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no hay agua en Oaxaca

May 31, 2010

There are two things that are hard to come by in Oaxaca: change and water. I’m not sure why, but it is impossible to make change here. I tried to buy an ice cream the other day, but the only thing I had was a $200 peso note and the woman looked at me like I was crazy. No ice cream for me. The other day I needed the internet, but had just gone to the ATM, which usually gives you $200s, so I walked around for a while trying to find a place to buy my cell phone so I could get change to pay for the internet. I swear when I had priced them out before everywhere I turned had cell phones. I zigged-zagged up and down the streets for an hour and could not find a place to buy an economico (pay as you go cell phones). I finally found one and it was a crazy process to actually get it. First I had to pick it out, then the woman behind the counter took me to her boss, where I had to type in my nombre, appelido paternal, appelido maternal (first name, first last name, second last name). They looked at me a little funny when I said that I didn’t have a second last name, so my official name according to the Mexican cell phone authorities is now Amy D… P… Then, you take a little sheet of paper to the bank (luckily there was one in the back of this store) and wait in line to pay. There were a couple people in line in front of me and I noticed a woman arguing with the bank teller. Apparently he had given her a 1000 peso note and she wanted smaller bills. He refused to give it too her, she walked away annoyed and then showed it to her husband and they both had this look on their faces like “What the — are we supposed to do with this?” I rarely see people brandishing money in Mexico, but they didn’t seem to care that anyone knew they were walking around with 1000 peso note. Maybe because you can’t actually use it anywhere? So my digression comes full circle, no hay cambio en Oaxaca. The rest of the cell phone saga is a story for another day!

Y agua, water is the topic of many conversations in Oaxaca these days. Oaxaca has a fairly dry climate, and right now is the end of the dry season, which has been particularly dry and hot. There is very little water and no place to store it. I think I understood that there is not a reservoir or a dam for the water to collect. In addition, the tubos or pipes are very old and don’t work well. So, not only is there little water, but there is little water pressure. Those of you who watched Seinfeld may recall the episode where they all switched to low flow showerheads and the entire episode they walked around with flat greasy hair (Then Kramer and Nelson went on a hunt for illegal showerheads and bought one designed for elephants out of the back of a van). Remember? Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel about washing my hair here. I’m getting used to it those and am starting to understand why a lot of women around here wear their hair in slicked back ponytails.

Vanity aside, water is a serious problem. The current governor promised to fix the pipes and water problem, but nothing happened. Now there is an upcomng gubanatorial election and water promises are everywhere. Vote for Eviel, he’ll bring you water, the sign says. There are certain days where you pump water into your tank and then if you run out before the next pumping day, you have to order a tanker full of water to come to your house. That can cost you 600-700 pesos! That means you do the kind of water conserving showers where you get wet, turn off the water, soap up, rinse off and then you’re done. There’s not much time for the water to heat up. So it’s mostly cold showers for me.

Additionally, the water that comes out of the tap is not potable. What a privilege to be able to turn on your faucet and drink the water pouring out of it. Instead everyone gets 5 gallon jugs of water delivered to their house or buys them off of one of the vendadores on the street. Although my friend from school got sick this weekend buying it from a street vendor–so then you have to pay more from a reliable company. Then, if you want water when you’re out you can’t just fill up your water bottle at a fountain, you have to buy a bottle. No tap water at restaurants either, it will set you back 20 pesos for a small bottle of agua puro.  I have been meaning to take pictures of both the tanker and the cases of water that are unloaded in front of the stores, will post those to flickr shortly.

I wish I knew more about the politics of water in the world. I know there are huge issues with the privatization of water. Can someone recommend a documentary or maybe a book about the issue?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. dad permalink
    May 31, 2010 7:16 pm

    welcome to the third world. Water will be a world wide issue in the near future, if it isn’t already. I have a new yorker article to that effect. I’ll try to find it (no guarantees of soon). By comparison, the dominican republic has water, just can’t deliver it on a consistent basis.

  2. Donna permalink
    June 8, 2010 6:16 pm

    Hi, Amy- love your blog. My boyfriend and I just returned from 2 weeks in Oaxaca city studying Spanish and we loved Oaxaca. Can’t wait to go back. For info on water, check out charity water. Are you still in Oaxaca? Donna

    • June 10, 2010 1:52 am

      I’m now in a small village near Oaxaca called Teotitlan del Valle.

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