Monthly Archives: January 2012

From Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: Preview

Palenque, photo by Roberta Christie

On Tuesday night January 31, I will be on the ADO-GL overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, set to arrive mid-morning on Wednesday, February 1.  This is at least a 12-hour bus trip, and I’ll be traveling with Fay, a Canadian woman from an island off the coast of Vancouver.  Since this is my first trip to Chiapas, my friend Roberta shared her photos of what I might expect.

I also rely on recommendations from friend Sheri Brautigam and her terrific website Living Textiles of Mexico for advice.  Sheri is passionate about the huipiles and other textiles of Chiapas and I want to experience some of what she has discovered there.  I’ve spent some time in Guatemala, have a few pieces I’ve collected, and attended related exhibitions at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. So, I’m familiar with the type of brocade weaving on back strap looms that brings Chiapas recognition as one of the great textile centers of the world.

First, some bus ticket buying advice for foreigners (that’s people like me who don’t have a Mexican bank-issued credit card).  1)  Find a Mexican friend with a credit card to buy your ticket online and then pay him/her back.  2) Go in advance, in-person to the bus station (4-7 days before you want to go) and buy your ticket with a U.S. bank-issued credit card or cash.

From Oaxaca to SCDLC you have three options for class of service.

1) OCC (452 pesos one-way) leaves daily, is a first class bus with one toilet and can accommodate 44 passengers.  Seats do not fully recline.

2) ADO-GL (542 pesos, one-way) leaves several times a week, has 40 seats and two toilets, for women and men.

3) ADO Platino (726 pesos) is the highest level of service with 25 seats that fully recline, internet service, electrical outlets for PDAs/computers at each seat, and two toilets. According to the schedule, it gets there faster, too. ADO Platino is only in service Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Oaxaca city to San Cristobal de las Casas.

In my “freedom” mode, I bought a one-way ticket.  My plan is to also see two major Mayan archeological sites: first, Palenque and then Bonampak, where there are incredible murals, located near the Guatemala border.  I don’t really need to get back to Oaxaca until mid-February.  So, stay tuned for the next adventures!

Bonampak mural, courtesy of Roberta Christie

I traveled to the Yucatan to visit Chichen Itza and Uxmal in the early 1970′s along rough, pot-holed dirt roads.  The sites were spectacular.  It was a real treat to climb to the top of the pyramids and look out across the jungle.  My son, who recently went to Chichen Itza, says this is no longer possible.  Then, my dream was to get to all the major sites:  Tikal, Palenque and Copan. In the 90′s I climbed to the top of the highest Tikal temple on a hand-over-hand ladder attached vertically to the side of the building — two days in a row!  I loved it there.  Now, I’m getting closer to the early dream.

Oaxaca Lending Library “On The Rocks” Concert Shakes ‘Em Up

What do expats, snowbirds, Norteños and extranjeros do for fun in Oaxaca [besides learning Spanish]?  The Sunday afternoon concerts hosted by Jane Robison at Casa Colonial are one way to get together, shake-shake-shake to 60′s and 70′s classic rock, drink Margaritas, swill some Victoria, slurp an agua de jamaica and support the good work of the Oaxaca Lending Library.  Admission: 60 pesos.  Contact the Oaxaca Lending Library for schedule!

  

Mick Jagger could learn a few things from Kimberly Reyes [on vocals and percussion].  Her trained voice is clear with great range and she can really move, inspiring the crowd to get up and dance.  And, we did!

On The Rocks organizer Kurt Hackbarth on keyboards is a playwright and author who has a work in production in the city.  He also teaches playwriting in Spanish to local aspiring writers. Electric bassist Bill Stair hails from the U.K., Oaxaqueño Luis Santos is on drums, and electric guitarist is Rafael Gonzålez Lumbreras is from Mexico City.  The band definitely represents the multiculturalism that makes Oaxaca so great.

 

On Saturday mornings the Oaxaca Lending Library is a hub of activity.  Children gather around tables to learn English using hands-on coloring tools, coached by volunteers and parents.  Adults are in dyads to talk back-and-forth in English and Spanish, locals teaching visitors and vice versa.

 

The Library is also an extraordinary resource for jobs, volunteer opportunities, things for sale or wanted to buy.  Workshops, trips and event posters cover the bulletin boards.  A complete library of books, videos and CDs in Spanish and English are available, too.  Along the edge of the room, young mothers hold newborn infants close to them, swaddled tightly.

 

Education is central to the OLL mission and extranjeros seem to enjoy supporting this while having a good time, too.

Resources:

Oaxaca Lending Library, Piño Suarez near Llano Park.

On The Rocks, classic rock band for hire, contact Kurt at (951) 203-2749 or Kimberly at (951) 513-5574.

Casa Colonial, Miguel Negrete #105 at the corner of Division Oriente (extension of Morelos), house with the purple door.  This is a magnificent hacienda on incredible grounds covered with old growth bougainvillea, agave, cactus and shade trees, filled with original Oaxaca art by some of the now deceased folk masters, and a comfy living room with a complete library in English and Spanish.  The Swiss mining engineer who built the adobe hacienda long ago framed the fireplace with mineral rocks. Owner Jane Robison opens the Casa to support community endeavors.

 

Oaxaca Collectible Textiles Sale, February 4, 2012

If you are in Oaxaca on February 4, 2012, don’t miss this spectacular sale of collectible textiles.  Several well-known Norteñas who have lived in Oaxaca for many years are downsizing and editing their collections, including Mary Jane Gagnier who is a book author and formerly married to weaver Arnulfo Mendoza. If I wasn’t going to Chiapas this week, I’d be there in a heartbeat.   I suspect there will be huipiles woven on blackstrap looms with the designs  integrated into the weft.  Some will be embellished with needlepoint. There will likely be shawls, scartable perhaps table linens.  Enjoy.

From the Pueblo to Oaxaca: 30 Minutes and Worlds Apart

This week I took a walk to Macuilxochitl, the next village over and located perhaps two miles from Teotitlan del Valle (TDV) along an unpaved road that spurs off from TDV’s main thoroughfare near the middle school.  This was the week I learned polvo, the Spanish word for dust.  Every five minutes a 3-wheeler moto-taxi (tuk-tuk)  slaloms down this road, kicking up a thick dust cloud. Passengers in the rear seat hold a cloth to their noses.  I endured.  It was worth it!

  

  

Macuil, as the locals call it, is a small agricultural pueblo, distinguished by an extraordinary church topped with three red domes that is slowly undergoing renovation. Throughout the village ancient adobe walls are pocked with eroding stones and spider webs.

   

A community museum adjoining the church holds ceramics excavated from pre-conquest history and church ritual relics and paintings hang suspended from walls torn from the Zapotec temple below.

 

Rural Oaxaca life has its treats.  Now, the fields are being prepared for planting.  The hefty bulls, guided by an aging farmer who has done this his entire life, are hauling ancient wood plows worn smooth from time.  The smell is loamy and rich.  In another field, younger men stoop to cut alfalfa to feed their livestock or sell in the morning market.

A few days ago during a late afternoon walk along the foothill path that leads to the dam,  I bumped into a friend along the way.   Together we climbed the rocky outcropping of road lined with blooming nopal cactus and came upon a herd of goats grazing at water’s edge.

A woman and her son, who introduced themselves as Josefina and Helario, came toward us on the path carrying a bundle of firewood they had gathered farther up the hillside.

We followed the goats, the goat-herder, his tethered mares , several dogs, and the mother and son, back down the path and across the river.  Night was falling and I continued on home down the cobbled streets after we all said goodbyes, finishing up my three-hour walk in the country.

  

The next morning, I caught a collectivo and was off to Oaxaca for a two-night, three-day stay.  The city is a burst of color, energy, traffic, noise, excitement, great food and music, and full of commercial bustle.  In Jalatlaco I found respite at Hostal del Barrio where Dueña Oliva (below) and her daughter offer clean, basic lodging for 200 pesos a night.  (Courtyard pictured below.) The hostel is on a narrow, dead-end cobblestone street that reminds me of Italy (above, right).  A block away is a terrific, though pricey Italian trattoria called Toscana.  The pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired orno, are just like those in Rome with perfectly crunchy thin crust and probably the best buy on the menu.

  

I savor the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds I love — the country and the city, worlds apart though only a few miles from each other.

Juchitan, Oaxaca Endangered Language (Zapotec) and Poetry Project

This video is about helping to keep an ancient language — Zapotec — alive. This project is based in Juchitan, Oaxaca, in the Isthmus at the southernmost end of the state and is about preserving Isthmus-spoken Zapotec. It combines poetry, art, and film making. Thanks to reader Mary Ann Walsh for sending it our way! Zapotec has many different spoken variations or dialects. Villagers in the Oaxaca valley may not even completely understand each other because of linguistic differences. One thing is for certain, young people, as they migrate to cities for jobs or want to assume more “modern” ways, are giving up the language of their forebearers. Centro Cultural y Academico San Pablo in Oaxaca is also committed to language and culture preservation.