While the Teachers close down many roads and make their tent city base camp in Oaxaca’s Zocalo it is the artisans that are often the ones stuck in the middle of it all. Unable to get their wares to market and if they can the tourists are not there.
Some time around 2006 the Oaxaca National Coordinator of Education Workers or the 'Teachers' started coordinating large strikes and in recently have made permanent blockades of roads shutting down all kinds of commerce. While their motives and struggle are apparent it’s the citizens who depend on tourism to sell their crafts are having an incredibly difficult time making ends meet as the protests go on year after year.
Navigating the city center is like moving around under tarps and shops that have gone out of business. Trip Advisor has many comments regarding this on their site about the Zocalo being gloomy and intimidating. U.S Department of State has updated their Mexico Travel Warning in January 2016 stating that foreigners are routinely held up at knifepoint and robbed in many areas of Oaxaca. But does that stop us from getting collectors the best Oaxacan woodcarvings we can obtain at the same prices they were in 1998? Most certainly not. We blend in by dressing badly and walking quickly with purpose. The people of Oaxaca are resilient and have a sense of polite stoicism. Unfortunately, the protests have brought in many out of state elements that debase the essence of kindness and courtesy.
Before 2006 the Zocalo resembled
And these days resembles this
After ten years of dealing with these issues we thought it was time to let our collectors know the chaos that has made bringing Oaxacan Art to our gallery all the more difficult. Shipments get delayed for months and some carving villages like La Union are on roads that are often times closed due to protests. This has often times led to scarcity in the last two years. Still we have an amazing selection of works to chose from and continue to make the effort to logistically get pieces no matter how many times we may fall on our faces.
The LA times did a great article on this years Guelaguetza being mostly a bust for indigenous artisans who rely on the festival to sell their wares. This article from September 6 2016 indicates the protests are intensifying with no end in sight.
While we have always strictly focused on the Oaxacan woodcarving artists we feel it is time to mention that their world around them is seeing hard times. Makes you appreciate more than ever the work they do.