On Oaxaca

The governments' guns advance toward the University on this Day of the Dead. The last time I passed through Oaxaca City was just under a year ago, a January morning just before the dawn began to look into the mirror of the sky. I walked from the bus station towards the center of the city as the dawn brought its fire to the stone streets and everything lit up gold. It was hard to tell then what would take place in the city later that year, but it wasn’t impossible. It’s that secret that all beautiful colonial towns hold here in Mexico, a certain dark desperation in the eyes of those sitting on the streets.

oaxaca anticapitalista

Just a handful of hours from where I am sitting, today Oaxaca burns under the heat of a different flame. Since the Federal Preventative Police put the city under siege last week, very few things are certain. Presidente Fox, who after months of inaction, sent the PFP to “bring peace to Oaxaca.” He has been under increasing pressure since the presidential election was decided in September to not give the Oaxaca situation to incoming president Felipe Calderón as a welcome gift in December. Taking a tip from the old PRI playbook, Fox hesitated for months, then sent in the firearms.

Very few things are certain. An American indymedia reporter has been killed by an armed group (on October 27), most likely a plainclothes paramilitary group, who if wasn’t sanctioned by the state government, was at least allowed to operate freely by them. As I write this, Radio Universidad is still broadcasting (listen live here). It is the last form of mass communication that APPO holds (La Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, the coalition group directing the rebellion). The PFP is amassing a few blocks away from the University, undoubtedly planning an attack.

The people here in Cuernavaca are split on the situation in Oaxaca. Memories still linger of the Mexican Guerra Sucia of the 1970’s and 80’s when the ruling PRI party repressed all political dissent through “disappearing,” torture, and limitless incarceration. I talked to a very intelligent taxi driver on October 31st who, based on his experiences in the Guerra Sucia, lamented that the leaders of the APPO were marching their movement directly into the jaws of a massacre at the hands of the PFP. He agreed, however, that the movement was just and that the government was wrong in attacking the city, that the attack would just throw gas on the flames.

During a cultural festival last weekend in the Zócalo (center plaza) of Cuernavaca, quite a few people from this city were circulating with signs in support of the APPO. One was carrying a communist flag. Throughout the centro for the last several weeks, political posters have been wheat pasted in public places in support of the APPO. Example:

Yo APPOyo Tú APPOyas Él APPOya Ella APPOya Nosotros APPOyamos Ustedes APPOyan

(the verb “apoyar” can be translated as “to support”)

Radio Universidad transmits the nicknames of this morning’s kidnapped. The announcers speak of bringing flowers to the resistance barricades. Sempasuchitl, flower of the dead. It is a tense time in Mexico, and the country continues to twist itself tighter and tighter. By the time Calderón is sworn in December, things might just snap. If not before.