Mort Au Vache: A French Symbol of Resistance

Foto by Miguel A. Fernández (Copyright) All Rights Reserved ™

By:  Joachim Fernandez

Mort au vaches!” Or, in English, death to the cows! In France, one may hear these words exclaimed in the presence of police forces, it is a verbal promotion of one’s resistance towards any perceived injustice of police action. Now, this statement’s relevancy has been renewed as the French government has enacted and, for the fifth time, extended a state of emergency, providing police forces with a great expansion of intrusive capabilities.(1)

This exclamation’s creation does not originate from contemporary times, but from the 19th century, during the Franco-Prussian war. At this time, France’s north-eastern region of Alsace became annexed by Prussian forces, an annexation which began in 1871 with the Treaty of Frankfurt.(2)

During the time of annexation, various oppressive measures would be an enacted to ensure the lasting domination of Prussia, in Alsace. These aforementioned measures would incite a victimized perception, amongst the region’s residents, against their Prussian rulers.(2) This perception would be exclaimed through the phrase, “Mort au Wache!” Wache translating directly to “Guard” in German.

At one point or another, “Mort au Wache” phonetically transitioned into “Mort au Vache,” meaning death to the cows. This statement would find its physical presentation through the tattooing of a three dotted triangle, each dot signifying one of the three words.

Notwithstanding, the three dotted triangle tattoo would find itself appropriated by various cultures of criminality around the globe. For Latin-American prisoners, the same symbol represents “Mi Vida Loca”. For those who wish to openly present this sentiment, the three dotted triangle is tattooed onto a visible part of the body, such as the web of one’s hands or directly below one’s eye.(3)

I myself possess the three dotted triangle, tattooed directly onto my left wrist. I did so in a sporadic instance of intoxicated rationale, but to this day I do not regret being marked by the aforementioned  symbol.

In this sense, I do not wish death upon any cow nor any human, but I do wish to proudly present that I am in opposition to any forces which would attempt to rid me of my liberty, the liberty that is my Human Right. Thus, to any agent of authority who wishes to rid me of that right, be it an officer of law or not, I shall flaunt my symbol proudly, I shall righteously declare “Mort au Vache!”







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