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Posts Tagged ‘Seccion 22’

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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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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… 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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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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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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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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Last Monday, L and I had a leisurely hike up the hill from my apartment to the Guelaguetza Auditorium, sat in stadium seats almost 20 rows up, looking down on the enormous circular concrete stage with the city and mountains providing a picturesque backdrop.

Yesterday, I hopped on a bus, heading for another Guelaguetza performance, this time in Villa de Etla.  However, a bloqueo (blockade) by Sección 22 of the teachers’ union had the bus turning around, doubling back, and taking a circuitous route that eventually wound its way through the narrow streets of Santa Rosa.  Once we got back on the main road, I transferred to a colectivo and arrived in Etla just as the dancing was about to begin — this time on a small temporary wood-plank stage, that seemed to shake with every dance step.  The setting wasn’t quite as spectacular, but, there I was, within an arm’s reach of the dancers!

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Danza de la Pluma

Danza de la Pluma

 

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Flor de Piña

With the exception of the Danza de la Pluma, these dancers are from a folkloric group that performs each of the traditional regional dances.   As you can see from their faces, they dance with as much joy and pride as the delegations from the villages at the big Guelaguetza.

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Returning home was its own adventure.  Last week, L and I only had to navigate sidewalks, pathways, and stairs along with the other 11,000 attendees.  Yesterday, Chris (see his Guelaguetza in Etla – 2014 post) gave me a ride to a bus stop where, after about 10 minutes, I caught the bus that would deposit me a half block from Casita Colibrí.  Alas, the best laid plans…  Just before the intersection up to Cerro Fortín, masked maestros (teachers) surrounded the bus, our driver shrugged, opened the doors, and off we passengers got.  It was hot, I was tired, but what else was there to do?  I hoofed it to halfway between the Museo del Ferrocarril (Railroad Museum) and Morelos Park, when another bus materialized, I climbed aboard, giving my feet a much-needed rest, and let the driver navigate the clogged streets that took me back to home sweet home.

It was a fun and frustrating AND exhilarating and exhausting kind of day.

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Recently, I was on the US east coast visiting with family.  Most of the time was spent with three teachers; my sister-in-law who retired after 30+ years of teaching in the Massachusetts public school district, my daughter-in-law who, after teaching in a public school in Connecticut, is currently a teacher in New York, and my son who is a college assistant professor.  They, along with all — not most, all — of my teacher friends in the US, decry the damage No Child Left Behind has wrought.  And, even one of its major proponents, Diane Ravitch, has done a 180 and is now leading the charge against it.  If you are interested, take a look at the Terry Gross interview with her in April 2011.

One of the issues the teachers of Oaxaca are protesting is the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), modeled after No Child Left Behind.  Thus, the following thoughtful post on the Oaxaca Study Action Group website by Nancy Davies, resonated.

personal note re the Section 22 teachers union strike

I applied for a my first teaching job in Boston. First I took the universal teacher evaluation test, by which the highest scoring were first hired for positions. Then I waited.

By October (school began in September) it was clear that although my score for Boston applicants was third from the topmost person, something fishy was happening. I called the school department. All apologies, they assigned me a school the very next day,from which another teacher had just resigned. It was in an all black (pre-integration) neighborhood of all black kids whose school had no new textbooks and few old ones. There were no functioning bathrooms for the kids, at times of the month when adolescent girls seriously wanted a bathroom and a place to get clean, they stayed home. The boys were often recruited by the male teachers to buy dope. The best joke: the kids put a family of newborn rats in the desk drawer of one teacher. Another joke: hang a fellow student out the window over the asphalt yard by holding his ankles.

I survived, the kids maybe survived. I learned a couple of things: 1) hungry badly treated kids don’t study. 2) teacher tests don’t mean shit.

So here I am surely one of few who supports what Section 22 is doing and saying. Yes, I know the union was corrupted by PRI governors and caciques; and abuses, such inheriting a teaching job, are numerous. I also know that for 27 years Section 22 has been pushing for better salaries but simultaneously for shoes, paid-uniforms, books, bathrooms, breakfasts. I visited the current encampment in the zoc and spoke briefly with a newly graduated normal school teacher, a first-job guy who does not speak any indigenous language, and is not moreno (brown-skinned). He was sitting under a tarp playing cel phone games. Bored, I would say, and happy that somebody spoke to him. He’s not specially political and doesn’t know too much about his union’s history either. In 2006 he was an adolescent in secondary school, and rarely came into the capital. His first classroom is primary grade kids.  I asked him if he likes teaching. Yes, he replied, I am learning so much from the kids! He smiled broadly.

Right away in my book he qualifies as a teacher. His Spanish is good; he graduated from a five year university level program where  pedagogy is  emphasized as well as content information. He’s better prepared in 2012 than I was in 1968 with a  Masters degree from Boston College and accreditation in three areas including Spanish which I couldn’t speak. I learned a lot from my students too, and most of it, since I came from a  middle class neighborhood, was initially incomprehensible. One boy was clearly psychopathic. Two were dyslexic but had never been tested, merely promoted. They were wonderful at memorizing everything they couldn’t read. One girl got pregnant during the year and I didn’t have a clue what to say to her, I still grieve over my stupidity and lack of empathy. One girl told me her grandmother was burned up the night before in a home fire. Another’s boyfriend had been shot dead on the street. So I can sum up what I learned from my students as the stuff nightmares were made of, and it probably radicalized me more than any movement of the time. The Section 22 kid who was hired legitimately when he applied,  tested only by his normal school (and why should we assume they pass youngsters who don’t know either their subject or how to teach it?) told me he learned from his kids and he smiled. I wept.

Section 22 has pushed Cue to accept the fact that one size does not fit all, neither for teacher evaluation nor for curriculum. They decline to walk away from the 26 unprosecuted murders of 2006 and the half dozen since. They champion the indigenous protests over mining and land grabs. They understand the word “neoliberalism”. They understand ghost towns, towns where the remaining people live off family remittances from the USA. They understand impunity and corruption, caciques who stole towns’ entire education budgets, governors who ignore an education level now the worst in Mexico. Blame the teachers? Not me. Been there, done that.

No one likes being held hostage to issues they don’t understand. As I walked past a blocked registry office an angry woman turned to me and shrieked, Lazy bunch of bastards! Her frustration undoubtedly was caused not just by being unable to enter a state office, but also I imagine by having kids at home driving her  (and her mother) nuts because there’ve been no classes for two weeks. Maybe she knows that with all public classes open, her kids still may not be able to go to the public university since there are not enough seats, and very likely they will settle for semi-menial jobs. Or maybe there will be no jobs. Maybe they will try to cross the desert in Arizona.  Or maybe her story is entirely different, I don’t know.

I ask myself why in 2006  500,000 adults spontaneously came out to march with these very teachers. Why the PRI was voted out and will not recover this state. Why now, in 2012 what the media publish are photos of blocked access and uncollected garbage. Cue is backing down, item by item on 22’s demands. Good for him. He’s neoliberal, but he’s not stupid. His education department head has resigned, and thus far no tear gas has been launched.

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Propping up fallen trees isn’t the only activity on the Alameda… 3 tents under the Indian Laurel trees on the Alameda

Today, Sección 22 del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (the teachers’ union) is beginning an occupation of Oaxaca’s zócalo, Alameda, and several side streets.2 tents under the portales of the Governor's Palace According to a report in the Latin American Herald Tribune, Teachers Call for Strike in Southern Mexican State, the teachers are not demanding wage increases, instead focusing on social issues, including “better uniform allowances for students, computers in all of the state’s elementary schools and electricity in all schools.”  Privatization is also an issue.Green banner with text reading:  ¡No a la privatización de la educación!

This annual activity by the teachers’ union is extremely contentious.  Adding bold-face to the lines above will be my only comment on the subject.

However, the teachers aren’t the only people converging on the zócalo today…Poster: Marcha del Color de la Sangre; 23 de Mayo; Zocalo de Oaxaca a la Ciudad de MexicoThe displaced Triqui, who were driven out of their village of San Juan Copala after several years of political violence, have decided to return home, leading a march/caravan from Oaxaca to Mexico City and finally back to San Juan Copala.Triqui women and baby await the arrival of the march/caravan For more information, see the blog posting by Angry White Kid, The displaced decide to return to our community: Caravan of the Color of Blood and for background on their struggle for autonomy, see Repression, Impunity and Resistance in Oaxaca: One Year After the Copala Caravan Ambush.

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