A Tranquil Day in Oaxaca
January 10, 2007
First I had to do errands. I walked past Santo Domingo. Surprise, surprise, all access is blocked with police and iron barricades. I spoke innocently with one policewoman (not helmeted, but wearing a bulletproof vest) and asked her why the barricade? For the march. No entry to the Santo Domingo area, despite church permission for the marchers. The policewoman asked me if I wanted to enter the street, and I replied, “No, thanks. It’s supposed to be intimidating to have so many police, and it is – it’s me they’re intimidating.” She replied, if you see many police, that means security. I responded, if I see many police, that means a high crime area. (I didn’t say police crime.) But isn’t it ugly?
And to that, she agreed. The whole city is uglified by the police presence. She said she’s pueblo too, and thinks Ulises Ruiz is very stupid and dangerous. I nodded, offering the traditional farewell, “May you go well,” and she returned the phrase as I headed off down the street.
What a fucking mess.
I entered the artisan fair nearby, where a women’s cooperative sells handmade crafts for tourist business. I was the only shopper. I bought two blouses, because what else can I do? Paying for them, I chatted with the woman who accepted my money, and she whispered (whispered!!) – “People listen to everything and report it!...bad people! what can we do, nobody is here buying. Ulises is very bad,” and more of the same. I asked how Oaxaca will survive the next four years and she said simply, “I don’t know.” She put my blouses into a plastic bag, and I left. Truly, there’s nothing to say. I sometimes wonder why I don’t get into conversations with the people who love Ulises, or at least support him, but I never do. Maybe they don’t exist.
At home I shuffled through Noticias, the daily newspaper – very interesting! The headline reports that the Supreme Court of Mexico decided it’s unconstitutional and illegal for state representatives to vote themselves a year’s extension in office! It was also unconstitutional to vote, as their new law decreed, for a two year interim governor appointed by aforesaid legislature in 2010, when Ulises’ term ends, in order to bring the state elections into line with the federal calendar. No, no, the court said, you can’t vote yourselves the power to elect a governor, even for two years.
Also on the front page, I read about the appointment by Ulises of the former municipal president of Oaxaca, Jesús Angel Díaz Ortega, as director of the Administrative Committee of the Program for Construction of Schools. Díaz Ortega is on leave (licencia) from his position as municipal president of Oaxaca city; truly I don’t know when he was last seen here. Anyway, that was on the front page and I guess the word was out some days ago, because on several pages advertisements appear. A different kind, I mean. Usually they say something like “the Guzmán family deeply mourns the passing of José Bernal Garcia and sends sympathy to his family”. And they’re way inside the paper. Today on pages two, three and four here are these: In a quarter page ad the first says, “Gasolinera Camaisa congratulates Jesús Angel Díaz Ortega, on being named director of the Administrative Committee of the Program for Construction of Schools, wishing him the best of success”. Also wishing him success are Romasa, (quarter page) which sells materials for construction, and the Capetillo Group, (quarter page) which sells industrial construction materials.
Reading along, I found another article on page 16A of Noticias, about the price of corn for tortillas. It’s gone up. Why? According to the article, because the USA had a bad harvest year, dropping from 300 million tons in 2005 to 282 million tons in 2006, so the price of corn to Mexico went up $3.20 per bushel. I put down the paper and went to lie down for a while.
At 4:00 PM the march for the release of political prisoners (for which the police were on guard) was scheduled to start from the fountain at Siete Regiones, and end at Plaza de la Danza. Sounds of marchers shouting could be heard from on top of Fortin Hill, I was later told. I guess at that moment marchers passed at a safe distance around the Santo Domingo area. I walked down to see the march enter the Plaza, and it was not so very boisterous but still lively as dark descended, about 7:00 PM. I guessed about 4,000 (and Noticias the following day, Thursday, printed 10,000) protesters and family members marched along Morelos Street, with banners demanding by name the release of the twenty prisoners still held. The march also included the spray paint boys, who managed to undo much of what Ulises just paid for in the way of re-painting center-city buildings which in the past six months were adorned with “Ulises Fuera”, “Asesino”, “Rata”, and other less than affectionate phrases.
I’m surprised nobody in the paint business has yet taken out a quarter page ad offering “Felicidades” to Ulises.