The Public Square

Rev. Mike Mulberry on an emergency delegation to Oaxaca, Mexico


I recently participated in an emergency delegation to Oaxaca, Mexico. Since the state police force tried to brutally break up a teacher's strike in June, the situation in Oaxaca had become increasingly more violent. Oaxaca, and in particular the state capital, had become a police state.

Our delegation came together from all over the United States to provide international observation, and, hopefully, a calming presence. We also went to learn the larger framework of events that led to the state and federal government killing, imprisoning, and torturing its own people.

I was not surprised to learn that a new Wal-Mart and Sam's Club were going to be constructed just outside the state capital. Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill were pouring cheap corn into the Oaxacan economy right around harvest time. And a new, modern housing development was soon to be constructed right over the richest aquifer in the area.

The first lesson I learned in corporate law is that corporations are formed to avoid personal responsibility. In particular, multinational corporations continue to act with impunity and lack of accountability. For these actions in pursuit of profit, our governmental representatives hail multinational corporations as saviors.

Labor laws are stripped. Environmental protection is discarded. Public institutions and commonly held interests are strangled. All of these actions are taken to provide freer access to economic powers which, in turn, consume and devour the resources of communities and countries.

Slowly but surely we have handed the reins of the republic over to a corporate oligarchy. And that corporate oligarchy is destroying communities-nationally and internationally.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, individuals are responding to the destruction of their communities by emigrating north. One hundred and fifty thousand people a year are now leaving Oaxaca. Others in Oaxaca are responding to the destruction of their livelihood, public schools, and their environment through a populist protest and the re-creation of their communities-all started by a teacher's strike.

In a community like ours, filled with educators, we would do well to learn from the Oaxacan people.