Oaxaca is not an experience
What does resistance look like in a booming tourist destination?
One our second day in Oaxaca, Frank and I were resting in our room in the middle of the afternoon, and we heard music coming from the street. A band was playing. I figured it was some kind of lively procession, and when it sounded like they’d stopped nearby, I slipped on my shoes and ran downstairs to check it out.
After all, I was in Oaxaca to experience whatever this historic (and much-buzzed-about) city in southern Mexico had to offer.
Rounding the corner less than a block from our hostel, I found what I was looking for. It wasn’t a wedding celebration or cultural parade. It was a resistance protest. Against gentrification. And tourism.
Several of the people were holding signs, some with their faces covered, with statements about the lack of water or housing for locals or the rights of the farmworkers. I saw newly spray painted graffiti on the walls of the nearby buildings: “Oaxaca Digno,” “Palestina Vive,” “Oaxaca no es experiencia.”
I didn’t feel unsafe at that moment, but I felt uneasy. This protest wasn’t for me, and, also, it was exactly for me.
In my visits to Mexico in recent years, I don’t think I’ve seen more tourists in a city than during our five days in Oaxaca late last month. It was a getaway for Frank and me, a rare chance for us to travel by ourselves. My mom came to Austin to be with the boys, and we were there to immerse ourselves in a vibrant place we’d heard so much about.