On the Ground in Oaxaca for Guelaguetza

David Simmonds 

What follows is a first-hand report of what is happening in Oaxaca, nearly a year after the uprising that paralyzed the city for several months. The source, Sam, lives in the city and the observations and opinions are his. I personally believe his report to be accurate and sincere.

From Oaxaca City, July 16, 2007:

Over this past weekend, a large number of police, some in full riot gear, have been patrolling the Guelaguetza stadium, mostly inside or immediately surrounding it, or else at the bottom of the stairs leading up.  Despite this, APPO and Section 22 members called for the Guelaguetza Popular to be held in the Guelaguetza stadium.  That a popular festival should be held in a government (or people) owned space blows my mind.

This morning, however, Noticias printed the announcement that it would instead be held in the Plaza de la Danza, to prevent a blood bath from happening.  I had trouble counting everyone, but my guess is that 30,000 people showed up, packed on stairs, sitting on rooftops and on trucks to watch.  I think that qualifies as a success.  However, another group decided to take the Fortin hill, where the stadium is housed.  They were met naturally with police repression, and in the process two buses and several other vehicles were burned, and a giant hole is now in the side of a building near the corner of Crespo/Venus and Chapultepec.

On my way home from the Guetza around 2:30, I ran into the first caravan of death, numbering 5 trucks.  I also saw one of the human rights ladies from the Mal de Ojo movie, Compromiso Cumplido.  I forget which one, I think from 25 de Noviembre, the younger one, but she was talking to gringo press. 

I decided to make a trek up the Fortin to see what was going on.  At the bottom of the stairs, replacing the card-playing riot police, tourists are now greeted by two overturned porta-potties, and the accompanying stench of sewage.  Rocks are scattered at the bottom as well, and several small boulders block access to trucks that wanted to drive up the escalera.  I found that the police had moved into the strategic position of blocking the tunnel leading to the stadium and the two staircases that lead to the lookout point.  Why couldn´t I pass? I asked.  No hay paso was the response.  Por que? Shrug.  I guess the “dog ate it” excuse wouldn´t fly here.  Now we´ve reached the point where even tourists can´t get close enough to the stadium to take pictures.  Why?  Because the people wanted to use public space for a public festival?  Or because of the EPR? Right.  I bid the kind sir a buenas noches and a farting sound before returning to Crespo street, intent on sizing up the damage from today´s festivities.

I soon was passed by another caravan, this time 6 trucks, including what looks like a military-issue circus wagon.  Sort of like the ones that were driving around the city a couple of weeks ago displaying the giraffe and sleeping tigers.  I reached Crespo and Chapultepec.  The road leading to the Fortin was blocked naturally.  The blue hotel up that road a little bit seemed to be a meeting point for the police, a sort of post-repression dinner club if you will.  I´m guessing 30-40 police in black were up there (all police I´m mentioning here were clad in black if that means anything).  Walking down Chapultepec east, I saw another convoy, this time 7 trucks, but no circus wagon. 

At what point do we label this a police state?  How many police must we see in a single afternoon to qualify?  18 police trucks, and perhaps 150-175 uniformed police… does that count?

God help us all next week. 

P.S. If the APPO/22 held popular Guetzas on the 23rd and 30th to replace the commercial one, would they gain high ground on the tourist economy issue, with tourist workers and comerciantes?  Especially since hotels are shutting down (check out the planton on Garcia Vigil) and the police are doing a better job at scaring away the tourists than the APPO was ever accused of doing…