March 8, 2010

Oaxaca - Monos and More

We’ve been in the Oaxaca Campground for a week, doing tourist duty as much as our bodies will allow! It's a big change after our leisurly months in Roca Azul, Jocotepec.

Oaxaca is in southern Mexico, in a region rich many indigenous cultures. The city sits at the center of three valleys, surrounded by extensive mountains with networks of dirt roads, some rarely traveled by outsiders. Our drive down the new cuota was breathtaking!

The campground is very convenient, within long-walk distance to town. There's also a bus two blocks away, though the return route remains a mystery. We walk halfway home to get a bus! It may be that torn-up streets are the problem. Like other Colonial cities we’ve seen lately, Oaxaca is getting spruced up for the 2010 Bicentennial in September. Many streets and some museums are closed for renovations. Thinking of a Mexico trip? Come NEXT year, everything will be perfect!

On Monday, we walked. Along the busy highway, we stopped short in front of an auto repair shop, eye-to-eye with a gigantic paper mache head…and torso, very female! A guy was gluing strips to the face. Behind him was a huge pink-faced, clothed male. Jose de Monos is an artist who creates monos - the giant puppets used in special weddings, processions and festivals. Monos are set on bamboo frames and carried from underneath, bobbing and twirling along the street. They’re a Oaxaca specialty, we'd never seen them in real life!  Jose is a master, he created the pair on display in the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, where we were headed! Eager to show us more, Jose went into the dark shop, reached above boxes and tires, and pulled down a long-lashed doll in gold. Then he set Chuck up to pose!

We ate lunch at an espresso-café. My huevos divorciados were really good, the beans like soup but tasty. This brings to mind a related topic, a gripe among us gringas. We've been out and about four days now...four full days with lunches. EVERY bathroom has had toilet seats, soap and paper towels!! This says something about Oaxaca, as far as I'm concerned! I've hardly seen a seat in three months! I think I'll start investigating more common locations, such as supermarkets. Stay tuned.

The Lonely Planet calls the Iglesia Santo Domingo the most splendid of Oaxaca's churches. The church was built along with a huge monastery between 1570 and 1608. Unlike some orders, the Dominicans were very protective of the indigenous peoples.    And, they sure knew how to impress!

The Santo Domingo Cultural Center, housed in the monastery – is extensive, with a gorgeous building and collections that connect pre-Hispanic cultures to contemporary indigenous communities. There's a separate botanical garden within the monastery walls, that we glimpsed from the upper balconies.
The city center is beautiful, with a modern outlook, historic architecture, and rich array of handcrafts and arts.
Oaxaca has a very diverse population. We'll try to give you more glimpses in coming days.
The next time we went to town, while wandering el centro we glimpsed monos bobbing along two blocks ahead! I said to Chuck, "Meet you in the plaza!" and trotted up an adjacent block, arriving in time to see a gorgeous traditional wedding party gathering for a group photo on the walking street, monos gone, off in the distance! Some Saturday, I may just hang around the plaza, hoping for another grand wedding!

1 comment:

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Ooooeee, Oaxaca! Great blog post and pics, especially the wedding picture! Good info too.
Keep 'em coming.