Subject: Teacher mobilizations Oaxaca
Dear family, friends and colleagues:
I am writing from Oaxaca, Mexico, to inform you of critical developments in the teachers’ struggle here.
Tomorrow 70,000 Oaxacan teachers are expected to mobilize in the center of the city of Oaxaca to support/defend their democratic election of their new state union leadership. Meanwhile, the official delegates to the State Congress where the union election will occur this Thursday and Friday are to be sequestered starting today for their own protection inside the union hall until the election is completed. Outside the hall, several thousand teachers have been encamped in a "plantón" since last weekend, in a vigil to protect all the pre-congress meetings and attendees.
Tomorrow it is expected that the government-supported splinter union, the so-called Sección 59, will be moving into the encampment outside the union hall. To avoid a confrontation, I have been told by my colleagues that the huge Sección XXII will move its encampment to the central plaza, the Zócalo, and surroundings. In 2006, the teachers´ strike encampment was composed of 40,000 teachers and covered 52 square blocks of the downtown. I can only image what a mobilization of 70,000 teachers in the heart of the city will look like.
Also tomorrow, the "official" representatives of the national teachers' union, the SNTE, will arrive to "observe" the elections. All bets are off as to what this will mean. In various other state union elections, the president of the national union, the infamous Elba Ester Gordillo who colludes openly with the Calderon government, has sent in her henchmen (known here as "charros") to manipulate and control the state elections. Given the fact that Oaxaca is known to be the most democratic and rebellious state union, it is no secret that Elba Ester wants to make a public example by "breaking" Sección XXII. Oaxaca is highly militarized at this moment. Even my colleagues from the Coalition of Indigenous Teachers and Promoters of Oaxaca who are central to this struggle are not predicting what the outcome of the next few days will be. It is possible, if the SNTE or the government makes a major move to destabilize the election process, that Sección XXII will again mobilize en masse.
Perhaps some of you know that various state union delegations, even some that are not known for their activism, are mobilized in Mexico. Most notable is the union of Morelos, which has closed down all public schools in the state since the beginning of this school year in protest over Elba Ester's collusion with the government's neoliberal education policies. The Morelos teachers took over the national offices of the SNTE in Mexico City yesterday. Other state union sections (Michoacán, Guerrerro, Quintana Roo) are also mobilized. Once the union elections in Oaxaca are over, and assuming that no repression has occurred here to mobilize teachers locally, I understand Sección XXII plans to join forces with the national movements for union and education reform.
Those of you who have union or teacher contacts in or around Boston might be interested to know that Mt. Holyoke College will bring two committed Oaxacan indigenous teachers and very wise leaders of the union struggle to its campus as guest presenters at a conference called Teaching, Learning, Leading: A Mt. Holyoke College Summit on Education, Oct. 10-12, 2008. The timing is excellent, as Fernando Soberanes and Beatriz Gutiérrez Luís will be able to inform about the very latest happenings, those that will take place in these critical next days. I believe the conference is open to the public, though please confirm all details with Mt. Holyoke. I understand Fernando and Beti will also speak with several activist groups in the area, though I have only been involved with details about their trip from the Oaxaca end.
Just as I was finishing this email, Fernando Soberanes called. Two pieces of good news: a) Sección XXII is hopeful there will be no "frontal attack" by the government or the SNTE against their election process, though they are still very concerned about the election of leaders silently sympathetic to the government's agenda; b)indigenous educators have put forward a very strong agenda against social discrimination by official institutions, and in favor of communal, bilingual and intercultural education, as well as the rights of women, children, and all human rights. The next several days will determine whether this educational and social agenda put forth by indigenous educators will rise to the top as the agenda of the entirety of Sección XXII.
Please feel free to share this email widely with concerned educators and listservs.
University of New Mexico
On sabbatical in Oaxaca, Mexico