Mariano Gómez is a 23 year old Tseltal from Abasolo, Chiapas, and a member of the Ikta K'op Collective; he is being given an award by the prestigious Internet Society for his work creating "a wireless Internet and Intranet network that provided connectivity and access to information to his community, which has no telephone or radio service," but will not be able to attend the awards in Los Angeles because the US embassy has denied him a tourist visa.
He has written an open letter to the Internet Society. It's a heartbreaker.
At first I didn't feel anything receiving this news, but as I left the place and walked I began to remember certain things. To begin, when I was notified and asked for help to complete the visa process, the US Consulate charged $160 USD for the procedure, which I managed to pay thanks to AC Networks, but even that didn't bother me. What bothered was to get to the appointment, I had to make a 16 hour trip by truck to get to the capital of my country. I had to travel one day before the appointment and then walk through the city to get to the offices where it only took 10 minutes to take my photo and fingerprints. After that I had to wait another day to do the interview and then after being notified that I could not apply for the visa, having to take the truck back home.
The explanation they gave me for why I could not apply for a visa was the following, first: they couldn't identify the address of my house, this is because I live in an indigenous community where the streets have no names; second: I have no bank account with any money to prove I have a high economic status, which is the way of the world, "he who has no money is worth nothing," and third: I am a young man from a marginalized community in a region that's considered to be one of the places most migrants travel from to go to the United States illegally (and many die trying). Even in the interview when they asked me if I speak two languages, I proudly answered yes. My mother tongue is Tseltal, descendant of the Mayan language and my second language is Spanish.
I write this letter to tell my story because it's an example of the reality of thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous brothers who go through the same experience. It's a reflection of a society with stereotypes that being of an indigenous people you are considered inferior, in which not having a bank account and large economic resources is synonymous with worthlessness. Racism is clearly visible, society ranked by skin color, language, religion and economic status to define a world model. What's more in these times, they want to divide us with walls.
Message for Internet Society, from the other side of the wall