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Archive for the ‘Labor’ Category

Today was supposed to be the first day of school in Mexico, but not for most in Oaxaca.  According to Sección 22 of the CNTE (teachers’ union), 90% of public schools did not open today.  The Instituto Estatal de Educación Pública de Oaxaca (the government’s Institute of Public Education) puts the number at 52% of public schools in the state that remained closed.

Classrooms may have remained empty, but from the Monumento a Juárez to the Plaza de la Danza, teachers and their allies filled several of the main streets of the state’s capital in a mass march that took over an hour and a half to pass –part of the ongoing protests against the federal government’s education/labor reform.

Today, there are no winners, only losers — the kids.  The weather provided a metaphor for the day — grey and depressing.

While not specific to Oaxaca, a new documentary by Al Jazeera, Child labour in Mexico, adds some context to the issue of education in Mexico, especially in the poorer regions of Mexico.  At 16:36, the focus of the conversation turns to relating child labor to the problems of education, corruption, and poverty.

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Murals seen in mid July on Garcia Vigil, between Independencia and Morelos.  A month later, they have been painted over, but in Oaxaca, god and resistance never die…

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The public school fall semester is scheduled to start Monday, August 22 and, as you can see from the Oaxaca-The Year After blog post, for good reason, no one is holding their breath.

So, while we wait, take a deep breath, exhale, and watch Lila Downs performing Dios Nunca Muere live HERE.

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It’s halftime in Oaxaca and all is quiet.

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Local vendors are selling food, drink and paraphernalia. Though El Financiero is reporting that grocery chain Soriana is temporarily closing some of their stores in Oaxaca and Chiapas, blaming blockades and security concerns.

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The teams have retired to their respective locker rooms to tend to the wounded and bury the dead (literally).

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Mascots continue to fire up their supporters in a war of Tweets, Facebook posts, and media talking heads…

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As fans (fanáticos en español) await the resumption of play.

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But, all most Oaxaqueños want is a peaceful and fair end to this infernal battle.  Let’s hope something can be worked out when negotiations resume on Monday.

During this lull, English speaking readers might want to check out Dave Miller’s blog and/or listen to an interview with Laura Carlsen (Center for International Policy) for background on the issues involved between the education workers and the government.

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At loose ends, can’t seem to focus on anything else, and since people have asked, here are photos from this morning’s walk through, what may be, an emerging war zone…

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The blockades have resumed throughout the state and a mega march of teachers, parents, and supporters entered the zócalo a couple of hours ago.  I fear, as the handwriting on the wall says, this is just the beginning.

To all who have expressed concern for my safety, many thanks.  No worries, bottom line, I’m a chicken and have no plans to go out again today OR anytime there is even a hint of feeling unsafe.

And, if you want to follow the events on Twitter, the hashtag #OaxacaGrita is being used.

 

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It’s the morning after the day and night before — and I don’t even know where to begin.

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The very short and immediate version is:  Yesterday afternoon about 50 miles north of the city in Nochixtlán, six demonstrators were killed when federal police moved in to breakup a 5-day long blockade by Sección 22 of the teachers union on the main highway between here and Puebla.  As the police moved toward the city, there was another battle about 8 miles north near San Pablo Etla, and then last night about 7:30 a helicopter began flying over the city, smoke rose from near the teachers’ encampment in the zócalo (about 4 blocks away), and shouting and explosions were heard.  It was still going on when I fell asleep around midnight.

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It’s Monday morning, but all was eerily quiet when I awoke.  Very little traffic on my usually busy street and almost no buses to be seen or heard.  Television news and local papers are hopeless, so I began monitoring five Facebook groups dedicated to blockades, demonstrations, traffic, etc. and Twitter for news.

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Needing a few groceries (I know that seems to be a constant theme, but I don’t have a car here, so can only buy what I can carry) and wanting to see what went on last night, my neighbor and I ventured out onto the streets.  The acrid smell of smoke was still evident and, at almost every intersection, beginning with the one half a block down our street, tires were still smoldering.  The closer we got to the zócalo, the more graffiti and damage we saw.

