Sunday, October 21, 2012

Puebla, Oaxaca, and Mexico's Isthmus

Tuesday 16 Oct 2012 Tula to Puebla  3,105 miles

We actually got up very early today and had a very nice breakfast in a little hole in the wall place as we left town. We decided to make a detour to Teotihuacán before heading off to Puebla. Teotihuatán this is one of the most famous and important ruins in Mexico. This is a pyramid complex set amid Mesoamerica's greatest city, capital of what was probably Mexico's largest pre-Hispanic empire, which stretched as far south as present-day El Salvador. Vast structures line up along the mile and a half Avenue of the Dead. It was most important from 200 BCE to 800 CE. At that time, its population was approximately 250,000 people, it covered 8 sq mi, and it was one of the largest cities on earth (bigger than Rome at that time.) We were most impressed by the enormous scale of the city and by the beautiful painted murals which originally covered most of the walls of the buildings and temples. Though just remnants can still be seen, the quality of the details and intensity and variety of colors is stunning.

Temple of the Moon seen from outside the park:

Looking down Avenue of the Dead:

Richard (with red cap) on Temple of the Moon:

Temple of the Sun is much larger.  The people on it are barely visible.  The tiny orange strip near the top is a fence erected by archeologists for their safety.

Murals and artifacts from the ruins:

We arrived in Puebla in the early evening and it was just too much for us to tackle.

Even with little light, it's plaza and colonial church are beautiful and crowded with people:

From our hotel window, we could see that Popocatépetl was still living up to his name.

The Smoking Mountain:

Wednesday to Saturday 17-20 Oct 2012   Puebla to Oaxaca  3,318 miles

In mid day, we left Puebla for Oaxaca driving through a beautiful bio reserve with beautiful steep mountains and deep green valleys.  This is the end of the rainy season and wildflowers were everywhere, as were bees and butterflies.

The highway system has been vastly improved and the drive to Oaxaca was mostly divided, modern highway.  Oaxaca was just as beautiful as we remembered it; clean and charming, ancient and vibrant. We checked into the Hotel Maela, in the heart of the city, and decided to spend three nights there so we could enjoy the city again. We had a beautiful day walking around the city seeing many of our favorite sites. (See Blog of 2010).

Here are some views of life from this trip in this very special city. Most of them speak for themselves.

Tile work on a courtyard wallPatron Saint of Oaxaca: 

Folk art (modern):

In the highest place of honor in a church where Jesus was just far back on a side wall.  She is the patron saint of Mexico.




This is the church with Guadalupe up front. Notice the spouting water streams.

Hospital courtyard:

Here's our balcony:

From it, we see Oaxaca's two main  churches:
Soledad in the twilight distance on the left and Santa Domingo on the right.

Mexico's Day of the Dead, a big deal in Oaxaca, is similar to Halloween, though not the same thing. 

Some spiders.

Modern, minimalist Catrinas  
(the sign reads: Catrinas of Oaxaca).

We had a Tradiciónal Menú de Degustación at CASAOAXACA El Restaurante with a waxing crescent moon was the setting for a romantic twilight dinner on it's charming rooftop.

Strawberry slices evoking Our Lady of Guadalupe.

and, of course, a dose of Oaxacan Vitamin C
(aka chocolate).

Friday 19-Oct-2012

Friday morning we went to our favorite market, Pochote Organic Market. We were delighted to see many of our Oaxacan friends there. Our friend Sandro Ceresi, Italian baker, met Gya Shin, renowned  Korean dancer, while in India, where they married. Soon after moving to Mexico they created an organic farm near Oaxaca and their son Govinda, now 11 years old, who has autism. Gya

delighted in telling us that Govinda has become an accomplished artist. She took us to the nearby beautiful Children's Library of Oaxaca. [Even if you know no Spanish, you can get a sense of the special place just by playing around at its website.]

to view a one-man exhibition of his works. Starting earlier this year, in March, using a 7-peso (5 cent) pair of scissors, with incredible speed and inventiveness, and with no training or help, he cuts fiber of various sorts into figures, mostly dinosaurs. There is a YouTube documentary of him and here are a few of our pictures of his work, taken at the exhibit, but which barely do them justice.

On the way back from the market, we stopped into visit our friends Don Poncho and Mari Calvo, parents of our Ukiah friend, Lorena.

Then, a last quick look at Oaxaca and its amazing Zocalo and off to bed.

The young women stand like statues until they receive money, at which time they offer candy in return:

Saturday 20 Oct 2012 Oaxaca to Tehuantepec 3,476 miles

We left the high, dry mountain valley of Oaxaca for the lush tropical lowlands of Tehuantepec in the Isthmus of Mexico. It was a beautiful drive and included driving to "the world's capital" for the manufacture of mezcal (made from an agave called Maguey) and also well known for its delicious honey from the plentiful wildflowers that we saw along the road.

Entering the Mezcal capital.
Maguey growing on the side of a mountain.

Hearts of maguey ready to be processed.
 Burros resting up before work.

Mezcal maker having trouble getting his horse to grind the maguey to make mezcal. He told us that burros worked better than horses.

Untethered roadside burro.

Where there's a will, there's a way (to play basketball).  

Two stray horses on the side of the road ignoring the Do Not Pass sign!

This region of the Isthmus, including the neighboring city of Juchitán is home to a large and very visible population of Muxes, male cross-dressers, and it is also known for its matriarchal society. The women tend to be large, colorfully dressed in flower motifs, and exude a presence of pride and power. The only statue we've noticed in town is of metal construction and depicts an extremely large and powerful woman of the region.

Tomorrow, we head for the state of Chiapas.


  1. What fun! I especially enjoyed the strawberries Guadalope. ~eric.

  2. What fun to read your very observant travel narrative. I'd never heard of the "muxes" in Juchitan. See you soon. Chloe