Archive for the 'Culture' Category

6 Churches Of Oaxaca

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

The Tortilla Woman Rings Twice

Wednesday, June 21st, 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.

The Church At Huyapaun

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

Turn Left After The Blind Potter

Friday, June 16th, 2006

Las Licuadoras

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Well you see them just about everywhere. And there is an obvious history that folds back to food as work and how we can actually all work a little less. I mean never mind the washing machine. Let’s talk about the history of the metate and mano and the secret celebration on the kitchens when the liquidaros started to arrive. Never mind the old timer’s lament that the machine ground lacked what the hand ground had, in texture and in flavor. The time spent achieving this was not perhaps proofed in the result. And wait, there’s so much more….

And then of course the whole wide world opens up at your power tool finger tips and there is absolutely nothing you can’t do.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pollo Rellenos en Salsa Tomate Rojo

Salsa Verde


And Mango Sorbet

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.

Chocolate vs. Chocolate

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

It with total satisfication I contemplate the fact that both vanila and chocolate come from Mexico. But when children leave the nest, they become, well different.

The Church at Tlacolula

Monday, June 12th, 2006

Tlacolula has been a big market town for nearly 2,000 years. The 17th century church bespeaks a properous community. There is less of the humble, more of the gilt, and every drop of martyr’s blood looks fresh.

Most of the gilt is in a chapel of the left side of the church.

Sunday Mercado At Tlacolula

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

So many things, so little time – no one needs Sam’s Club!

Los Laurelles

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Expo – Venta

Friday, June 9th, 2006

A delightful organic market exists at Garcia-Vigil on Friday Saturday

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.

No Soap Nopales

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Okay it’s okra all over again. Or maybe another remake of the Blob. It any case we were both eaten alive by the clean bright green defanged cactus paddles, that everyone encouraged us to try.

Making Nopales

The Church At Tlacochahuaya

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

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.

The Church At Zaacillla

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

DevilMen at Zaacilla

Thursday, June 1st, 2006


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.


Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006


We explained to the very helpful salesman that ‘no we were not going to Huatulco’. In these semi arid parts, where water collectted was very rare, He had every right to wonder what we were up to.


The Grace Of Teotilan del Valle

Friday, May 19th, 2006

We spent a graceful day in Teotitlan del Valle

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.

Food as Work

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

There is a heritage of labor that many great cusines share. It is completely possible to appreciate and aspire to great effort when great result are to be achieved. I once had a coisant stuffed with chocalate on the Isle St. Loius that sent my mind spinning. It all at once possesed the qualities of a pastry, a cookie, a cake and a bread. You progressed from state to state entirely at the command of the baker who had prepared it. And you knew it was no simple task, thrown together from some premixed flour and fat trucked in from Indiana. The baker had been there from before dawn, preparing 30 of these things as well as hundreds of other savories. The work, the genuine effort, informed by great skill and priceless experience

I have found many such qualities in some other world cusines. In Mexico there is sometimes an hysterical level of labor, a hyper task… ah but the results, it’s the results that matter. After working hard at some of these things, I can completely see the point (with the exception of nopales but that’s another story). The following recipe from Zarela Martinez is very labour intensive and she has actually simplified the procedures. The quest for results, such as the special flavor the pumpkin seeds gain by being toasted in their shells ( if you have eaten fresh roasted peanuts in their shells you can begin to understand) and the texture of hand grinding, don’t need explaination or justification. they merely need to be tried and the results will speak for themselves.

Pepian Zapoteco

1 cup dried white beans
3 cups whole unsalted pumpkin seeds in the shell
3 chile de arbol, tops and seeds removed
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
four 8 inch sprigs fresh epazote or one tablespoon dried crumbled
6 dried avocado leaves
3/4 cup dried shrimp
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Carefully pick over the beans and rinse under cold running water. Place in a medium size Dutch oven or saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by at least an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from the heat at once and let the beans sit in their cooking liquid for 1 hour

Meanwhile spread out the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until lightly toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let them scorch or the entire dish will be bitter. Remove from the oven and let cool completely about 1 hour. Place the pumpkin seeds in a food processor and pulse on / off for about 3 minutes. The seeds will break up but fragments of the hard shell will remain. Do not process any longer or the seeds will become pasty

Working in 2 or 3 batches, turn out the pumpkin seeds into a medium mesh sieve placed over a bowl and shake to let the fine particles go through. After sifting each batch, pour one cup of water over the contents of the sieve to rinse through as much as possible. Discard the fibrous residue. Pour the strained seeds and water into a deep narrow container such as a blender jar or narrow pitcher; any bit of shell that went through the sieve will float to the top and can easily be skimmed off. Add the strained skimmed liquid to the pot of parboiled beans.

Wash and griddle dry the chiles. Puree the chiles in a blender with 1 cup of chicken stock. With a wooden spoon or pusher, force the pureed chiles through a medium sieve into a bowl. Add the chiles to the beans and pumkin seeds along with the onion, epazote, avocado leaves. dried shrimp, remaining chicken stock and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook uncovered, until the beans are thoroughly cooked, about 45 minutes

Pepian Zapoteco is routinely eaten with white beans, which must cook with the sauce for a while to help mingle the flavors. Zarela sometimes stirs 3 cups of shredded cooked chicken into the dish about 5 minutes before serving, cooking just to heat the meat through. Potatoes are a delicious meatless alternative

From The Food and Life of Oaxaca by Zarela Martinez

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