Update from Oaxaca - Monday, 10/30 - APPO refusing to back down, teachers still on strike
This is a personal email from a friend of mine in Oaxaca right now.
"It doesn't appear that the APPO is going to back down to the government forces any time soon, people are organized and committed to go forward. The teachers did not go back to work today as planned due to the continued conflict and because there are no buses running in the city."
Hola a todos,
I've been intending on sending this email for several days but finding a place to use internet has not been easy (nor has getting out of my house). As each hour goes by it seems there is a whole new update to add to my email, so for now, here is something. I hope to find the time and access to information a little quicker in the coming days. I just tried to open the email I wrote at home and it will not open, so, I will attempt to email it later today. I'll try to write up a brief summary for you now, just so you know a little about what's going on down here.
I am fine, living amidst an amazing time in the history of Oaxaca. There are moments when I just want to stay at home and watch from atop the hill next to my house as smoke billows up from the center from busses going up in smoke, and there are other moments when I want to be at the center of the action to find out with my own eyes what is going on. It's a tough call as every moment is so unpredictable, people may be being shot or there may be a peaceful march through the center. It's hard to know, the unknown can be excruciating.
The past few days have been filled with unknowns. From the paro on Friday when Indymedia journalist Bradley Will was shot and killed (one of four killed on Friday), to the federal government announcing that they were sending the PFP (Policia Federal Preventativa) in to occupy the city. Information has been hard to come by, with no phone, internet, radio, or T.V. at my apartment I have found myself chatting with the man running the local tienda, or my neighbours who have setup a tent on their roof to better see the action in the valley below. All of us are semi-asleep throughout the night, amidst explosives going off and random gunshots and helicopters circling above. I wake up each morning and wait for news. A text message on my phone, a neighbour, my landlord stopping in- something, someone. Have they taken the Zocalo? How many are dead? What next?
At this point it seems factual to say that at least 4,000 from the PFP have been flown in, it has also been reported that a couple thousand military are here, among other federal armed forces. I headed into town today to see where things were at and found myself at the center of the action. The PFP had indeed taken over the zocalo last night and was now surrounded by five rows of riot cops in full gear. Facing them were hundreds if not thousands of locals, as well as organized people from the APPO. I was not there but two minutes before the APPO came marching in to attempt to brake through the wall of riot cops and retake the zocalo. I saw a huge plume of smoke and flames burst up behind the cops (presumably a bus being set on fire). I then saw a large military truck heading in our direction and I'm not sure what else those around me saw but the crowds bolted the other direction as fast as they could. I ran until I reached a café I know the owners at and got inside as they locked the doors behind me. Soon after two marches came by headed by VW vans with loud speakers attached to their roofs. They congregated at the Santo Domingo church a block from where I was. After things were a little calmer I walked up to the church after hearing the church bell ring for 15 minutes straight (a warning for everyone to congregate). There were probably a few thousand people gathered chanting and listening to various speakers. The energy felt calm yet prepared. Many people had bandanas covering their faces, water bottles in hand, and were very vigilant of what was going on around them. There is still smoke pouring through the streets and consuming the valley and every minute seems to bring new events. It doesn't appear that the APPO is going to back down to the government forces any time soon, people are organized and committed to go forward. The teachers did not go back to work today as planned due to the continued conflict and because there are no buses running in the city.
I have a more detailed account of the last several days to email you (hopefully) tonight, and will try and get to email whenever possible to let you know how things transpire. I am safe, not to worry. It's definitely exciting to be able to witness such commitment, enthusiasm, and diverse participation in the movement. Amidst the heightened conflict I continue to see women, children, elderly, and men out in the streets- the federales aren't scaring people back into their homes and villages.
Sorry if this email seems disorganized or hard to follow, I think it's reflective of how things feel in Oaxaca. Hard to know what's going on, hard to know what's true, hard to feel like the information I can get is accurate- it all feels a bit blurry and surreal. To not know how long the conflict will persist, for things to be so up in the air, it feels very strange. The city has essentially come to a stand still economically. People in my neighbourhood wander about chatting and asking if each has seen the news, but the activity stops there. The streets are nearly empty, there are no buses, there are no stores open, and even the street vendors are nowhere to be seen. People seem calm though, they are curious and unsure, but they are smiling and they continue to live their lives. I think everyone is exhausted. This strike has gone on for over five months and that this might mean some conclusion is exciting to some people who have seen their earnings disappear or drop drastically as a result. What will come of a federal government invasion here is unclear, how will they maintain calmness? How will they prevent the APPO from re-taking the zocalo? Right now it just seems like a back and forth struggle where the police take over an area and the APPO retakes it soon after. Time will tell.
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