Oaxaca, Mexico With Jerry

Oaxaca Travel Blog

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Courtyard of Casa Arnel
Oaxaca Day 1

Some notes on Oaxaca:  I was immediately struck by the level of poverty on our drive in from the airport.  Badly paved roads, shacks that barely  seemed to hold together.  Almost no dwelling exceeded one or two stories.  There were lots of little businesses – taquerias, little shops limited to few items.  Closer to the town the buildings had stucco and fresher paint with bright colors that reminded me of the islands of Venice or the Mediterranean in general.  

The people are swarthy and short.  To give you an idea of just how short, I felt like an NBA basketball player must feel among the hoi poloi.  What a great feeling to walk among people that barely come up to your chest!  It must be in the genes of the indigenous Indians that mingled with the European/Spanish blood.
  Though very short, the Oaxacans make up for it in warmth and personality.  They were very friendly and helpful during our entire stay.

Food is everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  I’ve never seen such a food culture before.  Jerry and I came to the conclusion that the word “starving” doesn’t exist in their language and that no one, but no one, ever goes hungry, even the poorest peasant.  Everywhere you turn there is food whether elegant restaurant, smaller osteria, “comedor” or little streetside eatery, or carts on the street or plaza.  You can’t go twenty steps without running into food of some sort.  There is a tremendous variety of local dishes and Oaxaca is justly famous in Mexico as having some of the best food, and this in a country known for its cuisine.
Andrew with Parrots (For Gianna & Stella!)
  There are infinite varieties of ways to serve tortillas, beans, meats, vegetables, rice and fruits.  Dairy isn’t as big, and neither are sugary desserts.  Oaxaca is famous for its chocolate and moles, traditionally there are seven for each day of the week.  It would take pages and a huge cookbook to get through even the basic preparations.  One of the things I loved the most were the little eateries inside the central market.  Each tried their best to get you to eat at their stand.  Jerry and I tried one and our dishes were among the best we had the whole time in Mexico.  

Some other curiosities:  Mezcal is made here and there were little shops selling a particular brand that allowed you to sample them before buying.  Great stuff, but even stronger than tequila.
  The guyabo worm is not just for decoration but it actually gives the mezcal its slightly smokey taste.  I really liked it, although followed up with a slice of orange dipped in chile salt was not so good.  Maybe just a straight wedge of the succulent local oranges.  They seem to have triple the varieties of fruits that we have in the States.  Cactus fruit (tono) is often soaked in water as a refreshing fruit drink.  Kinda like cool-aid but much more flavorful and healthy.  We got sick on the fruit ices but that was from the unpurified shaved ice used in it…a lapse in concentration that we paid for dearly for a day!  

The zocolo or center plaza was the site of a major demonstration still ongoing from last year.  There was significant violence from last summer to November but the protests have quieted down to just banners, activists handing out information and playing videos, fireworks, speeches and lots of posters of “Jose Stalin”, “Carlo Marx” among the other pantheon of Communist leaders.
  The protests stem from a major discontent in the wages of teachers in the heartland of the state of Oaxaca.  There does seem to be greater poverty there than along the coast with its better developed tourism and standard of living.  Southern Mexico has always been a hotbed of socialist and communist activity and there are still guerrillas in the hills in Chiapas, south of Oaxaca and bordering Central America.  It’s even poorer and more desperate there than in its neighbor to the north.  But this is a very religious people and they show it.  They manifest their faith everywhere.  The statues are highly decorated, even gaudily you could say.  They are dressed in bright garments and exhibited in all the churches.
 

We stayed in a charming posada or little hotel to the north of the center about a mile.  It was much quieter than the chaos to the south of the center.  The courtyard was filled with plants and had a little library in the center.  Parrots in cages were hung from the trees and provided a constant but not totally unpleasant cacophony.  At least they went to sleep at night.  Our hosts in the hotel were more than friendly and helpful and we spent a pleasant few nights there.  My Spanish measurable improved by having to do all the talking for me and Jerry. I didn’t mind at all since I’d be speaking it from here on out.


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Courtyard of Casa Arnel
Courtyard of Casa Arnel
Andrew with Parrots (For Gianna & …
Andrew with Parrots (For Gianna &…
Specialty shop for Mezcal
Specialty shop for Mezcal
Mexico vs. USA friendly soccer mat…
Mexico vs. USA friendly soccer ma…
Practicing for the professional Eu…
Practicing for the professional E…
Zocolo
Zocolo
Jose Stalin & Carlo Marx - Mexican…
Jose Stalin & Carlo Marx - Mexica…
Votives
Votives
Clowns in the Zocolo
Clowns in the Zocolo
Oaxacan Market
Oaxacan Market
Hand painted animals
Hand painted animals
Oaxaca
photo by: tonygiglio