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Oxxo on Morelos at Garcia Vigil had been vandalized and was closed, the windows of Catedral had been broken but the restaurant was open, and all the ATMs in BanNorte had been damaged, but the tellers were in place and banking was being done.  However, it’s like a Sunday morning, with few people on the streets.

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The teachers’ plantón (encampment) on and surrounding the zócalo remains, but it was dirty and depressing and there were a couple of drunk guys, so we opted not to venture further.  Instead, we continued east on Independencia, passing more broken windows, scrawled messages on walls denouncing the federal and state governments and warning all that it has only just begun.

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If you want background and more detailed reports, you can check out posts from Oaxaca at http://elenemigocomun.net/.  Yes, I know, it’s from the perspective of the teachers and protestors — I figure the “mainstream” media has got the government’s point of view covered.

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Stencil photos were taken a few days ago on Garcia Vigil, between Independencia and Morelos.  Yes, I did take photos this morning of the remnants of last night’s events, but I just can’t bring myself to post them.  The mood is sad and wary — no one knows how and when this will end — and the ghosts of 2006 hang over the city.

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Sunday, May 15 was Día del Maestro in Mexico.  In Oaxaca the day honoring teachers was marked by the teachers of Sección 22 marching back into the zocalo, setting up their tents, and installing the ambulantes (vendors) under their protection.  Sunday night and again Tuesday night, Tlaloc unleashed massive thunderstorms on the city.

Despite weather, dwindling support for the union (93% of schools are reported to be open), and threats to strikers of being fired, the occupation remains and a federal police helicopter makes its daily low-flying circle of the city.

And so it goes…

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What can one say about a country that celebrates a poet/essayist/philosopher/journalist as a national hero?  Granted, José Martí was also a fierce fighter for Cuban independence from Spain and died in battle on May 19, 1895, shot by Spanish troops in Dos Ríos, Cuba.

However, it is his writings that appear to be his most powerful and lasting legacy.  Exiled from Cuba due to his political activity against Spain, he spent many years in the United States and while there, he wrote a passionate report following the 1886 execution by hanging in Chicago of the Haymarket martyrs.  And so, let’s commemorate this May Day with words from José Martí…


Every human being has within him an ideal man, just as every piece of marble contains in a rough state a statue as beautiful as the one that Praxiteles the Greek made of the god Apollo.  — José Martí

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Memorial José Martí, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana

To educate is to give man the keys to the world, which are independence and love, and to give him strength to journey on his own, light of step, a spontaneous and free being.  — José Martí

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Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana

Men are like the stars; some generate their own light while others reflect the brilliance they receive.  —José Martí

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Display at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Havana

Man can never be more perfect than the sun. The sun burns us with the same light that warms us. The sun has spots (stains).  The ungrateful only talk about the spots (stains). The grateful talk about the light.  — José Martí, La edad de oro

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Courtyard of El Sitial Moncada, Havana

In a time of crisis, the peoples of the world must rush to get to know each other.  — José Martí

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Bookseller stall in the Plaza de Armas, Havana


I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.  — José Martí

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Dagoberto, our waiter at a bar on the grounds of Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, Havana — the white rose he made and presented to me

If translated back into Spanish, those last words may sound familiar to you…

Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.

This Playing for Change YouTube video may refresh your memory, then there is Pete Seeger.  The above is one of four stanzas from Martí’s Versos Sencillos that are often used as lyrics to Guantanamera.

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Wishing all my sisters, whoever and wherever you may be, a happy International Women’s Day.  The struggle continues, because…

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San Juan Guelavia, January 2016

From an article today:

An estimated 120 million girls and women under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts – around 10 per cent.

