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Today, the 20th of November, Mexico commemorates the 108th anniversary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. It raged on for ten years, as various factions battled for power, and the peasantry fought for, in the words of Emiliano Zapata, ¡Tierra y libertad!  (Land and liberty!)

From the smallest of pueblos to the mega metropolis of Mexico City, most every town and city has a street named 20 de noviembre, including Oaxaca.  In addition, Oaxaca has a 20 de noviembre market, where you will find Conchita, my favorite chocolate store, Pasillo de Humo (hall of smoke/grilled meats), aisles of stalls filled with bread, and lines of counters offering menudo and other traditional street food — a very popular destination for locals and adventurous tourists.

Alas, the Mexican Revolution has a complex and bloody history — 1.9 to 3.5 million lives were lost, revolutionary leaders assassinated each other in turn, and promises were repeatedly broken.  The goals of land, water, liberty, justice and law for the peasantry and workers went unrealized.   However, once the armed conflict ended, a cultural revolution began that celebrated and honored working people, peasants, and Mexico’s indigenous roots and helped to forge a new Mexican identity.  As the documentary The Storm That Swept Mexico concludes:

“If we celebrate the revolution, it appears as though we are celebrating the status quo: the miserable conditions of the farmers, workers and the average Mexicans.  And if we are the inheritors of that revolution, then there is nothing to celebrate. Now if we think of the Revolution as an explosion of creative energy then I think we do have reason to celebrate because it was a movement to create a nation more just, more equal, more honest, and an identity we could be proud of.”

To highlight a Oaxaca connection, today’s NVI Noticias published the article, Enciende Madero mecha revolucionaria; Visita Oaxaca en 1909, about Francisco I. Madero’s visit to Oaxaca to light the fuse of revolution in this remote state.

By the way, in 2005, Article 74 of Mexican labor law established the third Monday of November as the “official” holiday — thus following the USA’s “time-honored tradition” of creating 3-day holiday weekends and setting the stage for the bargain hunting shopping extravaganza promoted as Buen Fin.

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On this St. Patrick’s Day, you might want to check out this brief history lesson from PRI (Public Radio International), Mexico remembers the Irishmen who fought for Mexico against the US.

And, for more Irish in Mexico history, I’m re-posting my March 17, 2016 blog post, St. Brendan in Mexico?, below:

The Mexican-Irish connection may date back farther than most of us have considered. Séamus Ó Fógartaigh writes in the essay, Ireland and Mexico, “The first Irishman to set foot on Mexican soil may well have been St. Brendan the Navigator, who, according to legend, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his ‘currach’ (traditional Irish rowing boat) in search of new converts to the Christian faith. An ancient manuscript found in Medieval European monasteries allegedly described his voyage to strange Western Lands, and is known as the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis. Some historians claim that Christopher Columbus found inspiration for his seafaring adventure in the pages of the Navigatio of St. Brendan the Abbot.” And, he notes, there is even speculation that Quetzalcóatl was actually a deified Irish monk.

As you raise your pint of Guinness on this St. Patrick’s Day, consider this and the other Mexico and Ireland connections, while you sing a rousing chorus of Saint Patrick Battalion.

The song celebrates the Batallón de San Patricio, the Irish-American soldiers who deserted and fought alongside the Mexican army against the United States during the Mexican American War, 1846-1848. And, don’t forget to watch One Man’s Hero, the 1999 feature film about the San Patricios, starring Tom Berenger.

Sláinte mhaith! ¡Salud! And, remember, don’t drink and drive!

 

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The Mexican-Irish connection may date back farther than most of us have considered.  Séamus Ó Fógartaigh writes in the essay, Ireland and Mexico, “The first Irishman to set foot on Mexican soil may well have been St. Brendan the Navigator, who, according to legend, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his ‘currach’ (traditional Irish rowing boat) in search of new converts to the Christian faith. An ancient manuscript found in Medieval European monasteries allegedly described his voyage to strange Western Lands, and is known as the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis. Some historians claim that Christopher Columbus found inspiration for his seafaring adventure in the pages of the Navigatio of St. Brendan the Abbot.”  And, he notes, there is even speculation that Quetzalcóatl was actually a deified Irish monk.

