| 10 Jul 2003 @ 04:11, by Letecia Layson|
Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Friday, July 4, 2003
Forget the burning barricades and Molotov cocktails. Increasing numbers of Mexico's dispossessed and downtrodden believe stripping off is a far more effective way of grabbing attention for grievances.
The vanguard of the birthday suit brigade is a peasant group from the state of Veracruz called the Movement of the 400 Villages. Pot bellies thrust forward on some, loose skin sagging over the ribs of others, youthful athleticism shining out from just a few, they invaded the capital for three weeks this summer.
Their land claims and allegations of repression are being made in this country of 100 million against a background of simmering affliction: more than half the population lives in poverty, and a cinema ticket costs more than the daily minimum wage.
But their demonstrations in various states of undress distinguish them from the many other marchers who regularly bring the metropolis to a standstill.
Naked protests first caused a stir in Mexico in 1985, when sacked miners took to the streets wearing only their hard hats, boots and tool belts.
The strategy lay dormant until the Veracruz peasants picked up the baton three years ago. They were joined by a small but growing, assortment of protesters ranging from oil workers to street vendors.
Stripping, they say, reveals their desperation, underlines their determination, and shows the world they have nothing to lose and nothing to hide.
It is hardly the language of revolution but a strategy, the Veracruz peasants believe, which works remarkably well. The protesters say their tactics last year embarrassed the federal government into negotiating land claims and will, they hope, help secure the prosecution of allegedly abusive officials.
At the end of a recent march, a mass of flesh spread out around a central Mexico City roundabout. Cars honked, children smirked, some adults were shocked and others smiled, until a disembodied voice shouted out: "OK, comrades, clothes on."
Dressed again, the Veracruz peasants melted into the general chaos of the Mexican capital.