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Posts Tagged ‘labor’

Today is Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).  Lest anyone forget, there have been booms and bangs throughout the day to remind one and all!  And, most years, the day finds me huffing and puffing my way up to the top of Picacho, the sacred mountain that looms above Teotitlán del Valle — joining the Zapotec villagers in a Prehispanic ritual asking for rain.

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It is also the Día del Abañil (Day of the mason/stonemason/bricklayer) and it is tradition for workers to erect crosses festooned with flowers at the highest point on construction sites.  According to Mexconnect, in 1960, Pope John XXIII removed Día de la Santa Cruz from the liturgical calendar, but Mexico being Mexico and construction workers being construction workers, they ignored the Pope.  Eventually, understanding the relationship of forces, he gave Mexico a special dispensation to celebrate this day.

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For me, today the city brought a much welcomed surprise.  As anyone who has traversed the first block of Garcia Vigil (between Independencia and Morelos) during the past nine months can attest, it has been a challenge not to slip, trip, or fall thanks to the warped “temporary” plywood laid down over what used to be a solid, if not smooth, sidewalk.  However, on this day celebrating abañiles, they were hard at work on a new “real” sidewalk!

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No cross on the worksite, but definitely a Día de la Santa Cruz/Día del Albañil miracle!

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Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and in cities and towns all over the world (except the USA, but that’s another story), workers and the dignity of the work they do is being celebrated.  It’s a federal holiday in Mexico and as I write, I can hear loudspeakers from the various marches taking place in Oaxaca city.  Given that non-citizens are forbidden by the Mexican Constitution from participating in political activity, I’m staying home.  However, to honor the workers of the world, I’m looking back to my visit to the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building in Mexico City and the murals of Diego Rivera.

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…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  Happy International Workers’ Day to all!

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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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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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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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According to the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS), there are approximately 165,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers and their children living  in California — with a significant percentage coming from the state of Oaxaca.  Writer and photographer David Bacon has been photographing and interviewing indigenous Mexican migrants working in California’s agricultural fields for many years.  The following Truthout article is from his photo-documentary project, Living Under the Trees, sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities and California Rural Legal Assistance.

Young, at Work in the Fields

by David Bacon

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

Most young farm-workers in California are migrants from Mexico, especially the south of the country, where many people share an indigenous culture and language. Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It’s hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it’s a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself. With the money I earn I’m going to help my mother and save the rest. I’ll be attending college in the fall at Arizona Western College—my first year. I want to have a good job, a career. I’m not thinking of working in the fields. Not at all. I look at how hard my grandfather has worked. I don’t want to do field work for the rest of my life because it’s so hard and the pay is so low.

Lopez describes the reality for farmworkers in California in a way that gives tangible meaning to the facts and numbers describing farmworker life. There are about 120,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers in California. Counting the 45,000 children living with them, that is a total of 165,000 people. They are the most recent migrants from Mexico. They speak twenty-three languages, come from thirteen different Mexican states, and have rich cultures of language, music, dance, and food that bind their communities together.

<snip>  Click HERE to read full article.

This project is therefore a reality check. The idea is to give indigenous migrant communities a vehicle they can use to find support for dealing with the social problems they face, such as housing, low wages, and discrimination. This documentary work is not neutral. Its purpose is to help provide a means for people to organize and win support in a world that, at best, treats them as invisible, and at worst demonizes them. I used to be a union organizer, and this work is very similar. Social documentation not only has to have an engagement with reality, but should try to change it.

Click HERE to read full article.

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Need a facelift?

Roll of chicken wire leaning up against chipped wall of under Casa Oaxaca sign

Apparently, Casa Oaxaca and neighbor, Galeria Quetzalli, both do.

Two guys on scaffold chipping away plaster from face of building

You might want to consider these guys.

Guy mixing cement with a shovel in front of scaffolding

They work hard.

Guy mixing cement with shovel, guy on scaffold, and another standing on sidewalk plastering wall

And, all work is done with care and by hand!

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Like 80+ countries in the world, International Workers’ Day is a national holiday in Mexico.  Early this morning in Oaxaca, streets were closed as contingents began gathering and then marching toward the city center.   And for hours, they poured into the Zócalo and Alameda for speeches, music, and bottle rockets, all of which will, no doubt, continue for hours more.

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FYI:  CTM stand for the Confederación de Trabajadores de México, the largest confederation of Mexican labor unions.  Think, AFL-CIO in El Norte (though with some significant differences).

¡Feliz Día Internacional de los Trabajadores!

Update:  For a more nuanced view of yesterday’s march, see the report by longtime resident, Nancy Davies.

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The Occupy movement continues… clashes with the Oakland, CA police on Saturday are making headlines.  And, when I was in Mexico City two weeks ago, an indignado planton (encampment) was firmly established in front of the domed building that houses the Mexican stock mark.  Please note the biblioteca (library).

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I must admit to feeling right at home, as plantons are an almost ubiquitous part of Oaxaca’s zócalo.  For more on plantons, David Bacon provides a cross border historical context to the planton/occupy movements in his article, Unions and Immigrants Join Occupy Movements,

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David Bacon, one of the most perceptive labor and immigrant rights writer/photographers, interviews Rufino Dominguez, director of the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants (in English).  Let’s hope this isn’t another program that is all talk, no action.

Oaxaca’s New Government Calls for Migrant Rights

OAXACA, MEXICO The Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, and its director Rufino Dominguez, called for a new era of respect for the rights of migrants, in commorating [sic] the International Day of the Migrant in the Palacio del Gobierno, Oaxaca’s state capitol building. Representing the newly-elected state government, Dominguez paid tribute to the contributions of the braceros, the first of Oaxaca’s migrant workers to travel to the United States. from 1942 to 1964, and to the women who cared for the families they left behind.

Around the balconies of the palacio’s courtyard hung photographs showing the lives of current migrants from Oaxaca, working as farm laborers in California. Migrant rights activists, artisans and public officials spoke about the important role migration continues to play in Oaxaca’s economic, social, political and family life. The state, in southern Mexico, is the source of one of the largest waves of migration from Mexico to the U.S.

Dominguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, which organizes indigenous migrants in both Mexico and the U.S., was appointed director of the IOAM by Oaxaca’s new governor, Gabino Cue Monteagudo. Cue defeated the PRI, the party that governed Oaxaca for the previous 80 years. In an interview with David Bacon, Dominguez described the different road the new government is taking to ensure social justice for Oaxacan migrants today:

We can’t tell the U.S. government, or the governments of California and other states, to respect the rights of our people who are living there, if we ourselves are not respecting the rights of migrants here in Oaxaca. Many migrants passing through Oaxaca from Central America and other places suffer systematic violations of their human rights.

Have we just paid attention to migrants in the U.S. because they send dollars home? Sometimes the problems of migrants within Mexico are even greater than those we have in the U.S.  [Read full article]

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