As you raise your pint of Guinness on this St. Patrick’s Day, consider this and the other Mexico and Ireland connections, while you sing a rousing chorus of Saint Patrick Battalion.

The song celebrates the Batallón de San Patricio, the Irish-American soldiers who deserted and fought alongside the Mexican army against the United States during the Mexican American War, 1846-1848.  And, don’t forget to watch One Man’s Hero, the 1999 feature film about the San Patricios, starring Tom Berenger.

Sláinte mhaith!  ¡Salud!  And, remember, don’t drink and drive!

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It’s Cinco de Mayo, but in Oaxaca, like most of Mexico, it’s a business as usual kind of day; schools are in session, businesses and banks are open, and deliveries are being made.  The cervesas and mezcal may be flowing and guacamole may be served, but no more than usual.  Only in Puebla, where the significantly outnumbered Mexican troops defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, is it a big deal.  However, most every city and village has a street named 5 de mayo and in many, like Oaxaca, a street has been named for Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, the general who commanded the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla.  By the way, he was born in what was the Mexican village of Bahía del Espíritu Santo, now Goliad, Texas, USA.

As the walls of Oaxaca continue to show, it’s the current battles that remain front and center…

P1050917 copy P1080998 copy P1080893 copy P1080997 P1050398As the mother in the stencil above explains, against the odds like her ancestors 153 years ago, “I will fight today because I don’t want to see you die tomorrow.”

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Oaxaca is one of the most child friendly places you will ever visit.  Kids are welcome most everywhere — it’s part of the culture — and there is much for them to see and do, including El Quinto Sol, an archaeological museum for children.P1020037

I’ve been meaning to write about this colorful, yet hidden, gem since a friend and I discovered it in 2008 on an early Sunday morning ramble.  It was closed for remodeling, but we managed to peek in and vowed to return.

Of course, we didn’t write down the address or name and all I remembered was that it was somewhere south of the zócalo.  It took several expeditions once I moved to Oaxaca before I found El Quinto Sol again.

According to the museum’s brochure, this delightful and educational museum was the brainchild of Oaxaqueño, Manuel Ramirez Salvador and first opened March 19, 2000 in order to teach, preserve, and appreciate the “great heritage bequeathed by our Mesoamerican ancestors.”

Not only a museum, there is also a fabulous “old school” toy store, El Cri-Cri, named for the “grillito cantor” (the singing cricket), a character created by the beloved Francisco Gabilondo Soler.  There are no plastic, battery-powered games and toys in sight and I guarantee those “of a certain age” will be reminiscing and exclaiming, “Ooh, I used to have one of these!” and “Ahh, I always wanted one of those!”

By all means, pay El Quinto Sol a visit — even if unaccompanied by a child.

Address:  Xicotencatl No. 706 (at the corner of La Noria)
Telephone:  951.514.3579
Hours:  Monday through Friday,  9:00 AM – 2:00 PM and 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Saturday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.  Closed on Sunday

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In Memory of the Irish Soldiers of the Heroic Battalion of Saint Patrick Who Gave Their Lives for the Mexican Cause During the Unjust North American Invasion of 1847.  – plaque in Plaza de San Jacinto, San Ángel, Mexico City

Want to learn more?

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Today Mexico is celebrating el Día de la Revolución (Revolution Day).  It commemorates the beginning of the bloody revolution that quickly drove dictator/president Porfirio Díaz from his 31-year long reign.  A November 22, 1910 headline in the Palestine [Texas] Daily Herald proclaimed, “Revolution Is Now On In Mexico: The Real Thing is Reported Under Way in State of Chihuahua, Mexico.”  However, the civil war raged on for ten years, as various factions battled for power and the peasantry fought for, in the words of Emiliano Zapata, ¡Tierra y libertad!  (Land and liberty!)  It is estimated to have cost 1.9 to 3.5 million lives.

