Bloqueos, 3

June 20, 2016

Bloqueos, Part 3


June 19, Sunday afternoon:

 Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,

that was built in such a logical way

it ran a hundred years to a day,

and then of a sudden ...

... it went to pieces all at once, -

all at once, and nothing first, -

just as bubbles do when they burst.

                   (Oliver Wendell Holmes)


            That helicopter was the giveaway. Like a dragonfly, working slowly down the valley toward Mount Fortín and the City of Oaxaca. Then joined by another. The two of them, back and forth, from Fortín up the valley to Villa de Etla, then the slow turn and prowl back toward Fortín. Monte Albán on the west, green and gold in the setting sun; the pyramid on the summit of Atzompa glowing like a beacon. Cumulus clouds billowing up in the east over the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca, not dark enough or low enough to promise rain. The “whssss-pop” of cohetes, fireworks bursting in the air, a hundred meters or so below us in the valley. Puffs of white, slowly dissipating, and then the sound. Every few moments one of them radiates sparkling red shards, that hang like brief red chrysanthemums in the sky. Not a party because there are no umpah-ing tubas, no blaring trumpets: another sign, not a good one.


            Then columns of black smoke curling up from the highway, from the Hacienda Blanca intersection, from the Juarez statue intersection, from the intersection where the cuota, the toll road to Mexico City, ties in to the old Pan American Highway. The “pop ... pop ... pop” of what sounds like gunfire. The lead helicopter hovers over the plume rising from Hacienda Blanca. We are supposed to meet Evelyne and Bob in a half hour for an early dinner —which for us will be a late lunch— at Mía Arroz, the fusion Chinese restaurant a couple of kilometers up the highway, halfway between Hacienda Blanca and San Sebastián. The phone rings. It’s Evelyne.


            “Dinner is off. Jimmie is closing the restaurant. Did you know that they have set up barricades and they are burning cars down on the highway?”

            “Yes, we can see the smoke from our terrace. Sometimes a small flicker of flame, too.”

            “Don’t go down there. It’s too dangerous.”


            I stand on the wall that surrounds our terrace, binoculars up to my eyes. I count at lease five sources for the black plumes. The phone rings again. It’s Deborah, to wish me a happy Fathers’ Day and catch me up on her busy and increasingly exciting life.

 I didn’t even know it WAS Fathers’ Day, but I am pleased to be reminded in this way, and to learn about Tuly’s catching the big rat, and singing with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus and the Women’s Lesbian Chorus as part of Pride Day, running a focus meeting in Spanish for Latino library employees. I intersperse a running narration of the events that I am watching down in the valley, taking photos as events unfold.


            As it gets dark, the “pop ... pop ... pop” subsides and the plumes of dark smoke merge with the darkening background of the western mountains. I eat and Linda drinks dinner (solid food again when the tooth surgery completely heals). After washing the dishes, I go back out on the terrace. It hasn’t rain and there are some stars visible among the clouds. No sounds come up from the Etla Valley, and Santa Cruz is as quiet as on any other Sunday night.


June 20, Monday morning

            In the first light I peer from our terrace at the valley, and can make out nothing of note. On the dog walk Qalba and I see nothing out of the ordinary, except that the terracerías, the dirt roads of the village, are empty of kids on their way to school. When I ask a neighbor I learn that school has been canceled pending further notice.

            Over breakfast, and in phone conversations with friends, neighbors, and Lauro, who gardens for us on Mondays, I get some idea of what’s happened over the past 15 hours.

            * In Oaxaca City at least 45 wounded. 21 arrests. 6-8 dead (another 2 in Nochixtlán). 22 unaccounted for. This tally courtesy of Sección 22; the government’s figures somewhat lower.

            * The government denies that the police were armed. Some video recordings include the sounds of automatic weapon fire.

            * Several stores have been sacked. Garbage is piling up. The acrid perfume of burnt tires hangs in the air. New graffiti adorn the old buildings: “Muerte al estado!” (Death to the State!). “Puto imperialismo” (Bugger imperialism!) And others directed at the demonstrators: “Muerto el perro, se termina la rabia.” (Kill the dogs and the rabies ends.)

            * Downtown, the occupiers initially abandoned the Zócalo and the Plaza de la Catedral. Many tents remain. Some of the teachers return, slowly, to their plantón, and begin cleaning up the detritus. The union has announced that the struggle will continue until their leaders have been freed and the Reforma Educativa has been withdrawn.


            So, there you have it, as of 3:00 PM on Monday, in the bubble of tranquility that is Santa Cruz Etla. We are safe and unworried. There is food in the house and gas in the car. The sun is shining. Qalba and the cats are sleeping. Beryline and dusky humming birds alternate at the feeder, and the background skies are empty of both dragonflies and helicopters. Our Oaxacan one-hoss shay did not go to pieces all at once like a bursting bubble: the crisis of confrontation was slow in coming, the eruption of conflict was sudden and intense, but apparently brief. But, if the past conveys patterns, probably not definitively over.



From the top of the laurel tree behind our casita a bright yellow, cinnamon, and white kiskadee is advertising his attributes at the top of his tiny lungs: “Dee, dee, kis-ka-dee!” Linda’s dentist appointment has been canceled pending further notice of the accessibility and safety of downtown Oaxaca. The leafcutter ants are in their burrows plotting tonight’s assault, and presumably the leadership of Sección 22 is similarly engaged. We will concoct a dairy-less, saltfree moussaka for tonight’s dinner.


            If you are up to the journey, we’d be pleased to set a place.


[all photos from web except the helicopter photo]

David & Linda