Sunday, July 09, 2006
Okay, I thought that I should post a longer update of the teacher strike here in Oaxaca. I have to admit that it is really irritating me; the teachers (and the people who have taken advantage of them to promote their own cause) have really messed up the city. They've blocked roads in the city, blocked highways to/from the city, gone on at least four huge marches (the biggest one allegedly having 400,000 people; compared to that, what's a protest in Mexico City with just 100,000 people?), blocked off the center of town, sprayed graffiti everywhere, and seriously hurt the economy by making fewer tourists come (by my estimate, tourism is the second biggest source of income for the state, after money sent back from relatives in the US). Honestly, the only good thing I think they've done is rip out the new parking meters downtown!
Originally the teachers just wanted a better salary. Then they wanted the governor to step down. Then they wanted people to vote only for the PRD (communist, leftist political party) in the presidential election. Who knows where it will go next. Unfortunately, I think that it progressed beyond a simple salary strike because of the influence of other people who wanted to further their own causes. It's sad, though, because I think the teachers are being taken advantage of and they don't even realize it. Even with all that they've done against the government, they're still getting paid. And yes, they are paid by the government. On a Thorn Tree thread I found a good explanation of this given by VOS. "Teachers are paid by state per contract agreements with the union. Therefore State must pay wages to striking teachers or they have broken a legally binding contact with the union. Same as with teachers, they must strike or they are breaking the contract that they have signed with their union and could loose their job as teachers with the state. Also, the teachers are docked pay and can lose benefits provided by the government per contract with union if missing a day of strike against the state."
Now the teachers are planning on going back to school tomorrow so they can finish the school year by the 22nd, adding an hour each day as well as teaching on Saturdays. But, they are planning on returning and blocking the biggest tourist draw of the year: the Guelaguetza. The Guelaguetza is a huge performance of traditional dances from the seven regions of Oaxaca. It occurs on the 17th and the 24th and draws the most tourists (and income form tourists) of the whole year. The teachers are planning on holding their own version of it and are planning on blocking the construction of the new road going to the outdoor amphitheater where the real version is held. Since tourism is so big in Oaxaca, if they go through with boycotting and blocking it many people will take a big financial hit. I've heard from several people already that say there have been a lot fewer tourists (and income) because of the teachers. I guess the teachers don't care, though, since pay comes from the government, not from tourists...
First pic: Look on the hill above the red building; that big gray thing is the top two (of four) sections that make up the amphitheater where the main part of the Guelaguetza is held.
Second pic: Can you get any more obvious than that? I believe that this (as well as the posters with the portraits of Lenin, Stalin, Marx, and Engels) was brought in by extremists using the teachers strike to their own advantage. None of them have been taken down, though, so the teachers obviously have strong leftist sentiments.
Third pic: The whole Zocalo is covered in tarps, both those of the teachers and those of the vendors (you have to watch your head to make sure you don't hang yourself on one of the many cords holding them up). Since the teachers occupied the Zocalo, many vendors have set up there, too, making it almost a festive atmosphere. Until you look at poster in the second picture posted here, that is.