At least here in Oaxaca, 20 de noviembre is not celebrated with as much pomp, circumstance, and military hardware as September 16th, Independence Day.  However, there were school floats…

The Government Palace was decked out in green, white, and red and the Governor, along with other dignitaries, presided from its balcony.

As always, the bomberos (firefighters) received much applause as they passed by the crowds gathered along the parade route.

Not so much love given to these guys from the Agencia Estatal de Investigaciones, an agency of Oaxaca’s Attorney General’s office.

And then there was this gal, directly across from the Government Palace…

Octavio Paz writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “The Revolution began as a demand for truth and honesty in the government…. Gradually the movement found and defined itself, in the midst of battle and later when in power.  Its lack of a set program gave it popular authenticity and originality.  This fact accounts for both its greatness and its weaknesses.” [p. 136, Grove Pr. 1985]

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One of the main roads into and out of Oaxaca is Federal Highway 190.  It is a section of the Pan American Highway (which runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of Argentina).  I cross the highway several times a month on my way to the Organic Market in Xochimilco or to a restaurant in Colonia Reforma — and the same thought always crosses my mind, “I can’t believe I’m walking across the Pan American Highway!”

However, the highway has another name, as runs through the city — Calzada Niños Héroes de Chapultepec.  Child heroes of Chapultepec?  Who were they?  If you visit Mexico City, your guidebook or tour guide might direct you to Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec) set high on a hill in the middle of the beautiful 1694 acre Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park).  There you will discover that they were young martyrs from what is called the Mexican-American War in the USA and is known here as the Invasion of Mexico.

Monumento a las Niños Heroes,

Monument to the Child Heroes in Chapultepec Park

Penn State historian Amy S. Greenberg calls it, A Wicked War, and her book, by the same name, chronicles a war waged on the basis of a Presidential lie, against a guiltless neighbor, for the express purpose of annexing half its territory.  (Hola, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California.)  Then Illinois congressman Abraham Lincoln opposed the war and it spawned the first U.S. anti-war movement.

To discover what your teachers may not have told you about the Invasion of Mexico and its Niños Heroes, take a look at last week’s CBS Sunday Morning segment by Mo Rocca and with Amy Greenberg.

h/t Tim Johnson

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November 25, 2012 marks the sixth anniversary of the bloody attack by the Federal Preventive Police on the teachers and members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) in the zócalo of the city of Oaxaca.  I wasn’t here during the 5-month long struggle, but its repercussions continue to reverberate.

Plaque "Plaza de los pueblos en lucha." "por la verdad y la justicia" Oaxaca, 25 - noviembre - 2011

Last year a plaque was unveiled by organizations representing victims, survivors, human rights, and social activists.  Located where the Alameda de León meets the zócalo, it symbolically renames the zócalo, “Plaza of the peoples in struggle; for truth and justice.”

Man with cap looking at photos

Truth and justice have not been attained, assassins go unpunished, many of the same issues remain, and Oaxaca’s economy still hasn’t rebounded.  Today, the Survivors and Former Political Prisoners of Oaxaca in Defense of Human Rights (SEPODDH) mounted a photo exhibition across from the Government Palace.

Women looking at photos, with a basket of sliced bread on her head.

Adults, children, and even vendors stopped to look and, for many, remember those days and nights six years ago.

Crowd of people looking at photos

Somber and unsmiling, they stood silently, gazed at the photos, and read the captions.  The only hint of levity was SEPODDH’s mascota, who sat beside a collection bucket.

Plush monkey wearing bandana across his face.

Section 22 of the teachers’ union held another march and rallied in the zócalo, but today these photos spoke much louder than the words coming from the loud-speakers.

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Tonight, instead of candles…

Fireworks blossom

Fuegos artificiales exploded from the Alameda de León…

Fireworks blossom

As Oaxaca celebrated her 480th birthday!

