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“Revolutionary tourists” in Oaxaca…

2 August 2007

My friends at Surreal Oaxaca have a lot of fun with the folks at the Oaxaca Action Study Group, seeing the latter as “dirty hippies” (though isn’t that a tautology… isn’t dirtiness the natural state of hippidom?) and Che wannabes (nah, they just see them as deluded and silly people who prefer hostels to decent hotels, and want a little chaos to liven up their otherwise drab existence). Oaxaca has been attracting misfits, eccentrics and plain cranks. And, at least since the 19th century, when French soldiers deserted Maximiliano and became “White Zapotecs”, there have been foreigners who end up siding with the locals and going native.

Oaxaca, even in the best of times attracts a lot of dirty hippies. And, where in Mexico do you NOT run into foreigners who turn every minor inconvenience into some grand tale of surviving danger and overcoming Mexican intransigence.

I once sat on the Zocalo and between the visitors loudly wondering why the police didn’t just shoot the annual normal summer protesters and the local queens going on… and on… and on… about the great and glorious struggle to … get their eggs the way they wanted them at Sanborns, I’ve started staying with the hippies and weirdos when I go to Oaxaca too. They’re not boring, but think I am, so leave me alone.

Anyway, the tourist message boards are full of whines from what I suspect are the same kinds of people who a few years ago tried to sue the English Language Library in Oaxaca over about 80 pesos missing from the petty cash account, or who — like one notorious poster (also the guy who once called a former employer of mine here in Alpine fishing for personal information one me. Geeze, I’m in the phone directory) — simply can’t get over the fact that THEIR Oaxaca isn’t the one people are interested in… and it must be a plot by outsiders.

According to this mind-set, Oaxacans aren’t protesting. It’s bored foreigners. Yeah, right. One long time foreign resident of Oaxaca responded well:

… can you explain why all the 40-odd detained 2 weeks ago according to an official list that has been published in the local press print edition with addresses and photos included (Noticias, where I saw it and probably Imparcial) shows that all of them were local faces and all had local addresses in a variety of Oaxaca city (often poor) colonias and surrounding villages.

This same list was read on local state-run television (with addresses) and republished on some protest pages (the only place where observers from out of town might see it and possibly assume it is an invented list by left-wingers). But, oh, I forgot, those of us who live here, don´t understand this situation and can only report tiny perspectives that confuse rather than add to the grand picture, because the national Mexican and global media knows and explains everything!

The same thing happened late 2006 where the list of over a hundred detained … included only a few from out of state (and don´t forget that Mexico City has more Oaxacans resident than Oaxaca City) and … 3 foreigners (one French, one Costa Rican and one Cuban…all longer term Mexican residents as far as I remember). Yes there was foreign sympathy, yes there were revolution tourists hanging around to see some action, and yes Latin American protesters borrow terminology and ideas from (sometimes outdated) worldwide struggles, but why the insistence on assuming that locals can´t have local grievances and are unable to form their own struggles or revolutions – isn´t that a touch patronizing?

One Comment leave one →
  1. mexijo permalink
    20 July 2008 9:31 am

    What happened to the Sur-Real Oaxaca Blog? I miss them.

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