continued Ibarra speaks in a rapid-fire, confident way. She knows her reputation as one of the pre-eminent human rights advocates in Mexico carries great weight, is probably the sole reason anybody turned up here this morning. Twenty-four years after her son Jesús, a student, disappeared, the fire is still strong inside.
"Peter Brown was [deported] in an unjust way," she says. "[Foreigners] don't go with a paternal attitude and view [the Mayans] as 'Oh, the poor little Indians.' They view them as equals. Whereas the Mexican government sees them as third-, fourth-, fifth-class citizens. The foreigners don't go to try to 'educate these poor Indians.' They know the Mayans are a great people already."
Ibarra says that "brigades" are already being formed in Los Angeles for the vote. "And they have registered in the [Zapatistas'] San Cristóbal office," she says. "They're just waiting to take the next step."
* * *
The evening after the morning press conference, KBNT is the only channel in San Diego to feature Rosario Ibarra on its newscast. Yet it ignores Ibarra's sole reason for coming to San Diego and holding the press conference: the Zapatistas' consulta. The station plays only those bits of the interview that mention the upcoming presidential vote in Mexico.
"We did not mention [the consulta]. We did not cover that angle of the story," admits Lourdes Sandoval, news director at KBNT's Univisión (until last July, she was press attaché at the Mexican consulate in San Diego). "With TV you have to focus on one or two main ideas, because if you touch upon many, people get confused. [Voting in the presidential election] is something that's very important since we are so close to Mexico. Rosario Ibarra is publicizing the consulta on this side of the border, not on the Mexican side. If she had gone to do this in Tijuana, then I would focus on that. But here in San Diego I have not found a large, committed group of people who really are interested in the Chiapas situation. Just a small group."
"I'm disappointed. I'm very disappointed," says Peter Brown by phone from his office at the Unified School District. "But I can't say I'm surprised. [Sandoval's] decision speaks for itself. I think it's fair to say that Univisión would probably rather not cover the consulta, because the Zapatistas make the official [government] story uncomfortable."
And Univisión, Brown says, toes the Mexican government line. "Indigenous communities have explicitly excluded Univisión from many of their activities because they don't trust them. It's not a new phenomenon that they wouldn't tell the truth over what a person speaking about Chiapas was saying."
Brown claims it's not just Univisión. A friend reported that he had checked every channel. "He never saw a word about the consulta. I think the only [media] that covered it was the San Diego Union, in English! And on page 12."
Sandoval says she did include a segment in which Ibarra "mentioned something about her thoughts on the Zapatistas in southern Chiapas." She says she would have played excerpts about the consulta from the press conference Ibarra held the next day in Tijuana. "Unfortunately we don't have the resources. Because of lack of resources we did not follow her to Tijuana."
Brown doesn't buy it. "They have operations on both sides of the border," he says.
But he agrees with Sandoval on one score: It was typical that no English-language TV station would cover Rosario Ibarra's visit, a controversial event of importance to San Diego's Hispanic community.
"[English-language TV news stations] are not interested [in us]," says Sandoval. "Not even when there are demonstrations in front of the consulate regarding Chiapas. Only when there's, say, a massacre. Then they'll cover that."