Monday, October 20, 2008

Eco Fair Escapees

We went to an eco-fair at a farm near Huayapan. It was fantastic. Max rode a bike that powered a blender, and another one that powered a corn-grinder. We drank Tejate and talked to a company that told us they could install a solar water heater and tank on our roof for $700. We saw a beautiful house made of compressed dirt. Genevieve ran through greenhouses with tomatoes creeping up vines and Max made a tiny box for compost. Then, the little goats saw their chance and broke free of their pens, munching on everything in sight. Go goats!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

La Raza

We bought this painting from our friend Humberto Batista. It's called "La Raza".

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Little Car that Could?

Yes, there it is in the corner, our little VW Bug, or "El Vocho", the character Steve immortalized in his El Vocho blog.

Our vochito broke yesterday and is now down the block in the mechanic's shop. We are wishing it well (until we can sell it).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I love the Mexican architectural tradition of the inner courtyard, the covered patio, or the giant porch. It's part of this blurring of indoors and outdoors that makes living here so pleasant, because you can sit or eat outside, everywhere, throughout the seasons. Some courtyards are elegant and rambling, lined in stone or carisso, or with adobe walls and exposed bricks. Other courtyards are just an opening cut into the middle of a concrete block. Both are a building's secret buried treasure, where light pour in, and a fresh breeze can enter. If you have a little awning, you can watch the rain from underneath. Our courtyard is a little stark, with tiles and a brick wall, but we have three sliding glass doors to access it, and can basically open up the walls of our living room, dining room and entry way to blend them in with the courtyard. We've filled it with plants and bouncy balls.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What is a Play Groud?

Many of the businesses in Mexico just paint their store's name on the side of the building. Some of them use beautiful artwork, too, such as this little cartoon guy advertising a video game parlor.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More neighborhood art

Loving all the hating of Chedraui.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Boo, Chedraui

Chedraui is evil!
Ah, Chedraui, that dirty, dirty supermarket chain, is up to some nefarious tactics. They wanted to open a store in our neighborhood, but the lot was filled with gorgeous, historic trees over a century old. So they set workers with chainsaws at the trees at 4am.

Neighbors rushed out of their houses and tried to stop the massacre, to no avail. They called the police, to less avail. And then, these street art signs started popping up around the lot, slamming Chedraui and Oaxaca in general for killing off beautiful natural resources.

For once, this story of Mexican corruption has a happy ending. There will be no Chedraui. The neighbors succeeded in blocking them. But the reason why they succeeded? My neighborhood just happens to be full of lawyers, politicians, and ex-politicans who had the pull to pull the plug.

These days I'm just happy to walk by the lot and peek in and see trees still standing amid fabulous undergrowth. Onto the next battle!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Street art glory

Oaxaca is full of graffiti, some of it really boring. Tons of tags and anarchy symbols. But how lucky are we to have this beautiful painting of a lucha libre wrestler playing guitar/mandolin with a mariachi at his side, just one block from our house? So lucky.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm Back

I'm so happy. We finally got a new digital camera, so I can start posting images here again. I find that this blog is the best way to remind me to see Oaxaca in a fresh way, to consider the everyday something beautiful again.

So I'll begin with this charming smiling ant, some sort of mascot for Itanoni, a restaurant that I love so much it haunts my dreams. Steve and I have lunch there every Friday while the kids are still at school, and that's part of the fun of it for me.

Itanoni is on Belisario Dominguez street in the Reforma district. They serve Zapotec cuisine. They are politicized and determined to maintain the many diverse species of corn that are indigenous to the Oaxaca region. So the tacos tend to be very textured tortillas, kind of nuggety, and the Tetelas are just crazy incredible. They fold some thick corn masa into a triangle and stuff it with wild mushrooms and Chiapas cream which, since I'm supposed to be a vegan, is quite the decadent thing. It's fun to get an agua de Jamaica to go with it--my favorite hibiscus flower tea--and they serve it in a charming little glass bottle.

