals here to help set up a media convergence and help
network with others who are coming. Lisa and Juniper, our friends
from Texas, had come in early and were at a meeting, so we went
over to the house rented by the Comite de Bienvenidos, the local
group arranging spaces and organizing forums. We all met up, went
out, drank beer, and reconnected with others we’d met a few weeks
ago who are also organizing. Hector is working with the youth and
the cultural events and also with the Comite — he is tall and lean
and a great dancer. Last time we were here there was music every
night at the Parque de Palapas, the central park of downtown Cancun
with a stage covered by a tall, steep, thatched pyramid of a roof,
and we danced salsa in the hot, sticky, midnight air. Cesar is
working on networking with unions and doing outreach — he is small
and fiery. Agostin is a sandy-haired Argentine who seems to pick up
a lot of the pieces. Anna and Otto are students from the group we
met in Mexico City. Ramor from the Puente brought his beautiful
baby out, and there were others who had just arrived and we all
felt festive, though very tired. We gathered our stuff and piled
into taxis and our rented car and went to the house we’d just
managed to acquire, a big, lovely residence a bit far from the
center of town but with lots of big rooms and a refrigerator and
four bathrooms and even air conditioning! Since we are expecting
another 30 or so of our closest friends to join us soon, we needed
a big place and may even look for another to rent.

We wake up in the morning and eat breakfast and meet before four
of us go out to the Casa de la Cultura to look at the site where we
are expecting to have the encampments. It’s a big complex
surrounded by four or five soccer fields, all bare and blisteringly
hot. Like most places in the tropics, the soil here is not very
fertile — all the fertility is locked in the biomass of trees and
plants, but when they are removed the earth becomes a hard,
alkaline plain. Around the edges of the fields, though, are lush
patches of green, giant grasses, fine-leaved acacias with beautiful
orange flowers, guava trees, and others I’m not familiar with.
Leaving my own bioregion, where I know all the trees and most of
the other plants, and coming to this exuberant jungle is like going
to a wild party where you hardly know a soul.

We find lots of potential resources — rock, plenty of material
to cut for mulch, even broken tiles for mosaics. Workmen are busy
pruning and cutting grass with their machetes and making piles of
just what we need for compost and brush berms and other
permaculture techniques. A man comes out of the main building and
greets us amiably. ‘Oh, you must be preparing for the event,’ he
says. When Erik explains to him what we’re doing, he goes to talk
to the workmen to ask them to leave the brush piles for us.

Then we all pile into the car and drive out to walk around the
conference center before the security zone is established. The
center is a huge, concrete building surrounded by huge, concrete
buildings, giant restaurants, a shopping mall (where a couple of
weeks ago I got a $3.50 single-dip cone of ice cream), and big
hotels where we’d popped in on our earlier trip to sit at the bar
while tourists got on stage and embarrassed themselves amid really
bad music Now some of our group goes for a swim at the small public
beach behind the giant hotels, while we sit and watch pelicans
diving a few feet away from us. Two of them seem to be a mated pair
who must have been ice dancers in a former life. They wheel and
turn and dive in perfect unison, hitting the water with wings
spread elegantly.

We circle up on the beach, make an offering to the waves of
waters of the world, water we’ve collected over many years from
sacred places and political actions. We ask for help from the land
and the sea and whatever powers lie behind them. It seems all too
likely that we’ll need it.

We spend the rest of the day eating lunch and shopping for
necessities and gossiping about all the convoluted internal
politics of the various organizations involved in this action and
tracking down Maria Elena, who is working with UNORCA, the
campesino organization, and helping to plan the encampments. She
schedules a meeting for us with someone in the city administration
and stresses that we need to deliver our proposal in Spanish and
dress a bit more professionally. So we spend a long evening
hammering out our ideas for graywater systems and compost bins and
rainwater catchment and writing up materials lists and talking
points. And now it’s 1:30 a.m., and if I end this and go to bed it
will be the earliest I’ve gotten to sleep in days — while Mars
hovers closer to the Earth than he’s been in 60,000 years. We learn
that a planeload of federales arrived tonight and told the media
that they will not tolerate illegal activity; they intend to return
‘an eye for an eye.’ Does that mean, I wonder, that if we sit down
quietly and peacefully in the road they will join us?

Somehow I don’t think so. Good night.

Starhawk, committed global justice activist and organizer,
will be reporting for
Utne each day during the WTO
Ministerial in Cancun City, Mexico. She is the author or co-author
of nine books, including
The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred
Thing, and Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising.
She is a veteran of progressive movements, from anti-war to
anti-nukes, is a highly influential voice in the revival of Goddess
religion, and has brought many innovative techniques of
spirituality and magic to her political work. She works with the
RANT collective, which offers training and organizing support for
peace and global justice movements, with Reclaiming, offering
training in earth-based ritual, healing, and community building,
and teaches Earth Activist Trainings in combining permaculture
design and organizing skills.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.