Oaxaca is an occupied territory in an undeclared state-of-seige.

(First hand account from a Portlander who recently returned to Oaxaca)

The new heart of the city is now around the Santo Domingo Church. The streets echo with recorded music of the movement, laptops play the most recent footage: the Woman's March to the zocalo, the defense of Radio Universidad, and interviews with Oaxacans in defense of their city. The art in protest against the militarization of the state is stunningly creative, stenciled or posted on the walls of the city. Venders pass among the crowd with tamales and fruit. Altars and traces of large sand paintings from Dia de los Muertos remain in front of the church and adjacent streets. Grafitti calling for URO to step down is everywhere.

Most importantly, wherever there is shade, teachers or movement members are clustered in discussion, collectively making the necessary decisions. This is what the movement in Oaxaca is all about, people governing themselves.

You know you have entered the core of the occupied zone because of the stench- ironically the military has chosen an enormous garbage dumpster to mark their territory. Passing the dumpster to approach the zocalo you immediately encounter rows of soldier/police in casual formation, one leg braced in front of the other, their gear leaning against their front leg. Ready, as if to attack...the dumpster! It's almost comical, but you have entered the grey zone and from there the streets take on a chill.

Oaxaca is a city of impossibly brilliant colors, from its botany to its buildings, from the food to the clothes Oaxacan's wear. The grey uniform of the PFP, the Federal Preventative Police, seems to fit young soldiers from the army as well as its own troops, according to local opinion. The enormous water cannon tanks are grey, the huge and obviously new troop carriers, black & white. The soldier/police are clustered too, playing video games at the arcades, chatting with girls, buying snacks, lounging in the terrace of one of the closed hotels. Wherever they are, their black gear is stacked in casual rows on the ground: helmets, shin guards, batons, and the scratched, once clear plastic shields.

The zocalo has become a bordelo at night.

They are young guys, easy to talk to, and people do not cease in talking to them, explaining, asking why, chastizing. Their bosses are of a different character, tall guys from the north, and hardened.

This is urban Oaxaca, where daily people are arrested or picked up, questioned or tortured, and daily others are released, to recount their experiences. They may be transported by helicopter; one young man was suspended by his belt out the door the plane, threatened with being dropped. Another form of intimidation that wears on the weave of the society, along with the scrambling of Radio Universidad, the voice of the people.

Along with the economic devastation of the second poorest state in the nation. 70% of the population is Indigenous. The Free Trade Agreement is not working for these people. Kids go to school without breakfast, kids drop out of school to share the workload with other family members, to become soldier/police. Kids go to the U.S. to look for work.

The military are throughout the valley, concentrated at the intersection for Mexico City, in the outlying markets.

The rural reality is more terrifying. Entire communities involved in the movement still have PRI governments. There is noone to monitor the actions of the PRI's private military force in the rural areas, and people live not only in economic desperation but in fear of reported tortures and assasinations: the fingers severed from a person's hands, someone's head split open. Teachers returning to classes on Thursday will walk solitary stretches alone.

The Plan Puebla-Panama is designed to extend the reach of the Free Trade Zone. Oaxaca is not only about teachers, it is also about the unified resistance of the majority of the population to an economic system that leaves them "slaves to the state", according to a local farmer.

Oaxacans go to Oregon to work in the fish plants, in the fields, in the restaurants, as professionals, to have access to education, to provide education for their kids. One Oaxacan Mixe now living in Oregon remembers election time in his community. A stranger came to town with ballots, showed the people where to make their mark. The ballots were not in Mixe, they were in Spanish. This man is now tri-lingual. The Mixe are one of the 16 Indigenous Oaxacan communities best informed and most active in the movement, both in Oaxaca and In Oregon.

Following a dynamic surge of support for Oaxaca, through film, demonstrations, outreach, radio programs and interviews, Oregon-Oaxaca Solidarity formed to continue coordination of what has become a global web: Barcelona, Berlin, Toulouse, Marseille, Madrid, London, Milan, Tucson, NY, Sao Paolo, Brasilia, Chicago, Bilbao, Dteroit, DC, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, Gortaleza, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Geneva, Athens, Helsinki, Valencia, Caracas, Montevideo, Rome, Naples, Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, Austin, among others.

Get involved! Activists and common citizens of the world wonder when U.S. citizens are going to begin to carry their share of the load that it takes to build social structures we believe in. We've only begun to wake up to the fact that we can govern ourselves too.

Ore-Oax has events scheduled for November 20, anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. To sign up for details and to stay abreast of events in the future sign on with Oregon-Oaxaca Solidarity at ameliacates@riseup.net !Viva Oaxaca!

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey