Lydia Cacho: “If the world was bigger, we would be there.”

June 9, 2016


Acceptance speech by Lydia Cacho on receiving the 2016 ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. May 7, 2016. New York

Thank you so much. I also want to dedicate this award to Mike, Jeremy [Scahill’s] father. You only see fantastic men that are involved in human rights instead of trying to kill others when you have good fathers and good mothers, absolutely. And the example that good men are setting in this world is so important to every child and every woman around the world that is surviving and suffering and dying of domestic and gender violence. And I am really proud to be here today, of course, to share the award with Jeremy, who I truly, truly admire. And he doesn’t know this, but without his work, we in Mexico and in the rest of Latin America, we have so much knowledge and comprehension of what is going on in internal politics in the U.S. and to understand the so-called “war against drugs” in Mexico, without the work of brave and intelligent men like him, so he’s a good part […]

I was just laughing and smiling a little when you were playing The Internationale, La Internationalista, because I was educated in Colegio Madrid in Mexico City. All of my life, I studied there with all of these fantastic teachers. I learned literature from all these incredible female writers that came from Spain, from fighting in the [Spanish] civil war, fleeing from Franco, of course, whose family members died in the war. And I learned history from la Maestra Trueta, who was an incredible and extraordinary intellectual who came to Mexico, also fleeing. My grandmother was French, my grandfather Portuguese, he fought against Salazar’s dictatorship in Portugal. My father is Mexican and all of his family is Mexican. And I remember very clearly, when I was a child, when I was around ten or twelve years old, my grandfather used to teach me Portuguese by reading Camões and Pessoa to me, so I learned the language by listening to poetry. And I remember one day, when I was in my grandfather’s house, they were discussing the disappearances of students in the early 70s in Mexico. The president of Mexico decided to disappear all the students that were rebelling against the regime, the PRI Regime, and my uncles were discussing this, disappearances and disappearances, and I asked my grandfather, “what should we do about it?” I was only seven years old back then. And my grandfather said that the Portuguese have a saying that goes… “if the world was bigger, we would be there.” And that is what the Internationalista, the international movement for human rights means. It means that it doesn’t matter where we’re from, what country we were born in, if we’re men or women. The fact that we are aware of the humanity and value of the human life of every other person around the world, makes us bigger and stronger to fight the fights that we should be responsible for.

When my mom was dying, few years ago, she said she was worried about me, because she knew all these mobsters and politicians wanted to kill me, and they were taking turns trying to kill me. And she said, “You know, I’m only just sad to leave this world because I really want to see you win all these battles, because you will win a lot of battles.” And I asked her, “What if I die in the middle of one of these battles?” And she said, “Then, it will be worth it. Because you have to remember something. You have to remember, you are the utopia your grandmother dreamt of. Your grandmother in France fought for the rights of women when everybody laughed at her and thought that women would never, ever vote in the world because they have no rights outside the kitchen. And your great grandmother in Mexico, and your great aunts in Merida were sufragistas Mexicanas, were just giving their lives for women’s rights and girls’ rights, to be free and to have a voice in their country. And you are who you are because we dreamt of you.”

I’m remembering my mom, and I’m dedicating this award to all my friends in Mexico, the 116 journalists that have died recently and have been disappeared. I ask you to allow me to ask you to stand up for a second. We know all of the Lincoln Brigade brave men died, and a lot of our ancestors died. Today I am here, alive, and I want to dedicate this award to every one of us, and ask you to remember, always, when you are afraid, when you want to give up, that you, too, are the utopia. We are still building the utopia for our children and our grandchildren, because there will be peace only when we still dream of peace. Thank you so much.