Spirit Of Oaxaca
Nestled below the Sierra Norte among rolling green hills and dramatic elevation changes lies the city of Oaxaca. Located in the heartland of Southeastern Mexico, the quiet city and its 500,000 inhabitants live in a landscape rich with a degree of culture and history that’s absent from many of Mexico City’s bustling streets and from the beaches of the country’s glamourous costal cities.
In May of 2006 the city’s tranquility was disrupted by an annual teachers strike that escalated in a popular movement against the state government and its corrupt governor, Ulises Ruíz Ortíz. Although initially peaceful in nature, the protests became increasingly violent as the government responded to them with great hostility and force. As the city descended into a state of near civil war, schools were shut down, tourists stopped visiting, barricades were erected in many streets, and the city’s economy was devastated.
The protests lasted nearly seven months and cost the lives of at least 23, including Bradley Will, an American photographer. Countless others were injured or went missing and the movement failed to remove Ortiz from power.
I visited Oaxaca in the summer of 2008 for nearly three weeks during the city’s annual festival, Guelaguetza. Oaxaca’s recent violent past was nearly invisible to the casual observer, yet the city and its economy were still very much in recovery. In the following series, I’ve tried to capture a glimpse of Oaxaca, its people, and their spirit during this time of recovery. This project was funded by a Pomona College Stonehill Media Studies Grant.