For weeks now, ever since we arrived in Oaxaca, there has been a teacher’s strike going on. We were told this was an annual event in May. They camp in the Zoccola, march through the streets, sent up tents everywhere to clog traffic and display banners and slogans. They hold classes and discussions and in their best educational efforts, try to get their point acroos to a oublic more concerned with making their own livings and the daily football scores. We were told they pack it up at the end of may and move on.
Well this year they didn’t pack up at the end of May. They stayed in the streets here into the second week of June now. The issue is unclear to us but we suspect strongly it was more then just simply money. And then yesterday, we couldn’t get into town anymore and the satelite tv faded away and the local tv all broadcast world cup rallys and the federal troops moved in with tear gas and knock down the tents. We were told the teachers still would not go but formed themselves up into groups, with sticks ready to fight back. Another person told us how the shopkeepers and merchants of Oaxaca put buckets of water out onto to the streets so people could wash the gas residue from off their faces. It has been hard to get news. It;s either blacked out or filtered by the person you are talking too. The teachers are saying people have been killed, the governor of Oaxaca mockingly denies it. And for me this is all taking place in a language I do not speak. But some important things do get across anyway.
I browse the net for sources, Reuters, Mexican periodicals, BBC, Labor blogs, and get a picture but a dim one. I have the continual urge to charge into town to see for myself. I surpress the urge. I feel ashamed, and ignorant, another self concerned American stranger in a land he doesn’t understand. But in the time I grew up, I saw the pictures of people on the streets, abused by men in uniform, saw it take place in real time and I am used to being able to turn on a little box and be shown these things. they get more sophisticated with appearances, with smoke and mirrors, and we actually have more to see and we understand what we see less and less. But I can see the smoke rise from the Zocollo and I guess I really do know what’s going on.
What had previously been as light and airy as the foam on a tiate, has now become heavier and darker, like the black clouds that come from the north over the mountains that always bring rain. The girls point this out to us all the time. They tell us about what happens in town and I vaguely understand.Sometimes i wonder how much they understand. Certainally all the people who help us never showed any sympathy for the teachers and I am not really getting from them how they feel now that the police are tearing into them. It’s not just the language i lack, but the situation, the feel of poverty and want. I understand about corruption and the history of oppression but i have never felt the sting of need and the stingency of not being able to have. At least not in any other context but a big flat screen tv.