Monday, August 21, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: Bad, very bad, and getting worse

Roving gangs of APPO thugs are touring the city, going from market to market, store to store, shop to shop and business to business. They are threatening "represalias" -- reprisals -- against anyone or any business that doesn't shut down. Even the big neighborhood markets which are located strategically throughout the city (almost every colonia, or barrio, has its own public market) have been forced to close.

The lady who owns the little store closest to my office and to whom I have never said much more than, "Buenos dias," and the like, almost jumped on me a few minutes ago when I paid a visit. "Señor," she insisted, "stay off of the streets. Brígadas móviles (roving gangs of APPO thugs) are closing everyone down. I will close if they come here."

And here is something interesting. The APPO has gone through the city's center and run out the majority of the street vendors. According to some of the displaced "ambulantes", the APPO has positioned a small number of these merchants at strategic locations in and around the Zócalo and everyone not so chosen has been forced to leave.

Ambulantes, or street merchants, are a huge problem in every Mexican city and town of any size. They move in, block the sidewalks, set up in front of established businesses that pay high rents anyway, and contribute to the local color while also contributing to crime, congestion and environmental trashing. They are forced to pay "contributions" to unscrupulous "street union" bosses for their particular few square feet of sidewalk space and bribes to local cops to leave them alone.

City governments the length and breadth of the country battle with them in confrontations up to and including knock-down, drag-out riots. On the one hand, it is understandable why the city officials try to get them to move. On the other hand, where else do these people have to go? Answer: nowhere.

One of the displaced Oaxaca ambulantes told a reporter, "The APPO is supposed to be representing all of the people but they are no better than the politicians who ran us out."

Our phone and internet cable services may be destined to be cut. On my way back from the little store I saw a young man with a bag of tools using a cordless drill to drill into the front of a big Telmex phone junction box. I do not know what he intends to do. A fellow walking down the sidewalk stopped to watch the man. The driller stopped his work, turned to face his audience, and stared down the observer until he turned and continued on his way. Whoa!

Please visit the Pale Horse Galleries online store
for art, gifts and collectibles -- all hand made
by Mexican indigenous artists.


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