By Carlos Antaramián
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
MEXICO CITY — On Saturday, February 18, some members of the Armenian community in Mexico gathered at the “Armenian Clock” in Mexico City to pay tribute to the martyrs of 1915, and also to give thanks for the recognition by the Senate of Mexico of this genocide.
With Armenians from France, Venezuela, Cyprus, Armenia and also with the participation of Peter Balakian, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and professor at Colgate University in the United States, the assembled remembered their ancestors massacred by the government of the young Turks in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1918. In Mexico, although the Armenians can trace their origins in this country back to the 18th century, the vast majority arrived as refugees as a result of the genocide and settled between 1923 and 1928 in Mexico City or Tijuana and rebuilt their lives, establishing a small but thriving community.
Mexican Armenians have sought for many years for the Mexican government to recognize the Armenian Genocide, as Uruguay did in 1965 and recently the president of the United States (in 2021). The architect of this new initiative was Armen Yeritsian and the senator for the northern state of Baja California Alejandra León Gastelum (currently of the “Citizen Movement” Party), who since April 2022 together with the “Plural Group” presented a Point of Agreement in the Senate of Mexico to recognize the Genocide. This proposal was passed to the plenary session of the Senate for its vote on February 8, 2023 and that same day it was voted on unanimously.
After the offering deposited in the fountain of the Armenian Clock, the group participated in a toast at the Sahaguian family’s house, where the community thanked Yeritsian for his work in pursuit of the recognition. There, Peter Balakian emphasized the role that educating US legislators has had on the issue of genocide and how, little by little, this worked. Meanwhile, congressmen have lost their fear of confronting the powerful Turkish lobby that denies the Armenian genocide. The same process, without a doubt, has also happened in Mexico. Mexican society itself has changed, with, for example, the Mexican president apologizing in 2021 for a massacre of Chinese and Japanese conducted in 1911 in the northern Mexican city of Torreón. Legislators are no longer afraid to raise their voices in pursuit of the truth and against the evil denialist campaign of the Turkish state. This is what these commemorations and recognitions are for – to prevent these atrocities from happening again.