Friday, September 15, 2006
If you have come across news of Oaxaca recently you may have thought it was one giant burning bus of unrest.
So here's fuller view of the scene.(see images below)
Although our general experience has been tranquil since Betty, Emily and I moved here in July, there has been a teachers' (and other groups) strike encamped in the center of town here since last May. This is an annual event that has always ended peacefully up until this year. It turned very ugly June 14th when the Governor, Ulises, ignored the teachers demands for pay increase and instead sent in riot police to evict the everyone from the Zocalo. It also completely backfired, since the teachers and other union groups only hunkered down,got a lot more public sympathy and subsequently took over a number of radio and TV stations.
Since we arrived two months ago there have been a few flair ups and blockades of various main streets have increased, but overall the vibe here remains calm. Ultimately it seems like the greatest damage to the people of Oaxaca is the perception it is a dangerous town and tourism has come to a halt. That thriving aspect of the town and its economy is dying and affecting people top to bottom.
APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) representing the teachers and several other groups is demanding that Gov. Ulises step down before they will end the strike, which seems very unlikely to happen. The teachers seem tired and increasingly at odds with APPO since they've been out of work and unpaid for months.
Saturday Oct. 28th
Since you may have been hearing news on Oaxaca, I figured I send you an update straight from the caballo's mouth...
After 5 months of striking it looks like the xit has hit the fan.
Friday undercover police "Poros" (thugs working for the governor Ulises) attacked the radio station at the university--the last free radio or TV in Oaxaca) and then in other parts of town started attacking people on the barricades. As you've perhaps heard Brad Will, an american journalist who was filming a documentary here, was killed along with a number of other people. A photographer friend of ours was at the scene (I was supposed to meet up with him and was awaiting his call to let me know where things were at since Friday was a huge expanded strike closing the city).
When he finally called he was holed up in a building with other journalists who had hightailed it when the shooting started. In a strange twist (not to be compared with getting shot) I had gone to pick up (daughter) Emily from a playdate around that time and got caught in a storm that turned into a flash flood. The streets turned into muddy rivers. With new barricades set up--buses blocking streets--traffic was a snare of confusion in this flood and it was a small miracle the car didn't stall mid-rio. Suffice to say it was a tension inducing afternoon.
Saturday Presidente Fox is sent in the federal police force to remove the barricades and chase the protesters out. They won't leave without a fight so everyone is holding their breath. The only way Fox can resolve this is to pull the governor Ulises out of power and negotiate with striking teachers/Appo. Without this I'm afraid it will be a police state with troops on every corner to keep the disorder in place.
Since we're not in the downtown area (we're a whole ten minutes up the hill in San Felipe) we have been safe. Throughout our time here (four months now) these problems have been hanging over Oaxaca and we have nonetheless been having a fantastic experience.
On saturday we actually had a belated birthday party for Betty.Though many people who would have to pass barricades cancelled, most came and it was a surreal uplifting event in this time of crisis.
As the saying goes--better to hang out together then to hang out separately (or something like that.)
The situation is changing by the hour so it is impossible to know what is happening at this point.
I know that the troops arrived (One of our friends had to go out to the airport to fetch her Mom and saw the troop planes). Another reliable source said this will give Ulises the thumbs up to send his henchmen on a rampage.I also heard from our photographer friend that Appo will not be fighting and a resolution may be imminent! Another casualty of war--varifiable information.
Still, you are one step closer to knowing what's up in this neck of the woods.
Monday Oct 30
Sad to say it seems to be getting worse as of this morning but hard as always to verify without going downtown.
For some reason Betty doesn't want me to head to the zocalo--something about me getting shot or arrested and deported--go figure !
Latest I've heard was that there are 3 different groups marching to the zocalo and that there has been fighting in the street with the Federal police.
We're sitting tight in San Felipe,we dropped Emily at school like it was a normal day and are keeping an ear on the news/internet.
I'll keep you updated as we learn more.
Tuesday, October 31 , Oaxaca Dia del Muertos
Well it won't be the first time I didn't listen to my wife...
I was feeling more nervous at home than finding out what was going on first hand,
so I headed downtown yesterday.
As usual the images in the news made it seem like a war zone.
This was correct, but that has many different meanings.
At the time I arrived (4pm) the morning marches had subsided and people were mostly just milling around on very quiet streets. A few blocks from the Zocalo you wouldn't know there was anything out of the ordinary. As I got closer the smoke from old burning barricades was the first signs of the events from the previous day.
As I came within a block of the Zocalo it was clear that everything was different...
It was VERY surreal with the military blockading the Zocalo bodily.
Women were admonishing the Policia Federal Preventivas for their actions to their faces and people had written on their riot a shields "OAX Libre" and "Asesinos" (murderers) without them moving.
It was eerily calm in the face of the sight of riot police and burned barricades. People singing and chanting, but at least while I was there, no violence what so ever.
Of course it was clear that could change at the pull of a trigger and I was ready to dash the hell out of there at the drop of a molotov, but somehow seeing it first hand was more relieving than imagining what may or may not be going down.
The only solution to this conflict will be for the governor, Ulises Ruiz, to step down, but though there is mounting pressure from all sides (including his own party) he claims he's staying put and Oaxaca is under his control. Nothing like a little power to blind you to reality.
Nation wide strikes are planned for tomorrow, Day of the Dead (not too ironic).
Perhaps it's Ulises favorite holiday !
Regardless of this insane situation, we remain very happy to be here and loving our time in Oaxaca, ever hoping for a peaceful resolution.
If only that bus will drive.