The here and now... and what and why
First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.
Click on an image to see it larger.
For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.
The hereafter re me
- Christopher Stowens
- Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
- Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The city is half empty with no public transportation.
Friday, May 29, 2009
A letter from Henry
The two assailants turned out to be police for the state justice department. Typical! The corrupt people who are hired to protect us are the biggest danger to our life. The police are often just thugs to do our “elected” officials dirty work. Their greed and impunity creates, and protects, criminal activities to rob the citizenry. Since they control the police, and the courts, what can one do?
This is the same department that in the light of day and with an officious face said that the person in the pay of the State, with the gun pointing at Brad Will, didn’t shoot him, but the colleague, by his side, shot him point blank. They hold and collect all the evidence. They make up the story they want and arrest his friend instead of the assassin. There is no punishment for perjury. Usually the person who makes up the best story wins. There is a tremendous advantage when you can create, lose, and change evidence.
Sometimes, I am not too happy with the teachers. Sometimes I question their motives. Sometimes, I reflect on their own internal corruption, but until the government starts working within the laws, this is about the only avenue for bargaining that exists against the omnipotence of government. Citizens must wake up and work together to demand responsible government.
This is why it is important that Obama prosecute all those who broke the law in previous administrations. If we are not a country of laws how can we move forward with respect and honesty? If people can break the law with impunity (especially the justice department), then what can we expect for the future?
Sorry for the soap box. But the photo of this young girl beside her dead father was more powerful indictment of the evils of bad government than the hundreds of teachers in the Zocolo.
How can this be happening and yet Oaxaca such a beautiful place to live?
Teachers get good at recognizing, knowing people, if they are doing it right. We all fit into some sort of type or personality. I bet a good second grader teacher can spot the culprits of any prank easily.
And so can most of us.
Roundabout way of saying, “What the hell is going on?” Are we actually having a debate about torture? Not a great sign as to how well we are doing, would you say? I keep thinking of all the civilizations that have preceded ours and feel like… shit.
Well, in a couple of hundred years, they can assess how we did confronting the problems that brought so many other cultures down.
And the characters seem as transparent and obvious as those pesky second graders. The banksters, politicians, media, the left and the right are all acting like caricatures. Cheney? Newt Gingrich lecturing the nation about truth and virtue? And the media finds them credible and serious? Please.
From the London Telegraph (full story)
At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.Just to be clear THIS is what the torture advocates and apologists are defending. I have seen the rape and abuse photos. They are beyond the pale. This was done in our name.
Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.
There is no defense.
If you wish to see them hit the link. Warning! They are graphic.
These are not new photos. They have been around for years. We just didn't want to deal.
Striking Teachers Occupy Banks, Offices in Mexico’s Oaxaca
OAXACA, Mexico – Teachers in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, the scene three years ago of a months-long uprising against a widely despised governor, occupied banks, shopping centers and government offices at the beginning of a 48-hour strike.
Besides a pay raise, the teachers are demanding the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, just as they and a coalition of grassroots groups did in 2006 during a conflict that ended only with a federal occupation of Oaxaca city
Thursday, May 28, 2009
La Lucha - The Struggle
And it will get worse before it gets better.
The islands are stuck with the most inbred and inefficient system and infrastructure one can imagine. The wheels have come off of almost all the carts. It’s a microcosm, a study of how, even in paradise, things can get completely messed up. Each problem has many levels and complications because everything and everyone is so interconnected. For instance, the hospital on St. Thomas, which is recovering from huge embezzlement and mismanagement scandals, does not pay it electrical bills, which of course, the government does nothing about because they don’t pay their bills either. Consequently, the electrical system is broken and inadequate with daily outages and ridiculous prices. And that is barely scratching the surface of the problems there. Yes, there are complaints and attempts to change things, but the system is stacked to fail on almost every front. A lot of it has to do with people’s attitudes. For many of them, they have been too long on a very small island. If hubris were heavy, the place would have sunk long ago.
And people say, “That’s the way it is, learn to roll with it.”
The problems in Oaxaca are different. It is in another social/economic convulsion. The lack of tourists has added to the entrenched poverty. To be sure, there is the same ineptitude and corruption, probably worse, but at least the electricity is always on. However, oaxaqueños attitudes are much different. If there is one thing Oaxacans know how to do, it is to organize and protest. The teachers, in their annual display, are planning on shutting down all the major roads for 48 hours. APPO has taken over the zocalo. The villagers in San Luis Potosi are standing up to mining companies that have been violating laws for years. They just got tired of being taking advantage of. It’s a battle with casualties, but Oaxaqueños are very politically and socially active. They don’t take things lying down.
It’s La Lucha – The Struggle, in both places. Long and difficult.
However, there is an easy and lighthearted solution. Take all the Virgin Islanders to Oaxaca and let the oaxaqueños come spend some time in paradise. The folks from Oaxaca, besides enjoying the beautiful beaches, would immediately fix the infrastructure with sheer grunt work and ingenuity.
The Islanders, besides enjoying the dramatic and wide-open spaces, would immediately set about collecting and saving every drop of water that fell from the sky. They would put up dumpsters for all the trash. The place would be clean.
