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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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Oaxaca quote of the day, as posted on Facebook by my friend and neighbor, J:  “Antes, no salía sin checar el clima.  Ahora no salgo sin checar los bloqueos.”  Translation:  “Before, I didn’t go out without checking the weather.  Now, I don’t leave without checking for blockades.”

Mexico’s Interior Secretary, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, is refusing further dialogue with the CNTE (teachers and education workers union) until the blockades are lifted, the CNTE is vowing to intensify its actions around the country, and rumor has it that masses of vacant hotel rooms in Oaxaca (thanks to large-scale cancellations) are being filled by federal police.  There’s a dance going on in Oaxaca, I don’t know the steps, but in the meantime, let’s put on our red shoes and dance the blues.

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Let’s Dance
by David Bowie

Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song
they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway
while color lights up your face
Let’s sway
sway through the crowd to an empty space

If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

Let’s dance for fear
your grace should fall
Let’s dance for fear tonight is all

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes
Let’s sway under the moonlight,
this serious moonlight

If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

Let’s dance put on your red shoes
and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song
they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes
Let’s sway under the moonlight,
this serious moonlight

 

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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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Yesterday was Día de la Bandera (Flag Day) in Mexico.  Hmmm, I don’t think these were the flags they had in mind…

The flags that were flying on the streets of Oaxaca were those carried by the members of the Integrantes del Frente de Organizaciones Sociales, Campesinas, Urbanas, Pesqueras y del Transporte (FOSCUPT), an umbrella group of more than forty social organizations, peasants, urban workers, fishers, and transport workers.  Thousands marched from the Fuente de las Ocho Regiones (Fountain of the 8 Regions) to the zócalo.  Besides flags, there were banners and burros…

And Devils Dance street theater from an Afromexicano group, probably from the Costa Chica.

After marching and playing for miles, the destination was reached; the bote player took a break and gals from San Pablo Tijaltepec went and got something to drink.

According to this article, the mobilization was to reject bad structural policies and funding cuts being made in the peasant sector and requesting the federal government turn their eyes to Oaxaca.  In addition, Jesus Romero López, leader of FOSCUPT, among other demands, called for justice for the social and political leaders who have been killed and for better urban planning, stating that the city is growing in a disorganized way, often resulting in neighborhoods with no water, electricity, or paved streets.

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February 2, besides being Groundhog Day in the USA, is Candelaria in Mexico.  And so, late Monday morning, I went in search of Niño Díos.  None was to be found in the vicinity of the Cathedral.  Only the traditional red huipiles of the female Triqui members of MULT caught my eye.

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I continued my quest, heading up to Templo de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.  However, as I walked through Llano park, no one was carrying a Niño Díos, dressed in this year’s finery, to the church to be blessed.  Only a giant red horse sculpture by Oaxaqueño artist, Fernando Andriacci (and its red feedbag?) was there to see.

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I turned west and headed for home, hoping I might possibly spot a Niño Díos as I passed Templo del Carmen Alto.   But no, only a red-shirted water delivery man caught my eye.

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Funny, if we allow ourselves to see things as they are and not as how we expect them to be, we can return home with something completely different and delightful from what we had set out to find.

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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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Ahhh, it feels good to be back in the warm and wonderful Oaxaca.  There are the sounds…  I awake to church bells, followed by the loudspeaker cry of “Gas de Oaxaca” from the propane vendor.  Last night, as I was heading to bed, rockets exploded and, just now, the camote man’s steam whistle sounded, announcing tooth-achingly sweetened hot sweet potatoes and bananas.  Then there are the sights…

The walls continue to talk…  On Thursday, I saw this on Calle Morelos as I walked to the Alcalá and comida with friends.  It remembers Leonel Castro Abarca, one of the 43 still-missing students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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On the way home from comida, I detoured to see what was to be seen on the zócalo.  Teacher tents remain pitched around the bandstand, but the walkways were free of ambulantes, and, as always, the Cathedral presided over the scene.

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Thursday, the familiar sounds of protest were irresistible.  I grabbed my camera and headed out the front gate to see a massive march by healthcare workers on their way to the Plaza de la Danza.  To be honest, tubas and cohetes would have had me out the door, too!  It was way too quiet in el norte.

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And, what can I say about last night’s sunset from the terrace?

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Naturally, a marmota and pair of monos were waiting on the plaza in front of Santo Domingo this afternoon, awaiting a bride and groom to emerge.  After all, it is Saturday — wedding day in Oaxaca!

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I wonder what my ears will hear and my eyes will see, mañana…

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The 43 students from the Normal Rural Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in Guerrero are still missing.  Following Thursday’s Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa mass demonstrations, “analysts and commentators across the Mexican news media spectrum began speaking of a modern day revolution now brewing in the country.

Street art: tilted chair with words

A tipping point?  I don’t know…

Angular  (Street art, Nov. 22, 2014 on a wall in Oaxaca.)

