There is only one state in Mexico poorer than the state of Oaxaca, and that state is Chiapas.
The mountains of Mexico have always made communication between peoples difficult. Roads have been build, electricity has been introduced, and water has been transported into the villages. But all this comes at great cost. Unfortunately the money is not always used to benefit the people, they tell me their government is corrupt.
Governor Ruiz, it is thought, became governor of Oaxaca by rigging the ballot boxes, and sending his people into the villages and threatening the village people. In 2006, when civil war broke out, the Federales came, but nothing changed. Ruiz is still the governor.
Yesterday I visited the Palacio de Museum. Once a palace now a no charge museum. I suppose everyone could interpret the story the museum tells differently, here's my view.
First the galaxy was formed, with a big bang. Then the solar system. Then the planets. (Years were given, sorry I don't remember the timeline, but it was a long time ago). Next came microscopic creatures living in the water. The tiny organisms evolved, got bigger, left the water, became many things, including huge reptiles and birds. Some of these creatures evolved into animals.
150,000 years ago, in Africa, the first humans came to be. 45,000 years ago, more or less, humans crossed the archipelago between Russia and Alaska. (You know, the body of land that Sarah Palin can see from her house - sorry couldn't resist) Approximately 30,000 years ago humans found their way to what is now Oaxaca.
There is a twenty-eight minute film, actually many films exist throughout the museum, this particular film shows shots of animals and then shots of people. No words, but the point is clear, people are animals too. (I've always said, all us animals eat, sleep and go to the bathroom, or we die) The film makes many more connections between humans and the rest of animal kingdom.
The museum continues by giving visitors the opportunity to hear many different languages, and discover the connections between all language. There are many cultures, religions etc. in the world. But, the point is made, we are all people. (By the way, the predominate thing that sets us apart from the rest of the animals is a complex language system)
Then things zero in on Oaxaca, and the richness of its culture. There are 16 different languages, and 135 different dialects.
And so, the mountains have provided a wide variety of people. Unfortunately, with isolation comes egocentrism, and authoritarian ways of thinking. Trading nations, those people who live by the sea, were more democratic than the people of isolated lands who through the world. This I've learned not from the Palacio de Museo, but from a university history class.
Isolation brings hardship and ignorance. Here we are in the 21st Century and approximately 45% of the people in Oaxaca live on less than 44 cents a day, which is bare subsistence level. Although the villages I visited have running water and electricity, those that are more remote do not.
Here in the state capital there is Walmart, McDonalds and Burger King. Here in the state capital there are beggars. But, there is a tiny bit of hope. There is a beautiful store, crammed full of merchandise made by the women of the villages. It is a co-operative. The money the store brings in goes directly to the women. It is their business.
I have been here for only a short time. I've been a simple observer. I have no answers. I leave the people of Oaxaca having made no difference whatsoever. Perhaps in Chiapas, the poorest of states, in the small village where I will be living I will be able to make a slight difference in the lives of a few people.