Wednesday, March 18, 2009
We have now been away 7 weeks. We stayed in Guanajuato (for 4 weeks), then Morelia, Patzcuaro, Ururapan, Queretaro, Puebla, and now Oaxaca. The only place we probably did not warm to was Uruapan, but we primarily stayed there to go to the volcano & village at Paricutin.
Puebla was a more hectic city. The first time we really struck cars honking & bustling crowds. One of the main churches, the church of Santa Domingo has a chapel (the Capilla de Rosario) which is described in our guide book as being a lavish orgy of gold leaf & Baroque excess. This is an understatement. It (as are a lot of the churches) is exceedingly lavish. The photos only gives a mild impression of its richness.
From Puebla we went to Cholula for the day. It is the site of the Great Pyramid of Cholula. The pyramid is now mostly buried, but there are still tunnels you can through under the pyramid. The ones that have been excavated are about 8k long. The ground area of the pyramid is larger than any in Mexico or Egypt. The Spanish didn't think much of it & pretty well destroyed & buried it & then built a Catholic church on top of it.
At Cholula we ate lunch from a street stall. Blue corn quesadillas, filled with zucchini blossoms, barbecued pea greens (I think), frijoles, and local cheese. Yumm. We didn't buy the local specialty of crispy fried grasshoppers, but have had them since as part of a meal in Oaxaca. They taste bitter, but are very crunchy indeed. Mangoes are sold on sticks, pealed & cut into a blossom shape, to make it easy to eat. Street stalls sold a chocolate drink from a large ceramic bowl, which they whipped by hand with a wooden tool. We didn't have one but have since been to the market in Oaxaca & had local drinking chocolate. We watched the chocolate being made. The drinking chocolate had cinnamon and almonds in it. Just delicious. We did eat a local confectionery made from sweet potatoes. Some are sold as whole sweet potatoes which look like they have not been pealed but just cooked in a sugar syrup.
Today we went through the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. The building itself was wonderful. It was built as a convent starting in 1572. From 1608 until 1812 it was occupied by Dominican friars. It is a massive building with amazing water catchment & storage systems, beautiful friezes, grand staircases, vaulted ceilings, courtyards with "plumeria" (which look like frangipani -same thing?), and a massive garden. Jacaranda trees and creeping bougainvillea in abundance. The weather here is perfect. Dry & warm. Life in such a convent could not have been so bad. Certainly the surroundings would help alleviate other hardships.
The climate here is so good (compared to much of the US where winters are harsh) that again there seem to be many Americans who have moved here to live. The climate & the cheaper life style. The constant news of violence in Mexico that is in the US press has not seemed to put them off, at least this far south anyway. There have certainly been some violent incidents since we have been here. Mostly drug war related. The most recent was 5 decapitated heads in styrofoam eskies on the road outside Guadalajara. The trick is to stay away from the border towns where the US exports guns & Mexico exports drugs, stay away from drugs, & stay away from police stations. The police station and the superintendent's house in Uruapan had cluster grenades thrown into them a few days before we arrived.
However, Mexico is sunny, colourful, friendly, cheap, and has an amazingly rich history & culture, and it is not understandable why more people from Australia don't travel here. They travel to South America, but not Mexico.
PS I am not missing family law.