August 09, 2006 GMT
Oaxaca Pictures

From your reporter on the ground....


Dateline Oaxaca:

The big story here is the "Teacher's Strike". I put that in quotes, because there are clearly a lot more issues at stake than teacher's pay. The main issue seems to be that the protesting faction believes that Oaxaca state governor Ulises Ruiz was elected fraudulantly, in 2004, and they are demanding his resignation. Why it took 2 years to reach this point, I can't say.

Someone could devote a major article to this, and many have here locally. The whole zocalo (town square) area has been blockaded off, but not too tightly, as pedestrian traffic is allowed through. The whole downtown is covered in graffiti, most of which calls the governor an assassin, a son of Pinochet, or something of the sort. The zocalo, in addition to the regular hot dog and t shirt vendors, is full of booths of various political groups, some showing videos and handing out literature promoting their position. The whole thing reminds me of the Mifflin street block party, for those Madison readers, but there is a serious, dangerous side to the situation. Last night the police fired in the air to disperse a crowd trying to take over the Oaxaca state Economic Ministry building. I'm not sure exactly where that is, but it is a ways north of where I'm staying. No one was hurt, but some state vehicles were torched.

This morning I walked across the zocalo to my spanish class, there was the normal pedestrian traffic of people going to work and school, so I didn't feel in danger in any way. Some of the street vendors were setting up for the day, and everything looked normal, for the circumstances. Still, I felt like I was in an Oliver Stone movie or something as I passed a VW beetle with 4 flat tires and a smashed windshield, and the remains of a bonfire in the street and made my way past the rubble of a makeshift roadblock.

I got to talking to my spanish teacher about how I thought there were quite a few American tourists in town, and she looked at me like I was crazy,and said "there are NO tourists here". I guess I have been staying off the tourist track, because I have seen more Americans here than anyplace except San Miguel. She said they have been on the phone with people cancelling classes for the past few weeks, as travel agents are steering clients to other destinations, and that the tourism business is about on its' knees from lack of traffic. I guess having grown up in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Vietnam protest era, I don't look twice at a bunch of left wing rabble rousers, and I want to say again, that I don't feel any bad vibes, or that I'm in danger in any way. It's a really interesting time to be here, as a person with no preconcieved ideas about who is right or wrong, but I can´t say I would recommend it as a vacation spot right now.

On lighter topics, I had no trouble at all getting in a Spanish class, as you might imagine. They want to teach proper grammar, and I am more interested in increasing my vocabulary, but we'll work that out. I went to Monte Alban, a pre Hispanic ruin just outside town after school on Monday. I am in a real nice hotel, with quite an international crowd staying here, and they let me park my bike in the courtyard. Today, I went 30 miles north to Ixtlan, where there is a park with hiking trails, waterfalls etc., but got rained on big time. It is the rainy season here, which I knew when I planned this trip. Most every day starts out sunny, and rains in the late afternon. I could have gone to classes from 4 to 8 , instead of 9 to 1 like I'm doing, but live and learn. I started with the date I needed to be in Tierra del Fuego in their summer, backed up to when I needed to leave the USA to get there in time, so here I am. I will willingly deal with rain here to avoid winter down there.

Puerto Escondido: Yeah, this looks safe, let´s stand under a 230 volt heating coil in the shower with bare wires twisted together for power.

Oaxaca: Ruins at Monte Alban under a scary sky.

Monte Alban: Attempted art shot in the museum there.

Monte Alban: Some ancient Aztec carved Mr. Burns, from the Simpsons.

Oaxaca: That wasn't a nice thing to say. Graffiti in the zocalo.

Oaxaca: The communista booth in the zocalo. Included are posters of their heroes "Carlos Marx" and "Jose Stalin"

Oaxaca: Roughly translated: ĦENOUGH! of repression and misery in the Native towns

Oaxaca: A few months old, but a poster for a Zapatista speaking tour.

Oaxaca: Roughly, For our dead and disappeared; not one minute of silence.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at August 09, 2006 08:48 PM GMT

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