For the August interview in our newsletter, we had the valuable participation of Jorge Bustamante, a human rights defender with extensive experience, who gave us his time to tell us a little more about his history as a defender, his academic career and as well as his desires for the local human rights defense community.
Then we invite you to read this interesting interview:
How has being a human rights defender impacted your life?
It has had an impact on the search for a very utopian and distant goal, perhaps because of the complexity of the transformation of Mexican society and of humanity as a whole; and starting with my community, improve it, make several contributions to the life of society, especially in those of young people and people who are in the transition of becoming subjects of law. I think that knowing human rights in my life has been the ability to have a voice and a different participation at a social level, at a political level, at a cultural level and within these there is a diversity of activities and strategies in which I have managed to contribute to my community.
Being an advocate has been something that has to do with some events in my life. Because of these events, we must go back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the atmosphere from which images, conversations and the witnessing of historical changes on both sides of the Mexico-United States border draw, without being fully aware of everything, was already manifesting itself through Mexican workers and understanding the origin of these political-cultural struggles. They were the relationship that I had in my political participation. I was a member of a party led by Rosario Ibarra de Piedra —who is not Morena— by the way, already disappeared. In that extinct party in which I participated, it was precisely conducting projects to raise awareness of rights. Since then, I believe that anyone who knows their rights will be able to defend themselves against any abuse, will be able to stand up to face any abuse. Collective organization is necessary to be able to move away from the regressive authoritarianism of Mexico, and achieve the progressive objective of transformation into society. Then too, it is necessary to meet collectively to defend rights, but one begins with being aware of being a subject of obligations and rights.
How did the figure of your father influence the path of the defense of human rights?
The father figure is always important for the case of any human being. Having a guide and someone who is understanding, affectionate, loving, sensitive to the different concerns that one has as a child, and who protects you along the way, inquiring about development, is essential. The role that my father had in me, in addition to begetting me, was to show me how to distinguish the different potentials invested in each human being and that are triggered from the imagination that is born from the natural creativity in each person. Become a depositary of values with philosophical consistency. He was a mixture of a product of Mexican cardenismo, Renaissance due to the effect of the Enlightenment, a disciple of Mexican thinkers who generated culture who created educational systems and institutions in charge of generating and maintaining knowledge of Mexican origin, in Mexico. Due to the above, he was an important institutional pillar of Mexican scientific methodological development, at the same time as a humble professor who loved to teach and offer compassionate and supportive support to whoever asked for advice. When the social sciences in Mexico became a forum and voice of the working class, mainly peasant, and therefore essentially indigenous, before an audience of individualists with a doctorate, those were the days when I turned five years old; Since then, he has earned the epithet of pioneering knowledge about migrants. But of course, my father was a defense rapporteur for the human rights of migrants for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Of course that is not only a guide but also becomes, in a legal thought from which I absorbed my political culture. However, I am not an orthodox person.
My father has a profound influence on how, from a very young age, I understood the problem of defending the human rights of migrants; but he is not the only one of my guides. So, rather, I want to put my father in his dimension as someone who thought that the best way to defend the rights of migrants is with scientific knowledge and I think that’s where my training as a biologist was also born. I also have a very deep interest in the development of science, only in that field I am oriented towards the study of flora and the environment.
For his part, my father, as that first Mexican who put the most powerful country in the world in the dock for the abuses committed against migrants, I think he is an example of a man of integrity; he is an actor’s model of his own destiny; he is a behavioral reference of the transcendent agent in the role of his story, with which one can orient himself throughout his life. I must confess that many people who work with me say, “Ah, there is your father figure speaking”. As a role model, he has an influence on me.
What is your work currently?
I am an employee of the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, I have a few months, and I am very happy. I hold the position of operational coordinator of the Scalabrini Training Center for Migrants, covering functions of planning, administration and institutional representation.
How does Jorge impact his current job?
With my pleasure and the enjoyment that it is to work in a civil association of such prestige in the development of a community of migrants and with an educational focus, with friends that I love very much. My impact on this job is to discipline to it and be happy with it.
As a human rights defender, what is your plan, vision?
I believe that contributing to and improving my community has to do with defending it, and my plan is educational. Contribute to training and education; to be able to raise the awareness of all the members of my community about the importance of defending rights, of the right to defend human rights. The vision I have of human rights is a very deep subject and a bit rough because there are many different visions since the time of Tomas Moro, the one who invented the term utopia in the 16th century. So, it is necessary to talk about the postulate of Nicolas Maquiavelo in which the way of governing was through politics; refer to the construction of the concept of nation; and our historical past as Mexicans: from first being an invaded and colonized country and then achieving many battles to become a country with fewer features of that colonization called, for example, independence, reform, Mexican revolution. This is referring to Mexicans like Enrique and Ricardo Flores Magón, among many others, who shared the era of ideas of Errico Malatesta and the Industrial Workers of the World.
