Friday, September 01, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: There is room at the inn

Several people have written asking about specific hotels, whether they were open or whether there were vacancies etc.. I cannot answer about any specific hotel, except perhaps the Marquis del Valle on the Zócalo. That hotel was partially sacked by the striking teachers back on June 14 and is surrounded by what is left of the downtown tent city. Most of the teachers who started this whole thing have moved out and they have been partially replaced by the anarchists. As for the rest of the hotels, they are reporting 10% occupancy on average.

There is a great map of the city which can be highly magnified to bring up street names here.

Some have also written asking about specific streets and specific routes through the city. Some street blockades are permanent and some are temporary, being set up at the whim of the anarchists. The city is basically shut down after 9:00 PM every night and free movement does not begin again until about 7:00 AM every day.

When the traffic began to use the side streets through residential neighborhoods to avoid the blockades of the main streets, neighborhood groups began blocking those accesses. I am not sure why this is. It may be the neighborhood residents' attempts to keep the criminal elements that now roam the city out of their residential areas. I'm not sure. The anarchists would have you believe that the entire population of the state is participating in this insurrection. That is far from the truth.

The vast majority of people are trying to get on with their daily lives while avoiding trouble. With almost no police protection anywhere in the city, that becomes a real task. There is no police presence whatsoever within some 20-50 blocks surrounding the downtown. There is also no police presence in the Parque Conzatti area just north of Santo Domingo nor in the area surrounding the public radio and TV studios ENE of the downtown. Police will answer no emergency calls to any of those areas. If you get into trouble there, you are on your own.

Outside of those areas, in the rest of the city, most police have been disarmed and are not allowed to wear their uniforms. There are some traffic policemen at the busier intersections -- in uniform, even -- helping to exacerbate the congestion. It's hilarious, unless you really have somewhere to go. The traffic cops toot their whistles and wave their arms and send a phalanx of unfortunate motorists creeping from one traffic jam to another.

Crime is rampant and out of control. From simple vandalism like the shooting out and bashing in of windows to the pharmacy just down the street from my office which suffered armed robberies three times last week. Motorcyclists are now using the sidewalks to get around the traffic jams.

I reported a couple of weeks ago that armed guerilla groups might join the fray. A certain commenter pooh-poohed that idea. Hmmm. Who are these guys, I wonder. The state congress is formally asking the federal government the same question.

People continue writing and asking if it is safe to come here. In a word, "No." I don't understand how anyone could consider visiting here for any reason other than some pressing personal or business reason or some other type of emergency. One poor fellow wrote that his wife and son had arrived and he was now concerned for their safety. My question would be, "Why are they here at all?" I don't mean to be too harsh, but in this day of almost instantaneous communication as well as Google Search, being concerned for the safety of loved ones who were sent here after June 14 seems a little, er, tardy.

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


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