They’re Rioting in Africa

There was this song by the Kingston Trio in the ’60s called The Merry Minuet that started with the lyrics: “They’re rioting in Africa; they’re starving in Spain. There are hurricanes in Florida; and Texas needs rain.”

So it’s summer in Oaxaca and once again (as they apparently do every year), the teacher unions are protesting and demanding change from the government.



This wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal if it happened say, every now and then, but no, it’s every summer like clockwork. I keep trying to get a fix on what they want exactly but there are as many answers as people I ask. Salaries, working conditions, competency testing: it’s always something.

P1040653For a couple of weeks now, there’s been a huge tent city set up down in the zocalo, where teacher union representatives are camping out and the state has since sent in “special artisan groups” to also occupy the area with art booths in a sort of a sidewalk standoff. It really doesn’t affect daily life much except for the poor businesses with outdoor cafés where no one wants to eat now.


The state’s public health workers are also meeting peacefully in another area of town (outside, with tarps and plastic chairs in 90 degree heat), and the street food vendors are doing great business. A few port-o-lets have finally been set up, but who knows where they bathe. I should probably wear close-toed shoes against bio-waste in the streets but it’s too dang hot.


The bloqueos are another mysterious pain in the rear: road blockades — again mostly by the teachers but occasionally another group like the mototaxi drivers — with buses blocking entrance and exit to the main arteries of the city. A few nights ago they blocked entrance to the airport:  flights were still operating and you could get within a half-mile or so of the entrance, but not actually up to the door in a taxi.

Most I can tell is that it doesn’t make a bit of difference to the politicos who are supposed to get the message; it just affects the ordinary people who can’t get to and from their homes in surrounding towns to work in the city. Sometimes they shut down gasoline stations and banks; one year it was KFC and Office Depot. Down with American imperialism too.

The Kingston Trio

The Kingston Trio

The final verse of The Merry Minuet goes: “They’re rioting in Africa; there’s strife in Iran. What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.”

(It really has a catchy tune; check it out on Youtube:

Mind you, the song was written in 1958 but I can’t think of much that’s changed dramatically. And Texas still needs rain.

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