Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca

CASA (Colectivos de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Acción) has published a book documenting the experiences of teachers and others during the Oaxaca protests in 2006.

“Once you learn to speak, you don’t want to be quiet anymore,” an indigenous community radio activist said. Accompanied by photography and political art, Teaching Rebellion is a compilation of testimonies from longtime organizers, teachers, students, housewives, religious leaders, union members, schoolchildren, indigenous community activists, artists and journalists—and many others who participated in what became the Popular Assembly of the People’s of Oaxaca. This is a chance to listen directly to those invested in and affected by what quickly became one of the most important social uprisings of the 21st century.

Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca, is currently touring the U.S. and Canada with Mexican guest speakers Gustavo Vilchis and Silvia Hernandez and CASA activists and interpreters Melissa Mundt and Chris Thomas.

From the back cover of Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca:

“In 2006, Oaxaca, Mexico came alive with a broad and diverse movement that captivated the nation and earned the admiration of communities organizing for social justice around the world. The show of international solidarity for the people of Oaxaca was the most extensive since the Zapatista uprising in 1994. Fueled by long ignored social contradictions, what began as a teachers’ strike demanding more resources for education quickly turned into a massive movement that demanded direct, participatory democracy.

Hundreds of thousands of Oaxacans raised their voices against the abuses of the state government. They participated in marches of up to 800,000 people, occupied government buildings, took over radio stations, called for statewide labor and hunger strikes, held sit-ins, reclaimed spaces for public art and created altars for assassinated activists in public spaces. In the now legendary March of Pots and Pans, two thousand women peacefully took over and operated the state television channel for three weeks. Barricades that were built all over the city to prevent the passage of paramilitaries and defend occupied public spaces, quickly became a place where neighbors got to know each other, shared ideas and developed new strategies for organizing.

Despite the fierce repression that the movement faced—with hundreds arbitrarily detained, tortured, forced into hiding, or murdered by the state and federal forces and paramilitary death squads—people are determined to make their voices heard.”

Visit the website: http://teachingrebellion.wordpress.com


  1. Review of Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca

    Review by Peter Gelderloos, author of How Nonviolence Protects the State

    Teaching Rebellion: Stories from the Grassroots Mobilization in Oaxaca
    Edited by Diana Denham and C.A.S.A. Collective
    Published by PM Press

    The popular rebellion that broke out in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca in the summer of 2006 caught the attention of people around the world even before the federal police moved in to crush it violently. For half a year, Oaxaca City and many of the surrounding towns were effectively self-organized through popular assemblies. A broad coalition of teachers, indigenous, students, artists, environmentalists, unemployed, and others came together not just to press their demands for the resignation of the state’s particularly brutal governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, but to create a new society, compassionate and anti-authoritarian, without the interference of political parties.

    Solidarity actions and material support for the rebellion were organized throughout Latin America, North America, and Europe, and many activists travelled to Oaxaca to participate in and learn about the social movements there. CASA, a solidarity collective that helps place visiting activists with groups in Oaxaca where they can do the most good, has recorded and translated an impressive compilation of interviews with participants in the popular rebellion. The result is Teaching Rebellion, a vital oral history for the English-speaking world. Included are the voices of neighbors who met at the barricades, artists painting revolution on the walls or reclaiming indigenous traditions, women taking over a TV station, striking teachers, torture survivors, political prisoners, grandmothers and children.

    The stories that come out give an intensely personal picture of the roots and beginning of the rebellion, its multifaceted development over the summer, and its brutal repression in November, 2006. The reader also gains a sense of what was happening in the rural areas outside of Oaxaca City, in towns where people kicked out the local politicians and set up popular assemblies. Some testimonies provide an exciting glimpse of insurrectionary moments when popular desires exploded in the streets and anything was possible, while others give a more sobering view of the long struggle, from the perspective of teachers’ union organizers or indigenous communities who have already been through previous ebbs and flows, victories and defeats, while continuing in their resistance patiently and persistently.

