Update on the Situation in Oaxaca. July 17th, 2006

July is typically the peak tourist season in Oaxaca. Every year, hundreds of tourists arrive from around the world to take in the spectacle known as the Guelaguetza; a festival of indigenous art, dance, music, and culture. The Guelaguetza was originally a celebration of Oaxaca's indigenous diversity enjoyed by the Oaxacan people themselves. But over the years, it has become increasingly commercialized, and many locals now view it as nothing more than an example of cultural appropriation. Today, few Oaxacans can afford the cost of admission to the Guelaguetza.

For weeks, the schoolteachers, students, parents, and organizations who have built a widespread popular movement in Oaxaca, have been threatening to boycott the Guelaguetza and organize their own "alternative Guelaguetza." All last week, they blockaded access to the Guelaguetza auditorium, preventing the completion of a project to remodel the auditorium. On Saturday, blockades were also established outside all of the five-star hotels in Oaxaca city, trapping tourists inside their hotels until late in the afternoon.

Today (July 17th) was to be the first day of the Guelaguetza, but by mid-morning the Governor had announced that the festival would be postponed (some news reports state that the festival has been cancelled outright, while others say the it has simply been postponed).

On Saturday, July 22nd, all of the teachers who returned home to finish the school year, will return to the center of Oaxaca City to reinforce the encampment that has filled the streets since May 22nd, and to participate in the alternative Guelaguetza.

The teachers and the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) insist that they remain eager to negotiate their demands with the federal government, but that they refuse to recognize the governor and his cabinet as their state government, and will not enter into any negotiations that include the participation of the state government. Their primary demand is the resignation of Oaxacan governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Additional demands are those originally put forth by the teachers, when they initiated their strike on May 22nd, which include a cost-of-living adjustment, school breakfasts, and free textbooks.

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