Monthly Archives: February 2011

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Eency, Teensy Oaxaca Dragon

Tiny Dragon with a Big Heart

Well, maybe not SO eency.  She is only 4-1/2″ tall, this hand-carved and painted Dragon Miss (too frivolous to be a Dragon Lady).  She actually looks more like a teenager dressed for the junior prom (do they still do that?) or a second date, all prettied up in her floral print, dressed to impress wouldn’t you say?  I am not beyond using anthropomorphism to give her human attributions!

When I look at her I just have to smile at the whimsy by which she was created at the hand of talented young Arrazola alebrije painter Bertha Cruz.  (The carving is done by Bertha’s husband.)  Bertha has breathed life into this little gal.  Who would ever think of marrying yellow marigold flowers, polka dots, a flame-red tongue and zebra-stripes on a dragon?  Only a Zapotec with a creative and fanciful mind.  She says to me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Eeency, teency, teenage dancing dragon

I was working on her today when WordPress sends me a tickler: write about something SMALL.  It was perfect timing.

Recently, my little dragon’s ears, fore-wings and one of her back wings dislodged and I needed to do some repair work.  Using a teeny weeny container of Loctite Super Glue (Control Gel) that measures 3-3/4″ tall (but VERY powerful — it will glue your skin together if you aren’t careful), I put drops of the clear stuff into the eency holes that serve as orifices for the small pointed ends of the wood carved and painted pieces.  Then, I pressed the pointy ends into the holes and counted to twenty.  Instantly terminado (finished).  She is as good as new.

I love this piece.  It reminds me of the joy and creativity of Oaxacaquenos and the colors of the city that I love so much.

Perception vs. Reality: U.S. Ranks #7 in Gun Violence; Mexico Ranks #17

Is it safe to travel to Mexico?  Is it safe to travel to Oaxaca?  Is it safe to fly to Mexico City and change planes for Oaxaca there?

Here’s a web site you should know about:  NationMaster sent to me by my friend Sheri Brautigam, an expat who lives in Oaxaca.

It is a massive central data source and a handy way to graphically compare nations. NationMaster is a vast compilation of data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, UN, and OECD.

I used their form to search using these terms:  crime, gun violence, homicides. What was generated was a map, graph, and pie charts of rankings by country. I was surprised to see that the U.S. outranks Mexico in the use of firearms that resulted in deaths.  If we are to believe the media, our friends and family, it would be a different story.

But statistics don’t lie.   That’s why you should keep and use this site to find out other factoids about life as we think we know it.

This coming Wednesday morning I will climb aboard a regional jet from RDU to JFK.  Six hours later I will land in Mexico City and board another regional jet for Oaxaca.  I am traveling alone.  I will negotiate the NYC airport solo and make my way through the new international terminal at the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City by myself.  The airport in Mexico City is like many other new, clean and vibrant airports across the U.S., filled with restaurants, shops, and helpful staff.  It is a shopping and eating adventure, so if you have a layover it can be a lot of fun.

A recent Seattle Times article noted, “Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism said the number of foreign visitors in 2010 exceeded the approximately 22 million travelers who arrived in 2008 — before the outbreak of swine flu in April 2009 left resorts empty for much of the rest of the year.

The U.S. Commerce Department said visits to Mexico by US residents rose 8 percent during the first six months of 2010 — a period that includes spring break months — compared to the same time period in 2009.

Much of that has been attributable to the favorable exchange rate and cheaper package deals at Mexican resorts, Travel Leaders spokeswoman Kathy Gerhardt said.”

Simple and Basic: Note to Retreat Participants

Rooftop View of Teotitlan del Valle

Here’s a reminder: our bed and breakfast lodging and accommodations are in a family compound in a rural Zapotec indigenous village that is over 6,000 years old.  While the accommodations are clean and the food is fantastic and the setting is beautiful, the environment will be simple and basic by our standards.  (Yes, you will have a real bed, blankets, clean sheets.)

Some of you have shared bathroom facilities located across the courtyard (bring flip flops or clogs if you wish).  The electrical outlets work on our voltage; I am bringing adapters for 3-prong plugs to distribute if you need them.  There are soap and towels.  You will want to bring your own shampoo or other personal care items. If you need anything special, you can bring it or buy it there. There are no hair dryers provided.  Laundry services are available for a modest fee.

