Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oaxaca, Mexico: Response to a reader.

I have printed several threatening and nasty Emails that I have received over time. I would like to point out that the vast majority of Emails I receive are more like this one:
Any comments on this article from the LA Times?
Oaxaca calls upon its artists

I appreciate your blog. I can't find straight talk on Oaxaca anywhere else.
Mark in Mexico's response:
Bill L.,

Better than usual from the LAT, only about 10% inaccurate and misleading.

McDonald's never planned on "plunking down a set of its golden arches in Oaxaca's venerable zócalo, or central public square". The Oaxacan who owns the franchise - not McDonald's Corporation - intended on putting in the restaurant. It would have hurt the other resaurants on the Zócalo. The other restaurant owners talked Toledo into making it a "cultural" fight over what kind of food would be offered for sale on the Zócalo. It had nothing to do with "golden arches", only what kind of food would be sold through the current arches (the portales) on the Zócalo. The current restaurant owners didn't want the competition. And Toledo jumped right in to help them.

In addition, the quoted statement of "the cooperative currently is doing only about 1% of its regular business" is a gross overstatement. However, if the cooperative and the other artists are only doing 10% of their regular business, which is a far more accurate number, they'll still all starve. When you're looking at an economic disaster such as has occurred in Oaxaca, there is really not much difference between a 90% loss and a 99% loss. Both numbers equate to bankruptcy.

The LAT reporter, like so many MSM outlets, concentrates his time and energy interviewing the "players" in Oaxaca City. He doesn't get out into the towns and see and talk to the artists themselves. For every Toledo there are a thousand nobodies who work every day carving and sculpting and trying to sell their work for a few hundred pesos.

Toldeo laments that "The life of the city already is lost," to higher priced restaurants and hotels. With what would he replace it? The author of this barely-scratching-the-surface article mentions that "Thousands have fled to the U.S. in search of work." That's also a gross understatement. It is much closer to a million.

And if Toledo could recognise his dream of returning Oaxaca to, what?; 1930? 1920? 1910?, 1500?; that number of "fleds" would have to increase to millions. There wouldn't be enough money left in Oaxaca City and state to feed 100,000, let alone the some 3.5 million who live here now.

It's the old pipe dream of "the good old days". There were no "good old days". When the Spanish arrived here in the early 1500's, the Zapotecs who lived throughout the central valleys had been conquered by the Mixtecs. And the Mixtecs were fighting a desperate battle to keep from being likewise overrun by the Aztecs. The average lifespan for "La Raza" in "Aztlan" was 35 years before dropping dead from exhaustion, bearing 12-15 children, no teeth left with which to munch on maiz or having his heart ripped out by an Aztec priest.

Are these the "good old days" to which Toledo wishes Oaxaca would regress?

Or perhaps 1890, when Porfirio Díaz attacked the Maya in Yucatan and shipped tens of thousands of them to Cuba, sold as slaves to work in the sugar plantations. Then he went north to Sonora and rounded up the Yaqui and shipped them south to the Yucatan to replace the Maya in the hennequen fields (hennequen is sisal or hemp - for ropin', not for smokin')?

Or perhaps 1920 when almost all the land was in the hands of a small number of landed gentry called hacendados or caciques. They owned ranches as large as 800,000 acres, as well as all the people living on those lands. Is this the "life of the city" that Toledo laments as lost?

What Toledo laments as "lost" was the ability of a campesino and his family to visit the city, sell his whatever for a few pesos on the Zócalo, then buy his family a cheap taco or two before returning home to his one room shack with dirt floor and small cooking fire. That campesino's descendants are now mostly living and working in the United States.

That is the "life of the city" that Toledo laments?

I'll shut up now.


Mark in Mexico

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

Cross posted at Pale Horse Galleries

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