After our Art Huipil Workshop ended, I retreated to the rooftop terrace where I live in Teotitlan del Valle to finish The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The views of the surrounding Tlacolula valley are glorious from there, especially at sunset. It’s winter, the dry season. The night air is clear and cold. The star field is glorious. During the day, sun provides enough heat that we have to hide from it by walking on the shady side of the street. So many northerners are here to seek shelter from the winter cold in the warmth of Oaxaca’s sun.Around and about Teotitlan del Valle, the daily village market, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., gives us bread, fresh vegetables, meats and poultry, handcrafts and the essentials of daily life, like soap and bathroom tissue! The space is a source of constant fascination and appreciation for me. It’s where my food comes from! For those without vehicles and sturdy legs, the tuk-tuks (or moto-taxis, as some call them) are an essential for getting home from the market with the daily bundle that always includes fresh flowers for the altar. When the market closes at 10:30 a.m. not much happens there until mid-afternoon when the nieves (ice cream) vendors come to open their stalls. Ices made from tropical fruits like mango, papaya, strawberry and pineapple are muy rico. And, yes, they are made with purified water.After resting for a few days, I went to Oaxaca city to meet up with friends for a series of lunches and dinners. Social life here during the season can be intense. But not as intense as the color of this yellow flowering tree that punctuates the skyline throughout the city.
Everyone along the cobblestone sidewalks have their heads lifted skyward to take in the brilliant yellow blossoms of the Primavera tree of the genus Tabebuia, also called Ipe or Trumpet tree. Not me, though. With my new knee replacement only two months behind me, I’m very careful to step lightly. If I want to take something in, I stop and plant myself on terra firma.
Late afternoon brings us to Santo Domingo Church where vendors gather and weddings and quinceañieras are scheduled throughout the day. Bring it on!
Later that same night, with Pink Hummer stretch limo in waiting, a fifteen year old princess emerges from Santo Domingo complete with her men in waiting to escort her into the cavernous vehicle. There’s lots of poverty in Oaxaca and visible wealth, too. I see many more Audi’s, Mercedes and BMW’s on the streets now than ever before.
As we emerge from a delicious dinner at La Zandunga on Garcia Virgil, we stop in to Casa Crespo for a Oaxaca chocolate tasting. I think my favorite is the one flavored with chipotle chili. Trees on the avenue are illuminated in changing colors of red, green, yellow and purple. It’s a warm and festive evening for strolling.
So we stroll on over to Mezcaleria El Cortijo for a nightcap of my favorite reposado, an aged mezcal that goes down smooth and easy. Ellen sniffs the bottle while our host Raul Mendez talks about mezcal culture.
Oaxaca is pretty quiet most Sundays, and in my meanderings I notice an artist through an open doorway painting what appears to be a sign. Meet Anri Okada. She has been in Oaxaca for six months, is an artist from Japan who studied painting. She speaks Spanish and English and is delightful. Curiosity is what keeps the world exciting and imaginative. You never know who you will meet next!Back in Teotitlan del Valle, weaving continues, surrounded by the paraphernalia of the craft — bags of wool, unwarped looms, cotton warp thread, a baby’s rocking horse and a dog’s water bowl.
Ultimately, it’s time to eat and what could be better than blue corn tortillas on the comal with your choice of chorizo and cheese, beans, or potatoes and spinach topped with a fresh egg. The health of Mexicans depends upon unadulterated non-genetically modified corn. It’s a constant battle here between the small farmers and the mega-producers like Monsanto. Indigenous corn, grown in the Oaxaca valley for 8,000 years, is laden with nutrition.
As we say in Mexico, buen provecho!
Two spaces open now in the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing & Yoga Retreat. And, you may want to come with me as we go Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in April in Mexico City.