Citing political upheaval, Oaxacan students cancel trip to Palo Alto

Group of student dancers from sister city change plans because of safety concerns

The election of Donald Trump to the White House has cast a shadow over Palo Alto's relationship with its sister city in Mexico, with a group of more than 30 student dancers from Oaxaca recently canceling their scheduled trip to Palo Alto because of the shifting political landscape.

The group of students from Instituto Blaise Pascale was planning to arrive in Palo Alto in April for a performance of traditional Mexican dance. Known as Grupo Folklorico, the middle school and high school students have performed dances in more than 30 different countries, raising money for Oaxacan charities and philanthropic organizations.

For Neighbors Abroad, the nonprofit that administers the long-standing partnership between Palo Alto and Oaxaca, the cancellation was a disappointing -- if not entirely surprising -- development. Bob Wenzlau, president of Neighbors Abroad of Palo Alto, told the Weekly that the students' parents got together after the Nov. 8 presidential election and decided not to send their children to Palo Alto.

The email notifying Neighbors Abroad of the cancellation cited the "sociological-political situation in the U.S.A." and stated that the parents "don't know what will happen under the new government and are not prepared to risk sending their child." Given the number of cancellations, it is "no longer artistically or logistically possible to undertake this trip."

"We are incredibly saddened to have to notify you of this ... and we would like to thank you for your continual support of the project," the email states, adding that next year the group will consider if a trip in fall of 2017 or spring 2018 will be possible. Even so, the cancellation has dismayed some of the program's longtime members, Wenzlau said.

"This is a charitable organization, it's worked smoothly for years and an interruption like this is unheard of," Wenzlau said. "It's such a motherhood-and-apple-pie program, and now there's a problem with the apple pie."

The cancelled field trip isn't the program's only recent setback. For the past few months, Palo Alto has been considering selling to Oaxaca a fire apparatus called a "quint" (which doubles as an engine and ladder truck). The agreed-upon price was about $25,000, even though the estimated value of the used truck is about $80,000. However, because the amount committed was in pesos, not dollars, and because the value of the peso has dropped by about 15 percent since the election, Oaxaca now has only about $20,000 to offer and the deal may no longer be feasible, Wenzlau said.

While Neighbors Abroad is still hoping that the deal can happen, Palo Alto's own budget challenges are limiting the city's ability to offer any new subsidies. The city faces a projected budget deficit of $4 million to $6 million in the next fiscal year. As a result, city staff has changed its position and is now seeking a contribution of $50,000 for the quint, according to an email that Chief Financial Officer Lalo Perez sent to Wenzlau.

City Manager James Keene is seeking a contribution of $50,000 to "justify our procurement of the Wild Land Rescue vehicle still leaving us short approximately $30,000.

"We recognize that this is a significant increase to the offer from our sister city, but given our financial position and the difficult budget decision (ahead) ... we need to close the gap as much as possible," Perez wrote.

Wenzlau noted that these setbacks are coming at the exact time when Neighbors Abroad has been expanding its ambitions. The group is now working to formalize sister-city relationships with the Yangpu District in Shanghai and Heidelberg, Germany.

"I feel this is a time when really, the role of our local government and sister cities should be stronger and not weaker," Wenzlau said.

"This is what's gotten a lot of our membership worked up. We're actually trying to be a stronger sister city recently, and we're finding that harder because of the things going on."


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11 people like this
Posted by Barry
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 7, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I believe the cost to replace that Palo Alto Fire ladder truck is about $800,000, not $80,000.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2016 at 5:39 pm

[Post removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2016 at 5:43 pm

[Post removed.]

24 people like this
Posted by wally
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

wally is a registered user.

Guess they don't realize Obama nearly deported more people to Mexico than Clinton and Bush Jr combined

25 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:24 am

38 year resident is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

@ wally nailed it. President Obama's deportation numbers while holding office are greater than Clinton and Bush Jr. combined.

Last I checked, legal entry into the U.S.A. for cultural exchange programs isn't against the law.

45 people like this
Posted by BlatherBuss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:52 am

BlatherBuss is a registered user.

This article is a case study in liberal bias and highlights why average people have no faith in main stream media to be objective anymore. The state and city of Oaxaca have been identified as one of the most dangerous places for violent organized crime by both the US and Mexican governments.

In fact, the US State department issued a travel advisory in June warning government employees to completely avoid traveling to Oaxaca and for US citizens to "avoid hiking around the auditorium and observatory at Cerro del Fortin, as foreigners are routinely held up at knifepoint and robbed in that area."

To support the false narrative and assumed innuendo that Oaxacan visitors to Palo Alto are somehow unsafe due to the recent US elections or less safe than in their home town is absurd. In addition, to imply that our city is being forced to renege on the deal for the fire engine due to Trump policies (He is not in office yet) rather than our city's fiscal mismanagement (budget deficit despite strong economy and recent tax increases) is intentionally misleading.

It does a dis-service to our citizens and visitors to spread fear and falsehoods. Since the author is obviously playing the role of activist rather than journalist, I will simply remind him of the following core principles of journalism:

1. Get the facts right
2. Get both sides of the story
3. Do not publish rumors

Sadly, I think this article and too many from PA Online lately fail in all three.

15 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:38 pm

38 year resident is a registered user.

@ BlatherBuss.....well stated, but don't expect the bias to change locally or nationally. Liberal media was shocked, stunned and demoralized by the election results and will continue to disparage the new administration for the next four years in hopes that the election of 2020 will produce a different result and awaken them from a bad dream.

19 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Another is a registered user.

Hillary Clinton got 73% of the vote in Santa Clara county, and Trump got 21%, and it was probably even more skewed toward Clinton in Palo Alto. But you'd never guess that based on what you read on these message boards. Let's just say we're definitely not getting a representative cross section of this city here.

2 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2016 at 2:21 pm

38 year resident is a registered user.

@ Another......respectfully, I don't understand what your point is.

20 people like this
Posted by BlatherBuss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 3:59 pm

BlatherBuss is a registered user.

Something about this deal does not make sense. If I were a cynical person, I would wonder if some people are trying to exploit the situation in order to get better the terms. So in order to be constructive I will offer the following suggestion:

1. Sell the fire truck for $80,000
2. Keep $50,000 as the required contribution to Palo Alto
3. Donate the remaining $30,000 to Oaxaca. With the addition of their original $20,000 they now have $50,000 to go purchase a quint fire truck for their needs. That is a 150% increase in their original funds and they benefit from the currency devaluation. There are currently at least five of those vehicles under that price on right now for consideration.
4. Write a thank you note to the generous people of Palo Alto, send your kids on the trip and have a great time

P.S. Neighbors Abroad - please stop signing up more sister cities that expect us to financially subsidize the relationship or don't respect our democratic values. As this article points out, we are broke.

4 people like this
Posted by gcruik
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 5:16 pm

gcruik is a registered user.

Just came back from a week in Oaxaca. Fantastic town. Downtown area was entirely safe. Locals are delightful.
Go and Go now. Enjoy yourself. One of the best destinations in Mexico

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2016 at 9:01 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by BlatherBuss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 10:54 pm

BlatherBuss is a registered user.

Actually, for the last 200 years, racial cleansing only happens under Democratic regimes.

Native American Indian oppression and resettlement - Jackson
US war against Mexico - Polk
Slavery, KKK and Jim Crow - Southern Democrats
Armenia - Wilson
Japanese internment camps in US - FDR
Atomic bombs dropped on Japan- Truman
Vietnam and Laos - LBJ
Cambodia killing fields - Carter
Ruanda and Bosnia - Bill Clinton
Syria, Northern Africa and Iraq - Obama & Hillary Clinton

Curmudgeon - maybe it is time you switched parties. There is still room on the Trump train so get on board.

6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2016 at 10:59 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Actually, for the last 200 years, racial cleansing only happens under Democratic regimes."

If you believed that silliness you would have voted for Hillary, right? But you swallowed Trump's campaign spiel HL&S, didn't you?

Too bad, my friend. You been had. Again.

7 people like this
Posted by BlatherBuss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2016 at 12:50 pm

BlatherBuss is a registered user.

We will see.

One thing I do know, however, is that the people who have already been "had" are the Bernie Sanders supporters who got railroaded by the DNC in the primaries, the Wall Street fat cats and Petro Dictators who donated large sums of money to a failed $1.2B campaign, the media elites who corrupted their integrity by actively colluding with HRC staff and the average well meaning but gullible Democrat voter who was tricked into believing that 30 years of Clinton Inc. corruption didn't matter.

[Portion removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 9, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

Please try to stay on course. The issue here is whether the candidate kept his/her promises. What the Bernie Man promised, the Bernie Man delivered as best he could. In diametrical contrast to the Trumpster, Bernie kept the faith to his followers.

With Trump, so far, we got:

Deport them "illegals"? Nope.

Drain the swamp? Nope, make it bigger and load it up with elite swamprats from the Beltway and Wall Street.

Put Wall Street in its place? Nope. See above.

Save American jobs in Indiana? Well, keep a few of 'em around until Carrier finishes hooking up all that spanking new job-killer automation using the million$ of taxpayer bucks Gov. Mike Pence gave them to pretend to keep American jobs.

Kill Obamacare? Nope. Those once-brave and blustery turkeys have turned chicken.

But I digress. Come on over, Oaxaca. Trump didn't mean all those nasty things he said about Mexicans. It was all just to get votes [portion removed.] It worked, he's done with 'em.

9 people like this
Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2016 at 8:15 am

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

Many had told me not to read these notes. They do not reflect the body of Palo Alto. We have wonderful traditions of giving, we broadly appreciate the service of our city staff, and for me our fire fighters.

Neighbors Abroad carried no agenda in this story. We were basically sad, and in 50 years, had never suffered a cancellation based on a fear of a visit. The Oaxaca school is one similar to the best of our private schools, and the parent's are protective of their kids. The threshold a parent carries is very high. The news at best is confusing when heard 3,000 miles away.

This Palo Alto Weekly story did carry a message. The message was heard around the world. Huffington Post, Daily Mirror, KPIX, KQED and to the hispanic community through Univision. You throw a rock, it might break something, in this case the hearts of some kids who wanted to visit Palo Alto for a week to dance.

We have many traditions between Oaxaca and Palo Alto. One is our service with the fire fighters. In Oaxaca they have built a new fire station. We are working to outfit it. We are raising some money to send surplus (not new) equipment, and I invite any in the community to help us close the gap. It is now easiest to donate on Facebook. As the article mentioned we have a $20,000 gap, and we are working to fill the gap.

Donate to Oaxaca - Web Link

We will make sure the world sees our gift to Oaxaca of a large fire apparatus and three ambulances.

I won't check this discussion as it is a bit painful to read, and is not again the Palo Alto that I know.

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"I won't check this discussion as it is a bit painful to read, and is not again the Palo Alto that I know."

The bad guys win when the good guys disdain the battle. When you put your head in the sand, your little bippy is high up in the air.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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