Friday, March 27, 2009


Oaxaca was well worth the eight hour overnight bus ride from Huatulco. The journey launched us out of our seafaring life and into the colors, smells and tastes of the dynamic city. We stayed at a little hotel near the main square and spent four days exploring. Here are some of the highlights:

Food. That was Tim's favorite. We ate chocolate, chocolate moles, chocolate bars, hot chocolate, cold chocolate... you name it chocolate. This is the chocolate capital of the world. The cacao beans come from nearby Chiapas and Tabasco and look similar to coffee, but ultimately taste better once they've been doctored up. We saw barrels of the beans sold at the markets:

We frequented the Mayordomo store (kind of like going to Ghirdelli with the same sweet smell), and watched the workers churn the beans into goopy thick sauce, adding vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and for the moles, various chilis. Do you know that during the pre-Hispanic times, chocolate was a currency?

At the market, you could buy everything, including bags of chapulines or fried grasshoppers and my favorite, mangos. We fulfilled our promise to each other and actually sampled these creatures. A little crunchy, pretty salty, but full of protein.

Art. This was Maya's favorite. We ventured 20 miles south of the city to San Martin Tilcajete where almost every home carved and painted animals. Maya befriended an artist named Laura who had been painting wood for the past 20 years. She gave us some small wooden carvings of a dog, armadillo and a flying horse and taught us how to paint them.

While Maya and I were busy painting flowers and little dots on our figures, Tim and Kai learned how to carve the copal wood. We found the famous home of Jacobo and Maria Angeles who had 30 of their family members working on intricate pieces. Their successful method and attention to detail made their pieces famous, not to mention extremely expensive. Many are in art museums world wide. One of the painters showed us how they used natural dyes for their paints and gave Maya a chemistry lesson mixing all sorts of ingredients on the palm of her hand.

Here's a close up Jacobo's wooden rabbit. All the detail is done with a small paint brush.

The following day, we went to Teotitlan and learned about the world of the weavers. Here's Kai spinning wool.

And here Nelson is teaching Kai how to weave. Nelson learned how to weave from his grandfather and he told us that his six year old son is eager to learn, but he wants him to wait a few more years. "Once he starts weaving, he'll be weaving his whole life." Kai seemed excited about that future.

Nelson taught us about the natural dyes he using for his yarn. Pecan leaves and shells make brown, yellow comes from tumeric, pomegranite seeds make green, black originates from witch hazel, indigo makes 45 different tones of blue and cochineal, the insect nibbling on a nopal cactus gets dried and squished to become red. Add a little lime to vary the intensity of the color.

Then for our final day, we went to Monte Alban where between 800 and 500 BC, the Zapotec Indians built temples and played a ball game to settle disputes. In other Meso American cultures, like the Mayans, the loser of the game dies, but that apparently wasn’t the case with the Zapotecs.

At night, the kids took unicycled along the zacolo (main square) aweing all the onlookers. There was a stage set up and it seemed like 50 or so people gathered to watch:


Ramona said...

Ruthy, thanks for the travelog and the pictures. I do love that brown bunny with the beautiful blue ears. Do you remember the ping pong diplomacy that took place between China and the US many years back? I think you had some unicycle diplomacy going on in Mexico.

Richard said...

Glad to see that all is going well for team Kamaya. We are slowly making our way in the same direction, currently in Zihua., but may catch you up at some point. Can't wait for chocalete covered grasshoppers .. sounds very Trader Joes . ALl the best Richard & Virginia, "Mandy"

Looking Back

It took me more than seven years to turn our blog into a hard covered bound book. At first, I was leery of wrapping up our adventure because...