On November 9, 1989, the German people knocked down the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall had been erected on August 13, 1961 dividing the people of Berlin into two sectors. One sector was controlled by the US and its allies, and the other was controlled by the Soviet Union. German people were not free to cross from one sector to another. Families and friends were separated by the wall for 28 years. During this period of time, about 5,000 escape attempts were made to reunite with relatives, friends or to seek better economic opportunities. Nearly 300 people died attempting to cross the wall.
The Berlin Wall was considered an offense to humanity. All the so-called democratic governments denounced the wall and demanded its removal. In June 26, 1963, during a visit to Germany, President John F. Kennedy said in his popular “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in…”
Kennedy added, “While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together…”
Many years later, in 1987, another American president, Ronald Reagan, visited Germany and in a very passionate speech made the following plea:
“Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world…”
President Reagon continued: “…we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace… Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Nineteen years later, taking advantage of the lack of historic memory of the American people, our own government is building a wall in the same totalitarian spirit of the Berlin Wall. This time the wall is on the U.S.-Mexico border. The border wall will separate the border community in the same manner that the Berlin Wall divided the German people for 28 years.
This wall is also an attack to the freedom and peace of our border community. The border wall will separate a border community composed by the cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and many rural communities on both sides of the Río Grande River. The wall will bring more violence and intolerance and will also cause an irreparable ecological disaster to our already deteriorated environment.
The mere fact that the construction of the wall is estimated at more than $7.5 million dollars per mile, is also an offense to El Paso, the fourth poorest city in the nation and the poorest city in the state.
For this reason we have been fighting against this wall for many years. We have marched, protested, celebrated faith and indigenous ceremonies, held community meetings, and many cultural events against the construction of the wall. This has been a hard fight. We have been arrested and harassed by the local police, the sheriff’s department, the Border Patrol and the racist thugs of Kiewit Corporation, the construction company in charge of erecting the wall. But we are not afraid and we will not be intimidated. On the contrary, we are all the more committed to continue our fight against this atrocity of the Bush administration.
Today we celebrate the 19th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We celebrate this occasion by stating our conviction that we will stop the construction of this atrocity in our border community.
We also understand that the political situation may be changing, therefore we also celebrate the 19th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a new slogan:
President Obama, stop the construction of this wall!