Altar de la Cofradia de Santa Mari la Juaricua from Facebook
I have always loved saints. Saints canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Folk saints created by the people, especially the poor. Sacred places visited by the gente. We pray to santos to help us with our daily problems, the issues that seem overwhelming and beyond our own earthly capabilities. We pray when we need hope and guidance. When we need something outside of ourselves.
Now, in Mexico City, a saint who fights gentrification has arisen-- Santa Mari la Juaricua. Her birth place is Colonia Juarez and Santa Maria la Ribera in el DF where people pray against displacement, gentrification, increasing rents, and high property taxes.
Mexico City, with its population of 21 million people, is facing "development" projects whose descriptions resonate with those of us opposing displacement and gentrification in our own communities: revitalization, "quality of life," "progress," and other positive-sounding phrases that mask suffering and inequality.
Colonia Juarez and Maria la Ribera emerged during the late 19th century during the Porifiato as elites began to move out of the historic center because its colonial buildings were not modern or desirable anymore. The new areas were filled with new homes, hotels, restaurants and bakeries. A hundred and thirty years later, there are still signs of wealth but now there are also the poor.
In October 2016, artists Sandra Valenzuela and Jorge Baca created Santa Mari. Baca is a fourth generation resident of Santa Maria la Ribera. Both Valenzuela and Baca have witnessed the destructive effects of gentrification.
Santa Mari la Juaricua is much more than the creation of two artists. She has brought neighbors together to organize against gentrification. She has concientizado residents and given them hope. Peaceful marches have been held in her name. She has brought together hip hop artists and long time community organizations, men and women, children, Indigenous people and mestizos.
Primera procesion de Santa Mari la Juaricua from Facebook.
Today, as my own community faces a legal battle against our City government who had entrenched themselves to displace our elders and demolish our historic buildings, I pray to Santa Mari la Juaricua: Proteje al buen vecino, proteje al buen ciudadano, proteje a la comunidad, y a la buena vecindad.