Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Puerto Escondido, Mexico: December 27-Jan 2, 2018

With the Night of the Radish tour finished, we flew to Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast of the state of Oaxaca. The evenings were in the 70s and the daytime temperatures were in the high 80s. Perfect weather for the beach.

In Puerto, mostly we relaxed, took siestas, and went to the beach. We both arrived with colds. My cold was acquired from Dan. My body fought it is much as it could but after 10 days in Oaxaca, my body threw in the towel and I got sick.

We took Gina The Information Goddess' Saturday walking tour of Puerto. We began with breakfast of tortillas, nopals, and beans at a small cafe on the Playa Principal where fishermen sell their catch and where most local people hang out.

Virgin of Soledad, Patrona of Oaxaca
A fighting cock

The walk took us into Puerto's market where Gina introduced us to many previously unknown food items such as crisp tortillas baked with cinnamon and a little sugar.

We stayed in an Airbnb casita that was across from the entrance to Carrizalillo Beach. Our routine was to pick up coffee/hot chocolate and pastries at Cafecito restaurant, walk down to the beach, settle in lounge chairs under a palapa and make occasional trips into the clear, warm water, have lunch, return to the casita for a siesta.

Carrizalillo Beach
Gina also arranged for us to visit Laguna de Manialtepec one afternoon. The lagoon is a bird watchers paradise. A boat driver named Modesto ferried us through the lagoon to the spit that separates the lagoon from the ocean. It is a beautiful way to spend an almost full-moon evening. We saw egrets, snowy egrets, many types of herons (great blue, tricolor, night), anhinga, ibis, black bellied whistling ducks, osprey, black-necked eagles, jacanas.

We got home late on Jan 2, 2018, and except for Dan's germs, we had a very good vacation in Oaxaca.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sights in Oaxaca City's Historic Center: December 17-26, 2017

For us, it is always interesting and photographically rich to visit local markets. In Oaxaca City, it was no exception.

Chapulines (grasshoppers)
Grasshoppers and Maguey moth larvae are excellent ecological sources of protein. We tried grasshoppers sautéed and grasshoppers fried. Both ways there is an oily grassy flavor (probably because they are raised in alfalfa fields) to them and I got to the point that if I was even close to a chapulines seller, the smell kind of turned my stomach. If pushed, I preferred the crispy texture of the fried chapulines.

Sal de Gusano made from the toasted Maguey worm, salt, and chilis
Sal de Gusano is made from toasted Maguey worm combined with salt and chilis (not actually a worm but larvae of a moth found on the mezcal agave plant). It is used in salsa, sprinkled on orange slices, and to flavor the rim of margarita glasses.

Seller of Moles
Molé means mixture. Molé sauces often contain many ingredients and come in many flavors. At the Benito Juarez market in Oaxaca City, after tasting a few flavors of molé, I committed to buying two. Afterward as I schlepped my MUY heavy purchase back to our hotel, I realized I had a lot of molé--six pounds! After I figure out what portion to use for a meal, I'll freeze the rest for another time, and another time, and another time... Molé dinner party anyone?

Cheese shop at the Juarez market

The site of the piñata party

The Templo de Santo Domingo is appropriately landscaped with agaves. The interior of the nave is European Baroque while the Chapel of the Rosary is Mexican Baroque style. A European looking Virgin of the Rosary is enthroned behind the alter while just inside the door to the chapel, the Virgin Mary is dressed in Mexican peasant clothing.

Ceiling in the Chapel of the Rosary-Each of the 4 apostles are depicted and named in the corners
The antechamber ceiling decorated with the family tree of the Dominican order beginning with Santo Domingo de Guzman. He is the father of the Dominican Order

Inside the front entrance and under the Santo Domingo family tree, are the symbols of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith is blindfolded, Hope has an anchor because when an anchor is cast into the sea, one must have hope that it will find the bottom, and Charity is a pelican who is said to pluck its own flesh to feed its chicks when other food is unavailable.

From the windows of the adjacent Cultural Museum of Oaxaca it is possible to get a really good view of the Ethno-botanical garden without the crowds.

Every flower bed in the Zocalo (main square) was lined with poinsettias. Poinsettias are indigenous to Oaxaca.

Zocalo at night
Marimba players in the Zocalo
Marimba music floats over the zocalo as families stroll past shops and restaurants or just stop to chat.

We stayed at the well located Casa de las Bugambilias on Reforma Street. The staff were kind, the rooms comfortable, the table always colorful, and breakfast so very flavorful.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Archaeological Route in The Valley of Oaxaca: December 24 and 25, 2017

Mitla reached the height of its population in AD 1350. While Mitla is an archaeological site and its original builders are long gone, the descendants of those Zapotec ancestors continue to live in the area.

The Catholic Church was built atop a pyramid using stones from the ancient Mitla structures. The church builders left intact the surrounding wall with its varied stone fretwork sections.

The stone panel fretwork patterns show up in today's Zapotec textiles.

Wherever archaeologists dig, they find more evidence of life in this ancient city. The ruins include dwellings, plazas, tombs, monumental columns in addition to the features that are visible.

On Christmas Day we visited the spectacular ruined city of Monte Albán. Monte Albán was built atop a hill. It was occupied for at least 1200 years between 500 BC and AD 750. By AD 1000 the city was abandoned--reason unknown.

View of Monte Alban from the South Platform
The ruined city includes ceremonial grounds, plazas, a ball court, an astronomical observatory, tombs.

View of the City of Oaxaca from Monte Alban's South Platform
Archaeological research reveals an onion-like layering of ruins of both of these cities. When one layer is removed, evidence of earlier habitation is found below. In modern-day Oaxaca, it is the same. Modern residents have continued to move up the mountain or build their homes next to 2,000 year old walls thereby encroaching on the evidence of past cities and creating the newest layer in the onion.

It was once thought that Olmecs were the mother culture and all subsequent cultures borrowed from the Olmecs. With more sophisticated methods of dating now available, the new theory is that Zapotecs existed concurrently with the Olmec culture.

Visiting the archaeological sites was the least colorful part of Oaxaca. While interesting, the ruins are sterile and formerly painted surfaces are bare. As always, the lesson here is that all civilizations, no matter how great, eventually fail.