I first heard of Itanoni in "1491", a book Steve was reading. They showed a picture, but gave no name or address. It was a terrible tease. But I posted to some Oaxaca forums and *blink* someone kindly sent me their name. Itanoni.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Tejate captured me

It's gray. Or brown. Or something in between, liquid, with random bits of fluff floating in it, looking like it drained off of something. It's Tejate and, when I first saw it, I couldn't fathom how anyone would be brave enough to try it. It seemed to be what someone might discard on their way to concocting something better. The women mixing it stand over a giant bowl, mushing it around, dipping a painted gourd into its briny depths, excavating sludge to dish over more sludge.

But then Mats!? and Peri and Carrie visited, and had the intent to try Oaxaca's indigenous beverage. I didn't know its story, how it is unique to the region, due to one of the ingredients being the seeds of mamey (not to mention the skins), a local fruit. Other necessary ingredients are toasted corn, cacao, cinnamon, all ground with a metate. I didn't know that it was the drink of Zapotec kings, considered fortifying, medicinal, and even an aphrodisiac.

Peri was the one who dove in, at Abastos market, and got a gourd filled with the stuff. We all sampled it and I realized it didn't taste like old dishwater. I sort of liked it.

At another market a week later, I tried it again. There was a nutty, chocolate taste, but it was the sweet, creamy mamey fluff at the top that was enchanting. That was it. It crept into my bloodstream or overtook my mind, and I started to plan for it, memorizing market days and stalls where my favorite Tejate was brewed.

Tomorrow. Pochote. The woman at the top of the stairs. "Tejate en jircara" for 10 pesos. I'll be there, with a gourd in my hand, searching for that last foamy sip.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yeni in a Calenda

I have mentioned before that I am wild for Oaxaca's calendas. These are crowded processionals/parties in the streets that might include cellophane lanterns held aloft on sticks and illuminated with candles, people in traditional ceremonial dress, monumental altars of flowers, people tossing candy from painted gourd bowls, a brass band, firecrackers, a bull fight with a pretend bull, and dancing. Somewhere I read that calendas historically were used to entice people to attend Catholic mass, with the processional leading to the church. My baby girl Genevieve was invited to be in the city-wide preschooler Calenda, thankfully not for religious purposes, but to announce the children's dance festival. A dear friend lent me the appropriate garb for Jenny. It was a beautifully embroidered blouse and bright orange skirt.

This was one jam-packed Calenda. In the picture below, you can see a lantern with colored cellophane. Max got to hold the gourd and passed the time tossing candy to onlookers. He took his job very seriously.

Calendas often have giant papier-mache puppets. The inside is hollow and people place it over their heads and shoulders and carry the whole thing for the event. I believe these are the same figures that Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo collected that are on display at the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City. They call them Judas figures, and fill them with firecrackers, setting them off around Semana Santa.

It was a beautiful event and such an honor to be included in one of Oaxaca's most vivid folk traditions.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Holy Jesus, Batman

Some wild scenes go down around here at Semana Santa. First of all, "Holy Week" meant that the kids got 18 days off of school. But the party didn't stop there. On the Friday before Easter (help me here, God-believers, perhaps it's called Good Friday?), everyone in town turns out for a silent processional. There is the usual festive stuff--balloons, food, children running around--but the mood is ominous. I guess everyone is feeling sorry for the guy that's gonna go up on these crosses:

The men carrying the "parade floats" (for lack of a better word) of Jesus and various saints were dressed in little hoods with peaked caps. I couldn't stop thinking of the KKK.

And here's the man of the hour, looking just bloody and damaged the way he is often depicted in Mexico. Man, is it a relief just to watch these scenes and have no emotional connection, because this kind of stuff could make a person feel guilty!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Another Arrazola Sight

The Taller de Sergio Santiago kicks the mighty A! This massive peacock was a shocker. The pre-bargaining price was 3,500 pesos, a little less than $350. I didn't buy it, but it's burned in my brain. Someday I'll be back to Calle Zapata, #2.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Vivid Day

An incredible restaurant here is La Biznaga, which I believe 99 percent of our houseguests have visited. They do a gourmet take on Oaxaca classics. Their Zapotec triology platter and Aztec Soup are the two things I keep ordering. And the margaritas.

While you eat, you are seated in a courtyard which also holds an art gallery and a couple of shops. Of course, if you are Genevieve and Max, you do not sit. The first one runs around like the anarcho-punk she is and the second one starts snapping photos of what interests him, such as this handsomely glittered skeleton in the doorway.

Max couldn't resist taking a shot of this movie poster, listing all the upcoming children's movies he'll see at El Pochote. Tomorrow is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so I am excited as well.

Steve got to hold the camera for part of the day, and took a great shot of this three-headed dragon. It's from the workshop of Sergio Santiago, who is related to the great Pepe Santiago, a carver whose workshop I visited 11 years ago. Sergio is on Zapata Street, #2, in Arrazola, if you should find your way out there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fruit Cart Fanatic

We were walking around the zocalo when I saw, like a vision, this gorgeous apparition. What do I love most about this fruit cart? I'm undecided. It could be the charming cartoon fruits, with their labels, cuter than any font. Or it could be the vivid blue that made the cart seem almost fashionable. But really it must be the fruit itself, radiating sweetness.
When I asked the vendor if I could photograph her cart, she gave me the weariest of nods. She was not quite annoyed with me, but not pleased with me, either. Perhaps I was one in a long line of gringos wanting to snap the camera at her wares.
It was hard to understand how she could work behind this work of art and not be constantly joyful. Consider, however, the reverse situation. She comes to the United States, sees a giant display of fruit in Safeway, and asks the clerk if she can take a picture. Then she goes home and blogs about it. Ah, I'm pathetic!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Squid of a Bus Driver

This poster, plastered around town and credited to the local Communist party, protests the recent bus fare increase from 3 pesos to 4.50 pesos, a huge difference for many of the struggling citizens of Oaxaca. The text of the poster, "El Pulpo Camionero Se Roba Mi Dinero" translates to "The (Sucking) Squid of a Bus Driver Robbed Me of My Money".

Friday, March 21, 2008

Boy Toys

I am quite in love with Max's toys. In his Big Bang! magazine, he gets a different plastic alebrije (literally "alien breather", a sort of fantasy creature) each week. They come apart and the parts are interchangeable. Last week, he got the armadillo, the same creature he got three weeks ago. It was deeply upsetting to both of us, because we are angling to have the whole collection, and this was clearly an error. I tried to talk with the guy at the newsstand about it, but it got lost in translation. So we wait, anxiously, to see if we still can manage to get each one.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Viva Che! Vive Calle las Casas!

You see Che all over the place in Oaxaca, but I was particularly charmed to find him on a pink hightop in a shoe shop on Calle de las Casas.

Calle de las Casas has to be one of my favorite streets in Oaxaca. It runs on the south side of the zocalo. Open stalls on the sidewalks offer lucha libre masks and punky messenger bags, bootleg DVDs and traditional Oaxacan sweets, stuffed with a custardy cream. I love the displays of bootleg cartoony socks, starring everyone from Woody Woodpecker to the Pink Panther. The chocolate factories--Mayordomo, Soledad, Guelaguetza, and many smaller indy spots--are on the nearby cross-streets (Calle Mina has quite a few). People swear by Ton-ita (Stall #80 in the Benito Juarez market) for chocolate made the old-school way, with a metate.

Mostly I love Calle las Casas for the urban drama. It make Oaxaca feel like a city instead of a town. Yes, there's the diesel fumes and the crowds, but there are also the gems and discoveries that make city life so beautiful.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Bumpy Road to Morales

One of my new favorite villages is Ocotlan, about 33 kilometers south of Oaxaca City on Highway 175. We went with our delightful guests, Mats!? and Peri. The drive out there was horrendous, with us getting caught in a traffic jam. Perhaps there was a politically-motivated blockade going on, but we never saw it. We dodged around until we were all sick from curves and topes and fumes, but finally we made it to the country highway to Ocotlan. As Mexicans say, "vale la pena", or "it's worth the suffering".

Here you can find the Rodolfo Morales museum, housed in an old convent or prison, depending upon the era. Morales is a visionary and wild painter. The upper level of the building is filled with columns on which his surreal paintings are wrapped. He has clouds that turn into women, bright colored balloons with faces, people that disappear into the landscape, all done in roses, blues, purples, and browns.

