Volume 11, No. 14: November 22, 2006

Another visit to the Tule tree:

Every time we take a friend to visit “the big tree”, there is something more to see. Known for its topiary and its lush gardens, which employ several locals full-time, the village of Santa Maria del Tule was going through a mini-boom until all the tourists went away. Even so, as the photos in this issue show, they are continuing with their ongoing civic beautification project. (more…)

Volume 11, No. 13: November 3, 2006

A little culture in the middle of the conflict:

Last Friday, there were two gallery openings in Oaxaca. We attended both. One was at the photography museum “Manuel Alvarez Bravo”, consisting of three separate artists’ exhibitions. Taking the prize for weirdest show was a video loop of a firing squad shooting some shelves full of paint, with the resulting “paintings” being the product of the random swirls and runs from the shattered containers. Some of the “abstracts” that resulted were displayed as well… (more…)

Volume 11, No. 12: October 7, 2006

The never-ending story:

Oaxaca is a story with many beginnings and no end in sight. Such stories are difficult to write, except as “dispatches”. Since I of necessity must read scores of reports – often contradictory and even more often inconclusive – every day, I am loathe to crowd your e-mail inbox, even though sometimes, in a fit of perversity, I think about doing so. The thing about “dispatches” is that once you get started, it’s hard to stop. Just when you get one sent off, a new piece of information floats in contradicting it, and necessitating another, correcting e-mail. And so forth, and so on… (more…)

Volume 11, No. 11: September 17, 2006

A trip to the center of the Mexican universe:

Monday morning, around 10:30, we hopped the ADO “GL” super-deluxe bus to the TAPO terminal in Mexico City, an uneventful 6.5 hour journey featuring the usual mix of bad action movies and documentaries, all in English with Spanish subtitles, on the little drop-down screens. Because we have “senility cards” (i.d’s issued to those of “the third age” by the Instituto de Senectúd – the Senility Institute), we get to travel at half-price, provided no other certified geezers have already taken the two seats in each bus set aside for our ilk. That’s a cost of about 200 pesos, as opposed to the plane, which takes an hour and costs anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 pesos each way (in Mexico, there is not normally any discount on a round-trip ticket). (more…)

Volume 11, No. 10: August 18, 2006

Death Squads go High Tech in Oaxaca:

[I wrote this piece for Oaxaca Streets, a “Yahoo” user group. It reflects the wear and tear on my psyche after three months of waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, and not being at all sure how, or when, or in whose favor the drop will come. Frankly, folks, I’m tired. Tired of the daily grind of rumors, articles, propaganda and counter-propaganda. Tired of dealing with the contradictions involved in the whole business. If this article is a little too alarmist, or a little too negative, or whatever, well, maybe it’s time for me to take a vacation.] (more…)

Volume 11, No. 9: July 25, 2006

Politics, Politics:

I’d love to write about other things. I’m about up to here with ferment, unrest, confrontations, he-said-she-said. Picking my way through all the information, all the lies, all the half-truths, all the self-serving propaganda on both sides of the various conflicts, has given me a headache. But what’s a person to do? Ignoring the current situation won’t serve anyone, including me. Writing about our house, culture, whatever, I am constantly aware that there is an insurrection underway out there; that the health, safety, and enjoyment of being here may depend on whether or not I – and others – can accurately evaluate what is going on. After all, ultimately, that is what this publication is about: survival; enhanced experiences, based on accurate intelligence. (more…)

Volume 11, No. 8: July 3, 2006

The Two Faces of Oaxaca:

There are two “realities” in Oaxaca: “ours” and “theirs”. At one extreme, “They” are sleeping in houses with dirt floors and no running water, eating tortillas and beans (if they are lucky), and are at the mercy of the police, the gangs, and the corrupt system of governance. “We” sleep behind walls and gates, eat whatever we like, and command the assistance of the authorities and the government agencies – and do not wish to trade places with “them”. (more…)

Volume 11, No. 7: May 30, 2006

The New Porfiriata:

Back around the turn of the last century, there was an authoritative imperious all-powerful dictator from Oaxaca running Mexico. His name was Porfirio Diaz. Many say that he got into power – and stayed there in spite of laws limiting him to one term – by electoral fraud. When he wasn’t busy squashing his opposition through co-optation, threats, disappearances, imprisonment and exile, he embarked on a campaign of “modernization”, in which he more or less turned the assets of the country over to foreign interests (mostly U.S.) in exchange for their expertise in infrastructure building – and because he understood that if he trained his countrymen in engineering, etc., they might eventually rise up against him; and ordered the construction of grand monuments to his cultural savvy and his personal power. Thus were Mexico’s first cross-country railroads and telegraph system built. Thus was commissioned a string of palatial opera houses all over the country, including the Belles Artes in Mexico City, and the Macedonio Alcalá in Oaxaca. Huge parks and zoos, museums of immense proportions and historical monuments whose size is only out-shown by their expensive stone and gold leaf, were his “lasting legacy” to his country. (more…)

Volume 11, No. 6: May 3, 2006

An “Extra” From California:

Being away, I find myself tuning in more – not less – to the newspapers (online, natch) back home, so as not to miss too much of what’s going on. It’s surprising how much information is available, and sometimes the info-tide can be a bit overwhelming. All the stuff I promised is still in the works – for later this month – but, for now, here are some odds and ends. One thing I can do while I am “away” is to update various files, including the Glossary and the Books page; review books and records; and clean up my address book and mailing list; which things I have done. (more…)