Monday, July 21, 2008

Guelaguetza Popular

Hombro a hombro
Codo a codo
La APPO, La APPO, La APPO somos todo

Oaxaca celebrates indigenous dance every year with Guelaguetza, a folkloric dance event in an outdoor amphitheater. The event has packed the town with tourists who fill the sidewalks and the Alcala tourist corridor.

But I didn't see the tourists in the zocalo last night. Instead, it was Mexicanos out to celebrate the Guelaguetza Popular, a "People's Guelaguetza" intended to both celebrate Oaxaca's diverse regions and also to get the message out that these people of Oaxaca are oppressed by its government.

The Calenda processional went on for blocks, and the zocalo was the most packed I had ever seen it. Everyone was shouting political chants for APPO, the controversial coalition of unions that held high-profile strikes and protests in 2006. Loosely known as "the teachers", APPO also has groups representing farmers, students, and indigenous groups. Other sites would provide more detailed information, while mine here will be more experiential.

And my experience was: powerful. Here was a deeply political gathering, fueled by injustice after injustice (including some political prisoners who still have not been released by a government who has been on Amnesty International's shit list since the uprising), but the mood was also festive and vivid.

There was a contingent of people in elaborate devil masks, with levers for opening and shutting their eyes. There was a group of black-clad punky boys pogo-ing as they circumnavigated the zocalo. There were women in elaborate feather headdresses and men clad in white with ponchos holding ceramic jugs. Giant puppets were held aloft on people's shoulders, and one group of men took turns being a "bull", dodging through the crowd while carrying an elaborate wooden frame will a bull's skin stretched across it. There were old women and well-dressed young men, teenagers and small children, all chanting for their rights.

It proved to me something I had suspected. Since I arrived, I had heard from one bourgeois source after another that APPO is corrupt, that the people don't support APPO, that the APPO often ships people in from other regions and pays them to strike. Last night proved them wrong. This was no staged assembly, the people were clearly Oaxaqueno, though many not from the city, and their hearts were on the line. They raised fists and shouted with passion. As a person raised on protests, I know a remarkable demonstration when I see one. Here is was, the revolutionary spirit, expressed through dancing in the streets. Muy mexicano.

La APPO vive
La lucha sigue

La APPO vive, vive
La lucha sigue, sigue

Viva La APPO!

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