La Última Barricada: Lxs compañerxs en la barricada de Cinco Señores
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Oaxaca Rebellion of June 14, 2006, I’d like to share a new painting, “La Última Barricada: Lxs compañerxs en la barricada de Cinco Señores.” The painting – made with oil and sand on canvas – depicts the opening moments of the November 2, 2006 battle for the Cinco Señores intersection in Oaxaca city. After five months of rebellion, the Federal Preventative Police (PFP) had invaded Oaxaca City to put down the uprising block by block. The morning of November 2nd, the PFP approached the barricade guarding the important rebel-held Radio Universidad. But the defenders at the barricades stood strong, and thousands more came to fight and defeat the police in an hours-long running battle. You can read more about the historic context below, in passages from my book, “Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation: The History of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement and other Essays.”
Today, Oaxaca’s teachers and rebels have risen once more. Teachers launched a major strike again this year in Oaxaca and elsewhere in Mexico. In May, Oaxaca City teachers established an encampment. Reminiscent of 2006, police struck the encampment on June 12, and teachers set up barricades (https://vimeo.com/170358399) in the streets. As I write this, Oaxaca teachers and students are marching with thousands of other compañerxs on a “mega marcha.” More on today’s struggle:
This painting is dedicated to the fearless and tireless Oaxacan teachers, who have fought for decades for freedom and dignity: for themselves and for all of us. Forward to revolution!
Love and solidarity from Boston, MA.
-Jake Carman www.JakeCarman.com
Funding by the Freeman Society for the Revolutionary Arts.
The Oaxaca Rebellion, 2006
By Jake Carman
Oaxaca, a state in Mexico’s south, has a long tradition of resistance going back to the arrival of the Spanish. Strong anti-authoritarian currents exist, and it was Oaxaca that produced the first prominent anarchist protagonist of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Ricardo Flores Magón. On June 14, 2006, three thousand police attacked the teachers’ yearly strike and encampment in the main city plaza (Zócalo) of Oaxaca City, the state capital. This encampment was different from those of the past twenty five years, because it called for a raise in the minimum wage for everyone in Oaxaca, Mexico’s poorest state. When the police attacked, the people of Oaxaca came to the teachers’ defense. Poor workers and Indigenous people flooded the streets of Oaxaca City, driving the police out and building barricades to keep them out. Then they went further. They ran out the politicians, occupied government buildings, radio and television stations, and created the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), demanding the ouster of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) of the conservative Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
APPO assemblies sprang up all across the state. URO responded by raising paramilitaries from those he could convince to take up arms against the rebellion. Cops, city councilmen, workers, and even judges formed URO’s right-wing paramilitaries and attacked the barricades by night with machine guns from pickup trucks. They sabotaged radio stations and abducted revolutionaries. Yet in the face of this violent repression, the people came out in mega-marches of up to 800,000. When paramilitaries evicted a women’s group from the state television station, people responded that night by taking over every commercial radio station. When vigilantes killed a rebel in an attack on occupied “Radio La Ley,” the people expanded their barricades into the hundreds. They held the city for five months, fending off helicopters with the sun’s glare off of mirrors and fireworks shot from PVC pipes.
For the most part, the confrontational actions of the Oaxacan rank-and-file revolutionaries stood in contrast to the developing central leadership of APPO, which included more than just anarchist and Indigenous Magónista groups. Leftists of all brands, the PRD (the Party of the Democratic Revolution, Mexico’s mainstream liberal party), and even Stalinists used the revolt to push their agendas and to build political careers. APPO leadership insisted on only non-violent resistance and on October 29, two days after paramilitaries killed four Oaxacans and an anarchist journalist from New York, Oaxacans painted their hands white and filled the streets to attempt to peacefully halt the procession of thousands of Federal Preventative Police (PFP). Police carried automatic weapons, wore riot gear, and came with tanks that tore through barricades. By the end of the night, the PFP had dislodged the APPO encampment from the Zócalo. There was little violent resistance, or at least not enough to keep the PFP out of Oaxaca City….
However, there were instances when the people matched the violence of the state, and came away with victories. At one point, rebels popped all four tires and smashed the windows of a bus carrying the PFP, forcing a retreat, but APPO leadership denounced this and other confrontational actions. On November 2, thousands of rebels successfully defended APPO’s main radio station, Radio Universidad. They won an hours-long running battle at the barricades, and again forced the PFP to retreat. But one by one, barricades and radio stations fell….