Archive for the 'Oaxaca' Category

Relojeria Cronos

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

The neediest transactions are best informed by simple courtesy and plain understanding. When the battery in your watch quits, it’s unsettling, mildly so , but time stops for you on a personal level and you need to get it fixed. We had passed by this place a few times in the evening when it was closed but one afternoon in the town, we discovered a pleasant, knowledgeable and very charming young man behind the counter, who quickly sold us a battery and put it in the watch.

6 Churches Of Oaxaca

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Inglesia de los Pobres

Monday, June 19th, 2006

While waiting to shop with Lourdes, I thought to take a few pictures of our meeting spot. She had suggested the Inglesia de los Pobres as a shady central and comfortable spot to meet up in Colonia Reforma. In a city full of 16th century churches, the simplcity and comfort of this people’s church is very refreshing and has an elegance and a charm that many of the historical churches have misplaced or never even had.

After the granduer of San Domingo and the gilded contrasts of poor but noble Tlacochohuya and rich but shallow Tlacolula, Pobres has an embrace, an appeal, like sorbet after an opulant meal. God welcomes all, finally, not just the rich and the poor.

We’ve Been Told…..

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

For weeks now, ever since we arrived in Oaxaca, there has been a teacher’s strike going on. We were told this was an annual event in May. They camp in the Zoccola, march through the streets, sent up tents everywhere to clog traffic and display banners and slogans. They hold classes and discussions and in their best educational efforts, try to get their point acroos to a oublic more concerned with making their own livings and the daily football scores. We were told they pack it up at the end of may and move on.

Well this year they didn’t pack up at the end of May. They stayed in the streets here into the second week of June now. The issue is unclear to us but we suspect strongly it was more then just simply money. And then yesterday, we couldn’t get into town anymore and the satelite tv faded away and the local tv all broadcast world cup rallys and the federal troops moved in with tear gas and knock down the tents. We were told the teachers still would not go but formed themselves up into groups, with sticks ready to fight back. Another person told us how the shopkeepers and merchants of Oaxaca put buckets of water out onto to the streets so people could wash the gas residue from off their faces. It has been hard to get news. It;s either blacked out or filtered by the person you are talking too. The teachers are saying people have been killed, the governor of Oaxaca mockingly denies it. And for me this is all taking place in a language I do not speak. But some important things do get across anyway.

I browse the net for sources, Reuters, Mexican periodicals, BBC, Labor blogs, and get a picture but a dim one. I have the continual urge to charge into town to see for myself. I surpress the urge. I feel ashamed, and ignorant, another self concerned American stranger in a land he doesn’t understand. But in the time I grew up, I saw the pictures of people on the streets, abused by men in uniform, saw it take place in real time and I am used to being able to turn on a little box and be shown these things. they get more sophisticated with appearances, with smoke and mirrors, and we actually have more to see and we understand what we see less and less. But I can see the smoke rise from the Zocollo and I guess I really do know what’s going on.

What had previously been as light and airy as the foam on a tiate, has now become heavier and darker, like the black clouds that come from the north over the mountains that always bring rain. The girls point this out to us all the time. They tell us about what happens in town and I vaguely understand.Sometimes i wonder how much they understand. Certainally all the people who help us never showed any sympathy for the teachers and I am not really getting from them how they feel now that the police are tearing into them. It’s not just the language i lack, but the situation, the feel of poverty and want. I understand about corruption and the history of oppression but i have never felt the sting of need and the stingency of not being able to have. At least not in any other context but a big flat screen tv.

