By: Hermann Bellinghausen
How many times, due to whims of language, name is destiny. One day, Rosario Ibarra de Piedra stopped being only the mother of her children to become a symbolic mother and the motor of hundreds of mothers (and fathers) of “disappeared” (missing) children. Scapular and lay rosary, touchstone and rock base for defending a family’s right to know where their child is; in her case, it was Jesús Piedra Ibarra, an idealistic young man who opted for armed struggle and who the State’s security forces kidnapped in 1975. In 1977, 45 years ago, involved in the search for Jesús, she founded the Comité ¡Eureka! to summon the families who were looking for their young ones, lost in the cellars of PRI power and the dirty and paranoid war of Diaz Ordaz and Echeverría policy.
Doña Rosario, as we have called her for decades, embodied reason and love in the face of the repressive State’s shamelessness. A woman of great intelligence, she quickly acquired a political conscience and a moral stature that she exercised responsibly and heroically. How not to love her. Now that everyone is reminded of her, her photos, her common experiences, I will allow myself to record two meetings separated in time that show her, despite her iconic mourning, as an enamored enthusiast of life.
It must have been around 1983, in Monterrey. By chance I had become a pet, pardon the expression, of one of the rebellious and left-wing millionaire Irma Salinas Rocha (another pet of hers that I remember from then is Felipe Ehrenberg). A close friend of Abraham Nuncio, and a future shareholder of La Jornada, she was a writer of great notoriety for telling the dark secrets of the most powerful families in Monterrey. That year she had published her hilarious third book: The crème de la creme: A Multi-Millionaires Conduct Manual. She was our spy among the rich. After a presentation of the work, we met at the home of Alfonso Reyes’ half- genius and very crazy grandson to have a few drinks. Doña Rosario was invited.
Friend-enemy of Irma since her youth, a year before she had been the first woman candidate to the presidency of the Republic, for the Trotskyist party. It was a joyful meeting where they absolutely reigned. Now somewhat tipsy, they began to taunt each other. The rich girl accusing the too diligent (“she recited poems from memory”) middle-class girl who now, both in their fifties, pissed off the little princess. They had been in the same room. Things were said, to the delight of the guests. What I remember best is Irma acknowledging that Rosario was the prettiest, to which she replied: “Bah, at that age anyone is pretty.”
The second memory happened in Spain, in 1997, together with the beloved Paulina Fernández Christlieb. They were escorting the Zapatista Tojolabal commanders Dalia and Felipe on their trip by land from Madrid to Barcelona and Priorat to Huesca in Aragón and then Andalucía, aboard a combi belonging to the Zapatista committee in the Spanish State. They were attending the Second Intergalactic Gathering. At public events, Doña Rosario read messages from Subcomandante Marcos, with whom she had become very close.
Rolling through the fields in Castilla in the combi, she decided to take the indigenous commanders to see the windmills of La Mancha “about which the ‘Sup’ writes so much,” she told them. “So that they tell him what the giants that Don Quijote fought against are like.” That land opened at the feet of the commanders, hot and dry. In Madrid, before delegates who spoke Italian, English, French, German, Arab, Portuguese and Japanese, Felipe had said: “We bring our history as a testimony of dignity and as an example of the strength that the weak have.”
Doña Rosario put her courage and her arguments in favor of the compas in airports, customs, train terminals and police controls, just like she had done in Chiapas since the armed uprising in 1994, where she took advantage of her immunity as a deputy to come and go as a messenger for the Zapatistas, lending them her voice the same as she did with insurgent children in the past. With sarcasm and fear, officials of the federal Army who dealt with her at the checkpoints in the Lacandón Jungle called her “mama,” because she was said to be the mother of Marcos.
Few Mexican political figures have had the disinterested dedication of Doña Rosario. It wasn’t necessary to always agree with her to know that, with compañeras like this, the struggle lives on and is worth it. She knew how to be an ally of her best political rivals, like Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Her subsequent differences with the Zapatista National Liberation Army didn’t prevent her from being with them. Her heart never abandoned them. There are so many popular struggles that can say the same thing about her.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, April 18, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/04/18/opinion/a07a1cul and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee