Norma showed me to my bed on the second floor of Dormitorio D, a huge, open-walled area that has the capacity to sleep 28 people. Two long rows of plain metal bunk-beds, seven to a row, line the un-walled sides of the room under the palapa. Between each bunk and the next is a locker, which offers some measure of protection from accidentally falling out in the middle of the night. Downstairs are smaller dormitorios. After depositing my stuff on the sandy, sheetless bed, I went to the tlapalería (paint / hardware store) on the Tlapalería to buy a lock for my locker.
Besides the long-standing expatriate community, there is a new crop of developers ready to ride the gravy train as semi-hip and well-off elders looking for a good place to spend their twilight years. As Puerto Escondido develops, it is taking on the flavour of the developers. Most of the new buildings I’ve seen around here are plain-looking cinder block and cement constructions with palapas, and are badly in need of the Zapatista touch. (In the Zapatista community I visited, there were no ugly buildings; every one was a work of art, expressing in a fantastical mural the spirit of people to whom life means more than a place in the sun.) The local real estate magazines of Puerto Escondido show plans for luxury communities that may be no more than dreams, or scams. One of these developers, an Estadosunidense, was recently jailed for fraud (although I hear he has since been released). Caveat emptor.
After sunset the coconut palms around the pool will be silhouetted against the luminous orange sky. Darkness brings thousands of stars. There was a full moon during Semana Santa. It was so beautiful in the sky and reflecting on the surface of the pool. Some of us sat watching it for a long time in silent awe–until the neighbourhood dogs, maybe 20 of them, began their nightly bark-and-howl fest.
But my favourite time of all is in the early morning, just before sunrise, before anyone else is awake. I’m able to write for an hour before anyone comes to the pool for a swim.
There are some interesting trees here. One in particular, which I haven’t been able to identify, has branches with flowers on the ends, but almost no leaves. There are a couple of these in the garden / camping area. Another tree has foot-long bean-like pods and white catkins. There are lemon and lime trees. There’s some kind of fruit tree beside the pool dropping fully ripe fruits. The tree’s leaves are getting a little droopy from lack of water, and the rainy season won’t even begin for at least another month–about the same time it ends back home.
Sansevieria line the walkways of the garden / camping area, where mature coconut palms provide shade for campers’ tents while threatening to drop their dangerously over-ripe coconuts on the heads or tents of the unwary. Here and there throughout the area are banana trees, cacti, agaves and succulents of various kinds. Around the pool and in the garden are all kinds of plants that are sold up north as tropical houseplants: several varieties of Coleus, Dieffenbachias and Philodendrons. Unlike houseplants in our northern climate, they grow naturally here with a minimum of care–but then, “houses” here are virtually outdoor spaces where the top floor is often open under a palapa.
On Easter Sunday I inherited a tent from a guy from Nebraska who abandoned it here. Since then I’ve been living in the garden / camping area–at first for 50 pesos a night, and now for 40 pesos. The temperature at night is just right for sleeping. A little mosquito spray makes it just perfect.
I’ve had time to reflect on my Mexican experience. Since I arrived in Mexico five months ago, I’ve learned enough Spanish to get by in most situations. It’s enough that now I feel I will benefit from a summer course in Spanish in preparation for next year’s journey. El Plano is to cover some of the same ground next year, as well as a lot of different ground. Next year I may start in the Yucatan and travel south through Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and maybe further. Travellers have told me about some of the places they have visited that would be especially interesting to me. There are other places that are interesting because of the grassroots social justice movements of their people.
I was so impressed by what I saw in Oventik that I would like to go back and spend some time there learning more about what the women of the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de la Liberación Nacional, or Zapatista National Liberation Army) are doing. While the women of the EZLN admit that they still have a long way to go, the fact that the Zapatistas have even begun to recognize the importance of gender equality in their communities is a major step, especially since the oppression of women can be linked to the more visible issue of the oppression of Indigenous people and be subjected to a similar analysis. Important beginnings have been made – such as the expectation of equal sharing of household work, the equal participation of men and women in decision-making processes in their communities, the availability to women of family planning services, and the freedom to join the military of the EZLN.
