BootsnAll Travel Network

Guelaguetza 2007

Last year, the resistance “movement” (principally the APPO) that c0-0pted the annual teacher strike, boycotted the government-sponsored Guelaguetza, a traditional indigenous dance exposition that has been held at a specially built auditorium on the Fortin Hill… I think for only three years previous. The movement felt that the people, who performed for free as part of their contribution to their communities, were being exploited by the $40 entrance fee that the typical Oaxaqeno cannot afford. So an alternative “Popular Guelaguetza” was performed at a site on the outskirts of the city last year…free to all attendants.

This year, the commercial event is being boycotted again. No one is sure if it will take place the last two mondays of July as usual. Someone recently said they heard that hardly any tickets had been sold. Such is the difficulty of getting current information that seems to change moment to moment in Oaxaca these days.

Meanwhile, the APPO and the teachers had kicked off a “symbolic” strike this year on June 14, the first anniversay of the police attack on the teachers in the zocalo. Teachers have been maintaining a presence, rotating in and out of the zocalo, but are not sleeping and cooking there. Barricades have been set up around the city, often changing locations, to remind the government that the resistance is still alive.

Talks with the government have been held off and on…the average person not really sure of outcomes…and some people feel there are probably hidden “deals” that have been taking place.

There has been no police presence (except for plain-clothed police) in the zocalo but recently heavily armed police have been showing up in nearby areas as planning for the Popular Guelaguetza continues for this morning, June 16. At first we heard it would take place at a site near the city. Then we heard it will take place at the auditorium on Fortin Hill. Then we heard it will take place in the Plaza de la Danza.

The zocalo has been packed this last weekend with Mexican tourists, many from Mexico City.

The Governor, however, has vowed that the Popular event will not take place in the auditorium. Fortin is heavily guarded. An observer said yesterday that “My trek began at the Cerro de Fortin, where I was greeted by a dozen or two riot police, all wearing helmets, bullet-proof vests and carrying shields, lined the entrance to the stairs leading to the auditorium. I should say that there were only 5-6 on each side, with others playing cards and eating under trees, or sleeping in the 4 or so trucks in front. Locals and tourists alike were able to pass. When I got to the top I saw the lines of police patrolling the stadium. Not shoulder to shoulder, but still a threatening presence.”

Another local said “I went up Crespo above the zocolo at 3:00 on Sunday and saw the armed state police (blue uniforms) standing on the sidewalk with their automatic weapons. Lining the stairway up the hill the guards were in riot gear: helmets, shield, etc. Police vans lined the street. I walked down to the Carmen Alto plazuela, to see the delegations gather for the official opening of the Popular Guelaguetza. The host identified himself to me as Roberto Matadamas, an official member of the Section 22 Cultural Committee. I asked him to identify himself because he had explained to the crowd at the plazuela the history of the Guelaguetza, and what it means; then he said, “We are peaceful people and we have struggled without arms for years… Our customs cannot be a matter for commercial gain…. this governor has a very small brain… we are going to the Cerro de Fortin tomorrow (on a march) even over the bodies of the police.”

The festival last night in the Zocalo was quite spectacular, literally packed with people. Much applause as groups from each region reached the stage, and all performed some dance or other. Lots of fireworks, and several “toros,” the structures that look like bulls, carried by young men and that shoot off fireworks. The greatest attraction was the giant blue fireworks tower, with colored spinning wheels and mechanical butterflies. It was topped off with a sparkling helicopter, which flew up into the sky and then exploded into fireworks which elicited screams and yells and clapping.

As the crowd broke up to head home, it has been reported by an observer that “the group heading north on Alcala was cut off by a caravan of 8 police trucks full of police…all showing off their weapons. Nothing confrontational as far as I know, the observer said, but I think it’s safe to say that it was a deliberate attempt to frighten and further repress APPO supporters and the people in general, especially given the timing. As best as I can tell, things tomorrow begin at 8 in the Zocalo, but could be at the Fortin, and about daylight savings time, I have no idea.”

I had watched the fireworks, over Mojitos, with friends at one of the packed cafes in the zocalo. We listened to a guitar group playing traditional songs to the whoops and yells of a table-full of boracho men at the next table. We talked to a young couple from Morocco that had just arrived from the States. A little girl of five I have befriended piled herself into my lap. It is not unusual for child beggars to be up at midnight. Then I headed home about 12:30am…exhausted.

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