Land, Rain and Fire: Report from Oaxaca a documentary by Tami Gold and Gerardo Renique, distributed by Third World Newsreel. DVD, 2006, 28:30 minutes, color. http://www.twn.org.
While the mainstream media continues to ignore the months-long struggle in Oaxaca, even after the deaths of 13 people, including American journalist and activist Brad Will, a growing network of activists, independent journalists, and academics here in the U.S. have been working tirelessly to document the repression occurring in this southern Mexican state and to bring reports of the struggle to audiences here.
Add to the growing clamor a new documentary video that provides a concise and vivid narrative of events as they have unfolded in Oaxaca in recent months. Produced and directed by veteran documentarian Tami Gold and co-produced by City College professor Gerardo Renique, Land, Rain and Fire provides on-the-ground coverage of the conflict that has heretofore been found only in bits and pieces via the Internet.
Beginning with the May 2006 teachers’ strike mobilized by Seccion 22 of CNTE—the radical faction of the national teachers’ union that has been organizing against the privatization of education and for better wages for teachers since 1979—the film chronicles the police repression of June 14th and subsequent mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Oaxaca City, in what were the largest marches in Oaxacan history. The filmmakers are there as the mobilized teachers, campesinos, neighborhood associations, trade unionists, women’s groups, students, religious groups and activists come together to form the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO), which now forms the basis of the ongoing movement. They also document numerous incidents of paramilitary and police repression against APPO-controlled media and encampments, including the October 27th attack which left three dead—including Brad Will—and 23 injured.
But beyond the crucial and rare on-the-ground look at events in Oaxaca, Land, Rain and Fire analyzes the structural violence and poverty that motivates the ongoing struggle, and makes clear, with every Oaxaqueño interviewed, that the movement in Oaxaca is a struggle against neoliberalism and its tangible effects on the lives of the people, particularly since the passage of NAFTA. The devestation wrought by a leadership committed above all else to the neoliberal project is patently apparent in the film. What’s more, it powerfully demonstrates the alternative pursued by the APPO and the other assemblies across the Oaxacan state: a democracy that recognizes economic and social rights, one that is respectful of the traditions of Oaxaca’s million indigenous people and that is governed by the usos y costumbres that organize the political lives of people across southern Mexico.
This moving, if short, documentary ends just before we go to press, though the Oaxacan people continue to struggle for justice, despite the violence. Asked why they continue to fight, in the face of such repression, one woman answers, “They can’t kill all of us, I’m sure about that.”
Christy Thornton is the Executive Director of NACLA.