Fireworks

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Today is Oaxaca’s 480th birthday as a colonial city .  Of course, among other events, a calenda (parade) marked the date.

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In 1532 Spanish settlers (their bloody way paved by Hernán Cortés and his conquistadores) successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a land grant of 1 square league.  The colonists had already established their own town on the site of Huaxyacac, renamed it Antequera (after an old Roman city  in Spain) and received a Royal Charter from King Charles I of Spain.

However, Cortés had successfully gotten the entire Valley of Oaxaca (hundreds of thousands of acres) declared as his own private marquisate and, his greed knowing no bounds, kept trying to evict the colonial townspeople.  By obtaining the queen’s charter, this end-run around Cortés insured the rights of the townspeople to the land.

Thus, April 25th continues to be celebrated as Oaxaca’s birthday.  ¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

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Today is International Women’s Day, established by V. I. Lenin in 1922, revived by women in the USA in 1968, and recognized by the United Nations in 1975.  Here’s to the beautiful, strong, and all around amazing women of Oaxaca!

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¡Feliz, Día de la mujer!

The librarian in me can’t help but include a few resources, I put together a few years ago, chronicling the history of International Women’s Day:


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Oaxaca is old!   As a cursory glance at Mixtec and Zapotec history and their descendants will tell, this valley has been settled for thousands of years.

Dancers

However, yesterday the city celebrated its founding as a colonial city, marking the 478 years since Spanish settlers (their bloody way paved by Hernán Cortés and his conquistadores) successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a land grant of 1 square league.  The colonists had already established their own town on the site of Huaxyacac, renamed it Antequera (after an old Roman city  in Spain) and received a Royal Charter from King Charles I of Spain.  However, Cortés had successfully gotten the entire Valley of Oaxaca (hundreds of thousands of acres) declared as his own private marquisate and, his greed knowing no bounds, kept trying to evict the colonial townspeople.  By obtaining the queen’s charter, this end-run around Cortés insured the rights of the townspeople to the land.   Thus, April 25th continues to be celebrated as Oaxaca’s birthday.

City elite

Saturday night I had a ringside seat on my terrace for fuegos artificiales (fireworks) — first emanating from the vicinity of the ex-convento of Santo Domingo (6 blocks to the NE), followed by those sent up into the night sky from La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (AKA:  my backyard).  Sunday morning, I was awakened at 6:05 to the sounds of Lady Soledad’s bells chiming — more musical than the usual clang-clang-clang — for a full 5 minutes, along with the rat-ta-tat-tat of firecrackers, adding exclamation points!

Bungee contraption -- ready for lift off.

I went down to the Zócalo a little before 6pm — the calenda (parade) hadn’t yet arrived, but the place was teeming with people (mostly all Mexican).  Payasos (clowns) were in abundance, but the big hit was a bungee cord contraption suspended above a trampoline.  A guy would harness a kid to the cord, jump up and down on the trampoline with his arms around said kid and once momentum was achieved, let go and send the kid sling-shot-like up into the sky.  Yikes, the way several of the kids were flaying around, I thought someone was going to break a back.

Marmota leading the way

For the 3rd day in a row, temperatures continued to be in the high 90s, unseasonably hot even for Oaxaca so, for the second day in a row, I hit the ice cream shop — this time for a scoop each of peach and banana (in a cup, no cone this time… less messy as it melted) — a great combination!  The calenda eventually arrived with all the usual suspects — several brass bands, municipal honchos, dancers in costume, monos (giant puppets — see above photo), etc.  Did I mention, it was really hot?  There I was, dripping wet, confining myself to the shade of the Zócalo’s 135+ year old towering Indian laurel trees, and eating ice cream when these participants (of all ages, I might add) had walked, played, and danced their way under the blazing sun for 13 blocks from Llano Park!

Little girl dancer

After 13 blocks, she didn't look any worse for wear!

Participants unmasked

Guys unmasked.

Couple drinking water

Feeling the heat... the pause that refreshes!

Disassembling balloons.

That's all folks!

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