More than a third of women worldwide have also experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with this being most common between a woman’s teenage years and menopause.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of a billion more women are in the global workforce today than a decade ago, but they are only earning what men did in 2006, according to the World Economic Forum.

And one in 10 married women are not consulted by their husbands on how their own cash earnings will be spent.

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Yesterday, I hibernated at home; a day spent unpacking and recovering.  Today, Carlos, now upgraded to a hurricane, is swirling off the coast of southern Mexico and bringing grey skies, chilly temperatures (it hasn’t even hit 70ºF), and a relentless drizzle.  It’s not the kind of day that draws one out into the streets.  However, the larder needed to be restocked and the cell phone needed to be reactivated, so, with umbrella in hand, I was forced to venture out.

On the upside, the rain brings out the greens of the cantera.  Though, I’m not sure where this concrete insert in the sidewalk at the corner of Independencia and Garcia Vigil came from or what it means.  (Update:  It’s Grupo: Salvando Vidas. Oaxaca — a volunteer group that has taken on the much needed task of repairing the city’s sidewalks muy peligrosas, saving lives and limbs!  h/t,  Peggy)

For some mystifying (at least to me) reason, Telcel deactivates my cell phone if I don’t use it for three weeks — this is despite the fact that I have a ridiculously high saldo (balance) in my account.  So, my first stop was to add even more pesos in order to reactivate my service.  With that chore in the rear view mirror, I crossed Independencia onto the Alameda, on my way to Mercado de Benito Juárez (or, Bennie J’s, as my friend G christened it years ago), only to find much of it covered with tents.

P1090803I’d read the news and had steeled myself for the return of ambulantes, but wasn’t prepared for ten times the number of Sección 22 teachers union tents from when I left in mid May.  Navigating the ropes tethering the tarps was a challenge and I had to forgo the umbrella.  The teachers looked cold and miserable and the restaurants under the portales looked mostly empty.  This is definitely not a picnic for anyone.  Continuing on to the mercado, I filled my shopping bag and headed for home.

P1090816However, the signs of protest are everywhere.  In the “Emerald City,” the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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It’s International Workers’ Day and workers all over the globe are marching.

P1090214 They march to celebrate past victories; they march to proclaim the dignity of work; they march to defend the right to collective bargaining; they march to demand living wages and safe working conditions; and they march to secure a better future for their children.

P1090223If you have any doubts about why workers in Mexico are marching today:  19.5 Million Mexicans Are Tethered To The Minimum Salary, The Lowest In The Americas.  According to the article (translated from the original Spanish by Peter W. Davis),

Mexico has a minimum wage of around 69 pesos a day ($4.50 US), the lowest in Latin America….the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean placed Mexico as the only country with a minimum wage below the poverty line.  Furthermore 14% of employees receive a salary even lower than this minimum.

P1090220It’s no wonder that, as I write, there are marches converging on Oaxaca’s zócalo from points north, south, east, and west.  When I was out and about an hour ago, I ran into healthcare workers from as far away as Tuxtepec, in the northeast of the state, and Huatulco, in the southwest.

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  The struggle continues…

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March 8 is International Women’s Day — established by V. I. Lenin in 1922 (I’ll wager this is news to most), revived by women in the USA in 1968, and recognized by the United Nations in 1975.  We may have come a long way, but the struggle for equal rights, respect, freedom from violence, and control of our own bodies continues.

However, the hard work, warmth, strength, creativity, and dignity of the women of Oaxaca continues to inspire me.

¡Feliz día internacional de la mujer!  But, as news around the world and the Inequality in Charts reminds us, LA LUCHA CONTINÚA…

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Lots of street action around the city these days, and I don’t just mean marches and blockades!  They’ve been hard at work on an Andador Semipeatonal (semi-walking street) since ground was broken on November 24, 2014.

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Garcia Vigil has been a construction zone from Templo del Carmen Alto up to the Cruz de Piedra.  No cars and trucks allowed, but we pedestrians can walk right on through.

