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Life (sorta) under seige in Oaxaca

21 November 2006

(From a post on the Mexico Branch of Lonely Planet’s “Thorn Tree Message Board” from a Oaxaca resident) 

My own take on Oaxaca right now is that it resembles the story of the blind men and the elephant. Today was a perfect example of that.

I’d arranged to meet a friend inside the big doorway to Amate Books. I came up Calle Victoria from the Abastos Market, seeing nothing untoward until I got closer to the zocalo, where the PFP were much in evidence. I proceded north on Porfirio Diaz, cutting east on Matamoros & turning onto Alcala. Whoops — a barricade was under construction just in front of Amate. I stepped over it, along with several other people, finally sighting my friend on the steps in front of Sangre de Cristo. We stood around with the large crowd there, watching the barricade go up. Shortly afterwards there were several back & forth confrontations between those on the barricade and the federal cops down closer to the zocalo. There was a lot of tear gas. We saw a couple of comandeered buses brought in for use as barricades on adjoining streets, including Garcia Vigil. There were similar confrontations on that street, and a bus was burned there. We stayed well back, but a photographer friend reported later that he witnessed some fairly vicious beatings of protesters by the federal police.
One amusing note: as the crowd retreated from the advancing police and clouds of tear gas, a lady making quesadillas catty-corner in front of Santo Domingo continued serenely sprinkling epazote on her creation on the comal.
I walked my friend home, proceding west towards Crespo. Once again, a few streets away, everything seemed normal except for the huge cloud of dark smoke from the burning bus.
Going back to Abastos to catch a colectivo, I detoured through the zocalo. There are enormous numbers of PFP there, mostly hanging out, goofing around, having their pictures taken, and fooling compulsively with their cell phones. In short, except for the robo-cop garb, acting like any other group of young Mexican men. Their tents & tarps are everywhere, and the towel-drying area seems to be under the arches of the ex-Govt. palace. All of the cafes on the zocalo were open, although not at all busy. I exited via Bustamante, which was entirely filled with PFP.
Once on Las Casas, I’d entered a different world. The streets were bustling with people, and all the stores and street vendors were in full swing. As today was a holiday, Las Casas had that same busy atmosphere it always has on Saturdays. It was impossible to tell that just a few blocks away dramatic stand-offs were taking place. This normality continued all the way down to the Periferico and the area in front of Abastos. I hopped a colectivo over by the Serfin. It stopped to look for more passengers where the Periferico turns into the puente over the Parque de Amor. That whole area from the big arch over to the bridge was covered with large PFP trucks & huge numbers of PFP troops. The area behind the arch is completely filled with great big tents — it looks like a medieval jousting tournament must be in progress.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 23 November 2006 11:37 am

    I still want to know who Lyn 1s!

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