My memory of the previous visit is so fuzzy. I went there in 1971 with Sylvia Maldonado, a Texan who didn't speak Spanish. I remember the owner of the small hotel we stayed in admonishing her for not speaking Spanish, after all she had an illustrious last name!! I had to translate for him.....
|Our guide with a model of Monte Alban|
On the bus to Oaxaca there was a handsome young man with very hip black glasses who had a new MacBook. He didn't speak much English and unfortunately his MacBook was loaded with only English programs He did have a little thumb drive antenna to pick up internet, like the one I once used out at the cabana south of San Cristobal. We were able to ascertain that he needed to purchase a Spanish language add-on to his Office products. He was just darling but we had a terrible time understanding each other. Well, let me rephrase that. I had a terrible time. He was originally from Veracruz and his accent and the speed of his speech, combined with the noise of the perpetual blasting action-flick on the bus TV screens, and then road noise on top of that, made it almost impossible for me to understand him. After a while I gave up. But when we finally reached the outskirts of Oaxaca we had a bit more conversation.
He is serving in the army and works Intel. He was in Oaxaca for work, and recommended the Hotel Veracruz, near the Central bus station as a good hotel with reasonable rates. He even walked me over to the hotel since it was already dark when we got there. He was right, it was small, clean, smoke-free, secure, and had a very good restaurant that was frequented by the locals. It was only $40 a night.
Ah, what a difference twice the price makes! After the horrible hotel experiences in Tuxtla and Mazatlan, twice the price was worth every penny. I couldn't see through the sheets, the shower was enclosed, there was hot water, the toilet had a seat and it flushed!! I was positively spoiled!
|A god being born, feet first,|
of a virgin, what a concept!
The next stop was another workshop where a woman, dressed in a costume, gave a pot making demonstration, then we were urged again to buy, buy, buy in the pottery's shop. Last stop was in Culiapan de Guerrero, at the Dominican Monastery, church, and archeological ruin. That was interesting, but the guide never mentioned what I later discovered on the Internet, that Mexico's second President, Vicente Guererro was executed just outside this monastery. What makes this ruin interesting is that the roof appears to be missing from the nave, but was in fact never installed. The church was built for the purpose of supplanting the local native religion, and the indiginous people found indoor rituals claustrophobic.
|Plaza Santo Domingo with some of the|
I visited the Santo Domingo Church on my way to the Zocalo, and it was absolutely the most beautiful church I've seen yet in Mexico. The walls and ceiling are covered with paintings and murals, much like the photos I've seen of the Sistine Chapel. Next door is an ex-convento, a monastery, that is now the Regional Museum of Oaxaca. It was also a beautiful building with displays of the treasures found in Tomb 7 at Monte Alban, old paintings that came across the Atlantic with the early Spanish settlers, furniture, religious icons, and loads of history. Plus history is being made right out in front of the church. An artist named Alejandro Santiago has created 2501 statues of human beings, all sizes and shapes, and placed them in groups around the church. They represent people who have left their homes, villages, and even their country in search of work and a better life. The statues were produced by people in Santiago's village as part of this effort to inform people in and out of Mexico of the plight of the poor.
|Two kids with an 'electric' car!|
Over the next day and a half, I wandered all around Oaxaca, meeting and chatting with locals in the parks. A large demonstration was held to protest violence in general, and specifically against women, with hundreds of people in the streets, a truck mounted with a loudspeaker, and then all gathered in the Zocalo for a rally of political speeches and rousing songs. This is also an election year for Mexico, so I am never sure how much of the activity is normal and how much is a result of political parties trying to get their messages out. Many large cloth banners have sprung up lately thanking the government of various states for basically doing the job they're supposed to be doing: "Thank you Mr Governor for the paved road.....fixed bridge.......new hospital, etc." Really? The local people paid good money to put up those banners?
I met a woman who teaches cooking at a local language school, and toured the school. It is housed in a beautiful old hacienda with giant palm trees and flowering Jacarandas. She gave me the names of a couple of her friends who put up students and promised to help me find a place to live if/when I want to try living in Oaxaca. I think that will be my next long-term Mexican destination. It's a lovely city with a warmer and dryer climate than San Cristobal, but not super hot like along the coast. It seems as safe as any other major Mexican city, with a lot of foreigners living there too.
|The roofless church/monastery|
|Beautiful painted wooden sculptures|
|Spring buds on Monte Alban's trees|
|View through open portal at Monte Alban's|
|Language school in Oaxaca|
|Carved stelae at Monte Alban|
|Protesters in Oaxaca|
|Santo Domingo Church|