February 12th – February 24th, 2011
After a quick shuttle ride from the beach, I arrived in Oaxaca City and wandered around until I found an inexpensive hostel named “Hostel los Amigos” with a motorcycle parked inside. One of the owners, Buba, is a fellow rider and member of a local riding club, “Curvas Peligrosas” or Dangerous Curves. The hostel is fairly new, and empty, so I score a cheap bed in the empty dorm room and start exploring the city known for its cuisine and political strife. 2 years ago, protestors took over the zocalo (main center) of town for 5 months until the military had to come in and force them out. The protests were started by the teachers of the local school union, hoping to improve their pay and benefits. More protests happened while I was in town, which I’ll get to in a bit.
A friend, Marion, and I went to the east part of Oaxaca to check out Mitla, one of the most important archeaological sites for the Zapotec culture. The site is about 40km east of the city, so we hopped a bus (man I miss my motorcycle) and road to the site, checking out the market along the way and eating some grub.
Marion and I tried to get a ride to Hierve el Agua, but the trucks wanted at least 5 people to go and the site was closing soon, so we decided against it and I vowed that I would come back to check it out on the motorcycle. Instead, we decided to check out the some of the famous local cuisine – tlayudas and chapulines.
I spent a couple of weeks in Oaxaca, relaxing, reading, exploring, and making friends, but the most exciting part of my time there was the political protests. I took a walk through town in the morning and noticed a huge military presence – an entire batallion (about 500) troops all geared up on trucks and buses, ready with their 50-caliber guns and riot gear. Little did I know that Felipe Calderon (the president of Mexico) was in town to meet with the local government and the teachers union, Section 22. However, Calderons security team decided that he shouldn’t meet with the teachers union because of security, and the teachers union started protesting. That’s when things turned for the worse, and a huge protest broke out. At first, I made my way back to the hostel and took cover on the roof, watching the progression of the protests. Tear gas was being launched at groups of protesters, who were smashing the windows on banks and government buildings, and throwing rocks at the riot police. One of my friends convinced me to head outside and see the action up close, so we both hit the street.
Sadly, my camera was broken so I didn’t get any shots of the action, but here’s some photos and video from press coverage.
Some of the action between protestors and police
Protestors set ablaze to a full-sized semi truck that was carrying barriers and riot gear in the main zocalo of the city. Then the protestors held back the fire department from arriving at the scene, which took them almost 30 minutes.
The next day after the protests, people kept coming up to me and saying “I saw you on TV this morning! You’re the gringo that was on TV!” Worried at first that there was some footage of me protesting (and that I would be deported), I held a low profile until I found out the video was of me, watching the burning trailer, on the news. For the next week in town, people kept coming up to me and telling me that I was the guy on TV.
It was fun to be the famous gringo in town for a bit, but I had to take care of the missing parts for my motorcycle and leave town to head to Mexico City.