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Monday was Memorial Day. More than 100,000 people in the five major U.S. territories are military veterans, but can't vote for commander-in-chief. Plus, Puerto Rico has a statehood referendum this November.

New Mexicans Aboard Caravan to 2nd U-S Social Forum

June 21, 2010

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The second U.S. Social Forum kicks off in Detroit Tuesday. Aboard the "People's Freedom Caravan," a number of New Mexicans are on their way to attend this gathering of community, grassroots and social justice groups.

Rodrigo Rodriguez of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) lives in Albuquerque, where he's helping to coordinate a community garden project. He's on the caravan right now, which makes stops in other communities on the way to the Social Forum.

"People host us in their home communities, they show us around, they offer us food, we break bread together. They talk to us about their struggles, about what's going on in their communities, so that we can take that with us to Detroit, and then take that back with us to New Mexico."

He says they've already visited the Ponca Nation in Oklahoma where they learned about the tribe's struggle with environmental justice issues, like the landfill that was built across the road from their cemetery.

As an intern, Rodriguez was on the planning committee for the first U.S. Social Forum in 2007 in Atlanta, Ga. He says through that first forum and the first caravan, SWOP was able to build relationships with groups in San Antonio, Texas, and Jackson, Miss.

"We're really trying to open the lines of dialogue to create black and brown unity, and unity with native communities. That has been a really powerful thing to be a part of, and to just see unfold."

The U.S. Social Forum runs through the end of the week; 15,000 people from across the country are expected to gather to share strategies and coordinate efforts toward achieving social justice.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM