Nov 20, 2006
Today I needed to rest a bit, so things didn't started until a bit late for me.
As I approached Santo Domingo all was very tranquil. It was a beautiful day, with white/grey clouds floating above and the mountains surrounding the city with cloud-shrouds at their peaks. The temperature was absolutely perfect. People were out in the streets walking, doing shopping.
As I approached Santo Domingo I began to see more people, and hear occasional the occasional "pop!" from afar. The closer I got to Santo Domingo the more people I saw with face masks around their necks, prepared for tear gas. When I turned the corner to the planton, there were crowds of people, most looking down the hill, towards the line of police and the crowds of people who had recently marched into the city. Just then I saw an Canadian woman who is staying at the same hostel, and she looked at me, then down towards the chaos near the zocalo, and she asked "Do you know if I can get into the zocalo? I want ot get something to eat." It was surreal.
Today's march celebrated the Mexican Revolution and the National Strike called by the Zapatistas. The march was intended to be peaceful and tranquil, but nonetheless demanding the removal of URO (the corrupt governor, Ulisis Ruiz Ortiz) from power, demanding the departure of the PFP (federal police) from the city, and demanding justice for the people of the city and state.
When I arrived there was a bit of a standoff, with the police stationed about 2 blocks down the street at the entrance to the zocalo, and the people standing near a just-constructed barricade near Santo Domingo. People chanted and yelled, while the barricade was reinforced. The police occasionally shot tear gas canisters into the crowd from far away, and some police even used slingshots to shoot rocks at the people.
Alongside the new barricade there was a building being remodeled, with tall walls of corrugated metal around the construction site. After pulling and pulling and pulling the people pulled down one part of the wall and used the metal to reinforce the barricade.
Despite all of this, things were pretty calm, so I went up to the first aid station near Santo Domingo to see if there was anything I could do to help. When I arrived I saw two women sitting on a cot. The younger woman was pale, and looked very tired. Her companion explained to me that she hadn't eaten or drank much all day, hadn't been sleeping, and had been badly scared by something during the march. I sat down and talked with her, and offered some cookies I had just bought.
Her name was L, and she looked exhausted and stressed. I began to explain that I had some medicine that might help calm and relax her, and help her to gather her strength. I had trouble explaining flower essences to her, but after a moment she said "de Bach?" Hooray! She was familiar with them! I am still a little shy about offering flower essences to people, and time and time again when I offer them they are accepted with much appreciation. So bit by bit I am overcoming my own hesitation and offering medicine that can make an enormous difference for people.
So I gave her some, and she seemed to relax a bit. We sat and talked for a while, then I went across the room to talk with J, one of the people who had gone to the morgue with me the first day I was here. I returned to L and she was looking stressed again. I gave her some more Rescue Remedy and she lay down. While I rubbed her back, she fell asleep.
I headed back over to the new barricade near Santo Domingo, and found my friends there continuing the stand-off with the police. Young masked men wandered around with small rockets. Word came that there might be some trouble at the university, so I headed over there with some companeros.
After I left the Santo Domingo barricade things began to get more heated. Some people shot off rockets in the direction of the police, some even hit police. The police advanced toward Santo Domingo, shooting off tear gas directly at the crowd. Some people were hit directly and injured, how badly I do not know. I have heard (unconfirmed) that there were 11 people seriously injured.
Movement people responded with more rocks, slingshots and rockets. One friend of mine, J, saw old women (70 or 80 years old) gathering rocks to be thrown at the police. One woman commented to J, "look at all these men standing against the building watching. The women are doing the real work here."
Throughout today's events there were discussions about the use violence, and strategies for confronting the police. This is a diverse and complicated movement, with many different groups and even more different stategies. This march was planned as peaceful, but some used rockets, slingshots and rocks against the police. Did they use these weapons after tear gas was shot at the crowd? Or before? And what is the difference? Were they "violating" the plan? Who is responsible for deciding what people should and should not do? And does that obligate everyone to follow this plan? These are only some of the questions that were hotly debated today, and, I imagine, many other days.
By the time things got intense again at Santo Domingo, I had arrived at the University. Everything was calm when I arrived -- despite the rumors that the police were using the confrontation at Santo Domingo as a distraction to attack the University.
Then I ran into L, who I had helped treat earlier at Santo Domingo. She said, "I have a song for you." I sat down next her and she started clapping her hands in a syncopated rhythm, and in a soft, sweet, beautiful voice she started singing a song about the strength and power of the people fighting for justice, the beauty of the flowers, and of the valor of the fight. As she sang she became more confident, singing with great emotion and passion. Others sitting near us turned and listened. She finished, turned to me, and said "A song for you."
We sat, we ate delicious mole and green beans and tortillas, we talked about the day's events and the tear gas, the pepper spray, and which was worse. They thought pepper spray was worse, I explained the long-term bad effects of tear gas. "And hey!" I said, "I have some herbal medicine that will help your body clean itself of the tear gas." I went and prepared some bottles, not sure if they would want it, if they would actually take it. When I got back to the table where we were eating I explained the medicine, and handed it to one companero. He took a dropperful, then passed it around to everyone at the table, each person taking some. I asked one person to keep the bottle, and keep giving it to companeros, three times a day.
Emboldened, I went over to the fence guarding the Radio Universidad compound, and offered the herbal medicine. Companeros/as lined up in front of me, opened their mouths like baby birds, and I gave them dropperfuls of the herbal remedy. And then we had a discussion about who should keep the bottle of medicine, to continue to give to our fighting friends.
The young people in the movement here are so amazingly kind and sweet. They are not hardened revolutionaries. I am sure that they fight like hell when they have to, but when they aren't fighting they are laughing, dancing, singing, playing soccer in front of the Radio Station, telling stories and debating philosophy.
So, that is all for today. Tomorrow, who knows what will happen?
Please hold the people of Oaxaca, and all those struggling for justice and dignity, in your hearts.
If you would like to donate money or medical supplies, we are working on a way to make this work. Please contact me about that too.