Here is an email exchange with a dear friend in Oregon. My answers are strictly from the point of view of an outsider…one who has only lived here one year and with limited intimate knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a Oaxaqueno.
On Jul 22, 2007
Here’s your first question — one which has been discussed among us and we await your answer! You said you wanted to write about what traveling reveals about the human heart. Why Oaxaca in a time of political unrest?
I came here to live for a year not knowing anything about the political situation. I arrived in the middle of a teacher strike.
I read your blogs and thank God every time you have arrived back home without taking a bullet.
I was never anywhere where it would be possible to ‘take a bullet.”
I was on the edge of a riot once (Vietnam in Century City) and I saw how quickly people who just came to watch could be injured… some badly.
I have only watched the peaceful marches…nothing else.
So you must have a purpose?
I am here to experience the wonderful people and learn about their lives…I loved the Oaxaquenos that I worked with in the States. I wanted to see where they came from and what drove them up north. I have seen people with no jobs, education that sucks, no health care for anyone that doesn’t work for the government etc, etc, etc. and how in the world they survive in the face of incredible corruption and repression…and unspeakable poverty. There is no economic development here. Just tourism, such as it is, and government. The people in the pueblos farm corn to eat…that is priced out of the market now that cheap corn (that they don’t like) is coming from the States.
Are you there as a reporter?
Just reporting what I and others witness on the ground. The US and international media stinks…portraying what happens here all out of proportion. Clashes last for short periods of time in very very limited geographical areas. Many people don’t even know anything has happened until they read about it in the next day’s paper.
Or to change history?
That would be pretty presumptuous
What does being a participant in such potentially dangerous environs do for your human heart.
I am not a “participant” in any way. It is against the law here for foreigners to get involved in the political life. And it is not dangerous here as I have said many times in my blog entries. (It will take some reflection to know what it’s all done for my heart.)
What I’m really wanting to say… is Come home!!! but I want to know why you’re not.
I committed to staying for a year…leasing an apartment. I had no reason to leave before the year was up.
You’re an intelligent, communicative person — you must have some reason other than that you like your apartment??
I’ll get there when I get there. I have been fighting with the insurance company to get a fair settlement on the damage to my front bumper. It has been four months. Probably will be back in Oregon sometime after the first of August.
Please be safe,
I am, I assure you, and all the other 2000 expats and the tourists that are here. No tourists or expats have ever been hurt. Many of the locals who do participate in the activities are putting themselves in great jeopardy for what they see is a struggle to end corruption and injustice. They are not doing it perfectly. The resistence is very controversial…some people innocently, peacefully and conscientiously working for justice and others with many hidden and counterproductive agendas.
Without actually being there with you, it’s hard to mentally see what the scene is.
I have never seen any violence in Oaxaca first hand or been anywhere near it. On November 25, when thousands in the streets were teargassed and beaten, a friend and I drove four hours in the mountains to a small village..which I reported.
I did walk to the zocalo several times to see the marchers, which is always a celebratory event, and I did film some of the aftermath of the violence…like the morning after the June 14 attack and the morning after the federal police took over the zocalo in October. You can click on the “Photos and videos of Mexico” in my links to see my videos. Some of the pictures imbedded in the videos of the violence were taken by other witnesses…not me. It is true…I guess this makes it appear that I was a direct observer near the fighting. Sorry if this created some confusion.
Of course we are safe. I have not talked to one tourist or expat who says they feel unsafe…on the contrary we all feel perfectly safe.
Thousands of tourists are staying away and everyone here is hurting…businesses, employees and vendors alike. When a business closes down all their employees are on the street. Most of the tourists that are here are European…scarcely an American. Expats laugh among themselves about the purported “danger” here. But as you say, if you are outside Oaxaca there is no way to know what it is like here. Hence my blog entries on the subject. If I heard there was a demonstration in downtown Portland against the war in Iraq that resulted in a clash with police…and some of the demonstrators got hurt, should I be worried that your son who lives there was in danger? Of course not…unless he was in the demonstration.
Oaxaca depends almost entirely on tourism. The tragedy here is the economic crisis. Many people blame the resistors. Many people blame the governor. Many people blame them both. Many of us also blame the media that only report the blood. I have never seen one indepth analysis in the media of the causes of the disruption here…which is deeply historical by the way.
Everyone here in Oaxaca, whether they are sympathetic to the Governor/resistors or not, is trying to get the word out that tourism is safe here and to come and support the poorest of Mexico’s people.
Nevertheless, I do appreciate the concern of a dear friend.