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In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  — Anne Frank

Last night, I watched the pleading (and currently homeless!) mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, BEG the U.S. government for more help following Hurricane Maria, which has devastated this U.S. territory.  Power may not be restored to the island for months, hospitals are without medicines, and people are dying.  This morning I awoke to news that the U.S. president, up bright and early in the luxurious comfort of his New Jersey golf club, had taken to Twitter to personally attack San Juan’s mayor.  Why?  For doing her job!!!  I was both livid at the Twit-in-Chief and incredibly sad for Puerto Rico.  Where is the understanding?  Where is the empathy??  Where is the humanity???

And then I read my Mexico City based friend, Cristina Potters’ latest Mexico Cooks! blog post.  Cristina, thank you SO much for reaching out to and translating the words of “Al” — this is what humanity looks like.  With Cristina’s permission, here is her post:

Mexico City Earthquake :: We Interrupt Our Regular Programing…

At 11:00AM on September 19, 2017, the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the nation as a whole took a few moments to sound its earthquake alarms as a test run for city residents to practice precautions, and as a memorial to the many, many thousands of people who lost their lives in Mexico City that day so long ago.  The earthquake alarm is arguably the most shocking sound in this city where I live.  There are 8000 alarm speakers set up, one in every neighborhood; one of them is just on the corner, only one door from my apartment building.  The horrible and unmistakeable sound–alerta sísmica alerta sísmica alerta sísmica, accompanied by unspeakable sirens–comes directly into my home office window.  As 11:00AM approached, I steeled myself and warned the cats; the alarm went off as scheduled, stopped within a minute or so, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.



Two hours and fourteen minutes later, all hell broke loose.  A massive earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, shallow and with a nearby epicenter, crashed into Mexico City with no warning.  Due to its proximity, there was no time to sound the alarm until the quake had already started.  As is usually the case, the neighborhood where I live and the neighborhood nearest me were hardest hit.  There are geological reasons for that, but no need to elaborate on those now.  Parts of the whole city sustained serious damage; at last count, about 50 buildings collapsed, thousands more are in danger of collapsing, more than 400 people lost their lives, and thousands more are seriously injured.



On September 24, a young Mexico City woman whom I do not know used social media to express her thoughts, feelings, and experiences as she volunteered with an earthquake relief effort day.  I contacted her and asked her permission to translate her writing into English and publish it here.  She calls herself “Al” and she asked that I not publish a photograph of her.  She says she’s not a writer, although in my opinion she most definitely is.
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“Yesterday I spent six hours helping at Ground Zero on Calle Escocia, in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City. I had stayed overnight at my parents’ home, and got up at 6:30AM. My mother made breakfast for me while I was getting ready, and then I lined up to go to the place where volunteers were to gather.



Those in charge explained to us that we women were to pass empty buckets to the Mexican army, who were going to fill them with rubble and then pass them to two lines of men who were behind us, pressed up against the walls. The army was to move any metal, glass, furniture, and other more dangerous objects. They knew how inexperienced most of us volunteers were and they didn’t want us to run any risks.



In order for us to go in, they gave us equipment—helmet, gloves, vest, and face masks. They used permanent markers to write our name, a contact number, and blood type on our arms. They vaccinated us against tetanus.

And then we went into Ground Zero in silence, our cellular phones turned off. Right after a 45 minute delay due to the scare of the second earthquake [Saturday 23 September, a 6.2 aftershock from the earthquake on September 7, 2017], the army immediately put us to work. We had to wait while Civil Defense made sure that it was safe to go into the building.



My eyes could not believe what they were seeing: I had never seen a collapsed building, never thought how a structure so strong and solid could become a mountain of rubble and memories. The “line of life”, as we called it, began its work, and we put thinking aside in order to be able do our job.



While we were actively working, other volunteers continuously offered us donated water, electrolytes, candies, tamales, and hard-boiled eggs. We volunteers preferred not to eat; we just took candies and left the food for the army and the engineers. Doctors came through continuously, asking if we were feeling all right, putting drops in our eyes, and helping people out of the building if they looked over-tired.



Passing buckets, even the big paint-bucket size ones we had, seems simple, but after an hour I felt blisters on my hands and cramps in my shoulders. I knew I was not the only one tired when buckets began to drop from the hands of other volunteers. Some shouted, “Be careful! Those could break!” The men tried to make us feel better, saying we were doing great work.



Meanwhile, we tried to concentrate so as not to delay the work as we watched pieces of other people’s lives go by: shoes, photographs, chairs, clothing, blankets, pictures from their walls. Objects that they surely obtained from their own efforts and dedication, and now they are nothing. A wheelbarrow, thrown aside by the masonry workers who were removing bigger pieces of the wreckage, grabbed my attention. In the wheelbarrow was a set of brand new drinking glasses, still in their wrapped box.



As the women at the head of the ‘line of life’ withdrew, those behind them advanced. I came closer to the head of the line, and suddenly I saw a car among the ruin of the building’s parking garage: a bright-red Nissan Sentra, undamaged. Nevertheless, the garage entrance is blocked, so the car will never get out unharmed.



