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Must the show go on in Oaxaca?

18 July 2007

For the “show to go on” with the Mex Files, I really do have to ask for support. Thanks to Jonathan, David, Adrian, Thoma, Brett and Tim, I almost have enough to pay the electric bill (which has to be done by tomorrow), but still need to get the rent caught up and look at the long term needs. Yeah, this is serious.

Even the “cold hard facts” about Oaxaca are open to interpretation. There was a confrontation between citizens and police, rocks were thrown (some reports say the police were throwing rocks, other that A policeman was throwing A rock), people were injured, one person may have been killed by the police and an undetermined number of people were “detained.”

AP reports

MEXICO CITY: The government of southern Oaxaca state vowed to host a popular Mexican folk festival despite violent protests in which about 19 people were injured and 40 arrested.

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission also said Tuesday it would open an investigation into the previous day’s clash in Oaxaca city, where angry crowds and police exchanged volleys of rocks and tear gas and protesters burned buses and cars.

Police were trying to keep the demonstrators from reaching a stadium where the Guelaguetza festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, is scheduled to be held July 23-30. The Guelaguetza was canceled last year due to protests by the same groups that clashed with police Monday.

Jeremy Schwartz, of the Austin (TX) American-Statesman, has an excellent — even-handed — report on the confrontation. Much of the rest of the press coverage, naturally, depends on who is doing the reporting, or rather, who is editing. The Times of India is reporting “Leftists Riot” while People’s Daily says “Protests, Police Clash”.

Within Mexico, El Universal is blaming Governor Ruiz for the violence, Cronica de Hoy is quoting PRD officials doing the same, and reports that the APPO is studying the situation, and does not want a confrontation. Nuevo Excelsior has the most extensive coverage (of the little I’ve been able to look at today) reporting that the police are combing the hospitals looking for people who might have been injured in the disturbance. They also report that the APPO and Seccion 22 are considering a boycott of the “official” Guelaguetza, but that for now everything is calm. If, for no other reason, than it’s raining.

 

Everyone agrees that what is at issue, as it was last year, is the continued resistance to Ulises Ruiz’ state government by the APPO and others, and the still unresolved issues surrounding Seccion 22 of the Teachers’ Union. Last year’s crackdown on dissent did nothing but stop the protests and, at the time, only covered over the appearance of dissent .

 

Tourists and foreign residents are – in a way – part of the local culture. Over the last several decades there haven’t been any problems with dealing with the foreigners, who come to enjoy the region and sample its culture, and to sometimes become another piece in the mosaic. Historically, it has been multi-cultural and multi-ethnic for centuries and people have a “do your own thing” attitude. However, Guelaguetza is a symbol of the state goverment’s cynical exploitation of the local culture on behalf of outside interests. What had been an authentic local custom – and very popular with the tourists – was taken over by corporate interests (sort of like Mardi Gras was in New Orleans), and the people themselves (or, maybe just the APPO) objected.

 

According to an APPO press statement released today, the police launched “a broad offense” against the people of Oaxaca who were celebrating their alternative and popular guelaguetza (an annual Oaxacan cultural festival) in the Guelaguetza auditorium. The APPO announced two days previous that it would hold an alternative cultural festival in the main Guelaguetza auditorium, located in the Fortin Mountain outside of the city.

Federal Preventive Police and State police surrounded the perimeter of the Guelaguetza auditorium in order to prevent people from entering the festival. A caravan heading to the festival, tailed by 10,000 people, arrived to the auditorium, and in that moment the police attacked the crowd with tear gas, rocks, sticks, whatever they had in their hands, as well as with unidentified explosive projectiles. People retreated, and the police advanced, beating and arresting people. Three photographers were reported to have been beaten. Countless others were tossed into the back of police pick up trucks with serious injuries.

For the moment the state and the municipal police continue a citywide operation in the streets of Oaxaca City, detaining people in the open. The military are reported to have surrounded the city on the highways.

Last year, the “official” Guelaguetza venue was burned down. This year, the APPO wanted a “people’s Guelaguetza” which was stopped… another example of the Calderón Administration’s willingness to use force to create “stability”. And, incidententally, to keep a competitor for the tourism pesos out of the market.

 

It’s unfortunate, but it takes something like this to focus people on Oaxaca. While many have commented on the role of outsiders in the continued protests, or want to blame the problem on outsiders, I think the “real story” is the less reported exploitation by foreigners and others.

 

Guelaguetza is only a show.

 

 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 July 2007 7:50 am

    I need to correct the record on the July 16 clash between the police and protestors in Oaxaca.

    My understanding, having lived here for the last year, was that the Popular Guelaguetza was going to be held, like last year, someplace in the city Then the APPO announced it would be held at the auditorium on Fortin Hill. However, over the weekend, police fortifications began gathering on the hill. To avoid a bloodbath of innocent people and performers, Noticias printed a last minute notice that the popular guelaguetza would be held in the Plaza de la Danza, which many of my friends attended although I did not. At some point, apparently during or shortly after the dance at the Plaza, several thousand protestors began marching to the auditorium with the intent to occupy it to keep the commercial event from happening on the two following mondays. They were met by the police of course and the rest is history. (If any of this scenario is not correct please let me know. You know how difficult it is to know what exactly is happening in Oaxaca even when “you see it!”

    I have no idea why the APPO press statement would say that the police launched an attack against the people “who were celebrating…in the auditorium” and that police surrounded the auditorium “in order to prevent people from entering the festival.” They wanted to make the attack look worse? Or maybe the release was manipulated by the translators?

    Now the English language (at least) media and bloggers have picked up the following translated APPO press release exerpt that is patently untrue.

    “According to an APPO press statement released today, the police launched “a broad offense” against the people of Oaxaca who were celebrating their alternative and popular guelaguetza (an annual Oaxacan cultural festival) in the Guelaguetza auditorium. The APPO announced two days previous that it would hold an alternative cultural festival in the main Guelaguetza auditorium, located in the Fortin Mountain outside of the city.

    Federal Preventive Police and State police surrounded the perimeter of the Guelaguetza auditorium in order to prevent people from entering the festival.”

    As for the police…why couldn’t they have just stood silently at the entrances to the tunnels into the auditorium with their shields like they did around the zocalo last year? It would have been impossible for people to enter without attacking the police. But oh, no, instead the police had to go on the offense and fire off tear gas and beat and arrest people!

  2. 21 July 2007 7:56 am

    Furthermore, last year the auditorium on Fortin was not “burned down.” A fire was set on the stage which damaged part of the floor. Also the bathrooms were badly trashed. A university student saw a group of porros and their leader (he knew the leader) standing together talking in the auditorium the next morning. So who paid the porros?

  3. 21 July 2007 8:12 am

    I just read an eye-witness account that I had posted earlier on my blog and noticed that apparently the police, in pursuing the marchers down Crespo from Fortin Hill, were headed for the Plaza de la Danza where the Popular Guelaguetz was being held but was unable to reach it or just gave up the chase.

    It appears that what happened was that the small Plaza de la Danza quickly filled to overflowing with people to watch the dancers so the remaining marchers headed up to the auditorium on Fortin. Whether this was planned or not, I have no idea.

Trackbacks

  1. Jennifer Rogers » Blog Archive » Urgent Action in Oaxaca
  2. Alpine, Oaxaca, the border and the Un-battle of Bagdad « The Mex Files
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