Called by the Wind

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I had the pleasure of putting together a small photo-shoot for a family friend and her daughters the other day. It was a magnificent time.

Though taking photos of the girls wasn’t without its challenges, it was also hard not to get something brilliant from their fresh and bubbly faces. Above, Karen warms up to the camera as she realizes she’s the queen of the world.

Like myself, Karen and her sisters are from the city of Los Angeles, but with roots in Oaxaca, a state and city in Southern Mexico, where events have made international news lately.

Just two weeks ago on Sunday, June 19th, in the city of Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, federal police shot and killed six protesters and wounded 45 others who stood in solidarity with Local 22, the teachers’s union of the city of Oaxaca on strike against government ‘reforms’ passed last year designed to weaken the ’22 and similar unions nationwide.

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The attack on the protesters in Nochixtlán was a tragedy in and of itself, but its revolting nature is only worse considering it’s taken place exactly ten years after another stand for public education by the Oaxacan teachers’ union turned into an assault on them by the Mexican government.

The ‘Oaxaca Commune’ of 2006 made its own tragic headlines at the time, but it was especially recognized when on October 27, 2006, 36-year-old Brad Will, an independent journalist from Illinois, was shot and killed while covering the attacks on protesters for Indymedia.

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The international attention lent to Will’s death forced then-president Vicente Fox to send federal police to the city of Oaxaca in order to dismantle the teacher’s strike once and for all. This resulted in the arrest, imprisonment, disappearance of, and deaths of a countless number of teachers and their supporters.

Despite this, the movement was not defeated, but dispersed to fight another day. The following year in 2007, Local 22 and allied organizations once again emerged for the plantón, or the popular strike against the government.

Their demands? Free public education and adequate healthcare for students and teachers alike. At the time, official records showed that 73% of Oaxacans lived in abject poverty on an any given day.

Ten years later, the same demands are still on the table, as official records show that 76% of the people in Oaxaca still live in abject poverty, unable to afford steady running water or a proper pair of shoes, let alone a decent education.

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Standing alongside my friend in the hush and silence of a Saturday morning in Los Angeles, none of this was up for discussion, but we did talk about wanting to visit our families in Oaxaca, especially knowing that things for them there have been especially difficult lately.

All around the world are children as precious and beautiful as Karen and Erica and Melony, all of whom have the right to education and health. Their future is being taken from them, however, by an indignant inequality ravaging the pueblo with each day that passes.

J.T.

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