Sunday, July 02, 2006

"¿Con $500.00 estas apoyando a un asesino?"

Election day and I have been walking around the city blissfully alone. I have been in Mexico for almost a month now and it is usually about this time that I start getting a bit crabby about things, and that is indeed what has happened this weekend. I love to travel but there are definitely occasions in which I yearn for my own space, my own bed and just my general ability to exercise my independence. While I am definitely enjoying myself and my classmates I'm also not used to spending so much time with other people and after awhile it drives me a bit insane. So I decided to let my roomie and some others go hiking today without the pleasure of my grumpy company and spend some quality time with myself.

The walk down to the zocalo was really quite and nice, the city was slowly coming to life, as most do on Sundays, which meant minimal traffic and a lack of the ubiquitous bus exhaust in the face. The majority of pedestrians in the historical center seem to be gringos on Sunday mornings, I guess we are all wandering around aimlessly looking for Starbucks or something.

The zocalo is finally visible again, most of the teachers have gone home to cast their vote, though there are a few tarps still hanging from the trees and I did see a cook stove letting off some steam. The ground is still a bit littered with the rubbish of campers, political signs hang from some walls and the graffiti is everywhere but for the most part things seem to be headed back to normal. Of course I have no idea what normal is since I have only seen the plaza with tons of teachers camped in it but I'm going to assume it is headed back to normalcy. Of course this could all change tomorrow after election results are released but I'm confident (for some reason) that nothing will occur.

On the street just north of the zocalo a long line of voters snaked around the block, looked like people were being pretty patient. My waiter at the outdoor cafe I decided to visit proudly showed me his thumb, faintly stained with ink, to illustrate that he had already done his civic duty. The only other evidence of election day were a few signs in the zocalo, one which said "¿Con $500.00 estas apoyando a un asesino?". This refers to two things, the first being the fraudulant practice of vote buying that occurs on election day, an old PRI tactic. For 50 bucks (500 pesos) someone will hand you an already marked ballot, you then go to the polling place (marked ballot hidden of course), pick up your blank ballot, go into the voting booth and pretend to vote, come out and put the marked ballot already given to you in the box. After you have "voted" you take the blank form you got when you walked in the door and hand it to whoever gave you the 50 bucks and the marked ballot in the first place and the process starts all over again.

The second part of this message, which basically translates into something like "for 50 bucks are you going to support an assasin?", refers to the governor Ulises and his party, the PRI. I mentioned in an earlier post that the teacher protest had turned into a larger movement to oust the governor of Oaxaca who is a member of the PRI. The assasin portion of the message is a reference to the violent confrontation, and the alleged deaths that accompanied that confrontation, that took place on June 16th (I think) between the government and the teachers camped in and around the zocalo. Graffiti all over the city refers to Ulises as a murderer and calls for his removal. Anyway, I thought that sign was an interesting bit of election propaganda and I took a picture of it but of course I can't upload it.

In other news, a week from tomorrow we head out on a week long field trip to some coffee plantations in the mountains and also to the Isthmus of Oaxaca. The Isthmus is very hot and humid and we will be staying overnight in a few villages in the homes of different families. Oliver (our instructor) mentioned that hammocks would probably be our sleeping arrangements and this has caused me some worry. I lay awake the other night imagining trying to sleep in a hammock (which should be pretty challenging for me since I already have a hard time sleeping in traditional beds) and what I would do if I had to use the restroom in the middle of the night, which, because of my small bladder, will inevitably happen. I pictured myself sleeping in some sort of wooden shelter with three walls and tin roof and then falling out of my hammock in the dark trying to find my headlamp and subsequently my way to the bathroom. This bathroom I envision to be an outhouse and my headlamp will illuminate a myriad of wild animals on the path from my hammock to the outhouse. You know, venomous snakes, half-starved jaguars and Chernobyl-sized insects. Once in the outhouse there will of course be giant insects and roaches just waiting to bite my bare ass. Yes, I'm a complete freak and these are the things that keep me up at night, worrying about future late night bathroom trips. I'm sure (or rather I hope) that my paranoid imaginings are totally off base and I will be pleasantly surprised. Either way it is these experiences that not only make me appreciate home but also make me a stronger person. So when I' m standing in front of my World Geography class at ASU staring at a bunch of glaring freshman faces who don't give a rat's ass about geography or anything else I have to say for that matter, I will think back to the giant roaches trying to bite my butt and this will give me the courage and strength to tackle anything! Even a semester of apathetic ASU freshman!

P.S. The emergency 6 pack of beer is still safely unopened in my small fridge.

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