    Teaching Rebellion realistically encompasses the diversity of the social movements active in Oaxaca, giving voice to priests spreading liberation theology, indigenous activists defending their culture, maids or students swept up in the moment, NGO workers seeking limited reforms, political prisoners fighting for revolution. Though they have taken on an ambitious project, the editors, as sensitive outsiders, have not attempted to answer the contradictions that exist within the movement. This is problematic, given that within half a year the movement was splitting in different directions. According to many, Stalinists and politicians had taken over the leadership roles within APPO, the Oaxaca popular assembly. They subsequently disregarded a founding principle of the APPO and participated in the elections in 2007. The goal of the book is to teach about popular rebellions with the intent of spreading them, thus the perennial conflict between reform and revolution, between horizontal uprisings and the political opportunists that always attempt to control them, is necessary to explore and understand. Those conflicts are implicit in the interviews provided, but readers may have to do more reading and thinking to encounter those questions in a constructive way.

    Fortunately, the editors have made it clear this is not a book to read and put back on the shelf, rather, it is a tool. The final pages include a thorough study guide with discussion questions and activities that encourage the reader to turn this book into a workshop, an opportunity to engage with their friends and communities and draw lessons from the rebellion in Oaxaca. Given how inspiring the testimonies can be, I would guess that many readers will take up the challenge posed by the study guide, and learn from the Oaxaca rebellion in a critical way.

    Essentially a simple book with beautiful photos and plenty of background information, Teaching Rebellion is accessible to beginners, but full of valuable stories and challenging perspectives that will benefit those who have closely followed the events in Oaxaca.

    source: http://www.casachapulin.org

  2. Gustavo Vilchis, a witness to Brad Will’s murder and the man who gave him mouth-to-mouth on the way to hospital, remembers the protests and the organizing, discusses why the government went after the witnesses, and talks about Plan Mexico and how it will affect resistance in Mexico.

    Audio: chicagopublicradio.org

    mp3: http://audio.wbez.org/wv/2008/11/wv_20081121c.mp3

  3. From: CASA Collective — CASA_Collective (at) mail.vresp.com

    Help CASA Survive

    Saludos a [email protected] and warmest holiday greetings!

    Greetings to CASA supporters, and to all our new friends from the Teaching Rebellion Speaking Tour. The tour was a success (see our weblog http://teachingrebellion.wordpress.com/), and between two speakers and four facilitators, we covered much of the United States and Canada. The book is available for purchase online. Consider a copy for your friends, family, teachers… These stories of oppression in Oaxaca need to be heard, and spread.

    The repression continues in Oaxaca, notably in the case of Brad Will’s murder, where protestors are being held responsible by authorities, despite ample evidence to the contrary. See CASA’s website (casacollective.org) for urgent actions, interviews and analysis, including an interview with Juan Manuel Martinez, currently accused of the murder and held in Ixcotel.

    Our Oaxacan companeros need your ongoing support and, unfortunately, so do we.

    I’m sad to come with an urgent plea. Though book sales and donations were significant, we have committed all of those proceeds to publishing the book in Spanish and to supporting the people and organizations that made Teaching Rebellion a reality. Meanwhile, our fundraising for CASA’s general fund has fallen short.

    These are tough times for everyone. Many organizations big and small are calling out for help and slimming down. Fortunately, CASA requires very little to support our Mexico staff and maintain programs and facilities. With our streamlined budget, even small donations make an incredible impact for our operations in Mexico. This said, CASA needs to raise $2000 by early 2009 to be able to maintain our center for activists in Oaxaca and continue solidarity work in Chiapas.

    If you value our work, if you see a need for activists to be hosted in Mexico to support and learn about social justice in Mexico, please make a tax-deductible donation. You can choose to make a recurring monthly donation, if you prefer. Either way, it’s easy, and donations of any size will help keep us alive.

    Thank you for reading. With your help, we look forward to being able to continue our mission through 2009.

    En solidaridad,

    Colectivos de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Accion

    c/o Faithful Fools
    230/234 Hyde St.
    San Francisco, California 94102

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