It stepped out with six APPO men leading the parade. Well, damn.
I suppose one could say the women had the last word, since the speakers in Plaza de la Danza were mostly women. However, if this were a rock concert, having the best last would make more sense. In this case the best (women) appearances came after four hours under the Oaxaca sun. Not too many loyal people remained: there was the tall female doll puppet dancing above jeans and sneakers, and a few bull-shaped firework armatures that burned with noise and flames.
The two important announcements at the closing event were made by men. One was the announcement regarding the on-air resumption of Radio Plantón (the teachers radio station) which was destroyed last June 14. The other was about the release today from prison of APPO’s Catarino Torres Pereda, grabbed early in the repression in Tuxtepec. Torres is an active member of the Citizen Defense Committee (CODECI). Seven other political prisoners who had been incarcerated since November 25 were freed as well, from Oaxaca state facilities in Miahuatlán and Tlacolula.
The released APPO prisoners were freed with the intervention of the Comisión Civil Internacional de Observación de Derechos Humanos (CCIDH), which recently investigated Oaxaca. Fifty-five sympathizers of the APPO, including Flavio Sosa Villavicencio and his brothers Erick and Horacio, are still held in out-of-state federal maximum security prisons.
The women demanded the freeing of all political prisoners, the departure of the military police and likewise the departure of URO. The women from the indigenous communities of the Isthmus also spoke against neoliberalism, the Plan Puebla Panama, and the current despoliation of their lands by the transnationals who have embarked on the construction of a wind-generating project. The rightful owners of the land do not agree. A hydroelectric dam is also in the planning phase, and the indigenous people along the southern coast are taking up defense of themselves and their livelihoods.
Before the march, sitting and waiting (we always wait for these marches, which seem to arrive hours later than one had hoped, so in that sense every day is Woman’s Day) I chatted with a young primary school teacher who works in the Sierra Norte. She spoke about her Isthmenian parents, who are not “indigenous”, although of Zapoteca stock. Her father is a bus driver, and her mother a housewife, living in the city of Juchitán. They have kept their daughter informed of the bad business going on, whereby the local owners of communal lands will presumably end up landless and working in factories along the Puebla-Panama highway. The possibility of violence lurks close to the surface as these conflicts are reported by the daily paper, Noticias. My young friend confirmed that.
She’s assigned to the Sierra Norte. I asked her what she teaches those Serrano children, as an APPO teacher, and she replied that she repeats daily to these eight and nine year olds, “You will be the leaders” and receives in reply their aspirations: to be president of the town where they live, or governor of the state. Thus far no girl has mentioned becoming president of Mexico.
This young teacher was not the only woman chatting relaxed in the Plaza. In addition to the women teachers (and more than half of Section 22 are female) I also ran into the usual ex-patriot contingent who come to witness the megamarches. One woman, as the marchers approached on the street, burst into tears. A female response! I told her that I frequently do the same at the APPO marches; there is something about the dignity and hope that moves me.
And here they came, carrying the freedom banners, the URO Out banners, the women’s rights banners, a portrait of José Stalin and one of Lenin, and the banners showing APPO’s imprisoned Flavio Sosa. I timed the passing of marchers to be about one hour, although some were understandably dragging along in the heat. The atmosphere, as is the case with most of the marches that I’ve seen, was somewhere between defiant and festive, with vendors of food and drink everywhere, and people lining the road to witness the event. For this march, I was also aware of a large number of people perched on the side of Soledad church walls below the Plaza de la Danza, apparently more in party mode than any march since November 25.
Pushing through the crowded sidewalk I ran into journalist John Gibler, who assured me he will write a professional report for Narco News in the next couple of days, leaving me free to write social notes and gripe about the male leadership of the Women’s Day march.
Many people suppose that President Calderón will crack down on those who have reason to interfere with Plan Puebla Panama as it courts international investors. Violence, is erupting over put-up land disputes along the PPP corridor. Here in Oaxaca the state experiences daily upheavals and a trickle of political murders. But in the capital city, on Women’s Day, thousands once again enjoyed our favorite form of social event, the megamarch.