“It's a war” explained the man from Oaxaca, “a real war”. Talking to people taking part in the first UK NoBorders camp near Gatwick today, our man from Oaxaca explained that the people are doing what they can to protect their own physical, economic and future security.
“The young people, teenagers”, he says “These days, they don't want the potatoes their parents grow and grew up on; they want crisps”. Bartering one crop for another means communities have been able to live for a long time without much cash; that changes as food styles change. And it's not just food; it's what we call bling; the love of 'shiny things', the car, the apartment in a high-rise, the clothes and trappings of what is called by some 'a good life'. Linked with the movement in Chiapas which first came to international attention on 1 January 1994, the movement in Oaxaca for indigenous cultural and economic and political rights, is about fighting for 'a good life' too, but one that does not revolve around shiny things. From another angle, someone asks our friend from Oaxaca “What can you do to stop people from needing to leave”. The migration issue; one which operates by remote-control, since Oaxaca, like Chiapas is thousands of miles from the Mexican border with US. In his village community just ten people have left for the US in the past few years, but the impact is felt, The community feels under seige; the state owns not only the airspace above them, but even the sub-soil; buildings can be adapted only within that constraint. Even a recent community radio tower had to be removed and almost resulted in prosecution by the army, had it not been for self-defence efforts by the community. So free movement, yes. The army represses the people, who patrol the mountain areas to ensure even minimal security for themselves. There is what our friend calls total militarisation of these areas now, with the more visible war on the US-Mexican border having its domestic repercussions in terms of renewed efforts to introduce large-scale neo-liberal development, so-called. A large dam, a pipeline for gas, motorways, even wind turbines. The communities in Oaxaca are saying 'No!' to this kind of development. Another Damn dam was an alternative title for this article, which I decided against as I did not catch the name of this project. But it sounds like so many other. The Narmada, the huge mega-dams in Brazil; most silt up in a few years, whilst the people remain displaced and impoverished without end. An interesting angle on the Free movement question is given in answer to one question by our Oaxaca spokesman; many of the community-level organisers are people who have left Oaxaca, migrated the United States and returned after some years there to support their communities. In this cultural wars, all sides claim to be defending freedom, but their definitions are diametrically opposed. Since free movement works in different, often unpredictable ways, this recirculating of migrants' knowledge back into indigenous organising is an interesting aspect of the Oaxacan and broader Mexican social movement scene that we did not have time to go in for. Food for thought, and real food, not crisps!
Borders are bad for you