Some food for thought…
1. Listening to the daily two hour downpour while lying in bed
2. Menu del Dia – daily lunch special at restaurants all over Oaxaca – delicious, filling and cheap. Manhattan could learn a lesson here
3. Agua del Dia – the juice of the day. Though I think they mix in water. Delicious, healthy and cheap!
4. Oaxacan coffee at Nuevo Mundo coffee, an awesome coffee shop in my hood. YUM
5. Oaxaca weather. Not as hot as NYC or as cold as San Francisco in the summer. In other words…perfect.
6. Hotel Las Golondrinas – ok, maybe it’s cheesy to put a hotel on here. But the staff is so friendly, the rooms cozy and clean, the breakfast in the beautiful outdoors patio (I saw hummingbirds this morning!) delicious.
7. Oaxacan cheese – “quesillo”
8. Mole sauce – YUM
9. Flowers and fresh fruit everywhere
Got back to Oaxaca tonight after a few days in Guadalajara. Although I enjoyed the mariachi and partying in Guad (as the locals say), I didn’t love the city. It is the second biggest city in Mexico and definitely feels like it. It was big, gritty, dirty, etc. I missed Oaxaca the whole time. It’s much smaller, prettier, has a good community and a decent nightlife.
Happy to be “home” 🙂
I’m at the airport right now waiting for my flight to Guadalajara. I decided o head there for the mariachi festival. I forgot how much I love airports and flying. Years of flying every week for work killed off my love of airports. This proves that I am not like George Clooney in “Up in the Air”. Though people never tire of bringing it up when I mention what I do for work.
Anyway, thankfully my love of airports is back. It usually means an exciting destination. So… off to Guadalajara!!
Yesterday I went to the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, which basically contained a long history from pre-Hispanic times to present day in Oaxaca. I always find it confounding how the Spanish seem to have so completely converted the Mexicans and most of Latin America, both with their religion and language. Yet, it didn´t seem to happen in India, in comparison. Some people in India did convert, but mostly people who were in the lowest castes of Hinduism and Christianity offered a better lifestyle that they could not get with Hinduism.
Yet, for Mexico, at least, the Spanish basically came in and took over their whole culture, religion and language. At least that is what always appeared to me without knowing enough details or history. After learning a bit more, my perspective has shifted just a bit.
Firstly, the Spanish did not kill mass numbers of indigenous people, as the British did in America. In the U.S., the culture, religion and language were basically wiped out because of all the indigenous people who died. In Mexico, they survived, but converted to Christianity and learned the Spanish language. The English audio took I took also offered a perspective saying that they indigenous people were able to keep their culture and language at home, but also learned Spanish and essentially melded the two cultures together. The biggest example of this is the Virgen de Guadelupe – what the museum and books keep referring to as the dark-skinnned Virgin Mary who fit both Catholicism, as well as some of the indigenous religious stories. Yet the English audio tour also mentioned that the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish is often referred to as the ¨battle for the soul¨or something like that.
Second, the Aztecs, who were among the first that the Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortes, came across, seemed to have a religious story about some light-skinned savior or higher power or something who was going to come back to the Aztecs. This story fit perfectly when Cortes arrived. In fact, Moctezuma, the Aztec king, welcomed him with gold, food, maidens, etc. And then Cortes eventually partnered with some indigenous groups and turned against other indigenous groups.
There are certainly some parallels in India, where the different regions had their own language, customs, kings, etc. But somehow the British did not succeed in taking over their culture, completely.
Furthermore, I find it interesting that Catholicism is everywhere in Mexico, yet, Cortes is essentially thought of as a villain. It seems like a contradiction to me.
However, things like Dia de los Muertos (¨Day of the Dead¨) and other customs, as well as the food are definitely things that have survived from the indigenous cultures. Anyway, below are some pics from the museum.
I have never seen so many VW Beetles in my life! According to my Spanish teacher, they are really cheap to maintain, which is why they are everywhere.
For my birthday, I decided to head to the beach at Puerto Escondido, which is on the Pacific coast of the state of Oaxaca. The trip involved a 7 hour van ride through winding mountain roads. I made it there in one piece, but I nearly died on the way back of motion sickness. I barely made it back to the hotel in Oaxaca city before throwing up in the cab 😦
In any case, the first two days in Puerto Escondido were pouring rain, which was sort of sad since I went all the way out there to hang out on the beach. But when I woke up on the best day of the year, August 17, the sun was magically shining through my window. My two Swiss friends from my Spanish class also came to Puerto Escondido. We went to the beach together and they were sweet enough to get me some beers and a Twinky (“Tuinky”) for my birthday, lit with matches – you have to make do with what you have!
Puerto Escondido is mostly a surfer´s hang out with huge waves and a lot of surfer/hippie types. It is true what the Lonely Planet (¨LP¨, as we have taken to calling it) says that Puerto Escondido has a manageable scale of development. No huge resort hotels. The waves were definitely the biggest I´ve ever seen and it was cool to see surfers on them. There is apparently some huge surfing tournament there every November.
Needless to say, the waves at the main beach, Playa Zicatela, were not safe for swimming. So I cabbed it with the girls to another beach, Playa Carizalillo, 10 minutes away that is more amenable to swimming and also for beginner surfers.