Oaxaca, 20 July 2007 — The struggle between the popular movement of rebellion and the government’s actions to totally crush it is at a critical point. I believe the situation is extremely dangerous for many oaxaqueños. Five days ago the governments (Oaxaca State and Mexican Federal — fully backed by the United States, I’m sure) planned and executed a successful provocation followed by a savage attack on civilians. The resulting ferocious beatings (one near to death), jailings, torture, etc. are by now well documented.
Let there be no mistake about it: this is not just a contest between a tyrannical, hated governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, and the majority of the population in the state. It is a struggle of the majority of the Oaxacan peoples to gain control of their social lives, to end the exploitation of all the natural resources of the state by the forces of global capitalism and the local and national power elites embedded in and allied to that structure.
Yesterday afternoon I saw hundreds of police and military deployed on the large parking area at the side of the peripheral highway at Fortin Hill. They were practicing loud screams in unison and maneuvers in preparation for the assaults their commanders anticipate on the next two Mondays if elements of the popular movement try to block access to the “official” Guelaguetza by tourists and, no doubt, by Oaxacans forced by the Ulises PRI machine to come in buses to the city to attend these commercial events. URO will pay for the buses, and probably pay the compulsory attendees, as he did a week or so ago when he staged a big PRI election rally at the same stadium, when many indigenous folks from the southern Sierras were bussed in.
The popular movement has called for a boycott of the commercialized Guelaguetza. I hope they will not try to blockade the event and will stay away from all the militarized and heavily armed forces of the governments.
Foreigners who are coming to Oaxaca City or are already here can act in solidarity with the popular struggle in various ways.
- Stay away from the Guelaguetza Stadium on both July 23 and July 30, when the government plans to hold its commercialized events.
- Stay at smaller, less expensive places, like hostels and modest hotels, instead of putting your vacation money into the hands of the big hotel owners.
- Don’t patronize the elegant tourist-oriented restaurants. You can eat quite safely at small stands in the markets and at street stands if you choose soups or stews, because they are well cooked, or fried foods, which are delicious and are also prepared at high temperatures.
- Try to spend money intended for your travel purchases at small shops and from individual artisans, whose economic difficulties are causing much hardship and whom the government doesn’t help at all.
- Tune in as much as you are able to the dynamics of what is going on here, so that when you leave Mexico you can help inform the outside world of the reality that the Oaxacan peoples are living.
- As a foreigner, your very presence here is an additional safeguard for the Oaxacans. I have lived here for almost eight years without ever feeling physically endangered.
The struggle here is an important part, an inspirational part of the growing worldwide struggle to change the forms of governing our social lives, to replace the value systems developed and enforced by capitalism, and to forge lives of dignity, health, and happiness for all the world’s peoples. What makes the Oaxaca struggle notable is the commitment of strong currents within it to militancy, to non-violence, to non-hierarchical forms of social structure, to cooperation in place of competition, to local autonomy, and, as much as possible, to local self-sufficiency.
George Salzman is Professor Emeritus, Physics, University of Massachusetts at Boston. Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.