Category Archives: Oaxaca 2010

Day 1 — In Which We Slack

The first day here in Oax­a­ca is always a lit­tle slow.  I’ve been beat­en up by the air­lines, the alti­tude change is more than 5000 ft, and there’s the nec­es­sary trips for sup­plies (beer.) Lead­ing to not doing much.

A brief after­noon stroll to try out the new lens was all the ambi­tion I could muster.

We first stopped at the church of Soledad. One of my favorite land­marks.

dramatic clouds

a stormy look­ing sky, but it didn’t rain

Then turned around on looked up the street and made a cou­ple of test shots of the new 12 – 24mm and the kit lens (18 – 150mm) that I’ve been using for the last two years.

With the old kit lens — which is still my go-to lens for any­thing that doesn’t require big zoom. Get­ting the wide shot here push­es the lens a lit­tle too far.

taken with an 18-105mm Nikor kit lens

every­thing bends a lit­tle at the edges.

But the new lens takes this sort of back-against-the-wall and hope it all fits in the frame stuff in stride.

taken with a 12-24mm aspherical lens

that’s bet­ter, the walls are straight.

A few blocks lat­er it allowed me to cap­ture this nov­el screeen with­out hav­ing to shot at an angle. Those bright bits are the mesh shop­ping bags that you see by the dozens in the mar­kets every day.

those used to be shopping bags

pret­ty sub­stitue for tarps

Sun­day is a slow day here. A few hours lat­er the Zoco­lo will be packed with strolling fam­i­lies and the local band, but this ear­ly in the after­noon there’s just not much hap­pen­ing.

what? no double parked cars? must be sunday.

slow sun­day

Though a hint of the evening’s crowds is here in this line­up of ham­burg­er and hot dog carts on their way to the cen­ter of the town.

on parade

the ham­burg­er and hot dog carts mov­ing toward the zoco­lo

I spent my time play­ing with a new lens — but Jim was work­ing hard and got some great images. You can see them on his own blog — obser­va­tions. Ignore the chimp­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er. le sigh.

Day 3 — Marching Bands and Plants

Oof. It was late last night and I post­ed this entry to the wrong blog. So here it is about 12 hours late.

For break­fast this morn­ing we had march­ing bands. One of the largest of the local high schools had their parade to the zoco­lo in hon­or of the Bicen­ten­ni­al.

First there was a bit of a pro­fes­sion­al band (bor­ing) and then the school ban­ner.

Moises Saenz Garza

Moi­ses Saenz Garza High­school

Fol­lowed by the school’s drum corps…

they love drums here


… and then the stu­dent body. Loose­ly orga­nized, and very hap­py to wave and say hel­lo and make fun­ny faces at the folks peer­ing out of the Casa’s front door.

peace to you too

smiles and hel­los for every­one

The bulk of the day was tak­en up with a tour of the botan­i­cal gar­dens at San­to Domin­go. Jardín Etnobotáni­co de Oax­a­ca.

I’m still work­ing on get­ting all the pic­tures sort­ed out. There will be a nice big gallery of them lat­er this week. But for now here are a hand­ful to give you a feel for the gar­den and its plants.

The tour starts with a dis­cus­sion of the native food plants. The tri­umvi­rate of squash, beans, and corn. These are squash plants.

squash growing in the foreground

squash, beans, and corn

In the back­ground are bunch­es of the large marigolds that dec­o­rate the altars at Muer­tos. I am death­ly aller­gic to them.

This lit­tle red flower on the oth­er hand doesn’t make me sneeze. It’s a dahlia. Seri­ous­ly. All those fan­cy gar­den flow­ers (Hi Elise!) have been bred from one lit­tle red flower.

awfully nice for a single

the orig­i­nal dahlia

Of the com­mon trees in Oax­a­ca the one that I can always iden­ti­fy with­out a doubt is the pochote. But when you’re look­ing at some­thing with points like this…


unmis­tak­able thorns

The gar­dens are locat­ed behind the build­ings of the Monastery of San­to Domin­go. The church’s walls pro­vide a back­drop for the large col­lec­tion of dry eco-sys­tem plants.

straight lines

typ­i­cal water chan­nel

Maguey cac­tus. The source of mescal/tequilla. Also just plain pret­ty.


As we were leav­ing the gar­dens and head­ing toward lunch we ran into anoth­er march­ing band. This one was fol­lowed by dancers.

dancing ladies!

the flow­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly nice

Mean­while Jim would like you to know that he is hard at work cat­a­loging the var­i­ous motor trans­port options in the area. Today, I think it’s work­ing bikes.

Day 7 — In Which There Are Very Old Churches

Well, there we were, on vaca­tion, tak­ing a cou­ple of days off for fire­works and parades. But that’s all over and only the con­fet­ti and red, white, and green bunting are left. So it was time to get mov­ing again.

Out to the Mix­te­ca. Once the cen­ter of cochineal pro­duc­tion and the Span­ish Empire’s new world eco­nom­ic engine. Now a sleepy agri­cul­tur­al back­wa­ter.  The last time we were out here it was Feb or Mar — the height of the dry sea­son. The hills were spec­tac­u­lar­ly red. Now it’s Sep­tem­ber and the end of the rainy sea­son. every­thing is green and grow­ing.

kinda like the columbia valley

broad val­ley, low clouds

We start­ed with the old­est and largest of the colo­nial church­es. Yan­huit­lan.

really big

look­ing up the stairs at the main door

There has been a lot going on in the church. Inte­ri­or restora­tions, roof repair, stonework.
The huge retablo are being moved away from the walls and restored from the back out.

work in progress

three of many

Some of the details are inspir­ing. Like this nat­ty fel­low.

fine looking fellow

nice clothes on this gen­tle­man

Much of the stone work is repairs — done in such a way as to pre­serve as much of the exist­ing work as can be saved and them adding new work that looks like the orig­i­nal would have 450 years ago.

appealing in it's honesty

some new, some old

Yan­huit­lan was once the cen­ter of the Dominican’s pow­er and the church prob­a­bly seem more in scale 400 years ago.  But now Yan­huit­lan is a farm­ing vil­lage and the church looks like a UFO hangar dropped into the mid­dle of Iowa.

image what it must have looked like when the valley was bustling

the biggest build­ing for 50 miles (or so)

We took a lit­tle dri­ve out of the vil­lage to find a spot to take that pic­ture. We met a cou­ple of charm­ing folks who were pleased to make some new friends. Even if we were a lit­tle odd. (And not Catholic, but Nico, who is, was hap­py to accept their gift of a mila­gro.)

reminder of a special saint's celebration

we seem to make peo­ple gig­gle uncon­trol­lably

We talked a lit­tle about the weath­er and a lit­tle about where we were from and a bit about the bean crop. Jim took this pic­ture of their farm yard from the top of the hill.

home and farm buildings

small farm­ster­ad and hill­side plant­i­ngs

We moved fur­ther out from Oax­a­ca to Coixt­lahuac and anoth­er church that is near­ly as old. This church is small­er and in much more fre­quent con­tem­po­rary use.

lovely yard

approach­ing the church from the main street

The inte­ri­or is still bright­ly paint­ed. This is part of the arch­way around the entrance to a side chapel.

a small part of the arch­way

Oth­er parts of the clois­ter haven’t fared as well as the main church but there is restora­tion work in progress.


no paint yet — just per­fect­ly smooth plas­ter and restored win­dows

This stair­way was fea­tured in a PSA for the fed­er­al arche­ol­o­gy and his­to­ry insti­tute.