One of the most eloquent voices speaking out against the folly
of George W. Bush, Inc.'s invasion and occupation of Iraq is Fernando
Suarez del Solar. An average-sized man with large eyes and a serene
expression, Mr. Suarez speaks imperfect English and often apologizes
to his audiences. But what he has to say in his native Spanish
is nothing less than one of the most intelligent, powerful, and
absolutely riveting analyses of why Bush and Co. must be stopped.
Last March 27, Mr. Suarez's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Alberto
Suarez del Solar Navarro died in Iraq when he stepped on an unexploded
U.S. cluster bomb. Because his unit was not informed about the
presence of the tiny bombs, Jesus and his fellow soldiers entered
the heavily mined field. Mr. Suarez's eyes wander off when he
recounts the story of how his injured son was left alone for over
two hours because the commanding officer would not allow other
Marines to return to the scene of the accident.
Another Mexican hero
Under the Stars and Stripes
María Herrera Sobek
The Suarez family buried Jesus, and Mr. Suarez, who privately
had opposed the war before it began, decided he must speak out
for peace. Throughout U.S. history, Mexican immigrants have been
reluctant to take public political positions for fear of reprisal.
Often marked as "foreign" and subject to personal and
individual acts of racism even after they become U.S. citizens,
these new arrivals prefer to maintain a low profile. But Fernando
Suarez del Solar is not a typical immigrant.
If the vast majority of Mexican immigrants come to the U.S. with
low levels of education and pressing economic needs, Mr. Suarez
arrived with neither. Born in Mexico City in 1955, his father
was a prominent politician who sent his son to study first with
the LaSalle Catholic fathers and then in a military academy affiliated
with the Mexican army. For more than two and a half years, Mr.
Suarez was exposed to the rigors of military life. By the late
1990s, Mr. Suarez, his wife Rosa, and their four children, Karla,
Olivia, Jesus, and Claudia, had joined millions of other migrants
and had taken up residence in Mexico's fastest-growing city
Tijuana, Baja California.
Once settled in Tijuana, Mr. Suarez quickly rose to become one
of the leading grassroots activists working on behalf of the poor.
He tirelessly organized neighborhood committees that petitioned
local and federal officials for basic needs such as running water
and sewer systems. In 1995, he received a "Civic Service"
award as outstanding citizen of the year. With an acute mind and
a gift for public speaking, Mr. Suarez seemed destined for a successful
|He pasado la vida
explorando otras tierras
para darles a mis hijos
un mañana mejor.*
Los Tigres del Norte
Two years later, the Suarez family moved across the border into
the United States and the city of Escondido northeast of San Diego.
The reason for the move was unusual and would have dramatic consequences.
As young adults who had grown up along the U.S.-Mexico border,
Olivia and Jesus wanted to make a contribution toward improving
society. The corridos (ballads) they heard on the radio captured
what they saw on a daily basis in Tijuana the pernicious
influence of el narcotráfico (drug traffic). Together
Olivia and Jesus convinced their father to move to the United
States so that they could join the U.S. military to help in the
war on drugs.
The rationale for the move now rings hollow after the loss of
the family's only son in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Mr. Suarez
has learned a great deal about Mexico's powerful neighbor to the
north. When he first arrived and began to see military recruitment
ads on television, he mistakenly thought they were part of a special
ad campaign. Only later did he understand that such ads are a
permanent part of the U.S. cultural landscape. As he recently
told me: "After awhile I realized that the government has
a non-stop campaign to recruit youth into the military, one that
goes beyond what I would consider healthy. . . . It is ironic
that money is diverted toward military recruitment while there
are insufficient funds for schools. I have the impression that
the government feels it is more important that young people be
soldiers than university students. It seems as if the government
wants a militarized rather than a civilian, educated, and cultured
Mr. Suarez is an especially perceptive observer of the patriotic
fervor that overran the United States after September 11. "In
the United States," he points out, "to be a patriot
for most people is to support the president no matter who he is
and to put a flag on your car or house. In Mexico, on the other
hand, patriotism is part of every action taken by a citizen. It
can be assuming a critical stance toward the government's policies
or simply fighting to survive economically. . . . It can be calling
the government to account when its actions trample on basic rights."
Es mejor morir de pie
que vivir de rodillas.+
For the last several months, Mr. Suarez has endured a crash
course in the gross insensitivity of the U.S. media and the blind
patriotism typical of a large sector of the Latino community in
the United States. At the "Bring them home now" press
conference held in Washington, D.C., on August 13, a reporter
posed the question: "But Mr. Suarez, these families have
sons and daughters in Iraq and your son was already killed. What
are you doing here?"
The inanities of the media pale before the harsh criticism Mr.
Suarez often receives from some members of the Latino community.
His in-laws oppose his public criticism of the Bush administration,
and immigrants often denounce him for being an "ingrate"
who does not show enough gratitude to the country that according
to them "gave you a decent place to live and educated your
children." For these people whose lives in Mexico were infinitely
more difficult, the "American Dream" trumps whatever
injustice they may now encounter.
In one Spanish-language chat room, right-wing Cuban Americans
are especially cruel. They accuse him of hating the United States,
and suggest that only religious or psychological help will cure
him of his need to speak truth to power. But Mr. Suarez refuses
to remain silent. His reply to his Latino critics is simple: "I
hate no one and I do not hate this country. I and my children
and my grandchildren are part of this beautiful country with its
diverse inhabitants. . . . I respect your opinions but I don't
|We are convinced that nonviolence
is more powerful than violence.
César E. Chávez
Mr. Suarez is a new kind of American, i.e., americano, hero.
A Mexican by birth, his message of peace is directed to every
young person in the Americas. Despite what most "Americans"
in this country believe, America extends far beyond the borders
created for the United States fewer than two hundred years ago.
America extends from the Andes to the Rockies, the Amazon to the
Caribbean basin and north to the Bering Strait.
Mr. Suarez is one of the first of a twenty-first century breed
of immigrants that has traveled north from America to "America"
to pursue the "American Dream" only to have his family
plunge in tragic fashion into the wide gap that separates the
promise of "American democracy" from the daily reality
faced by working-class people.
He considers himself an ordinary citizen compelled to expose
without bitterness the lies and injustices perpetrated by the
current regime. His most immediate goals are to assist immigrant
families who have children returning from war and to educate Latino
youth about how they can create a better world. Undaunted by the
pain of his loss and the obstacles that confront him, Fernando
Suarez del Solar continues his journey for peace. He has no doubt
that his son Jesus would be proud.
For information about the foundation established in memory
of mr. Suarez's son: http://mx.geocities.com/fvsuarez2000/guerreroazteca.html
* I've spent my life exploring other lands to find a better future
for my children.
+ It is better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)