Last year there was a series of civil disturbances in Oaxaca, Mexico, lasting seven months and resulting in at least 18 deaths, including an American journalist. It began as a teachers’ strike – an annual event in Oaxaca – but escalated to a general protest, almost a rebellion, against the state administration. (See this thread.) Everything seemed to have calmed down – but Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz still refused demands to resign, and the Popular Assemby of the Peoples of Oaxaca has been staging periodic protest marches since January 2007. Up to now, these demonstrations have been peaceful. Last Monday, however:
So now what? Is the whole thing going to start over again?
It’s Governor Ruiz. And I think he doesn’t resign because first, he considers himself the rightful Governor, and considers reigning to be submitting to mob violence, and second, because the PRI doesn’t like the PRD, and the PRD is backing and bankrolling APPO.
A co-worker recently returned from Oaxaca. He says that things there are crazy. One friend of his who is known to be an APPO supporter has gone into hiding. Another friend is terrified that her four teenaged sons will be targeted by the police. Apparently, the police are picking up anyone who looks vaguely suspicious, including men with long hair.
It came out yesterday that the “bomb”, and another like it left in front of the Banco Nacional de Mexico, was nothing more than a bundle of fire crackers. No damage was done, and even Ulyses Ruiz’s toadies are only calling it “an explosive device” now. As far as I can tell, everything is calm at the moment, although there are a few soldiers and federales hanging around the shopping mall where Sears is located.
Lots of people are disgusted with what the Guelaguetza-http://www.oaxacainfo.com/guelaguetza-oaxaca.htm- a world renowned dance festival that has been officially celebrated since 1939, and has roots going back to pre-Columbian times- has become: a showplace for the PRI government, with all the best seats reserved for potbellied members of the ruling party and their overdressed wives, and ticket prices for the seats that are left completely out of reach for most Oaxacans. So the protesters tried to either shut the festival down, or at least open it up to locals, and they did manage to discourage almost all foreign tourists from coming (the hotel owners association claimed 45% occupancy, instead of the usual 90something percent during the festival) and I have seen no tour groups at all around the Zocalo.
Anyway the Guelaguetza is over for this year, and we will see what happens to tourism when the Dia de los Muertos and Christmas arrive. But basically things seem to be calming down.
I remember reading on here about the disturbances last year, and found it hard to reconcile with the friendly, laid-back town I remember from visiting in 2003. Sounds like those involved in the tourism trade are really taking a hit, Mapache?
They are. Tourism is Oaxaca’s main source of (legal) income, and it’s been essentially ruined for now. And it isn’t just the hotels and restaurants; lots of small businesses depend on their customers’ earning their living from tourism, and so a lot of little shoe stores and taco stands and so on are closed. Which depresses the real estate market, the wholesale food market, and even doctors and dentists and private school teachers and so forth.
But of course the governor doesn’t care; his income is assured and he’ll leave office with several tens of millions of dollars stashed away (the last governor now owns, among a lot of other things, the biggest country club in town, a string of drug stores, the Italian Coffee Company franchise for the state, and the international airport, which he privatized for himself just before leaving office.)
But really, Oaxaca is safe for foreigners, and there are all sorts of bargains available for travelers. Not to mention that September/October are the best months for weather, birds, and wildflowers; so if any of you dopers are feeling adventurous and have vacation time coming, think about visiting. You can email me if you want any specific information.