Monday, June 4, 2012

Political Spectrum

Communists in the street
Yesterday a group of marchers chanting and carrying signs walked down the Guadalupe Andador. In front of the group were photographers snapping pictures, and more at the rear following up. Their signs said they wanted schools, not soap operas (telenovelas). It was a strongly anti-PRI and anti-PAN demonstration. Last Sunday, the communists were out in force, several hundred people with red flags chanting slogans about wanting land returned to the people. They marched for several miles weaving back and forth across the city on the one-way streets. There is less traffic on Sundays, and more potential spectators out and about as Sunday is family day.

Last weekend I met a man named Quentin. We ended up at a coffee shop chatting with some of his local gringo friends about the demonstrations. A column of communists filed past. I noticed there weren't any police around, which seemed unusual to me, demonstrations can easily get out of hand. Those men said when the police are there, that's when things get out of hand! So the police watch from rooftops and with cameras, and stay out of the way, in order to keep the peace. Police presence escalates emotions. It's a lesson they've learned the hard way, and one the US could learn as well.

Anti-PRI and anti-Pan demonstrators
The demonstrations are such a contrast to the slick PRI "fiesta" just a few nights before. There were no matching shirts, no shiny advertising signs, no humorous theme songs, no food reward at the end. These were regular people, most probably in the lower levels of the socio-economic spectrum, dressed in jeans, rebozos, and the traditional Mayan costumes they wear every day.

After the parade passed I continued up the street and was stopped by a man in his forties who asked if he could practice English with me. I said, "Sure, if I can speak in Spanish to you". So we chatted. He grew up in Mexico City and was obviously fairly well educated. He was curious what I thought it was that just passed. "Looked like a political protest to me." I told him. I wasn't sure if he was curious which English words one would use to describe it, or if he actually was curious if I understood what it was. He said he thought it was a bad idea not to respect the power of the country, the leadership. The way things are is how it works, it gets things done, changing it is a bad idea. So I asked if he thought the Spaniards should still be in power? He laughed. And agreed, change can be good. He sounded like he watches too much Mexican television.

I told him I was pleased to see so many people in the streets, protesting, carrying signs, being spontaneous in their political process. That doesn't happen in the states very often any more. In order to have a protest like that, you'd need a permit and there would be police all over to make sure things don't get out of hand. Simply by protesting, one is assumed to be right on the edge of violence, in need of restraint.

Professionally produced signs you see
all over Mexico, thanking the Government
for doing it's job. In this case, for refurbishing
a market, with special thanks to a politician.