Linda Ward Selbie  PHOTOGRAPHY


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Notes on Dia de los Muertos Oaxaca  October 28th November 4th, 2006

  

     The Oaxaca Teachers Strike began in the spring of 2006 and by October life in the vandalized city was completely disrupted.  Months of escalating violence resulted in several people being murdered. The local police simply refused to work, quit their jobs and vacated. On October 27th American journalist Brad Will was shot and killed. 

     We arrived in Oaxaca on October 28th the day after the Mexican government sent Federal Police troops to take control of the Zocalo and move the protestors away from the city center. 

     Our flight landed in Mexico City which is where we had to clear Mexican immigration. Instead of the usual rubber stamp formality, the officers took our passports and tried to dissuade us from catching the flight to Oaxaca. We insisted on being allowed to continue on and finally were given our documents and set off running to catch the flight to Oaxaca.

     Landing at Oaxaca proved to be a little disconcerting as the the airport grounds were set up as a military camp. The Federales had not yet moved into the city. On entering the terminal building, the handful of foreigners were separated from the Mexican nationals and again officials tried to take our passports and stop us from leaving the airport. We persisted and they let us pass. Once outside the terminal building it was difficult to find transport to take us downtown. The minibus taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near the city centre. Eventually a private car taxi pulled in to drop passengers and when offered twice the  normal rate, the driver agreed to take us to Las Bugambilias guesthouse on Reforma. It was just after 4 p.m. and quite eerie to see the normally busy route from the airport to downtown vacated.  Burned out buses and cars blocked every intersection. Much of the trip in the taxi was taken on the wrong side of the road, as it was the only passable lane. Since the streets were mostly deserted this didn't prove to be terribly dangerous.

    After arriving safely at Las Bugambilias, once inside the courtyard we found a sanctuary of calm and  tranquility. Three other couples from the US had arrived the day before and they filled us in on the situation. The restaurant on the premises, la Olla, was open thankfully so we had something to eat. We chatted with the others, trying to come up with a plan for the week since the museums, galleries and most stores and markets were closed. There would be no fabulous Oaxacan street theatre either. Everyone staying there had come to Oaxaca to photograph and celebrate Dia de los Muertos. We ventured out at dusk and walked down to the Zocalo which was the headquarters of the protest. The square was a veritable tent city, but there seems to be a lot of tension in the air, as it was clear that sooner or later the Federales would arrive to clear the area. 

 

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