In June of 2006, I traveled to Oaxaca City for Raiz de la Imagen, the
eighth Festival Americano de Cine y Video de Pueblos Indígenas,
which my friends and colleagues in the Ojo de Agua Comunicación
media collective were organizing. I had attended and assisted many
such festivals alongside my friends in other parts of Latin America
since the early 1990s, but seeing them host the most prominent indige-
nous media festival in Latin America, in their own amazing city, was a
source of deep satisfaction for me. Plus, it was the first time since the
festival was founded, in 1985, that it had returned to Mexico. With
programs representing over twenty-five native peoples from across the
hemisphere, sixty invited guests, filled screening rooms, and a bal-
anced six-figure budget, Raiz de la Imagen was a big success, but my
friends at Ojo de Agua were not able to savor their success until many
months after the festival.
I was eight months pregnant at the time and remember noting how
different it felt to walk (or waddle) around the city. The loaded, about
to explode feeling that permeated the streets of downtown Oaxaca
had nothing to do with the little one tossing around inside me, getting
ready for her exit. It was the city itself that felt tense. The streets of the
colonial centro histórico had been transformed by an intricate web—
literally, like the kind spiders make—of string and rope, tethering tarps
that made temporary homes for thousands of teachers and their fam-
ilies, who were protesting miserable wages in their familiar plantón
(sit-in) style, while their union representatives negotiated with the
The teacher’s plantón was an annual event, but that year’s sit-in was
far more extensive. My usual landmarks—the distinctive double peaks
of San Felipe mountain, to the north, and the bell tower of the main
cathedral in the zócalo (central plaza), to the south—were obscured
from sight, making familiar terrain appear somewhat threatening and
definitely less navigable. After long days in screening halls and nights in
family-style restaurants, I would return to the step-over-creep-under
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