All to refer to the Second World War and the founding of the ONU, and its member states signing up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of which we are a product to this day. I say that we are a product because without this instrument humanity would have self-exterminated decades ago, that is, we would not exist. If it has not happened yet, it is thanks to those who educated us attached to the founding principles of this weapon. My vision is that being aware of history allows us to see into the future and only by being aware of that vision of the future is that we become actors in our ability to build a different community, a different country.
But medieval thought producing ignorance and consequent degrees of poverty as a hangover force, continues to this day; they win elections where the weakness of the democracies serves the oligopolistic autocracies. I want to contribute to the members of our society being able to recognize their value by acquiring the degree of ceasing to be an object and becoming a subject of society, in society and for society. Well, that is a very complex goal, very far because it is difficult, not because it is impossible, but it is my plan.
With the extensive experience you have and in this new project, do you consider this a turning point in your professional and personal career?
Yes, all the paths in the trajectory of life have been watershed, I feel that my current job is to fulfill a goal that I wanted to achieve, which was to have very involved work with the migrant community in a civil association, such as the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, and do it with an educational approach. In that sense, I believe that this project requires a lot of tenacity, consistency, the courage to seek achievement, and a lot of discipline. It is not just any challenge, but I am surrounded by a magnificent, luxurious team, I feel that it is not so distant or so complex that way.
What is the direction you take as a human rights defender?
If we see that it is a plan of civil organizations, I think that we should rather talk about the different directions of many of the civil organizations that currently seek to defend the rights of migrants and talk about how to converge without having to be forced with each other, it is about committing ourselves to a vision of the future in each one’s independence. Civil associations would have to coordinate and seek to defend the human rights of migrants in a united manner and for this. I believe that my search will be in that sense, I will be an actor in the convergence of all these different civil organizations and not. It is too early to plan what activities are going to be carried out, but that is where I am looking, that is my horizon.
What does the community of defense mean to you?
It is the medium in which I work. I feel that it is an amalgam of different consistencies and depths, and directions are very diverse. This doesn’t mean it’s motley, just consisting of lots of different ways of strategizing. I think strategically, and I feel that the defense of rights is a daily, constant struggle that will not end in the time of my life and I think that I like that the word community is in this question, because that is the strategy, to create community by principle from learners and educator, in the Freirian style. Although it is not exclusive to pedagogy and means an extrapolation to the responsibility in a society that we have as its members, to push to heal and empower the victims of social vulnerability committed by previous administrations both by omission and by commission. It means becoming a social actor and author of our destinies, beginning with those of our closest community, and concentrically increasing along our path. It is a journey that means interweaving, sometimes building by deconstructing in an intersectional way to achieve access to justice and peace for all.
What does Jorge want as a defender for the community of defense?
Creating a community, I think that creating a defense community is the means that have to go through different scales, it has to start at the individual level and from the sincere dialogue of mutual listening with our partner, colleague, or friend in life or in our work. Then, to think that with that friendship one has to build an agreed form as if we were Jean-Jacques Rousseau and we were talking about a social contract, we would have to talk about integration as civic beings, commitment to institutions, and think about associating in an institutional way. Well, ‘institutional’ is not a very sweet word to say, on the contrary, it is a rather bitter adjective, but if we conceive of ourselves in an associative and agreed way, then we can think of a solid, consistent, and transcendent defense towards other areas of society, not only the defense community, for example, students, farmers, housewives, refugees. That is the solidarity that I think needs to be condensed, needs to set.
Can you share with us what your dream is as a human rights defender?
Consolidate in our community of defenders some strategies that are less circumstantial and more long-term strategies, of progress over time, for which if an arduous work of dialogue is required, I believe in dialogue, not because of maieutical but, yes, perhaps because of my Socratic vocation. Dialogue is what he also developed in a Hegelian way, with a postulate, a thesis that is contained by an antithesis and, from these, develops a dialectic that is built by integrating a synthesis, I feel that making this solidity of developments is where there is what to go that is my dream.
As an additional reflection, I would like to say that Alma Migrante for me is a joy that exists. It is fortunate that organizations like Alma Migrante do tenacious work in defense of the human rights of migrants. The greatest contribution for me is Sentence 1597/2018, with the dissemination and the project of making the sentence known and valid in the real life of the population in the context of mobility. It’s something I’m going to contribute to all the time; and, one way in which it contributes is from the space provided by Casa del Migrante in Tijuana. We open the doors so that Alma Migrante can function freely and, obviously, collaboratively, but with all the organizational independence that it has always been and I believe that all the instances in which it has been involved. Namely, We must continue to support the communicational part, the litigation, educational part with the workshops that I feel are of great value. For that, we have to think about how to collaborate with intelligence and a lot of imagination. Here I am, ready to support in everything.