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John Ross, 72, journalist, poet, political activist

Associated Press / January 31, 2011

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MEXICO CITY — John Ross, an American poet, author, journalist, and political activist who lived in Mexico and wrote extensively on its leftist political movements, died of liver cancer Jan. 17, according to a longtime friend. He was 72.

Mr. Ross died at the Casa Santiago guesthouse in the township of Tzintzuntzan, near Lake Patzcuaro, in the western state of Michoacan, said Kevin Quigley, who runs the bed and breakfast and had known Mr. Ross for 24 years.

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

He was part of the Beat movement and first came to Mexico in the late 1950s. Born in New York City, Mr. Ross also lived in San Francisco prior to returning to Mexico.

He was one of the early draft resisters during the Vietnam War, and in early 2003 he traveled to Iraq, hoping to serve as a “human shield’’ to help protect Iraqi civilians prior to the US-led invasion. The volunteers were forced out of the country because they were critical of the Iraqi government’s choice of sites to protect.

A prolific journalist, Mr. Ross wrote countless articles for San Francisco newspapers, CounterPunch, Pacific News Service, and the Mexico City daily La Jornada.

His stories reflected his deep and unyielding interest in rebel movements like the Zapatistas in southern Chiapas State, who staged a brief armed uprising in 1994 for greater Indian rights. He was one of the first journalists to report on the Zapatistas and wrote extensively on the movement, including the book “Rebellion from the Roots: Zapatista Uprising in Chiapas.’’

He leaves a sister, two children, and a granddaughter.