Both would get to observe the pride of a different and ancient culture. And both could better share in the knowledge that it’s a big world out there and many are suffering much worse. But let’s face it, this ain’t gonna happen. Both places are suffering, but is there a quick way out? Doubtful. It is a big, bad world of hurt out there these days and we are all six degrees away from Kevin Bacon, right - we are all interconnected. It is easier to see the faults and flaws in other cultures and other people than in ourselves.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Situation Heats Up
Situation Heats Up in Oaxaca Prior to Teachers' Union Decisionsread entire story:
Tensions are High as Resistance Groups Organize and Plan Their Next Move
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
May 26, 2009
The Oaxaca zócalo has resumed all the signs of battle. Banners flew on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend of May 23 as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) supported vendors who sat on the sidewalk alongside their Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in its Spanish initials) counterparts. The table of Denunciations, the Committee in Defense of the Rights of the People (CODEP, in its Spanish initials) table and the APPO table all were occupied with people and print-outs.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
The messing with the mind can be serious or funny. Try watching Spike Lee’s “Kings of Comedy” and not saying “mo’fo.” I learned that the hard way after watching it on a long flight. “Take off my shoes? Say what, mo’fo?” Not good.
Then there was that crazed time when I thought that almost every situation could be answered by a line from “Apocalypse Now.” Try it. It’s true. Like in reference to today’s world “the bullshit piled up so fast… you needed wings to stay above it.”
But today it is Andy Dufresne from the Shawshank Redemption "Get busy living, or get busy dying."
Party on, Garth.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I was just thinkin'
So the next obvious and logical step is graffiti.
First this seer Virgin from last May complete with face mask, foreboding the swine flu. A detail from the above. "You and I met on that terrible night......"
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
However, there is much more going on. Times are tough. I think back to the golden times, perhaps ten or twenty years ago, in which tourists flooded the city and tour buses unloaded eager buyers of rugs, ceramics or carvings. It went on for a while and people got used to it.
2006 ended all that. Anarchy led to economic collapse, but people held tough. Slowly, oh so slowly, tourism rose. Then came the global economic crisis followed by the swine flu. Brutal.
However, if people are one thing, they are resilient. The rains will come. The fields will turn green. And if I have to be the first, nothing could keep me away.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Ataraxia - Word of the day
In it, our hero, Josh Harnett, claims to suffer from ataraxia. Of course, in a comic twist, the sub-title misstates it as anorexia. So I am thinking that makes no sense, so I did a little research.
Word of the day. Word to your mother.
Ataraxia (Ἀταραξία) is a Greek term used by Pyrrho and Epicurus for a limpid state, characterized by freedom from worry or any other preoccupation.
For the Epicureans, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the detached and balanced state of mind that shows that a person has transcended the material world and is now harvesting all the comforts of philosophy.
For the Pyrrhonians, owing to one's inability to say which sense impressions are true and which ones are false, it is quietude that arises from suspending judgment on dogmatic beliefs or anything non-evident and continuing to inquire. The experience was said to have fallen on the painter Apelles who was trying to paint the foam of a horse (likely a bit of frothy saliva near its mouth). He was so unsuccessful that in a rage he gave up and threw the sponge he was cleaning his brushes with at the medium, thus producing the effect of the horse's foam.The Stoics, too, sought mental tranquility, and saw ataraxia as something to be desired and often made use of the term, but for them the analogous state, attained by the Stoic sage, was apatheia or absence of passion.
Ataraxia? I think I've got it. Wonder if it is contagious?
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Influenza porcina - update
May is the traditional month of protests. Sometimes they last weeks or months. The flu must have put a serious hurt on all of that activity. I wonder if this illness will end up being a calming influence in some way. No matter what, protests, swine flu, all hurt the economy and Oaxaca needs a break in that respect.
And the name change? Well, I am sure it was a coincidence that La Gloria, the village where it all started..... from The Independent
Downwind of Xaltepec – where 15,000 squealing hogs are squeezed into 18 warehouses – residents of La Gloria blame Smithfield, Luter's firm, for an outbreak of respiratory problems that swept the town last month, killing two children. Now with Mexican authorities identifying a four-year-old from the town, Edgar Hernandes, as one of the first-known cases of swine flu, furious residents believe that they are ground zero of a pandemic threatening the world. The very suggestion has sent a shudder through the ranks of campaigners who have long argued that the sort of industrialised pig farming that has turned Smithfield into one of the most powerful corporations in the US, with a market value of $1.4bn, was a disaster waiting to happen.
For Smithfield, the world's largest pork supplier, which processes more than one in three pigs killed in the US and jointly owns the Xaltepec plant and seven others in the region, the spiralling concern in Mexico threatens to become a worldwide marketing disaster – even before anyone is able to test the hunch of the people of La Gloria.
But on the other side, from Reuters
The pork business is in deep muck these days as it fights the fallacy that its meat might contain swine flu. But the industry is also facing a second allegation that has spread as far as the virus: that the new strain started on a factory hog farm in Mexico half-owned by Smithfield Foods (SFD), the world's biggest pork producer.
Bloggers and opinion journalists around the globe are advancing this idea as if it were true or, at least, likely. But nobody knows where the strain came from. Smithfield's farm in Mexico might be the point of origin. Yet it's also possible it all began in Asia, in southern Mexico, in the United States, or just about anywhere else. The media claims are based on mere speculation—and an understandable disgust at corporate pig sties.
Consider the facts. In February and March, a bunch of people got sick in the town of La Gloria, Mexico. La Gloria is where a child was found to be among the first victims of the H1N1 virus—a novel mix of pig, bird, and human influenzas. And the town is near the site of a large hog operation run by Granjas Carroll, an operation that is half-owned by Smithfield. Nobody knows what sickened the other people in the area.