Did anyone else love the computer game Frogger growing up? The adrenaline rushing through your fingers as tiny timed movements determined the fate of a little digitized frog? One incorrect press of the arrow keys and beep! beep! the little frog is smooshed beneath a tire. Thinking about it makes me rather nostalgic. Well, that is until a couple of weeks ago when I embodied the little frog and I wasn’t quite sure I was going to beat the level.
Truthfully, this is dramatic, but I wanted to set the scene. No government is perfect, far from it really. Mexico is no exception and its people are active in making it known. As I mentioned before, political art covers most walls in some form or another, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to activism. Something happens at least once a week. If it’s not a demonstration, it’s a protest. If it’s not a protest, then it’s a bloqueo (blockade). All calling attention to everything from femicide to labor rights, defense of indigenous territory, and more.
A deeper look
Of all of these, blockades are by far the most common. What better way to call attention to an issue, getting people fired up, than by disrupting everyday movement? Depending on the issue being raised, blockades happen in different places and on different scales.
For example, when medical workers fought for better covid-protocols within medical facilities, the blockade closed down the primary medical district. When a smaller pueblo outside of the city demanded better infrastructure, such as filling in potholes, they shut down one of the main interstates into Oaxaca. Garbage workers not compensated for gas? Let’s shut down the main highway with the garbage trucks and not collect garbage until the issue is resolved.
As a result, traffic often reroutes to find a new convoluted way to their destination. In the madness, people go bumper to bumper, ignore traffic signals, and do whatever possible to make up lost time (this part I consider kind of funny as nobody is ever on-time in Mexico). More so, as if the traffic congestion alone wasn’t enough, many commuters result to walking miles on foot. The increased pedestrian traffic only adds to the chaos. As I am often the one on foot, it is situations like these when I feel I am playing an advanced level of Frogger. It’s safe to say, I successfully passed onto the next level.
A moment of reflection
I don’t mean to make light of the situation, but rather provide a metaphor. Truth be told, the issues in question are incredibly pertinent to the quality of life and security of Oaxacan citizens. While work still needs to be done to address structural and systemic issues, the blockades work wonders for providing short-term and immediate solutions in the meantime. (bell hooks double-pronged approach anyone?)
Looking at the political activity here in Oaxaca, I often find myself reflecting on activism in the U.S., my friends here often expanding my worldview. Take a look around the globe and activists are constantly fighting for a better world, frequently putting their life on the line for the cause. It’s simply not a choice. I’m not denying this spirit exists within the United States, if anything the past couple of years have made that evident. However, activism has been so utterly commodified and capitalized to construct an image of wokeness, that performative actions often dominate the narrative leading to passivity and hands-off activism.
I cannot pretend to have the answers, there’s still more reflecting to do on my part. Plus, truthfully none of what I am saying is an entirely new way of thinking, but rather a reiteration of wise people before me. That being said, I challenge you all to critically analyze how your positionality and socialization influence your activism. What dominant narratives still hold you captive? Where does privilege get in the way of the vision for a better future? How can you go beyond a social media repost to truly enact change in your community? This looks different for everyone. Blockading and creating the world’s largest game of Frogger is not everyone’s strength. However, whatever the method, one thing remains the same: change doesn’t happen sitting down.