Women's Revolutionary Law
In the just fight for the liberation of our people, the EZLN incorporates women into the revolutionary struggle, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, requiring only that they share the demands of the exploited people and that they commit to the laws and regulations of the revolution. In addition, taking into account the situation of the woman worker in Mexico, the revolution supports their just demands for equality and justice in the following Women's Revolutionary Law.
First: Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in a way determined by their desire and capacity.
Second: Women have the right to work and receive a just salary.
Third: Women have the right to decide the number of children they will have and care for.
Fourth: Women have the right to participate in the affairs of the community and hold positions of authority if they are freely and democratically elected.
Fifth: Women and their children have the right to primary attention in matters of health and nutrition.
Sixth: Women have the right to education.
Seventh: Women have the right to choose their partner, and are not to be forced into marriage.
Eighth: Women shall not be beaten or physically mistreated by their family members or by strangers. Rape and attempted rape will be severely punished.
Ninth: Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
Tenth: Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.
Meanwhile, far from being “a spent force” (as one man told me), zapatismo is on the move. The Movement for Justice in El Barrio, in East Harlem (“Spanish Harlem”) is employing the methods of The Other Campaign – grassroots organizing and democratic participation – to save their community from rapacious Capitalist landlords. More and more people are coming to believe that “Another World is Possible” and are working to bring it about.
As I was researching Mexican history, I came across an article that expresses that history succinctly and from a perspective with which I agree. Although I had planned to include my own history here, I realize that any effort of mine would be redundant (and probably less informative), so I’ll take the easy way out and refer you to "Mexico: History of Struggle". It provides the background information for an understanding of the wonderful thing that is happening in Mexico (and spreading to the rest of the world), a movement of people that is expressed beautifully in the text of one of Oventik’s murals: “Resistance is Fertile.”
I am still writing my account of my visit to Oventik. I am still hoping to be able to post pictures soon. In any case, there will be some eventually, so if you’re interested, check back now and then. Since my dispatches are so irregular, if you would like to be notified when a new dispatch is posted, please send me an email request.
Someone at Hostal Shalom told me that he has visited RenegadeResearch.org and was surprised to find “so little political content.” I told him that it might be necessary for him to read between the lines for the time being. Unlike Felipe Calderón’s U.S. advisors / handlers, “Political Consultants” Dick Morris and Rob Allyn, foreigners (particularly those in opposition to Capitalism and Neoliberalism) are not allowed to involve themselves in Mexican politics, even if that “involvement” only consists of reporting events or expressing an opinion on them. The consequences for crossing that line can be extremely serious – as they were for Brad Will, Cecilia Rodriguez, and the foreign journalists raped and tortured at Atenco -- along with Mexicans who suffered the same abuse. (I’m only counting attacks on foreign journalists here: It’s the daily reality for the people Mexico claims as its own who express opposition to the government’s Neo-liberal policies.)
And so, if I write about the birds and trees of Puerto Escondido, or La Noche de los Rabanos in Oaxaca, or the howler monkeys and toucans at Palenque, or the lovely women who sell their handicrafts in San Cristóbal, it’s because this beauty is also a part of the reality of Mexico. I write about these things with a sense of wonder – that this magical place exists so close to “home,” and that we know so little about it. Of course there’s more to say – about the reasons we hear so little concerning what is happening in Mexico; about the reasons people are rising up against the corrupt governments of Mexico (a whole succession of them, all in the pockets of successive governments of the United States); about the responsibility of those who come to Mexico to pay attention to the reality on the ground, rather than allow themselves to be lulled by propaganda; about the importance of the struggles being waged in Mexico to the futures of ordinary people in the rest of the world. At this point I’ve discovered enough dots that connecting them is revealing a very unpleasant picture of the future. It’s a future we can avoid if we care enough to make the effort. Will we inform ourselves and take the necessary action in time to avoid it? That is such an open and disquieting question.
All I know is that I have fallen in love with Mexico, with its people (especially its indigenous people) and with their spirit of "rebellion with dignity." To the extent that I’ve come to understand it, I feel involved in their struggle. Oops! Have I made too political a statement here?