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A Troubled Sister City -- Oaxaca

Original post made by Bob Wenzlau, Crescent Park, on Oct 30, 2006

I have been feeling great empathy for the situation in Oaxaca, Mexico. As you know Oaxaca has been a sister city for more that 20 years. It seems as we are "family", there could be more connection to the struggle our fellow community is passing through.

My own personal involvement has been through tourism and volunteering to send fire trucks to the city government. I can speculate that that the hardship is borne greatly by those in Oaxaca involved in tourism that have made many of our visits to that area so culturally enriching.

Obviously the political situation is complex. I doubt if it should be our role in Palo Alto to weigh in on the political situation. Some of our "connections" in Oaxaca are within the PRI party, and have strong civic missions. Yet the confusion stems that the reports speak of the corruption of the government. These claims are not new, and almost seem to be part of the fabric of the region that thrives in spite of governmental short commings. Still, thing now seem painfull out of sort.

I have spoken with those who were recently there. It is shut down, and has not felt safe. This is clear in the coverage.

I hope the area will restore itself. Oaxaca has give our family some of its greatest gifts including sesitivity to what city's without the economic resources of Palo Alto can offer. After things settle back, I will be back.

I hope our city can discover resources and gifts -- almost a disaster relief -- that we can send down.

Perhaps others have thoughts to build on this.


Comments (10)

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Posted by cathy
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 30, 2006 at 11:06 am

Dear Bob,
I read your posting with great interest. My personal connection is through a woman who first came to Palo Alto through Neighbors Abroad. She is a member of what I would call Mexico's middle-class. She and her architect husband are well-educated, bi-lingual etc. They are very much hurt by this 6-month strike. She rents her small casitas mainly to students at a language school as well as tourists. No students, so no business. There is virtually no coverage of this situation in our have to search for it online. She emailed me some photos of the damage, the graffiti, the blocked streets and the over-turned buses. Regardless of whether there is corruption in the government, this strike is destroying the economic health of the area as well as scaring the daylights out of the inhabitants.

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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2006 at 4:20 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

A link to discussions -- some from locals in Oaxaca -- is at Web Link.

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Posted by Gina
a resident of Ohlone School
on Oct 31, 2006 at 11:36 am

Thank you Bob...Oaxaca is one of Mexico's cultural meccas and it is so sad to see what is happening. The saddest part, is the total lack of credibility that Oaxacans have of their institutions, political, legislative and judicial. Any ideas???

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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

My theory had been to promote more economic development in Oaxaca. It is just a theory, but Bay Area business institutions should consider the area for off-site economic development. This in time would improve the communication infrastructure and then the social transparency. In this poor backwater of Mexico, the government's corruption can survive. (Albeit the government officials we work with on sending fire trucks down are amazing public servants.) Ultimately this would provide a local economy where educated Oaxacans could thrive. I could be 100% off -- and this could be way to free market in approach -- but this is an region where business may be more progressive than the traditional government institutions.

I also hope to find a way that the City can make a statement of support to Oaxaca -- in this regard something is hopefully underway.

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Posted by Elliot Margolies
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 1, 2006 at 8:33 am

Below I will paste an email I received Sunday regarding the tense situation in Oaxaca. It's from a media group that supports the teachers in their demand to remove the governor. Plainclothes men fired shots at an encampment of protestors and killed at least one person who appears to be a North American free lance journalist.

October 29, 2006
Oaxaca, Mexico

Dear Friends

As many of you know I have been living in Oaxaca, Mexico for the last
2 months. Below is a press release that I sent out to many of you
yesterday. Right now Federal forces have amassed right outside of the
city and are getting ready to enter. The have humvees, water tanks
etc. People are going into the streets to support barricades that
have been set up to block the entrance of these forces. This is a
situation that has the possibility to create many deaths today. I am
asking you to contact Fox and Abascal (info. listed below) and demand
the withdrawal of these troops. I myself am safe working out of a
friend's house that has phone and internet. I will be on the internet

Thanks for your support--

Alex Halkin
International Coordinator
Chiapas Media Project/Promedios

President Vicente Fox:
Email: [LINK: compose.php?]
Fax: 011-52-55-52-77-23-76
Phone: 011-52-55-27-89-11-00

Sec. of Internal Affairs, Carlos Abascal
Tel: 011-52-55-50-93-34-00
Email: [LINK: compose.php?]

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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2006 at 1:35 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

I learned that one of our good friends, the Oaxaca Fire Chief Manuel Maza, was attacked yesterday. Manuel has been an ombsbudman in our sending fire vehicles to Oaxaca, and routinely comes to Palo Alto. Apparently the fire department became involved in supporting the federal government intervention, the details of which I do not know. With that as a pretense, Manuel and several other fire fighters were attacked. He was not injured, but other fire fighters were. There is damage to some of the vehicles Palo Alto has donated, so we are thinking of holding off on the current planned new shipments. Manuel now is fearful for his and his family's safety.

We have also learned that many of our friends are basically locking themselves down in there homes. Typically, the relations we have built are with more upper class folks, and as such they are becoming the subject of the attacks. There has been looting occurring coincidental with the protests.

Things are safe at the orphanage that Palo Alto has supported. This is not in the downtown. Some of the older kids are actually going to high school. I learned that the teachers had since 1980 been earning $600 per month. They settled for a 30% raise over 3 years. This was for lower grades teachers, which have not been in session since May. The teachers will not start classes again until the situation settles down -- even with a contract they are fearful of the unrest.

It sounds bad...My prayers at this point. I hope they can calm it down.

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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2006 at 8:43 am

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

Some links to follow the developments:
Web Link - Google Blogs on Oaxaca

Web Link - Google News on Oaxaca

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Posted by Lois Zweben
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2006 at 9:57 am


I returned from Oaxaca in July determined to do something to help. What I think is best, and very doable, is an Hermana Escuela Program: where each of the 17 schools in our district sponsor and mentor a school in Oaxaca.

And almost every day lately, that Program seems to get further away, as the Federales take up residence and arrests and disappearances seem to multiple exponentially.

I had an Altar to the Fallen of Oaxaca for Dia De Los Muertos in Mexic Arte Museum in Austin (just happened to be there in October). I would like to reassemble it here, to raise attention to their plight. Any ideas?


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Posted by Gail Sredanovic
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 16, 2007 at 12:16 pm

I am deeply concerned about the numerous human rights abuses in Oaxaca. People have been murdered by paralegal forces, others, including human rights investigaors, are arrested without charges, held incommunicado for long periods with no charges and no legal help and beaten and tortured. There have been armed incursions into classrooms as well.

This goes way beyond a political issue and way beyond unfortunate.

Gail Sredanovic

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Professorville

on Sep 26, 2017 at 8:00 am

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