John Ross (activist)

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John Ross
Born(1938-03-11)March 11, 1938
New York City
DiedJanuary 17, 2011(2011-01-17) (aged 72)
Tzintzuntzan, Mexico
Known forAnti-War activism

John Ross (March 11, 1938 – January 17, 2011) was an American author, poet, freelance journalist, and activist who lived in Mexico and wrote extensively on its leftist political movements.


Born in New York City, he was part of the Beat movement, migrated to San Francisco and Arcata, California and first came to Mexico in the late 1950s. He lived in Michoacán, and the Hotel Isabel in Mexico City. He was one of the earliest draft resisters during the Viet Nam War, for which he served time in federal prison at California's Terminal Island.[1][2]

Ross was the author of many books, including a gritty portrait of Mexico City, where he spent almost all of his time since 1985.

In early 2003 he traveled to Iraq, hoping to serve as a "human shield" to help protect Iraqi civilians prior to the U.S.-led invasion. The volunteers were forced out of the country because they were critical of the Iraqi government's choice of sites to protect.

He died at Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, Mexico.[3] He is survived by his 3 children Dylan, Dante Ross and Carla and his grand children Honore and Zoe. A first cousin he never met is Jerry Ross (painter).


A prolific journalist, Ross wrote countless articles for San Francisco newspapers, CounterPunch, Pacific News Service, and the Mexico City daily La Jornada. Since 1993, when Ross first broke the story in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, he regularly covered the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (also known as the EZLN or Zapatistas) rebellion in Chiapas with articles appearing in both English and Spanish language news publications. Ross covered political corruption in Mexico and the United States, the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Mexico's subsistence agriculture, potential environmental threats from the introduction of genetically modified plants— in particular those utilizing genetic use restriction technology— and the Iraq War.[4][5][6][7] His articles have appeared in San Francisco Bay Guardian[8] The Nation,[9] CounterPunch,[10] The Progressive,[11] La Jornada,[12] and The Rag Blog.[13]

Ross's work reflected a deep and abiding interest in rebel movements like the Zapatistas in southern Chiapas state. John Ross wrote several books about the Zapatistas (1995 American Book Award winning[14] Rebellion from the Roots,[15][16] The War Against Oblivion, and ¡ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible[17]), as well as a somewhat autobiographical memoir (Murdered by Capitalism[18]), and several chapbooks of poetry. Most recently, he had initiated the publication of[19] IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq.



  • Rebellion from the Roots: Indian Uprising in Chiapas (Common Courage Press: 1995)
  • Mexico in Focus (Latin America Bureau: 1996) ISBN 1-899365-05-2
  • We Came to Play: An Anthology of Writings on Basketball (with Qentin R. Hand)(North Atlantic Books: 1996) ISBN 1-55643-162-7
  • The Annexation of Mexico: From the Aztecs to the IMF (Common Courage Press: 1998) ISBN 1-56751-131-7
  • Tonatiuh's People: A Novel of the Mexican Cataclysm (Cinco Puntos Press: 1998) ISBN 0-938317-41-5
  • Mexico in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics, and Culture (Interlink Publishing Group: 2002) ISBN 1-56656-421-2
  • The War Against Oblivion: The Zapatista Chronicles (Common Courage Press: 2002) ISBN 1-56751-175-9
  • Murdered by Capitalism: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life & Death on the American Left (Nation Books: 2004) ISBN 1-56025-578-1
  • ¡ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 2000–2006 (Nation Books: 2007) ISBN 1-56025-874-8
  • El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City (Nation Books: 2009) ISBN 1-56858-424-5
  • Rebel Reporting: John Ross Speaks to Independent Journalists (by Norman Stockwell and Cristalyne Bell, Editors), Amy Goodman (Introduction), Robert W. McChesney (Foreword) (Hamilton Books: 2015) ISBN 978-0761866602

Poetry chapbooks[edit]

  • Jam (Mercury Litho-Bug Press: 1976)
  • 12 Songs of Love and Ecocide (1977)
  • The Psoriacis of Heartbreak (1979)
  • The Daily Planet (1981)
  • Running Out of Coastlines (1983)
  • Heading South (1986)
  • Whose Bones (1990)
  • Jazzmexico (Calaca de Pelón: 1996)
  • Against Amnesia (Calaca de Pelón: 2002)
  • Bomba (Calaca de Pelón: 2007)


  1. ^ Murray, Mistry (19 February 2011). "John Ross: Journalist and activist who became the first person to be arrested for refusing the US draft". The Independent. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  2. ^ John Ross dies at 72, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Tim Redmond, January 18, 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  3. ^ "John Ross, 72, journalist, poet, political activist". January 31, 2011. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  4. ^ "'Human Shields' Booted After Criticizing Iraq's Instructions". Fox News. December 1, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  5. ^ "John Ross interview at Democracy Now!, March 6, 2003". March 6, 2003. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  6. ^ "Articles by John Ross collected at Human Shield Iraq". Archived from the original on October 3, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Suzanne Goldenberg in Baghdad (March 3, 2003). "Human shield cracks on Baghdad's cynicism, The Guardian, March 3, 2003". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  8. ^ John Ross search in San Francisco Bay Guardian[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "John Ross search at The Nation". Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  10. ^ "John Ross search at CounterPunch". Google. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  11. ^ "John Ross search at The Progressive". Google. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  12. ^ "John Ross search at La Jornada". Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  13. ^ "John Ross search at The Rag Blog". Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  14. ^ "The American Book Awards". Archived from the original on October 3, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  15. ^ "The Shadow War by Alma Guillermoprieto, New York Review of Books". March 2, 1995. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  16. ^ "review by Saul Landau". 1995. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  17. ^ "A Review of John Ross' Zapatistas". Retrieved January 4, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Bosio, Colin (July 29, 2004). "Review by Colin Bosio-Cady, July 29, 2004". Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  19. ^ <>

External links[edit]