01 March 2008

In Like a Lion . . .

. . . and out like a lamb. I'm speaking of February, however, not March.

February arrived in Oaxaca in the immediate aftermath of the killing of police chief Alejandro Barrita Ortiz, an assassination that stunned Oaxaca for its bald violence and the unfortunate deaths of two innocent bystanders. One of these was Vicky Galan Rodriguez, a beloved athletic organizer whose work toward healthy lives for youth, families, and the community at large will much be missed.

Since early February, when pickups full of heavily armed police spent a couple days screaming around the city on high alert, things have definitely calmed down. There have been incidents outside the city, as Nancy Davies chronicles here, and it should be noted that all is not calm now between the teachers and the government. The teachers have undertaken a semi-permanent strike, refusing to work Fridays and instead demonstrating in the streets, staging a weekly march from one end of the centro to the other. Except for traffic congestion and increased idle time for public school kids on Fridays, this has seemed to have little effect on the ongoing, unresolved conflict over teachers' salaries, school conditions, the removal of Governor Ruiz from office, and the release of political prisoners. I list these items in this order because, remember, the unrest of 2006 began with the teachers and snowballed into a greater, statewide political and economic upheaval. But as long as the teachers are making a stronger showing in the streets than the APPO, that's the order I'll continue to rank these demands.

February got busy for me on the teaching front. While I have had my head in English language textbooks and student essays, Nancy Davies writes that the struggle between political parties is being carried out largely in the pueblos but with skirmishes here in the city. I haven't seen any of this, but in a recent informal update posted to the Oaxaca Study Action Group (available at Yahoo! Groups), she remarks on violence at the local Abastos market, an area known for being both colorful and rough:

In my opinion, the situation here is extremely volatile. The daily battles seem to come down to PRI vs PRD, or PRI vs Convergencia, or PRI vs campesino populations. Again, in my opinion, this is because the social movement opened spaces for others: campesinos who won't accept the domination and theft any more, and political parties which scent an opportunity to step in. I'm betting on Convergencia to come out ahead simply becuase there are too many examples of PRD non-aid to the movement and corruption. Convergencia has not yet had a true opportunity to betray anybody, hence is "clean". Events as of today's (print version) *Noticias* include a battle at the Central de Abastos, various student street blockades, a note which makes me very uneasy regarding sale of ejido lands, a note regarding the parents of Brad Will who say they feel "disilusioned" on Mexico's justice system -I feel bad for them, too.
I read the article about Brad Will's family, and I have to say that if their efforts can shed a little light on Oaxaca's particularly corrupt governmental practices then maybe some good can come from the tragedy of Will's death. They'll have to have a mighty torch, however, and some help from either the U.S. State Department or the U.S. mainstream media, to make much progress down here.

Also at the beginning of February I found myself very much alone and with unfettered Internet access for 10 days, so blogging was prolific and substantive. Not so much the past two weeks, during which time Jenna and I have shared a sporadic Internet connection. Connection issues have settled down, but her work has picked up. I am spending significantly less time online while she swims through oceans of information to complement her practicum and support her thesis on the topic of women's health and maternal mortality in Oaxaca and in Mexico. Since we're here for her master's work, I defer Internet priority to her. Meanwhile, I keep begging her for guest posts, because her topic is both interesting and vital, and because her writing on the matter has been great. Perhaps we'll coax a little something from her as she wrangles through the most compelling parts of her work.

One post that didn't make the blog last month--I wrote it, then deleted it by accident yesterday as I hastily ironed out the final paragraph--had to do with the outrageous comment made by Israel's deputy defense minister that, should rocket attacks continue to strike Israel from Gaza, then the Palestinians would bring upon themselves a "holocaust" in the Gaza strip.

I understand that the deputy defense minister was addressing the Israeli army via armed forces radio when he said this, and that his comment may well have been taken out of context. I also get it that "holocaust," in a warfare setting, is a tactical term for total destruction. His goal may have been to convey his seriousness, to rally the troops, and to provoke Palestinian ire. Furthermore, translation is involved, from Hebrew to English, so who knows what gets put into or taken out of a comment between the original utterance and the time it reaches me over the Internet.

All that said, come on. As a Jew raised on the premise that Israel exists as sanctuary for Jews worldwide, and that this sanctuary was born in direct response to the genocide known as the Holocaust, I am completely flabbergasted and appalled that a politician speaking on behalf of the state would not have sense enough to know how badly this sort of thing might be heard around the world.

There's more on that topic, but I don't have the screws right now to hold it all together.

On a final, and quite different note, I recently completed the last of my graduate school applications. Now we wait and see.

Alright then. That catches things up. Let's go and see what March holds, shall we?