Native Man Denied Visa To Receive Award
Mariano Gomez is a 23 year old Native Tseltal from Abasolo, Chiapas and a member of the Ik’ta K’op Collective as well as an elementary school teacher; he was being given an award by the 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 was not able to attend the awards in Los Angeles because the US embassy had denied him a tourist visa.
Thanks to his efforts, the village has taken a step towards connectivity with the arrival of a strong internet network which he was able to build, harnessing a signal and directing it through a set of satellite dishes. Beginning his project in 2010, Gomez has made it possible for 800 homes in five separate communities to have a wireless connection as well as an intranet in local high schools for educational purposes. “This is more about communications than entertainment.” said Gomez. “People used to go to a phone booth and pay 50 pesos (US$2.80) for a five-minute call to talk to family in the U.S. Now they go online.” He added that with this improvement, they are now able to afford the same advantage for US$11.33 per month.
Mariano was one of the “25 under 25” recognized for making the internet a social transformation tool. The awards were on September 19 in Los Angeles, California.
He traveled 16 hours by bus to Mexico City to arrive in time for his visa appointment, paid US$160 to begin the tourist visa process then had to wait another day only to be denied shortly after having to take the bus back home.
He wrote an open letter to the Internet Society
“The explanation they gave me for why I could not apply for a visa was the following, first: they failed to identify my address, this is because I live in an indigenous community in which the streets have no names ; the second: I do not have bank accounts with a lot of money to show that I have a high economic status, which in that model 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.”
“It is the reflection of a society with stereotypes in which being part of an indigenous people is considered as inferior, in which not having a bank account and large economic resources is synonymous with nothing. Racism is clearly visible, society ranked by skin color, language, religion and economic status to define a world model.” he said.
He requested the funds reserved for his transportation to Los Angeles be donated to the Ik'ta K'op Collective, of which he is a member, to continue his mission to give back to his community.