Indigenous Council of Oaxaca
The extraordinary beauty and festive atmosphere of Oaxaca could easily give visitors to one of Mexico’s most enchanting states a sense that life is wonderful for all its citizens. But the public smiles of its seemingly contented indigenous population have successfully hidden their private anguish in a paradise that was meant for others.
Concealed behind these facades are a deep pain and countless years of suffering because pleas for social reform and justice have long been met with contempt and reprisals from their own government. Instead of engaging in peaceful or diplomatic dialogue, the government has often responded by jailing their community leaders as political prisoners. And yet others, who also are dedicated to reform, have been bribed and intimidated by threats of imprisonment, violence and even death.
Recently, however, an undeniable sense of hope has begun to emerge from what was once an overwhelming feeling of despair for Oaxaca’s numerous indigenous communities. No longer willing to be viewed as second-class citizens, these communities united for a common cause protest as the Members of the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca.
For the first time – their voices resonating as one – they demanded of their government solutions to healthcare, housing, employment and education. And they requested respect, recognition and – most importantly – their freedom; liberties that are commonly afforded to the non-indigenous and wealthy citizens of Mexico but which still stand between the indigenous population and their own paradise.
I visited the region during the summer of 2009 and captured stunning images of a follow-up rally by the now emboldened Members of the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca.