Friday, August 11, 2006

The Revolt of the Oaxacaqeñas

Oaxaca City

If you go far enough in Mexico you will eventually run smack into a political crisis, a scandal, or an open revolt, or possibly all three at once. Far enough being usually about 200 metres. In Oaxoaca City, the heart of a pleasant mountainous state known for its carpetweavers, Zapatec ruins, and heaps of expatriots living the easy life under sunny skies, there is definately an open revolt.

Since a march by the teachers´ union on 14 June was attacked brutally by 3000 state police, the city has seen the quick form alliance of different civil society groups: indigenous, socialist parties, and unions demanding the immediate resignation/impeachment/overthrow/fucking off of the state`s iron-fisted governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz who naturally is seen as being behind the whole no-negociation, shoot-first, arrest later policy. Ulises, as the protesters refer to him, is generally thought to have come to power through traditional means, that is, by vote-rigging and intimidation and has ruled in the traditional way.

For two months, a planton(a street takeover/protest camp) has made the struggle visible all over the normally tourist-filled zocalo. A small poster in English stands out amidst the Spanish political graffiti:

Please excuse the inconvenience while we
are making our history.
Once we have finished you will be able to
return to your regular tourist experience.

Streets have been barricaded, asphalt ripped up, trucks with ¨APPO¨ (Asemblea Popular del Pueblo Oaxoaqueña) spray-painted on them block off roadways. This is not a protest that goes home at three o´clock. The original issue the teachers were protesting against was the total lack of desks, textbooks, pencils, etc., in much of the state schools, plus the general lacking of the youngest students: without shoes, clothes or any food in their stomachs in many cases. The same level of public education for all Mexicans is guarenteed by the Constitution, and they wanted the governor to do something about it at last. This June march and planton was met with a 4 a.m. military-style assault (helicopters, tear gas, live ammunition) that left many wounded, half a dozen dead, and an explosion of political rage that has yet to subside.

Just yesterday another march of twenty thousand here in the city was attacked by police and a 50 year old mechanic who was marching with his wife (a biology teacher), was shot to death by riot police. If it wern´t for the planton of PRDistas five kilometres long in Mexico City (where thousands of supporters of Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador have successfully demanded a recount of the narrowly lost presidential election, by .6% of dubiously scrutinised 41 million votes), this regional struggle would be the top of the news. With this new killing yesterday (complete with photos of the dying man), in fact it IS in many front pages.

Mexican politics is a three-ringed circus of huge gestures and booming rhetorical sweep to match. Behind that there is a great frustration with the status quo in this economically expanding country of over 100 million. Legitimacy is badly wanted in a sea of corruption and incompetence. I saw a photo of the first ¨reconteo¨ in progess in the newspaper with a caption that read something like,

Counting is closely watched in the first of the votes to be re-examined.

In the photo an armed federale scrutinizes the IFE workers re-tabulating results at a table. One can imagine thirty more photographers in front of them. It is a ¨Ya basta¨ moment from a mainstream perspective, where the suggestions of a rigged election are being investigated ´voto por voto´ and damnit, this time it better be done properly. Its like every Mexican´s self-respect is on the line now - if this re-count can´t be done without interference then NOTHING can be done properly by Mexicans in the name of their own governance. It´ll be interesting to see the results, especially if Calderon wins a second time, but by an even smaller margin.

The contradictions of a modernizing society that is a constitutional democracy run by oligarchs are evermore rising to the surface. But contradictions of honesty are a part of the Mexican culture and character. While teaching English to teenagers, I was forced to confront the fact that half of my most advanced students plagiarized their final essays completely from the internet, even after I had caught nearly all of them doing it to some degree on the first draft of their initial essays and given them copies of the MLA guidelines for documenting sources plus the obvious lecture with embarassing examples.

The human urge to cheat in the face of difficulty is very great it seems, especially here.

1 comment:

matias said...

happy birthday, jesse!!!!!!!