There is a satisfying routine to returning to the city we know and love. I retrace familiar steps around the Zocalo, Cinco de Mayo, Reforma, Macedonio Alcala, meeting Stephen a comida of enchiladas coloradito at the favorite sidewalk cafe, taking in the street life full of visitors from around the world with surround sound of English, Dutch, German, French, Japanese and Spanish. On the main tourist avenues are families of vendors who make their living selling candy, woven baskets, embroidered blouses, woven cotton scarves, strings of colored beans to tourists who don’t need another thing but can’t say no to a cute and persistent kid or a nursing mother.
Finally, there is a vibrancy to the city, four years after the troubles. The troubles are still here, don’t forget, but they are now the back story to the need for economic recovery. And, that means tourism. A new shopping arcade opened on Macedonia Alcala, a totally contemporary redesign of a 16th century palace, encased in glass and stone and sleek black leather furniture, a Cinnabons just about ready to open. Oh, Oaxaca, you are a mix of indigenous and big money, an inverted pyramid with wealth at the smallest point at the top.
It is a glorious day, mid-80’s, balmy, dry, a slight breeze. The tourists sip iced coffee, carry shopping bags, stroll arm in arm with loved ones, wear newly acquired hand-woven huipils and silver jewelry procured from one of many upscale shops or weathered street vendors from the villages. Children run in circles playing tag. A couple emerges from the Santo Domingo Church, just married, white Jaguar parked out front with hood adorned in a huge bouquet of white roses. She is radiant in white. The bridesmaids shimmer in copper-colored organza in the afternoon sun. The backdrop is agave cactus and ancient quarried stone and strolling tourists and the Italian Coffee Company and bamboo flute-playing man who takes a break to ask for a handout.
The mountains surround us. The scale is walkable, clean, vibrant, ancient, dazzling. It feels as if everything is sparkling under this incredible sun.