Javier Sicilia sat quietly smoking from an electronic cigarette waiting to go on stage.
"This country is difficult," Sicilia told The Chicago Reporter before delivering a speech earlier this week. "Americans don't want to assume responsibility."
Sicilia, a renowned Mexican poet and writer, said the United States provides two deadly things that feed the Mexican drug war: Demand for drugs and guns.
"There is a connection between what's happening in Mexico and criminalization of the African-American communities here as a result of the drug war," he said in Spanish.
Sicilia, whose son Juan Francisco was killed last year by drug violence, came to Chicago along with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a binational coalition traveling across many cities in the United States to raise awareness of the impact of the drug war and violence in Mexico. The caravan will end Sept. 12 in Washington D.C.
The writer-turned-activist has a special message to politicians: It is time to end the "war on drugs" and regulate your guns so that they don't end up south of the border.
Nearly 70 percent of guns recovered by Mexican authorities in the last three years have been traced back to the U.S. No one knows how many people have been killed by these guns, Sicilia said.
After the speech at the Mexican Museum of Fine Arts in Pilsen on Monday, residents and other victims of violence in Mexico talked more about the issue. The participants joined "peace circles" where they shared their stories and ways to end violence.
The Peace Caravan arrived in the Second City after the end of the deadliest month of the year here. Chicago, like Mexico, is trying to find a way to curb violence that is ending the lives of young men.
Olga Reyes, who lives in the heart of a turf war between several drug cartels, shared her family's story. She lives in Ciudad Juarez where former Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent the military to fight drug cartels. Reyes blames the military for killing four of her siblings, nephews and terrorizing her family. Dozens of Mexicans, like Reyes, shared their stories with Chicagoans--many them have also lost family members to gang violence here.
By Monday night, the caravan held a peace rally starting at Chicago's Little Village neighborhood heading further west to neighborhoods that have been marred by gun violence.