UW pulling its students from Oaxaca
Seattle Times staff reporter
The University of Washington is ending its study program in the Mexican city/state of Oaxaca about a week early in response to the violence that erupted over the weekend.
After government protesters torched buildings Saturday and Sunday, the UW decided to pull its students out, said Anthony Geist, chairman of Spanish and Portuguese Studies.
The students have been studying language at the Oaxaca Cultural Institute for nearly a quarter. The program, which has taken place each fall for more than a decade, was scheduled to end Dec. 8.
A total of 17 students — mostly sophomores and juniors — will take a bus from their homestays to the city of Puebla today, where they'll be debriefed, Geist said.
On Thursday, about half of the students will fly to the United States from Mexico City, near Puebla; the rest will stay and travel on their own.
Lindsay O'Neill-Dewing, a junior from Hansville, Kitsap County, said by cellphone from Oaxaca on Tuesday that she doesn't feel like she has completed her studies and isn't entirely ready to leave. But the violence is still fresh in her mind.
"This last Saturday, pretty much the whole city was on fire. It was almost like being on a Hollywood set. They literally had to wash blood off of the sidewalks — and that was very hard," O'Neill-Dewing said.
Her friend, Olivia Magnano, a junior from Vancouver, Wash., also had mixed feelings. "I am relieved to be heading back to a place where I'm not in immediate danger," she said. "But it's hard because I really love the people here."
Some students were eager to depart before Friday, said Geist, adding that on Dec. 1 there will be a change of administration in the Mexican presidency (from Vicente Fox to Felipe Calderon) and it's widely thought that there will be violent protests in Mexico City and in Oaxaca.
"It's been kind of a living political-science workshop," Geist said of this year's program. A teachers strike last spring spread into a larger protest, and Geist said he began monitoring the situation in late October, after confrontations between police and protesters.
Several people died in the conflict — including a U.S. journalist, he said. At that time, one student withdrew from the program.
The University of Washington sends about 1,700 students overseas each year, said David Fenner, the director of international programs and exchanges. Geist is hopeful that UW students will return to Oaxaca next fall.
"If the political condition is under control, we'll definitely be back in Oaxaca."
Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company