Update                                                                                    July 13, 2016


            We’ve just had a lovely visit from two delightful old friends, Max (a former RI colleague and now professor in Boston) and his mother Carmen (who lives in one of the suburbs of Mexico City). 1600 meters is about Linda’s altitude limit for visits of any extended period, and their home in Cuajimalpa is way higher than that, so we had to miss Carmen’s birthday party. But they offered to schedule a

coda here in Oaxaca.

We picked them up at the airport on Sunday afternoon, despite the announced blockade, and had a scrumptious dinner in the shaded patio of one of our favorite seafood restaurants, Marco Polo. We spent the rest of their too-short visit in the Etla Valley: the art center of San Agustín, some unexcavated ruins at Señor de la Peña, ending with a pigout dinner at the Santa Martha Buffet, with its 100+ choices of Oaxaca’s notable signature dishes, and a play area for kids including a slide, a trampoline, and a genuine DC3 airplane. What’s not to like? The highlight, of course, were two delicious breakfasts at the San Pablo Mercadito, where Lupe and doña Irene, as usual, treated us like family and fed us as if we were starving.


Both days Linda and Carmen held up well for the mid day activities (in both cases beyond their current general expenditures of effort), and we all enjoyed the late afternoon siestas and conversations. We didn’t go in to Oaxaca city even once, despite the relative unclogged-ness of the highways on the city side of the blockades.

This morning David took them back to the airport at the usual 0-dark-30 hour, and returned to Casa DaviLinda mid morning to find that Lauro, the gardener, and Linda had harvested 6 different little squashes and 3 tomatoes.



 Well, has been happening in the Oaxaca protest world?


The siege continues, with the dissident union occupying the Zócalo and adjoining streets, and blockading the three main entrance routes to the city. Their former demands remain intact (Abrogate the reform laws; leave control of education and its budgets in the hands of the union; release the protestors from any penalty or threat of penalty for not meeting classes these many months, refusing to take the validation exams, in some cases destroying public property, and mistreating as traitors by beating or shaving the heads of professors who have continued to meet their classes.)


Sección 22 has also added several broad social goals to their demands, highlighting class conflict and trying to make their movement the precursor of a broad social revolution by pitting the downtrodden, poverty-stricken, powerless, indigenous and mestizo proletariat against the autocratic, coercive, violent, government, industrialists, and international corporations. Some truth, probably, on both sides. Curiously, they have NOT been targeting the United States as prime aggression. This broadening of goals seems to have been a very successful tactic, for it has garnered support from other unions, from student groups (UABJO, Oaxaca’s state university has been periodically closed by the sympathy protests of students and some professors), from the mayors of many rural villages (90 are staging a caravan-march to Mexico City later this week), and as best we can tell, much of the foreign press.


From here at home (access to international editorials via internet, NPR) it seems like much of the international press’s coverage of the struggle is un-nuanced solidarity with the protestors, without giving even a passing nod to arguments on the other side; not recognizing that it was the Mexican congress, not the president, that passed the education reform law (by a very large majority); not mentioning the effects of the sustained interruption of yet another school year; or the most egregious excesses of the dissident union; or the enormous economic destruction (and in many cases physical destruction) that Sección 22’s tactics have wrecked on the State of Oaxaca.


A marginal but enormous sore point is that the conflicting descriptions of the events that caused the 8 deaths of protestors at Nochixtlán remain unresolved, with each of the sides blaming the others. Around here most seem to believe the government is to blame (but which? – Federal, state, local?), since the deaths were from automatic weapon fire. But: was it policy? Rogue policemen? Provocateurs set by …??


Late last week the national teachers’ union published a manifesto in most national papers, saying that they are willing to negotiate within the context of the reform laws as long as 10 specific areas of concern are addressed, and the government’s department of education has agreed. The manifesto was signed by the presidents of almost all of the local Sections in each of the Mexican states, some 80 signatures in all. Notable absences: Oaxaca and Chiapas. The union Secciones in those two states have repudiated the action of the National Union, and have vowed to fight to the end, because, citing this morning’s communiqué, “ya no se trata sólo de una lucha magisterial, es un movimiento social en contra de las prácticas que afectan a los pueblos” (this is no longer a teachers’ fight, it is a social movement directed against the practices that affect the people).


The public outcry against the chaos seems to be gaining momentum, at least on the editorial pages. The Jeremiahs blame the union for its thuggish tactics, the economic havoc it has caused, and the effect on the state’s youngsters; and likewise the government, for not having effectively put a stop to it. Both of those themes played out in several screeds this morning in the paper and on the web news, since yesterday the masked “brigada de cazadores de funcionarios” (the bureaucrat hunter brigade) of the union—their term!—, crashed a meeting in a hotel of twenty non-dissident union leaders with government representatives, dragged the “traitors” outside, manhandled them, pelted them with eggs, and stole their phones and computers; while the police were nowhere to be seen.


The Guelaguetza dance, artisanry, and folklore will be going on as scheduled. The union will try to disrupt it. Hotel reservations are less than 50% of normal, but all the main-stage Guelaguetza tickets have been sold.


Come on down anyway: every village in the valley is having its own local mini-Guelaguetza. Tlacolula’s and Tlapazola’s will feature red pottery; Coyotepec’s, black pottery; Teotitlán del Valle’s will feature rugs and their spectacular dances with feathered headdresses. And then there are the foodie Guelaguetzas: Cuajimoloyas’s will offer wild mushrooms, San Sebastián Tutla does something with chicken livers, Huajuapan dishes out pozole, and Reyes Etla their delicious white cheese. 



And how does the conflict affect the lives of David and Linda?


Not significantly, though the siege is annoying. So far we manage to get into the city and back home with reasonable ease and only some delay. Even the bloqueo at Hacienda Blanca has been letting passenger cars through, just stopping trucks, focusing on those of the international purveyors of junk food! The apparent goal is to make people “stop eating junk food, to improve their health, and against the transnational corporations like Coca Cola, Bimbo, and Sabritas, which benefit from exploiting the people” (as per a statement by Sección 22 this morning). Sección 22 has stopped calling them blockades; now they are filtros (filters). We went to Home Depot to try to find a backup generator for Linda’s oxygen concentrator, but they are out of them, and they haven’t received any shipments of equipment in weeks. We went around the block to Sam’s Club, but found that they were that day’s hostage-of-the-day (rehén de turno), with a picket line outside their closed doors. Though some food prices have risen in the stores, we are finding what we need at prices we can manage. Our salad garden is currently producing chard, lettuce, and squash, with peas and beans on the way; many of the weeds growing in the rest of the property are edible and, as we are learning from the two men who help us with the gardens, delicious. None of the neighbors seem to have salad gardens. They wonder why we are not raising chickens.


David & Linda