Nobody is taking selfies, nobody is playing music, no one talks, no one makes jokes or acts lazy. Respect is tangible. The entire area is filled with mourning. Yesterday, workers here rescued a pug dog and a cat, which tells us that there is still the possibility of life among the rubble. If we do our work efficiently, it could make the difference between life and death….”  [Please read the full article HERE — I warn you, there may be tears, but you won’t be sorry!]

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I can’t believe it has been three years since 43 student teachers went missing one night in Iguala, Guerrero.  And, I can’t believe the key questions remain.

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Who is responsible?  What happened that night?  Where are they?  Why are there still no answers?  How can 43 human beings be disappeared so completely?  When will the truth be revealed?

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In the midst of our current tragedies, let us not forget the 43 normalistas from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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Three years without answers must seem like an eternity to their families….

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How many of us knew that eighty years ago, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, children of Spanish Republicans, facing the danger posed by the fascist government of Francisco Franco, were provided refuge in Mexico by President Lázaro Cárdenas?  463 children sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, landing in Veracruz on June 10, 1937.  After a being warmly welcomed, these child refugees were put on a train to Morelia.  Most never returned to Spain.  In the brief interview below, one of the still-living refugees, 87 year-old Amparo Rius Munoz, offers lessons for today.

http://players.brightcove.net/665003303001/4k5gFJHRe_default/index.html?videoId=5467422137001

The documentary, The Children of Morelia – Crossroads and Perspectives will be shown at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia (Morelia International Film Festival), October 2017.

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The walls of Oaxaca are speaking…

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No comment necessary.

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It has been six days since the voices of women, and those who love and respect them, rose as one throughout the world.  Email, Facebook postings, Instagram photos, YouTube videos, memes, and tweets have been circulating the globe, resistance is rising, and unity is being forged.

Here in Oaxaca, we have been overwhelmed by the messages of support for our Women’s March Oaxaca, tee shirt sales (175-200), inquiries of “what next?” and we have been blown away by the final police and media count, that puts the total between 2000 and 3000.  Amazing!!!  We have added press reports about our march to the website, along with photos and video of it.

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And, it has been seven days since the toxic, twittering human smokestack of polluted right-wing demagoguery was sworn in as the 45th president of the USA.  This single week has been marked by a flurry of executive actions — and lots of bombast and argument with the press and, among other things, the launching of a war against truth, facts, science and transparency, women’s rights, the environment, healthcare, Muslims, not to mention disrespecting Mexico and opening up the possibility of a trade war with the USA’s third-largest goods trading partner.

Mexicans are incensed and hoping their president Peña Nieto’s newly-found backbone continues to hold.  And, a grassroots effort among Mexicanos has been launched calling for boycotts of U.S. companies in fury at Donald Trump.   I think now is a good time for El Demagogo (The Demagogue) by Lila Downs (lyrics in English below).

The Demagogue

by Lila Downs

At the edge of the world
Where the factories are
There’s a burning of hatred
That’s crossing the lines

There’s a blue eyed devil man
Thinks he’s king of the world
He’s a bully, a salesman
Selling fear and hate

Who do you think you are?
He plays us with his hate
Turns man against man
But it’s really not a game

And I pray to the ancestors’ love
Do not be fooled by this man’s foolish talk
The serpent woke again
In different times and places
There’s a burning cross
Leading the mob
People in chains
He’s a Quak circus act creeping from the past
He’s the symbol of the monster we no longer want to be
(what we used to be…)
The earth trembles with these names
Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Pinochet

No respect for woman, no respect for race
No respect for anything that lives, the human race
But he cannot buy our soul

(CORO:)

NO A ESE MURO
Voy cortando el odio
Voy sembrando amor

NO A ESE MURO
De la explotación
Pero es mi casa

NO A ESE MURO
La luz de la mañana
El lugar de mis ancestros
Las flores del desierto

NO A ESE MURO
Gonna show that my love
Is much stronger than hate
I’m gonna call to the four winds
I’m gonna change my fate
I’m gonna rise up singing
I’m gonna stand for this place
It’s a long time, Mi Gente

There’s no turning back
There’s no turning back
There’s no turning back

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The Women’s March Oaxaca was an overwhelming success!  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, pussy hats were present, and estimates put the crowd at almost 2,000 people from the USA, Canada, Mexico, and a few other countries.  We even made the front page of Noticias, one of Oaxaca’s major daily newspapers.

I was helping to hold the lead banner, so my photos only begin to tell the story of this amazing event.  To tell you the truth, I got teary eyed at the feeling of solidarity from those who marched, those on the sidewalks, and those watching from windows and doorways.

Why did I march?  I marched because I want a future for my grandchildren that is not based on hate, fear, and environmental catastrophe.

I marched because, in the 7+ years I have lived in Oaxaca, I have been treated with kindness, generosity, and respect and I want the same for Mexicans and all other immigrants (with and without papers) living in the USA.

