Oaxaca is a city based upon religion, food, family traditions, and hard work (craftsmanship). The very photograph above attests to the nature of historical district of Oaxaca. It is the Santo Domingo church, the hub of the city. It is surrounded by food vendors/restaurants, merchants selling their hand made wares, and the church, which draws big crowds on Sundays and several traditional weddings almost every week.
My experience in the city of Oaxaca was truly an eye opening experience. Digging deep and walking the streets daily, speaking and learning from the people, directly what was going on in the pueblos, what was going with the Maestros, the government, and how people live from day to day with all the issues. While the strike with the Maestros becomes a yearly event and the impacts on commerce and traffic are felt every “season” the strike occurs. People are still able to thrive. This year’s strike was more impactful than others in the past. Many spoke about how bad this year’s (2016) strike was in comparison to 2006. Where the federal police did more raids in the central city compared to this year where they raided more of the surrounding pueblos. The effects were strongly felt, roads to Mexico City were blocked, businesses closed early, people did not go out on the streets as much. Commerce slowed within the first few days of the riots and raids. Things began to normalize after the first week, but it was that unsettling knowledge of uncertainty that kept people feeling uneasy. Are the federales coming back for another raid here in the central city? Some were sure they weren’t, others felt that it would happen any day. Time was the ultimate test, but people did their best to continue living their lives normally. My host family and people in our schools felt uneasy and deep pain for friends in their communities and family that were effected. As the days past in this week of raids and uncertainty, I heard countless stories of peoples loved one’s arrested, missing, struck for hours in traffic (unable to contact loved ones), and government officials and local police officers abusing their power. At times, I could not help but to see the similarities with the U.S. Overall, it was the will of the people that kept the city moving. People continued to make jewelry, shirts, carpets, food. They continued to strive and thrive. I was able to speak to many on their faiths and how it kept them going. It was the culture, the tradition, and rituals, that kept many thinking that we will survive and get through this, because “we have seen it before, we have lived it before”. There are so many hidden gems of tradition and family spread all throughout Oaxaca. From the parks where thousands gather every day to eat, exercise, spend time with their children, gather with friends, be romantic, etc… to the pueblos where family traditions are passed down from generation (like carpet weaving and jewelry making) to generation. Culture is preserved, tradition is honored and cherished, and ritual becomes daily life. Oaxaca has so much beauty in its streets, parks, nature, families, and streets, its is hard to summarize my entire experience. One thing that I have taken from this voyage is the importance of family. I learned that much of the political conflict comes from individuals in rural communities simply wanting to take care of their family. If it is not a food shortage, a water shortage, or education for their children to better themselves, it is all a point to fight for. Family is truly important in Oaxaca. Families can open their homes and their kitchen to show love and warmth. To make you feel as though you are a part of their Oaxacan family.