Traditional kitchen in the courtyard

The question has come up a few times about yoga mats.  Please bring your own as there are none available on-site.  This should roll up and fit pretty easily into your luggage.  Don’t forget little rattles, shakers or drums.  By the way, on Sunday at the Tlacolula market there is always a stall that sells carved gourd rattles of the type used during dance ceremonies in the village.  These might be fun to use for Beth’s yoga sessions.

Neighborhood shops and the pharmacy sell shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, snacks, drinks, razors, aspirin, yogurt, mescal, beer, wine, and delicious little cookies.

A note on food and drink:  Only brush your teeth with and drink bottled water.  Purified water is served at the B&B.  Avoid eating from food stalls and street vendors.  Only eat leafy greens at restaurants that cater to gringos — they will use treated water to wash their veggies (most of which are organic).

For those of you who have traveled to Mexico before, please feel free to share your advice.

How safe is it in Oaxaca, Mexico?

February 21, 2011, Pittsboro, NC — In eight days I’ll be leaving for Oaxaca, traveling solo.  My flights will take me from RDU to JFK to Mexico City to Oaxaca.  (A circuitous route for sure, yet the most economical on the day I decided to buy my ticket.) Am I concerned for my personal safety?  No.

Why? you might ask.  Because traveling to Oaxaca is not a mystery to me.  Because I have done it so many times over the years that it doesn’t phase me.  It is no longer an unknown to be afraid of.  Today, I was at a university lecture delivered by an international expert on Mexican migration and immigration.  When I talked with her afterward, one of the first things she asked me was, “Is it safe in Oaxaca?”  I was surprised by her question, an educated Latina who has traveled regularly to Mexico.  I replied that Oaxaca is so far from the border where the drug wars and skirmishes take place that it is barely touched by this type of violence.  Yet, I am only one voice.

Every day, about 20% of the search terms that come in to this blog are related to the question, how safe is it in Oaxaca?

Next week, 10 women will gather together in Teotitlan del Valle for a creative writing and yoga retreat.  All are traveling solo from various parts of the U.S. — Colorado, Maine, California, Ohio, and North Carolina.  One is Australian who lives in Mexico City. Several have never been to Mexico before.  My goal is to have a discussion with them about this question of safety and why they chose to come to Oaxaca despite the prevailing winds of fear.

There are numerous posts on this blog where I have written about safety.  I have written about Mexico travel safety on Suite 101.  I have interviewed expatriates who live in Oaxaca and families who go there for winter and summer vacations.  I suppose I could be writing about safety daily.  What could I tell people about safety that would assuage their fears?

My husband was in Oaxaca for a while in late January.  He takes buses all over the city, prides himself on getting around using public transport, discovering little out-of-the-way spots where he can study Spanish and people-watch.  The biggest event was a parade of teachers on the Zocalo in front of the government building (the new governor has moved the business of governing back to the center of town where he/it is accessible to the people.)  He calmly observed democracy in action while sipping a beer at the sidewalk cafe.

Can I guarantee your safety?  Of course not!  I can only tell you how it is for me and leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.  And, of course, I’ll keep writing about this because it is important to dispel the fear.

Video Features Textile Exhibition at Museo Arte Popular Oaxaca

Skeins of wool yarn hand spun and naturally dy...

Image via Wikipedia

Museo Arte Popular Oaxaca is a cultural center in San Bartolo de Coyotopec, the famous  village that produces barro negro (black pottery) on the road toward Ocotlan.

Featured this month is “Tres Colores — Indigo, Cochineal y Caracol,” an exhibition of textiles from throughout Oaxaca state curated by Alejandro de Avila Blomberg.  The textiles are part of Remigio Mestas’ collection.  Remigio works with and promotes the textiles created by the state’s most accomplished weavers.  The colors refer to the natural dyes of blue, red and purple that are indigenous to the region.

This captivating video by Sheri Brautigam of Living Textiles of Mexico provides a visual feast.  I’m happy to share it with you.

Remigio identifies and works with only the most extraordinary and talented weavers in the represented villages.  His gallery is on Macedonio Alcala located in the patio entry to Restaurante Los Danzantes.