The Ocotlan market, on the zocalo, is brightly lit, unlike a lot of Oaxaca city's markets. We found the comedor section, with many options for eating. Call us suckers for a gimmick, but we had to head straight for "The Cocina de Frida" or Frida's Kitchen. The proprietress looked just like Frida, and dressed the part. This is definitely the basis for a return trip.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Paper Flowers

I've always been addicted to Mexican tissue paper flowers. When Jenny and I visited Mazatlan, we found a shop filled with them, the smaller kinds, in multiple colors and shades of blues, indigos, reds. They filled every nicho and vase and looked astonishing. We said to the saleslady, "We'll come back tomorrow."

When we came back, the shop was closed. It remained closed for the rest of our vacation. We'd stand at the plate glass windown, looking longingly inside at the garden of possibilities. The fates seemed against us because no one else in town was selling the flowers at that moment.

A few years later, we made the whole family return to Mazatlan, just to seek out the flowers. We stayed in a different part of town. One afternoon, from the bus, we saw that shop and leapt off the bus, telling Steve and Mom to watch Max and that we'd meet them back at the hotel.

The shop was still selling the beautiful flowers. We jammed as many as we could in our bags and spent the vacation arranging them and admiring them.

When Jenny died, I made sure to leave the flowers everywhere, especially when we returned to Mexico. We're almost out of flowers now, so I've begun searching Oaxaca for the best paper flower options.

And for fun, I wrote a tutorial on how to make the larger tissue paper flowers, on

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Water Boils

A misnomer for sure, but Hierve El Agua, or "The Water Boils", is still a fantastic place to swim. Genevieve refused to enter the cold, mineral-laden water, but Max and I had a blast.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One Fish, Two Fish

Outside of the little indy cinema at the Pochote organic market, there's a murky fishpond with some gigantic fish. These hold a great fascination for Genevieve, who would rather attempt to dive in and swim with them than watch the free screening of "The Wizard of Oz" in Spanish. Max also seemed absorbed by them, if not a little scared.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vocho Love

Oh, the shame of it. I was so proud to live in a city where no car is required. Except that Steve decided a car was required. I resisted but, in the end, I had to admit defeat--he was the one having to push the stroller up the mountainside every day, because I still haven't got my full muscle power back in my surgery-side arm.

So we hit upon a compromise. The VW Bug, or vocho, or vochito, as it's known around here. It seems like half of Mexico, including the police and taxi drivers, are getting around in a VW. Old model bugs were made in Puebla until 2005. One of my students went to the farewell party at the factory.

And, of course, the vocho was immediately useful. A few rounds of guests came into town and we were popping them to and from the airport at all hours. Max got invited to a birthday party way out in the country. We were able to wander to San Agustin Etla to see the famous art center and the show within. Today, the kids washed the vocho, right before the first rain in four months began to fall. Everyone loves our bonito vochito.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Carnival of Cities has Come to Town

Mexican Pop Spot welcomes all world travelers and armchair travelers to the January 14, 2008 edition of Carnival of Cities! We covered much ground this time around:

Sheila Scarborough shares Noodling around: the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum posted at Perceptive Travel Blog, offering a delectable tour of Yokahama's museum of meals. One highlight is the gift shop, featuring noodle-inspired items.

Jonathan Deamer paints a lovely picture of Liverpool's Crapital of Culture opening ceremony posted at Jonathan Deamer. He tells how Liverpool spent a big bundle to make a fine mess of its "Capital of Culture" honorary ceremony.

Christopher Cook presents The Kutna Hora Bone Church: a late night visit to an ossuary outside prague posted at -noambit -Travel Europe- where to go, what to see, and how to get there, with an insider's guide to a fascinating little church just outside of Prague. The site is "tastefully" decorated with the bones of over 40,000 men and women. This narrative article paints a vivid picture of this location while offering information on how to get there and how this little church came to be.

Sagar describes 25 Simply Amazing Mosques posted at International Listings Blog. Vivid photographs and text celebrate incredible mosques from Dubai to Morocco to Iran and other corners of the world.

Jon Rochetti presents Monument Monday - Theodore Roosevelt posted at The DC Traveler – Washington DC travel & tourism information, taking visitors to an island in the middle of the Potomac River to view one of DC's less known monuments of Teddy Roosevelt.

