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Teachers in Oaxaca Face Repression and Violence

By David Bacon

Oaxaca has many dangerous teachers like Romualdo Juan Gutierrez Cortez, a teacher in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, in Oaxaca's rural Mixteca region. On one recent afternoon, Gutierrez stood at the back of a classroom in rural Santiago Juxtlahuaca, dapper in a pressed white shirt and chinos. Two boys and two girls, wearing new tennis shoes undoubtedly sent by family members working in the north, stood at the blackboard, giving a report and carefully gauging his reaction. As they recounted the history of Mexico's expropriation of oil in 1936, a smile curved beneath Gutierrez's pencil mustache. The expropriation was a high point in Mexican revolutionary nationalism. "Education is a very noble field, which I love," Gutierrez enthuses. "But today it means confronting the government. You have to be ready to fight for the people and their children, and not just in the classroom."

 
  Romualdo Gutierrez Cortez (center) in his classroom in Oaxaca.
Photo: David Bacon

Gutierrez himself was elected to Oaxaca's state legislature four years ago, in a partnership between the Indige-nous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB), which he then headed in Oaxaca, and the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Fol-lowing the end of his term, he was arrested and jailed by Ruiz's predecessor, Gov. Jose Murat. "Before my arrest I thought we had a decent justice system," he says. "I knew it wasn't perfect, but I thought it worked. Then I saw that the people in jail weren't the rich or well educated, but the poor and those who work hard for a living." In prison, Gutierrez met members of a local union who had been there for months, along with other political prisoners. "There are more than 2,000 complaints of political oppression in the state that have not been investigated," Gutierrez charges. His own case added one more.n

For more information on the struggle in Oaxaca:

www.narconews.com
"Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America." An extensive collection of articles on the struggle in Oaxaca. The good content makes it worth putting up with site's design.

www.irc-online.org
International Relations Center based in New Mexico that seeks a more responsible U.S. foreign policy. Go to their "Americas Program" page for several informative articles about Oaxaca.

www.friendsofbradwill.org
A useful collection of resources (in English and Spanish), particularly the links page, all dedicated to the New York journalist who was killed by Mexican government forces while filming the uprising in Oaxaca on October 27.

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