Teaching Rebellion (2008)

A book is like a grand vision, and every now and then we have the fortune to come across one so rich with life that it seems to flow right off the page and into our own world. Diana Denham and the C.A.S.A. collective’s Teaching Rebellion – Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization is one such book.

In 2006, over 20,000 educators in Oaxaca, Mexico waged an annual strike for better schools and working conditions, erecting a planton or camp at the zocalo i.e. the center of the city, to make their demands heard.

At dawn on June 14, 2006, on the orders of then Governor Ulises Ruiz police helicopters riddled the camp with teargas from above, while officers on the ground assaulted protesters in mass. The message was clear: there was to be no more protest in the zocalo.

But the teachers resisted, and refused to abandon their planton. They gathered rocks where they could, and fought off the police for over two hours into the morning sunshine.

Ultimately, the police ran out of teargas, and while they inflicted considerable damage to the planton, the protesters successfully defended themselves. In the hours that followed, a myriad of previously passive observers of the strike showed up to the camp, bringing with them food and blankets to show their support.

It would be a victory for the union and its allies, but only the first in a long string of battles with government forces over the next year into circa July 2007.

Teaching Rebellion honors this time, providing readers with coverage of the teacher’s movement through its growth and evolution into the Popular People’s Assembly of Oaxaca or APPO, which would serve as the coalition of many different teachers, workers, and other allies, and which would accumulate many more challenges as a result.

In revolutionary tradition, the book lends its pages to the voices of The People who formed the APPO, including women, elders, students, children, and even the imprisoned. Each one of them is real, and could be anyone of the millions of people who make up Los Angeles today, including yours truly.

teaching-rebellion-cover

I first gained interest in Teaching Rebellion following news of the recent events in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca this past June. Similar to their counterparts from ten years ago, the latest generation of educators in Oaxaca are standing up against government reforms which only cheapen and constrict their labor in the classroom.

As before, the battle taking place in Nochixtlan is as difficult as that of Oaxaca’s in 2006, and an understanding of it requires more than what one pair of eyes can give. It is a class struggle as much as it is a struggle for indigenous rights, but it goes back not just to Spanish colonialism 500 years ago, but even beyond then to pre-Columbian systems of power in the Americas.

Still, Teaching Rebellion is a collection of some of the latest developments of this struggle today, showing those of us who want to be allies of the disenfranchised in our own communities just how our support can develop.

At the end of the narrative section, the book offers a study guide for readers who want to take their knowledge further, including both individual and group activities for reflection.

It is a true revolutionary spirit, and as such, gains full approval and support from The L.A. Storyteller. Any reader will find themselves much closer to Oaxaca than what the web offers today, and will be more empowered for doing so.

With more soon,

J.T.

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