I marched because I believed those words on the Statue of Liberty my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, had us memorize:

The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

See the Women’s March Oaxaca website for more photos, videos, and press reports.

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T-shirts hot off the  Espacio Zapata presses for Women’s March Oaxaca in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.

I’ll be wearing mine on Saturday.  See you January 21, 2017 at 11 AM in front of Templo Santo Domingo!

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This is the banner from Oaxaca that will be carried at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.  If you go, look for it!

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If you are in Oaxaca, join U.S. citizens and friends on January 21 at 11:00 AM, in front of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, for a Women’s March Oaxaca — in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.  Your bodies and banners would be most welcome!  Just remember, slogans should be directed toward the U.S. government, as foreigners are forbidden by law from involvement in Mexican politics.

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It’s been two years since that tragic night in Iguala, Guerrero when busloads of students (normalistas) from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were violently attacked.  Six students were killed, 25 were injured, and 43 disappeared.  It’s been two years of agony for families and friends.  It’s been two years of questions and discredited answers for the people of Mexico.  And, it’s been two years of artists around the world doing their part to not let us forget.

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Images of some of the missing by Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO) seen June 18, 2016 on Av. Morelos in Oaxaca, including 18-year old Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca.

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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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Three marches are happening in the city today supporting Sección 22 of the CNTE (teachers union).   Beginning at 9:00 this morning there was one by students and another by the health sector — I saw the latter pass as I took my laundry to the lavandería around the corner.  Then, this afternoon there is a “Marcha Pacifica Punk-Libertaria” — whoever they are.  And, there are supposed to be “negotiations” in Mexico City late this afternoon between the Interior Minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, and the CNTE negotiating committee.  Hoping for progress, but not holding my breath.

That’s it for today’s on-the-ground reporting.  I will leave you with a music video.  The song is by Los Angeles based La Santa Cecilia and the video was posted by the Oaxaca based, Oaxacking.

Nunca Más
by La Santa Cecilia

Nos fuimos siguiendo un sueño
con el corazón en mano
por que ya no es justo nada
en la tierra que habitamos
en medio de la comparsa
nos arrastra un viento humano
pa’ ver si se nos quitaban
las ganas de andar soñando
unos de tanta culpa se quedan mudos
otros tienen memoria para olvidar

si la violencia es un espejo que se rompe
y nuestras lagrimas caidas gritaran
solo recuerda que mi cara tiene un nombre

y nunca mas se callara
y nunca mas se callara

te pido me des la mano
y en el camino me sigas
vamos traer a los de arriba
la ira de los de abajo
del miedo sepultado
es hora de ser valiente
en honor a los ausentes
ya no me cruzo de brazos
unos de tanta culpa se quedan mudos
otros tienen memoria para olvidar
si la violencia es un espejo que se rompe
y nuestras lagrimas caidas gritaran
solo recuerda que mi cara tiene un nombre

y nunca mas se callara
y nunca mas se callara

cúantas veces velamos la misma historia
cúantas mentiras nuevas se contara
si la violencia es un espejo que se rompe
y nuestras lagrimas caidas gritaran
solo recuerda que mi cara tiene un nombre

y nunca mas se callara
y nunca mas se callara
nunca jamas me olvidara

And, while you’re at it, I highly recommend watching a couple of La Santa Cecilia’s other music videos.  Ice El Hielo will probably bring tears.   And, I guarantee you will never again hear Strawberry Fields Forever the same, after seeing their version.

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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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Today is Sunday, no alcohol can be purchased in Oaxaca, and a federal helicopter has made a pass or two over the city.   It’s election day in Oaxaca and 12 other states, plus the Mexico City.  Polls don’t close until 6:00 PM, but rumor has it, a PRI victory party is already being set up in the Plaza de la Danza.  Hmmm…

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Yesterday, on the way to dinner, we stopped to watch the take down of the newly installed sculpture of Jesús in front of Santo Domingo.  This shot seems to be a metaphor for today’s election.

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… between Independencia and Morelos on Garcia Vigil.

That's Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, leading the charge.

That’s Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto, backed by the military, leading the charge against the teachers’ union.

No to the education reform! Only books will draw this country away from barbarism.

No to the education reform!  Only books will draw this country away from barbarism.

My future is en your hands No to the privatization of education!

My future is in your hands – No to the privatization of education!

To protest is not a crime. No to the education reform.

To protest is not a crime – No to the education reform

Reforms: Energy, Education, Financial, Labor

Reforms:  Energy – Education – Financial – Electoral – Labor

The occupation of the Zócalo continues; yesterday Sección XXII of the CNTE (teachers’ union) shut down the airport; today a federal helicopter is flying overhead as I write, no doubt keeping tabs on a mass march from the IEEPO (State Institute of Public Education) to the Zócalo; the extremely contentious election for governor of Oaxaca is June 5; Guelaguetza 2016 performances are July 25 and August 1; and the new school year is scheduled to begin in mid August.  It could be a long hot summer…

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