19 Hours in Juchitan: Trajes y Telas

Surprise!  We’re in Juchitan.

In my humble opinion, I think Juchitan has one of the greatest markets in all of Oaxaca, especially if you love fabric and the traditional dress of Tehuanas — heavy hand embroidered floral designs on either velvet or floral patterned cloth with complimentary skirts often fringed in lace or eyelet cotton.  The traje of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region is among the most colorful and interesting in Oaxaca.

We are circling the Zocalo looking for a hotel after deciding not to spend the night in San Mateo del Mar.  Families, couples and Muxes stroll the square filled with balloon and food vendors.  After finding rooms and checking into the Hotel Santo Domingo del Sur on the Pan American Highway across from the Pemex station at the intersection at the crossroad that leads to the center of Juchitan, we returned to  the Zocalo to eat garnaches (a local open-faced small chalupa or mini-tostada) and drink Corona.  The cost was 10 pesos for two pieces.

It is a sauna in Juchitan this time of year (summer).   Even in December, the coast is tropical.  Coconut and banana palms sway in the constant wind which helps keep the skin cool.  We are back at the Zocalo in the morning at 9 a.m. for desayuno (breakfast) at a beautiful restored Colonial-style two story casa that has been recreated as Restaurant Casa Grande.  The frescoes swirl around stone arches two stories high.  Fans swirl to keep the air moving.  Two green parrots call from the second story wrought iron veranda.  Service is excellent and the food is outstanding.  Carrot, orange and guayaba juice is fresh squeezed.  The coffee was strong, sweet, spectacular. We had tamales con elote with creme sauce and salsa verde, Oaxaquena scrambled eggs with quesillo in a picante red sauce, queso fresco with nopales in a salsa verde cream sauce, and omelets.  Every dish was different and distinguished.  The cost was 35-75 pesos per person, depending upon the choice.  Take a look at the small shop in the courtyard that sells Juchitan traje.  Well made and reasonably priced.

We decided to split up to do our market meanderings and meet back at the restaurant at 12:30 p.m.  I ran into Eric on the second story of the main market across the street from the Zocalo, where I was window shopping for huipils.  He said he had found a great shop that sold fabric and also had wonderful handmade blouses around the backside of the market.  I followed him there and it was a treasure trove, packed with bolts of fabric that they will make up to order, plus a great selection of ready-made embroidered pieces ranging in price from 350-950 pesos for a complete top and skirt outfit.  It was definitely hard to choose.  Here’s the shop info:  “Telas y Trajes Regionales — STI Lorena, Calle 2 de Abril, S/N Local 1, Juchitan, Oaxaca.”  By midday, I had purchased an orange polka dot skirt for 180 pesos, a complimentary floral hand embroidered top for 450 pesos, a beautiful green outfit for 350 pesos, and a long black tunic with white stitched trim for 220 pesos.  This will all add up to under $100!

We sat in the Zocalo people watching, holding our bolsas full of beautiful trajes, and sipped coconut milk from the fresh coconut we held on our laps through straws and people watched.  By 1:30 p.m. we were back on the road for the return trip to Oaxaca, a 250 km ride through curving, mountainous two-lane road.  The logical halfway stop is at El Cameron, where a family run comedor offers good food and clean toilet facilities.  The owner had lived and worked in Tennessee for 11 years, and had studied air quality and pollution control at the community college.  Eduardo, a multi-dimensional artist, is incorporating the stories of transborder migration into her next exhibition which will open at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in November, and interviewed the owner about his experiences to incorporate into her work.

As we continued toward Oaxaca, the landscape changed from palms to saguaro cactus.  Cash crops of agave that is the basis for tequila and mezcal were planted on hillsides and their tall spikes topped with flowers were like mini-trees.  Donkeys, bulls and goats grazed along the highway and sometimes strayed onto the road.  A lone bicyclist pedaling uphill on the concrete shoulder emphasized the struggle to get from one place to the next both literally and figuratively.  Under the green and yellow concrete shelters marking bus stops along the mountain route, campesinos waited for buses, and life here seems like it is a series of working and waiting, working and waiting.

Recommendations:  Hotel Santo Domingo del Sur, Juchitan, 750 pesos double, 550 pesos single, air conditioning, free wi-fi, very clean and comfortable, email: hsto@prodigy.net.mx, (971) 711-10-50

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