MEXICO CITY—I joined the march Sunday at noon somewhat disillusioned since the hundreds of thousands of protesters I expected to see were not there.
“I can’t recall anything like this since Jesse Helms,” my father told me, referring to the 1986 demonstrations the Mexican government organized against the Republican Senator from North Carolina. That year Helms had launched a series of public hearings on corruption and drug trafficking that painted a dark picture of Mexico and deteriorated the bilateral relationship.
Now we were taking to the streets once again to march against a foreign threat. But this time, the protest hadn’t been planned within government despite the assurances of some demonstrators, who took advantage of the lack of clarity and leadership in the call to action to denounce President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Chants of “A united Mexico will never be defeated!” clashed with those of “Out with Peña!” Some demonstrators exchanged insults. “Fuckin’ paid protesters!” yelled a man. “The march is against Trump!”
I walked with thousands of people down Avenida Reforma, one of capital’s most famous streets, as they waved small and large Mexican flags. Other groups were simultaneously marching across different cities throughout Mexico.
An organ grinder played the México Lindo y Querido tune, some sang Cielito Lindo, and others screamed “Mexico!” followed by three fast claps, a popular soccer stadium fight song.
“Where are my cousins?” I asked my aunt who was marching next to me.
“She told me she thinks these types of things don’t change anything and the other one was just lazy,” she said.
We marched until we reached the iconic Angel of Independence. On the monument steps there was a small wall made up of paper cubes with written messages against xenophobia.
“I think you should come,” I texted the girl I’m going out with. “This is a historical moment.” She ended up going to Zona Maco, a contemporary art fair in the city’s northwest.
“It’s important that everyone comes out,” I reflected. “Trump has to know that he’s dealing with an entire country, not a group of weakened politicians.'
“This isn’t about the wall, nor about NAFTA,” I told myself. “This is for our paisanos on the other side; the millions living in fear. For the mother that was recently deported and left two teenagers in Arizona.”
However, the famous roundabout at the monument didn’t fill up. People started to sing the national anthem but their collective voices didn’t create a roar and the ground didn’t shake.
Several drones hovered above the march. A poster tied to a pair of balloons that made reference to the 43 disappeared students floated in the sky. People began to disperse.
I left a bit frustrated. Disappointed by the people that didn’t show up and mad at those that kept insisting the call to action had been launched by a group of “elitist” organizations and public figures trying to help a president who continues to slump in the polls.
I was hoping to wake up Sunday morning and prove my own theory: Trump divided the United States, but united Mexico.
We Mexicans have 364 days to protest the disappeared, corruption, a hike in gas prices. We have days were we can wake up late and not worry too much. The day will also come when we will be able to punish the government at the polls and together we will achieve the best, perhaps the only, solution: fix your home.
But Sunday was meant to be a day to close ranks—not with our petty political class, but with our country.