Oaxaca Heats Up
My week in Oaxaca is almost up, and while I'm really glad I was here during this time, I am just as glad to be leaving tomorrow. The Spanish school where I took my class organized a trip to Teotilan del Valle, which is a little town east of here that is known for it rug weavers. The most well known weaver here is named Isaac Vasquez, and has had exhibitions all over the world. We got to tour his workshop, where he showed us the techniques they use to weave wool rugs. Vasquez has recreated the process that was used hundreds or thousands of years ago, using traditional carding, spinning and dyeing techniques. I don't think these went back to pre Hispanic times, because I don't think the native culture had the wheel for spinning, but I'll let someone prove me wrong if they want to. Anyway it was really interesting stuff, for a tech head like me to see a new manufacturing process, as I know nothing about textiles. Well, maybe a little more than nothing now.
I found a little bar around the corner from my hotel, to have a drink or two at. Enrique, the bartender speaks a little better English than I do Spanish, so we practice our respective languages on each other. Pepe, the bouncer for the Karaoke bar next door has hooked up with a Canadian girl here in town for spanish lessons, and she was in the bar practicing Spanish as well. Pepe would get a break, and come over here, and he and the Canadian girl would make out for a while, then he would go back to work and she would go back to her Spanish. Ah, youth. After awhile we got bored and Enrique turned "Los Simpsons" (SEEMP-sons) on TV. Trust me, you have not lived until you have seen the Simpsons, dubbed in Spanish. We were about rolling on the floor. Homer was trying to buy a pistol at "Bloodbath & Beyond Gun Shop" I was able to clue the Mexican guys in that it was a takeoff on "Bed Bath & Beyond", but my Spanish wasn't up to explaining the confederate flag in the gun shop. Of course that is hard enough for Americans to get there mind around too.
This morning, I had my last Spanish lesson, and after class went to eat with some of my fellow students. I met a guy, Spencer, who spent 16 years in Madison. I have never taken a trip where I haven't run into someone with a Madison connection. Us Madtowners get around. Now, I don't want anyone at home to take this the wrong way, but as usual I find it easier to meet interesting Americans outside the US than I do back home. After all, anyone who spends their vacation riding busses around Mexico learning Spanish, is almost by definition going to be an interesting person. One of the few bad things about traveling is that you you barely start to get to know people and have to say goodbye. It is interesting to get the point of view of people who travel by public transportation, as it is quite a bit different than that of the motorcycle rider. I have more freedom of schedule than they do, but the bike can be a ball and chain too, as it is always on my mind when I stop for the night, or just to look at some attraction. Jill, from my Spanish class is headed for San Cristobal de las Casas next, same as me. She will get on an overnight bus and be there in 13 or 14 hours, where it will take me 2 days to get there, if I don't drive at night, which I don't. We also have different Spanish vocabularies, as what I know of Spanish is mainly from reading signs while riding. Of course, riding is like my meditation time which is probably the biggest thing going for it, but I totally understand the appeal of the backpacker thing.
The political situation here is escalating, and I will be happy to get out of Dodge in the morning. Last night there was a huge march where one person ended up dead. It is not clear to me whether the killing was directly related to the march, or just happened to be in the area. Last night most of the east-west streets in the downtown were blocked off by parking buses across the intersections. It is not clear to me whether the police did this to direct the march or the protesters did it to prevent the police from interfering with the march. Today there was another march, which I took to be honoring the dead man. The leadership, such as it is, of the protesters seems to be of the Marxist, violent overthrow persuasion. I can't help but think that these people haven't done their research on political history, and are doomed to repeat it. I can't remember who I'm quoting there. The Marxist regimes have a horrible record when it comes to oppressing, or just exterminating, native populations, and here they are flying posters of Joseph Stalin. Joseph Stalin, for christ's sake. I would laugh if someone hadn't just died over it.
I don't think it is any coindidence that Guatemala and Nicaragua, two countries that have suffered through machine gun politics in the recent past, are visisbly poorer than the other countries in Central America. I'm sure it is very romantic to think of yourself as a revolutionary, but the average Jose, who they claim to be fighting for, ends up worse off. I would hate to see Mexico go down this path, as I have seen this country come so far in visible standard of living just in the decade that I have been travellling here. Admittedly, all this is my view, as an outsider who doesn't appreciate the subtlties of the culture, but I also think that not coming here with the weight of a lifetime of knowing the fighting factions lets me see things a little more impartialy.
End of rant. I am outtahere.
Ixtlan: Driver cooked his brakes on a mountain descent. I stopped, but another car already had, and the driver was OK, so I just wished him good luck and left.
Teotilan del Valle: Isaac Vasquez at his loom.
Clipping from the Miami Herald, Mexico edition.
Oaxaca: City bus blocking intesection during march.
Oaxaca: Protest march the day after the fatal one.
Posted by Andy Tiegs at August 12, 2006 12:12 AM GMT