Oaxaca Teacher Strikes: The Simple Truth

Oh, Oaxaca…an amazing state, with amazing people…but also with so many problems. Oaxacans are known for their fighting spirit and passion. Some of Mexico’s greatest heroes have come from Oaxaca….most notable being the revered President Benito Juarez. Right now, the only news coming from this incredible place is about the militant teachers marching on the streets instead of teaching in their classrooms. Teachers are on strike in Oaxaca, Mexico….again.

It’s happened at some point every year, for the last 30 years. The radical teachers union, named CNTE, has mobilized itself this year in protest of educational reforms that were passed 3 years ago. It seems the teachers are most interested in having performance evaluations repealed. To pressure the government, the CNTE has set up dozens of blockades around the southern states, shutting down commercial traffic on major highways. As a result, businesses are losing money, tourism has essentially stopped, and everyone is running out of basic supplies. In Puerto Escondido, the local gas stations were closed for two weeks. The teachers have also taken over the main square, named the Zocalo, in Oaxaca City.

The government has been in talks with the CNTE, but no progress has been made on the main sticking points.  Sadly the protests have turned violent. Two weeks ago 8 protesters were killed and dozens of police and protesters were injured when the police tried to break up a blockade.

As the violence has started to make international news, we’ve been flooded with emails and calls. Are you safe? Do you have gas? Is it safe to travel there? Are the roads closed? All very good questions.

When you talk to people here, most diplomatically claim, “It’s a complex” issue.” In some ways, that’s true. It is complex. There is a lot of history, a lot of stories and lots of different components to the issue. But at the same time, it’s also very simple. At its core, the violence, closed schools and roads aren’t really about teacher tests or abuses by the government. It’s about sin. It’s about pride that pollutes our minds and hearts and convinces us we deserve better than what we got.

It is Satan, the great deceiver and liar, who wants this to be a complicated messy issue. But when the violence stops, the accusations and threats cease, and the teachers go home, what is left is the core simplicity of the issue. It will all be repeated…as it has every year for the last 30 years…if the rebel heart isn’t surrendered to Jesus.

From the outside, for those getting their info from news reports, it probably looks really dark here. Violence, unrest, danger, and darkness – but the truth is that the Son is still shining! The teacher protests and unrest have opened new doors for the gospel and God will use this to glorify Himself. GEM moved into Puerto Escondido and opened a school with the hope of serving the community and building bridges for the gospel. When we came here 3 years ago, the teachers were protesting. Our office was flooded with people, mostly non-Christians, who were desperate for their children to receive an education. Many of those kids have become a part of our school ministry and have heard the gospel taught each day in our classrooms. Now, 3 years later, we are again flooded by parents desperate for help. From the outside, it may look like sin and evil has won the day, but the reality is different. God is pulling people to our ministry and ultimately to himself, and he’s allowing the sin of others to be the driving force. No matter how out of control it may appear to be or how dark the situation, God is always in control and the gospel is always advancing!

Pray for our state and the people here who are impacted by the strikes. Pray that blind eyes will be opened to where the true rebellion occurs and that many will surrender their lives to Jesus. Pray also for GEM as we serve those around us and try to shine the love of Jesus in everything we do.

– Casey Herring, Founder of GEM