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Oaxaca- fair and balanced, for real

20 July 2007

I’ve noticed that most coverage of the Oaxaca Guelaguetza riots leave out the context

Those who saw the event as a continuation of unresolved issues from last year (and, with the Teachers’ Union, of the past 20 years) just saw an action directed against a “folk festival” without any understanding that Guelaguetza has been a part of local culture since at least the 18th century, missing the important point that this isn’t some event for tourists, but something for the people themselves.

Those who saw it as a “left” v. “right” political action, saw a blow directed at foreign corporate interests, missing the local issues.

I’ve been looking for alternatives to the regular wire service reports and the “alternative media” (left and right) sites that usually have an agenda already in mind,

This is the first English-language piece that tries to put both visions in perspective.

Part of the people’s frustration that is boiling over now is the perception that the government along with major corporations such as Banamex and Telemex earn enormous amounts of money by operating a perverted and commercial form of the Guelaguetza. Tickets to enter are about $40–far out of the price range of most Oaxacans–which means that a local tradition now mostly benefits rich tourists. A third of the tickets are free to the public, but they are in such high demand that they are difficult to come by.


There is also fear that what is being presented as “tradition” is really a bastardization put on for the sake of commerce…






Nevertheless, not everyone agrees with the attempt to boycott the Festival. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and many people are depending on the influx in tourism to make ends meet. Adriana Morales commented, “I don’t support what the protestors are doing nor the way they’re going about it, because the people they are hurting are the small business owners and street vendors. A tour guide I met named Alberto agrees and believes that organizations like APPO are simply trying to exploit the year old conflict between the teacher’s union and th government to promote their own narrow interests. Governor Ruiz claims that ninety percent of Oaxacans want the Festival to go forward, though several people I interviewed believe that a much larger segment of the population support the protests.

And, though the translation sucks (this is how it appeared on the English-language site), Cuba’s Prensa Latina — not a source I’d expect — is quite dispassionate in their view of the situation as of earlier today:

Mexico, Jul 20 (Prensa Latina) Mexican City of Oaxaca, looks today a military camp rather than a city ready for the celebration of the most important cultural event that will be held in three days more in this homonymous state.


The Army’s 28-zone troops established control post to make a through police checkups of all cars entering by the main four accesses to the city, where a strong confrontation took place last Monday between soldiers and police with civilians.

Government security has stepped up in Oaxaca because of the celebration of the Guelaguetza traditional feast next Monday to worship Carmen virgin.


Social organizations and members of Oaxaca People’s Popular Assembly (APPO) joint a march, four days ago, that was trying to reach Fortin Hill, the place where the celebrations will take place, but was repressed by the police.


APPO was trying to reach the amphitheatre to perform an alternative popular version of Guelaguetza, in front of the one that was called commercial.


Now the place does not seem as it will be held a festivity since about 48 police vehicles are stationed at only a few metres of the celebrations headquarters, according to reports.


Facing this situation, Oaxaca Networks of Human Rights questioned what it called militarization of this locality and demanded the troops’ withdrawal because “is impossible to restore the city’s calm with soldiers or police positioned at each corner,” noted the entity.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 July 2007 8:41 am

    See my comments on the post “Must The Show Go On In Oaxaca”

  2. 21 July 2007 10:37 am

    I’m glad to see someone getting past good-vs-evil framework for observing the Oaxaca situation.

    Based on talking to people during a trip to Oaxaca earlier this year, the controversial gentrification of the Zocalo still grates at many oaxaquenos. This seemed to be the tipping point for many.

    Jonathan Clark wrote about it back in 2005 for the now-defunct Herald Mexico:

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