• by Z

ZAPOTECA

Summer time, and the living’s easy… it’s not even summer yet, but the weather has been nice and warm here in Miami. I’ve been basking in the sun trying to get a little darker, as I felt me looking too pasty lately and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all.

Great news! I received both doses of the vaccine this month, and I also recently returned from a short trip that I took to Oaxaca, Mexico🇲🇽

I only visited for about three days, and stayed in the downtown area where all of the markets and restaurants are. I have to say that I really enjoyed my trip. The people there were so so nice, and polite, and honest, and sooo sweet! When I grow up I want to be just like them, I want to be Oaxacan. I mean, I think I’m pretty nice already, but my manners don’t compare to the ones of the people of Oaxaca.


During my visit, I had the opportunity to go on an all day tour to the pyramid ruins of Monte Alaban, a local Mezcalero, an alebrije shop, a pottery shop, and a restaurant where I had the opportunity to try local Oaxacan cuisine.

My tour's first stop was Monte Alban, known to be one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica which, in its time, was the center of ceremonial and political influence of the Oaxacan valley region. The city was founded in approximately 500 BC and lasted for around a thousand years before becoming mostly abandoned by AD 500-750. Although the original name of the city is unknown, it has been referred by the Zapotec people as Danibaan or “Montaña Sagrada,” Dinibéeje or “Cerro del Tigre,” as well as Colina del Jaguar.

The pyramid that most caught my eye, was the observatory in Building J, which is the only structure that looked out of place as it was built at an angle for the purpose of being in alignment with certain stars, and possibly also with the planet Venus. My group and I spent about two hours at the site, learning from our guide as well as having time to explore the area on our own before heading to the next location, which was a Mezcalero shop.


Monte Alban

The Mezcal shop I visited with my tour group, was locally owned by the Pérez Hernández family. They produce a Mezcal branded as El Soñador. The use of raw materials in El Soñador’s distilling process makes this a Mezcal Ancestral, instead of a Mezcal Artesanal, which uses copper stills in the production process. Now, I don’t know much, at all actually, about Mezcal other than that it’s really really strong. I had a sample at the Mezcalero, and damn it burned my throat! AAAHH FIRE!


So then I bought two small sized bottles lol, naturally. The group's next stop was an Alebrije shop. Now, alebrijes are those colorful, and intricately painted wooden sculptures of fantastical creatures or just like animals and stuff. They represent our spirit creatures or something like that. They were originally created in Ciudad de Mexico, which was surprising, as I had always believed Alebrijes to have originated in Oaxaca.

The story of their origin goes back to Mexico City to the mid 1900’s (I think) when an indigenous Mexican artist, by the name of Pedro Linares, became feverishly ill at the age of 30. In his sickly state he dreamt of a fantastic and surreal place, where mishmash-like creatures such as roosters with antlers, mules with dragonfly wings, and others that resembled dragons resided, and all of these dream creatures repeatedly chanted the word - “alebrije…alebrije…alebrije.” Linares did not know what this word meant, but soon after dreaming of these morphed creatures, he decided to make them out of papier mâché and cardboard. He eventually received the attention of Frida Kahlo, as well as from her less talented, and less famous artist husband, Diego Rivera, who even commissioned Alebrijes from Pedro Linares.


Alebrije Dragon

Over time, the process of creating alebrijes changed, and they are now mostly made out of wood and painted with acrylic paint. I'm a big fan of alebrijes actually, and I absolutely fell in love with a small piece that I just had to have from the alebrije shop. A decorated blue and green bull that now lives with me at home, and I just love him, what more can I say, you know...I pick him up sometimes and I say - " I love you! you're so happy, you're just a little happy baby" and then I give him smooches ❤️ I'm definitely attached now lol


After the Alebrije shop, we all went to eat regional Oaxacan food. I had some pozole, nopales con cebolla, and I tried a Tlayuda for the first time, which is like a quesadilla with black beans and cabbage. You can add some meat, such as pork or chicken or beef, but mine didn’t have any type of meat, just veggies.


Tlayuda

After lunch, “lunch” at 4pm, the tour group and I traveled to our final location, a pottery shop where black clay pottery was made. There was a gentleman there showing us the process, which takes weeks and weeks, to go from raw clay to finished product. First a mixture is made with the clay, then it's molded into shape, then it's polished, then the piece is hand carved, then polished again, and it's just like a whole undertaking. I don't really remember it all, but it was very interesting to see.

Ceramica de Barro Negro

At this point it was getting close to 7pm or so and my feet were so tired, and my lower back hurt from carrying the stuff in my backpack. When I got back to the hotel I was feeling like a tired and beaten dog, aawoooooo!


The following two days in Oaxaca, I spent walking around downtown, admiring all of the handmade textiles and other regional crafts that were offered by different vendors. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the precautions that everyone was taking, by the way. Everywhere I went I had to wear a mask, wash my hands at stations that were at the entrance of most establishments before entering a building, have my temperature checked, and I had to be sprayed down with disinfectant. Even while outside, like in the Monte Alban area, everybody was expected to wear masks. It was very safe, and a relief to know that everyone was doing their part to not spread the corona virus.


I really fell in love with the people, my people of Mexico, even when they were begging me to give them money, which I did of course. Or when they insisted I buy their stuff, which, I also did. I mean, I didn't really want it, I still don't, but I just wanted to help, and they were all so grateful and sweet, y ya como los extraño carajo!


Cada persona que conocía, me fascinaba, absolutamente, y quería conocer mas de ellos. Los quería, así al primer hablar con ellos. Las personas Zapoteca, Mixteca, Mixe todos eran muy encantadores, y quisiera volver a verlos pronto.





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