Contingente's Citizen Advocacy Groups

Twitter use in Mexico has rapidly grown in urban areas since late 2009 alongide the increasing ownership of smartphones. With this, the number of online conversations, opening up new discussions and activities, has also risen.

In early 2010, human right activist and researcher, @RoblesMaloof sent out a tweet asking who would go to a same-sex marriage rally in Mexico City. Only a hand-full of people replied but during the march a larger number of people got involved by joineding the topic conversation on Twitter. Despite not knowing each other and having completely different backgrounds, they shared a powerful thing in common: they all used Twitter to advocate for human rights.

The group of Twitter advocates initially called themselves 'Contingente Tuiter' and organised themselves to design and lead peaceful activism in support of many of Mexico's most pressing issues. As a group, they have actively helped maintain and promote the advocacy actions of Movimiento 5 de Junio and the parents of the 49 babies that died in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico on June 5, 2009.

Many members of Contingente became directly involved in strengthening a wide variety of actions in support of different causes, such as supporting affected parents, direct online and offline pressure to congressmen, engaging in converstaions with thousands of people through Twitter and leading public awareness events. Other advocacy actions that have been strongly supported by Contingente are Mexico's peace and justice caravans and the lobbying for justice for many activists murdered, such as Marisela Escobedo.

Targeted campaigns and demonstrations have been held advocating for journalist's security, gender equality law reforms, women's rights, net neutrality and other human rights issues. During 2011, online and offline activities increased as people from other Mexican cities and Mexican citizens living in the United States joined the group, forming their own local groups, naming themselves: ContingenteDF, ContingenteGdl, ContingenteTam, ContingengePue, ContingenteMty, ContingenteMich, ContingenteNay and ContingenteSea.

"We are not virtual, we are real. We change realities," tweeted @ContingentePue.  

Addressing Mexico's escalating drug war and related murders, a member from @ContingenteTam launched a Twitter feed called @tienennombre that promotred the hashtag #nosoncifras as way to start naming all the people reported to have been killed in the drug wars in mass media and social networks. So far, @tienennombre is one of the country's most followed victim list with over 1,500 tweets and a constant feed to an online Ushahidi crowdmap.

Their main self-organising media is Twitter and email groups with occassional face-to-face activities in meetings and offline advocacy actions. As the Contingente groups have grown, activism has kept its online and offline balance aiming to use new and more ad-hoc tactics for advocacy. Teamwork and communication have been key aspects of the Contingente activities, not only to coordinate advocacy actions, but to continuously allow for wider engagement in diferent human rights causes. Online and offline tactics are chosen to suit the issue that needs to be addressed.

Besides Twitter, other info-activism tools that are commonly used among the “Contingentes” are online petitions, blogs, video streaming and Twitter-management aps.

REACH: Mexico and Mexican citizens outside the country

RESOURCES: Smartphones, laptops, photo/video cameras, Wordpress and many off-line resources including, scissors, glue, paper, paint, etc.

TOOLS USED: Twitter, Shout-a-Tweet, Wordpress, Ushahidi Crowdmap, GoogleGroups, Facebook, Online-Petition aps, Twitter-management aps and graphic design software.

TIME: it varies from campaign to campaign; some last one or two weeks while other advocacy movements and campaigns have lasted over a year.

COST: minimum; all Contingente members are volunteers and use their own mobile phones, computers and Internet access.


Story by Juan Casanueva