Monday, November 7, 2011

Mornings in Mexico

(Title borrowed from a D.H. Lawrence book).

The Thursday before Halloween found us driving to Jacksonville (because for some reason flying out of Tallahassee costs a lot more $$$$$  than flying out of Jax--even if you figure in a couple of night in a hotel) to catch our early-morning flights to Oaxaca, Mexico.

Why Oaxaca (which, by the way, is both the name of the city and the state, rather like New York, NY)?  Well--we've been there before.  I went some 10 years ago on a fiber arts tour, led by Eric Mindling of Traditions Mexico ( )  (OK, Eric--there's your plug ).  Eric has now been living outside of Oaxaca city for some 20 years, first as a pottery buyer and then as a tour guide.  He gets people out of the city and into the tiny rural towns for experiences you could never get on your own.

I loved the tour so much, and thought that Oaxaca itself was so beautiful that I took Bob there about 7 years ago for Christmas.  Then we got a chance to do the tourist things--go to the museums and churches, trips to the reconstructed ruins.

We've always wanted to experience Dias de los Muertes (Day of the Dead) in Mexico.  But the places that the tourists can get to are, well, really filled with tourists.  Then we saw that Eric was offering rural Day of the Dead tours.  We would have loved to take the 10-day one, but Bob couldn't get that much time off work.  Maybe after retirement.  For now, the short tour.

Flight was uneventful--but flying isn't the glamorous thing that it was when I was a kid.  You're sort of packed in like sardines--for the flight from Atlanta to Mexico City (so this was still US flying) they ran out of room in the overhead racks so my bag was on the floor under my feet (which meant for the trip I had my kneecaps in my ears).  No music, no movie, no bad airline food.  Flying now is just transportation in a cattle car.  But it gets you there.  In Mexico City airport you just have to be a little zen--because they don't post the gate numbers until about 10 minutes before boarding time.  Everyone is in one big waiting room staring at the "departure" board--then when the number magically appears there is a mass rush to the gate (where you sit and wait some more)

So--long story taking too long to get started--we went to Oaxaca (dateline: Friday, October 28).  We stayed at the Hotel Oaxacalli, conveniently in walking distance to anything we wanted to see (which also meant that we could come back for siestas).  Everything is being decorated for Day of the Dead--paper banners with designs of skeletons, marigolds (more on the marigolds later), skeletons, and some US-inspired jack-o-lanterns.  Here's the courtyard of our hotel. 

  We opted for a short siesta--short because they're adding a third story to the hotel, hence much construction noise. Fireworks, traffic, and the occasional marching band outside. Seemed like it was time for a stroll. Oaxaca is a good place just to walk and look--the architecture has a lot of both Spanish and French influence, along with a lot of Catholocism. I am entranced by what I called "nichos" (not an exact use of the term which usually refers to artwork with little niches)--little niches in the walls with a saint or the vigin in them. 

 We wandered a store calls "Los Ninos de los Posadas" which is where you can find all things religious--vestments, holy water fonts, crowns, rosaries, statues of saints, priests, Jesus (both on the cross and as a baby) in riotous profusion. What we rather irreverently called "blue man Jesus group" (I guess that you dress him).

And in case you realized that you forgot to pick up a baby Jesus while you were in there, another store had a whole case of them.

By now it we were tired--grabbed a light dinner from a corn on the cob stand (they're everywhere)--they rub it with lime, salt and chili (yum).  The corn they grow is field corn.  Eric later told us a story about when he took some native potters to the states and they were invited to a barbecue.  They launched into the "familiar" food--corn on the cob and beans.  Then took a bite, made a face--"Don Eric--the corn is sweet!!"  Then went for the baked beans, and another shocked "Don Eric--the beans are sweet!!"  So we happily ate our starchy chilied corn, and off to bed.

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