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.