|English | Español||May 22, 2018 | Issue #41|
The Battle of Oaxaca Through an Ex-Pat’s Eyes
Eager to See the World Get Better but Not Able to do Much About It, Suddenly the “Revolution” Comes to Our Door
By George Salzman
Photo: D.R. 2006 George Salzman
The response – and no longer only by the 70 or so thousand maestros of Section 22 of SNTE (the National Education Workers Union) – was to demand Ulises removal from office (his destitution) and to intensify the pressure with blockades. The 5-kilometer “Long March” on Wednesday, June 7, started not from The Fountain of the Seven Regions within the city proper where the first mega-march began on June 2, but from the monument to Benito Juarez on the Pan-American Highway to allow for all the participating marchers, and they came boisterously and confidently, ending up at and surrounding the Plaza de la Danza and the adjacent Oaxaca City Government Building. The day before, according to the daily paper Noticias de Oaxaca, the mayor suspended the meeting of the City Council, saying he was fearful of the teachers.
¡Ulises va caer! (“Ulises will fall!”) roared the thousands over and over again. A contingent of marchers came parading up Morales Street with their symbolic teaching supplies held high – carefully painted giant sharpened pencils, pens, chalk that I believe were in reality long poles of bamboo or other sturdy materials (defense weapons) – just in case…
I asked a well-dressed woman in her fifties about the massive turnout of people of all ages. She motioned toward a woman close to her, a respectable twenty-something who I took to be her daughter or niece, announcing proudly that the younger woman was a teacher. But weren’t they concerned about Ulises’ threats, and the 1500 federal militarized police camped nearby, I asked, adding that I hoped there would not be violence. She didn’t quite scoff at the idea but assured me that nothing like that would happen. And she added the assurance that this movement isn’t just that of Los Maestros (the teachers) but is of El Pueblo (the people). The people are demanding, in unison, that Ulises go. I replied that it was also the case in San Salvador Atenco that the people were united, but nevertheless attacked and brutally beaten and arrested. Atenco was small, she confidently replied; but this is huge, they wouldn’t dare attack.
Photo: D.R. 2006 George Salzman
A friend, a pediatric surgeon, came by this morning, unlike yesterday when, after dropping off his children at their private college (no strike there), he got caught in traffic and called to say he couldn’t get here. He’s not especially “political”, and certainly not radical. He said that 150 thousand marched yesterday. Noticias today headlined 100 thousand, but below the huge front-page picture the caption said, In an unprecedented action, more than a 100 thousand. A contact with a group working for release of political prisoners e-mailed Nancy this morning, setting it at 120 thousand. The other daily Oaxaca City newspaper, El Imparcial, which is not particularly sympathetic to the teachers, says in a revealing front-page account, “Thousands of teachers of Section 22 of SNTE, as well as members of more than 200 social organizations of the nation, yesterday carried out the second mega march in this capital . . .” (emphasis added). The account goes on to report that the Oaxacan teachers, as well as the representatives of the social organizations, are considering whether they might be able to achieve a national 24 hour labor strike.
And from the United States, reported the June 6 Noticias, the San Francisco group “Teachers for Social Justice,” comprised of teachers, students, parents and members of civil society announced its solidarity with the democratic teachers of Oaxaca, and demanded that president Vicente Fox Quesada immediately withdraw all federal police forces and cancel “every threat of the use of force” to end the protests. The growing unity, perhaps alarming the political part of the ruling class, is gaining notice in the “mainstream” corporate press. At the moment the adrenaline level of the movement to remove Ulises is very high. We’ll see what happens. Adelante!
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism