Much as I try to make it so, Oaxaca is no longer the city of my memories or my dreams. I must admit: I’m not imagining the changes since 1994. They are real and reflective of the global economic crisis, changes within the whole of Mexico, and the United States.
I’ve hinted at this in previous posts: There are many more people in this city ─ come from surrounding villages to make a living. And precious little to be had for so many. More cars, trash, pollution; few regulations. Corrupt government ─ perhaps it was ever thus, but most people I talk with agree that in the last 15 years the Oaxaca state government has made a mess of things and the city is still experiencing aftershocks from the 2006 protests and crackdown. Today I see strain on many of the faces I pass. My friend Donna tells me less tourists are visiting the villages. Many pueblos are self sustaining, but it’s sad that there’s less sharing of their customs and crafts.
Those who came to Oaxaca with me in 2003 remember Gustavo Esteva, the consummate intellectual and activist. Gustavo has grave concerns about Oaxaca and continues to work for its good at his nonprofit, “Uniterra.” Drugs and violence exist in Oaxaca he says, but they’re not operating like the Cuidad Juarez cartels. Reports of violence in Mexico need to be put in context.
Alas, the only constant is change. Or in Heraclitus’ more poetic version: “Upon those who step into the same rivers flow other and yet other waters. All things . . . are in flux like a river.”
I’m definitely in the river. Todavia me encanta la luz en las montañas, los parajos, flores, mariposas, colores, la gente, los mercados, l’arte, la musica, la cultura, el espíritu. … I still love the light on the mountains, the birds, flowers, butterflies, colors, people, markets, art, music, culture, spirit. And Gustavo tells me he has hope! And that despite these trying times, Oaxaca is still one of the best places to live in the world.