In order for the governor of Oaxaca to present a successful Grito in observance of the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s revolt against Spanish rule, the Oaxaca zócalo was protected by almost 2,000 armed men, state and local police, who set up iron fences to keep out any trouble.
In order for the governor of Oaxaca to present a successful Grito in observance of the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s revolt against Spanish rule, the Oaxaca zócalo was protected by almost 2,000 armed men, state and local police, who set up iron fences to keep out any trouble. Every entrance to the zócalo was barred, just as in the repression of 2006.
The zócalo has been occupied by protest groups camped in front of the ex-government palace. Among them are Triqui women who set up an encampment which may be “forever” , or until the San Juan Copala ethnocide is over, one way or the other.
The Triquis, like other groups, were asked to vacate for the holiday. They agreed to do so with two conditions: that they will return in a few days, and that 10 tons of food be sent to San Juan Copala. The government representative accepted both conditions. Fulfillment may be another story.
These women never before took a voice in San Juan Copala’s affairs, not in the assembly nor in other public spaces. Now they are the ones representing their husbands, brothers and fathers to the world. The seige of Copala by UBISORT means the women might never again see those they left behind. Or to put it the other way around, those who remain to defend their community may not live to reunite with their wives and babies. UBISORT declared that those who have not left Copala within twenty-four hours will be killed.
With their agreement to vacate the zocalo, the women moved four blocks to atrium of Santo Domingo Church, the colonial jewel of gold leaf, intricate art and tiled belfries, a tourist “must-see”. The women decided to present their own Grito, the night of September 15. Most of them speak Spanish, all speak Triqui, as do the children.
A temporary shelter of strung-up plastic, with a pot cooking on a charcoal grille, and a three month old baby at its mother’s breast: 28 children, 32 mothers. Outside their shelter the crowd watched short films, and the feature film “The Violin”, projected onto a white sheet hung from the shelter. The crowd was mostly the young who like the Santo Domingo area for their hang-out, plus tourists, plus those who moved out of the zocalo crowd, plus those who came for the Triqui Grito: maybe a dozen sympathizers among the thousand people present.
From inside the shelter I could watch the films reversed, lit by the street lamp. I chatted with the woman whose baby was nursing. She repeated that the issue for San Juan Copala is political control of the dozen small towns which comprise the municipality of San Juan Copala. UBISORT paramilitary does the shooting and maintains the siege. She holds muted hope for the incoming government to make a change and save them. Meanwhile, the women have taken off their distinctive red over-dresses, out of fear they will be tracked and assaulted or worse. Now they wear jeans, and look much like other indigenous Oaxacans, young, all of them slender, some speaking Spanish better than others. A few elderly women too; I saw one in her traditional dress passing with a girl child. Maybe finding a bathroom. The children playing outside the tent were boys, no girls running around unguarded.
Since the women and children have been sent out of Copala, the death of all the remaining men may not be not far off. UBISORT has issued an ultimatum: leave within twenty-four hours or die.
The women need food and whatever assistance one can offer. We brought a bag of apples which vanished before my eyes—they had no fruit in evidence, nor juices, nor milk. I think of the nursing mother. The baby’s face inside her hat and blanket was round, healthy, and at three months her dark eyes looked alert and willing to live.
These women will return to the zócalo after the holiday, and stay there until some solution is offered. That might mean December 1 when Cue takes office. Not before.