Oaxaca: Want an APPO with that Taco?

The Chicago Sun-Times last week reported on a restaurant owner who uses advertising space in local newspapers to relay messages from Latin American movement leaders. Marcos Rivera, owner of Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant (1835 W. North) recently published an ad that quotes a spokesperson for the APPO, a coalition of civil society groups in Oaxaca, Mexico that has led an 8-month struggle to oust governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz from power.

APPO members maintain that Ruiz Ortiz , who hails from the notably corrupt PRI political party, is exacting an anti-democratic campaign of nepotism and repression.  According to Amnesty International, APPO members have been the target of state-sponsored human rights abuses, such as arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions.

Another Rivera ad, the paper reports, included a photo of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with his arms spread open. The caption: “Long live the Socialist Revolution.” Chavez won a landslide election last November and earned 7.3 million votes, a record for a Venezuelan Presidential candidate.

According to the Sun-Times, some people are riled about the ads. (The paper fails to quote any dissenters.) However, in an age where the face of Che Guevara is used to sell Vodka and songs by The Clash accent TV commercials, the most shocking aspect the ads may be their sincerity.

"Not a lot of people know what’s really going on in Latin America right now," Rivera said. "It’s a forum that I have. It’s something that’s important to me." He notes that the APPO and Venezuela’s Chavez are “trying to make a change for their people.”

The ads may have ruffled a few stuffed shirts in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood where the restaurant is located, but street-hardened Chicagoans are difficult to provoke. Annie Archer, a local interviewed by Chicago’s WMAQ-TV said, "They’re doing something different and if the food is good, it doesn’t matter.”