Monthly Archives: June 2009

Tom Robbins’ Notebook: June 15, 2009

I’ve always loved the drama and the fantastic landscape of clouds, the gentle ones, the soaring, towering ones, and even the angry ones.  Coming into Oaxaca by air late last Friday night, the sky on the horizon was rippling with orange and purple and yellow and red, and below us, rather than above, the color of the sky above was still its deep azul, dissolving into those colorful paintings of light.

The shapes were of a fantasy, unexpected sworls and columns of exploding puffs.  Below them, the darkening earth became lost in a mist of thin vapors and the entire landscape was as though we were inside a fabulous painting.  Like hump-backed whales, the Sierra Madre emerged from the fluid mist below — all this on an immense world scale.

We couldn’t have known when we made our reservations a couple of months ago…or more…that it would be such an arrival to remember.

*Editor’s Note:  Tom Robbins is an art photographer who shoots in black and film film that he develops in his studio darkroom in Columbus, Ohio; he also teaches college-level photography.  Web site: Tom’s wife Sam is teaching a workshop at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca this week.

Las Granadas Bed & Breakfast: An Interview with Josefina Ruiz Vazquez

Scenes of Las Granadas Bed & Breakfast, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

In 2005, our friend Annie Burns invited Stephen and I to visit her in Teotitlan del Valle, where she was now living permanently.  She told us about a young mother and mother-in-law who were at a loss to figure out how to provide income for themselves and their three children/grandchildren after their husbands had died earlier that year.  That is how we came to know Josefina Ruiz Vazquez and her mother-in-law Magdalena. Josefina’s husband and Magda’s son was a famous weaver (Eligio Bazan) who died suddenly of a rare form of cancer at age 38.  Annie said she was encouraging them to start a guesthouse and asked if we would be the first guests as an experiment to get the venture launched.  Of course, we said yes, and that is how Las Granadas Bed & Breakfast was born.

Now, four years later, the house at 2 de Abril is transformed into a garden paradise in large part through the effort of the two women and the help of Roberta Christie, a Florida State University administrator, who took early retirement and helped renovate the compound.  Lush bougainvilla, clean, basic rooms, and fruit-bearing pomegranate trees surround the outdoor kitchen where Magda now prepares her famous hot chocolate made from cacao beans she roasts herself.  During the early morning hours before breakfast, you can see Magda at the comal (outdoor wood fired clay griddle) preparing the fresh maize tortillas that she mixed earlier, turning them with her fingers.

Now, participants who enroll in the workshops and small group tours offered through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator: weaving, natural dyeing, oil painting, documentary filmmaking, enjoy a stay at Las Granadas as part of the package cost.

I asked Roberta to talk with Josefina about her life as an innkeeper.  Here is her response.

R:  What things do you enjoy most about operating a B&B in Teotitlan?

J:  I like everything about it.  I enjoy working in my own home and making sure that our guests enjoy their stay with us.  It is very interesting for me and my family to get to know people from other countries.

I especially enjoy cooking for our guests and am proud when they finish every bit of food on their plates.   They seem to especially enjoy the fresh fruit and fresh juice I serve at breakfast, and many say they have never tasted such good eggs — all from local chickens. Everyone enjoys the quesadillas straight from the comal.   I’m also pleased to serve vegetarians the things they want to eat.   Luckily I can get fresh vegetables every day at our market.

R:  How has Las Granadas made a difference in your life?

J:  With the income, our life has improved a lot.  I sleep better (laughs) because I feel confident that I will be able to support my family.

We’ve also been able to sell some tapetes (rugs) and bolsas (shoulder bags), and Magdalena has sold chocolate. This is also good for us and is very satisfying when people tell us how beautiful the rugs are and how delicious the chocolate is.

R:  What are your plans for the future?

J:  We are making improvements to the house and second level using some of the income from room rental.  I want to eventually put tile on the kitchen and patio-level rooms.  Poco a poco, Las Granadas will become even better and we hope even more people will come and enjoy their stay with us.

Contact: or email

Shakira Calls for Tourism to Mexico

Friday, June 5, 2009

MEXICO (AP) – “Dolls like this vacation in Mexico” read one shirt that the Colombian singer Shakira wore in Los Angeles this week that was part of a campaign to revive the battered tourism industry following the outbreak of swine flu, reported his record label company Sony.

The pledge taken by Shakira, the interpreter of “The hips do not lie,” was a gift to fellow Mexican Alejandro Fernandez, who also participates in the campaign to promote Mexico as a safe destination and where the authorities say they have controlled the epidemic.

Mexico had suspended school activities for a couple of weeks and some business activities between April and May due to the detection of  the new influenza A virus H1N1, which has left more than 5,700 infected (fewer than the U.S.) and at least 106 deaths in the country.

A press statement released by Sony, the label of the Colombian artist, explained that the purpose of Shakira’s stay in Los Angeles is to record a video, but they did not specify whether this will be new material to be recorded from the multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy award winner.

Shakira aboga por turismo a México
vie 05 jun – 18h11

MEXICO (AP) – “Muñecas como esta vacacionan en México” se leía en una camiseta que la cantante colombiana Shakira lució en Los Angeles esta semana y fue parte de una campaña para reactivar la industria turística del país golpeada tras el brote de gripe porcina, informó su firma disquera.

La prenda que llevó la intérprete de “Las caderas no mienten” fue un regalo que le hizo su colega mexicano Alejandro Fernández, quien también participa en la campaña para promover a México como un destino seguro y en donde las autoridades dicen haber controlado la emergencia epidemiológica.

México debió suspender durante un par de semanas las actividades escolares y parcialmente las comerciales entre abril y mayo debido a la detección del nuevo virus de influenza A H1N1, que ha dejado más de 5.700 contagiados y al menos 106 muertos en el país.

Un comunicado de prensa divulgado por Sony, el sello disquero de la artista colombiana, explicó que la estancia de Shakira en Los Angeles tiene el objeto de grabar un video, aunque no se especificó si se trata de algún nuevo material que esté por lanzar la ganadora de múltiples Grammy y Latin Grammy.

Source:  Yahoo! Musica Mexico

Flying? Don’t Book Under a Nickname

From the New York Times, June 6, 2009: Tips for having all your travel documents match with the same name.

The Transportation Security Administration is getting ready to take over responsibility from the airlines for checking passengers’ names against terrorist watch lists, and is advising travelers to start booking airline tickets using their full name as it appears on their driver’s license or passport.  Full text here:

What do you love about Oaxaca? Add a Comment

Contribute to the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator blog and tell us your favorite things about Oaxaca:  the food you like and where you like to eat it, the arts and crafts — who makes it and where you buy it, street life, music, textiles, wood carving, pottery, beverages, lodging, villages, shopping, archeology, and whatever else about Oaxaca that comes to mind.  Use the comments box to reply.

What Janet Chavez Santiago loves about Oaxaca:

I love the weather, the quesillo.

I love the kindness of people.

I think Oaxaca is the warmest state in the country.

Also, I love its cultural diversity!!