It has been more than 13 months now since I first set foot on Armenia, hopeful and eager to learn. When I did, I certainly did not expect I would be persuaded to make their fights my own.
I was born and raised in the northeast of Mexico, far from the Caucasus and the Armenian Highlands. The literature, politics and history that I found on the bookshelves of my father’s library captivated me since I was a kid. Nevertheless, where I lived little to no information about Armenia ever makes it to the people. I had heard about the country a couple of times, but my knowledge was minimal. My curiosity peaked when I was told I would come to study here for two years. In preparation for my arrival, I started researching about the nation that would soon host me. I was fortunate enough to make acquaintance with an Armenian from the Diaspora with whom I could discuss these matters. We met in Dilijan in August 2018. That’s when I could physically explore Armenia, but I was still thinking about its ancient history.
I came to admire monasteries, mountains, rivers and waterfalls, museums and ruins of ancient temples. Living here, surrounded by a perennial civilization that has survived millennia of wars and occupations, influenced by the whole world and yet keeping a unique identity, I could not help but grow fond of the land. Even so, its culture was not what made me decide to dedicate my time and efforts to sharing the Armenian cause. That was the people who had worked to bring me here; that was my friends with whom I spent hours of quality time; that was my teachers, my roommate, the rebels of the Velvet Revolution, who inspired me to believe in a peaceful way of bringing about change; that was the warm, welcoming Armenians. So when I reached in my investigations the time of the Armenian Genocide and visited Tsitsernakaberd on a biting winter afternoon, I was disappointed to find out my country was absent from a list of those that recognize the Armenian Genocide as a historical truth. So I had to make adding Mexico to that group my crusade.
I needed to start with a plan. My first step was contacting Mexican Armenians. I had to find out who had already tried and failed, and the reasons why. As in almost every other country in the world, Mexico counts with a population of Diaspora Armenians, and not few of its members have distinguished themselves as outstanding citizens in cultural, political or scientific aspects. I introduced myself and my intention to them. They were museum directors, distinguished researchers, heads of universities, ambassadors, professors, writers and more. I learned from a variety of perspectives the reasons why Armenians had not accomplished their goal in Mexico. They all had a lot to do with the international active denial of the events occurred in eastern Anatolia between 1915 and 1922.
And the truth is, among the republics in whose interest it is to forget the genocide, one of them had campaigned in Latin America to promote another side of the story. By milking the ignorance of Mexican congressmen regarding Caucasian history, Mexico received a significant investment by the Azeri government, in exchange of recognizing the Khojaly massacre during the Nagorno-Karabakh War as a genocide, and overlooking the killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. As it usually happens, economic interests rule over historical justice in developing countries.
it is utterly impossible to explain the importance of recognizing an event that occurred 104 years ago to a congress that does not even know where Armenia is located on a map.
Knowing this, I asked for a meeting with the Ambassador of Armenia to Mexico, Ara Aivazian. At the time of the negotiations between Mexico and Azerbaijan, the Armenian Embassy had not yet been opened. He recounted his version of the events, and we discussed the current objectives of his office in Mexico. When I questioned him about what could be done to put the topic back on the table, he said he had tried to do so in the past. The problem is, it is utterly impossible to explain the importance of recognizing an event that occurred 104 years ago to a congress that does not even know where Armenia is located on a map. Therefore, the most important thing that we could do now is to raise the popularity of the country by promoting its culture and make it stand out on the world stage. This includes strengthening relations between the two nations and participating in cultural events until families start talking about it at the dinner table. He ceremoniously named us his honorary collaborators in the fight to publicize Armenia in Mexico, and here we are.
After reflecting on the ways in which we could make the Armenian cause relevant and all the other injustices that are committed around the world on a daily basis without anyone ever knowing about it, we decided to take action. Simone Genetin (UWCD’19), his brother Loris and I came up with an idea: a news website focused not on the facts or statistics that we usually hear on a common report on television, but rather a humane approach in which the story is written by those who lived it. It came to be called Stehind: Stories Behind the News. There, we give equal importance to every region of the world, not only sharing the news that the international media purposefully chooses to omit, including of course, content about Armenia. Thousands of readers from around the world learn about the genocide, the diaspora and the denial of their past. On this platform, we raise awareness and we actively fight for the cause.
And so today, it has been more than 13 months since I first set foot on Armenia, hopeful and eager to learn. I did not expect, however, to take home a cause that just some years ago seemed so distant to me. It seems like a colossal job to do, but after living here as one of the millions of Armenians who wish to make peace with their past, it would feel wrong not to push for it. This year, Portugal was added to the list of countries that recognize the genocide of the Armenians, meaning that the movement is still alive. It does not matter if we have to wait some more years, for in the end, we have already done so for 104. It is an ideal worth fighting for.