February 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
I have been in Oaxaca for two weeks now, and circumstances will keep me here another week-ish. Thank goodness that this town is charming, full of great people, and flooding with art and culture. I suppose that it always happens when you establish a routine and form friendships to share adventures with, but I feel like I am at home here, and it’s a great feeling. Furthermore, it’s the city of chocolate and coffee- how can you go wrong with a home like that?
I arrived here at 4:30 in the morning, on a night bus from Mexico City. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or where to go in the city, so I hung out around the zócalo for a couple of hours before moving myself and my red backpack a few blocks up north, to the Santo Domingo church, where I awaited the sunrise.
When the first coffee shop opened up at 8 AM, I warmed up with a big cup of moka and researched accommodation for the the next few days. I have been switching back and forth between a cozy hostel with bare bunk beds and incredible people and a family of cats and hammocks around a fountain:
, and a two-room space tucked behind a couple of courtyards that are part of a private art studio/school complex in my favorite corner of town:
Today was the first day that I simply walked around and poked my head into art museums and bookstores. So far, my days have been full, and my nights even fuller, but… with things that are more characteristic of being at home than of traveling. I spend most of my weekdays at Spanish Magic, a fun and intimate Spanish school inside someone’s house. And then, daily zumba classes and dance classes at Labastide Park. Some nights it’s salsa, some nights it’s bachata… but plenty of people always stop to watch and take videos of us practicing in the middle of the green plaza. It’s kind of entertaining.
Other than conjugating verbs and learning dance steps and jumping up and down, my days are filled with plenty of delicious food- such as chapulines (grasshoppers, served everywhere) and mole, a typical nut/chili/spice/chocolate-based sauce that goes great with anything you can imagine putting on a plate:
, and more colorful streets:
, and colorful downhills:
, and colorful dead-ends:
, and some more colorful streets:
, which are all filled with brightly-colored buildings:
Breakfasts and rendezvous’es always occur in front of the Santo Domingo church:
, which houses an extensive museum and had a convent that sometimes puts together public events (such as the opera recital yesterday morning):
One of the things that I appreciate the most about the city is all of the access to art and books, especially for children. My favorite place in Oaxaca is the Biblioteca Infantil, the children’s library.
It’s a quirky architectural space, as they did not want to cut down any trees in the building of the library, and thus is kind of weaves around the land. And it has so many beautiful books, and an outside space with colorful flowers, and a fountain that performs magic when the sun shines down at a certain angle.
But there is no shortage of literary and art spaces to chose from; it seems that every single doorway here leads to some sort of cultural cafe’ (with live music) or exhibition. There are beautiful textile museums:
, and design exhibitions (there is also the Graphic Arts Museum, which hosts two large rooms packed with art books from all over the world and study spaces, so you can just grab anything and sit there all day, learning):
, and nooks featuring the captivating alebrije art style traditional to this region:
And while there is no shortage of proper art on display in great (and almost always free) spaces, it’s everywhere. Some of the best graffiti that I have seen is here:
Some of it is political, some of it is existential, and some of it just is.
But most of it features some sort of skeleton, because- hey, it is Mexico.
In the evening, when there’s no latin dance club open, it’s time for some live music and a little glass (or two or three) of mezcal, an agave-based bebita espirituosa, in one of the many mezcalerias that dot the city and fill you with courage to tackle anything in the course of the night:
And architecture to admire all around:
And then, always sunny plazas to lounge in, while wolfing down mamelitas and people-watching:
And warmly-lit streets to stroll down at night, when the temperatures drop from stifling to semi-freezing.
My heart is craving some big bodies of water, and I wish that there would be some more green spaces in the city itself, but… I suppose that I am too busy learning and moving around to lounge in them anyways. There’s so many places in Mexico that people label as ‘dangerous’, but they never mention Oaxaca as one of them. Why not? It lures you in, and latches on tight, and refuses to let you go.