Los Laurelles

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Jose Zorilla Trapaga

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

When we first arrived in San Augustine Etla, I was surprised to see that the new museum Hector had spoken of was still under construction. Obviously I’d missed something during our discussion! Teams of architects and designers clutching 3′ rolls of plans and drawings mingled with work crews and scaffolding. Unlike litigious America, they kindly told me it didn’t matter and that I was free to walk around wherever I liked. Words can never really express the emotions I felt wandering the grounds of a 19th century textile factory brilliantly (remarkably) being transformed into a contemporary art school and museum. Someone in the government had the foresight to not tear down this fabulous building or the magnificent old-growth trees around it. Another group obviously had the knowledge to select an architectural team from Mexico City, headed up by a woman, that was world-class. Industrial details of the past were left butted next to the most contemporary materials and fixtures of the present. And pools of cascading water would be everywhere. The museum was stunning and as progressive as anything being done in Frankfurt or Tokyo. I had no idea.

When we returned four months later the museum, water running and the first exhibition installed, lived up to all we’d hoped. The incredible pale green rock unique to the state was in use everywhere – some crushed into gravel and scattered around the trees in the newly created gardens. Brochures with schedules of classes being offered had been printed and we saw that the emphasis would be on textiles, printmaking, photography and restoration. It didn’t take much to imagine the special events that would take place standing on one of the many balconies and terraces surrounded by breathtaking views. (No website, info re classes difficult to get)

There’s a handmade paper factory within walking distance of the new museum and the Wednesday market in Etla, spilling out from the church plaza and spiraling down the steps is one of the most picturesque in the entire valley. In addition to being a terrific place to sample an abundant variety of foods, there are a couple of simple but excellent restaurants and I can’t imagine a more perfect day trip to get the feeling of life in the villages that surround the city.

Huachinango At Juarez

Monday, June 5th, 2006

Fish At Juarez Market

At the southest corner of the Mercado Benito Juarez, are the fish stalls. Fish in Oaxaca is largely driven or flown in from the Pacific coast. On my very first trip to the Juarez market we were struck by a particular family cutting up the day’s stock. “Resturant Quality” turned out to be the only english these guys could speak. Behind all business exteriors were warm, skillful, and friendly fish mongers. We bought from them several times. The quality has never been less then first rate.

Fish Market

Tealimone, Romero, and a little Orange

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

Within the ritual of taemescal, I saw the prettiest of metaphors, how after bathing in steam infused with romero and orange, while drinking tea made from the same with taelimone the high flavor note I was made to feel as if I was being prepared to be served up as the main course in a wonderful banquet. That is I was being made good enough to eat, all foulness and corupttion was being sweated out of me, and i was being seasoned with the most fragrant and flavorful of herbs and spices. I would eventually be made into a delicatable main course.

You can see how this folds around, that whatever we eat has to become part of our bodies and deserves the same respect, the same ritual, the same purification and wholesome ness. That what we eat is ourselves and should be treat with absolutely the same respect we show our bodies. We are best served by treating the animals and plants we eat as if they were honored guests at the banquet.


Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Call me a collectivo

To anywhere you may want to go

Main Squeeze

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

The simple limone squeezer has had a long and storied place in Mexican history. The Zapotecs were known to honor the invention.

And with the arrival of the Spanish, the squeezer went on to find a sacred place in the cultural and spiritual life of the Mexican population.


Monday, May 22nd, 2006





Las Floras

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

To alleviate the efforts of some overly enthusiatic gardeners, we took a little trip to a local garden center on the road to Tlalacalula. It had the flavor of any western garden center except for again the value and there was a lushness and variety that belongs to places south of where we are from.

Cafe Frio

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

coffee people

In the town of San Andreas Huyapaum, where the lovely El Refugio is situated, there is a coffee merchant, really a coffee family. We sat with them and discussed their wonderful product and Bonnie promised to bring them her wonderful Ice Coffee and the method and we could sit one afternoon and talk beans and refreshments

The day we finally got to talking was also the day Mexico was unfortunately eliminated from the World Cup. This explains Bardomiano’s colorful outfit and also somewhat explains the abundant amounts of mescal we all wound up consuming as we were talking.

coffee people

Alright that isn’t a bean Bardomiano is holding but a tasty bug. In addition to showing us the beauty and intricacies of coffee roasting and chocolate making, Bardomiano and Micaela slyly raised the gringo quotient and playfully offered us a Mexican bug snack, popular from way back when.

bugs from coffee people

coffee people

coffee people

coffee kilo

coffee label

Casa de El Refugio

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Dear Alice

My husband and I often remarked to each other how the pictures on the El Refugio’s website somehow did not seem to do it justice. This is not because they are bad pictures but because there are qualities and features to El Refugio mere photography can not capture. And I am afraid mere words might have the same limitations but here goes.

