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Posts Tagged ‘workers’

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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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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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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Sunny, warm, and dry, Oaxaca’s sidewalks, mercados, restaurants, and zócalo are filled with “snowbirds” (the human variety) escaping the bone-chilling and wet wintry weather of el norte.  Alas, almost immediately after the previously mentioned “big move” next week, I’m heading in the opposite direction — to the bleak gray north for several weeks to visit family and friends in California (it’s not all bikini beaches and blue sky) and then east to celebrate my first grandchild’s first birthday — the best and maybe only reason to visit upstate New York in the dead of winter!  And, if previous return trips to el norte are a predictor, I’ll be missing the warmth and color of Oaxaca almost from the minute I step off the plane.

The “snowbirds” and I have the luxury of coming and going.  Some people do not.  One of my favorite journalists interviews a young Oaxaqueña trying to support her young daughter by working the fields in Madera, California.  As the title suggests, it is a poignant story…

The Only Job I Can Do–A Young Mother’s Farm Work Story

Editor’s Note: Lorena Hernandez is a young farm worker and single mother from Oaxaca, Mexico. Today she lives in Madera, Calif., with her daughter and aunt. She told her story to David Bacon.

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Lorena Hernandez picking blueberries   [photo by David Bacon]

MADERA, Calif.–To go pick blueberries I have to get up at four in the morning. First I make my lunch to take with me, and then I get dressed for work. For lunch I eat whatever there is in the house, mostly bean tacos. Then the ritero, the person who gives me a ride to work, picks me up at 20 minutes to five.

I work as long as my body can take it, usually until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the ritero gives me a ride home, and I get there by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. By then I’m really tired.

Costs of Rides, Childcare on Little Pay

I pay $8 each way to get to work and back home. Right now they’re paying $6 for each bucket of blueberries you pick, so I have to fill almost three buckets just to cover my daily ride. The contractor I work for, Elias Hernandez, hooks us up with the riteros. He’s the contractor for 50 of us farm workers picking blueberries, and I met him when a friend of my aunt gave me his number.

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No Vision of My Future

I don’t have friends, just acquaintances from work. They don’t have responsibilities like I do, so they go out on the weekend. They share their stories with me because since I have a daughter, I don’t go out. I just stay at home.

I wash my daughter’s clothes on the weekends because during the week I’m so tired. There isn’t time to clean the house during the week either. That’s what we do on the weekends.

I don’t have a vision of my own future. I don’t really think about it. I know I want to work every day. I don’t think I’ll ever return to school because of my age. My job will be working in the fields. I’m at peace with my current situation. I would love to go back to school, but it’s too late for me. Perhaps one day.

Please read full story HERE.

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Remember Facelift in progress???

Outside of building with scaffolding and construction workers

Casa Oaxaca and Galeria Quetzalli’s renovation project continues.  Patching and plastering have been completed.

White building with painted color swatches off to left.

Primer and paint swatches have been applied.  Weeks have gone by…

6 squares of paint swatches (putty to mustard to cinnamon) on white building.

Choosing a color is hard!  What do you think?

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. Claude Monet

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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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A clean-looking Oaxaca, brought to you by Oaxaca’s Secretary of Infrastructure.

Sign on street:  "Todos x un Oaxaca + limpio"

According to the state government’s website, a 45 million peso project was launched to “visually rehabilitate” 94,000 buildings in 25 urban communities.   Begun in July in San Bartolo Coyotepec (14 miles south of Oaxaca City), it has now reached my ‘hood.

2 painters with 10+ buckets of paint

Ladders, paint buckets, and painters up and down the block.

2 painters painting a pale blue building

By the way, because this is the Centro Histórico, the colors are selected from a previously approved palette.  Baby blue?  I wonder if the owners of the buildings have any say…

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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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Today is Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Mexico. A stroll around town revealed…

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Like almost everyday in Oaxaca, La Raza are working incredibly hard!

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I’ve been watching these guys from my terrace for well over a month…

2 men replacing brickwork on roof of School of Fine Arts, Oaxaca.

… and dodging the debris on the sidewalk, below.

Brick debris on sidewalk.

Late this afternoon, they were still up there as thunder began rumbling and rain began falling.  Finally, they packed up shop… and I was relieved!

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