Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

jueves, noviembre 30, 2006

Oaxaca: Ending the Blockades, Beginning the Reprisals?

The media this morning are reporting that the last barricade in Oaxaca has been taken down and that Radio Universidad, which was used by APPO to organize demonstrators, was returned to the University. According to the International Herald Tribune:

Authorities removed the last significant barricade erected by leftist protesters as part of their six-month takeover of Oaxaca City on Wednesday, and activists — some of them weeping — returned a seized radio station to university officials.

The loss of Radio University — which had served as the movement's nerve center, alerting protesters to police movements — and the removal of a barricade made of hijacked, burned-out vehicles just outside the campus' walls, appeared to be a huge setback for the once-powerful protest movement.

For the first time in months, police appeared to control this entire colonial city in southern Mexico, popular among tourists for its picturesque, arch-ringed main square.

The report was confirmed by Reuters. And Ojitos in Mexico, writing from California, reports

[T]he day that I leave, the Cinco Senores barricade was dismantled, and APPO stopped broadcasting over Radio Universidad. These were the two last remaining physical outposts of the movement. What happens now? Radio Ciudadana, the voice of the PRI, which has called for foreigners to be killed and for people to throw acid when APPO marches, has been broadcasting the names and addresses of those involved with APPO. A few days ago, then, the offices of Flavio Sosa (a frequent APPO spokesperson) were burned, with no preventative measures taken by the "peacekeeping" PFP. Are we to see even more of this?

Meanwhile, tomorrow is scheduled for the inauguration of president "elect" Felipe Calderon in Mexico City. So the very limited main stream media coverage of the Oaxaca events will change its focus to Mexico City. Will this bring massive reprisals to Oaxaca?

I hope not. But all of the preconditions are there. I cannot yet digest what has happened in Oaxaca, and I cannot imagine the contrast of the sweet beauty of this city with the terror and ugliness of reprisals.

lunes, noviembre 27, 2006

Las Tortugas

At last a first green turtle emerges from the waves, and slowly begins its ascent up the beach. Everyone leaves the beach and moves further into the trees. All are silent. The turtle pulls hard with its flippers, and the shell gouges the sand. Its mouth is open as it breathes hard. Each push with its flippers is rewarded with only a few inches of forward progress and is impeded by a bow wave of gouged sand which will have to be climbed. Soon other turtles follow. They too struggle intently up the beach to dig holes with their flippers, to lay their hundreds of eggs, and to bury them in the sand.

Eventually, the turtles turn and push and slide and drag their way back to sea. They will not emerge for another year. The sea embraces and enfolds them. As soon as they reach the water, their full mobility is restored and they are swiftly gone. The male turtles remain behind in the sea, just beyond the shore, waiting patiently for their safe return. From The Dream Antilles.

martes, noviembre 21, 2006

Oh Blah Dee/What Does It Mean?

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977) was an amazing musician. He could play two saxophones at once, each playing a different tune. Asked to explain what this was like, Kirk responded (I'm paraphrasing), "One side of your brain says, 'Oh Blah Dee,' and the other says, 'What does he mean?'" The two tunes always fit together in surprising ways.

You can have the same experience. So first, for the right side of your brain, we have Oaxaca.

According to today's Houston Chronicle:

Clashes erupt in Oaxaca between protesters, police

OAXACA, Mexico — Masked protesters armed with sticks, rocks, fireworks and homemade gasoline bombs clashed briefly with federal police and took over a downtown hotel today in the latest violence to erupt in more than five months of demonstrations seeking the governor's resignation.

The protesters led a march commemorating today's Mexican Revolution holiday to the city's main central plaza, the Zocalo, which police took over in late October in an attempt to end the protesters' siege of the city. As they passed, the demonstrators began using their weapons against police, who fired back with tear gas and pepper spray, eventually dispersing them.

The demonstrators were seen taking vehicles away from motorists driving through the center at the time, including a passenger bus, which they later set on fire. They also took over the Camino Real hotel, breaking the windows of the upscale establishment and spraying its walls with graffiti.

The hotel closed its doors shortly thereafter and did not release any information about its guest list. It was the second time since the protests began in late May that protesters have attacked the hotel.

In late September, about 300 demonstrators armed with machetes, knives and pipes descended on the hotel searching for Gov. Ulises Ruiz, whom they accuse of rigging the 2004 election to win office and violently repressing dissent.

Protest leader Cesar Mateos said police detained some of the demonstrators, but couldn't say how many. Police did not release any information on detentions.

In Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas today, thousands of Indian sympathizers of the Zapatista rebels blocked highways throughout the state in support of the Oaxacan protesters.

Chances are pretty good that you didn't hear this story on the radio or television today. You might have found it in your newspaper, but it wasn't in mine. Apparently, the struggle in Oaxaca continues and in the main US media we're ignoring it and so you probably don't know about it (if you're in the US and not in Mexico).

So hold Oaxaca on the right side of your brain, and put this item on the left:

Over the weekend, on November 19, about 20,000 demonstrators were in Fort Benning , Georgia, protesting what used to be called the School of the Americas and is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The School of the Americas (SOA) is a U.S. Army training school that trains soldiers and military personnel from Latin American countries in subjects like counter-insurgency, military intelligence and counter-narcotics operations. Under Department of Defense jurisdiction, this school is funded by U.S. taxpayer money, all of the training is conducted in Spanish, and most of the classes are taught by Latin American instructors.