I hardly know where to began when talking about El Refugio. When you approach the house the simple sturdy walls give little clue as to the treasures that lay behind them. But from the moment you pass through the gates you feel you are some place very very special. Behind those stone walls is a world of creative inspiration and freedom. It is a house most appreciated by those who love art, music, books, food, a beautiful garden, and warm wonderful people.

Just the the way the grounds are planted creates a private and very intimate set of spaces. The total effect makes you feel as if El Refugio is the only house for miles around. But the rushing water of the stream and the plaintive sounds of roosters and donkeys connect you to your neighbors in the most wonderful of ways.

And the varieties of plants on the property grown both for beauty and utility. That there is so much useful and productive planting is one of those unexpected bonuses the place is full of. To pick ones own limones, to drink coffee made from beans grown on the property, or to snack at will on sweet nisperos that grow everywhere, or just to wait patiently as the bananas ripen, the pleasures are many.

Of course this wonderful plant life leads to even more wonderful birds and butterflies. Every morning begins with a cascade of hummingbirds, cardinals, mockingbirds, sturdy potoo, flycatchers and most impressive blackbirds. As the days goes on the sky often shows hawks and eagles riding the warm air. Sitting on one of the many terraces you get a real feeling of being connected to the gardens and thus to the land.

(But our absolute favorite animal on the property is Betty. To me El Refugio would be incomplete and a less friendly place without the dutiful and charming antics of sweet Betty, the dog.)

All this and I haven’t even begun to write about what I love about the house itself. First off, as a book lover, the thrill of the main entrance lies mostly in the seven bookcases that line the walls, all stocked with the most wonderful treasures, accumulated over many years. A quick right off of the entrance reveals the colorfully tiled kitchen, a kitchen that is so conducive to warm and friendly cooking, as the house is conducive to warm and friendly entertaining. Straight on down the entrance hall leads you to the huge and open living room. Towards the dining area is an outside wall completely of glass widows, which affords a view of the property and the surrounding mountains. But one of the amazing features of the house is that every room affords a magnificent and inspiring view. The main bedroom for instance has its view through glass doors that open onto one of the terraces. The mountains you see from there stay with you. I picture them in my memory often.

Probably the thing I love most about the house is the separation of the guest space from the main house. There is a wonderful terrace and guest rooms and a bath up on the roof. The view from here is quite breathtaking. And even better a second building on the property that houses an artist studio and two more bedrooms and a bath above. Most of my fondest memories are from the terrace of this building, from which every aspect of El Refugio can be viewed. The pool, the main house, the surrounding lands and again those haunting mountains. Many a serene hour was spent here.

To add to all of this, El Refugio’s location in the town of Huayapam itself is one of the best features of the house. I grew to love walking to the markets and little stores in town, where I could find everything I needed. Meeting the neighborhood children and discovering what lay up that road or behind that bend was a genuine pleasure.

Finally the staff that was assembled for my mother’s stay at the house will be held warmly and quite fondly in my heart. It’s hard to describe the kindness and caring these people showed us. A list would be too long. Words really fail to describe how deeply they touched us. They made our stay so peaceful and cared for us so well, I will be grateful for having met them the rest of my life.

I know this was supposed to be a brief letter. After having written all this, I still feel like I am holding back something. My experience of Oaxaca and Huayapam was so intensely changed by staying at El Refugio, I really don’t have the words to say precisely how. I feel changed by my stay and inspired to return.


Bonnie Kassel

El Refugio Slide Show