We’re off:

In a few days, we will abandon our comfortable (but very hot and muggy) home in Oaxaca, to travel to our comfortable (but a bit cool) place in California.  On the way, we will visit with friends in Valle de Bravo, and family in Los Angeles.

We’ll be gone for at least six weeks, but I will continue to follow the Mexican news on line and through the testimony of friends, and ojalá (it should only happen), we’ll be passing the news on to you (hooray for the internet, long may it wave free).

[Luz Daniela, our youngest neighbor, has turned 3.]

The teachers are coming (again):

[Editor’s note:  while some of this article duplicates information given in the last newsletter, the subject is worth repeating, since the distance between the leaders of the teachers union and the governor appears to be growing.]

It was announced this weekend by the supreme plenary of the teachers union, that the members Oaxaca section XXII, will spend a good deal of April and perhaps all of May, in the streets, and not in their classrooms.  Whether with relief (to not have to deal with the consequences) or with sadness (getting down on the street with the teachers is kind of energizing for this ex-agitator), we will not be here to see it.

Things are a little more complicated this year, because the governor, Gabino Cué, and the leadership of the union have not gotten off to a very good start.  There was the matter of the riot that broke out in February, in which the head state cop got attacked (not by one of them, the teachers say) and one teacher was badly beaten; and the disappearance of an important member of the union central council last week.

[Addressed to the administration of the University, and hung from the law school building downtown, it says “you don’t have the money to pay salaries, but you do have the money to eat in (a costly restaurant)]

There is bitterness among the union membership that Cué appointed a friend of their arch-nemesis, national union president-for-life, Alba Ester Gordillo, to be head of Gobernación (the internal affairs ministry); and that someone they regard as “unsympathetic” is the head of the department of education.  This discontent is fueled by their belief (probably true) that Gabino owes his election victory to XXII, with its 70,000 members.  On Gabino’s part, he regards his appointments as sacrosanct: “his” people are his, and nobody tells him whom to appoint (well, sort of: some of his appointees appear not have the legal qualifications for their job, and unless they can come up with the goods soon, they will indeed have to go…).

[On the day of the Good Samaritan, our friends at the Restautant Primavera hand out free drinks to passersby, a tradition observed by a great many Oaxaqueños.]

However, it’s a lot more complex than that.  As someone recently pointed out, all the votes of all the people who are not registered as members of the PRI party could never overcome the much larger number of folks who are.  That means that Gabino won because a lot of PRIistas chose to cast their secret ballots for him.  Also, while the XXII leaders don’t like to admit it, much less deal with it, about 1/3 of the union membership belong to the PRI.  And then there is the dissident local (#59), formed when an earlier membership wrested power from them.  Always a thorn in XXIIs side, they became positive enemies during the 2006 troubles by refusing to honor the strike, assisting parents of affected students to open certain schools, and declared that there would no longer be jobs there for XXII members, should they try to return to work.

[Last week, there were celebrations throughout the city in honor of kids. Lots of parades, art projects, and here, at the Plaza de la Danza, there was music and inflatable environments.]

Noticias, Oaxaca’s biggest selling newspaper, was solidly behind XXII in 2006, but has become turned off by what many see as a too-confrontational stance vis-à-vis Cué.  Noticias has been playing up the recent visit to the capital by some villagers who live in the mountainous Mixe region of the state.  They accuse the union hierarchy of protecting the jobs of several teachers, whom they name.  The accused, they say, are “veladores”: “fliers”, who “fly in” on payday to pick up their check, and disappear until the next payday; and they get away with it because the union leadership turns a blind eye to these activities.  Today’s headline claimed XXII’s demands for this year are only for things that benefit the teachers, and not the general population.  While I am skeptical of that claim – it’s hard to believe that they have abandoned all the other social justice demands they have made in the past – it illustrates just how deep the split between the teachers and Noticias has become.

Add to all of this the increasing public disaffection for the teachers (keeping kids in school is also keeping them off the streets, and nobody needs to miss work to take care of them), and what we may see this month and next is a more isolated and politically weakened XXII.

[The first batter in the first home game of the season awaits the first pitch. Our Guerreros appear to be in good shape this year. We hope to return to a championship playoff or two.]


**VivaAerobus airlines has started flying between Huatulco and MexCity.  Lower costs now make it more affordable to fly triangular trips, for those who want to experience both Oaxaca city and the beach.

Speaking of Viva, since writing about our excellent flights between MexCity and Cancún last Xmas, folks have been sharing horror stories with us about canceled and rescheduled flights on the MexCity – Oaxaca leg.  We too have had schedule changes, but we’ve always been notified well in advance.

[Many attribute the “new” style of painting to Jacobo Ángeles, and I certainly saw it first in his taller (workshop). I’m told that this particular piece, on display at the museum in San Bartolo Coyotepéc, was created by Zeny Fuentes, one of the “younger generation” in San Martín Tilcajete.]

I can certainly understand how someone who is on a short vacation trip might feel any inconvenience a lot more sharply than us retired folks do.  We’ll keep our ears open, and let you know if Viva continues to have scheduling problems.

**40,000 and counting: That’s the number of reported deaths attributable to president Calderón’s insane “war on the drug cartels”, with almost two years of his disastrous six-year term still to go. With the U.S. rewarding him with ever more arms and money, Calderón appears to be ready to defend the phony drug war down to the last Mexican.


***Long-time resident Jane Carton passed away last week, after a years of  struggling with heart failure and the general deterioration of a long, long life.

Jane and I were never close friends, but I always knew she was around.  She was “old Library”, one of the elders I wrote about in my first story, “Do You Live Here?”. When I first came here, she was living in an apartment in the building that now houses Las Mariposas b&b.  She lived there until she was moved to a more commodious bungalow where she could be cared for more easily during her last few months.

The story of Jane’s demise is replete with people who exemplify some of the best traits of our community, from Dr. Alberto Zamacona, who dropped in frequently to see how she was doing, to Alan and Terri Gunderson who provided the bungalow and oversaw her helpers, to a myriad of friends who gave her their attention and affection.

[This piece, also from the current show in San Bartolo, is pottery. It also displays Jacobo’s influence in its “layered” mixture of simple face and legend-spirit.]

Folks – particularly those of us who are “getting on in years” – are talking about how it might be a good idea for someone to put together some sort of hospice / terminal care down here, as an alternative to going North.  It seems to be generally agreed that it could be done cheaper, and Oaxaca is a great place to live…

***Joe Bageant, philosopher, writer (“Trout Fishing with Jesus”), and sharp analyst of the plight of “his” people, the much-maligned “red necks”, whose exclusion from education and from all but the lowest rungs of the work-force he chronicled cogently and with great sympathy, died last week.  Joe was not a Oaxaqueño.  He spent his winters in Ajijíc.  I list him because we have mutual friends here, and because I have great respect for his writing.

[Also on display, weavings from various communities in Oaxaca state.]

A much needed hiatus:

We won’t be doing another “formal” newsletter until June.  After 15 years, I need a break.  If a major event occurs, I will cover it by email.  This does not mean that I won’t honor the subscriptions in full, however:  your renewal date is keyed to the number of the issue – NOT the date – on which your subscription began.  Thus, the next Newsletter will be number 2 of the current series, no matter when it is printed.

I thank you all for your support over all these eventful years, and for your patience. We shall return, rested and ready to get back to work.