According to the Associated Press, the date for the demonstration is significant:

The demonstrations are timed to commemorate six Jesuit priests who were killed along with their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador on Nov. 19, 1989. Some of the killers had attended the Army's School of the Americas, which moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984.

But wait: there were also demonstrations over the weekend against the School in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay and Peru. Why? It seems that graduates of SOA have repeatedly been involved in human rights violations, torture, and disappearances. It seems that training manuals for the school, revealed in 1996, taught torture. It seems that the School has something to do with US control of the neighbors to the South. You know these neighbors: they're the ones we try to ignore.

Chances are pretty good that you didn't hear any of the demonstration story either on your radio or TV. And it sure wasn't in my newspaper.

And now for the Rahsaan Roland Kirk moment. When you put the two, different pieces together, do they have something to do with each other? And if they do, what is their connection?

And what's the song that's being played?

miércoles, noviembre 15, 2006

I Want An Award!

How delightful! Nominations are open until 11/24 for the 2006 Weblog Awards.

So to be blunt: this blog should be nominated as the world's greatest blog about a fictional island, but alas, there is no such category. Or it could be nominated as world's greatest lit blog. But guess what? There's no such category. This blog could also be nominated as the blog most likely to murder two languages simultaneously. But there's no such category for that either. Or for quirkiest, most idiosyncratic blog. But not to worry about that!

Please please please nominate the Dream Antilles for best caribbean and latin american blog or best new blog or best best blog or some other category you find!

After all, this blog has sometimes actually been entertaining, right?

Oh yes, and after you nominate it, would it be too much to ask if you were to please remember to vote for it in the election?

domingo, noviembre 12, 2006

Just Asking

What would our lives be like if we turned off the lights, the computers, the televisions, the telephones, for even half an hour, went outside, and looked at the night sky? What would our lives be like if we allowed silence and stopped driving it off? What would our lives be like if we cultivated and treasured dreams? What would our lives be like if we removed our shoes and socks and stood directly on the earth?

Pedro Paramo

Juan Rulfo (1917-1986)
An unexpected treat. A complete delight. I ordered a used copy of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo. It arrived last week. I read it. How wonderful! What a great read! It’s said that Garcia Marquez read this 1955 novel so many times that he had memorized much of it. Its influence on the Macondo of One Hundred Years of Solitude is patent. And as Susan Sonntag points out in her introduction (the Grove Press paperback), with the opening sentences of this book, “we know we are in the hands of a master storyteller. These sentences, of a bewitching concision and directness that pull the reader into the book, have a burnished, already-told quality, like the beginning of a fairy tale.” She’s right (this should not be a surprise). The book, all 124 pages of it, is a treasure. I recommend it heartily.

Rulfo was born May 16, 1917, in Sayula, Jalisco, Mexico. He studied law, was in a seminary briefly, and wrote in the 30s but nothing was published. He was married, had children, and worked as an immigration agent in Mexico and as a tire salesman. He spent his evenings reading. A first collection of stories, El llano en llamas (The Burning Plain and Other Stories) came out in 1953, when Rulfo was in his 40s.. Pedro Paramo was released in 1955. Rulfo was acknowledged as a “voice of unprecedented originality and authority in Mexian literature.” But he never published another book. Rulfo’s publisher said in the 1960's that a new novel, La Cordillera, would be forthcoming, but in the mid-80s Rulfo said he had destroyed it. He died on January 7, 1986.

martes, noviembre 07, 2006

Oaxaca Update

Today is Election Day in the US. In Oaxaca it's another day of the 5 month long confrontation between strikers and the government. And from Mexico City there's the sad news that the conflict has culiminated a series of bombings. Nobody was killed. Throughout Mexico, Oaxaca is again today's lead story.

This story is a frightening one. The longer the confrontation continues, the greater the chance of widespread, violent, governmental repression. In my mind, the build-up is oddly and frighteningly reminiscent of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. Photos here (if you can stand them) . As in 1968, the government (does it matter if it's the PAN or the PRI?), it seems, will tolerate demonstrations only for so long. And then, failing to appease the demonstrators, or negotiate a settlement (here that seems to require the resignation of the Governor of Oaxaca), or disperse the strikers, and unwilling to countenance the continuation of the barricades and the negative images of governmental impotence in the press, the government is prone to bursts of widespread, organized violence.

I really hope this won't happen. Reports of steps toward a negotiated solution are far from encouraging.

sábado, noviembre 04, 2006

Sabes Que Pasa En Oaxaca?

It's amazing to me how little reportage of the tumultuous events unfolding in Oaxaca is making it into US mass media. It's as if the planned 700 mile border wall has cut off the news.

The murder of Brad Will seems to have awakened a few people. But, probably because most gringos speak only English, the fighting in Oaxaca seems impenetrable. It seems a lot like hearing your immediate neighbors fight viciously with each other night after night. You have no idea what they're fighting about. The shouting and fighting is definitely bloodcurdling. But you don't know what it's about because they're not yelling at each other in English. Without an explanation, you probably have to write it off as incomprehensible, as having neighbors who inexplicably can't get along. If you like to generalize, maybe that's how they are...

To disple this, here are two sensitive explanations of Oaxaca events worth reading immediately: The Nation and calabasa blog.

And, while we're at it, where are all the photos of these events, like the one that follows? You don't have to speak the language to catch the smell of impending disaster.