We arrived on the 12/1/2011, a Wednesday, exhausted and spent the next day catching up with ourselves. On Thursday we arrived back at the hostel to find our friend Chris´ bike Bestia Verde parked by ours in the hostel. Whilst we have been tucked up in the clouds he has been sunning himself on the coast. It was good to spend some time with him again.
On the Friday we started looking around the city, another that warranted a UNESCO world heritage award, and one of the first things we saw was the Tempo de Santo Domingo de Guzman, the most lavish of all the churches we have seen in Mexico so far. The interior was covered in gold and the ceiling has embossed patterns on them. This one is part of the tree of life, and the dome was quite magnificent. The main Historic town has a street running through the centre which is reserved for pedestrians which leads down to the main square and the Cathedral with it's restored organ and Italian alter sculpture. The Zocalo is full of hustle and bustle and political statement while just round the corner is the main meat market, leading off the main Benito Juarez market that seems to sell everything else. Just down the road is the 'Mercado de Artesanias' which was very quiet and outside a place where they made Mole, the local delicacy made from chocolate and lots of herbs and spices plus of course Chilli. There are about 15 different sorts, Nergo being the most complicated. On the way home got caught up in the celebration for 'Señor de Esquipulas' the 'black Christ' where the followers where kept refreshed from the back of a car, and the dancing with huge figurines and a very lively band called Bandos Peligro (Danger Band) went on late into the night. (more later)
The next day I did a guided tour of the Churches which gave a lot of history, like the Jesuits were thrown out of Mexico because they were trying to educate the people and were quite political, for their own ends, in the way they went about converting. One hand on the Bible the other on the sword. The Jesuits, having been let back in, set up a kitchen in the Church courtyard for teachers protesting here in 2006 where many teachers died during running battles with the police brought in by the unpopular governor at the time. The great Benito Juàrez, an orphan from Oaxaca, who was the only President in Mexican history to come from the indigenous people, banned the Church which started great wars between the Church and the State. The Church owned over half of all the land of Mexico at this time with great riches and power which was confiscated by the government. Now all the churches are owned by the state and kept up by them.
The streets are alive with music and noise, people getting married, with all the dancing and music that entails, while just down the road another group and waiting to take over the church square with their own band. The figurines had taken the afternoon off, sheltering from the hot sun getting ready for the evening festivities. We went to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and saw some very beautiful chain stitch work before walking back to the hotel to this sunset.
Sunday dawned cold but bright and we headed off to the Palace museum, a beautiful colonial building, which had some very fine murals on the walls depicting the history of Oaxaca. Outside there was more music in the square and colour which we enjoyed before having to do some work on Nancy as one of the rocker box studs had striped and the rocker box was leaking oil all the while being showered by petals and bird shit. The main celebrations for 'Señor de Esquipulas' started about 2100 with a procession through the streets lasting 2 hours, with lots of singing and fancy band work. Even Jill at 5'3” is a giant here. Arriving back at the church, a tower of fireworks had been erected, which once the faithful had paid homage to their returning saviour, and had been fed, lit up the sky. We never saw anything like this at the Vatican.
. What a great night.