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The work on this and the four other downtown streets that have been earmarked for “rescue” and “beautification” is mostly done the old-fashioned way.  What can I say?  I love the sound of hammer and chisel!

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According to news reports, the street will be spiffed up with garbage bins, benches, and planters.  Ramps for people with limited mobility and signs for the visually impaired are in the plan, though a bike lane is only contemplated.

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Oaxaqueñ@s work really hard!

 

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For the past six months, the zócalo has played reluctant host to a game of “now you seem them, now you don’t” by the ambulantes (unlicensed vendors) who are “attached” to Sección 22 of the teachers who have been occupying the zócalo since the summer.  During that time, behind-the-scenes negotiations seem to have occurred that has the vendors departing for various “high season (tourist) events.  Most recently, a last-minute deal cleared the zócalo and Alameda de León of vendors for Noche de Rabanos.

When I returned two weeks ago, the walkways were still open.  However, sometime late Sunday night or early Monday morning the ambulantes returned…

Meanwhile, the real story of the still missing Ayotzinapa 43 has yet to be told, teachers and just about every other sector of Oaxaca’s working class continue to march, occupy, and blockade.

Sheesh, a simple trip out to Etla for lunch on Friday had the us coming up to a blockade (this time by state police) just after Santa Rosa.  My taxi was forced to turn left and take the “scenic route” down by the Rio Atoyac and then back up to the Carretera 190 at Viguera, where we came up to the massive statue of Benito Juárez (in the middle of the road) that presides over this major intersection, but also with more flashing red and blue lights and state police with automatic weapons than I have ever seen before.  This is where I got out; you can pick up the rest of the story on Chris’s blog.

My new favorite website is the Facebook page, bloqueos y accidentes en oaxaca.  But, mostly, we’re just dancing in the dark…

 

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I walked down to the zócalo today.  Not exactly big news, I know, but the truth is, I’ve been avoiding it.  However, I was out of dried cranberries and pecans and had to go to the Mercado Benito Juárez to restock the larder.

New posters have gone up on building walls, this one calling for justice for the victims of the previous governor (Ulises Ruiz Ortiz) and preparations for a general political strike against the structural reforms (education and the state-owned oil industry, of which I’ve previously written) recently passed by the federal government.

Posters on wall

The zócalo and surrounding streets continue to be filled with teachers, tents, and al fresco kitchens.  No surprise, this is causing a traffic nightmare and parking is at even more of a premium than usual.  However, if you are in need of a pit stop for you or your car, this one is on Trujano at 20 de noviembre.

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The restaurants under the portales on the zócalo have been especially impacted — some had patrons sipping their morning coffee and hot chocolate while looking out over the sea of tents, tarps, and banners and some were empty.

Restaurant tables and chairs and teachers union banner

If you are tired of reading the newspaper accounts, D-II-218 of the Telesecundarias (rural distance education programs) from Miahuatlán has provided a poster so you can read up on the issues in dispute from the teachers’ point of view.

Banner with news clippings, photos, and informational notes

However, if you are tired of it all, you can always stop by the local newsstand to catch up on what’s really important — the opening of Home Depot (an OMG! OMG! OMG! event for some) or, if you are so inclined, graphic images of crime and violence.  By the way, regarding the latter, I stumbled on a website that gives A Vague History of La Nota Roja.

Newspapers clipped to a sandwich board

What can I say?  Good news is in short supply, no matter where one looks.  The handwriting seems to be on the wall here, there, and everywhere…

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Even though the significance of May 1, as International Workers’ Day, had its origin in the USA, it is not celebrated there (for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here).  However, like most countries in the world, Día del Trabajo is a national holiday in Mexico.  To honor labor everywhere, here is Oaxaca’s favorite daughter singing her song, “Mother Jones.”

“Pray for the dead, but fight like Hell for the living.”  — Mary Harris Jones (aka, Mother Jones, the miners’ angel)

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