Saturday, December 17, 2016

Taking a vacation from our vacation, Part 2

We spent a few days in San Miguel de Allende, the town we lived in for six months in 2010, when Indigo was 3 years old. San Miguel is packed full of retired Americans, and it seems like there are even more of them than there were 6 years ago.  Certainly the whole city seems to cater to Americans even more than it used to -- every last store in the center of town seems to have become some sort of tourist shop.  These shops are often full of beautiful things, but after living in Oaxaca it doesn't seem like a Mexican town to me.

But it is beautiful, full of lovely buildings, fountains, and artesanias.  Here's a beautiful carved door.

And here's a shop that seems to specialize in wings. (Not the kind you dip in blue cheese dressing.)

The main church in town is called the Parroquia. You can't really tell from this nighttime photo, but it is bright pink. Here it is with some giant puppets, which seem to have been made to celebrate someone's wedding.

This guy made me think of the kid's book Caps for Sale.

The high point of our trip to San Miguel was a visit to La Gruta, where there are hot springs, with several pools of varying temperatures to swim in.

On the left you can (maybe) see the entrance to the cave where the hot water comes from. La Gruta is one of my favorite places in the world.

Taking a vacation from our vacation, Part 1

It's been a busy month, so I haven't been blogging much. First, there was Thanksgiving -- we cooked a meal for about 15 people, including both Americans and Mexicans -- and then we went on a 10 day trip to Huatulco, San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico City.

Huatulco is a beach resort town, but not horribly touristy like Cancun or Acapulco.  It's only about 150 miles or so from Oaxaca, but since there's mountains between the two cities it's a six hour bus ride.  Or, if you're a relatively rich and spoiled American, you can shell out $200 (for 3 people) and take a 40 minute plane flight, which of course is what we did

So we spent a few days visiting various beaches or the hotel pool, swimming for a while, and then sitting in comfortable chairs while people brought us food and drinks. We also visited the turtle museum.

When they feed the turtles, the local lizards drop by for lunch too.

The water was beautiful and clear and fairly warm, considering it's December.

Indigo went snorkeling for the first time.

After swimming and snorkeling, there are coconuts.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Then and now



Museo Frida Kahlo, Mexico City. This is the blue house where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived. I make a pilgrimage there every time I'm in Mexico City.

Friday, November 11, 2016


After my Spanish class this morning, I stopped by La Cosecha, an organic market, to see if they had anything good.  I bought some lettuce and was wandering around the courtyard to see if there was anything else of interest when I passed by a table of obviously American women and heard one of them say, "How could it happen?"  Not wanting to hear anyone pontificate on that for the 17 zillionth time in three days, I beat a hasty retreat and headed over to El Llano park, which has a big market on Fridays.

I had some tacos de maciza (very tender, lean, roasted park leg), along with an agua de maracuya (passion fruit juice), which I ate with some of the challah I had bought at Pan Am bakery (it is surprisingly good bread; it's even braided and covered with sesame seeds).  Then I bought some nieves de tejate.  Nieves are ices or icies or sorbet or sherbet, depending on your interpretation and birthplace.  Tejate is a Oaxacan drink made with corn, chocolate, coffee, cinnamon and who knows what else.  Tejate-flavored ices are delicious, even better than the drink.

I walked around the park and noticed some big tents.  Big tents, in Oaxaca, mean there's a fair of some sort going on.  This one turned out to be a college fair, with rows of tables from all sorts of college programs.  Not very interesting, but to liven things up they had a dance performance near the entrance.  Different groups of dancers from different parts of the state were doing traditional folk dances, like they do during the Guelaguetza.  I caught the Flor de PiƱa dance, which is Indigo's favorite.  They do this Rockettes sort of thing, only with pineapples:

It was so lovely -- the dance, the clothes, the dancers, the tradition. From the back you can see how they do their hair, and more of the details of the embroidery on their dresses:

While I watched them I felt so overwhelmed with love for this city that I almost started to cry and had to leave. This place never stops being beautiful, fun, home.

Since Amy and Indigo are away for a week, I get to stay out late. On Friday and Saturday nights there are always a lot of free cultural events. I spent a little bit of time at one of the museums, which was presenting their annual calendar project. I'm not real clear on what it is, except that it involves lots of really good photos of Oaxaca, which they were projecting on an enormous screen. Then I went to a symphony concert. I've never heard Oaxaca's orchestra before, and they were surprisingly good (although I have to say the violins were not always exactly in tune, especially on the high notes). They played a piece by a Mexican composer named Juan Leon Mariscal, the Sibelious violin concerto (with an excellent soloist), and then Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. It was so nice that I took a rare selfie, with the balconies of the beautiful Teatro Macedonia Alcala in the background:

We leave Oaxaca in less than six weeks.   It's going to be like tearing out a piece of my heart to leave this city.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dia de los Muertos, Part 4

I think today is a good day for some catrinas.

