Published Nov 3, 2006
Today (November 3), there are few tourists in the city of Oaxaca. They have been scared away by the massive propaganda put out by the main-stream press: anxiety, disaster, and fear sell newspapers and encourage viewers to buy mouthwash.
The actual story is somewhat different. Yes, there are federal troops, pro-government hit squads, and confrontations at various points around the city. Yes, the city and suburban buses have stopped running, temporarily, however thhe inter-city buses are in service.
Yes, people are getting killed, injured, arrested, disappeared and tortured. But no tourists have been involved.
Oaxaca is in the middle of a rebellion that is going on or soon will be going on in many parts of the country. Too many poor, and too little sharing of the wealth; impunity from criminal charges for the wealthy and the politically connected; terrible economic damage done by NAFTA and other transnational structures; political parties that are battling over the spoils and not to improve conditions. However, for the most part, the social discontent is being expressed in a non-violent sort of way, and at least here in Oaxaca, the 'movement' is avowedly peaceful (except when being attacked). NO-ONE except protesters and those who film or observe from their side of the line, has been shot.
I have talked to people in the 'movement', and read their statements, and they genuinely want tourists to come to Oaxaca. They apologize for the disruption their protest, has caused, and ask for understanding that making democracy is not easy with a repressive government.
While Oaxaca city is not currently safe at night, it is wide open and friendly during the day, and many of the merchants, restaurants, and hotels are offering deep discounts to those hardy and flexible enough to come down. The towns that make and sell handcrafted items are dying for customers, and likewise willing to deal, although I find it hard to bargain with someone who hasn't sold a rug or a carving for four months or more.
Navidad (Christmas) is always a fun festival down here. Make your reservations now.
*** Photo by Diane Ricci: Bored federal police stand guard at an entrance to the Zócalo on Day of the Dead, while all the action is elsewhere in the city.
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