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Today is the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.  However, there is no joy; most of Mexico is in mourning for the missing 43 students and the anger is building.  In Mexico City the military parade and celebrations will be moved from the Zócalo to a military installation in the Polanco neighborhood.  A mass protest march will replace it.

Castigo a los responsables de la masacre el Ayotzinapa

Zócalo, Oaxaca de Juárez – Nov. 17, 2014

The country’s attention is focused on today’s Global Day of Action for Ayotzinapa.  Many will wear black today to mourn the loss of students, journalists, and others to violence in Mexico.  It is indeed a global event;  Greek students have posted a video in support of the missing students and their families.  They will be Standing in Solidarity in Salinas (California) and in at least 115 other cities around the world.  And, in Oaxaca, among many other events, at 4 PM there will be a Festival Por la Vida at Santo Domingo, one of 231 actions listed on a Facebook page.

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Sitting on a wall, high above Av. Independencia in Oaxaca city…

Tears welled up as I watched the march go by.

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The headline, Mexico Burns as Outrage over Student Disappearances Sparks Protests Against State-Backed Violence, from the Nov. 13 “Democracy Now” show, is not an overstatement.  Yesterday, in front of Santo Domingo…

Todos somos 43 in foreground; Santo Domingo in background

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Bottles with flowers propping up cardboard

The Caravana de Ayotzinapa, one of three caravans by the parents and supporters of the missing 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, is scheduled to arrive in Oaxaca tomorrow morning (Nov. 17).  A procession from the crucero at Trinidad de Viguera to the zócalo in Oaxaca is scheduled to begin at 9 AM.  Given the prohibition against foreigners participating in political activity, as much as I would like to be there, I’ll be sticking close to home.

However, for my friends in the USA, check out photographer and writer Tim Porter’s article, #43; there are demonstrations coming to a city near you.  Tim is a frequent visitor to Oaxaca and, for my Marin peeps, his articles and photographs regularly appear in Marin Magazine.

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Reason number 579 why I love Oaxaca…

Today was the first day of a way-too-short first time visit to Oaxaca by a couple of California gal pals — an orientation walk through El Centro was the order of the day.  And what did we stumble upon in front of the Government Palace?  Danzantes waiting to perform a couple of the dances from the Danza de la Pluma.

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They began dancing and I flashed on Saturdays’ blog post, Danzantes in training.  However, these guys definitely weren’t apprentices — they had the steps and jumps down WITH those heavy and seemingly unwieldy penachos on their heads — and the crowd cheered.

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The danzantes and most of their gathered audience were from San Bartolo Coyotepec, about 15 km south of the city.  It’s a village known for the artisans who make black pottery.  However, along with the band and dancers, there were banners and protestors.

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According to this article (in Spanish), “they arrived at the presidential palace in the main square of the city to demand the replacement of the elections because the process was considered seedy and does not represent the will of the community.”

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Culture and politics… I couldn’t have arranged a more quintessential Oaxaca experience, if I had tried.  And my friends, what did they think?   They loved it all!

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Monday’s headline from the Huffington Post read, “Enrique Peña Nieto’s TIME Cover Sparks Outrage In Mexico.”  The Time Magazine cover (to be published February 24, 2014) shows an imperious looking Peña Nieto, with the bold-face headline, “Saving Mexico.”  Judging from personal conversations, numerous articles, and marches throughout the country, that is definitely not the way most Mexicans see their president.

Mural on wall of giant man holding small Peña Nieto head by his hair

Elected in 2012, Peña Nieto has proposed sweeping reforms, including a previously mentioned education package modeled after the disastrous US, “No Child Left Behind Act.”  These unpopular reforms have citizens marching in the streets and calling for Peña Nieto’s head.  One of the reforms that Mexicans find most egregious is the proposal to open Mexico’s state-run oil industry, PEMEX, to foreign investment.  This is one that strikes at the heart of Mexican pride.

Poster of oil rig spewing oil from on top of a heart

A little background:  In 1938, in support of oil workers striking against foreign-owned oil companies, Mexico’s president, Lázaro Cárdenas, citing the 27th article of the 1917 constitution, expropriated the Mexican facilities of the United States and Anglo–Dutch oil companies, nationalized the oil reserves, and created the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (aka, PEMEX).  Mexico now owned and controlled this valuable resource.

Banner, "Frente en defensa del petroleo.  Por el derecho a la consulta ciudadana."

Back to the present:  According to the Huffington Post article, “The energy bill, however, faced massive protests when it passed through Congress in December. Demonstrators shouted ‘The homeland is not for sale!‘ as officials voted to allow private companies to exploit oil and gas reserves in the country, according to the Associated Press.”

Poster, "A la defensa del petroleo"

In true Oaxacan fashion, marches have been held and banners, posters, and murals have gone up throughout the city to express the outrage and indignation felt by a majority of Mexicans at what they see as an attempt by the Peña Nieto government to sell-off their patrimony.

Of course, as the Time Magazine article illustrates, the US is applauding Peña Nieto and the actions of his ruling party.

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