Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

Well, today was the third anniversary of the 2006 Oaxaca riots. That year, there were deaths and injuries. In 2009, like 2006, the militants are the state teachers union, along with a political group, APPO. They postered and graffitied most building in the central part of the city, including the historic landmark old canterra stone churches and monuments.

This year, the groups have been encamped in the zocalo (town square) since I arrived in mid-May. There is a long banner stringed between two trees with the images of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and (a real hero?) Stalin. There are loud speakers blasting the demands of the teachers/APPO. And, in solidarity, they've invited in the "ambulantes" or street vendors. These folks have set up shop on every square inch of the pretty square, selling teeshirts, sweet corn, pirated CD's, tacos, and almost everything you can imagine. Somehow, it doesn't quite make sense. Teachers' strike....selling mango on a stick? Go figure.

So this morning (the anniversary), the downtown residents were awakened at 5:00 a.m. with a series of blasts every 3-5 minutes or so. Firecrackers, bottle rockets, or something more sinister? Don't know. In fact, as I'm writing this, there are more explosions outside. I have to admit, it gets your attention, though. And while I prudently decided to stay inside all day and miss the multi-thousand marches through the city, and the traffic blockades, I got bored. So around 5 p.m. I went out for a little stroll....toward the zocalo just to see what I missed. And that was the remains of burned-out tires--mounds of black stinking ashes. My allergies were most unhappy.

For the citizens of Oaxaca, I hope the two sides get this resolved soon. After the swine flu scare, the lousy economy, and news of narco-wars, tourism couldn't be worse.
And tourism is, overwhelmingly, the economic engine of Oaxaca. It feeds tens of thousands of families. The annual folkloric festival, the Guelaguetza, is coming up in July. It would be a pity if this political disturbance kills the golden goose and all they wind up with is....a pile of ashes.