This vigil was begun by Father Roy Bourgeois (a Maryknoll priest at that time), who exposed the US government’s role in the 1980 massacre of four Maryknoll sisters in El Salvador. Father Roy bore witness to the US direct involvement in numerous juntas, interventions and massacres.
SOA Watch, from its inception outside the gates of Fort Benning in 1989, continues to expose the names of those responsible, tracing material support from the US to repressive military dictators and foreign governments. When we gather in sacred ceremony, we remember the names of thousands upon thousands of disappeared teachers, community and labor organizers, environmental activists, writers, journalists, poets, and priests. SOAW may be the longest-standing protest in our nation’s history. Yet, the US government still teaches the curriculum of torture and counterinsurgency that is applied throughout Latin America and in the Middle East.
For some years, I’ve been involved with the puppetistas, a convergence of street theatre artists who bring mythos and pathos to the poignant ceremonies of the three-day vigil. Again this November, people of faith and conviction will converge in deep learning, in non-violent expressions of outrage for past and present wrongs, and in sacred sorrow for those disappeared as a result of US hegemony. The experience of solidarity with artists recharges my batteries for the whole year. For many, the SOAW/ Border Encuentro is a life-changing experience.
The nonviolent direct action we have learned can be applied to many issues in our world, from pipelines and poverty to Palestine, making our resistance creative and vibrant. We can be joyful to have found each other in these challenging times. More than this, the growth of our resistance movements must exceed the proliferation of the violence perpetrated by our government.
This year the puppetistas are expanding our outreach to work with schools and community centers in the neighborhoods adjacent to the border wall, and we need your support in Nogales. SOAW is presently conducting a campaign to raise $40,000. If you can help us, please go to SOAW.org and click on “Contribute to a CrowdFunding Campaign.” Thank you and Godspeed to all Maryknoll Affiliate activists in the projects to which you commit.
*David Stocker is a writer, arts educator,
and activist from Rockford, Illinois.