Christopher Cook shares Choosing A Hostel Is Like Choosing A Friend: things to think about when trying to find a place to sleep posted at -noambit -Travel Europe- where to go, what to see, and how to get there with this article full of helpful information about selecting a hostel while traveling in Europe. This post pinpoints what types of things to consider and what to expect.

Kangotraveller chronicles A Winter’s Day at Pt. Reyes National Seashore posted at Kango Blog. The dramatic Point Reyes coastline has always been one of my favorite haunts, and this blog entry captures its diverse attributes.

Karen Bryan presents You’ve gotta go to Gothenburg, Sweden posted at Europe A La Carte Blog. An accessible, picturesque place, Gothenburg wins in the comparison to Amsterdam.

DWSUWF presents Divided We Stand United We Fall: Republican Like Me posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall offers apologies to Black Like Me author John Howard Griffin in this post about a social experiment. This San Francisco Democrat decided to "go Republican" and observe the adjustments he would he have to make. What is it like to experience discrimination based on political beliefs?

Alex Garcia presents Queensland's exciting River City (Brisbane) posted at Life in Brisbane - Queensland - Australia with a discussion of changes afoot in Brisbane.

Conan Stevens presents Bangkok Police Shake Down Foreigners For Cash posted at Conan Stevens Online. Conan gets on the wrong side of the law in this post about negotiating with the police in Thailand.

Kathie Goldsmith informs 30 for $30 Dine Around Seattle program has new restaurants to choose from! posted at Team Reba Real Estate, saying that Seattle has a host of restaurant bargains.

Andrew Edgington presents Cyprus Holiday Villa Homes posted at Cyprus Informer discussing Cyprus, an island of beauty. This gem of the Mediterranean is a popular destination for holidays and buying property. It's also the homeland of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, so how can you not fall in love with Cyprus?

So concludes this edition of the Carnival of Cities. We encourage you to send that special something to the next carnival of cities using our
carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our
blog carnival index page.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Get on the Love Rollercoaster

This is a caterpillar rollercoaster, I believe. Max rode it twice at a fair in the park. We were the first people to the fair, which really gets going at nightfall, but who can wait until nightfall? So we hopped the Plaza del Valle bus, got into town, and waited while the carnies carefully unwrapped the cars, buffed them, and set to hammering and tightening bolts along the track. When they finally finished, Max jumped in. He was the only one on the ride, but he didn't care. Around him, Oaxaca was slowly waking up and thinking about heading toward the twinkling lights and the popping firecrackers.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Call for Blog Entries for the Carnival of Cities

I am the guest hostess for the upcoming Carnival of Cities!

Join the fun at this Blog Carnival which highlights cities (and big towns) around the world. Posts can be about any aspect of a particular city, such as a little-known spot, favorite custom, or cool neighborhood. The theme is open to any city anywhere, so send me your insights by Sunday, January 13th.

For background information on the Carnival of Cities, consult Submissions for future editions can be sent to .

Mexican Pop Spot,

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fresa Monsters in Ties

Oaxaca is always lovely, and lately it seems to be covered in cartoony stickers and paintings. Every time I go out, I lament to my loved ones, "Why didn't I bring my camera?" This street art looks a little "Simpsons" to me, but the girl (is it a girl?) reminds me of this cool fashion line I recently saw, out of Guadalajara I think, called The Freaky Friends. Lots of skulls, blood, and cuteness to be found there, sort of like the Dark Hello Kitty.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Town Fascist

Here's some street art of Ulysses Ruiz, the pretty damn corrupt governor of Oaxaca. "El Facisto del Pueblo" has done a lot to keep the poor down. He's been on Amnesty International's hot list, too.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Conzatti Park street art

Ten years ago, we lived on Jacobo Dalevuelta in Oaxaca's Jalatlaco neighborhood. We decided to visit our old haunts last weekend, and found that the government had decided to remodel our old neighborhood park, Parque Conzatti.
Back then, we bought veggies there during the Friday market, dodged couples making out after dark, and cut through it to get to the main thoroughfare.
Now, it's super-manicured, with patterned plantings and all new cobblestone. A little sterile, I thought, so I was happy to see this charming figure on a signboard in the park.