Here's a small army of them at the mercado.

All the really fashionable catrinas wear feather boas.


Here's Amy with her new friend.

Even the money changing place has a resident Catrina, with a Halloween thingie too.

More of a country calavera than a catrin, but cute nonetheless.

Another hombre from the countryside, hanging out by an altar.

She's kind of cool, in a missing-two-eyes kind of way.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


As part of the Dia de los Muertos festivities, or maybe as part of Halloween, or something, there was a costume contest for dogs last week.  It was one of the more bizarre things I've ever seen. We all know, and some of us have been, the kind of people who just adore their puppies, so it won't surprise you that some of these people went to great lengths to dress up the canine members of the family.

My personal favorite was this little chihuahua Harry Potter, who lost his scar somewhere (he did originally have one).  Not sure what happened to his wand.

Pug minion was almost as amazing, and his proud owner is sweet.

This doggie won first prize for his alien and flying saucer costume. He was disabled -- his back legs don't work -- and he has a little doggie wheelchair. His human clearly built the costume around the wheels. It was awesome.

In this view you can see how the flying saucer fits over the wheels. I think all the judges and the whole crowd were really impressed -- the woman talked about how she adopted the little guy and had someone make him a wheelchair.

This nutty woman and her dog were "butcher chefs." A lot of work went into their costumes, I'm sure, and they won second prize. You can see the judges' tables on either side of the runaway, and the typical Mexican chaos which includes children climbing all over everything.

Indigo got to hold Sullivan from Monsters, Inc. (Or Soo-lee-ban, as he's called here.)

Batdog was another one of my favorites.

Here's a random selection of other cute pups:

This dog's owner told me he spent 2 weeks making the costume.

Orange puppy iguana

Chucky. There were several of them. Apparently, it's a popular way to dress your dog.

This little puppy didn't have a costume, but he was so damn cute I just had to include him.

Cute little witch pooch, who managed to keep the hat on the whole time.

Pope Puppy here was surprisingly popular in this very Catholic country. Apparently it's not considered irreverent.

A good-natured dinosaur dog, who must have been a hot dog in this costume.

There were lots of spiders, but I liked this one the best.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dia de los Muertos, Part 3

One of the most important parts of Dia de los Muertos is making ofrendas, or altars, to honor the memory of your loved ones. Altars contain photos, food and other remembrances of the people who've died, but they also have some common elements, like marigolds, special bread called pan de muerto, calaveras and catrinas, and certain foods. If you have enough space, you're supposed to create an arch over the altar out of sugar cane or flowers.

I especially like this one because the arch says "Long live our traditions."

The altars are supposed to have three levels, and there's often flowers on the floor next to the altar as well, although sometimes the floor is part of the three levels. (The rules aren't strictly enforced, apparently.) I particularly liked this altar because of the calaveras (skeletons) and the way the squash and the bread and everything are so artfully placed.

It seems like every building in Oaxaca has an altar, and every altar has dozens or sometimes hundreds of marigolds on it. As a result, there are people on every corner and in every market selling huge piles of them.

We bought three bunches and two pots of marigolds, plus some purple and red flowers.

A lot of altars have designs made out of flowers on the floor in front of them, usually, but not always, crosses.

This altar is at the San Pablo Cultural Center, hence the initials.

Sometimes people make these sand paintings in front of their altars, or nearby them.

Indigo helped make this sand painting.

The stuff that goes on the altars varies with each one, but marigolds and pan de muerto is pretty much on all of them. The bread on this altar is particularly beautifully decorated.

Jicama, corn, platanos, peanuts and guavas are all pretty common.  There are also beverages, mostly mescal (not surprisingly).

I love the big bowls of food on this altar. Grandma's favorite dishes, I suppose.

Remember those weird little painted pieces of pasta that I showed you in the post about the mercado? Well, we found out what they're for. They are used to decorate pan de muerto. Pan de muerto is the decorated version of pan de yema (a type of bread with eggs and sugar in it).  The decorations are often just the little pasta thingies, which are called caritas (little faces), but also sometimes other stuff like seeds and something that looks like icing, in white or in bright colors.

We made an altar in our house, with photos of our grandparents, cats, and others who've died. The path of marigold petals from the front door to the altar is supposed to help the souls of the deceased find their way into the house.

Because we are Unitarian Universalists, not Catholics, we made a chalice instead of a cross on our floor.

Here's a close up of our altar.  The box in between the catrina and the skull is tuna fish, for the cats.