This week I’m traveling in Mexico as part of a unique State Department delegation, bringing American social-media professionals together with Mexican public and private efforts working on building civic society. In particular, the trip is focused on bolstering civic participation efforts aimed at countering the enormous spike in narco-violence in Mexico, including the state of Chihuahua, whose capital Ciudad Juarez we visited on Monday and Tuesday. I’m joined on the trip by colleagues from Facebook, Google, AT&T, MIT Media Lab, and several other leading social-media professionals.
This has been the definition of a whirlwind tour, with something like 9 official meetings and several sidebar get-togethers or working meals shoved into the first three days. We’ve met with NGO’s, students, private foundations, and government officials. I’ll write more about the issues and discussions we had in the next few days, but in the meantime you can also read the State Department’s official DipNote blog coverage.
The woman to my left in the photo is Suzanne Hall, the State Department’s Public Diplomacy Advisor for Canada and Mexico in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, who led in setting up the delegation and is the very embodiment of the new American diplomacy: hyper-professional, energetically motivated, and passionately committed to addressing issues of transnational importance. “Soft power” indeed. She’s also a new-media specialist (I recommend you follow her on Twitter).
The other man in the photo, though, epitomizes the focus of our trip: he is Elías Kuri, founder of the Iluminemos México movement, which is approaching its first anniversary at the end of this month. On August 30, 2008, an estimated 2 million people joined a historic “march against violence” in 88 cities across Mexico and 6 other countries. These millions “illuminated the night” with their candles in a mass demonstration against the horror of the recent kidnapping and brutal murder of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, the son of a businessman, symptomatic of the crime, kidnapping, murder, fear, and insecurity which have gripped large areas in Mexico.
Elías is a very impressive man – he reminds me of César Chávez, to be honest, whom I had the good fortune to meet back when I worked for the Mayor of San Jose, California, a place he did much of his work. Elías spoke quietly but passionately yesterday with us in Mexico City about the goals and early successes of Illuminemos, and the online and offline projects they’re launching. You can visit Iluminemos México at http://www.iluminemosmexico.org.mx/.
Filed under: Government, Society, Technology Tagged: | activism, AT&T, blogging, blogs, Cesar Chavez, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juarez, diplomacy, DipNote, DoS, drug violence, drugs, Elías Kuri, Facebook, Fernando Marti, Google, gov20, Government, Illuminemos, international, international politics, international relations, Juarez, Media Lab, Mexico, MIT, MIT Media Lab, narco-violence, new media, politics, social media, social software, soft power, State Department, Suzanne Hall, USA, violence