Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday Protests in Oaxaca

Every time I leave my bungalow to explore the places and happenings around town I wrestle with the idea of bringing my camera, or leaving it behind. Leave - bring. Leave - bring. Leave - bring.

If I bring my camera, I'll focus on the visuals. If I don't bring my camera, I'll observe what's going on from a different point of view. I'll be asking, "What's happening here? What's the story? Is it interesting? Is it worth telling?"

There's always something happening in Oaxaca. Sunday was no exception. I didn't bring my camera.

Academics working at Benito Juarez University were on strike. The university campus is situated near the city center, sometimes the center of a Mexican city is called the Zocalo, as is the case here in Oaxaca. I passed the university on my way to the Zocalo. The university is housed in a very old building of historic significance. Normally the large doors in front of the building are open to showcase the courtyard inside with its statue of Benito Juarez. As I past the university, from the side street, I heard the sound of a woman's voice projected with the assistance of a microphone. She was giving a speech. I couldn't catch the words. I think students were gathered to protest the closure of the university. But, I'm only taking a guess. There was a large red and black flag draped across the normally open large doors in front of the building. The flag is likely symbolic of something. I don't know what.

When I reached the Zocalo I could see people beginning to seat themselves on the chairs set up on one side of the large plaza. On this, the west side of the Zocalo, there is a concert every Sunday afternoon. Many of the people waiting for the concert to begin were holding programs. I looked around, but I couldn't see any place where I could get a program,

I had come to the Zocalo primarily because I wanted a traditional Mexican lunch. There are several restaurants surrounding the Zocalo; I randomly chose one and seated myself. I was sitting on the east side of the Zocalo, far away from the concert that was about to begin. My plan was to go back to the west side and catch the band after lunch.

Labour is cheap in Mexico, and as a result, there are always more waiters and waitress then need be, which results in excellent service, within a minute or two I placed my order for Chille Relleno con queso.

Any foreigner sitting in a restaurant in the Zocalo must be prepared for the vendors. The vendors are primarily women and children. A different vendor comes along, and I'm not exaggerating, approximately every thirty seconds. Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico. I have no interest in the bookmarks, place mats, shawls and various other things the vendors sell, but I carry extra pesos in my pocket to give to the children and the elderly women. My heart has softened, not hardened, over the year I've been living in Mexico.

As I eat my rather spicy Chile Relleno I hear the sound of music coming closer and closer. At first I think the university students have made their way into the Zocalo and I'm happy because I'd like to listen to what they have to say.

On the east side of the Zocalo there is frequently a podium set-up, which makes for a second event, which can take place while another event is happening on the west side. The Zocalo is an immense plaza and a fine gathering place for the people of Oaxaca, as well as the tourists.

After lunch I chose to investigate the happenings on the east side of the Zocalo, rather than the concert to the west. "Aborto Legal Seguro" the sign read. I listened to the speakers, and I caught the idea. They are in favor of choice and want the constitution changed so that women can obtain legal, safe abortions.

Purple is their colour. Women and men are dressed in purple. They combined, as frequently happens, politics and entertainment.

Eventually I grew weary of the seemingly endless line of participants all saying pretty much the same thing, the women of Oaxaca, in fact all of Latin America need a way to access safe and legal abortions.

I drift to the west side of the Zocalo. The people are leaving. One man has just arrived and he says, "What, the concert is over?"

I've spent two or three hours in the Zocalo. I've been listening to Spanish. The more I listen the more I understand.

I return home. Music from the street drifts into my bungalow. I'm curious. I leave the compound and go into the street. There is a band and people are marching. There are no signs to let me know why they are doing this. They just are.

1 comment:

DanaJ said...

i'm familiar with that struggle between camera and no camera.

my vote is : no camera.

in your case, your words are description enough.

i have enjoyed the photos for addt'l context but it's the heart in the words that will keep me reading along.