... funny, touching, sad and thought-provoking moments in Oaxaca.
19.01.2016 20 °C
Walk around Oaxaca for 15 minutes, and you will be entertained. There is so much rich material here, you don't
even need to visit a museum or cathedral. The street will provide.
Assuming this rather New-Agey image is Jesus, it would seem the Chavez funeral home is offering prospective clients
an assured passage to heaven.
There are captivating little alleys, stairways and archways.
Decorative house numbers
Dramatic and changeable skies
Oaxaca is a very clean city. Storeowners sweep and hose down their front steps, and there is a minimum of litter on the streets.
Street cleaners like this gentleman are everywhere.
An incredible array of goods are moved by hand throughout the city. It is a marvel to see how merchandise makes it though traffic.
Santo Domingo church is a gathering place at all times of the day and night and it is also the scene of many extravagant celebrations - weddings, communions, christenings and the quinceaneras - the coming-of-age party for fifteen-year-old girls. Wealthy families celebrate in this church, and the parties can be as elaborate as most weddings.
We have no idea what is so valuable in an auto body shop that requires no less than four dogs to protect it. If I had felt like aggravating these animals, I could have walked by them on the left, as their leads do not seem to extend that far. While pilons have been thoughtfully provided to prevent them from being run over, they do not have shade or water, or a comfortable place to lie down. Much like the roof dogs who bark endlessly and impotently at potential robbers, It would seem their barks are worse than their bites.
Jalatlaco is a very cool neighbourhood (and Oaxaca's oldest) that is just off the main drag. Filled with cafes, small hotels, and street art, it is a walker's paradise. I peeked in the door of this pool hall - same as pool halls everywhere, but with better art.
Oaxaca is filled with young lovers - they're like bunnies. Mexican kids mature much earlier than their Canadian and American counterparts. The parks are filled with amorous fourteen-year-olds, still in their school uniforms, away from the watchful eyes of their parents. It is endearing on one hand, with every park bench and stone step filled with teenage couples wrapped in an embrace. On the other hand, there also appear to be a lot of very young mothers around!
We were at a market last Friday afternoon, and noticed a crowd surrounding this woman. Cameras and cell phones were going crazy, a couple of "handlers" were watching carefully, and women and children lined up for hugs. This woman was gracious with everyone, and stayed for a long time talking to anyone who approached her. We took this photo when she started singing to a shy young girl and her mother, who seemed overcome by being in her presence. We asked who she was - Eugenie Leon - as it turns out, one of Oaxaca's most famous singers. We were foolishly as star-struck as the rest of the crowd and Googled her when we got home. Big voice.
On our walk today, we began to notice an unusual number of police around - all levels - municipal, state and federal. Then we encountered barricades with police in full riot gear, and we knew something was up. Just to the right of this barricade, a major protest was in place. The governor of Oaxaca, who is quite unpopular, was in a meeting in town. Whatever the agenda of the meeting, it provoked a huge outcry, likely over low wages,unfair working conditions, labour disputes, extravagant government waste, corruption - the usual. Oaxaca is a hotbed of activists - going back to well before the deadly teachers' strike in 2006, which resulted in 17 deaths, and still hasn't been resolved.
At another intersection, these policia were far more relaxed, and allowed a photo. "Selfie!" They were very good-natured
about me posing with them.
One challenge that always arises when travelling for an extended period is trying to find a hairdresser, in a strange town, with limited Spanish. My hair is very thick, grows very fast, and usually needs a trim every five or six weeks max. I got my hair cut short with my friend Vikki just before we left town, and the expiry date was up - time to get a trim. As luck would have it, we were at a party a couple of nights ago and I met a woman from Victoria who happened to have great hair - styled by a barber, Antonio. A very contemporary barber - complete with 2016 facial hair and beard, a mezcal bar, and a sign on his door that promised cuts - "classic and moderno". I hopped into his old-school barber chair, and got myself a "moderno" that was seriously razor cut. He lathered up the sides of my face and came at me with a straight razor, and I had a momentary panic that he hadn't noticed I was not an hombre and I was about to have a shave. A very unique experience, and a great haircut to boot, although a bit too much product for my taste.
Then it was Stephen's turn. I usually cut his hair with an electric razor, but he felt it was time for a bit of style, so Antonio shaved the back and sides, and left the top a little longer. You may not be able to tell from the photo that there is style involved, but it's a better look than I can achieve. We walked out with two haircuts for 200 pesos - about $17. The results below:
Oaxaca is famous for its street art - some of it decorative and some of it sprung from the political unrest and fury over Mexico's ongoing social problems. We have walked into a lot of neighbourhoods that are just out of the tourist area, and stumbled upon some very interesting examples.
We are here until Monday morning - heading out to Puebla. There is still so much to share - incredible food, markets, art galleries, 2000-year-old trees. Here is one final image to sign off - not sure who that ear belonged to (pig? cow?) but it got me thinking about more veg, less meat.