29 February 2008

Home Sweet Home

The bus ride from Puebla to Oaxaca was thankfully non-eventful and relaxing.

Oaxaca is a midsize city in the center of a valley, agriculturally fertile and rich in history.

At one time it was the center of the Zapotec civilization and was a hub for trade and culture, as it still is today. People from all parts of the valley come to Oaxaca to sell their goods.

The city itself is very colonial and charming, but is currently trying to recover from it's tumultuous past couple years. What started off as teachers protesting and camping out in the city center demanding higher pay and benefits turned into an all out war with the government. People died and the city has been battered and bruised and the scars from the conflict can be seen across city walls in the form of political graffiti, or the constant reminder of it under paint inconsistent with that of the buildings.

We ate good food, saw old friends and enjoyed the good nature and spirit of the Oaxacan people.

It's not uncommon to be approached by good intentioned Oaxacan's wanting to go on a walk and get to know you.

For the celebrations of Good Friday, the church squares were filled with live music, traditional dancing, and free drinks and ice cream, or as the call them aguas frescas and nieves. I must have drank my weight in jamaica, tamarindo, horchata, and cherimoya juice.

Click to enlarge photo:

Santa Domingo church. This is the Good Friday scene, maybe the biggest in the city, but could be found at any number of squares. People also prepared drinks in their house or business and handed them out to people walking by. We have enough trouble letting our kids take candy when Halloween comes around, I can't imagine something like this!

One of many stalls handing out aguas frescas.

Ruins of Monte Alban. Found on top of a mountain, this was the center of the Zapotec civilization where nobles, priests and other important people lived. They had to carry water up to the top everyday flourished, roughly, between 600-200 B.C.

Church, next door to which they sold wonderful ice creams. My favorite flavor being "burnt milk," leche quemada. In the photo is my wonderful traveling partner Marissa

Pedestrian street in Oaxaca city.

Bigger than the Egyptians

Leaving the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, we began heading south starting with the Colonial gem of Mexico, Puebla.

Puebla is a wealthy city with boutique shops and many fine dining options, many of which can be found around it´s modern-art-sculpture filled picturesque main square, also known as a Zocolo.

The Sunday market 1/2 mile away from the main square is a shoppers paradise. An upscale market where you are just as likely to find Prada and Gucci wearing Pueblan's next to the typical market crowd. I bought a wallet and a tablecloth.

We also visited the world biggest (ugliest) pyramid, by volume, in the world. What a tourist trap, and I wasn't smart enough to avoid the Pulque for a second time.

Click photos to enlarge.

Costumes from a presentation on folk dancing from the different regions of Mexico.

More folk dancing.

Man outside of a church playing trumpet for money.

Church at Zocolo at night.

Carnival dancing in streets. For some reason all the men were dressed up as women and dancing with freakish looking masked men. Orale!

26 February 2008

Holy Guacamole

I attribute it to nothing less than a divine intervention that I didn't get sick from all the street food I have devoured.

The ingredients for most the foods today in Mexico are the same as those that were used even before the Aztecs and Mayans ruled the land. Beans, chilis, tomatoes, squash, corn (and therefore tortillas), chocolate, tobacco, and a whole host of other food items grew natively to this part of the world. It is no wonder that the food is so delicious, it has withstood the test of time.

The street food is so delicious, likely due to its preparation in grease, and has become so tempting that I have had to exercise serious restraint to quell my gluttonous tendencies.

Below are mostly street foods. Click to enlarge image.

Pulque, an Aztec favorite that should not have withstood the test of time. It is a fermented corn drink with the consistency of snot. Apparently non-alcoholic, but I didn't drink enough to find out.

Quesodilla. Cheese, mushroom, flour of squash, onion, strips of fried pork, and a few other delicious items that slip my mind.

Sope. The brown stuff are beans.

Blue corn tortilla tacos.

Great assortment of condiments: various salsas, pickled items, cactus, etc.

Al Pastor. Slow roasted BBQ pork shaved into a tortilla for tacos.

Holy lord save me now. This was the most amazing sandwich I have ever seen. Called 'Cemita.' It is stacked seriously tall, at least 5 or 6 inches.

Chalupas. Fried in grease and red salsa and stacked on top each other with strips of chicken in between.

Gordita on top, Taquitos slathered in salsa and guacamole, and Churro on bottom. Churro is fried and rolled around in sugar and cinnamon.

Mole Poblano. Typical food of the Peubla area. The flavor is very complex, nutty and chocolatey. With a hint of spiceyness.

24 February 2008

It´s only been three days?

Mexico City was a whirlwind through time.

From the Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling, to exploring ancient cultures in museums, we crammed as much as we could into our brief yet busy time in the City.

We stayed with Mexico City natives that we found on a ¨couch surfing¨ website. A great alternative to the youth hostal system that can often be alienating and impersonal.

Adriana, Frank, and Benito- two Frenchmen and Mexican from Chiapas. Wonderful people. Their apartment is 10 minutes by Metro from the city historic center.

Click image to enlarge.

Museo Bella Artes. Full of wonderful Diego Rivera murals.

People performing rituals and dances in main square during full moon eclipse.

Lucha Libra - Mexican wrestling.

Museo Anthropologico. Best place in the world to learn about mesoamerican cultures and see their amazing works of art. This is a real human skull. They were masters of stone and wood work. Making bowls and other objects from the delicate obsidian.

Xochimilco are a series of canals where families come on weekends to have lunch or have parties on the water. The canals are full of vendors on boats selling food and wares. You can rent full Mariachi bands to play on your boat, amazing place.

13 February 2008

The Day Before

The Resplendent Quetzal lives in the mountainous tropical forests of Central America.

Important to mesoamerican cultures for centuries, the Quetzal can be found in their mythology, art, and fashion. Ancient royalty would use the long, up to three feet, feathers to create headdresses, decorate their clothing, etc.

Today the Quetzal is most well known in name only, for the national currency of Guatemala is called the Quetzal. And the national bird of Guatemala is, shockingly, the Quetzal.

Chasing the Golden Quetzal is the my motivation for the trip, rooted deep in the collective unconscious, combining the god of air with the grounded and illuminating nature of an earthbound element.

Quetzal Mythology